Friday, March 31, 2017

SFR Brigade Presents: Excerpt from Fidelity

The Science Fiction Romance Brigade is a fabulous group of authors who offer a monthly Showcase to let visitors get a glimpse of their works-in-progress or already-published ebooks.  My current selection is the first part of Chapter One of Fidelity, the 10th book in my To Be Sinclair series.  Since I had tantalized my fellow Brigaders with the first sentence for one of our SFR snippets, I figured I owed it to them to at least let them weep with 24-year-old Prince Richard Sinclair.  Our young hero starts at rock-bottom, eventually throwing himself into his work so he doesn't have to think about his miserable excuse of a love life.  Enjoy, and be sure to check out the other contributions at the SFR Brigade Presents blog!

 "I wish I could’ve had your babies.”

“So do I.”  Prince Richard Sinclair nuzzled 23-year-old Lady Sandra Aaronburg’s papery cheek.  Caressing away a wisp of hair that the light breeze had drawn across her face, he let his thumb run along her lips before placing a gentle kiss there. 

Mindful of her horribly painful bones, drained of their strength by the infection and harsh medications, he draped his hand along the outside of her rib cage, wishing he could snuggle her tight.  He rested his head on his upper arm to watch her face in profile.

A red-gold leaf from the antler tree overhead floated toward the down comforter.  Sandra lifted her arm a few centimeters as if to catch it, but even that energy expenditure was too much for her.  

“Oh.”  Her eyes fluttered.  “So pretty.”  With another short breath, she sighed, but didn’t resume breathing.

Even knowing it was the end, even the past two months of frantic treatments, even pleading for her hand despite her insistence that it really didn’t matter, Richard uttered a few soul-tearing sobs as he burrowed on top of her one last time. 

Soft hands gentled his head.  Mother had been reading under a nearby oak for two hours, waiting for this moment.  “Come; let her family say their good-byes, too.”  She helped him sit up, and straightened his rumpled clothes for him.

As Sandra’s parents and siblings moved forward, Richard stood up from the mattress, simply set on the ground, and took in the scene Sandra had loved so well.  The cliff face some ten meters away had a small grotto at chest level, and he had set the gilded crystal angel that resided there on the edge, as if it wanted to bathe in the afternoon sunshine. 

The lilac satin brocade scarf folded beneath its base was her contribution, made six months before, the first time she had ever visited the Imperial Palace.  He remembered her comment at the time:  You can’t expect an angel to live in the rough, now, can you?  She had whipped off her scarf and tucked it deep into the grotto, just so, before demanding the statuette, still in his hands.  He knew he was in love as she carefully placed the angel in its silky new cave, and her exquisite sense of artistry had subsequently enchanted the entire Imperial Family.

He set the angel back into the grotto. Sorry, but I need it more than you.  Picking up the scarf, he let it slip through his fingers a few times.  He traced the snow-white monogram before wrapping the scarf behind his neck and smoothing its folds over his lapels. 

Turning, he went to her tearful parents, hovering over the body that no longer held any meaning for him.  Grasping their hands, he murmured words he barely recognized.  “Thank you for letting us have that moment.  Thank you for understanding.  Thank you.”  He hugged her sister and shook her brother’s hand, and then turned abruptly toward the Imperial Palace, headed for his suite.

Kyle and Patrick were waiting for him outside the central door to Center Wing.  “Is there anything we can get you?” Patrick asked.

“No.”  Blinding tears erupted, streaming down his face before he was engulfed in his cousins’ embrace, forming a tripod of enduring familial support as they grieved with and for him.

When he had calmed and they stood back, he wiped at his eyes with the scarf.  “Grandfather, and now Sandra.  I think I’ll hibernate for a couple of weeks.”

Patrick ran a hand over his face.  “Yeah.  We’ll tell Matthieu.”  He and Kyle clapped him on the back and entered Center Wing with him, but they strode toward Front Wing as Richard hit the button for the lift.

On third floor, he noticed Sentinels taking places along the walls as his youngest sibs and cousins in the Imperial Protocol Academy headed toward the Academy Salon at the front of the hall, just home from Northbridge Prep.  He turned from their carefree chatter to enter his suite, twenty more meters in the direction of the cliff. 

A Sentinel popped out before he reached it.  “Clear.” 

Intent on simply reaching his bed, Richard thoughtlessly left the suite’s door open.  Too distraught to go back and close it, he did close the door to the bedroom on the left before flinging himself on the bed to grieve in the dark.

Perhaps an hour later, his brother Matthieu, the Emperor of Sinclair Demesnes for all of three weeks, interrupted his wallowing in the darkness.  He thanked whoever had opened the door for him, and set a bottle of wine and two glasses on Richard’s nightstand before drawing up a chair from the window’s table. 

Pouring the wine in the light from the door, he looked almost as bad as Richard felt at the moment.  “I hope you’re not going to make me drink this all by myself.”

“No.”  Richard sat up and took the second glass.  “Thanks.”

“To Sandra.”  Matthieu reached his glass out in a toast.

Richard clinked his glass against it.  “The essence of beauty herself.”  He downed a mouthful before he realized Matthieu had brought the really good wine.

Sitting on the edge of his bed, staring at the wine in his glass, it took him a moment to notice Matthieu’s posture.  Instead of a brotherly slouch as if commiserating, he sat upright, slightly tilted forward, as if he were going to ask him to take an assignment.  He flinched at the thought of just getting through the funeral, much less getting back to a so-called normal life.  “Please don’t ask me to do anything.”

Matthieu jerked a little in his chair.  “I… not work.”  He deliberately leaned back, putting one ankle on the other knee, but still regarded Richard intently.  “I just want you to remember that what you had with her was beautiful and good, but that it’s over.  Like I had to deal with after Miriel.”

Richard’s breath caught in his throat.  He had almost witnessed Miriel’s suicide, and certainly remembered its aftermath.  Her lying on the floor of the corridor outside the first-floor Academy work room, bludgeoned eyes and grotesque tilt of her features, distorted from direct pulse pistol damage. Uncle Brian beside her, screaming and writhing on the floor between mini-seizures, damaged by the pulse pistol’s nimbus.  The choking screams from his cousins and sibs as they shoved forward before a Sentinel shoved them back into the work room.

He almost didn’t process Matthieu’s next words.  “I know how much you loved her, and that you needed to witness her death in order to really understand she would be gone forever, but it was also kind of gruesome to watch her dragging you through all those procedures with her.”  He took another sip.  “It was good of you to help her make the decisions, but I wonder how good it was on your behalf.”

Richard blinked blindly while inhaling his oldest brother’s perspective.  “When did you grow so callous?”

“Not callous.”  He sipped again, eyeing him with pure pity.  “I love you and care about your wellbeing.  You did everything you could; you did everything right by the standards we hold as compassionate human beings in our society. 

“I just want you to see that you can move on, now.  You don’t have to tear yourself up for things you didn’t do.  And after Father’s death, we’re both living proof that there’s life after the death of someone you hold dearer than your own life.”

As Matthieu nodded at him, secure in his ability to weather any storm, Richard wondered whether his brother had ever spoken to his wife, Vidya, about his former lady and her death.  Deciding it didn’t matter, he shook his head.  “I don’t know what to do, now.”

“I have some suggestions.”  Matthieu waited.

Richard appreciated that he gave him the space to decide whether to ask for them, or not.  “Let’s have them.”

“Come with me, out to the Academy Salon, and let everyone hug you.  Ask them for their fondest memories of Sandra, and laugh with them and cry with them, because that’s what families do.  Whatever you do, don’t hold it in, because a depressive mindlock can be damn hard to get out of.”

He tipped the glass back to drink the last of his wine, and smacked his lips over it. “I’d also say it’s time for an epic drunk.  Have you ever had an epic hangover?”

A huff of meager laughter burst from his lungs.  “I guess you need to define ‘epic’ for me.”

Matthieu stood to take the bottle in one hand before tilting his head toward the door.  Oddly heartened, Richard led the way out, with his brother’s arm around his shoulders.

Expect Fidelity to be out around late July / early August 2017.  And here are the usual author's links so you can check out my other stuff:

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