Happy Tuesday, and thank you for tuning in again.
Please allow me to present to you the seventh teaser for Seeds, Book One of The Heterogen Chronicles, scheduled for publication January 2016.
For this particular teaser, here is some context. This scene takes place several scenes after the previous teaser, following our characters as they journey deeper into the Wild. Here the characters have stopped to make camp for the night in a clearing near a river. Shade goes with Onyx, at her urging, to forage for blackberries, and soon learns more secrets about his old friend…
From Act Two, Part One of the novel, this is Scene 12…
[PLEASE NOTE: Seeds is intended for a mature audience.]
Rich With Wild Blackberry Brambles
Shade, Kale, and Brass secure the last pole, then step back to examine their work. Brass and Kale each walk around the tent’s perimeter, pulling on the main support poles until satisfied.
“Good work,” Kale says to Shade in his booming voice and gives a firm enough pat on the back to send him stumbling a step ahead. “Sorry.”
Before Shade answers, Onyx approaches him. “Let’s go forage for blackberries,” she says. “There is a patch just a bit into the woods.” She offers her left arm for him to hold, bending it at the elbow.
“Certainly, though I don’t know much about foraging,” he admits and places his hand firmly on her forearm. As they walk into the woods, rifles slung over their shoulders, Shade remains ignorant of Savina watching.
In a few minutes the clearing and river are well out of sight. Onyx casually takes Shade’s hand and leads him in a winding path through the tall pines until they come to a break in the woods rich with wild blackberry brambles, all twisting around each other in a maze of arches and loops. Several large black birds flutter about, chirping and snatching dark berries in their yellow beaks.
Shade pulls the knife from his boot. “Where should I cut these branches?”
She puts a hand on his wrist, eases his arm down. “Nowhere.”
He looks at her with his head slightly tilted.
“Damage no more than you must,” she tells him.
He nods his understanding, then places the knife back in his boot.
“Now,” Onyx says, taking him by the hand, “it would be best if I go in first.”
“It would be best if you go in first.” Shade finds himself repeating her words. Then he shakes his head and looks into her amber eyes. “I didn’t mean to say that. The words just came out of my mouth.”
Onyx gives him a sly grin and he pulls his hand from hers.
“How did you do that?” he asks. He stretches out his fingers, clenches, releases. Repeats. “It was as though it wasn’t even me speaking. Like what Brass did to Anax.”
“Now how would I know about what Brass did to your Boss?” She rolls her eyes upward then back to meet his. “Getting the help you need is what is truly important,” she says, mimicking Brass’ deep voice. “Or something to that effect.”
“That is incredible. How do you do that? Plant words in others’ mouths?”
“Very carefully, my friend. Now come on,” she says, turns away, and slips into the blackberry patch. “Be careful,” she warns without looking back at him, “these have sharp thorns, and lots of them. Just gently twist the berries off the vines. We can put them in here.” She produces a small sack from within her coat and starts picking.
Shade cautiously moves in beside Onyx and observes how she harvests the berries, following her instructions but collecting much slower than she does. The berries vary in color, black, dark red, and a combination of the two.
“Give them a little squeeze and only take the firm ones. As you can see, the birds are happy to eat those that have gone soft,” she instructs him.
As they pick he starts to understand the rhythm of harvesting and grows bolder, maneuvering around the pointy thorns to get as many berries as he can. After several minutes they have almost filled the sack. Shade reaches through an arch of vines to take one more berry, and as he pulls his hand out his index finger catches on a thorn. He drops the berry and yanks his hand back, blood quickly flowing from the wound. Grasping his finger he crouches, snarls at the pain.
Onyx’ hand gently touches his shoulder and he finds himself standing. “Here,” she says and takes his wounded hand in her own. She brings his finger to her mouth, slides out her long red tongue and wraps it around the cut. Shade watches as she pulls his finger into her mouth, and he can feel a tight, tight squeezing.
She closes her eyes and takes three loud, long breaths through her nostrils. For a moment his vision grows hazy, as though the woods have suddenly filled with a dense fog. He feels as though he may swoon, then his eyes clear and he can see her pull his finger out. She gives it a slight kiss and holds it up for him to behold.
“It’s gone,” he says in a low voice, incredulous to his own words. “That is unbelievable, like the wound was never even there. How did…?”
She looks at him with impish eyes, then they both say, “Very carefully,” and share a good laugh. “For now, my friend, let’s just say you will have much to learn when we get home.”
“But you must understand my curiosity.”
“I see your shiver of anticipation,” she tells him and steps closer. “Now, before we return to the others, you must promise me something.” She places her arms around his shoulders and they lock eyes. He glides his hands onto her hips and she leans her body into his, her tail wrapping around his back. For a moment they stand among the trees, listening to each other’s breath, feeling the warmth of their bodies pressing closer.
“What I did for you just now is between us, only. Not a word to your Boss, or to Savina. You are just scratching the surface here, Shade, and I need to know that I can trust you.”
He feels penetrated by her bright eyes and in his peripheral vision can see her long fur glowing in the setting sunlight. “Your promise must be to keep this between us, for now,” she says. “Can I trust you?”
His heart beats a little quicker as he leans closer and kisses her soft, furry cheek, tightens his embrace.
“With my life,” he whispers.
Please stay tuned for more teasers…
Ciao, for now, Stephen~