So I’m in the thick of writing Book 3 and, just for the heck of it, decided to post an excerpt from Book 2 (Damsels in Distress). Why? Because I’m looking back at it for reference, and it truly feels like I’m revisiting great memories with old friends. Like looking through a scrapbook. Only I can’t call or text them to say, “Wasn’t that a great day?!”
First, a little background: Having already slept for 300 years, Dawn (Sleeping Beauty) has chronic insomnia and treasures her solitary moonlit walks. It is the only time when she truly feels like herself — when the rest of the kingdom is sleeping; when she doesn’t have to worry about fitting into this new, modern society or disappointing the husband she still barely knows; when she can look at the same starry sky that lit her childhood exploits three centuries earlier, and pretend nothing has changed. This scene takes place just after a handsome stranger “saves” (debatably) her from the edge of a cliff in the middle of the forest. For some reason, he feels familiar almost instantly. Rather than go home right away and risk her husband declaring that these midnight strolls are no longer safe or appropriate, Dawn accepts this mysterious stranger’s offer to let her dress her wounds and wash up at his place. She has no idea what she’s in for.
“How’s your leg?” Their hands brushed together again.
Dawn increased the gap between them. “It’s fine. Just stings a bit.”
“We’re almost there. Just around this bend.”
She nodded as the path curled around like the last coil of smoke off a candle. Then, abruptly, a luminescent valley opened up before them. Her eyes flew wide in wonder. The cliffs disappeared and trees draped in crystals rose up to flank their path— their branches stretching overhead like nets of fallen stars. And the water … well, the water was now just a path, bordered by flowers so colorful and vibrant, Dawn wondered whether they’d sprung from sowed gemstones. Were they still in Regian or had he taken her to some other dimension?
Faced with such unimaginable beauty, she found walking and looking to be an impossible combination. When she stumbled for the third time, Liam insisted she take his arm. But it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen—until the crystal tunnel ended and a giant mansion appeared.
“You live in that?” she heard herself ask, mouth fully agape. Perhaps it was an illusion, but the walls seemed to be draped in blue, purple, and white flakes of ice that changed color depending on how she moved.
“In my defense,” Liam said, “if someone told me not long ago that I’d ever live in a place like this, I would have assumed he was either insane or making a bid for my soul.” He gave Dawn a sideward glance. She returned an all-teeth smile. “I believe there are few things as elusive as luck. A man can fall asleep one day in a hayloft and wake up with the world at his fingertips. Or he can close his eyes on a bed of silk and rise in a pile of rubble. For the moment, I’m thankful to have experienced the former.”
Dawn made a quiet guttural sound. She was the latter for sure, but no one would ever understand that.
“So what’s your story then?” she asked when he didn’t elaborate. “I mean, were you born here or—”
“Oh. No. I come from a very different place entirely. Lived there till I was a teenager and then got shipped off to Pastora. Distant relatives.” Dawn nodded. Pastora was the realm just north of Marestam. She’d only been there once, for one of Hunter’s grand unveilings, and couldn’t imagine a place more monotonous.
“Shipped off? Why?”
Liam rolled his neck from left to right and then raised his shoulders. “It’s a long story. Wait here just a second.”