Valor is in its second round of development edits and so far, so good. Everything remains on track for the January 2018 release. In the meantime, here is a sneak peek.
Warmed by the shower, Lilian’s muscle aches have diminished. Prone on the bed, pillows wedged under her torso, Lilian enjoys the pleasant cooling of the Master Medic’s lotion. It occurs to Lilian that should Katleen wish a life as a shrine healer, she has begun her training tending to Lilian’s ills over the past two years.
“You did not answer me,” Katleen accuses.
“Answer what?” Lilian replies, confused. They have said little since Katleen followed her to the chamber.
“You said our survival,” Katleen enunciates. “Not your survival.”
“Semantics, sweetling.” Lilian huffs what she hopes is a dismissive laugh.
“Do not,” Katleen’s gentle fingers stop on Lilian’s waist. “I am not a child. There is a huge hole in the music of your voice and it is surrounded with purple and metallic gray.”
“What say you?” Lilian’s fingers convulse on the sheet. She has known for over a year that her sister has her own version of insight, able to discern truth from falsehood in the tone of a person’s voice. As Katleen describes it, she hears music and sees color. Truth is melodious and bright. Falsehood is discordant and dark. Holes are new.
“You do not lie,” Katleen explains, her fingers applying lotion. “But you are excellent at not speaking. It is blankness in the music – a skipped beat or phrase. When you are angry, your voice is glittery gray like ice or blade. It is purple when you are distressed. Whatever you will not speak, it makes you angry and sad. It is all in that line between our and your.”
“Mulan’s mercy,” Lilian sighs in frustration. “Can my thoughts and secrets not be my own?”
“You could have run.” Katleen’s voice fills with revelation. “If not for Maman and me, you could have fallen into a Crevasse. Disappeared, and reemerged with a new identity. Free of all of this.”
Five Warriors take it. Lilian has no desire for this conversation, but lying is pointless and withholding will no longer serve in light of this latest development in Katleen’s odd perception. “They were already coming for me before Gariten was indicted. Once I knew he was taken, I had but two, mayhap three periods when I could have run.”
“It would have been enough,” Katleen retorts, her fingers moving over Lilian’s buttocks. “You are clever enough and Dean Joseph would have helped.”
“I would not risk implicating the dean,” Lilian denies. With shake of her head she adds, “It matters naught. I could not leave you. Maman would have fallen deeper into madness and you would not have lived to see majority. What value would there have been in my life?”
“But you might yet die!” Katleen laments. “And you have suffered so much.”
“I pay the price for the life I would have,” Lilian contradicts, rolling from the pillows. “When my bond is proved, I will have a life of legitimate commerce serving Serengeti.” Pushing to her feet, she reaches for Katleen’s shoulders. “I will have my family, my honor, and my future.”
Tightening her gripe, Lilian locks her gaze with Katleen’s. “Only this path offers all that. I far prefer it to a life in the shadows as a gray commerce raider. Or worse.”
“Worse?” Katleen stumbles.
“I am Gariten’s get,” Lilian swallows against the taste of the words. “It is a short step from gray to black. The only way to avoid it is to never to get on that path.”
Grabbing the hands on her shoulders, Katleen whispers, “But you were tempted. That is the hole and the darkness.”
“Yes, I was tempted,” Lilian presses her lips together and closes her eyes. “It pleases me not.”
Leaning into Lilian, Katleen’s hands slide around Lilian’s waist. “I am sorry. Sorry that you are hurt, not that you saved us.”
Resting her chin on the red-gold curls, Lilian murmurs, “It will be well. Monsignor will not let me fall.”