A quick note to the beta readers: Steel’s Edge is almost done. If you have beta read in the past for us and would like to read it, please email me with the word Beta in the subject of the email. It is not a happy book. There is a fairly serious spoiler near the beginning, so while I won’t ask you to sign a NDA, I would like you to promise that you will keep the contents of the work confidential. For these reasons, I would like to keep the beta readers to three to five.
A small sample:
Charlotte stepped inside. Lark sat on the couch, her legs tucked under her, a book spread in front of her.
“I need your help,” Charlotte said. “We’re going to visit a dangerous part of town.
Lark uncoiled from the couch. “I’ll get my sword.”
Half an hour later, wrapped in a hooded cloak, Charlotte dropped two gold doubloons on the counter of Palace of Delights. “Miranda.”
The proprietor, an older woman in a crushed silk gown didn’t even blink. “Second floor, blue door.”
The blue door opened into a comfortable room with a canopy bed, all in various shades of red. The sheets were black silk. A thick red rug hid the floor. The furnishings were rich but slightly vulgar.
A moment and a woman walked through the door. She was slender, blond, and doe-eyed. She saw Lark.
“I don’t do kids.”
Charlotte dropped a stack of coins on the table. “Let’s talk.”
Miranda shrugged. “He comes, he fucks, he leaves. If you’re looking for state secrets, he doesn’t share.”
“Tell me about his kinks. What does he like?”
Miranda sat on the bed. “Nothing too twisted. He likes to feel he owns you. Sometimes he makes me crawl to him and beg him to fuck me. I don’t care – as long as he’s paying. He’s got this thing about all women being secretly whores. Sometimes he makes me dress up into a nice prim outfit, formal gown, flowers in the hair, the whole thing, and blow him. He gets off on the perversity of it, I guess.”
“Thank you. Are you aware that you’re infected witH Dock Rot?”
Miranda grimaced. “I know. Damn soldiers. I already used my poultice.”
After the perfumed air of the Palace of Delights, the cold night breeze felt refreshing. Charlotte and Lark walked down the street. Charlotte walked fast. Regrettably the closest parking lot was a brisk five minute walk away and the neighborhood wasn’t exactly safe.
“Making her crawl to him is sick,” Lark said.
“Brennan likes to debase women. He also likes to feel powerful.”
“Why did we need to know that?”
“Because he didn’t buy Richard’s story and now it’s my turn. I need to capture his attention.”
Lark mulled it over. “Just like that?”
“Brennan is power-hungry and I’m his type: tall and blond.”
They turned into the parking lot. Two men blocked their way. The taller of the two flashed a knife. “Money. Now.”
Nice tactic. The Palace had to have maintained security, because mugged patrons were bad for business. Someone either noticed that they left early and surmised they were looking for information rather than pleasure or Miranda had raised an alarm. Likely the first option – the proprietor had given them a sharp look when they left, and Miranda was paid too well to blab. Now they were being scared off, just in case they had any thoughts of coming back.
“Money, you cow!” The man raised his knife.
“May I?” Lark asked. “Please?”
“Leave or she will kill you,” Charlotte said.
“Suit yourself, whore.” The man lunged and gasped as his arm slid off his body and fell to the pavement. His mouth gaped open in a horrified beginning of the scream. He never got to make one. Lark swept past him and he crumpled to the floor. The other thug backed away, his hands in the air, and fled into the night.
Lark pulled a cloth from her tunic and cleaned the blood off her blade.
Charlotte looked at the body on the ground. He was beyond her skill. A child just ended the man’s life and seemed completely untroubled by it.
“Come.” Charlotte headed toward their vehicle. “Do you enjoy killing, Sophie?”
“I enjoy the shadows,” Lark said.
They got into the vehicle. Lark started the phaeton and they rolled off into the night.
“I am a warrior poised between light and darkness. It’s difficult to explain.”
“I would appreciate if you tried anyway.”
Lark frowned, her profile, lit by the golden glow of the instruments panel, etched against the night outside. “The death isn’t important. The only thing that matters is the moment of decision. My path is a line. My opponent’s path is another line. In the instant we meet, we’re forever altered. We may walk away or my line or his line may end, but for a brief time we exist in the same space on the verge of action and that space is full of possibilities. It’s the moment in which I truly live. It’s short. It’s always so very short.”
Oh Sweet Mother of Kindness. An old memory flashed before Charlotte. She was sixteen, attending a dance during a summit with another College, and as she stood there, chatting with her friends, she saw an older boy looking at her from across the floor. She saw admiration in his eyes. In that brief instant, when their gazes met, an array of possibilities flashed before her: he could come over, he could talk to her, there could be a start of something… It was a sweet kind of thrill, slightly frightening, but exciting. But Lark found it in battle and she was addicted to it. How could you even begin to fix something like that?