Excerpt from Battles of Salt and Sighs

So, this week ended up being crazy with floods and stuff, and my kid’s school got delayed and let out early, and anyway, this is me just throwing up an excerpt from my latest release instead of blogging for the week. Is this the beginning of the end of weekly blogs? No, I’ll try to do something original next week, I swear.

“No.”The word escaped Magdalia’s lips, a wail. “No, no, no.”

The Croith walked towards her, a cold smile wreathing his features, which were familiar to her, because she knew him.

He crouched down in front of her, resting his elbows on the tops of his legs, looking her over. “Well, look at you. All grown up.”His gaze dragged itself over her and she saw the light in his eye, the way he was looking at her–

“No!”She got to her feet. “You can’t be the Croith.”

He gazed up at her, still in his crouch. “Oh, I thought you would have figured it out, after everything.”

A sob escaped her lips and she covered her mouth with both hands, gripped by horror.

“You were never exactly intelligent, I suppose.”He sighed, shrugging.

“How dare you?”she snapped.

“You do seem to have developed other assets, however.”His gaze settled on her chest.

She hugged herself. “Duranth, stop it.”

He chuckled, long and low, deeply amused. “Do you remember when you were in love with me? You must have been, what, four years old? I was nine. And you told everyone you were going to marry me when you grew up until your nurse informed you that humans can’t marry fae, and that you must think of me as properly below your exalted station in life.”

“I never said that,”she said, shaking her head furiously. “I don’t remember it, so… it can’t have… no.”She did remember it, of course, because she had loved him. But she’d been a child, an idiot child, and she hadn’t understood anything then.

Over time, she had left behind all that childish whimsy and seen him for what he was–a sort of dear pet, beloved but not her equal. And even at the end, when she’d tried so hard to save him from her father’s wrath, it had only been out of a sense of that sort of love, not… nothing like what he… when she was a little girl, she hadn’t understood anything about marrying someone, and–

“Don’t you remember your promise?”His voice had dropped suggestively.

All right, so maybe it had been sort of like that, but not really. She didn’t have any true feelings for him.

Suddenly, she realized something. “Your hand.”

He laughed. “Oh, it’s rather lifelike, hmm?”He reached over, and she saw a leather strap and a buckle–bone, not metal–which he undid, and then he tugged his hand off and tossed it at her.

Clumsily, she caught it. She wasn’t good with things like that, but he was only standing a few feet away. Even so, she fumbled it, nearly dropping it. She turned it over. It was an artificial hand, encased in a leather glove.

He held up the stump. “You did a good job healing it, of course. Look how smooth. No scar tissue at all.”

Her heart stuttered. She didn’t want to think about that. “I’m sorry about your hand,”she whispered.

“Yes, it was cut off because of you, wasn’t it?”He smiled at her, a particularly nasty smile.

“I wish I could have helped you,”she said.

“Well,”he said with a shrug, “I hope you still wish to help me, Magda.”

“What do you mean?”

He held out his good hand, palm up.

Wordlessly, she put his artificial hand into his hand.

He busied himself with reattaching it. “You know what we can do together, and so I want us to work on that and to put it to good use.”

“No,”she said. “For the fae rebels? You think I would help you in your mad attempt to overturn the empire?”

He glanced at her. “Oh, so patriotic now, are we? I thought little Magda never paid attention to such things.”

“Well, perhaps I didn’t,”she said, “but your armies came and killed everyone. All them dead, bodies piled up around remnants of my sister’s wedding feast, and…”Tears began to stream down her face.

“Couldn’t have anyone coming after you, could I?”he said. “It was either kill them now or kill them later when they tried to rescue you, and this was easier. Besides, we’ve had our eye on the Villa Prantia for a while. It’s a nicely strategic place to hold for the army, and we will soon have conquered the entire Tertia Island. Now, I sent my best cohort for you, of course, that should please you, but they’ll have left by now. I’m sure lesser men can mop up what is left of Tertia Island.”

She didn’t know what to say to this.

“Oh, see how I trust you, Magdalia?”He smiled at her. “I tell you my strategies. I am quite willing to share much with you. Everything, in fact.”His voice dipped down into a low register when he said that.

“And all I have to do is sell out my country and my people,”she said.

“And surrender to me, completely,”he said in that gravelly voice of his.

Aaaand a link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09C1B3874/