Into the Storm – Excerpts
From Wednesday after First Weekend
Ryna put tingling-bright Magick behind an offhand gesture at her vardo door. It obligingly locked itself with a snick. “I can’t believe we’re doing this,” she griped.
Kaya, Phuro Basil, and her father were the only ones who looked unperturbed. But then, Kaya and Basil were Water elements—nothing ruffled them. And her father… well, he was just himself. The others were heartily annoyed, and Phoenix looked like she was trying very hard to be inconspicuous.
“We’re trying to get them to let us rebuild the vardo behind Hollow Hill, folks,” Phuro Basil reminded. “We don’t want to make any waves. And that means playing along with Patty—for the moment.”
The grumbles subsided, also for the moment.
Basil made a gallant, sweeping gesture, and they all trudged off through the heat, humidity, and dust.
A group of rennies swatting mosquitoes greeted the Gypsies on the green outside Bedside Manor. A couple people puffed pipes to keep the pests at bay, and Ryna gave silent thanks that she’d long ago learned how to repel the little bloodsuckers with Magick.
Too bad it didn’t work on Patty.
“Wow! We have a lot of people here! This is wonderful!”
Tanek made covert gagging motions. Niki gave him an elbow to the ribs, though by the twist of her lips she was far from unsympathetic.
Patches gave Tanek a thumbs-up and sauntered over to join them. “Welcome to our little corner of Hell.”
“It’s pink,” Phoenix blurted at the same time Ryna spotted Patty’s frightening blouse-and-pleated-skirt combo.
“That’s what makes it Hell,” Patches explained.
“It’s like a Catholic school uniform gone wrong,” Tobaltio murmured in horror.
Phoenix shook her head. “I know all about those. That’s worse.”
“Really?” Tanek perked up. “Do you still have pictures?”
Ryna glared at the dancer before turning a considering eye to Phoe. Ryna knew her love had done the private school thing, but it had never occurred to her that she’d had to wear the outfit, too.
Phoenix blushed. “I am not showing you pictures. And as soon as I talk to him, I’m going to forbid Danny from showing you pictures, too. I know better than to give you people that kind of ammunition.”
Tanek let out an aggrieved sigh.
Ryna made a mental note to get to her brother-in-law first.
The pink demon clapped her hands for attention, clipboard tucked under one arm, eyes sparkling like a cartoon character’s. “Okay, peoples! Let’s all stand in a big circle, okay? Big circle, come on, make room for everyone.”
The assembled rennies shuffled into an amoeba-like ring. Patty frowned—but didn’t push it.
Good girl, Ryna thought with narrowed eyes and a thin smile.
“Wonderful! Great job, everyone! Remember, this is the only time you should ever be facing into a circle with your fellow performers. Anyone want to tell me why?”
“Because performer donuts are bad,” called a mockingly innocent voice. “They leave out the guests!”
“Wonderful!” Patty exclaimed, making a note on her clipboard. “It’s so nice to see you’re learning from our little rehearsals. Now—I want you to close your eyes—oh, I’m so anxious for this! The Royal Shakespeare Company does this exercise before every show; it develops communication skills and teaches you to trust your fellow actors and get in tune with the group dynamic.” She took a deep, cleansing breath and beamed around the amoeba.
Ryna thought she might vomit.
“Okay, okay, okay now peoples, everybody close your eyes. Close ‘em!” Patty waved her hands in front of her as if this would get the point across faster. It made her look like an agitated hummingbird—except hummingbirds probably knew better than to go around being all bubblegum pink. “Got them closed? Now we start at one and count up. People just randomly call out a number. The goal is to get as high as we can—but if two people call out the same number, we have to start over.”
“Doesn’t it just teach us to keep our mouths shut so we don’t have to go back to square one?” queried a man’s voice from a few people down.
“Of course not! It teaches… unity.” She said it like a Holy Word, then followed it with another cleansing breath. “Unity. I’ll start. One.”
“Two,” Phuro Basil offered from a little way down the line.
“Three,” called a lady promptly.
A pause. Then a man voice: “Four.”
“Six!” two people cried.
“Oops! Start over. One.”
“Four!” The same man. Now that she’d heard the voice a couple times, she thought it might be one of the Bernatellis.
“Five,” tried three voices.
“Two,” leapt in a whole chorus.
“Four.” The Bernatelli—Antonio. And two others.
A long pause. No one wanted to get caught. Two people got tired of waiting. “One.”
“Dammit, I want to do four!”
“Four’s mine, I say, mine! Bwa-ha-ha!”
“One!” yelled Patty. “Peoples, one! Let’s have some unity here!”
“Two!” bellowed Phuro Basil.
The circle turned and stared at him in shock. Ryna couldn’t believe her ears. Things had just been getting entertaining!
Basil just smiled, cocked his head to Patty—her eyes still closed—and then pointed around the circle sequentially. Comprehension dawned across the other rennies’ faces.
“Three,” said the person next to him.
“Four,” added the one next to her, and the numbers began to fly.
Ryna peered through slitted eyes and smiled. Fine, they’d play her stupid game.
But they’d play it by their own rules.
And they’d win.
From Tuesday after Second Weekend
There she is.
“I can see that,” Liam told his minion, eyes never leaving the raven-haired vision. Perhaps she was real this time. Perhaps she wasn’t. Either way, he was content to stare in rapt attention, mesmerized.
She seemed so at peace, trusting, oblivious. Vulnerable. How could she lean there, counting the newborn stars without a shiver of fear for the nightmares that called the darkness their home?
Beautiful innocence. A touch of breeze toyed with her hair, stirred the white tendrils from her face. He imagined his fingers playing there, remembered feel of the silken strands against his hands as he braided it that morning on Cottage’s steps, with the sun barely cresting the rise of the shops across the way. He remembered the feel of her lips, sweet and yielding against his… remembered her soft weight in his arms as he’d carried her to her brother’s car… remembered the melting look in her eyes as he’d kissed her hand…
The light outlined her like an angel. Like a goddess. Golden, auburn, sweet bird silhouetted in the flame of a phoenix. A woman to protect, to cherish, to have. A woman worth dying for.
The minion smirked—Liam could feel it. It sent an image of itself crossing over, touching her…
“Don’t,” Liam said, his command soft, though if she heard him, it would be the whisper of leaves in the wind.
He pinned the imp to the shadow of a tree with a glare. “She is not for the likes of you.”
It glared back, incredulous at his harsh tone. Is that so?
“It is.” Liam let his eyes go cold; the imp subsided. Liam released its murky form from the prison of his stare.
And I suppose she’s for the likes of you?
“She will be.” Of all the girls he’d ever courted, Bea had been the toughest of all… but challenges always brought the greatest rewards—and there could be no reward greater than her pale flesh, the soft surrender of her sighs, the inky curtain of her hair veiling their love…
“She will be,” he said again, tasting the promise in the words.