As part of a fun exercise by the Romance Divas, I’m taking part in Except Monday, a once a month excerpt-fest.
Below is an excert from The Scroll Thief: a Tale of Ithian, which features Halia and Trask. Beneath that are some links to some of the other wonderful excerpts available today.
He sat isolated in his own thoughts, and his neighbours found others to converse with. He had never known such misery. He thought it couldn’t get any worse but when they finished the food, the music changed to an old courtship dance. Halia Grey got to her feet. There were various appreciative and teasing cries. Eldorin applauded her, smiling like a victorious battle leader. Halia made her way to the centre of the tent, right in front of the top table, and shrugged off the cloak she had been wearing with a single, practised roll of her shoulders.
A band of peacock blue silk wrapped around her breasts, the knot at the back accentuating the lines of her shoulder blades. Another encircled her hips, tied off to one side. Other than that, she was naked. Golden chains hung around her wrists, threaded through gold coins. Another hung at her throat and, beneath the gossamer scarf, he could see strands of gold thread woven intricately through her raven hair. All around her waist, gold coins hung on a chain, wrapped around her hips many times. They hit off one another as she moved, ringing in counterpoint to the bells on her ankle.
Her hips twitched first one way and then the other as she moved forward, perfectly in time to the rhythm of the music. Her graceful hands framed her body, elegant movements to soften the animal undercurrents of her dance. She came to a halt midway between Eldorin and him.
Someone started clapping along to the music, while all around him he heard whispers. She wore more gold than the tribe had ever seen. She had told no lie or empty boast about not needing Eldorin’s money. Halia’s hips moved in a slow figure of eight and Trask watched, entranced, as she raised her hands over her head.
The rhythm quickened and her hips moved in a circle, pulsing forward, then flicking this way and that. Any of the women here would be hard-pressed to match her skill. For her dancing ability alone, Trask knew men who would pay many fortunes over, leaders of other tribes who would sell all they owned. And his brother, it seemed, was not so different.
The girls looked on jealously. Orienne drank in her movements, memorising them. No one could accuse his sister of letting petty jealousy stop her from learning from a master.
And Eldorin leaned forward, offering his cup to her in tribute, the costly wine slopping over the rim to stain the cloth in front of him. His smile looked wolf-like, ravenous. Trask felt the familiar uncoiling of the Animus in response to his anger and frustration. He pushed it down ruthlessly, quashing it before it could shame him.
Halia circled on the spot, her left hip dipping in time to the increasing tempo of the music. The notes spiralled with her. He couldn’t say who followed whom any more. More of the nomads were clapping along, cheering, whooping and shouting words of encouragement to both the dancer and to Eldorin. More than one stood and declared his undying devotion to her. Trask smiled in amazement at her.
Halia reached for her scarf. She had kept her face hidden since they had left Klathport. She turned to him, her body undulating slowly, and she unwound the light material. The girl he had seen in the pictures in her home smiled at him, drinking in his appreciation, the girl who would tilt her head to one side with a mischievous glint in her almond eyes and win your heart with that look alone. And yet, by the turn of her mouth, by the hint of amusement in her expression, he recognised Halia of the caustic wit and the quick putdown. Halia, who could sink claws into his heart with a single bitter remark.
Coins rang like bells as she bent towards him, her shoulders rolling back and forth in counterpoint, and she draped her scarf around his neck. She pirouetted away, around the room, spurred by their applause and admiration. Trask gathered the scarf in his hands, holding it like a sacred relic. He raised it to his face to drink in her scent and delighted in the heady wonder of it.
The music faltered and Trask snapped back into the real world with instant alarm. Eldorin stood. Halia came to a hesitant stop, her back to Trask, her figure suddenly very frail as his brother bore down on her.
“This is how you repay my hospitality?” he asked her.
There were protests from his family, shouts that he should let her be, let her dance. In an instant Halia straightened, all semblance of weakness falling away as she drew her head up high.
She stood before him defiantly. “I told you that you would think differently when you saw me dance. I warned you that you couldn’t afford me.”
“So you chose instead to make a mockery of me and rub your riches in my face?” He grabbed one of the strings of coins and tore it from her. The gold fell about them like confetti.
Halia jerked back instinctively, but didn’t cry out or back down. “You had to see for yourself, Eldorin. I never led you on. I don’t love you and I will not give myself up to anyone but my soul mate for less than my value. It’s my right as a woman.”
Both Oma and Orienne were on their feet with all the other women, young and old, shouting in agreement. Eldorin’s hand came back in a blur, ready to strike Halia full force across her beautiful face.
Trask moved before he even finished the thought, bounding forward and catching Eldorin’s hand, holding it back from her. “Do you want to shame us all forever? She danced in our father’s memory. She paid us the highest compliment.”
“And you…” Eldorin laughed bitterly. “Of course you’d be here for this. It’s you she wants, you she followed here. You’re never content to leave me what’s mine, Trask.”
“Stop this,” Oma cried. “He’s right, Eldorin. You’re the one making a mockery of this entire celebration.”
Eldorin was no fool. The mood of his family had swung against him. He scowled at Trask, dragged in a breath. “Get out. And take that Klathport slut with you.”
Trask drew back his own fist, ready to knock Eldorin from his feet, but Halia slipped between then again, her back to his brother, her face pleading.
Other Excerpt Monday links:
Please be aware that some of these have a rating applied by the author (PG-13/NC-17) and click only if appropriate for you.
Warning! I have not screened these excerpts myself. Please bear in mind that some authors have provided a rating for their excerpts which may contain language or content that is not typical of this blog.
Set the Night On Fire by Maureen McCarrie (Rating: NC-17 for language)
The Chancellor’s Bride by Kirsten Saell (Excerpt rating: PG, Site Rating: NC-17)
Scenting Cinnamon by Ella Drake (Rating: NC-17)
Asking for It by Kate Willoughby (Rating: PG-13)
21st Century Courtesan by Eden Bradley (Rating: Adult)
Excerpt Monday by Evie Byrne (Excerpt rating: PG, Site Rating: NC-17)
The Encounter by Rose London (Rating: Adult)