This is from a project I am co-writing with my husband. A fantasy romance loosely based on Sleeping Beauty. At the moment, we have a trilogy planned. I wasn’t planning on sharing anything about it until closer to launch time, but given recent events, people can use escapism where they can get it.
So here is a (very rough, unedited) snippet from book one:
Gerald’s jaw set, and he eyed the briar with a look Evie knew well. She took a couple of steps back. He gave a signal to his men, and they lined up in formation, facing the briar as they would an opposing army.
The thicket beside Evie rustled. A tiny creature nestled among the twisting vines at her elbow, a delicate figure with pale blue skin, luminous black eyes, and white dandelion fluff hair. Dragonfly wings fluttered briefly before folding neatly against the creature’s back. A pixie. Its figure was distinctly female, and one of her pointed ears had an old scar, a tear just below the tip.
“Acacia,” Evie greeted softly. She and the pixie had met several times. She wouldn’t call them friends perhaps, but certainly uneasy allies. As she watched Gerald directing his men, Evie retrieved a pouch from her vest and poured a small heap of crystalline white granules into her hand. Carefully, she spilled the sugar onto a leaf near where Acacia stood. The pixie’s eyes widened, and she made a little trilling sound of pleasure.
Evie always tried to bring gifts with her when she came into the Tangle. Things she knew some of the creatures here enjoyed, but that weren’t readily available in the wood. It always paid to be friendly when entering another’s territory.
As Acacia picked up a handful of sugar and poured it into her mouth, chewing with evident joy, the two of them watched Gerald and his honor guard move against the briar, swords out and slashing at the twisted vines.
Steel cut the thin branches with ease, bits of thorny bramble flying. Gerald let out a triumphant cry as it appeared he was about to make headway towards his goal.
Evie and Acacia exchanged a knowing look.
A moment later, the shrill cries of pain began. Vines covered in thorns whipped out from the briar, wrapping around limbs, snaking their way into gaps between pieces of armor. As Evie watched, a tendril wrapped three times around a soldier’s throat. He screamed as the thorns bit into his flesh, blood running rivulets down his neck. His sword fell from his grasp as he tore frantically at the vine, to no avail. In seconds, what had been a controlled, military assault became chaos. Men were pulled into the briar, screaming the whole way. Others scrambled back, losing helmets, swords, even a boot. Gerald was among them.
As they watched, the place where he and his men had attacked the briar filled in, growing over with new lengths of vine, some of them dotted with white rose buds. In moments, it stood as it always had. They could still hear the distant cries of the men the briar had taken. Hoarse screams gave way to broken sobbing, until finally there was silence.
Evie’s stomach turned. She hated this part. And it was always inevitable. They never listened, and the briar always won.
Humming, Acacia dipped her hand back into the small pile of sugar and ate more, licking her tiny fingers clean after.
Gerald and his men stared at the briar in shock.
Then Gerald turned on his heel and marched towards Evie. She straightened, moving subtly so she stood in front of Acacia. Not that Gerald was likely to notice the pixie, but she wanted to keep it that way. He’d be looking for a target for his disappointment and anger.
And that target, as always, was her. She held back a sigh.
“Yes, Sir Gerald?” she said politely.
“This is your fault!”
Evie spread her hands. “I agreed to lead you here. I have.” After seven long, insufferable days in his company. “I warned you it wouldn’t be possible to get through the briar. I even told you others had tried, and failed.” She leaned in for emphasis. “I told you others had died, and that was why you agreed to pay me half my fee up front.”
Gerald’s face reddened. “I hired you to get me to the princess!”
“No. You hired me to get you to the tomb. Which I did.”
Gerald lifted his head. He towered over her as it was, but the move let him glare down at her from an even more imposing height. “You will lead me inside.”
“You little bitch.” Gerald moved to grab her, and Evie dodged aside, her movement soft but trained. Her daggers slipped into her hands with practiced ease.
It brought him up short. Not because he was afraid of her, but in sheer disbelief that she would dare draw a weapon against him.