Monthly Update (April)

We’re going to start doing monthly updates. Yay! Mainly for me to feel accountable for how much writing/revising I’ve done during the month, but also to see what I’ve been up to in general. Honestly, I think I forget myself if I don’t write it down.

Writing

Currently revised chapters: 14

I didn’t get as much done this month as I had hoped, but I have great excuses reasons. I spent just over a week on holiday, during which I didn’t do a single thing related to writing. Also, while it might look like a measly number, I stopped after chapter 14 when I realised that after ten years this novel needed a lot more work than just editing. Meaning that I’ve gone back to chapter one and started heavily revising.

Since then I’ve been revising, spending sometimes upwards of four hours per chapter, rewriting and trying to make it better. I’m nearly back up to where I finished (14), so if I can keep up a steady pace, I should be done revising before June rolls around. Then commences editing and proofreads.

My biggest problem, which I’m sure I’m not alone in, is lack of time. Every other week I have a few days off, but the other week I have several days in a row where my spare time is all of two hours between waking up after a night shift and then having to be back at work. During those two hours I generally have to shower, walk the dog and eat some dinner. Some of those days I’ve managed to revise half a chapter, but that’s rare.

I sometimes worry that I’m spending all my time revising rather than starting to write something new, but I think it’s best to focus on getting this novel ready first. I’ll worry about the next one later. The positive thing with all this revising is that I’m suddenly finding myself with lots of story inspiration again, something I’ve been lacking for a long time. So hooray!

Other stuff

I spent just over a week back in Sweden over Easter, and it was great. I loved seeing my family again. Below will be a spam of photos from the holiday, so feel free to ignore. The holiday was great, even if I got no writing or revising done.

Mom made a cheesecake decorated with Malteaster bunnies. Yummy!

When the egg is nearly as big as the kid, we might need to think about this…

The favourite thing the nephew received.

Mom made Easter egg cakes. It’s actually a cream and half a peach.

It snowed… SNOWED! Come on Sweden!

The one scenery photo I took, and it’s not even good!

A wild sprite appears!

Nephew happy out on a walk.

Niece rocking the tutu and sunglasses look.

 

I’m not afraid of flying

As I’ve just been traveling by plane I started to think about flying, and how I feel about it. A lot of people in my family are afraid to fly, while I’m not. I mean, not really. At least not enough to keep me from traveling by plane to whichever destination I need to go. That said, it doesn’t mean that I enjoy flying.

The evening before my return flight I was listening to the radio while they were talking about the fear of flying. Statistically it’s safer to fly than to drive a car or go by train, yet a lot of people are afraid of flying – but not those other things. They gave a few possible reasons for this on the show, but not the one that I personally find the most obvious – the odds of survival.

I feel like if I’m in a car accident or train accident, I have some chance to survive. If my plane goes down… The odds are kind of stacked against you on that one.

Exactly what I don’t want to see when going in for a landing.

I like to think that I handle flying fairly well, I’m just aware of my own mortality. I dislike the take-off and landing the most, possibly because that’s when the most accidents occur. Turbulence is very uncomfortable as well. I don’t even like roller-coasters, so going into a quick dip at 30,000 ft isn’t my cup of tea. It worries me when I hear about research that show that the turbulence is going to get worse and worse because of our carbon dioxide emissions. Turbulence might possibly bother me more than anything during a flight.

The better way of flying?

Then there are the maths. On average I probably do three round-trips a year. It’s nothing compared to people who travel for work, but it’s possibly more than the average person? Statistically, I imagine that the more flights you take, the greater the odds of something happening. I’m no maths genius though, so it probably doesn’t work like that at all.

How do you feel about flying?

Reading Pet Peeves

I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading lately when I work my waking night shifts. Writing at work has turned out to be difficult since it requires quite a bit of focus, and I need to always be aware of what’s going on. Reading works though, and you won’t hear me complaining about that.

With my newfound reading time, I’m finding new (and old) pet peeves in the books that I’m reading. It should be said that these are all personal views, and doesn’t mean that a story is any better or worse than any other. We all have our own preferences, and something that I enjoy might not be someone else’s cup of tea and vice versa.

Some of my pet peeves:

  • Historical Inaccuracy
    When reading romance, I will often allow for a little suspension of belief, as long as it’s not asking for too much. You have your couple waltz before it was actually a socially acceptable dance, sure – I’ll let it slide. However, if your hero has a tobacco plantation in the south of England and is a slave trader… Just, no. Slave trading was illegal for Britons after 1807 (the story took place in 1813-1817), and I could be wrong, but I don’t remember reading about British tobacco plantations? (That weren’t located in the West Indies etc.) I’m sure there were people who still worked in the slave trade, but then the author should have made it clear that he was doing something illegal.
  • Head-hopping
    Fortunately, this isn’t something that I see a lot of in published books (whether self-published or traditional), but I’ve been reading some stories on Wattpad and Fanfiction sites (I know, I know – but sometimes it’s a lot of fun!). When the writer hops between the points of view of the main characters abruptly, sometimes within the same scene it’s very jarring. Please change chapter or at least a section break to give me a clue that we’re now in someone else’s head!
  • Infantilising
    I’ve mainly seen this in a couple of the very few erotic romances I’ve tried, but I know it sometimes happens in other books as well. It really creeps me out. When the hero is either talking about the heroine in terms that make her sound very young/girlish, or even worse calling her “baby girl”, “little girl”, “young girl” and so on. Extra squick points if he refers to himself as “daddy”. No, just no.
  • Dubious consent
    The book I’m currently reading has the hero more or less barging into the heroine’s flat at their first physical meeting (they’ve only spoken on the phone previously), and proceeds to spank her and do other sexual things to her, while she’s yelling at him to get out, to stop etc. It just made me very uneasy. Even while knowing that the author was trying to show him as dominating and her as a submissive who had forgotten how to be one (??!), it just didn’t sit right with me. Now, I’m no expert on BDSM, but isn’t the whole thing about consent and trust, in reality? You can’t just barge in and decide that you’re the new dominant without any base rules set? Correct me if I’m wrong.
  • Series not advertised as such
    This doesn’t really apply to series where each book is its own story with a beginning, middle and end (especially if each book is a new couple). But if you’re selling me a story, and it’s going to end on a cliffhanger – I’d like to know before I purchase the book, please.

These are some of my pet peeves, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten some.

Do you have any pet peeves in books? What are they?

Editing

Whenever I read articles about self-publishing your books, whether it be in paperback or e-book, everyone is always pointing out how important it is with editing. I agree, editing is very important, and I can get quite frustrated when reading books if I find an inordinate amount of mistakes (especially if it’s in the first few pages!).

However, they often tell you to use a freelance editor to do your editing. I don’t expect to make a lot of money on my books. An e-book, on average, sells a total of 250 copies in its lifetime. That’s on average, which means that you could very well be below that number.

If you then spend around £1000 on a professional editor for your novel, you’re most likely going to make a loss on your book. While I would like to think that I write mainly for myself (and this is true), I can’t really afford to lose money on my writing. So, I’m sorry my friends – but I have to do my own editing, revising and proofreading.

If I somehow get lucky and sell a lot more than expected – then I’ll spend that money. When I might stand a chance to earn it back. Until then, I’m on my own.

Do you do your own editing, or do you pay someone else to do it?

Keep or Discard?

As I’m editing my novel I’m finding myself questioning how many changes I want to make. There are things that I think maybe I should change, while at the same time I’m not sure if it would make the story better or worse.

It’s my first novel that I’m going to publish, and the people that have read it so far are basically a couple of friends and a sister. They’re not the most likely to give me negative feedback, and they also are not massive romance readers, so it’s difficult to ask them if they think this or that thing should or should not be included.

This means I’m left on my own, and as a writer I find that it can be difficult to be objective about your own story. You wrote it, and cutting parts out or changing them massively can be difficult, even if it’s for the better. That said, if I knew that it was for the better, I imagine that it would be easier.

Needless to say, I can see where editors come into the picture in the publishing world. A freelance editor is not something I can afford though, so I’m going to just have to make the decisions myself and hope for the best.

A few examples where I’m wavering (it’s a Regency romance):

  • The hero gets angry and leaves, going back to London. I enjoy the scene because it’s a funny exchange between him and his best mate, but it might be a bit over the top. Or does it show how impulsive he can be with his hot temper? I don’t know!
  • The male villain tries to sexually assault the heroine, in an attempt to ruin her. This might be too much, maybe it would be enough to just have her alone in a room with the intent of getting caught? Back in Regency times that might have had the same effect?
  • The female villain is very secure in herself, which I want to keep – but I feel like it sometimes veers towards slut-shaming from the other characters. Definitely do want to change this since I don’t like slut-shaming. When I wrote it ten years ago I was younger and didn’t really think about it, but seems very obvious now that I’m reading it again.

These are all decisions I’m just going to have to make on my own, and I am definitely struggling. Maybe I’ll end up doing a coin toss…

How do you deal with editing?

Things We Don’t Say

This is a personal post, so if you’re only interested in reading about writing and similar things, you might want to skip this one.

There are some unspoken rules in our society about things that we should and should not share with others, and I’m going to break one today, because I need to write about it. Writing is how I deal with things, and I also think that we should be able to share anything we feel that we want to. I know others might prefer to keep it silent, and that’s fine too. Everyone should do whatever feels right for them.

Up until a few days ago I was pregnant.

I lost the pregnancy at 11,5 weeks, just short of that “magic” number when you’re generally considered to have passed the worst bit. While things can still go wrong, most miscarriages happen before week 12. Before it happened to me, I never thought I’d take it this hard. I’ve been through a lot, and I’ve made it through on the other end, and I will this time too. It’s just surprising how much it hurts.

While I was cautiously optimistic about the pregnancy (something I had wanted for a long time), it was difficult to keep my enthusiasm down. I knew that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, but I was still hoping. It’s difficult not to. Against better judgment I was thinking ahead, dreaming of things to come. Now all those dreams have shattered, and I have shattered with them.

Part of me feels ashamed of being as upset as I am. There are people who lose their babies, there are those who miscarry a lot later. And here I am, feeling sorry for myself after 11,5 weeks. How dare I?

Another part of me just feels sad. Sometimes I just feel numb. I’m sure that I’ll get over this, but for now I will allow myself to feel sad. Even if just for a while.

Have I lost it?

A big worry of mine is if I’ve simply lost the touch when it comes to writing. I used to love it – I still do, I just never really seem to get around to doing it any more! Did life come in the way? A lot has happened in the ten years since I finished my two novels, but it shouldn’t be an excuse. Other writers have to deal with life and things happening as well, and they still manage to write.

So have I lost it?

Am I no longer a writer? Can I no longer sit down and get those words down on paper the way that I used to?

I’ve tried writing the next book in the planned series that I started with those first two novels, but I can’t seem to get the words out. Everything sound wrong. At this point, I don’t know how many versions I’ve written of the first chapter. (Well, there are currently 25 items in the discarded folder, which includes some old plot lines and other things that have changed.)

It’s why I have considered not going back to the series for now (other than to proofread and revise the first two), since I seem to be completely stuck. But when I look at all of my other ideas, nothing appeals to me. The ideas seem fairly static, at the point where I left them, with nothing new coming to me.

So have I lost it?

No more inspiration? No more story ideas?

All I have are partly fleshed-out ideas, some are even less. Maybe I should just pick one and start writing. Maybe it will come to me as I go. Perhaps to get inspiration I must force myself to writewhether I have any idea of where I’m going or not. For the sake of writing.

Or have I lost it?

Gifts for the Bookish Writer

I know it’s been a long time since Christmas, but I wanted to share some of the lovely gifts I got that were perfect for me as a book lover and writer. Naturally, I got other great gifts as well, but these three deserve to be highlighted. It might give someone else some ideas what to buy their reading or writing friend.

A pair of warm, comfy booties for when you want to snuggle up for a good reading session. (Or keeping your feet warm at the desk when writing!)

My sister got me this sign, and it probably hits a little too close to home. It’s still hilarious though, and it’s definitely going up on the office door (once we have one).

I got this lunch box book (that I put in my gift ideas list before Christmas) from my partner. It was a hit with the kids in school when we went out every Monday with our packed lunches. “Did you bring your book today?” was a common question.

A White Rose (part 3)

You can read Part 2 here.


They rode out of town early the next morning. The sun had only just started to show its face, and Rain was so tired that she couldn’t be bothered to keep her distance from Ereptus, but shamelessly used his back as a pillow, and almost fell asleep leaning against it. For once they rode in companionable silence, and Rain felt more at ease than she had during her whole life. She wasn’t sure when it had happened, but for some reason she trusted Ereptus.

“Tell me about your life,” she suddenly blurted out.

“What?” Ereptus seemed surprised.

“Tell me about your life,” she repeated. “Why did you become a thief?”

Ereptus seemed uncomfortable with the subject. “It wasn’t a choice really, it was the only way to survive.”

That surprised her. “Why?” she asked.

“Like you I once lived on the streets,” he told her. “Well, I still do in a way. Only now I steal enough to rent a room for the night most of the time.”

“And to buy fancy clothes,” Rain pointed out, tugging lightly on his fine tunic. “I never would have guessed from the way you dress that you don’t have a home.”

“That’s the point,” Ereptus confessed. “Dressed like I am, I can easily get into the nicer inns and talk to the wealthy people. That’s the way to make easy money. I don’t steal enough to save up, just to live a comfortable life.”

“That sounds nice,” Rain sighed.

“You’re not going to end up like me!” Ereptus snapped, which made her almost jump right off the horse. Peeves peeked out of her tunic, hissing and growling at Ereptus.

“Why not?” Rain asked, calming the little dragon by patting him tenderly. “It seems like an easy way of living.”

“You can make a life for yourself when you learn to control your magic,” Ereptus said. “Gaylen is making sure that you get the help that you need. I don’t want you to waste his effort by living on the streets and stealing what you need.”

“I don’t have any money,” Rain pointed out. “How else am I supposed to pay for food a place to live?”

“Get an honest job.”

“Who would hire a lonely girl?”

Ereptus thought of this for a moment. “Some would. Just don’t give up.”

Rain nodded, but inside she knew that she would have to steal to get food. Like she always had, except for the few years she’d lived with Gaylen. She had still stolen a little now and then to help Gaylen out, but it hadn’t been a matter of stealing or dying of hunger.

They spent the next couple of days getting to know each other better, and in Rain’s opinion, they were becoming good friends. Ereptus told her more about his life as a young boy on the streets, and she told him what she remembered of her first years when she’d been living with an abusive, unloving father. Rain quickly started to admire Ereptus, he was a charming rogue who stole only what he needed to live a decent life, and the way he stole it was almost like an art form.

One evening she watched, with fascination, as Ereptus started a companionable conversation with an innkeeper and in the meanwhile stealing the man’s pouch, to later pay their room with the same money. It was hard for Rain to keep a straight face when Ereptus even gave the innkeeper a tip.

*****

When they were only a couple of days away from the city of Messina, Rain finally gained the courage to tell Ereptus something that she’d been thinking about.

“Ereptus?” she said hesitantly.

“Yes?”

“I’ve been thinking, and I don’t care about finding a Sorcerer or learning more about my magic. I want to stay with you.”

Ereptus stopped the horse and turned around to face her. “Are you out of your mind?” he said brusquely. “You can’t stay with me. My life isn’t a life for a young girl like you.”

“I think it’s just fine,” Rain said stubbornly. “It beats being alone.” She pouted. “I thought you liked spending time with me just as much as I like to be with you.”

Ereptus ran a hand through his dark hair, mussing it up. “Granted, I do enjoy being with you.” He sounded rather reluctant to admit it, then shook his head. “But you still can’t stay with me. It would be a crime. You’re like a gentle, white rose that somehow could grow despite the darkness around. If you stayed with me, all that would be for nothing. My life isn’t the life for you. I want you to learn to control your magic, and make something of your life.”

“But…” Rain started to object, but Ereptus cut her off.

“No arguing.” He turned back and nudged the horse to continue. Rain kept silent, wiping away an errant tear.

Neither of them spoke for a long time, and she could feel the tension in Ereptus, he hadn’t been happy about her request. The sun was at its highest when they heard hoof beats behind them. Ereptus took a quick look, and started cursing under his breath.

“I was hoping they hadn’t seen me.”

“Who?” Rain asked, turning her head to see who was following them. It was three men on horses. They were all dressed in black, and they didn’t look like they were very nice people.

Ereptus set a higher pace, hoping to reach a small forest before the men caught up with them, but there was no such luck. The men passed them and stopped them from going further.

“So, we meet again, Ereptus,” one of the men grinned.

“Unfortunately,” Ereptus said grimly.

“Get off your horse!”

They did as they were told, and the three men did the same.

“I want my money back,” the man who’d first spoken said. “Where is it?”

“I told you, I didn’t take it,” Ereptus sighed. “I don’t know who did, but it sure wasn’t me.”

“Why should I believe you?” the man snarled.

“Because it’s the truth?” Ereptus remarked dryly. “I freely admit to being a thief, but this time it wasn’t me.”

“Hold him!” the man growled at the other two, who quickly took hold of Ereptus’ arms, while the man rolled up his sleeves. “Maybe I can beat it out of you,” he said.

Rain stared at the men, frantically trying to decide what to do. When the man raised his arm for the first punch, she closed her eyes, but still flinched at the sound of bone hitting bone and Ereptus’ grunt. Afraid that the men might beat Ereptus to death, and then start on her, she started to concentrate on one of the few things she knew how to do relatively well.

The fireball she conjured flew right at the men, missed Ereptus’ head with less than an inch, and hit a rock behind him. Rain stared with horror at the rock that was black of soot from the flame.

“Is that your magic?” Ereptus yelled. “It’s no wonder Gaylen wants you to learn to control it, he probably fears for his life!”

Rain flinched at the angry glare he gave her. But even if the fireball had completely missed its target, and almost hit Ereptus in the process, it had stunned the men enough so that they had let go of him. Quickly taking advantage of their surprise, he knocked one of them out. While he was fighting the second man who had held him, the leader grabbed hold of Rain and pressed a dagger to her side.

Ereptus didn’t see what was happening until the second man was down. His face paled when he caught sight of Rain in man’s grip. The dagger was pressed so hard against her ribs that it had already gone through her tunic and drawn blood. She was trying not to cry, but the pain made tears spring to her eyes.

“Let her go, Tylen,” Ereptus pleaded, while slowly inching closer. “It’s me you want.”

“I think I’ve changed my mind,” the man grinned and hardened his grip around Rain’s waist, making her gasp. “I think I will keep this pretty little thing as payment for the money you stole from me.”

Rain closed her eyes, trying to collect her thoughts. She could feel the dagger cutting further into her side as Ereptus took a step closer.

“Stay away!” Tylen hissed. “Or the girl dies!”

While he was concentrating on Ereptus, Rain concentrated hard, and let out a large burst of energy, knocking Tylen away from her. Out of strength she fell to the ground the same moment Ereptus jumped the other man. Too tired to turn her head, she could hear the two men fighting behind her. Then it was silent. Rain wanted to see who had won, fearing the worst, but her body wouldn’t obey her.

Then she was suddenly lifted, and she was looking at Ereptus’ face. He had some bruises, and he was likely to have a black eye in the morning, but he was alive. Relieved, she rested her head on his shoulder, too tired to speak. He lifted her on the horse, and mounted behind her, keeping her across his legs, which allowed her to cuddle up and rest against him like a small child.

“We need to get your wound cleaned and bound,” Ereptus muttered in her ear. Peeves finally dared to come out of Rain’s tunic where he’d been hiding, climbing up to sit on Ereptus’ shoulder.

They rode into the nearby forest, and Ereptus soon found a little stream where he stopped. He quickly cleaned the blood from her tunic and skin, then tore a strip from his own tunic and bound it around her to stop the bleeding.

“The wound isn’t too deep,” he remarked. “Did you lose a lot of blood? Is that why you’re so weak?”

Rain shook her head. “It’s because of my magic that I’m weak. It drains me when I use it.”

Ereptus nodded grimly. He lifted her once again, and let her sit in front of him on the horse, enabling her to lie against him. Rain closed her eyes and rested, she could feel Peeves moving in under her tunic again, nestling himself against her ribs. Soon they were both asleep. Rain didn’t wake up again until the sun was almost setting. Most of her energy was regained by then, but the wound in her side was still aching slightly. They were riding inside a small town.

“Where are we?” she asked Ereptus.

“In a small town, close to Messina. We should reach the city tomorrow.”

Rain nodded.

They took a room at a small inn. Rain was brushing her hair when Ereptus sat down and looked at her.

“Rain. Seeing you use that magic, I really think you should learn to control it.”

“I’m usually better,” she argued, feeling guilty about nearly burning him with a fireball. “I was very upset, so my aim was a bit off.”

Ereptus shook his head. “That’s not what I mean. Your magic is powerful, with the right help you can learn to channel it. It would be a waste for you to go with me. Imagine the things you could learn!”

“But I want to be with you!” Rain protested.

Ereptus sighed. “Look kid…”

“I’m not a child!” Rain snapped at him.

“You are to me!” he snapped back at her. “And I will continue to see you as a child, or…” he went silent and shook his head as if to clear it.

“Look, Rain..” he started again. “You can’t stay with me. Just look at what happened today. If you stay with me, you could get hurt again, or even killed.”

“I’m not that vulnerable. I can take care of myself.”

“You’re still only a ki…” Ereptus stopped himself before he said the word. “You’re still young. If you learn to use your magic, you might be able to protect yourself better. Right now, you’re too unreliable, and dare I say, even dangerous.”

Rain couldn’t argue with that. Had she known how to channel her powers better she might not have nearly beheaded Ereptus with a fireball.

“I would be too worried that someone would hurt you to get back at me,” Ereptus said to conclude his argument.

“Let’s not talk about it,” Rain mumbled and crawled down in bed next to Peeves who was already asleep on her pillow. Ereptus looked like he was going to say something more, then seemingly changed his mind and went to bed.

*****

They reached Messina early the next day. Ereptus showed Rain around, pointing her to where she might find the Sorcerers, where to find food and possibly a job. It was a beautiful city of white stone, seated on an island in the middle of a large lake. Larger than any city Rain had ever been to, and she felt a combination of awe and trepidation of being there. At least she had Ereptus with her. In the evening, they took a room at an inn and by the time they were inside Rain was yawning, exhausted after all the impressions from the big city.

“I think I might like it here.” She smiled at Ereptus.

“Good. I think you will do well here, and there’s a lot to learn from the Sorcerers.”

Rain nodded, hardly able to keep her eyes open. She was lying in bed, already thinking about all the wonderful things she would get to see tomorrow with Ereptus.

“Can we go to see the royal castle tomorrow?” she asked.

“Mmm…” Ereptus answered absentmindedly. He sat down on the bed next to her and stroked her cheek. She smiled sleepily up at him. It looked as if he wanted to say something, but he didn’t and she soon fell asleep.

*****

Rain awoke the next morning to find the room empty, except for her and Peeves. All of Ereptus’ belongings were gone. Next to her on the pillow lay a single, white rose and a leather pouch filled with money. Rain carefully picked up the rose, and she knew that Ereptus had left her. He thought she was as fragile as the rose, and that she couldn’t live a life like his.

Pressing the rose to her chest, she started crying. Except for Gaylen, Ereptus had been the first person she ever trusted, and a very good friend. The thought of being abandoned in a new city scared her. She flinched and looked down at her hands. She was bleeding from where a thorn from the rose had stung her.

Wiping her tears away she stood up, resolute now. She was going to learn to control her magic, and she was going to be all right. She was no fragile little girl, but knew how to take care of herself. A rose may be beautiful, but a rose has thorns.

A White Rose (part 2)

You can read Part 1 here.


Rain gazed at the man who was readying the horse. She didn’t trust him. Not that she particularly trusted anyone, but this man made her nervous. His eyes were dark, almost black, and she hadn’t been able to see any feelings displayed in them. He was a handsome man, she couldn’t deny that, tall and slim, without being skinny. A day’s growth darkened his square jaw, and dark hair fell to his shoulders, curling slightly at the collar of his tunic.

Dressed all in black he didn’t look like someone you could trust. He was cleaner than most men she’d encountered in the city, but who ever said cleanliness meant you were a good man? Her father had been clean, and he’d been as mean as they come. She shuddered slightly at the memory of her father. It was a time of her life she’d just as soon forget.

Ereptus had finished with the horse and mounted, motioning for her to join him. She walked over to the horse, and Ereptus took her arm and pulled her up behind him, as if she weighed no more than a toddler. They soon took off, and Rain had to grab hold of Ereptus’ tunic as to not fall off the horse. Peeves were complaining a little bit inside her tunic until he settled himself in a spot where he wasn’t squeezed between her and Ereptus.

She’d told herself that she wasn’t going to speak, but she soon grew bored. The previous day she’d still been seething with anger about being forced out of the city where she thought she’d made an acceptable life for herself. Although she liked Gaylen, she was angry about the highhanded way he’d decided that she should be taken away without consulting her first.

“Ereptus?” she said, her voice hesitant.

“Yes?”

“What is this place like?”

“This place,” Ereptus said. “Is called Messina.”

“Fine,” Rain grumbled. “What is Messina like?”

“It’s the capital of Erya, and the seat of the Council and High King. Probably the most peaceful city in our lands because of the Kingsguard and Peacekeepers. You’ll be safe there, it’s not like the city you’re used to.”

“I was safe where I was,” Rain huffed. “Despite what you think, I am fully capable of taking care of myself. I have done for years!”

“You’re a child”, he replied dismissively, making her grind her teeth in anger.

“I’m not a child!” she snapped. “And even if I was, you were once a child living on the streets, and you’re still alive.”

She could feel that he was growing exasperated. “It’s not the same,” he muttered. “You can’t compare a grubby boy running around on the streets to a beautiful girl. It may not be fair, but that’s the way the world is.”

Rain wasn’t sure whether to feel offended by his belief that she couldn’t defend herself, or thank him for the unintended compliment. “I’ve managed fine,” she finally said. “I’m really quick on my feet.”

“Sooner or later you would meet someone quicker,” Ereptus said.

She sighed. There was no use arguing with him, he wouldn’t ever believe that she could take care of herself. Gaylen had been exactly the same, always worrying when she was out on the streets.

The horse slowed down, and Rain leaned over to look at the road ahead, but Ereptus’ back was too wide for her to be able to see anything.

“Why are you slowing down?” she asked.

“There’s a carriage standing on the road,” Ereptus told her. “I think one of the wheels has been damaged.”

They got closer to the carriage. A man, who was most likely the driver was trying to get the damaged wheel off, but it was a futile effort without assistance. A beautiful lady was standing next to the carriage. Ereptus quickly offered to help the man, who was quick to agree. With some help, it was a quick job to replace the broken wheel with a spare one.

“I must be allowed to thank you,” the lady gushed when they were done, her gaze raking over Ereptus in a way that made Rain feel sick to her stomach. “Please, ride with me in my carriage to the next town, and allow your horse some rest.”

“We would be most pleased to do so,” Ereptus said with a bow and a wink that made the lady giggle girlishly.

While he was tying their horse to the back of the carriage, the lady gave Rain a disdainful look and stepped in. Rain realised that she must look terrible to a fine lady, dressed in her patched hoses and dirty tunic as she was. She’d never cared about her appearance, but compared to the lady, she looked like something a cat had dragged in.

“Come on, kid,” Ereptus said, holding up the carriage door for her. “Let’s join the lady.” The grin Ereptus gave her when he said that made her uncomfortable.

Inside the carriage, Rain ended up spending most of the time in a corner petting Peeves inside her tunic, fascinated with the game Ereptus and the lady played. Both seemed to have forgotten that Rain was there at all. It was as if they were dancing, but with words instead of feet. Used as she was to see Ereptus mainly surly or with no expression at all, Rain found it unsettling to see him smile and be as charming as any gentleman, if not more.

He had the lady blushing repeatedly, her gaze never leaving him for a second. Sometimes the things he told the lady almost made Rain want to laugh, they were so ridiculous. He gave her compliments on her eyes, her skin, her hair, and any other thing he could possibly think of.

Towards the end of the day they finally reached a small town and it was time for them to part from the lady and her carriage. Ereptus took a long farewell of the lady, whispering something in her ear, then bowing low and slowly kissing her hand. Then he took their horse and went with Rain down the street.

Once they were out of sight from the carriage he spat something out in his hand and looked at it. Curious, Rain peeked. It was a golden ring filled with pale, blue gemstones.

“This should give us some food and a roof over our heads for a few nights,” he said, sounding quite pleased with himself.

Rain couldn’t help it but burst out laughing. It seemed to surprise Ereptus, who was staring at her.

“What is so funny?” he asked, almost seeming offended.

“All that gooey talk with the lady was just to get to her ring?” Rain grinned.

Ereptus shrugged, but couldn’t hide his grin from her. “It’s an easy way to keep a lady’s concentration elsewhere.”

“You have guts,” Rain admitted. “I’ve stolen a few things myself, but I would never dare to steal something right off their finger!”

“It’s not so hard,” Ereptus said. “Although I suppose it would be harder for you to get away with kissing a lady’s hand.”

Rain chuckled. Ereptus looked at her, but she couldn’t determine what he was thinking. It almost seemed as if he wasn’t sure how to handle her when she wasn’t grumpy and disliking him.

They quickly found a less than honest man in a shabby store where Ereptus quickly sold off the ring for a nice, round sum. After that they went to an inn and got a room for the night. As the stores were still open Ereptus took Rain with him to a clothing store.

“I think you should have some decent clothes before we reach Messina,” he told her with a pointed look towards her clothes. To his obvious surprise, she didn’t protest. She’d realised it herself. If she was going to start a new life, she couldn’t walk around looking the way she did.

They were lucky and found a store that had clothes that were already sown. Ereptus bought her a simple skirt, a pair of sandals and a tunic with a belt to tie it at the waist. Rain went back to the inn after this, while Ereptus stayed in town to look at a few more things.

After riding for two full days she felt dirtier than ever and asked the innkeeper for a bath. She was told there was a small bath house behind the inn, so she quickly made use of it. When Ereptus returned to their room she was sitting on her bed, dressed in her new clothes, brushing her long, wet hair. Ereptus closed the door without taking his eyes off her. He came and sat down on the bed opposite hers, almost sitting down on Peeves, who had been slumbering there in his absence.

Frowning, he picked up the little dragon and put him next to Rain on her bed, then sat down again on his own. “How old are you, kid?” he asked, looking at her.

Rain shrugged. “I’m not entirely certain. I think sixteen or seventeen.”

Ereptus gave her a quick nod, removed his tunic and boots and went to bed. Rain finished brushing her hair, blew out the light and went to bed as well.


You can read Part 3 here.