But I do still love my little vampire novellas and, since Herald would likely smother me in my sleep if I sat down to write Anubis’ Handmaiden, I’m going through what I hope will be its final major rewrite (no, I do not kid myself on the rewrites, but major for me qualifies as a full-blown overhaul).
Acarna took a small step back, face blank. He detected no repulsion lurking beyond that mask. Perhaps she felt the same measure of affection for him. He hoped so.
She leant against her crystalline cage with such care. As if it might shatter under her weight. Eyes swirling from blue to grey, she peered at him as if suspecting falsehood. “Say it again.”
He repeated the words. Strong in his belief he spoke truthfully.
Acarna took a small step back, her face blank. Not an instant dismissal, more than he expected, but the crushing ache in his chest pierced deeper all the same. Herald fought the constricting swell as it made a bid for his throat. He turned from her before she did or said something to necessitate it.
His sword still lay beside the window where he’d discarded it. He calmly collected the weapon. Deliberate in his movements as he inspected the blade’s length before sheathing it. The door stood open. Jaw set, he marched towards it. He could not bring himself to linger a moment longer. He wanted to stay. So desperately ached to remain with her.
She already gave him more than he deserved by not laughing to his face. No one can love a demon. Was his mother and her rejection of Ștefan, after everything his father had done to keep them together, not proof of that?
“Herald,” she whispered.
By the monster that’d spawned him, the way she spoke. So sweet. It hummed through him, plucking at something deep inside his very being. That one word rooting him where he stood. How could his name, gifted to him by a monster, sound so delectable upon her lips? It wasn’t fair. Nor the way it pulled at him. Unbidden, he faced her. At his back, the door clicked shut. It took all his willpower not to rush back to her side.
Acarna leant against her crystalline cage with such care, as if the fragile walls might shatter under her weight. She peered at him, those glorious eyes swirling from blue to grey and back. Did she think he spoke falsely? He’d bared the sole part of him he had long since thought vanished with his brother’s death. But to stand there, to think of it from her point of view … to have heard such a declaration from one such as him. He could believe that she thought his words a lie.
And yet, no repulsion lurked upon her face. Nothing at all to give away what she truly believed. Perhaps … perhaps she felt some small measure of affection for him. Dare he hope that was so? “Say it again,” she breathed.
“I love you.” The words spilled from his lips. Thick on his tongue and muffled by the tears his pride would not let him shed. No less strong in his belief that he spoke truthfully. He glared at her, waiting for her denial. Ready for the rebuke he deserved.