It's been a crazy week - with the release of Healing the Mage and my prep for an upcoming business trip, I feel like I haven't slept in about two weeks. But things have quieted down a little - as they usually do on Friday afternoon.
I thought I'd share an excerpt from Healing the Mage - in this scene, Lily has brought Aidan to her home, and the situation just keeps getting more complicated.
"What are you doing?" Devlin Marchand shouted.
Lily stood, stepping out of Aidan’s reach. She folded her arms, trying not to wince under the elder Marchand’s anger. The rolling pain curled through her, and she fought to keep from collapsing. Mon Dieu, how could he bear it?
"I am not trained to help him. And I will not be forced into it. I could make things worse."
She kept her face expressionless, but the relief at the steadiness of her voice left her feeling weak. How the hell she managed to hold herself stiffly upright, she’d never know. Probably adrenaline, even as the rolling waves of discomfort grew. She used every ounce of her strength not to go to Aidan and hold him, to attempt to ease his agony.
Devlin sat beside Aidan and examined him. Lily glared at her brother as he stepped to her side. Anger overrode the worst of the phantom knives in her gut.
"What?" she asked.
"How can you turn your back on him? It’s obvious you can help him."
She clenched her fists, both the fire and her aggravation growing, mixing together, feeding off each other. She latched onto the irritation, letting it overpower the churning of her stomach. She should have known better than to call Greg. He was too much like their parents, trying to force her into their preconceived ideas of what her life should be. What had she been thinking to summon him here?
"Oh, no, you don’t. I can’t help him. I gave up magic, remember? I don’t know the first thing about healing. It’s too dangerous for me to be involved."
Greg lowered his voice. "You don’t always get to choose, Lily. Sometimes, you have to follow your destined path."
Her head ached, and she rubbed her temples briefly. "This is not my destiny; it never was."
"You have a gift and you’re wasting it. Here’s your chance to fix things. It’s clear to me you need to use your power; your empathy is very strong. You won’t be able to resist."
"No. I won’t be used like this."
"If you don’t give in, Lil, things could get worse. You have no idea what—"
"You’re right, I don’t. And I don’t want to know."
"Enough!" Devlin’s shout silenced them "I need your help."
"Can’t you take him to the hospital?" Lily asked. She didn’t want to look at Aidan, to see him suffering. She also couldn’t bear it if he touched her again. The things he made her feel scared her more than her healing abilities.
Devlin shook his head. "I can’t move him like this. And his condition is not . . . widely known."
"So what are you saying?"
"Until I get someone to help, he needs to remain here."
"Here? No, he can’t!"
"Ms. Prentiss, please. He can’t . . . look at him." Devlin waved a hand at Aidan, who sat doubled over, groaning in pain. "I understand, believe me. If there were any other way . . . . You can help him."
Lily twisted her hands together. The desperation in Devlin Marchand’s expression tugged at her. Combined with the echo of Aidan’s agony, her resolve crumbled further.
"I don’t know. I could hurt him worse than he already is."
Devlin shook his head. "Nothing could be worse than it is now." Another groan from Aidan drew his father’s attention. The older man tried to soothe his son.
"Hang on; she’ll be able to help you. Can you fight it at all?"
Aidan groaned again. "Do you . . . have . . . anymore . . . potions?"
"Nothing." Devlin turned back to Lily. "Ms. Prentiss?"
Lily sighed. "How long will it take you to find someone to help him?"
"I can have him out of here first thing tomorrow morning."
He had to spend the rest of the night? "How am I supposed to get any sleep? I have to work in the morning."
"On Sunday?" Greg taunted.
If only she could direct the fire roaring through her to him. She may not have trained in Healing, but she could still land a nasty hex. Only the presence of Aidan’s father prevented her from singeing her brother’s eyebrows.
"Fine. He can stay. On the couch. I’ll be right in my bedroom, where I can hear him if he needs me."
Marchand shook his head. "You need to sit with him. He needs your touch."
"I can’t do that. I—"
Aidan’s harsh groan cut her off. Despite her resolve, she stepped closer, needing to stop the gnawing teeth ripping her apart. As soon as she moved within reach, he reached out and grabbed her again. She narrowed her eyes, wondering at his supposed weakness.
"Stay with me." Did a hint of a smile play on his lips?
"This is ridiculous. I can’t sit up with you all night."
"Then I’ll sleep in your bed with you."
Aware of her brother stepping toward them, she continued to stare at Aidan as his eyes cleared, and he sat up straighter.
"You most certainly will not! You will sleep here. I’ll knock you out so you won’t feel anything."
He grinned. The brilliant smile stole her breath. "We’ll both be more comfortable, and that way, you’ll be able to get some sleep too."
No, she couldn’t let this happen. Even as she tried to deny his suggestion, the idea aroused an urgent excitement. And a healthy dose of dread. This time, her stomach twisted for a very different reason. "I don’t think so."
"It really would be best. For your comfort, as well," said Devlin. Before she could argue further, he took control of the situation. "Come on, I’ll help you move him."
"Wait a minute!" Greg shouted. "They can’t sleep in the same bed."
"He’s not in any shape to be a danger to her," Devlin said.
"He’s in pain. Wounded animals are dangerous."
"Are you calling my son an animal?"
Lily rolled her eyes. "Hold it!" She waited until she had the men's full attention. "I can see there isn’t much choice right now. Look at him."
"Lily, I absolutely forbid you to do this."
Lily narrowed her eyes. Her brother couldn’t have picked a worse thing to say. "Do you, now? Well, it can’t be helped. The man is simply too weak to move, and we can’t exactly call an ambulance. I guess he’ll have to stay."
Mon Dieu, what had she done? Before she could back out of her decision, Devlin helped Aidan down the hall. With Aidan’s vise-like grip on her arm, she had no choice but to follow. It didn’t take long before he reclined in her bed. She sat beside him. Seeing him there ignited a burning she knew would not be easily doused. His father and her brother watched them both, albeit with very different expressions, and her face flamed. While Devlin only seemed worried and exhausted, Greg’s gleaming gaze broadcast his suspicion. She scowled and turned to Aidan.
"You stay on your side, on top of the blankets, I’ll stay on mine. Underneath. You can hold my hand; that should be enough."
Aidan nodded. She looked pointedly at Greg and Devlin. "You two can see yourselves out. Greg, deactivate the Portal when you’re done."
"No, I’m staying," he said. "I’ll sleep on the couch."
The last thing she needed was her brother snooping around her home. While she appreciated his help, she knew it wouldn’t be long before he reported this whole disaster to their parents. The fewer details he had about her life, the better.
"Greg, it’s all right. You go ahead."
"You sure? It’s not a problem for me to stay."
"I’m sure. Just go."
"All right. I’ll check in with you first thing in the morning."
"As will I," said Devlin. "I’ll see if I can get a trainer lined up, as well. Perhaps Tauzin."
The two men left, and Lily listened carefully to hear the Portal deactivate, sealing off the possibility of unwanted visitors. The house grew quiet, and she turned to Aidan. The way he looked at her ignited fluttering in her gut. At the same time, a bolt of heat flared through her, settling with startling intensity in her core.
"Might as well get comfortable," Aidan said.
Lily glared at him. He seemed to be enjoying this too much. But she couldn’t deny the way his intense stare made her heart pound.
"You’re going to have to let go of me so I can get in the bed. I’ll take your hand once I’ve settled."
The hint of smile disappeared. He sucked in a deep breath, his jaw clenched, and he released his grip on her arm. A shudder passed over him, and he put his hand to his head. Lily’s heart thumped unevenly; she didn’t know what to make of the maelstrom of emotions slamming her like waves of a nor’easter on the shore. The gut twisting grew, and she quickly got into the bed, not caring she would have to sleep in her clothes. Her tank dress would be a wreck by morning. As soon as she settled under the blankets, she reached for Aidan’s hand. He stilled immediately, his fingers twining with hers. She met his gaze.
Something about lying here beside him seemed right. She swallowed the jagged lump in her throat and turned away. It was going to be a very long night.
Remember, I'm giving away copies this week, so be sure to leave a comment.