Selah March

March 9, 2008

"Been nice knowin’ ya," said the little pile of ashes.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Selah March @ 9:54 am
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Our priest is coming this afternoon to bless the house. This yearly ritual is prefaced by a thorough cleaning (because he really shouldn’t be blessing the dust or the dog hair, although I doubt he’d mind it) and includes the kissing of crosses, the splashing of holy water into various nooks and crannies, and the chanting of prayers in first century Greek. House blessings take place before the start of the Orthodox Great Lent, which in this case is tomorrow, so we’re sort of getting it in just under the wire.

The other yearly ritual that accompanies the house blessing is the part where somebody – usually my husband, but this year my eldest son beat him to it – makes the joke about how I’m likely to burst into flames when my lips touch the big, golden cross. Or maybe the holy water will turn into steam as it lands on my skin. Because of my unrepentant smut-writing, you see.

“Yeah, yeah. Ha ha ha. You guys should take that routine on the road and make us all millionaires,” she says, looking surreptitiously to the left and right and sending up the same little prayer she says every year at about this time. “Lord, please forgive me for not being even a little bit sorry that I write dirty stories. Amen.”

I figure between that and the thirty-dollar chocolate torte I’m serving post-blessing, I’ve got my sinning ass covered. But if, on the off chance, this is the year I go up in flames? I offer a little snippet of one of my several works-in-progress as a final farewell.

* * *

From Chapter 5 of NIGHTSHADE:

Nikolai turned away and faced the gathering storm. When he spoke again, his voice held a note of regret Daniel hadn’t heard before. “I did not know of this shameful trickery.”

“And if you did know? What would you do? Doom me to a lifetime of obedience, poverty, and the Brotherhood’s special version of chastity?” Daniel shrugged. “It’s done now. I know my duty.”

Nikolai didn’t answer.

Daniel waited. The moon went into hiding behind the storm clouds, leaving only the tiny bulbs strung in the maze hedge to light the space around them. The wind picked up, blowing the scent of Masticha in his face, and he breathed it in as if it were pure oxygen.

Finally, Nikolai turned. “You say you know your duty. How much do you know, Daniel? What do you understand of a Champion’s needs?”

“I’m willing to learn, my lord.”

Nikolai stepped nearer and closed his fingers on the collar at Daniel’s throat. “Then learn this, my Squire. You will come to me of your own free will or not at all.”

Daniel heard the fabric tear as if made of paper. “My lord, Holy Protocol says—”

“There is nothing holy in the Brotherhood’s protocol. Do not speak of it again in my hearing.” He ripped at Daniel’s uniform once more, rending it to the waist. “You try my patience.”

“I’m sorry, my—”

“Call. Me. Nikolai.”

“Nikolai. I’m sorry. What do you want me to—”

“You must choose.” He fisted his hands in the torn garment. “Now, in this moment, before my appetites get the better of me and your chance is gone.”

“Choose? I don’t—”

“Hush.” He shook Daniel, pulling him off his feet. “I offer these options — live as my Squire in the chastity our friend Bastiaan considers such a burden, or live as my true companion. Mine in body and soul. Do you comprehend what that means? Do you?”

“I think so.”

Nikolai lifted him till the only toes of his boots touched the gravel. “Your choice, Daniel Nightshade. Tell me now.”

His choice? As if he could fathom life with Nikolai wrapped up in the blanket of his power, enduring the fever his touch and scent aroused, but never knowing any resolution to the tension between them?

Daniel grabbed at the sleeves of Nikolai’s coat and strained upward in his grip till his lips were just a hairsbreadth from the Champion’s. He held there a second, sharing breath with Nikolai as the wind blew around them and the thunder’s complaint grew from a grumble to a shout. Then, ignoring training and Protocol and following only base instinct, he nipped at Nikolai’s bottom lip hard enough to draw blood.

Nikolai gasped and shoved him away. He ran his thumb over his lip and stared at the red smear. “This is your answer?”

Daniel stopped just short of rolling his eyes. “You need me to say the words?”

Nikolai’s face darkened. “Before this night is through, you will say those words and more. I promise you that.” He lifted his head and sniffed the air. Then he smiled, slow and wicked. “Choose a number. Choose wisely, my Squire.”

“Fifty.”

Nikolai nodded. “There is a fountain at the center of the maze. Listen — you will hear it above the wind.”

Daniel strained his ears. There… Yes, he could hear the muffled burble and splash.

“I will count to fifty. Then I will give chase.”

“Is this what you call foreplay?”

Nikolai shrugged. “Call it an ancient rite — the hunter and his virgin prey.”

Daniel felt heat rise in his face. “Sorry I asked.”

“You must reach the fountain before I lay my hands on you.”

“And if I don’t?”

Nikolai’s grin deepened. “Run. Now.”

* * *

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