Excerpt from DETOX IN LETTERS because I was playing with my camera and took this beautiful picture!
The great, transparent wolf lunged for her. That gaping maw came at her face until all Fay could see was the shape of teeth and the distorted image of Vaun across the room through its head.
Rage rippled through her, surprise cutting to the bone. A hundred screams rang out, hands pulling at her waist but unable to move her from the monster’s path.
Fay’s fingers sank into rough fur, pressing into muscle until she felt the shape of bones. How dare it turn on her? How dare the Queen? She twisted her hands and a loud snap rang in her ears. A breath gushed across her cheek and a spray of blood wet her skin, flecking her hair. The weight of the wolf hung from the grip she had on its throat, suddenly very real. Its hind legs and tail went limp, dragging on the floor. The mighty head hung to one side, dangling as though only flesh and fur kept it attatched.
She swung her arm down, just as quickly as she had brought it up, and threw the body to the floor. It landed in a heap, no longer the Queen’s ghostly thief of souls, but a very real, very solid beast at her feet. It had changed when she grabbed it, just before she killed it. She had killed a wolf.
The others growled, skirting along the side of the room but watching her uneasily. The tools of the Queen did not know what to make of a victim that refused to die.
Her mother had tried to kill her.
Fay clicked her teeth and stepped around the dead monster, toward the rest of the pack. They fled. They had a soul to bring back to the Queen tonight, but it wasn’t hers. It would never be hers.
Silence clung to the room, all eyes upon her. They gawked, minds reeling, unsure whether to lay their gaze upon the dead beast at her back or the princess that had killed it. And then the thunder above rumbled again and the wild patter of rain beat down against the rooftop, sweeping them into a rise of voices and footfalls as guests climbed down from tables.
Fay walked away from the wolf, waves of guests edging into the space she abandoned to get a closer look. They parted for her in the hall, all the way to the door.
“Wait!” Vaun called from her back, but she didn’t stop.
The doorman faltered at her advance, his throat bobbing when he swallowed and his shoulders pressing back under the weight of duty. He opened the doors because she showed no sign of stopping. The sound of the storm rolled in through the entrance, rain beating a violent melody outside.
“Fay!” Vaun caught her arm just as she reached the threshold, skirts swaying when his grip brought her to a stop. He grabbed her other arm, too, just above the elbow, holding her back to his chest with the dark night ahead of them. “You can’t go out. It’s raining. Everyone will see,” he whispered near her ear.
She considered shoving him away but the worry in his voice reminded her heart that it did not need a mother’s love. Instead, she turned just enough to look back at him. His face was no less pretty for all the dread and worry gathered there.
“Maybe the wolf went mad,” her brother speculated in an act of desperation. “She’s losing control. It could have slipped the leash.”
She touched his hand on her arm to peel away his hold. He let go. “Don’t fret, little prince.” Fay smiled as the shock and anger wore off. She had killed a wolf. “Everything has changed.”
Fay could see that it gave him no comfort, but it filled her with joy. She walked right out into the rain, hearing the gasps and cries from inside though they dared not follow. She was soaked by the time she reached the middle of the street, the Queen’s Tower to her right. If the hag stood in her window, even without her gifted sight, she’d be able to see her daughter there below.
Fay was tempted to look up, but instead she turned her back on it and marched down the middle of the street.
She had never looked at the Tower. Not since she was a child. It had been an act of stubbornness in the beginning, because she was never invited to see her mother. She had never been called on like Vaun, never brought to tea for inspection. No, Fay had received exactly two notes from her mother in her entire life. One had been the command to marry into a household. And the other had been to move out of Vym.
It had been so long since she looked at the Queen’s Tower that Fay had forgotten the details of it. It could be seen from anywhere in the Realm, but her eye never strayed to it. Not once. First out of bitter anger and then out of horrible resolve. She would not look because there was always the chance of the Queen looking back, and some members of the Realm did not deserve her gaze.
She continued on, toward the edge of Belholn where it would meet with Vym. Fay was going to walk all the way home. Because it was her home. She had claimed it and she would not give it up. In fact, she was quickly deciding that the High was simply not enough. Perhaps she needed more.