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Last weekend, the Love Romances Cafe on Yahoo Groups hosted a promotional chat for Dreamspinner Press, and as part of that, I posted an excerpt from my current WIP: The Taken Ones, which is the sequel to The Demon Catcher.

And I thought that I'd better share it with you all too. :)

Given that this is a WIP, it is, of course, completely subject to change, but as it stands, the scene below is the first scene of the novella -- in which Euan and Leon run into someone from Leon's past.

WIP Excerpt: The Taken Ones

Euan shifted uncomfortably on his horse. He wasn’t yet used to spending this much time on horseback, and although he’d been lucky enough to avoid saddle sores, he’d been looking forward to a few more days with his feet planted firmly on the ground. Beside him, Leon of Tremea sat astride his own black mare, his face stony. Euan didn’t need to ask why—this was the third time in as many weeks that they’d followed reports of demonic activity which had turned out to be nothing more than superstition run wild. There had been no sign of the breaches between worlds that usually lay behind such reports.

Leon turned his head slightly as they approached the Wyford town gates, and his expression softened when Euan met his eyes. “We’ll find a country inn for tonight,” he said, just loud enough to be heard over the people jostling past them.

Euan smiled. He hadn’t complained about staying in any of the towns they’d visited—small towns, according to Leon, although they seemed large enough to Euan—but it was nice, sometimes, not to be hemmed in by buildings in every direction. Although they were barely more than eighty miles from the Ajenite monastery in which Euan had spent most of his life, it sometimes felt as though he’d slipped into one of the other worlds from Leon’s stories.

The guards barely looked at them as they passed through the gates, and Euan breathed in deeply as the crowd thinned out. Euan and Leon quickened their pace to a trot, and within half an hour they were alone for one hundred yards in both directions. To his relief, Euan saw that some of the tension from earlier had left Leon’s shoulders.

“Do you think we’ll be able to get a private room tonight?” Euan asked.

Leon looked across at him, a small smile playing around his lips. “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, it’s just...” Euan tried to adopt an innocent expression. “I might have some plans for what I’m going to do with you the next time we’re alone, that’s all.”

Leon laughed. “In that case,” he said, “we’re definitely getting a private room.”

“Good,” Euan said. The only accommodation they’d been able to find in Wyford had been in a small hostel, where they’d been forced to share a room with four others. It hadn’t exactly been terrible—the beds were clean and their fellow lodgers had been pleasant enough—but Euan had grown used to sleeping with Leon beside him these past six weeks.

“In fact,” Leon continued, “why don’t you tell me about these plans of yours right—”

Leon’s words were lost in the sound of another horse galloping up behind them. Euan twisted in his saddle and saw a white stallion charging towards them. Atop the stallion sat the palest man that Euan had ever seen. His skin was so white that it seemed almost translucent, and pale golden hair flowed down his back, held away from his face with a braided leather headband.

Both Euan and Leon had to pull their horses to opposite sides of the road to allow the man through, but when he was past them, he pulled his horse to a sudden stop and turned to face them. Or, rather, he turned to face Leon.

“Leon!” he said, in a surprisingly deep voice. “I’m hurt. You were in town for two days, and you didn’t come to see me.”

Euan wasn’t sure if he was more surprised that the stranger apparently knew Leon or by the sudden change that came over Leon when he looked at the man. All the tension from earlier returned to his frame, but there was something else too—a set to his jaw and a coldness to his eyes that Euan hadn’t seen before. It changed his whole face, somehow.

“Arim,” said Leon. Euan thought he spoke the name as though it was a curse.

The man—Arim—smiled. “Surprised to find me back?”

Leon didn’t answer.

“Why, Leon,” said Arim, “you’re being so rude. I just wanted to catch up with an old friend. You rather liked me once, I recall.”

“I have nothing to say to you,” Leon said.

“How disappointing.”

“You’re a fool, Arim. I haven’t forgotten what you did. None of us have.”

Arim laughed, as though Leon had made a great joke. “And none of you have the balls to hurt me.”

“We’ll see about that,” said Leon.

“Forgive me if I’m not afraid.”

Leon breathed heavily, and for a moment Euan half-expected him to attack. But then he swallowed hard, clearly re-gaining control over himself.

Arim shook his head in mock-disappointment. “Aren’t you even going to introduce me to your little sweetmeat here?”

Something flashed inside Euan. “I’m not his little anything,” he said, his jaw held tight.

Arim’s eyes flicked towards Euan, and Euan noticed that they were a rather startling green. He found his gaze locked onto Arim’s face.

“Oh? You’re a big boy then, are you?” Arim’s gaze seemed to take in Euan’s entire body.

With some difficulty, Euan managed to tear his eyes away from Arim’s. “I think we need to be on our way, Leon,” he said. He didn’t know who this man was or why Leon hated him so much, but he felt dirty after having been under the man’s gaze, and the grim expression on Leon’s face turned Euan’s stomach to ice.

Leon gave him a small, tight smile. “I agree.”

Arim sighed. “Have it your way, then,” he said. “I did have an offer that I thought you might be interested in, but if you’re going to be like that...” Arim flicked his reins, and his stallion broke into a smooth canter.

Both Leon and Euan watched as Arim started on his way back towards Wyford. When there was enough distance between them, Euan turned to Leon.

“Who is he?”

Leon looked back at him, his face unreadable. “Someone who shouldn’t be here.”

“What do you mean?”
“He doesn’t belong in this world,” Leon said.

“Ah. So, I suppose we’ll be doing something about him, then?”

“Yes. But...” Leon’s eyes narrowed. “There’s someone we need to talk to first.”


Leon looked straight ahead. “My leader,” he said.


Thank you for reading! Any constructive comments are most welcome.
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March 2011

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