It’s a new year, and as such, sharing is caring. Dragon and I decided, why not share some of our writing with you? Below you’ll find an excerpt from our second book Hand of Time available at Amazon. (<–Clicky the link below to grab your copy!) In this installment, we wanted to do a twist on the RomCom moment when the romantic couple has a public spat, before reconciling to the applause of the crowd around them.
“Get out of my way!” Morgan’s shout drifted up to me from the center of the gathering and I zeroed in on her location. The crowd scrambled to comply and my stomach clenched in worry that someone might move a step too slow and end up injured. I didn’t think she’d do it purposely, but her claustrophobia, and whatever else had set her off back in the brothel, could make her unpredictable. Not that she was ever really predictable in the first place, I thought with an internal chuckle as I landed a few feet behind her in the crowd.
Closing in until I was an arm’s distance away, I kept my voice even and calm, motioning for the crowd around us to back off. They parted like water, ebbing away, no one wanting to be too close to the crazy woman shouting at them in their midst. “Morgan, I’m sorry about what I said before. Please, let me get you out of here.”
She reacted as if I’d shot her. Whirling around, she stabbed a finger into my chest, bringing me up short. I held my breath, thankful, at the moment, that it was only her finger and not something sharp and pointy. “Go away, Dirk,” she growled out from behind clenched teeth, her eyes flicking toward the brothel, before going back to me, “I don’t want to talk to you right now.” The wildness was still in her gaze, and for as fierce a scowl as she bore, there was an uncertainty, a confusion to her expression that made my heart squeeze painfully to see.
“I’m not going away,” I pleaded, pouring every ounce of sincerity and love I had for her into my words, holding my arms open, leaving myself a target. Better me than anyone else here. “I know something is wrong and I want to help. Please. Let me help you. I think it’s time that we focus on your well-being for once.”
“You want to talk about well-being?” She stepped closer, thumping my chest hard with her fist, causing me to wince. “Pietro could’ve killed you and Sue.”
“But he didn’t,” I stammered, totally caught off guard by the look on her face when she surged toward me. I expected rage. I did not expect the devastation that had wrecked her composure. “So let’s not dwell on that, I’m worried more about you at the moment.” I reached for her again, at a loss, needing just to hold her. If I could just get her away from this crowd, get her home, maybe I could make this right.
Tears formed in her eyes. Her breathing was erratic and my heart twisted. “You don’t understand.”
“Then make me understand it,” I said, my hands reaching up to scrub at my face as I gave her an equally confused look. “Gods, Morgan…”
“You could be dead right now, Dirk.” Her voice thick with emotion, she surged forward, hands cradling my face as she stared deep into my eyes from around the tears spilling over her cheeks. In my mind, I saw through those watery eyes. A memory. Something she’d buried deep. Something even she didn’t want to see.
Kneeling on a beach, the unnatural stillness of a recently ended battle broken only by the sounds of the injured and dying; a wrenching backdrop to the feeling of loss that welled up from inside. I felt the heat of flames at my back, saw the blood covering my hands as I cradled a fallen Amazon in my lap. Everything was waterlogged and hazy, as though I were looking through a veil of tears. “Nunquam iterum,” Morgan’s voice whispered as shaking fingertips smoothed the bloodied brow above sightless brown eyes, brushing down through blood soaked dark hair, “Nunquam iterum.”
Never again? Blinking, the image was gone, and I didn’t have any more time to dwell on it as Morgan’s eyes swam into view.
Her voice had dropped to an impassioned whisper, “I could’ve lost you forever and my only solace would’ve been to make sure the person who did it had their head skewered on a pike.”
“Morgan, I promise that it’ll take more than a pissed off Gargoyle to ever keep me from you.” I murmured, pulling her into my arms as we both fought the urge to dissolve into an emotional breakdown. I slowly became aware that the music and talking around us had stopped, then, and that we were the center of attention. There was a collective intake of air and then an exhaled, “Aww.” Applause sounded when I brushed Morgan’s tear stained cheeks and sealed my promise with a kiss.
A flying drone, one of the unmanned watchdogs employed by the Seattle Enforcer’s Guild, interrupted the moment with a loud squelch noise to catch everyone’s attention before addressing the assembly in an automated voice, “There’s nothing to see here, move along.” When the crowd was slow to respond it repeated the order more stridently, a crackle of electricity along the copper gears that circled the balsam base beneath the dual propellers in the wings warning of impending physical discomfort if we didn’t comply. It hovered for a few minutes longer when the music restarted and the crowd that had collected around us, started to disperse. The drone wheeled about lazily and continued on its rounds.
I took that as my cue to do the same with Morgan, but I wasn’t up for teleporting just yet, and was in need of some air time over the city that was my first love. “Come on,” I whispered, pulling her tighter to my chest and lifting into the air. “Let’s get out of here and back to Nemesis headquarters so I can show you how alive I am.”
We flew up over the city, and I resisted the urge to turn it into an aerial sightseeing tour, knowing there’d be time for that tonight after the Midsummer celebration. Once we made it above buildings, I pushed myself to go a little faster, wanting to get her alone so we could talk about the most recent memory of hers I’d seen. I wasn’t sure she’d shared it deliberately, but it gave me an insight into her that I’d never even considered. Betty had been correct in one thing: I hadn’t expected to be her first love, but I knew I’d be her last, if she’d let me. And I was determined to ease her mind.
“Wait. Is that your father’s place?” Morgan asked with a stroke of my cheek.
Oh gods. Focus, Dirk. Because if you don’t…
Reining in my libido with willpower that I had to dig deep to unearth – really deep – I kissed her forehead with a soft chuckle, and slowed to hover over the eight foot faceted glass globe that crowned my father’s building. Gesturing out, I slid back as she eased forward to take in the view. “Yes it is. And Tamamo’s brothel is the triangular white building just up from the park that we had our lover’s quarrel in.”
“No wonder you like flying,” she breathed, her face softening, as she watched the street far below us.
“If you think this is something, wait until I take you to the Dragon’s Needle.” She looked up at me and the wonder on her face reminded me why I couldn’t imagine my life without her. I wanted to give her a lifetime of breathless moments to see that expression.
“I didn’t know she was that close.”
“Surprising, right? Everyone says that Dragons are standoffish, but Liris is quite affectionate.”
“I meant Chan, Dirk.” Her eyes swung back to the ground. “It seems our little romantic spat has done its job. I wondered if she’d pop her head out.”
“Oh. Right. Of course,” I grunted, unconvinced but wanting to see where her train of thought was headed. “You were just setting a trap.” On the one hand, I was relieved. On the other, I didn’t believe it for a second. There was something wrong.
“I know she’s hiding something and maybe she’s going to reveal it soon.” She pointed to where someone had just stepped into the street, her eyes narrowing, “Chan is on the move. She’s wearing the onyx pendant and a new face, which might actually mean another unfortunate is about to become a victim.”
Squinting, I leaned in, my cheek brushing hers as I tried to make out the details Morgan had, and saw only a vaguely humanoid woman in a long black overcoat. “We’re almost forty stories up. How can you tell that ant-sized woman is even wearing any jewelry? Let alone what her face looks like.”
“Just trust me,” Morgan said, pulling back enough that her breath caressed against my cheek, sending a shiver through me that had nothing to do with the chilly nip in the air around us. “Even from this distance I can tell enough detail to know it’s Chan. Her clothing is still the same.”
“If you say so.” A horse drawn carriage pulled up to the curb and Chan climbed in. I caught a flash of orange skirt from beneath the black walking coat and reluctantly had to admit she might be right. “So, what do you want to do?” As if I had to ask.
“We need to follow her,” Morgan pulled back and would’ve slid out of my gravity bubble if I hadn’t kept a firm grip on her arm. She stopped to look up at me, fingers digging tightly into my forearm. “Dirk, come on!”
Lethargy hit me hard from behind the eyes, my mind going fuzzy for a second, but I shook it off, covering with a beleaguered sigh before Morgan could notice. “Alright, we’ll fly after her.” Morgan thanked me by snuggling close again and twisting in my arms until she was tucked tight against me. In a move that made Mini-Dirk unreasonably happy and made concentration that much more difficult for me, I wrapped both of my arms around her waist and forced the bubble forward just as Tamamo’s carriage pulled away from the curb.
We drifted along in the air behind the carriage, well up and out of the way of prying eyes. Morgan didn’t move, keeping a silent, watchful eye on the slowly moving coach. Distracted by the feel of her in my arms, my mind started to wander, pondering over the events of the past few hours. I yearned to ask her about her relationship with Betty, since Betty had implied that there was something very marriage-like about their partnership in the past. I wanted to tell her that I knew about the pregnancy and ask her why she didn’t tell me about our good fortune. I even wanted to know what she thought about Tamamo and, more importantly, when she thought we might be able to stop for a bite to eat.
Unfortunately, the further away my mind wandered from what I was doing, the further we dipped, until Morgan shot me an annoyed glance over her shoulder and elbowed me lightly in the stomach. I quickly corrected to keep us aloft and focused all of my attention on that, concentrating, so my questions remained unanswered in favor of keeping us in the air. I took comfort in her silence, choosing to see it as a welcome respite to the chaotic black hole the day had been.
We followed Tamamo through the streets, out of town, drifting over the evergreens and spruce trees that were, in large part, responsible for the Emerald City nickname Seattle was known by. If the ravens and gulls we passed thought it odd that we were drifting along in their domain, they didn’t show it, wheeling and tilting in the cold drafts, playing hide-and-seek in the trees below. I’d spent long hours of my childhood doing the same, racing through the forested areas, drinking from the icy streams, sleeping in the rocky outcroppings. All of that had changed when my mother died, and I’d had to focus my attention on making sure my little brother grew up feeling like he had some sort of stability in his life.
Morgan was saying something and it took a minute to penetrate. “What?”
“I said, I wonder why she’d be going out this far from the city,” she repeated, stroking her hand against my forearm.
“Maybe she just wants to go for a ride.”
Morgan made a noise in her throat and shook her head. “I don’t think so, look.”
The forest line broke suddenly, revealing miles of blacktop and hangars in a valley below the swell of a hill, and I gasped. With a fully staffed glass-domed reception atrium, and more dirigibles, airships, and flying ferries than I had time to count, Donner Field –my father’s pride and joy—was the first stop for anyone traveling to the city by air. Employees scurried about between the buildings, travelers disembarking from what looked like a recently landed zeppelin streaming for the atrium. It wasn’t an unusual sight. Tourist season was just picking up for the area, visitors wanting to take in a little of the famous Pacific Northwest sunshine, blue skies, and unpredictable drizzle without having to worry about sticking around for the grayer, damper winter weather.
Morgan pointed to a group of buildings near the hangars and we touched down, a bit less elegantly than I’d planned, but at least neither of us landed on our ass. I steadied myself against a wall as Morgan crept further down to peek around the corner into the open area of the tarmac, trying to look like I was merely providing it support rather than the other way around. My head felt a little fuzzy, my body wracked by the occasional shudder as though my muscles were protesting a serious workout. Which, given how much of my abilities I’d been using, I supposed it really had.
“Chan’s carriage pulled into that hanger,” Morgan whispered, gesturing to a building relatively nearby, as she returned to my side. “We need to get in there and see what she’s up to.”
“I don’t know about you,” scratching my jaw, I checked the area, “but I’m pretty sure we both stick out like sore thumbs. There’s no way I can sneak around here without being caught, my dad owns the place.”
“I figured that’s what was implied by the giant ‘DONNER’ emblazoned all over the building tops,” chuckled Morgan quietly. “What about just teleporting us in there?”
I shook my head. “We don’t know who or what is inside. Do you really want to risk just popping into a potentially very bad situation?” I left out that I wasn’t completely sure I’d be able to do it. The flight had left me woozier than I anticipated. I really need to eat something soon.
“You’ve got a point.” Looking over her shoulder again for a long moment, she finally turned back to me, an idea written all over her face. She ran a hand down her body, closing her eyes. Her outfit fluctuated until it resembled the blue jumpsuit and matching ball cap an employee near one of the planes was wearing. Brushing her fingers through her hair, the strands lightened from dark ruby red to a lighter blonde, although her skin stayed the same tawny hue. She looked as surprised that whatever she’d done had worked as I did, but didn’t linger on it, giving the golden strands a quick twist and stuffing them up beneath the hat. “Stay here, I’ll be back.”
Hand of Time (The Nemesis Chronicles, Book 2)
Morgan…Three months after the events of Vegas turned her life upside down, she’s finding that getting back to normal is anything but easy.
Dirk… Trapped between juggling his new responsibilities and making Morgan understand his feelings, the former courtesan is discovering that letting go of the past is much harder when the past refuses to let go of him.
Nemesis… Still reeling from the Society’s attack, they find themselves facing a familiar foe and a new menace hellbent on testing their fortitude.
Midsummer madness heats up Nemesis Island. It’s a time of celebration and renewal, but the Society has other plans…with Dirk, Morgan, and the rest of Nemesis at the top of their list.