Thought I'd change things up a little and post another excerpt from Evangeline. Yes, I know I said I was giving up on her, but I worked too hard not to give it one more go once I've finished my WiP. So I thought, what better way to get myself excited about revising again than to remind myself of the scenes I'm pretty sure work already? Of course if they don't, please feel free to tell me otherwise. ;)
The MC is about to go back home to her own time from 1880, but the scene starts after she and the hero have gotten in a fight. Having left him behind in a huff the previous night, she tries to use her new powers of witchcraft to fly out of the woods. Instead, she gets stuck and hits her head, and winds up unconscious in the tree for hours while the hero, still pretty mad, is looking for her.
“Dammit, Evie, wake up. My mother will kill me if anything happens to you.”
I came to ten feet off the ground, straddling a bough. “Jude?”
He stood beneath me, his voice hoarse. “Are you hurt?”
“Sore. But nothing’s broken.” The sky was pale as milk. “It’s morning!”
And I’d spent the better part of the night in a tree. Struggling to get out in one piece, I fell from my branch and landed on Jude. His blistering skin reminded me that I’d be going home today. To my rightful place in time.
“I’ve been looking for you all night.” He yanked me off the ground by my sleeve and pulled me after him. “God, you’re filthy!”
Filthy? How romantic. “I just spent the last few hours unconscious in a cypress tree. You’d be filthy, too.”
Gone was any trace of the starry-eyed supper we’d shared. That was probably for the best. I’d be home before bedtime, and he’d be a nothing more than a memory.
“There are three important elements involved in a working of this magitude--”
“You mean magnitude.”
Penny scowled over her tea at Jude for interrupting her. He reached to turn her open grimoire toward him but she snapped it up and pressed it to her thin chest.
I could barely concentrate on anything anyone said, completely covered with mosquito bites from spending the evening outside. Scratching felt good. Until I stopped. Then dozens of itches flared up, making me want to scream. It was a good thing my powers weren’t needed to send me home, because I’d have been no help.
Jude had barely looked at me all morning. Colette’s eyes were as red-rimmed from crying as his were from lack of sleep. I felt bad that I wanted to go home more than I wanted to stay. They’d soon be dead to me, despite living full lives years before I was born.
Still clutching the black calf-bound book tight to her chest, Penny continued. “The first is power. That’s why we need to build a fire.”
Jude frowned. “So it’ll have to happen outside. That’s not ideal.”
“Not outside. In the maisonette.”
“The old slave quarters?” Sure, I’d wanted to check the place out before, but now that I was about to go home, my curiosity had faded. All I wanted was to sleep in my own bed tonight and to never think of Jude again.
“There’s a fire pit inside and a special chimney just for workings like this.” Penny rubbed her temple. Her eyes were red, too. Had she been up all night planning her spell? “But it’ll happen quickly. Less than a minute after we activate the circle. That’s the second thing. We’ll have a limited time to get Evie through the portal once it’s been opened.”
“And the third element?” I asked.
“The circle, obviously. I’ve already drawn it, but it’ll take some of your blood to open the portal. Just a little bit. It also took a lot of salt. And that last chicken.”
I wrinkled my nose. “Gross. Sure you had to kill it?”
“I think so. But what do I know? I’ve only been studying witchcraft since I was twelve.”
“Okay, okay. You’re the expert here. Just tell us what to do.”
It was early enough that the rest of the girls were still sleeping, but Teddy somehow knew that Colette was there and had already affixed herself to her skirt, following close as we crossed the yard. I’d changed into my new dress-- “More of a shift than a dress,” Colette sniffed-- and had my old sandals on, ready to go. I’d checked my bag about a hundred times that morning to be sure I had everything, my book of the blood and my book of plant samples.
The smell in the little house was a mix of blood and dusty herbs. Tiny shivers of old wards prickled when I entered the square of a room. The fire raging in a central, cauldron-like pit made the room sweltering despite its overhanging steel chimney. Surrounding it was Penny’s bloody salt circle, waiting for my blood. Doors and a staircase must have led to bedrooms or perhaps a small kitchen. I found it hard to believe anything had ever been cooked over this fire.
Penny hefted her book. “Ready?”
Colette looked ready-- ready to cry if she wasn’t so nervous about the spell. And Jude looked at anything but me. Yes, I was ready. I nodded.
Drawing a small, sleek dagger from between the pages of her mother’s book, Penny motioned for me to extend my hand. With the point of the knife she pricked my finger, collecting the garnet drops on the flat of the blade. She worked her way around the circle, stopping to smear some blood at each corner. Then she held the knife in the fire for a moment, sizzling the blood into a blackened shell. Gesturing me forward, she handed me the knife.
“Blood to earth, blood to fire, blood to air, blood to water.” As she chanted, the words started to run together. Taking the knife back out of my hand, she returned it to the fire only to pull it back out when it glowed white. Tracing shapes in the space surrounding the metal chimney, she chanted her way all around the circle again, but counter to the direction she’d walked before.
The chimney started to waver in the dim light of the tiny room. Soon its dull surface was replaced by a vortex of light originating from the center of the fire, blazing up as if to swallow the whole building. A crack like thunder sounded and the vortex reformed, widening into a cylinder of light. I saw the streetcar interior as if I were inside already. There came a loud humming, a droning that reverberated through the ground and lowered my body temperature.
Penny's thin face looked almost skeletal in the flashing light. “Quick now. It won’t stay open much longer.”
I hitched up my bag, but I had to make time for one last hug from Colette. “I’ll never forget you.” I breathed the scent of her powdered shoulder, choking back tears, and patted Teddy on her pale head.
Colette sighed. I could tell she didn't want to let me go. “Have a good life, mon ange. Remember that I’ll always love you.”
After a last look in her dark eyes, I turned to Penny for a quick squeeze. “Thanks, Penny. You’ve been a good friend. I wish I didn’t have to go.”
She swallowed hard. “Just hurry up, huh?”
I gave a nod. “Bye, Jude. It was nice knowing you.”
He didn’t even say goodbye back. He might as well have slapped me in the face. His cold stare raked my body in its immodest dress and I turned, unable to stand it any more. I stepped toward the portal.
At Jude's voice, I turned. “What?”
“Let me wish you a proper goodbye.” He crossed the room before I could say anything more and pulled me to his chest-- his hands even hotter than usual on my icy skin. When he pressed his lips to mine, I could have melted into him. How could something that felt so right cause me so much pain?
I didn’t care how much it hurt. I’d let him kiss me as long as he could stand it. But his tongue caressed my lips only once before he released me, pushing me through the portal.
There, the intense cold kissed my smoldering lips in a cruel mockery of his, soothing my skin but not my heart.