* I'm working on Quickening right now-- in fact, more than halfway done, and we've met some old friends by this time. I doubt this scene will be in the final cut-- in fact, you may see bits and pieces of it scattered throughout--but it was humming so hard in my head I had to write it down before I got on with the actual business of the book.
You may recognize Shepherd and Jefischa from Guarding the Vampire's Ghost-- and if you haven't, well, we'll be re-releasing that one too.
In fact, this little excerpts contains ***SPOILERS*** from Guarding the Vampire's Ghost, Rampant (which is in the re-release cycle) and Litha's Constant Whim.
But nothing too dire-- I mean, Shep and Jefi? You knew they were going to end up together at the end, right? Same with Whim and Charlie. And as for the reason Cory needed cookies? Well I'm pretty sure you could have guessed.
Cookies and Milk
The angels weren't usually in the hill this time of night--something about Jefischa's need to be outside at butt-crack a.m.-- but it had started to snow over the canyon around Thanksgiving, and Green's gnomes were busy shoring up their little tree house in the garden so it could stay heated.
As a result, when they were forced indoors they spent much of their night either curled up around each other on the floor, looking wistfully out the wraparound glass window at the silver light from the moon, or standing unmoving, their wings toward us like a shield, sentinels in the night.
Until Jefi started playing Nintendo, of course. Nintendo makes everything better. Sometimes Bracken even played with him, which was sort of awesome-- especially when Brack taught him how to swear.
"Toad blister!" Jefisha crowed defiantly. Then he turned that lopsided, can't-nobody-hurt-me grin on Shepherd's disapproval.
Which melted like mist, because you just can't stay mad at that, can you?
Tonight, I was feeling still hungry--because duh--and ungainly, because, well, duh. I was only four and a half months along, and my baby bump was… disheartening, to say the least. I'd been trying-- hell, everybody had been trying, including Grace, Green, and Bracken. Grilled meats, steamed vegetables, tomato sauces-- I mean, I was starting to agree with Nicky and Brack. It wasn't fat-- it was all baby.
And they were big.
So. Goddamned. Big.
It was depressing. And I had to go back to school tomorrow, which was even more depressing. And suddenly, I didn't want all the healthy and all the careful. Suddenly, I wanted the cookie.
The yummy yummy shortbread and fudge cookies that Grace had made me and I had only taken one of that evening.
Bracken was staying up late, having a strategy meeting downstairs, and Nicky was fast asleep, snoring fitfully. I slid out of bed, put on my sleep shorts under my shirt, and made my way to the kitchen, where I got to watch Jefi both kick Shepherd's ass in Titanfall and master Bracken's swearing technique. They probably noticed me, but they didn't pay attention to me, because they were, as was typical, wrapped up in each other.
"Did you see Whim and Charlie?" Jefisha asked as they set their controllers down and stretched out their hands.
"Yes-- they looked well." Shepherd was such a nice man, uhm, angel, uhm, person. It was unfortunate that everything he said had the stentorian tones of a righteous member of the Puritan committee on witch burning.
"Yeah-- It was good to see them in the daylight."
I blinked over my dipped cookie, and it fell, kerplop, into my milk.
Shepherd also appeared to have a moment.
"You see them a lot at night?"
"I saw them at night. They used to wake up during my hour," Jefisha said solemnly. He nodded his head and his wild blond hair mussed and reassembled as though blown dried by a squadron of pixies.
Shepherd nodded back as though this made sense. "They were sad?" he asked, his voice dropping, becoming tender. I felt a little ashamed of my earlier censure. Of course Shepherd sounded stern and righteous--he'd been watching out for Jefi.
"Oh yes," Jefi said, gray eyes luminous in the reflection of the television screen. "They spent a lot of time thinking of each other when they should have been sleeping." I could see Jefi's fond smile. "Now they're only awake at that time to make love."
Shepherd's eyes hooded, and he leaned sideways and nuzzled Jefischa's cheek. Jefi's laughter was like the burbling of streams.
"Yes," he whispered, heedless of any observers. "The gnomes always leave by my hour of the morning anyway."
"Good," Shepherd said. "But we're no longer sentinels, and you are no longer on watch."
Jefi grinned, eyes sleepy and sensual. "But it will still be my hour of the morning."
I shoved the last bit of cookie in my mouth and drank down the cookie soup that my milk had become. Then I set my glass on the counter and slipped quietly away.
I didn't know which hour Jefischa's hour was, but I knew that if the gnomes hadn't warmed up their treehouse, I didn't want to be in the living room when it arrived.
But it made me sort of happy to think that, whatever hour it had been, when I'd woken up during that time worried or excited or grieving, that Shep and Jefi had been watching over me as I'd gazed into the night.