“I did wake ye.” Eyan nodded toward the bed.
“You didn’t wake me,” Sheireadan said. He grabbed a towel from a nearby peg and reached for a kettle hanging over the fire. “I was making tea.” He lifted the kettle. “See? Evidence.” He grabbed two mugs and set them on the table.
Eyan moved closer, while Sheireadan filled the mugs. “I don’t sleep much these days,” Sheireadan continued. “As I said, you didn’t wake me.” He set the kettle aside. “So why are you here?”
Eyan dawdled for a moment then said, “I had a fight with my parents an’ thought ye might be able to advise me.”
“Advise you?” Sheireadan scoffed. “I’m the last person you should be looking to for advice.”
“I just thought ye could tell me what it’s like to live away from your family, is all.”
“What do you mean?” Sheireadan asked. His eyes narrowed. “Are your parents booting you out?
“No,” Eyan said. “Nothin’ like that.”
“They’re always tellin’ me what to do. They treat me like a child.”
“Then maybe you shouldn’t act like one.” Sheireadan pulled out a chair from the table with his foot. “Sit,” he ordered. “No good talking on our feet.”
Eyan sat, and Sheireadan took the chair across from him.
“I know I act younger than my years,” Eyan conceded, “but it’s only because I was kept apart from everythin’ for so long.”
“Because of your eyes.”
Eyan detected a hint of distaste in Sheireadan’s tone. “Somethin’ wrong with that?” he asked.
“Well, they are…”
“Blue,” Eyan said, finishing the sentence for him. “But it shouldn’t matter, should it? Dayn has blue eyes, and he’s married now, aye?”
Sheireadan’s mouth twitched, but he made no comment.
Eyan continued. “I mean, now that everyone knows there’s no such thing as demons, I shouldn’t have to live under my parents’ thumb, should I? I should be allowed to court like everyone else. But they won’t allow it.”
“What do you mean? You’re of age, aren’t you?”
“Aye, but they think I’m not skilled enough in society’s ways to know how to court a girl, that I should wait ’til I understand things better.” Eyan frowned. “Well, I think I understand things just fine.”
“Do you?” Sheireadan asked. He took a sip from his mug.
“Aye. Dayn explained it all to me. He told me about courtin’ and marriage and procreation, and what it means for lads to be likin’ lads, and—”
Sheireadan sputtered his tea. “What?”
“He told me things Father should have told me, things that every other clansman knew. I don’t know why it was such a big secret though. It all seemed perfectly fine to me.”
Sheireadan’s jaw dropped.
“Well, maybe not all of it sounds fine,” Eyan added hastily. “But most of it.”
“Listen,” Sheireadan said, setting his mug firmly on the table. “I don’t think I’m the right person for you to be talking to. I’m not interested in courting, and I don’t have a wife.”
“Oh, I’m not here to talk to ye about wives,” Eyan said. “I’m here to talk to ye about what it’s like to live alone.”
“I don’t live alone by choice, Eyan,” Sheireadan said. “I live alone because my parents are dead and my sister is married.”
“Then why aren’t ye courtin’, if ye don’t mind me askin’?”
Sheireadan’s expression tightened. He rose from his chair. “I think you’d better go, Eyan. Before your parents come looking for you.”
“I can’t go home,” Eyan said. “Could I maybe stay here with ye for a while? Just ’til I figure things out?”
“I wouldn’t be any trouble,” Eyan said, standing to face him. “I’d sleep on the floor. I don’t mind. And I’m not a bad cook.”
“Don’t be a dunce. It’s too dangerous. People would talk.”
“What d’ ye mean, people would talk? What would they say?”
Sheireadan headed for the door. He jerked it open and stood next to it, waiting. “I think you’d better go,” he said.
Humiliation flared to Eyan’s cheeks. “I didn’t mean to offend ye, Sheireadan. Honest I didn’t.”
“You didn’t offend me,” Sheireadan said with obvious effort, “but you shouldn’t be here. Go home. Your parents are only trying to protect you.”
Eyan marched to the door, then stopped to face Sheireadan. He leaned toward him, his blue eyes blazing just inches from Sheireadan’s now widening brown ones. “Maybe I don’t want protectin’,” Eyan said. “Did ye ever think of that?” Then he thundered off the porch and into the night.
Sheireadan watched as Eyan disappeared into the forest. His hands were trembling, he realized, as was the rest of him. Don’t listen to his foolishness, he told himself. Just leave him be. A wolf howled in the distance. Sheireadan spun toward the sound. It was coming from the very direction Eyan had headed!
Sheireadan sprinted to his bed and gathered up the boots sitting next to it, then tugged them onto his feet. After grabbing up his bow and quiver of arrows, he hurried out the door and onto the porch. He stopped, scanning the darkness. “Now who’s the fool?” he said. “You heard him. He doesn’t want protecting.”
The wolf howled again, closer this time, followed by the tell-tale yips of a pack. Sheireadan jumped over the steps and raced toward the trees. To hell with what Eyan wanted.
While Reiv, Dayn, and Tyym navigate a web of conspiracy and doubt, Dayn’s sister Alicine struggles with loss and the impending threat of invasion. The king of Tearia has not abandoned his quest to slay them, and his seemingly unstoppable army is nearly through the pass. But when Tyym enters the scene, hope is rekindled. Even Alicine cannot deny the charisma of the mysterious warrior who has wormed his way into their lives, and into her heart.
The game is in play. A traitor is in their midst. Can the souls of Aredyrah hope to defeat a monster disguised as a king? Or will they succumb to a darkness beyond their understanding?
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Tracy A. Akers is a former language arts teacher and an award-winning author. She grew up in Arlington, Texas, but currently lives in Florida with her husband, three naughty pugs, and a feisty chihuahua. She graduated with honors from the University of South Florida with a degree in Education, and has taught in both public and private schools. She currently divides her time between writing, lecturing, spending time with her family, and costuming at fantasy and science fiction conventions.
Ms. Akers has won numerous awards for her Souls of Aredyrah fantasy series for young adults. As a Florida Book Awards winner, she was acknowledged for her contribution to YA literature by the Governor of Florida during the 2008 Florida Heritage Month Awards Ceremony. Books One and Two of the Aredyrah Series are included in the Florida Department of Education’s 2008 Just Read Families Recommended Summer Reading List. In addition, Ms. Akers has been an invited guest author at major book events and writers’ conferences, a panelist at fantasy and science fiction conventions, and was on the steering committee for Celebration of the Story, a literary event held at Saint Leo University.
The Souls of Aredyrah Series is Ms. Akers’ first series of novels for young adults.
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