Final countdown begins! An excerpt from my upcoming novel. Out next week!
She’s so, so tired. Oddly it is this thought that startles Sophie to waking. It’s not normal. She has been an insomniac ever since her father died. And while she is exhausted pretty much every other moment of the day, in bed, when she’s practically praying for her eyes to drop shut, that is the one time sleep flees.
But not today. Not… this morning?
No. It’s too dark for that. She can sense a warm glow beyond her eyelids, but it’s all wrong for the sunlight that usually streams in through her blinds. This light is artificial. She can feel the warmth of electricity running through a wire, heating the filaments of…
Sophie blinks past the sleep haze to peer closer, feels her head rolling unnaturally on a too-loose neck. The base looks like Murano glass, a deep burgundy color. The lampshade is blood red, a rich fabric, the reason it is casting such an unnatural glow across this room. But it almost matches the high collared gown of the woman sipping from a bone china tea cup beside it –
The woman, the monster, laughs.
“I was wondering when you’d really wake up,” she confides. She lifts the teacup, nods. “Would you like some?”
But Sophie’s mind is stuttering over a scratch: Elana Miloslav herself is sitting close enough that Sophie can make out the tension lines at the corners of the woman’s mouth, those fuzzy flyaway hairs apparently even billionaires can’t avoid, the small chip to her fingernail polish on the ring finger of her right hand.
A monster masquerading as an elegant older woman.
A monster sipping from a fine china cup.
A monster in silk and a cashmere shawl.
A monster sneering, “Dear, I know you were raised practically in a barn but I would have thought even you would know it’s rude not to answer a direct question.”
“What am I doing here?” Sophie wonders. Except, she knows, doesn’t she? Didn’t Amanda warn her? That the monster wouldn’t stand for such digging. That the monster holds to this masquerade as a human being, as a Queen, with all of her strength and cunning… That the monster was going to kill her for, “seeing entirely too much,” Amanda had murmured.
The monster sighs. “Well, I didn’t suffer from the same abysmal upbringing. We are waiting, at the moment. That is why you are here,” she clarifies when Sophie blinks back, gestures specifically to Sophie slouched on one end of a divan, herself in a wingback chair. “We are waiting.”
For what?, Sophie’s eyes must ask. Because the monster opens her mouth to answer, but then –
Amanda bursts through the door.