Hey guys! Glad you’re here 🙂 Check out the sneak peek below of Soul Cavern 2 (yes, it’s as yet unnamed 😉 ). I hope you enjoy it! This book as a release date in April!
Claude’s hazy reflection gazed back at him from the lift’s doors. With his slight build and blond, delicate features, most people underestimated him because he looked very young. He counted on that response in most cases and never more than right now.
The doors opened, and he stepped into the plush hall on the fourth floor of the Visci compound. Near the end of the hall, he would go through a stout wooden door — most of the doors were stout and wooden here — and into the lion’s den where he needed to manipulate master manipulators.
He wasn’t nervous. He was very, very good.
But he was a bit anxious.
Recently, Emilia Laos, the Visci ruler of Atlanta was killed by Mecca Trenow, the young woman both he and Emilia, separately, had intended on using as a weapon. And while Claude had fully intended to have Mecca kill Emilia, he hadn’t planned on it happening so soon. It had left a vacuum in the power structure of the city that he hadn’t anticipated having to deal with yet.
The tension he felt had more to do with adapting his plans than it had to do with any nerves at being in a room with Visci who were about to become very defensive and not a little frightened—though they would never admit to either.
Salas met him at the door. “She is to be released from the hospital in a week. Perhaps less. I don’t know whether she will go back to the college or to her father’s home. But judging from the fight they had this morning, I suspect it will be the college.”
Mecca had suffered a bad broken leg and had been taken to the hospital right after the… incident.
“And Will? Where did he flit off to?”
Salas inclined his head. “He is with her. He has not left the hospital.”
“Interesting.” Will, Emilia’s little pet human, would need Visci blood soon if he were to survive. Claude wondered how the man would get it. Anculi rarely moved from one Visci to another and so if an anculus’s normal life span had been expended, they usually died within a few weeks of their Visci’s departure. “I will enjoy seeing how that plays out.”
“Will there be anything else?” his man asked with a hand on the door knob.
“No. I believe the rest is up to me.” Claude straightened his suit jacket and gave Salas a nod.
The door opened in front of him and he stepped through.
“You took long enough,” Thomas Eli said. A short man with a circle of bright orange hair ringing his skull, Thomas complained whenever given the chance, but he was an excellent leader in Charlotte. Claude expected that he could count on the man’s support in the coming weeks, as things settled down.
“My apologies,” Claude said with sincerity and a short bow. He scanned the room. All of the council leaders who’d attended the Maze Party were still in attendance, along with each Visci’s attendant entourage. “I appreciate you all making yourselves available for this meeting.”
Murmurs shuffled through the group, then silence fell.
“I expect you’ve all heard by now, but if you haven’t, let me please make the official announcement. Emilia Laos, leader of Atlanta, was killed in the woods of this property. Her body has been retrieved and will be examined thoroughly. We do not know who did the deed, but an investigation is already underway and we will find out.”
“Was it a half-breed?” Tony Mercado called out. Arabella Connelly shot him daggers from across the table.
“As I said,” Claude continued, “we do not know who is responsible, but we will find out. In the meantime –”
“Who will lead in Atlanta?”
Tony again. Claude would be glad to shut him up.
“Exactly,” he said instead. “We need to nominate an interim leader so that we don’t lose the city to chaos.”
“You, Claude?” Arabella asked in her lilting southern drawl. The glint in her eye and the set of her soft lips made Claude think she was being sarcastic.
“Me? No.” Claude truly did not want to lead Atlanta.
His goals were much larger.
“I could do it,” Thomas Eli said. “Charlotte and Atlanta are not far from each other. It would not be too difficult.” His tone conveyed honest, innocent intent, but Claude didn’t trust that tone at all. And judging from the looks around the table, he wasn’t the only one.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Tommy,” Tony Mercado said. “You can barely keep your own city under control. There’s no way you’d be able to handle Atlanta.”
Chatter started up around the table. A few of the less powerful Visci, leaders of the smaller cities, like Raleigh and Birmingham, rumbled their discontent.
Claude raised his hands. “Please. Ladies, gentlemen. Let us settle down. I am a foreigner here. I’d only come to visit Emilia, whom I’d known for centuries, and enjoy the Maze Gathering.” He paused and lowered his eyes briefly, for the effect of grief.
It seemed to work, as everyone quieted.
“I have no interest in leading Atlanta, but I also do not see it as… let us be frank… safe in allowing any of you, as leaders of your own cities, to also lead Atlanta. I am sure you will all agree that the power imbalance would only lead to instability, rather than what we are striving for — stability and peace. Yes?”
The smaller city leaders nodded, but the more powerful among them simply looked away with varying small, dismissive gestures.
“I propose that we choose someone local to step in just for now. I am happy to stay for as long as the council feels I am needed to help this temporary leader make sure things move along smoothly.”
“And who would we choose?” Arabella asked. Her light and playful smile held something behind it, Claude knew. Cunning and ruthlessness. He wondered if she had someone in mind already.
He did. A full blood named James, whom Claude already knew would be easily controlled. But he waited a moment, to see whether anyone put forth other names. It would be easier to get approval for his preference if he didn’t put his choice forward first.
A commotion down the hall filtered, the sound of at least one raised voice, a woman, coming closer to the room. Claude couldn’t help being distracted, as had everyone else. They’d all turned to the door just as it burst open.
The small, compact women who entered, dark hair perfectly flowing around her head and barely brushing the edges of her shoulders, said, “Where is Emilia? I would speak with her right now.” Her gaze raked across the faces of those seated at the table until she finally rested on Claude, who stood several paces to her right. “Where is she?”
If you’ve read Blue-Edged Soul, you probably know who that woman is. If you haven’t why not?