A Sliver of Shadow
It always amazes me how many people leave their influence on a book. Sometimes it can be such a small thing, but sometimes it’s the small things that make all the difference. So, with that in mind, here we go:
To my agent, Suzie Townsend—thanks for taking a chance when you didn’t have to. Your support has been above and beyond anything I could hope for. (Plus you sent me Hello Kitty socks.)
To the fine folks at Pocket for doing all that they do to make these things happen. Without you, there would be no book.
To Danielle Poiesz—I can’t speak highly enough of you, chica. Thanks for everything you’ve done and for coming through for me in some very dark moments. And for taking me to get my first tattoo.
To Jess Haines—your words of wisdom and helpful comments during this process were invaluable in the extreme. (As were your many e-mails involving things I am still not sure I have the words for.)
To my fellow Word Whores—Jeffe Kennedy, Linda Robertson, Laura Bickle, Kerry Schafer, Kristine Krantz, and Marcella Burnard—here’s to Cones of Silence and ruling the world. (Hey, it could happen.) Seriously, you all put up with way more of me than you should, and I’m utterly grateful for it.
To Staci Myers—thanks for letting me borrow a certain French vampire. My apologies. Dahlia will make it up to him one day.
To the League of Reluctant Adults—thanks for welcoming me into the ranks of snark.
To Darchala Chaoswind—as always, your pictures are a delight (and inspiration; Talivar thanks you for his hipster scruff).
And of course, thanks to Dan, Connor, and Lucy for indulging me in my bouts of writing insanity and not complaining too much about the state of the house during deadlines. *ahem* Love you guys.
A sliver of shadow
And a destiny torn
By Three Paths woven
In an endless thorn.
Sonja’s warning slid around me with a wash of power. Startled, I shot up from where I huddled beneath a cluster of fallen logs, decayed bark scattering as a set of claws shredded my hiding place. I ducked, the sharpened talons slicing the air with a deadly whistle.
Grinding my teeth, I narrowed my eyes and concentrated, letting my own form shift. Small, furry, fast …
The Dreaming rippled. I bounded away, sleek and long, haunches bunching and then springing forward to propel me into the darkness. Sonja’s low growl of frustration echoed behind me. I didn’t know exactly what form she’d taken, but my rapidly twitching nose instantly recognized the acrid scent of something feline.
The urge to go to ground vibrated through my little body, but I pushed forward, leaves sliding beneath my paws. All around me were shadows as my nails dug into the moist earth. The scenery blurred past in a haze of ragweed and pine trees, needles brushing my fur. I couldn’t hear Sonja anymore and I paused, my ears rotating to cup the darkness. The faintest breeze caught my attention, and I instinctively flattened against the grass as Sonja swooped past, this time in the shape of a barred owl.
She wheeled, but I bolted, aiming for the tinkling stream nearby. Shedding the last vestige of the hare, I leapt toward the surface, my skin sluicing into scales as I slithered into the depths. My gills opened to shunt out the water, gravel scraping my pink salmon belly.
“Good! Very good.” Sonja applauded from the banks. The succubus had shifted into her more human form, the bloodred feathers of her wings shining in the moonlight of the Dreaming. Her skin had an alabaster purity that could never be matched by anything mortal. Between the hidden depths of her dark eyes and the scarlet wings, she seemed more fallen angel waif than daemon seductress. “You can come out now, Abby. I think that’s enough for tonight.”
My tail flicked me through the current as I changed again, pulling together the part of what made me, me. Emerging from the water, I squeezed the drops from my hair and pushed it from my face. “I’m getting better.” I wrapped the Dreaming around me until I was dressed in a pair of jeans and a shirt.
Sonja nodded cautiously, smoothing out the wrinkles of her own tank dress. “You are, but you’re still barely tapping your potential.” She gestured around us with a hint of irritation. “These are your Dreams. You limit yourself to your own sense of physics. Becoming a rabbit was fine and you’ve certainly improved your shifting ability—but why not change the ground, or the trees?”