Well, possibly two scenes.
I'm actually really happy with how this book is shaping up. What my beta readers and my editors think will be a whole other story of course (ha!), but right now, I'm really enjoying the home stretch, and I'm happy with the final scene that's now been etched quite clearly in my head. It isn't really the scene I wanted to write...or even planned to write, really, not when I started out working on this thing. Yet there's a strange sort of inevitability to how things are turning out, in spite of that.
This has been one of those interesting books where I really needed to set it aside for awhile, truthfully, because there was a big emotional and/or investment duck going on, and I did that squirrely thing that some writers like me do, where instead of hitting our "thing" head-on, we start writing in circles and then bemoaning the fact that we can't finish the darned thing. Meaning, there was an element in this book that I really didn't want to write, so I finally had to concede failure on finishing when I'd initially wanted to finish, and give myself time to mull it over (apparently), until I committed to it.
This, incidentally...this is why no one wants to live with full-time writers.
Except (possibly) other writers, and even they are pretty dubious about the whole thing.
So yes, expect announcements here relatively soon, on this book's final (and for real) publishing date. It shouldn't be too long now. I'm actually hoping by the end of this month, assuming my editors and other peeps can get to it by then.
Until then, here is an excerpt, below ~
DISCLAIMER: Oh, and this is NOT one of the PG-13 scenes, by the way. The Slave Girl Chronicles series in general fits rather neatly into the "New Adult" age grouping, so while it has some YA-ish qualities, it's definitely not squeaky-clean, either. The adult content is generally not excessively graphic in the books, but it is there...and for the scene below there is a definite adult content alert! So yes, please don't read unless you're cool with that, thanks!
Otherwise, let me know what you think! :)
Jet started to walk away from him, but his tail wrapped around her without warning.
Before she could think about struggling, he pulled her against him, closer that time, until her breath got stuck in her chest. She grabbed hold of his arms once she'd regained her balance, looking up at him as she fought to recover her mental equilibrium, too. At the look in his eyes, she hesitated. His eyes looked almost sad now, not quite bright, but more emotional than she'd seen him look, at least without his having stung her.
"What?" she said, angry. "What are you going to do, Laks? I thought you said you wouldn't force me?"
"Are you afraid?" he said, speaking as if she hadn't spoken. "Are you afraid of me, Jet?"
She snorted a laugh. "No!"
"Are you afraid of sex with me?" he persisted, his dark eyes unmoving. "You were stung many times before. Are you afraid, when you are not stung?"
She stared up at him, frozen briefly in place by his words.
She tried to think about them, but her hands only tightened on his arms. She grew aware somewhere that he was stroking her hair again, watching her face as she fought her expression steady, knowing she'd already let the silence stretch on too long.
"You are afraid," he said. It was no longer a question. He let out another purring sigh, and that time, it rumbled through her chest. She heard an apology somewhere in that, too. "Jet, I am sorry. I had forgotten. I had forgotten you have only done this the one time..."
She shook her head, feeling her face burn in embarrassment, hating how his words affected her, even as she avoided his eyes.
"It's stupid," she said, giving a short laugh. "It's stupid, right?"
"No." His voice was softer now. He purred after he spoke, stroking her hair and then her shoulders, his fingers gentle. He pressed more closely against her, tightening his tail around her. After a pause, he was kissing her neck, one hand in her hair as the other rubbed the small of her back. He touched his cheek to hers before raising his head again, studying her eyes.
"Apart from this fear, what are you memories of this thing?" he said. "Are they pleasant, Jet? What do you remember?"
She shrugged, still gripping his arms as she tried to keep her expression still. "Pleasant. Yeah." Hesitating, she glanced up at him. "It was great, Laks."
He nodded, but a faint smile quirked one side of his mouth. "So, you just wish me to wait? To not sleep with other humans, but to wait for you to be comfortable with this again?"
She felt her jaw harden, even as she shook her head. "Laks, no...it's not that..."
"It's not?" His voice and expression grew quizzical. "Then what?"
"I get that you don't want to do that," she said. "And I get why. I’m not that clueless."
"I did not say I would not do that," he said, his voice carrying a faint warning. "I said I would not avoid sex if you did not want me. I said I would find someone else...someone who did want me. If you want me and are afraid, then I will wait." He paused, gripping her tighter with his hands and tail. He held her tightly enough that Jet felt herself flushing again, as soon as she noticed he was ready for sex in more ways than one. Even as she thought it, he pressed against her, deliberately that time, murmuring in her ear.
"I don't want you to sleep with other Nirreth, Jet," he said. "...Or any other humans. Were you serious about this? About wanting this with another?"
She shook her head where he held her against his broad chest.
"No," she managed.
He relaxed where he held her, but his fingers didn't loosen their hold. "Are you comfortable asking me?" he said. "...When you're ready? Or do you want me to ask you?" He kissed her neck again, nuzzling her cheek. "...I will ask every day, if you like."
"You've been stinging me," she said, remembering. "For practice, I mean...for the Rings."
"Yes," he said he said, still holding her tightly.
"Have you been taking the shot again?" she said.
Jet knew he’d understand what she meant. There was a shot that Nirreth could take, some drug that allowed them to control themselves even when they were under the influence of the venom. It didn’t do much for Jet herself, truthfully, but it calmed Laks right down, making him almost indifferent to sex, seemingly no matter how many times he stung her.
Raising his head now, he gave her a bewildered look.
"Of course," he said. "Yes."
She sighed a little, looking up at him. "Why, Laks?"
He gave another rumbling laugh, but still didn't relax his hold on her, not with his hands, arms or tail. "You need to ask me why? Because I would have kept on stinging you, Jet...because you wouldn't have made it to the Rings at all, if I hadn't." He held her tighter, wrapping his tail further around her waist. "...I might have to take the shot tonight if we sleep here together, Jet," he said, lower. "I might have to take it now, if you don't tell me to let got of you..."
He pressed tighter against her, as if to emphasize the point.
Jet looked away, embarrassed again, but despite his words, she didn't push his hands off, or let go of his waist. She was still focusing past him, trying to pull her mind back together, when his tail tightened abruptly again, nearly cutting off her breath. She found herself stroking the skin of his arms when he didn’t let go, marveling at how soft it was, even over the harder muscle. When she slid a hand under his shirt, he let out another low growl, clutching her tighter.
"Please," he murmured, caressing her hair. "Please, Jet...let me. Don't be afraid."
"Laks..." she said, shaking her head. "It's not you. I swear..."
"I won't hurt you. I want to so badly...please..."
She felt her face grow warmer again, but didn't look up, or meet his gaze.
After another pause, she took a breath. "What is this thing to you?" she said. "Us. You and me. What is it really, Laks? Is Richter right? Are you just trying to keep me with you to keep me away from him? Am I just another pawn in the power struggle with you two?"
"No." Laksri's arms tightened more. "Richter is not right. Richter is an ass."
Jet let out a startled laugh. "Well...yeah. Okay. I knew that. That's not exactly what I was asking, Laks––"
He cut her off, his voice a near-growl as he spoke into her ear.
"I want you," he said. "You're not a pawn to me. I consider you my lover. I consider you my companion. I consider you my friend, too...and I don't want to hurt you. I won't let Richter hurt you..." His voice grew lower, softly cajoling. "I don't want to share you...not with him, or Anaze, or another Nirreth. I want you, Jet. I want you to want me. It feels like you do sometimes. It felt like you did that night. It feels like you do now. It's confusing me, Jet...but it's also driving me crazy. I want sex with you...I want to sting you. Please let me. Please..."
She glanced up at him, fighting to control her expression.
It only got more difficult when she saw his, and the way his eyes focused on her mouth, then drifted down the rest of her. Feeling that flutter return to her stomach, she found herself nodding, almost before she'd let herself think.
"Yeah," she said, nodding again. "Okay. Sting me, Laks." She met his gaze, almost shyly that time, giving him a slight grin. "Do it now. Before I lose my nerve, okay...?"
His fingers tightened abruptly, but he didn't look away from her face...or wait for her to change her mind. His tail loosened around her, but only enough for him to catch hold of her shirt, yanking it up her body. Once he had enough of her skin showing, he pressed the end of his tail to her side, giving another rumbling purr as he gripped her back in his free arm, kissing her other cheek before he pressed his against her.
He pulled her tighter into the curve of his body, right before his whole body tensed.
Before she could second-guess any of it, he stung her>
Jet gasped, feeling the barb enter her skin and then her flesh. She gasped again as the venom let go, holding him around the waist as he let out a lower sound, nearly a groan as he panted against her neck. It came from deep in his chest, a kind of pained sound, one that grew louder when he pulled her tighter against his body. He'd barely finished, the barb had barely left her skin, when he stung her again, in the same place, without removing his tail. He groaned louder that time, crushing her in his arms.
The venom had just started to hit her system when the second sting finished.
Once it had, she was tugging at his shirt, fighting to get it off him, even as he did the same to her, half-ripping the long tunic over her head. The instant he got it off her, he pulled her down to the carpeted floor, stinging her a third time.
Then a fourth.
Pausing as that one finished, he lay on top of her, panting, gripping her shoulders as he groaned. The fifth time he stung her, she cried out, and then she had her hands on him, fighting to get off the last of his clothes. He pinned her to the floor, kissing her face, shoulders and mouth as he purred in another near-growl against her chest. He raised his tail in an arc, about to sting her again, when the door abruptly opened behind them.
Jet barely heard it.
She definitely didn't hear it enough to take her hands off Laksri.
Laksri heard it, though. He turned, still holding her under him. His hands on her grew protective, right before his anger blazed abruptly and violently around her. It happened fast, seeping like water forced through the membrane of her skin. Within seconds, she felt it so intensely through him that she let out a cry, gripping his arm and shoulder. She fought to calm him down, to send him reassurance...
It didn't help.
Through the venom's glow, Jet saw his eyes blazing, the pale blue flecks once more standing out like stars inside the deep black of his irises. Pulling her further under him, he let out a sound she'd never heard from him before. The growl that erupted from his throat and chest wasn't playful that time, or any kind of signal of arousal. He growled at whoever stood there as an overt, uncompromising threat. Jet felt the intention on him as he did it.
She knew, without question, that Laks would kill whoever it was.
Even buried under the fog of all that venom, the thought frightened her.
She slid her arms around his back, holding his waist, somehow still more concerned for him than she was for whoever stood there. In fact, whoever was there, causing his anger, barely entered into her thinking at all, not even enough to look at them directly. Stroking Laksri’s bare skin, she heard herself murmuring to him instead, fighting to reach him even as she tried to focus her eyes, to bring her mind back to the room, to what was happening. Some dimmer part of herself knew she needed more information...she needed to understand whatever occurred in those seconds after she heard the door open. When she finally managed to make sense of the person standing over them, she could only stare up at his dark, angular body, the shockingly familiar features. The anger that blazed in his eyes seemed to match what she felt on Laksri.
Even so, she couldn't believe he was still standing there, given the sounds coming from Laksri's throat.
"Go away," she told him.
"Shut up, Jet."
Her fingers tightened on Laksri, but she still wasn't angry. All she could really feel was worry about what Laksri might do, and what would happen to him after he did it.
"He'll kill you," she blurted.
"I'd like to see him try," the human snapped.
“No you wouldn’t,” she said. It wasn’t a retort. She said the words sincerely.
She glanced at Laksri, and her worry intensified. She was still trying to decide what to do, staring between Laksri and the man standing over them, when the latter raised his arm, pointing his hand unmistakably at Laksri. Jet was still trying to make sense of the small, smooth, gray object he held in his hand, when Anaze spoke again.
That time, his voice held so much fury, Jet flinched.
"You like stinging her, do you, lizard skin?" he said.
"Get out of here––" Laksri began, his voice low, murderous.
"You like stinging humans?" Anaze said again, as if the other hadn't spoken. His eyes looked wild, but so filled with anger that Jet flinched deeper into the curve of Laksri's body. "How about being stung by one, for a change? You oversexed, four-fingered bastard..."
His last words came out in a snarl, his jaw clenched.
He pushed a dark button on the device he held.
Before Jet could comprehend what he'd done, a long black barb left the end of the device, embedding itself into Laksri's back. Immediately, the Nirreth went rigid over her, vibrating and twitching as if a few hundred volts of current had just been shot through his skin.
Jet only realized later, that that's pretty much exactly what happened.
She felt his pain, and it brought tears to her eyes. Desperate, she held him, crying out in terror as she tried to take some of that pain unto herself. Before she could really figure out what to do, or how to get the barb out of his skin, Laksri collapsed on top of her.
Gasping, fighting to breathe under his weight even as she stroked his skin, Jet looked up again, maybe out of fear, or maybe looking for help.
Whatever she'd expected to find, it wasn't there.
Anaze was gone.
So yeah, rough, unedited and everything else, but that's your teaser for now...hope you enjoyed it!
I'll be spending the next few days at the coffee shop, most likely, finishing up this sucker before I ship it off to the beta readers so they can tell me just how much work it still needs, (heh).
Then, maybe then, back to the next Allie's War book...
Have a lovely Sunday, everyone!