Sunday, June 23, 2013

Teaser Tuesday - COPPER GIRL, Chapter Two, Part Two

Two days until COPPER GIRL hits the shelves! Below, find the second half of Chapter Two, where Sara realizes that Micah knows a lot more about her than just where she works.

Of metal. There are two ways one can learn the workings of magic: years and years of rigorous study, or by simply being born to it. If you’re born into a magical bloodline, you’re said to be touched by an element, either earth, air, fire, water, or metal. The nature of your element is passed from father to child, just like a surname. Once in a while, someone is born touched by more than one element, but that’s awfully rare.

You also take on the characteristics of your chosen element, or rather, the element that’s chosen you. For instance, those touched by fire tend to be quick to anger, and those of earth are stubborn but loyal. I’ve never met anyone who admitted to being touched by water, but I’ve always imagined them as cowardly. And air? Who knows what they’re like? Flighty, perhaps?

I’ve always been glad that my family’s line is of metal. It means I’m strong, both physically and mentally, and courageous. I’m loyal, like those of earth, but not quite so stubborn. And… and that’s all I really know, because we haven’t been allowed to speak of magic since the wars ended, and magic was outlawed.

I was young when the wars began, but from what I remembered, the news reports all said that the wars had started when those who’d been born without magic became jealous of Elementals’ innate abilities. So, the learned magicians got together with the Mundane humans and started up their own civil rights movement, claiming that they  should be considered equal to the Elementals. The problem was, they weren’t equal. They never, ever would be, being that it took months, or years, for a Mundane to learn even simple spells like the casting of a fey stone. When the Elementals brought up this small but important fact, all hell had broken loose. Literally.
Still, there had been no war or outright rebellion at that point. The learned magicians may have been collectively outraged, but they grudgingly accepted their place, and the Mundane humans—those who did not study magic—were content with things as they were. Then, a Fire Elemental conceived of a way to sell fey stones to the masses; normally, a fey stone will only burn in the presence of its caster, but this enterprising individual spent decades studying the spell and determined which materials would cause the light to burn for years. It was a brilliant invention, one that could save the average family hundreds, or maybe thousands, in electricity. Just imagine, a never-ending light bulb.

The Mundane CEO of the power company had not been pleased by this development .

The wars had lasted almost three years, but we hadn’t been discouraged. We—the Elementals—knew that we were stronger, and we’d never had any doubt that we’d prevail. Then, the unthinkable happened. We lost.

To this day, no one knows how. Oh, there’s lots of speculation, but the real reasons remain somewhat elusive. The schoolbooks say that many of the war mages realized the error of their ways and immolated themselves. Yes, they used the word “immolate”, and that, right there, is a clue that it’s all propaganda. Other sources claim that Elementals don’t mesh well with those of opposing natures, and infighting was what did us in. That supposed infighting was also the impetus for creating the Peacekeepers, a squad of government goons specially outfitted to make Elemental lives miserable.

Well, no matter which version they hand out in their propaganda, the end result was the same - the Council of Elementals disappeared. Without their leadership, we lost.

My dad was on that council.

Once the Mundanes claimed victory, we assumed that life would pretty much return to normal, but we were so, so wrong. Instead of just declaring themselves equal to the Elementals, the learned magicians were also outlawed, along with all other ‘unlicensed magic’. In essence, without a special dispensation from the government (which, I might add, tosses spells around like cheap confetti), you could be thrown in prison for something as innocuous as conjuring up a bit of heat to warm your coffee.

We never found out what happened to Dad.

I’d spent most of my life trying to pass for ordinary. I tried to act like a Mundane human, someone who didn’t understand magic. I never talked about it, never thought about it, and never, ever practiced it. So, how did Micah know?

 “Of metal?” I asked, tentatively.

“I was certain when I felt your mark.” Huh. No one mentioned marks, either. I usually kept mine covered; those who saw it either thought it was a tramp stamp or refused to let on that they recognized the signs of magic. “Copper, yes?”

“Copper,” I affirmed, my voice now hardly a whisper. “You could tell just by feeling it?”

“By your hair,” he replied. I protested that I dyed my hair, but he looked pointedly at my hips. Oh, right. “May I see it? Your mark, I mean.”

I didn’t see any reason why he couldn’t, since he’d pretty much seen the rest of me. I turned around and lifted my nightie, exposing the mark across my lower back that forever named me as a member of the Raven clan, one of the most powerful bloodlines in history. Well, before magic was outlawed; now we were just… regular. And watched. My mark was copper-colored, and took the shape of a raven with its wings outstretched, the tips of the feathers reaching my sides. My sister, Sadie, bore a nearly identical mark. I didn’t remember what Max’s mark had looked like.

Micah traced the edges of the raven, his light touch sending shivers through my body. I remembered how he’d massaged my back during our earlier encounter, how I’d instantly become a molten heap of need. “Is everyone’s mark so sensitive?” I asked.

“Some, but not all,” he replied, his fingers now stroking my spine, near the raven’s maw. “Fire marks may burn you if you touch them, and those of stone feel hardly anything at all.”

“Do you have a mark?” I asked, peeking over my shoulder. Again, Micah smiled at me.

“I do.” He pulled off his leather shirt, revealing wiry muscle sheathed in warm, caramel skin. Before I could truly appreciate the most attractive male chest I’d ever encountered, he turned his back and I saw his mark. It was shining, metallic silver, just as mine was copper. It swept across his back like filigree wings emanating from his spine, arching over his shoulder blades in a graceful fall that reached below his waist.

“You… you’re silver,” I murmured, my eyes flitting from his mark to his hair. “Just like I’m copper, you’re silver.” Micah murmured some sort of an agreement, but I barely heard him. Hesitantly, I touched his back, his mark glinting in the near-dark. His flesh was warm and inviting, almost hot where it was incised with silver. “Oh, Micah. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Many thanks, my Sara.” His muscles tensed, and I wondered if touching his mark was having the same effect on him as when he’d touched mine. I dropped my hands, and he turned to face me. “Forgive me, if I’ve misinterpreted your actions.”

“I didn’t know what I was doing, calling you,” I admitted. “But I am glad that you came back to me.” At that, he kissed me—hard—and pushed me onto my back. I didn’t resist. Far from it , I welcomed him.

“Wait,” I breathed. “Will I ever see you while we’re awake?”

“You wish to?”

I nodded. “More than anything.”

“Hold me tightly, my Sara.” I did, and the air thickened and rippled around us. Once again, I heard street noises and the radio blaring one floor up, and I could smell the alley. I’d been so thoroughly enchanted by Micah, I hadn’t noticed the lack of my usual annoyances. But now that I was awake, they had returned, and there was a half-naked man in my bed.

I screamed, my wakeful self having no idea who Micah was or why he was here. Ever practical, Micah kissed me, effectively smothering my cries and jogging my memory at the same time. He knew he’d succeeded when I stopped screaming and kissed him back.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered, still trembling. “It was so sudden!”

“It is hard to pull yourself to wakefulness so quickly,” he murmured. “You behaved much better than I did my first time.”

“I did?” He nodded, and wiped away tears I hadn’t noticed. “Thank you.”

“For what, my Sara?”

I didn’t get to answer. My screams must have woken Juliana, and she was banging on my door. “I’m fine!” I yelled. “Just a nightmare.”

“Open up!” Now she was jiggling the handle. Luckily, I always locked my door, a habit left over from sleeping in the dorms, but she was insistent. Once she had decided on doing something, nothing could stop her.

“She can’t find you here,” I whispered. “They’ll kill you if they find you.” Micah nodded, and in the next moment, he was gone. I don’t mean he left by way of the window, which I assumed was how he had gotten in; he was here, and then he wasn’t. I blinked, but was quickly dragged out of my amazement by Juliana’s banging and yelling. I pulled on my robe and threw open the door.

“You’re gonna wake the neighbors,” I admonished her.

“The way you screamed, I thought one of them was murdering you,” she countered.

“Aw. My Juliana in shining armor.” She responded with an artful sneer, and we were back to normal.

“It’s almost six, anyway. I’ll make some coffee.”
I nodded and shut the door to dress. Not only did I not want to explain my silk nightie to Juliana, but I figured I might as well get ready now. There wouldn’t be any more sleep for me at the moment. After I picked out a pair of jeans and a shirt, I took off my robe and almost screamed again. He had taken my panties again!



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