Enjoy the introduction to The Queen of Hearts, sequel to The Blacksmith and Cries of the Blood, my former practice drafts.
In The Queen of Hearts, Aurelia and Damian are drawn deeper into the mysteries of their past. They discover that breaking the chains of mortality was just the first of a long line of secrets to the world of man and the love they share.
The bed creaks. My head snaps in its direction. Through the darkness, the Executioner is staring at me.
“You scribble so fast, the pen fumes,” he says.
He walks to the window and pushes the curtains open, letting morning light flood in. My eyes perceive the reddish-orange color spreading through the chamber, but they accept the light without strain. I realize that I’ve written hundreds of pages in complete obscurity.
The Executioner has changed his clothes. Dark denim covers his long legs and now he shuffles a quality shirt over his upper body. He does it with slow moves, showing off his slender, marble sinews that I used to fantasize about.
He takes a gel tube from the vanity table, squeezes some in his hand and runs it through his ebony hair. He inspects himself in the mirror. A murderer disguised as a dazzling boy. I feel my lips tighten in aversion.
“You don’t like what you see?” he inquires.
I don’t reply. I turn to my pages, now a mess all over the desk. Soon, the Executioner stands close behind me.
“What did you feel when you saw him yesterday, Aura?”
His voice is soft and his heart wounded. I sense it so sharply that I don’t even blink. I still stare at the papers as I answer.
“My feelings for him haven’t changed,” I say. They’re stronger than ever, I think, but I keep that part to myself.
“Were you happy when he filled you?”
“Ivan, I wasn’t with him …”
“Drop it.” He sounds so vulnerable that I almost feel sorry for him. My lips seal. His intuition tells him the truth and my lies can only make matters worse. I know he’s tempted to rain questions on me, clinging on every reason to believe me. Still, he’s an old and wise devil. Emotion might be new for him, but he doesn’t fall prey to self-deception. He could have Damian crucified for this. I bite my lip, trying to swallow my fear.
He drops a bundle of clothes on my lap and I realize I wear only the bath towel. With my mind deep in the account I’ve written on all night, I haven’t thought about it. My cheeks flush with shame.
I stand and the Executioner clasps my shoulders from behind. I freeze, my eyes wide. He breathes in, there’s a slight tremble in his voice.
“This sight of you will haunt me all day.”
He sweeps a lock of hair from my neck and wets his lips. No!
“Have you come to a conclusion?” I say and turn around to face him. He looks entrained. “About Dolores and how she and I are related, I mean.” I’ve decided I don’t take him seriously anyway, but the question should serve to thwart his focus.
He pauses and gathers himself.
“There’s only one way to find out,” he says.
He won’t say. He takes a few steps back and lowers his head.
“Get ready. I’ll take you to the library.”
“The library?” I blink, puzzled. Then the memory hits me. My task. I shudder, remembering the Abbot’s words.