Hey there! It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which is when I share an excerpt of a work in progress and invite you to do the same. It’s usually stuff that’s too raw for critique, so we don’t do that in the comments, but a friendly word is always welcome.

I’m sharing an excerpt from book three of my trilogy. I’m actually working on book two, but sometimes, book three scenes come to me and I have to get them down.

I have a strong trigger warning for this one, because it deals with a character’s past of rape and child sex abuse. It doesn’t go into terrible detail, but I totally understand if you’d like to skip it! I feel a little vulnerable about putting it out here, but hey, I attract pretty understanding readers.

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Sophie said, “You still don’t know why I was so extreme.”

Nic would’ve rather walked barefoot on broken glass than discuss this, but he deserved it. “You loved Simon.” He’d cared about the Knight himself, though he hadn’t known him long. “He was your best friend.”

“There was more to it than that.” She stared down at the table.

“You two were involved? Why was it a secret?” Maybe they’d been sleeping together while she’d been with Jonathan. A relationship between first cousins was unusual, but not illegal. They were even allowed to procreate, if their families hadn’t mingled in the past five generations, and if they passed a handful of genetic tests. “You’re allowed to date your cousin.”

She gave a bitter laugh. “But you’re not allowed to—” She cut herself off. “No, Simon and I weren’t like that.”

What the hell? Sophie’s tone of voice and the way she was hugging her elbows put him on edge. “Whatever it is, you can say it.”

She hunched even further into herself. “He was the only one who knew about my uncle.”

Nic had never met any of Sophie’s family besides her mother and Simon. Her parents had gone through a nasty divorce when Sophie had been hardly more than a baby, and they didn’t speak to one another. Sophie’s mother had returned to London. For years, Sophie had remained in Moscow with her father, but later, she’d been sent to London when the guarída in Moscow judged that her father was too much of a drunk to either go on missions or raise a child. “Simon’s father?”

“No. Simon’s parents were always good to me. My father’s other brother. He wasn’t Manus Sancti.”

What had Simon known about this man? Nic waited.

“When my father would go on missions, I would sometimes stay with him. He—we would have sex. It was secret.”

Nic’s blood chilled in his veins. No. This couldn’t be right. She must be talking about a perverse adult affair. “Not when you still lived in Moscow?”

“Yes.” Her face was utterly devoid of expression.

His understanding tilted like a sinking ship, objects sliding across the deck. “What are you telling me?” His voice came out hardly more than a whisper. “You moved to England when you were ten years old.” She nodded.

“How old were you when this started?” His heart felt as though it was being crushed. She shook her head, and he couldn’t stop himself from begging her, the words tumbling out of his mouth. “Sophie, please, I’m sorry, how old were you?”

“Eight.”

Eight. A small child. Her uncle had raped her repeatedly over the course of two years. A red mist obscured the corners of his vision. “Where is he?”

“What?”

“Where can I find him?” Everything else could wait until he’d removed this evil from the face of the earth. He wouldn’t delay by asking for permission. There was a chance that Capitán wouldn’t even blame him.

“You’re going to put a bullet in his head?”

“No.” That would be too quick.

“You can’t kill him. He died when I was sixteen. Liver disease, like my father.”

So there was nothing he could do. The scum had died without facing justice. An image came to Nic’s mind: the photograph of Sophie on her ninth birthday, in the pale blue dress, about to blow out the candles on her cake. He nearly choked on his anguish. What had she been wishing for?

His mind spun, frantic for the right thing to say. He’d had training once, long ago, on how to interact with victims of crimes like this. Why couldn’t he remember anything? He could always remember things. “You were an innocent little girl.”

Her gaze darted up at him. “I don’t know… I had a crush on him first.”

“What?”

She cringed. “I would always hug him, and try to get his attention—”

No.” Victims blamed themselves, he knew that much, but even when they’d been so young? His brain flashed back to his cousin in D.C., a sweet eight-year-old girl who’d followed him around the last spring when he’d visited, showing off what she’d learned in dance class, telling him about her favorite books. He was shaking with rage. “That’s what kids do. You didn’t have your mother, your father neglected you… And he used all that to do terrible things.” She had to know this already, but he said it anyway. “None of it was your fault. You deserved to be safe! You were an innocent child, and he was a monster.”

Sophie dissolved into tears, ducking her head and turning away. Nic was dying inside, aching to take her into his arms, fearing to impose his touch on her. He took his handkerchief out of his pocket and wordlessly offered it. She took it, murmuring, “Always prepared,” and wiped her eyes and nose. “I can’t believe I still cry about this.”

“I can’t believe you’re as strong as you are.” She’d become a disciplined Mage, and had later eluded the Diviners, living entirely on her own. It stunned him.

She looked down at the handkerchief as though she wasn’t sure what to do with it. Nic held his hand out to take it back, and she set the handkerchief down and took his hand. Maybe she’d misunderstood his gesture, or maybe not. Leaning down, he pressed his lips to the top of her fingers for a long moment, his eyes closed, as if he could transfer his care and concern into her very being.

 

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Please feel free to share an excerpt of your work in progress below! Or if you’re feeling shy, just share a comment on what you’re working on… we’d love to hear about that, too. Thanks for stopping by!