For those of you who are paying attention (few and deeply disturbed though you might be), you will have noticed that the cover for my next novel, Healer's Touch, has been approved and is up on Samhain's coming soon page, yay! It is also in its pace of honor, in the right hand margin yonder. ===>
I am really, really pleased with this cover. There were so very many ways the artist could have gotten it unbearably wrong--always the case when one of the characters is not quite human--but Chistine Clavel managed to capture, almost in one pass, the feel of this novel and the look of the characters. She is totally my hero.
So to give you all a hint of what this story is about, I'm going to post an excerpt--not from Healer's Touch, but from Crossing Swords, where Viera and Aru make their first appearance. This is the scene that made it impossible for me not to write their story:
Aru let the candles gutter and the fire burn low. He didn’t need the light, and the cold had no power to touch him. He sat for a long time, trying to summon an image of Zharina’s face, but each time, his wife’s beloved features faded as if in a mist, to be overlaid by those of the whore Viera.
In the eighteen years since his fall, Aru had laid his hands on many Andun—both the injured and the surrogates who were sometimes necessary to heal them. He had never encountered anyone as…ardent as this woman. As open and uncomplicated in her responses. When he’d first placed his palm on her belly, he’d felt a crackling surge of power leap from her flesh and into his, so strong it almost made him afraid. He had done more with that power tonight than he would have thought possible.
And now, he could not banish her from his mind.
As if of its own volition, his hand reached out to hover in the air above her sleeping form. His eyes roamed across her slumbering features—the softly rounded cheek, the full, pink lips, the delicate, intricate shell of her ear. One arm was bent, her head pillowed on it. The other lay on Lianon’s hip as if reaching for comfort. The sheet was pulled taut across Viera’s full breasts, and the growing chill in the room had affected them in predictable fashion. Her nipples thrust up against the linen as if inviting his touch. He resisted, as he must.
Closing his eyes, he tried to focus on something else, but he should have known better. Cut off from physical sight, his inner awareness sharpened, yearning toward her. His hand still hovered inches from her skin, but now his consciousness was descending even closer, skimming over her sleeping form. The fingers of his thought caressed creamy soft skin dotted with freckles and minute imperfections, each one fascinating to the Darjhan. He drew in a deep breath, the scent of her arousal filling his nostrils, even as his spirit reveled in the unique redolence of her soul.
Beneath the clinging blanket of his consciousness, her body began to respond, her heartbeat quickening, her breaths deepening. He sank partway into her and felt her muscles flex and shift around him as she stretched, her chest rise and fall on a sigh. In the air above her, his hand began to tremble.
And then it was grasped.
With a vertiginous feeling of being drawn across a chasm, he returned to himself and opened his eyes.
Viera stared up at him, her eyes wide and vulnerable, his hand cradled between both of hers and held to her breast. He felt suddenly breathless, unable to drag his gaze from the woman’s. Heat poured from her hands into his flesh, and his cock hardened at the sensation. Ruthlessly he willed the erection away. What had he been thinking? To touch her uninvited—even in spirit—was a presumption, an abuse. He was no better than a lecher pinching the bottoms of tavern girls. He tried to think of something to say that might excuse his behavior, but what excuse was there? Weakness and loneliness could not pardon his trespass.
She lifted his hand to her mouth, and his stomach tightened in an agony of self-restraint as she pressed a searing kiss to it. Her face blurred for a moment, then the tears slipped free of his lashes. He kept perfectly still, but for the air that rushed in and out of his lungs.
She took his hand and placed it over her heart. Even through the sheet, the feel of her was unbearably hot. Her eyes closed and she drifted back into dreams, but she did not release her hold on him.
He sat beside her and felt her heart beating evenly beneath his palm. He thought about his wife. Thought about what Lianon had said to him tonight. Thought about what he had become.
He gazed down at the sleeping woman’s face for a long time. Then, ever so carefully, he made himself draw his hand from her grasp.
Oh, swoon. Is it any wonder I fell in love with him?