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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Into the Dreaming" Sneak Peek

Enjoy this sneak peek at Into the Dreaming available for eBook purchase beginning next week!

Into the Dreaming
A Story of House Celestia

By Stephanie Brooks

Copyright 2013 Stephanie Brooks

Chapter One
                Genevieve McClaine stares at the design before her, intently ignoring the incessant pounding on her condo door.  Hoping desperately that whoever took it upon themselves to disturb her will give up and shove off.  The din slowly tapers off then quits altogether.  She allows a faint smile to cross her lovely face at her regained peace and quiet.  Applying herself once more to fine-tuning her latest design, she hums happily under her breath before cursing the air blue at the sound of a key turning in the door lock.
                Springing up from her reclining position, she dashes over and throws her slight body against the door, her inherently meticulous mind reminding her of a promise wrangled from her while she was preoccupied by her closest –okay only – friend…and the only being on Earth possessing enough brass to use the single copy of her key to encroach upon her much-needed solitude.
                Nobody else, not even her sociopathic-inclined father-figure, has the balls to disturb her sanctuary.  Let alone on her only real day off.
                The little voice inside her, the same one constantly aware of the nature of time and is suspiciously similar in tone to her father-figure, keeps telling her to step away from the door and stop being childish.  He was perpetually telling her to grow up among other “gems” of wisdom while attempting to beat the independent spirit out of her, until she finally did and got a court-order.  Blocking Desi this way isn’t just rude; it is completely and utterly juvenile, something she used to do with great regularity when she lived with Desi’s family as a teenager.  She doesn’t care how ridiculous her behavior is, some things should never be outgrown.
                Give Desi access to her and her home and she’ll insist on charming, or dragging, her outside.  Forcing her to stomach whatever asinine social gathering of the illustrious set Desdemona Griggs frequents along with her eminent Seattle family.  She thinks it’s some “Save the blue-bellied eel” or comparable snooze-fest.  Save something anyway, causes ware Desi’s raison d’√™tre while her striking clothing label is her guilty pleasure.
                Desi tries to share her enthusiasm for saving all and sundry, whether they want saving or not, with Genevieve.  Except Gen doesn’t particularly care for anyone or anything, except Desi.   Accordingly there is no cause convincing enough for voluntarily allowing utter boredom plus – shudder – people being forced upon her when writing a check is quicker and relatively painless.
                She is perfectly content to stay in her little garret with its view of the Sound, working on her designs, surrounded by the comfort and quiet of her home.
                “Come now, cher.  Must we do this every time?”  The exasperated voice in its velvet and honey Southern tones is an excellent match for Desi’s sabertooth-bunny personality.
                Yes, yes they do, Gen thinks desperately.  “Give me one good reason to go with you to Models and Mayhem or whatever tortures you have slated for tonight.”  She says uncooperatively.
A put upon sigh traversed the oak door.  “It’s a charity golf pro-am and banquet following.  Not a fashion show.”
“Might as well be,” she mutters.
“There’s cheesecake.”
Gen lets her head fall back with a thud and reaches for the dead bolt.  Damn sneaky, that’s what Desi is, her talents are wasted in fashion.  She should’ve joined the CIA instead of the Fashion Institute.
Desi’s peaches and cream face is clear of any trace of smugness as befits one who’s outmaneuvered her best friend with the dexterity of wartime generals.  Her betrayed glance bounces right off the impenetrable armor of the consummate socialite.
“Fuck you and your cheesecake.”  Genevieve says irritably while Desi glides into her inner sanctum.  Before she flops bad-temperedly back onto her plush couch Desi studies her from head to toe.
Rolling her eyes at the vulgarity, Desi mentally tallies the time it will take to transform the grubby-slash-halfway-homeless fashion statement before her into the ethereally beautiful successful business woman Gen seems determined to hide.  “I brought you clothes; we should have time…barely.”
Dragging herself from her perch lest Desi latch onto her with her python-hands-of-doom, Genevieve protests the coming ordeal – and it will be an ordeal.  “Why don’t you ever let me wear my own clothes to these things?  I’ll be just as depressed either way.”  Despite her own feelings about dressing up and being dragged to an event which will lull her into a catatonic state courtesy of cheesecake overdose and egocentric conversation, Desi’s premier-designer-fashion-sense refuses to allow her stepping one foot out the door wearing something less than marvelous.
Rattling the bag over one shoulder, Desi precedes her into the sole reason she coughs up the mortgage on less than a thousand square feet every month – an en-suite bathroom the most devout hedonist would covet.
“Because no matter how delightfully decadent your shoe designs are, your clothes – except the one’s I give you – are better suited for a fifty-year-old spinster schoolmarm or a homeless waif than a brilliant designer associated with my family.”  Desi answers absently, unzipping the bag she set on a hook.  Inside rests a confection of whimsical perfection.
Gen takes a peek and groans.  She’ll look like a grown-up, albeit sexy, fairy.
“Where’s the rest of it?”  She questions skeptically.
Blowing a raspberry at her greatest critic, Desi unhooks the second hanger from behind the flowing top, showing off the thin leggings which while brief, will pacify her modesty.  Several layers of translucent and smoky opaque silk shimmering in the light makes up the mid-thigh top.
“You’ll look stunning…mysterious.”  Desi says firmly, heading off her opposition.
“As long as I’m not a stunningly mysterious hooker, I’ll still speak to you tomorrow.”  She cracks, taking the hangers with a hesitant look and turning for the changing screen.

                Walking into the gala following the pro-am, Genevieve comes to an abrupt halt grabbing Desi’s arm and hissing into her ear.
                “You said dinner?!”  Her voice ripe with this newest betrayal, she struggles to keep from panicking.  Maybe there is some mistake.  Desi wouldn’t knowingly subject her to abject torture from socializing with a group containing hundreds, would she?  Oh, God…would she?
                “Oh…did I?”  The betrayer says, airily waving off her underhanded tactics.  “I meant gala.”
                “I’m not speaking to you.”  Turning, Genevieve makes for the crowded doorway, avoiding so much as a glance at the packed mansion’s ornate ballroom and the hundreds it contains.  Only to be brought up short by a firm hand grasping the silken Satan’s garment Desi’d shoved on her.  She’s certain a fun-filled hospital visit is in her near-future due to hypothermia…please God soon, if it means escape.
                “You won’t.”  She whispers, knowing her friend’s borderline obsession for her designs.  Not that she is any better about either of her own fields…but still.
                “Yes, yes I will.”  Desi says in that annoying sing-songy voice she gets when certain of events going her own way.  Two things about Gen she’s learned in twenty years of friendship.  First, cheesecake bribes are better than solid gold stilettos, Gen being categorically unable to bake.  Second, she will never, under any circumstances, bare her “lady-parts” in public after the Mardi-Gras-in-New-Orleans-arrest incident.
                “I hate you.”  She says spitefully, shoulders falling hopelessly at the threat of public indecency charges.  There are enough high-ranking cops here to insure an interesting phone call to her attorney.
                “Relax, cher.”  Desi says patronizingly.  “You’re wound way, way, too tight.  This’ll be good for you.”
                Flipping her one discreetly raised finger Gen makes for the dessert buffet in the hope that an imminent cheesecake overdose will ease the sting of being so perkily outflanked.

                North sprawls beside his brother at their House table.  What he can’t figure out is what exactly they are doing here.  Instead of staying at the Celestial Caverns and, let’s see, leading, they’re at some charity event Cy promised to attend.  He is, however, sure it has something to do with the vapid brunette his brother is trading sizzling looks with.  He isn’t sure why his younger brother’s penchant for women still surprises him.  After two thousand years one would think he will get used to it.
                More it is Cy’s dragging him along that is a switch.  After speaking to the other Council members following Hermes’ earlier anticlimactic departure, Cy disappeared with one of Dara’s soothsayers only to reappear and nag North into going with him to a gala of all things.  He’s trying to not let that worry him.  Anytime Cy teams up with one of the powerfully skilled true Sciles things tend to go downhill fast, leaving North to clean up the mess.
                Despite himself, he managed to find something other than House matters or his troublesome brother to entertain him.  He is quite thoroughly enjoying both the smoky undertones in his glass of prime Scotch, and the minor drama being put on a few feet away.  Two women, one clearly at ease and the other just a clearly not, carried out a vicious game of tug.  One that has been conducted so smoothly on each end that it is clearly a routine of long practice, much like Cy’s archery or his swordsmanship.  So much so in fact that if he hasn’t been waiting on the pair, it would’ve passed by completely under the cover of the packed house.
                He chuckles as the mini-show concludes with the diminutive redhead shooting the bird to her leggy blonde friend.  Those two must be friends or sisters who look nothing alike.  Nobody can get under your skin in the two-point-three-seconds it took them to go from smiling comrades to skirmishing enemies and back to smiles.
                “What’s got you in such a cheery mood?” His brother asks, startled by the break in his stoic public mask.  Cy hadn’t expected to see North smile again until Ember is back at the helm of the House.
                “You missed it.”  He answers sardonically.
                Cy arches an elegant brow.
                “Would it have anything to do with the Titian-haired little beauty who’d clearly rather endure the tortures of hell than attend a high-society function you’ve been watching like our father stalking a wounded baby deer at the last three events I’ve hauled your cranky ass?”  Cy guesses shrewdly.
                Startled, North turns to look at his smirking brother.  He shouldn’t be surprised.  For all Cy’s seeming indifference to any and everything other than his next conquest, he is the Elite Ranger, a more observant, or deadly, wolf is yet to be born.
                “I didn’t think you cared for redheads.”  He says reluctantly.  “And it’s more a cinnamon color.”
                The smirk becomes an all-out grin.  Just because he prefers blondes doesn’t mean he’s blind – especially when big brother, by all of five minutes, is showing interest in a female for the first time in over a century.  He’d begun thinking North is made of stone, and not in a good way.
                “You wanna meet her?”
                Now it’s North’s turn to smirk.  “Naturally, I suppose she’s one of your legions of ladies?”
                Tsking, Cy laughs.
                “I wouldn’t say legions, a company or phalanx maybe, and my ladies are usually a little more…”
                “Sweet,” he corrects.  “That female has some serious armor…and a tongue that can strip a man’s hide at thirty paces.”
                “Her friend then?”
                Shrugging, Cy stands.  “Friend’s sister, close enough.”  He tosses over his shoulder as he begins making his way through the crowd.  Although…that isn’t entirely true.  Cy does know her friend.  Desdemona.  Beautiful by any measure, to him it is like she’s been rolled in the wolf equivalent to catnip.  Not that it matters.  Wolves are forbidden human mates.  Always have been, always will be.  Fucking elders.
                Joining Cy as he makes his way through the crowd, North leaves him to his thoughts.  Where others struggle through the crush, the brother’s progress is unchecked as their fellow guest part before the chestnut-haired pair.
                Desi watches their approach from the corner of her eye, nonchalantly keeping the flowing conversation going while she thinks hurriedly.
                She knows who they are.  Anyone involved in business in this city did, except maybe her stubbornly hermitic friend, aside from her own weak connection to Cy.  Add in her sister’s torrid, brief but torrid, affair with one of the brothers, and Desi is well acquainted with their reputations.
Polaris and Sirius: a pair of the wealthiest, and most mysterious, playboys in the country and named for two of the brightest stars in the sky.
                Although to be fair, Cy works to earn the playboy tag while North is simply mysterious.  Their looks don’t help either.  At well over six feet, with bodies sculpted from pure muscle and faces that combine chiseled features, lush mouths, and kissable honey skin, they are lethal to a woman’s good sense.  And they know it.
                Coming to a halt slightly behind and to one side of the statuesque blonde’s foursome, Cy gently clears his throat.
                “Desdemona?” He says quietly.
                Conversation grinds to a halt at their approach with Cy summarily dismissing everyone but Desi.
                So that is how he wants to play it.  Turning, she frostily arches an eyebrow.
                “Have we met?”
                Plastering a stoic look on his face to cover imminent laughter, North watches his lady-killer brother flounder a moment before his ingrained arrogance rolls past her chilly reception.
                “Sirius,” he says accompanied by a sarcastic little bow.  “I know your sister Lillian.”
                “Yes.  Mr.…Sirius.  What can I do for you?”  She asks mock-servilely, frosty brow still arched.
                North thinks it might very well be the first time Cy was greeted with anything less than gushing approval – by a mortal female at least.  Ember and the rest of the Mythkyn are a different beast altogether.  Literally in some cases…
                “Have you met my brother Polaris?”  He stalls her, finally acknowledging to himself the reason he is undergoing her icy company to begin with.
                “Charmed,” she murmurs, offering a limp hand.
                As he accepts it, North gives a clipped nod.  One interrupted by a five foot whirling dervish layered in silk…and an overwhelming – beguiling – scent.
                “Oh, I’m so sorry!”  Gen gasps as she stumbles right into her target.  The towering muscle mass holding Desi’s hand, splashing the other behemoth – the kingly if scarred one – with her full glass of red wine while she’s at it.  If she is going to make an ass of herself, she might as well revel in it.
                “No need to apologize.”  North says, gallantly catching her and keeping a steadying hand at her elbow.  His wolf likes her scent.  He likes her ass and blatant bravado.  Up close, the tidy little bundle of femininity looks like a Pixie – and he knows Pixies, well the Dara kind as opposed to the fairytale variety.
                Sparking violet-blue eyes dancing with mischief are matched with a cute little nose and an aristocrat’s cheekbones.  Her cinnamon hair with its glints of hidden fire, combine with a widely sensual mouth grounding her from completely elven looks.  A cunning eye paired the fine-boned body with a billowing silk…thing which heightened the effect of a creature more than human.
                A muttered curse draws his attention from his pleasant little fantasy of carrying her off to his den where he can keep her plied with delicacies and sex - lots and lots of sex.  Her aim was dead on; Cy’s hair is plastering his forehead while drips of wine fell from his nose and lashes.
                Gen takes advantage of his temporary distraction to stead nerves set a-dancing by his absorbed perusal.  He is glorious of that there is no question.  But something about his midnight-dark eyes shout – Not Tame!  There is a hint of something…else, something…wild in his quick reflexes and gliding gait.  She blames her habitual people watching for bringing to light the little “off” things about the infamous Heavenly brothers.  Oh yeah, she knows who they are.  Anonymity isn’t their style…well Cy’s style at least.  Desi’d filled her ears about them last year when the playful Cy was seeing her snotty tramp sister, Lillian.
                They simply don’t move like other men, she decides watching the byplay as North laughingly teases his wine doused sidekick.  Frankly, she is slightly surprised she’d managed to hit Cy with her liquid arsenal.  The two are always in sync with each other’s movements, like they can anticipate or instantly react to a flicker of movement.  It is eerie, uncanny.  Even among identical twins, she’s never seen anything like it.
                “Don’t be a prat, Cy.  You’ll live.  You’re just a bit soggy.”  North admonishes, turning back to the ladies.  “You’ll have to excuse him; he gets testy when his hair gets a wee bit mussed.”  He mocks.
                “Ha.  Ha.”  Cy says peeved at his suddenly gregarious brother.
                Smiling at North, Desi is absolutely willing to gain a friendship with anyone who can take Sir Sirius down a peg.  Nodding sagely, she agrees.
                “Children can be like that.”
                Cy chokes at this mortal piece of fluff’s ready dismissal, turning a putrid shade of purple.
                Deftly turning the tide of the conversation before it becomes even more absurd, Gen interrupts.  She is well aware, although it seems the others have forgotten, of their rapt audience caught up in this little comedy, and knows that while Desi is uncaring in the moment tomorrow her mother the eternally gracious Southern belle will ring a peal over her daughter’s head at her behavior towards one of the most eligible bachelors to grace the Emerald City.  Little ripples of awareness regarding the incident are already making rounds of the room.
                “I’m Genevieve McClaine.”  She says to the stranger who still gently holds her arm just above the elbow.  His thumb is moving in faint little arches against her skin.  A nearly imperceptible movement, it sets off tiny fireworks tingling up and down her spine…and other places.
                “Polaris,” he says smiling at her diplomatic timing.  “You can call me North.”
                “Yes, I know.”  She motions to Desi with a faint tilt of her head.  At her signal, Desi breaks her stare-off with Cy.
                “We’d best be going.  I have a show next we I need to prepare for.  Nice to meet you North.”  Words tumbling from her lips one after another like a babbling brook, Desi extricates them from the pair and bolts for the door, Gen at her side.
                Watching toned legs under that silky almost-dress, North glances at his drenched – and speechless – brother.  It is worth the inevitable brawl later, oh, yes indeed.  That not-nearly-as-delicate-as-she-looks Gen is worth a couple bruises from his pissed brother.
                Clamping one hand on a sodden shoulder, he looks brightly around at the trying-not-to-stare-crowd that they’ve gathered.
                “I’m off then.”  Whistling, North saunters away for another drink, leaving Cy cursing him silently and heading for the coat check.

                In a deep, dream-filled sleep, Ember tosses and turns, lost in her visions.  A dream is one thing.  This is something else…something not right.  Her dreaming mind is unable to sort what is true from what is dream.
                She sees many disturbing things in her sleep…many things.
                An ancient place, long lost, now found.
                An unsolvable riddle undone by a woman not quite human, yet not Mythkyn, Outlander, Danae, or Heran, as much an enigma as the one she solves.
                And other things…wrong things.
                The Herans freed from their unending punishment to roam the Earth.
                And a race long forgotten by most…returning to Earth.
                Whimpering in her dark sleep, she tries to cry out only to be silenced by a rough hand clamping harshly over her mouth.

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