An Excerpt from The Light in the Gloaming by J.B. Simmons
As promised on Monday, today I am posting an excerpt from J.B. Simmons’ novel, Light in the Gloaming. This scene comes at the end of the book’s seventh chapter. Here you will meet two critical supporting characters, Ravien and Wren. Ravien is the older sister of the betrayer, the prince, Tryst. Wren hates Tryst and supports his enemy. Despite their different alliances, you will begin to see the sparks between them, and how those sparks threaten to flame up and consume everything. Now, Ravien has been leading Wren, he has been pursuing, and they end up here:
Wren stepped lightly through the door and surveyed his surroundings. He was on a small and flat roof, with no railing between it and the sixty-foot fall to the ground below. There was no sign of Ravien here, and Wren thought that perhaps she had vanished.
Then to his right, where there had been nothing a second before, he saw a silhouette standing on a high arched roof a couple buildings away. Without pause, Wren sprinted towards the figure. Adrenalin propelled his jump from the first building to the second, covering six feet with nothing below. He did not look down and charged on.
The second jump, to the arched roof, was even longer. It also dropped further, and Wren landed hard against the slate tiles. Looking across the gap he had just leapt, he was feeling good about himself. But when he turned an instant later, the silhouette was gone. He ran up to the peak of the roof and tensed at the quiet solitude. Not again, Wren thought. She has to be—
“Silence.” The voice was a seductive whisper, unlike the dagger pressed to his throat. All Wren could think was that it was impossible. She had slipped him from behind, and now she had him pinned.
“As I said, Wren, you feel a little slow.” Her right hand moved down against his stomach; she patted the small extra layer of fat. “You used to be rock solid and so sharp. It is a shame what your wealthy merchant’s life has done to you. You will have no chance taking down my brother in that shape.” She breathed the words into his ear.
Wren fought hard to stay calm, torn between fear and something like desire. “I wouldn’t dare try such a thing, Ravien. Tryst is the prince and he has my loyalty.”
“Don’t waste my time with lies.” She jerked him closer and drew blood with the dagger. “I saw you and Jon in the square tonight. I also know who is in your shop right now.” There was not an inch of space between their bodies.
Her words sent Wren’s mind spinning. Maybe she was going to kill him. How could she possibly know about Andor? Feeling desperate, he kept silent and considered his chances of fighting back. As long as she was alive with that knowledge, everything was in jeopardy.
“Do not think of killing me, Wren. It wouldn’t do any good, because I planted the secret with someone who will survive me. Besides, my dear little bird, you would not want to hurt me.” She pressed even closer, her lips grazing his cheek. “I can help you, and you have always wanted me.” She shifted to the left and bit down lightly on his ear.
Wren felt the change in position and the subtle relaxing of Ravien’s grip. In one flash of movement, he leaned his head away from the blade, grabbed her tight forearm and slung her forward over his shoulder. She slammed onto the roof, landing on her back, still clutching onto Wren and the dagger. The momentum of the throw knocked Wren down to a knee, and the two struggled on the slanted roof for position and control.
Ravien was strong and lightning fast, but Wren overpowered her. Her legs were locked around his waist, but he was on top and had her shoulders and arms pinned down.
Wren gloated for a moment at the position, smiling down at his captive princess. They were at the edge of the arched roof, and her head was hanging off the end, long black hair flowing towards the ground six stories below. Her eyes raged up at him, dark embers threatening to consume him.
“Ravien my dear,” his voice was half serious, half mocking, “you have always been a dangerous woman. Maybe I do want you, but you know too much. What do you propose I do with you?”
She responded with a grin, as if she were the one in control. “I propose that you question everything you know about me. Question my loyalties and my desires. I am a sister to the prince but also to Lorien. If you displease me in the slightest, there is no doubt that Tryst will learn of your plans. We both know what that would mean. But if you please me,” she rocked her legs, swaying both of them precariously over the ledge, “and that’s a big if, then your plot might have a chance.”
Wren shrugged innocently and thought of distracting her. “What kind of plot are you talking about? Everything I want is right here.” With that he plunged and kissed her deeply. For a moment it felt like she was returning the passion, but a sharp pain forced him to pull back. She had bitten his lower lip and drawn blood. Again.
“I can believe that,” Ravien breathed out, failing to hide her grin. She lowered her voice to the quietest of whispers that Wren could barely hear, “but it is not so much you, as Andor, who concerns me.”
“Now!” Her yell pierced the intimate moment. He froze as a sharp point pressed into the back of his neck.
Apparently he could not hear anything coming this night. He looked into Ravien’s eyes, trying to make out the reflection of who was behind him.
She returned his deep gaze and spoke delicately. “Wren, be silent and stay completely still.” He loved the sound of his name as it rolled off her lips. “I know you and Jon are planning something with him.” She let that hang in the air; Wren fought to keep his face blank. “I will stay close to my brother. If you try to harm him, it will not end well. But some of our interests may be aligned.”
Wren could no longer suppress his look of surprise, and Ravien seized on it. “Remember, question everything you assume about me. Now you know that I am not alone.” The unknown blade pressed harder into the back of Wren’s neck, driving his face closer to Ravien’s. “We will communicate with you, and you must obey our requests. If you do not, you have no chance. You might succeed, although not in the way you expect, if you please me.”
She leaned closer and gave him a light kiss. “If you please me.”
Suddenly everything went dark, as the person behind him tied a cloth over his eyes. He felt a blade at his throat again, forcing him to stand blindly. He felt Ravien escape from below him. An instant later, her voice was beside his right ear. “Stay blind and count to fifty. Then you may return home and get what little sleep you can. It would not please me if you count too quickly. Dawn is coming.”
Wren obeyed the command to the letter. He thought through Ravien’s words, looking for hidden meanings. How did she know? Who was she working with? No matter how he approached it, they were in trouble. She had the position and the information to ruin everything.
At the count of fifty he pulled off the blindfold, which smelled of lavender. There was no one to be seen.
The view over the city was amazing in the early pre-dawn. He could make out the spires of the prince’s palace to his left, and the walls of Valemidas wrapped around the sleeping city. It was peaceful now, but the effects of Tryst’s reign, and Ramzi’s oppressive rules, were rippling through the city. Wren shuddered at what would happen to the peace under a lifetime of Tryst.
Andor’s plot had to succeed. As Wren made his way back to his shop, he prepared to tell Andor and Jon what he had learned. It would not be easy, because he would have to explain how he ended up on a rooftop with Tryst’s sister. He climbed into bed for an hour of sleep and found himself dreaming of a dark and beautiful woman.