Enjoy a Sneak Peek at my Upcoming Dark Fantasy: Prodigals
This year I'm determined to release Dark Roads, Book Six: Prodigals, which has proven to be an enormous challenge thanks to the grand schemes of a much younger, much more optimistic version of me and her attempt at creating her own personal Battle of the Five Armies. While this dark fantasy still has a great deal of rewrites ahead of it, not to mention editing, I thought I'd give Dark Roads fans a little sneak peek at what's to come. And so, I give you Prodigals: Prologue.
The morning broke, thick with a frozen fog. Gray drizzle fell along the silent streets and between stoic buildings; it made the world a haze of dim shapes and shadows. In their ambiguity, they took on a waiting sentience, becoming watchers in the stillness of pre-dawn, motionless and anticipatory.
The man bound to the tall wooden post in the center of the town square shifted uneasily. The hairs along his arm prickled to attention, stiffening as a scale of goosebumps raced over his skin. Lashed to the post by rope around his chest and shoulders, his body seemed to be one big, stiff, tender bruise. His arms interlaced with the prisoner behind him, tied up on the opposite side of the post. They'd both been beaten before they were tied up, and this morning the man could only open one eye as the sound of lonely footsteps scuffed along the pebbly street, somewhere in the mist around them.
Bowen didn't need to see what approached them, though. Only one creature had footsteps like those. Only one man's spurs clicked with the dry sound of insectile claws. Only one man would be out in those mists, strolling through them with casual disregard, passing by on his way to a dark, vicious errand.
The Nostran bandits had woken to the sound of those spurs before. Bowen had learned to recognize the empty cold that fell when those heavy boots came through the town.
He glared through the mist, icy hatred swelling in him, knowing without seeing that the demon smiled back.
After a few moments, the sound of those lonely bootheels moved on, gliding past the dais. They faded down the road, becoming fainter and fainter in the mists.
The man with the scorpion spurs came strolling out of the gray morning fog. He wore his black hat tipped low over his eyes, hiding the sight of a heavy scar along his face. Two men stood guard at the tavern door, and as the man appeared they could see only the small white gleam of his smile, a closed and private expression. The smile of a man remembering some old joke.
He strode up the stairs to the building. He gave no sign of acknowledgment to either guard, and they made no move to speak with him or bar his way. The man walked right past them through the batwing doors and into the tavern's dining room.
Few souls stirred in the pub this early. Those who were awake stopped what they were doing the moment the man came in. They watched him—one large man and two women—with the eyes of prey animals catching wind of a fox.
He grinned at them and tipped his hat at the older of the two women. He crossed the main room to the stairs, but instead of ascending he slipped through a small door underneath them. Beyond this waited a second flight of stairs, leading down into cold darkness.
Down, down he went. One more guard stood at the bottom, a man who had been nodding off when the tock of those cold boot heels snapped him to attention. The man with the scorpion spurs walked past, saying nothing.
At the end of a narrow hall stood a wooden door. A padlock held it shut. It did not matter to the stranger, not at all: with a silent glimmer of interest, he peered through the small hatch set in the wood, gazing into the room beyond. With hardly a thought, he was on the other side of that door, alone with the cell's single occupant.
Frightened green eyes flashed up at him. The young woman, chained by her wrists to the wall, drew her legs up beneath her and shrunk back against the hard stone. Her gorgeous red hair had been shorn close to her head. Her clothing had been taken from her and replaced with a crude white smock, now dirty and stained with blood, to cover her slim nakedness. She tried to hide her dirty face, turning it away from him as he approached.
Dark, ragged marks covered her skinny legs. He had left those marks. More colored her arms, the slender arc of her neck, her smooth belly. He had left them all.
She shook. Oh, how she shook at the sight of him. Like a little white rabbit in a trap. He ran his tongue over his teeth, and took a step closer.
The girl flinched, grinding her teeth down on a soft, terrible whimper. It made him laugh.
The man hunkered down before his prisoner. Reaching out one hand, he caressed her cheek. Her trembling intensified. He took her by the chin, forcing her to look him in the eyes.
"Hey, there, little Lexi," Reaper purred. "Did ya miss me?"
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