For the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting the first three chapters of Legacy of Ghosts in tiny, blog sized nuggets, hopefully a bit a day.
If you’ve missed previous chapters, you can read them here.
This contains spoilers. If you haven’t read Shades of Gray, proceed at your own risk
Ten minutes later Jorick was dressed in the twin to the coat she wore, though his fit better, and they were out the door. Katelina walked beside him, her hands buried in her coat pockets and her head down against a chilly breeze. The sky above them was overcast, with only a hint of diffused moonlight to remind them that there was something above the clouds.
They walked across the yard to the stand of trees and then through it. Katelina was more aware of every small noise than she used to be and the only thing that kept her from turning back for the house was the man beside her. No matter how confusing their “status” might be, she knew Jorick wouldn’t let anything hurt her if he could stop it.
They made it out the other side of the trees without incident, and Katelina found herself in a strange place. Ahead, the sloping grassland suddenly disappeared into sand. It was like standing on the edge of the world.
Jorick smiled at some unspoken thought, then wrapped an arm around her and pulled her closer. “You’ve never seen the beach?”
“No,” she admitted, her eyes on the horizon. In the dark she could hear the ocean waves, but couldn’t see anything. “I’ve never been this far east before.”
He fell silent for a moment, and when he spoke again his tone was somber. “I’m sure it’s far more spectacular in the sunlight.”
“Probably,” she agreed absently. “It’s louder than I imagined it would be. And it doesn’t smell very ocean-y.”
His amusement returned. “Ocean-y? What is that supposed to mean?”
“You know, like an ocean. It just smells like any old river; all fishy and river-y. I thought it was supposed to have a salty tang or something?”
Jorick laughed loudly and Katelina finally tore her attention away to glare at him. “What?”
His eyes twinkled and he squeezed her against him for a moment. “Nothing, little one. Nothing at all. Come, we’ll get closer.”
Jorick guided her through the tangle of tall grass to the sand. Her feet sunk in with every step and she groaned when she thought about the brand new shoes. Of all colors, why had he picked white? But then, he’d admitted before he had a fetish for white, hadn’t he?
As they drew closer she could see the subtle light on the waves and, when they stopped just out of reach of the tide, she stood mesmerized. There was something about it; something so vast that she couldn’t explain it. In the dark it was as though it just faded away into the sky; like liquid night slapping at the sandy beach.
She laid her head on Jorick’s shoulder and sighed. While magnificent, the view made her feel small and lonely. She was just a very tiny part of a big world, and that big world was one that rarely made any sense.
Jorick turned his face to her, so that his lips were pressed against her forehead. His hand crept up to the back of her neck and tangled in her hair. He inhaled deeply and let the breath out slowly, as though he were trying to hold some memory in his lungs. When he spoke his voice had an odd edge to it, “In the scheme of the world we are all small things.”
She looked up sharply at his too perfect perception, but then realized that feeling small must be a common sensation when faced with such a view. She smiled at him, and he returned it, but somehow it didn’t look right.
He turned away, but she continued to gaze at him. The cold breeze blew his dark hair around his pale face and his eyes stared at something far away, perhaps something too far for her to see. His lips pressed together delicately and she imagined kissing them, but she wasn’t brave enough. Still, he was too beautiful to ignore, so she settled for tracing a finger across his too smooth cheek.
He caught her hand in his and held it to his lips. Her heart pounded and she swallowed hard as so many feelings washed over her. Feelings she’d been missing only moments ago.
Slowly, he kissed his way over her knuckles to her fingers. His lips were soft and warm and just moist enough to make her think of other things; other places he could kiss. Goose bumps raced up and down her spine and her eyes drifted closed. She bit her lip in anticipation; although it had only been a week since the nightmare at Claudius’s, it felt like an eternity. She really needed this more than she’d realized. She needed to feel wanted and attractive and-
She jerked involuntarily as he nipped her finger. The surprise on his face showed it was an accident, and she was willing to overlook it, but he wasn’t. He dropped her hand as though it burned him, and took a step back.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“It’s okay,” she soothed and closed the gap between them. “It’s not a big deal.” She lifted her hands to his face, but he caught them and lowered them again.
“You’re cold,” he said flatly. “We should head back.”
“I’m not that cold,” she argued. However the grim look on his face told her it was futile. Whatever might have happened had disappeared into the hazy world of could-a-been.
Katelina walked back to the house, her shoulders drooped and her demeanor one of defeat. If Jorick noticed, he didn’t comment, and once they were inside he muttered a half hearted excuse and disappeared. She heard him unlock the white door and then shut it loudly. She didn’t know if he’d locked it again or not, but she felt too dejected to go check.