Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Before Tiatha’s Wedding
A Deleted Scene from Choices Meant for Gods

Nigel strode past Godric’s den, but literally reached out to grab the doorframe to stop himself. Loetha couldn’t hide her smirk. Had his boots actually squeaked on the wood floor? He now walked into the room to watch her pinning Chariss’s hair up with some jeweled clip. “Loetha, there’s probably something you could be doing to assist Tiatha in the ballroom,” he suggested.

Tiatha stared blankly at Nigel for a moment, her pretty blue eyes taking in the long jacket he wore for his brother’s wedding day. It made her smile to think he’d gone to the trouble of wearing something so fine for his younger brother. She rose from her perch, her satin and lace gown rustling like autumn leaves dropping to their deaths. “Yes, Loetha, we just have to keep Jake from seeing me in the foyer is all. We can hide me in the parlor.”

“Hide you?” Chariss asked.

“It’s bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony,” Loetha explained.

“I’ve never heard that.”

“It’s a S’haran tradition,” Tiatha said. “It’s why my mother died. And my father’s mother before her.”

Chariss looked at the girl in horror. “Oh, Sweetheart, don’t think such a thing on your pretty day! Bigotry and stupidity took your grandmother from the world. Your mother gave up her life in childbirth to be sure you were the strong lady you are right now.”

Nigel watched his future bride hug the girl, and he smiled smugly at Loetha. If he had a better grasp of his geasa, he’d have sent a thought to the servant lady about how wonderful his Amanda was. And then he’d have suggested she move faster to get Tiatha out so he could be alone with his Amanda.

But the two moved along and he closed the den door behind them. Chariss narrowed her eyes at him. “What are you about this morning, Mister Taiman?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. I just wanted to get a moment alone with you. I need to buy you more dresses.”

She instinctively looked down at her torso, which made him smile. “What’s wrong with this dress? You bought me this dress. I thought you liked it. Is it messed up? I could change if there’s something wrong with it. I don’t want to mess up Tiatha’s wedding—”

“By the gods, Woman,” he said, reaching for her arm so he could pull her into his embrace. “What’s all this nervous energy?”

“Truly? Is there something wrong with—”

“Mandy, there’s nothing wrong with your dress,” he laughed. He placed a kiss on her cheek. “Relax. You look amazing, as usual. At least yours doesn’t have all the buttons that Tiatha’s does. Jake’s going to lose his mind this evening.” He winked at her. “Tell me your wedding gown doesn’t have all that many buttons.”

She blinked, and the blank expression of confusion facing him now enchanted him. He didn’t get to see it very often. But as the slow dawn of understanding crossed her mind, the slow rise of color filled her cheeks. “You shouldn’t say such things about your brother.”

He continued to tease her. “I’m just thinking it’s such a shame that you ladies go to so much trouble with wedding gowns and then fasten them up with a few dozen buttons. Tell me how Jake is supposed to get her out of that—”

She held her hands up as if in defense. “Stop! By the gods, stop. I can’t believe you.”

“Oh dear. Am I to assume this means Mother created something full of buttons for you to wear?”

“I’m not continuing this conversation.”

“I don’t suppose you’d agree to just wearing this gown then, would you? It looks like it’d be so much easier to get you out of—”

“You’re saying these things just to embarrass me.”

“Yes, actually. See, this one doesn’t have any buttons that I can tell.”

She gave him an exasperated look, fully aware that he was enjoying this taunting more than he should. Well, two can play at this game, she thought. I can tease him right back and make him very sorry that he’s being so cruel. “No, this one doesn’t. And, if you must know, my wedding gown doesn’t either.” She laced her arm around him, placing her hand at the small of his back. “It has a single bow, right about here. And if you loosen that bow, it loosens the cords all the way up,” she stroked her hand in a zigzag pattern up his back, “and the whole thing will just fall right away.”

He stalled for a moment, not sure she’d really just said or done what he thought she’d said or done. And then he smiled down into her teasing eyes and leaned in to kiss her mouth. “You naughty thing,” he whispered. “What am I going to do with you for the next week?”

“You should probably start by letting me go to the parlor to tend to Tia—”

“Oh no, I’m not releasing you until someone comes calling for you. You’re mine until they need you. Now, this wedding business today is likely to take both of us in opposite directions, but I want you to go to the city with me this evening. There’s an acting troupe in town that’s performing on the stage and I want to take you there to see them.”

She smiled at this. “That sounds wonderful. So calm after all this craziness around here.”

“Indeed. But you have to put on a different dress. I can’t have half the city ogling my pretty girl in this thing.”

She grinned at him. “Ogling? I thought you liked this dress.”

“It’s just that seeing you in something you wore for the emperor’s ball reminds me that I haven’t provided you with enough formal dresses. You’re going to be the mistress of Arcana after next week and you’ll need something to match all the shades of pink you turn at the mention of such things.”

“You’re embarrassing the life out of me.”

“I can tell.” He placed another kiss on her cheek. “Mother seems to have a different dress for every day of the week and for every occasion that comes up and for every time she visits the city…” He had her cheek in the palm of his hand then so he could turn her mouth to his and placed a kiss on her lips before proceeding. “We’ll do no less for you, Misses Taiman.”

She moved out of his grasp. “I don’t require all that. I’m used to living quite simply.”

“And you’ll get used to living extravagantly.” He pointed a finger at her. “And you’ll get used to being wrapped up in my arms, too, Young Lady.”

She blushed furiously.

“Yes, don’t think I haven’t noticed how easily you slip out of my hold all the time.”

She could tell he was teasing her, but she blushed anyway. “Nigel, we’re not married yet.”

“Hmpf. Another travesty. Why aren’t you wearing that purple dress I got for you?”

“What?”

He almost laughed at the look on her face. “The purple one.”

“You can’t be serious. To stand with Tiatha. On the dais? At her wedding?”

He chuckled. “I’ve said something strange?”

“Nigel, it’s totally inappropriate. It’s something for everyday.”

“Yes, but this…”

“Oh dear, there is something wrong with it, isn’t there?” She looked down again, this time picking up the skirt a bit, as if looking for a hole or a tear in the fabric. “Is it torn?”

“No, it’s missing the entire back. Everyone in the assembly can see your skin.”

She hadn’t dropped the skirt back the few inches to the floor yet, hadn’t lifted her head completely yet, but lifted her eyes, her heavy lashes, to take in his countenance, as if assessing whether or not he was joking. And then she gave him a wry smile. “Well, I have to wear something provocative in case you should decide to ignore me again for the next week. Someone has to marry me and I might as well start attracting—”

He figured he deserved the teasing, and gave her a devilish grin as he reached out for her arm again. She let out some sort of squawk in the middle of her naughty speech as he whisked her back into his arms. “That’s enough of your saucy tongue,” he said. “What am I to do with a conniving wife?”

She didn’t get to answer. He had planted a kiss on her that he wasn’t releasing. It seemed entirely inappropriate, all things considered, but entirely intoxicating. All the butterflies in her stomach responded in happy flight, and she relaxed in his arms. Ah, how wonderful it would be when she could hold him like this at any time she wished and no one could question it. Right now she felt she had to worry about someone walking through the door to “catch” them. And any number of people would find this scandalous. She was so caught up in that thought that she didn’t pay any attention to herself, to her hands. She so liked the feel of his hair. It was very soft, and just long enough that she could run her fingers down to the ends with no trouble at all. And she so liked the feel of his chest. He was very strong, and the fact was apparent when…oh. She broke off kissing him with a start, and he smiled down into her eyes. She looked stunned. He looked amused. And he moved her the pace or two it took to place her against the door.

“Oh, look, we’ve been here before,” he whispered, putting his lips to hers again.

But she struggled to stop him. “Nigel, really, someone—”

“And I’ll have you here again,” he breathed against her neck.

She closed her eyes, willing herself to come back to her senses, but, strangely enough, closing her eyes actually blocked this insanity all that much closer to her. It made the leather scent of him that much stronger around her. It made the warmth of his body against her and the fire of his hand on her neck that much hotter. It made the feel of his lips against her cheek and mouth that much silkier. By the gods, what was she going to do living in the same house with him for the next week not being able to kiss him like this again? “Nigel, really, you’ve got to let me go.”

“Anyone who needs you right now will just have to wait,” he said.

She whimpered.

And he moved to look down at her, completely surprised. “What…what was that?”

“Hm? I didn’t say anything else.”

He still looked a bit shocked, and she blinked. Now he noticed that the lavender of her eyes was darker, deeper than usual, almost purple in the dim light of the den, and he moved his hand up to her shoulder. The other cupped her cheek as if he was already her lover and already knew things about her that he shouldn’t know, and he stared down into her eyes a moment, weighing his conscience. It would be wisest to give her a polite, brotherly kiss on the cheek now, and calm this situation down. He’d teased her (and himself) too much. The gods only knew which of her guardians would come tearing down the hall to beat on the door at any moment if she was sending out any sort of unguarded thoughts at all. And he hadn’t the proper use of the geasa to prevent her from doing so. But, Dezurine help him, the look of her was intoxicating, and the feel of her was mesmerizing, and everything about her belonged to him. And all he wanted was to kiss her again. He was no longer teasing her…or himself. There was no longer a smile or a leer or a naughty little gleam in his eye. This had gotten serious rather quickly.

She ran her hand up the interior panel of his jacket, pressed against the fabric of his shirt against his body. He felt her hand slide over his shoulder beneath the material and pull him close again. And he was lost. She literally pulled him back into a kiss that spun him out of the room. He felt his body respond in no uncertain terms. It was phenomenal. He wasn’t sure how, but he had the presence of mind to take his hands off of her, put them on the door to either side of her. Considering the emotions her lips tore through him right then, he wasn’t sure he could trust himself. It was bad enough that he pressed against her as if he’d pin her to the door so she couldn’t get away. The woman was not trying to escape. No doubt he’d frighten her or something with such behavior. He had his knee between her legs, for pity’s sake, holding her in place as if that was appropriate, but he couldn’t stop himself, couldn’t maintain a sense of decorum with her hand up in his hair, with her mouth crushed against his. And what was this? She ran her other hand down his arm, down past his elbow, to his wrist. She pulled his hand away from the door and brought it back to her hip.

Oh, I don’t think so, he thought. But he already squeezed the tender frame beneath his grip as if holding on for dear life, and she smiled against his lips, moving just enough to speak, and the feel of her breath against his mouth set a fire through him. “Don’t be alarmed, but Hrazon is about to beat on the door behind me.”

He was relieved.

Then why did she resume kissing him? Why did she trail her hand back up his arm and up to his neck, playing her fingers along his skin up to his chin? And there was the knock at the door, insistent and severe. “Chariss? Child, come out.”

She smiled up into his eyes and the deep purple color in hers enchanted him. But her words enthralled him. “Now, Mister Taiman, is that how you’ll kiss me when you untie the bow on my wedding gown?”

He still reeled from the question when she stepped out of his space, when she opened the door just enough to see the glowering wizard in the hall.

“Child. I swear.”

“Yes, yes, just let me tell him one thing.” She turned back to Nigel, winked at his stunned expression, and whispered. “Perhaps you’ll think twice about teasing me so cruelly again. Won’t you?”

He stumbled to the couch and lowered himself onto it after she’d gone. He put his face in his hands and chuckled lightly. “Oh, it’s going to be a long week.”

end
“Some days, I just want the dragon to win.”

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1 Comments:

Blogger Henri de Montmorency said...

Reminds me of the beautiful Antoinette Richelieu. Her father would not allow her to see me because I was hump back. I rather enjoyed this, Sandy, is it? Your book sounds like something I would enjoy reading when I'm kicked back, downing Coors Light. Good luck to you. I am an author, too, btw.

7:04 PM  

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