Well, Sacrifice (Catalyst Moon #5) is on the horizon of release. It’ll be with my ARC team soon and is on track to launch mid-late August. Huzzah!
Below is a sneak peek of this book. Happy reading!
A warm breeze swept into the kitchen, rifling Elan’s tunic and pants. The salty scent of the sea mingled with the yeasty smell of the dough beneath his hands. He pressed his palms into the dough, working it harder atop the floured table. The dough was almost as smooth as the cool stone tiles beneath his bare feet. He eyed the linen-lined basket, then glanced around the kitchen, considering the best spot for the dough to rise. It was warmer today than yesterday. Perhaps he could leave the basket covered on the counter instead of next to the clay oven outside.
Beyond his kitchen window, gull cries merged into shouts of merchants and traders, a scree that would have set any non-native on edge. But to Elan, born and bred in the city of Pillau, the sounds were part of home.
Satisfied that the dough would rise properly, he eased it into the basket and left it covered, next to the jar of dark brown sugar. He considered sneaking a taste of sugar but thought better of it; Father had asked him—many times—to wait until the sweetrolls were baked before sampling the ingredients. Elan chuckled as he swept a damp rag over the table, then went to rinse his hands.
But as he pumped water into the bucket in the sink, the patter streaming down was muted, as if he had wax in his ears. Frowning, Elan paused and listened for the gulls and merchants, but they, too, were muted. Stranger still, he could barely make out the faint crash of surf he could always hear from his father’s house, a mere quarter mile from the ocean.
Elan rubbed at his ears. Had some water been trapped there from his morning swim? He yawned, trying to get his ears to pop, and sure enough, after a few moments, he could hear the sounds of home once more.
But something was still…off.
Now that his attention had diverted from the dough, Elan noticed the feeling of off even more. It was akin to stepping onto solid ground after having been at sea all day; the world seemed to sway beneath his feet. Dizziness overtook him and he gripped the worn wooden table for support as he struggled to find his bearings. A few deep breaths brought him back to himself, but for how long? He wasn’t sick, as far as he knew, and he wasn’t hungry. Was something else amiss? He glanced outside, gauging the time by how the sunlight fell across the flagstones of their balcony. His father would not be home for several hours, so Elan decided to take a walk to help clear his head.
Within moments he reached the base of the close, cool stairwell winding through the center of their house like the inside of a spiraled shell. After a stop to replace his shoes—he never wore them inside, but Pillau’s streets were cruel to bare feet—Elan was out the door and into the city proper. As always, he braced himself for the cacophony, like taking a deep breath before a plunge into cold water. But as he walked through the avenue, nodding to the shopkeepers and other locals he passed, Elan noted that muted feeling again: as if someone had stuffed cotton inside his head. The brilliant lapis blue found on nearly every building seemed dull gray. But not just the buildings looked odd; a strange patina covered the Blue City, as if color were bleeding out of the world. Elan frowned. Had he eaten something spoiled? But he didn’t feel unwell. It was the world that was wrong. He quickened his steps.
Not soon enough, Elan reached the edge of Pillau, and faced the Sea of Asherat. The sky stung his eyes with pure, cloudless blue as the ocean lapped gently at the shore, turquoise rippling as far as Elan could see. As always, he scanned the horizon, searching for…something. Another land, perhaps, although as far as anyone knew, only untamed seas waited beyond the horizon.
The ocean was at low tide now, the beach stretched wide and long before Pillau’s mighty seawall, but Elan had seen the surf pounding over the wall and into the streets during many a summer storm.
He slipped down one of the breaks in the wall: a slim staircase that allowed access for fisherfolk and anyone else who wanted to visit the shoreline. Pillau’s main harbor was several miles away, cupped in a sheltering inlet nearer the city’s heart. The day was too new for the fisherfolk to have returned from their excursions and too hot for sensible people to leave the shelter of their cool dwellings, so Elan had the beach to himself.
Shoes in hand, he meandered, pausing only to scuff his toes in the fine, sugar-soft sand or examine a shell or twisted piece of driftwood the waves had washed up. The lacy runnels of seawater that raced for his feet were warm and welcoming, though the ocean could be brutal. The mighty seawall was proof of that.
Elan glanced over his shoulder at the wall, bleached white by sun and salt. From his vantage point, the stone wall loomed above his head, standing sentinel between the ocean and those who dared to live so close. Although Elan had seen the wall many times, today something about it tugged at the edge of his mind, like a few words of a song whose name he could not recall. Frowning, he continued his trek. Solitude suited his mood, so he decided to ease away from the city and toward the wilder countryside, where no one could do more with the thick jungle than gather its various fruits and flowers. The journey would take him the better part of the afternoon, but the dough needed a long rise, and he had the time to spare.
As Elan followed the beach, a strange, sweet scent came to him amid the salty smell of the sea. He tried to place it, for this particular sweetness was as familiar to him as the seawall, but somehow still foreign. When he searched for the source, he found a handful of scraggly vines clinging to the end of the seawall, where it tapered off into the jungle. Elan studied the vines: spade-shaped leaves and yellow flowers. He could not identify them, but that scent! He knew it, somehow. He plucked some of the blossoms and tucked them into his pocket. Perhaps his father would know.
The sun had shifted, casting a dancing light upon the rippling ocean, so Elan settled onto the sand to watch the water. He considered going for a swim, then decided only to roll up his pants and let the waves brush his toes while he studied the little yellow blossoms again. Gods above, he knew this flower, but could not recall the name! J-something. Jas…Jes…
“Jessamin,” he said aloud, and sighed in relief. Jessamin, that was the name, and he was foolish for having forgotten. He tossed one blossom into the sea and tucked the others back into his pocket, though he could not have said why, then leaned forward, studying the waves while he idly traced patterns in the sand.
When Elan looked down, he started at the letters he’d formed: KALI
“Kali,” he said, shaping the syllables slowly, carefully, searching for meaning. The spoken word resonated within him like a clap of thunder. The longer he looked, the longer he let the sound of the name—and it was a name, one he knew well—rest in his mind, and the more his memories returned.
Dark eyes, full of merriment, meeting his own, sending his heart soaring into the ether.
The kiss of her warm breath against his lips as they shared whispered secrets, the salt taste of her sweat mingling with his, and the scent of sex.
Love blooming from his heart through his entire body, pouring into the bright gold thread that bound his heart to hers.
Peace forgotten, heart pounding, he rose and raced along the shoreline, back home – back to his father. As he went, he stared at the seawall, painted gold by the sun that drifted to the horizon, and remembered.