Fiction Friday: Bargaining with Shadows

hohlwen-quote

It’s Friday, so I thought I’d share a little snippet from my upcoming urban fantasy romance, To Tame A Wild Heart.

The scene below is one of my favorites, because it is the first time I’ve had a chance to delve deeper into a Hohlwen character.  The Hohlwen (Hollow Ones) are immortal fallen angels made of darkness. They must siphon the “mana” of other living creatures to survive, and Zyne witches provide the most satiating meal.  This book made me explore more about their history, their powers, and the dynamic between them and the Zyne (hint: because they pose such a threat, the Hohlwen have been conquered/enslaved by the ruling body of the Zyne, the Synod. They’re not too happy about that arrangement.)

You can see the visual inspiration for the Hohlwen on my Pinterest Board.


EXCERPT “TO TAME A WILD HEART” © 2016 – Gwen Mitchell

“That won’t work on me, you know,” said a sly voice from the darkest corner of the room.

She squinted into the shadows and thought she could make out a slightly darker silhouette. “But the guards will come if I use it.”

The shadow stepped forward into a beam of moonlight streaming in through the domed glass ceiling. She recognized the cold, pale face staring at her through the gloom immediately, though she hadn’t seen him since her first day at the Arcanum, when Corvin had kicked his ass.

“You’re quick to put your faith in them.”

“None of the wolves have rubbed me the wrong way. I even like one or two of them.” She dropped the cloak—an unnecessary drain on her magic—but still held the energy ball. The warmth in her palm was soothing.

He tsked and took a step closer, though the movement was so smooth, it was more like he floated. “We did get off on the wrong foot, didn’t we?”

She sat up straighter. “You could say that. I see you got your teeth back.”

“And you were not permanently harmed.” He glided closer still. Close enough that she could see the tiny stars winking in the black of his eyes. “You did put up an impressive fight for one so small.”

She scoffed and shifted her feet to the floor—it had still hurt like hell. “Plenty more where that came from.”

He slid over the end of the couch and relaxed into the cushions with a soft chuckle. “False bravado is one of the more amusing human emotions. What purpose does it serve? Is it just a bluff, or does it actually give you courage?”

She reabsorbed the energy ball and sighed. The muscles in her shoulders bunched. She should just give up the ghost—she wasn’t getting any sleep tonight. It wasn’t a big deal. In fact, she shouldn’t let the posh surroundings make her too soft anyway. “What do you want, leach?”

The smile that had played around his sensual mouth took a hard downward turn. “I would be careful about using that term, Audrey.”

She’d heard the term from some of the other novices. It made sense, since the Hohlwen siphoned their energy from others to survive, but she hadn’t known he would take it as an insult. “What should I call you, then?”

He smiled again. “We do not offer our names freely.”

She rolled her eyes. “Are you just bored, or did you want something?”

“You have only one thing I want.”

She tucked her pouch deeper into the cushions behind her. “I won them fair and square.” He couldn’t hurt her if she wasn’t breaking any rules—but was there anything to stop him from stealing from her? She wished she had gone back to the tower. Or even the dormitory.

His smile flashed a brilliant white in the dim room, reminding her of the Cheshire cat. “Do you have any idea of their worth?”

Yeah—enough to start a whole new life. “What good are they to you, anyway? It’s not like you need to buy food or pay rent.”

“Mortal currency is of no consequence. What’s of value to us is the energy stored inside.”

She scowled, trying to hide her confusion.

“Surely you’ve learned how crystals can harness and focus magic?”

She shrugged. She hadn’t shown up for any spelling classes. Corvin and the others needed spells, but her Ward abilities were more than enough to meet her needs, especially now.

“You’re hoarding a veritable trove of magical energy behind those cushions. As we are forbidden from draining witches without the explicit permission of the Synod, diamonds allow us to travel from the source of the Arcanum for more extended periods of time.” He stood and began pacing in front of her, occasionally blending into the shadows to reappear a second later in another place. She realized he wasn’t wearing any diamonds. “You must have lost big, huh?”

No answer.

So, she’d basically tethered him—and however many others that lost all their rocks—to this place. They were stuck, the same as she was. She couldn’t muster an ounce of sympathy. “Serves you right for betting against me.”

“I’ll be more careful next time.”

“Are you asking for a rematch?”

A pool of shadow poured over the back of the sofa, and then he was kicking back next to her again. “Are you offering one?”

A tingle of alarm zinged down her spine, and she swallowed hard. “I don’t have any dice.”

“A different wager, then.” His chiseled features gave nothing away. He was the picture of indifference.

“Okay. One diamond for three answers. Truthful answers—no evasions.”

One side of his mouth curled, and the tiny sparkles in his eyes danced like a million galaxies forming and winking out. “How will you determine if I’m telling the truth?”

“If I’m not satisfied with your answers, no deal.”

“That’s not really a wager.”

“A gamble, for both of us.”

He spread his arms out along the back of the couch. “One diamond for one answer.”

“Two.”

He froze for the span of several breaths, and yet his chest didn’t move. “Very well, ask your questions.”

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