Five more days until Winter officially hits the shelves. (The ebook version is up on Amazon already, because in order to get everything ready all at once, some things have to be ready early. I need a time machine.)
The hold-in-your-hands paperback giveaway is running along nicely on Goodreads. Click to win!
Meanwhile, here’s a taste. Winter and Gabby and the rubies:
“She’s right,” said Gabby. “That was your grandfather’s mark.”
Winter tapped his fingers on the kitchen table. The boy was never still, Gabby thought. Even as a baby he’d been restless and full of energy, ready to walk before he could crawl.
But maybe that had been his parents’ fault.
Winter rolled the pouch under his palm. He stared at the wall, brow furrowed in thought.
Then he shrugged, and unknotted the pouch, upending it over the table. A clutch of gems scattered across the metal surface, flashing under the kitchen’s bare bulb.
“How about these? Do you recognize these?”
Gabby settled her whiskers, then walked among the rubies, tail held high. The stones were beautiful, a deep red the color of blood. She patted one with a paw. The ruby warmed at her touch.
“No.” She sat on her hind legs, wrapped her tail close, and regarded her charge. “They’re not familiar. But I had little time to spend counting the Queen’s jewels.”
His mouth twisted. “Do you think that’s what they are, then? Court treasure?”
“It seems most likely. Uniform in size and shape and kind. They would have been quite remarkable set in crown or collar.”
Winter held a stone up to the light. “Prized from their setting to be more easily sold, one by one.”
“It seems a convincing scenario.”
“But also impossible, if you’re saying you believe I’ve found fay stones in a Penn Street apartment. Forget the stones. The pouch in itself is an impossibility.”
Gabby rubbed the tip of her tail between her front paws. “There is a chance Angus had the stones on him when he crossed over. That would be the rational explanation.”
“And the sword?”
“I don’t remember it.” Gabby admitted reluctantly. “But my memory isn’t what it should be. Those first centuries remain little more than foggy impressions.”
The memories of an aes sí, she supposed, were difficult for a mouse brain to process.
Once she would have mourned the loss. But that particular sorrow had also become misty centuries past.
“The rubies can be explained away. Even the sword.” Winter’s grey eyes were bleak. “But not the girl.”
“No,” Gabby agreed. Her regrets were nothing compared to the boy’s. The biggest mistake she had made in her life was siding with Angus over Gloriana and although the punishment had been frightful, none of the banished had been innocents.
Winter’s mistake endangered guilty and innocent alike. Not even the most feckless human babe was spared a sluagh’s hunger.
“Have some tea,” she suggested as she had that very first night, to a broken child little more than eight, when they’d huddled together in a mortal soup kitchen.
Winter turned away, no doubt to spare her the glimpse of his pain, and shuffled rubies back into his grandfather’s pouch.
“Siobahn needs to know what we’ve found.”
Gabby ran a half circle around the table, and then back again. A mouse was a prey animal. When she worried it was very hard to keep still.
“Your last attempt brought a ghoul past our Wards. Are you sure you’ve set them secure?”
“No,” said Winter. “And I’m not willing to risk it again. Which is why you’re taking the rubies to Manhattan. The rubies, and word of Aine.”
In her tiny chest the mouse’s heart began to flutter. “Word I can carry, but not the rubies.”
“I know.” Winter smiled without humor. “That’s why I’m also sending Lolo.”