release (oooh, love that word!), I have a certain Troll who makes life
agonizingly rough for everyone. She’s hard to hate—you want to love her—but her
webs of deception weave tragic results.
point on the hillside above the family nest, Eli propped a heel behind him and
leaned back. The rock digging into his butt was hard and unforgiving; it
matched the disposition of the older female Troll beside him.
white neck curved as she used the glowing cherry of her herbal smoke to draw
tracers in the dark around the Centaur guard in the distance. “Who’s that with
Eli stared with gritted teeth through the cover of trees at the embracing
couple. “She’s making a huge mistake.”
they been dating?” Elegant fingers brought the cigarette to her lips, and she
pulled a slow drag. Multiple bracelets slid down her arm and jangled softly
just met. Ella opened the new speed-dating service, and the Kempor was in it
tonight—like he of all mythics would need it.”
interesting.” Smoke blew in an easy stream from her pursed lips, catching the
cool night breeze that, in turn, drifted across his face.
the trees from the drizzle, they watched the playboy hit on his sister. Ella
didn’t seem to mind.
entwined couple had no idea their actions were observed.
avoids relationships like he would the trots?” Eli asked.
the hand rolled cigarette, as her lips tightened around it. She drew on the
end, let the smoke linger in her mouth a moment, then inhaled. Air currents
caressed the cigarette’s tip and caused the ember to glow between drags. “In
all the years I’ve known him, he only had one serious affair. And that one
dumped him for something better.”
from the boulder, away from scents of burning clove, and peered down at his
family’s rock. His mother stood out front, shouting for Ella. Gods, how embarrassing. Glancing up the
opposite hillside, he saw Kempor Aleksander drop his cupped hands from Ella’s
drew next to Eli. His companion’s fingernails lightly scratched his back,
bangles dancing musically. “Don’t worry about her. If there’s one thing I know,
Aleksander won’t stick around for long.” The hair at his collar received the
same massage treatment. “Come over here, Eli. I want to talk business before I
contact back to the rock and watched her fluff out the skirt beneath a belt
that defined her small waist. He crossed his arms, widened his stance, then
waited for her to continue.
in Boronda of rebel movement. Heard any of it?”
befriended hinted a few things tonight. He would’ve said more if things hadn’t
sliding in a musical clatter, she clamped the short smoke between her lips. Her
hands became busy, pulling a small silver case from the voluminous folds of her
skirt, and she spoke around the cigarette, “What happened?”
interest in Ella at the café. When we left, he bull-handled her and the Kempor
took exception to that. We had to leave before they got into it.”
Troll ears twitched with the sounds of the night. Nobody knew how old his
contact was, but Eli guessed at least three centuries. If she were older than
that, she held her age well.
she removed a fresh cigarette.
with the red tip of the old, and tossed the used butt into a puddle. Taking a
drag, she turned to him and asked, “Carryyn couldn’t distract Alek?”
want anything to do with her.” Hell, Eli couldn’t blame the man. Even hard up,
few would get it on with a Minotaur—not to say he hadn’t before.
shadows across the stream caught his sharp Troll eyes. The Kempor watched Ella
make her way down the foot trail until she dissolved beneath their granite
rock. What in the hell did she have in those bags she carried everywhere?
trees in the dim moonlight, the guard weaved his way along the trail, headed
toward the palace. His huge muscular torso twisted between the towering elms,
making room for the breadth of his shoulders to pass, before his hind end
disappeared from view.
Eli, his underground contact stared at the black space where the Kempor had
stood moments before. The cigarette between her fingers, seemingly forgotten,
the dangling ash long. Wisps of reddish hair framed her oval face. Her inscrutable
expression was unnerving.
shoulder. “Are you alright?”
frown flitted across her features. Then, she smiled, smoothly betraying nothing
of her inner thoughts. “I’ll meet you again, in two days at the regular
leaned back on the rock. “May I have your name? Something to call you by?”
hand to tousle her damp curls, and another flutter of bouncing bracelets
erupted. “Yes, now that I know you’re trustworthy. Call me…Pennelope.”
with a slow, secret smile. One, he wouldn’t claim to understand.