So as my way of saying "thanks for reading" please enjoy this quick teaser from the upcoming Whispers in the Dark.....
"Ouch!" I glared at Carter as I stood back up and massaged the bruised lump that used to be my hip bone.
"Sorry, Evie." He did not look particularly sorry. "You've got to be quicker than that. Don't let me get a grip on you next time." Right, like I'd planned it that way.
He bent his knees slightly and opened his arms so that he was now poised for me to try another attack. I took a deep breath and reminded myself how important these lessons were. If I was going to be a part of Lucas's world then I needed to start being a part of it. He wouldn't let me do anything actually helpful. He was too afraid of what would happen to me if my Elfkin abilities became common knowledge. If I couldn't be helpful at least I could keep from being a burden, and that meant learning to defend myself.
I shook my aching muscles loose and ran at Carter for the eighteenth time that afternoon. This time I reached for his throat instead of the bear hug move I'd been practicing. I figured the element of surprise might work in my favor. No sooner had my fingers brushed against his skin than I felt a jabbing pain in my elbow joints. Carter had brought his stupidly strong forearm down across the inside of my outstretched arms forcing them to buckle. His free hand slammed into my side and my face made contact with the ground for the eighteenth time that afternoon.
Carter chuckled above me and I smothered my instinctive need to call him a string of foul names. This wasn't personal after all and it was necessary, I told myself.
"I win again." He grinned down at me and didn't even bother to help me up. "Come on cuz," He backed up a few paces and made himself ready for another go. "Put a little muscle into it this time. I'm getting kinda bored."
Screw necessary. I charged him and grabbed for his bare arms. One tilt of my magic blueberry syrup and Carter went flying backwards across the yard and into the railing of the deck stairs. Two wooden spindles snapped from the force of the collision. Lucas barked out a loud approvingly laugh from his spectator seat on the deck itself.
I waited for Carter to get back to his feet and then I called out. "I win!"
"You cheated." He accused me, although he didn't look very hurt so I doubted he was really angry.
"You told me to be prepared to fight dirty. What were your words? Something about preparing to lose."
He shook his head at me and grimaced as he inspected the tattered sleeve of his Angry Birds tee shirt. "What I said was, if you're not prepared to win than you're prepared to lose. However, using Elfkin energy is cheating. If that had been a real fight I would be running off to my little Markin leaders to tell them all about Lady Evie's special powers right about now. That doesn't exactly line up with our plan of keeping you a secret, now does it?"
I knew he was right. I did. But I was still glad that I'd won. Cheating or not, my poor body ached less now that I had a single win under my belt.
"Not if you were dead." I teased.
"Huh?" Carter looked up from his ruined shirt.
"I said," I spoke slowly, "that you wouldn't be able to spread any rumors about my special powers if my special powers had made you dead." I smiled to show him I was joking, but he just gazed back at me appraisingly.
"You're right." He said after a few moments.
My gut rolled at his tone of voice. He was completely serious. I'd been joking. I mean, I knew they were at war, but, but, but… But nothing. This was my choice. I could be lazing around on a beach all summer with Jason, but I'd chosen this life. And that meant that if they were at war then I was at war. Could I kill another person? Even if they were one of the Followers of Markin that had been so ready to kill me along with the entire house of the Great Lord last spring?
"Evie?" Lucas's deep soothing voice whispered in my ear. He'd come down the stairs and was standing next to us. "Evie?" He repeated himself and grasped my chin and turned my face to meet his eyes. "It's going to be okay. You are going to be okay. I believe that, really I do." His last words were forceful and thick with emotion. Our bond tightened beneath my rib cage and pulled me closer to him.
He didn't even blink as he waited for me to acknowledge what he'd said. I wasn't sure he was right, but I believed the part about him believing. Not just because Lucas was painstakingly honest with me at all times, but because I knew that he held my safety above everything else in the world. He needed me to be safe just as I needed him to be safe. I wasn't learning to be a killer. I was learning to be a protector. And I knew I would protect myself and my husband with all that I was… even if it meant spilling some Markin blood.
"Again." I said to Carter. He nodded once and then walked back into the open grass and assumed the position.