Crouching in the darkness of the closet, I stilled as footsteps approached. My instincts screamed to run. I stared at the thin ribbon of light under the door, shadows of shoes paused.
I silently urged them to walk away. All I wanted was one day of peace. One day. The knob turned. No luck. With a whoosh of fresh air, my hiding spot was exposed.
“For sand’s sake, Opal, what are you doing in there?” my mother asked.
I suppressed a sigh. The truth—hiding from her—wouldn’t help. “Looking for my boots?”
Her scowl deepened as she pushed a lock of graying hair. “They’re on your feet.”
I straightened. “Oh…yes…well.”
“Come. There are a thousand things we need to do, and you’re wasting time.” She shooed me through my room and downstairs to the kitchen. “Sit and read me the guest list while I cook lunch.”
My gaze swept the long wooden table filled with paper, swatches of fabric, lace, sequins, sewing patterns and half-completed decorations—enough clutter to force us to eat in our formal dining room.
I cursed my sister Mara under my breath. Before returning to work at the Magician’s Keep’s glass shop, Mara had asked our mother to plan her and Leif’s wedding, trusting her with everything. Smart girl.
She remained a safe five-day journey away from mother’s all-consuming new passion.
When I failed to sit at the table, she stabbed a spoon at the chair. “Guest list, Opal.”
“You’ve been over it a hundred times.”
“I want to be certain—”
“You haven’t missed anyone. It’s perfect. Stop worrying.”
She dried her hands on her apron. The stained white fabric covered her chest and long skirt. “Do you have something better to do? Did I interrupt your moping time?”
“I’m not moping.” My voice whined. Not a good sign.
“Resting, recuperating, moping, it’s all the same.” She hauled a kettle filled with water over to the glowing coals in the hearth.
“No it isn’t. A lot has happened—”
She pished at me. My own mother!
“Stop wallowing in the past. What’s done is done. Focus on the future. We only have one hundred and eighty four days until the wedding! Then it’s only a matter of time for grandchildren and maybe you and Kade…?”
Yanking the chair out with a loud scrape, I plopped on it. I snatched the list from the pile and read names aloud as my mother continued to bustle about the kitchen.
She had mentioned Kade almost every day since I’d arrived. Fourteen days of missing him, dodging her questions and being drafted to help with preparations for an event three seasons away.
How could one woman be so irritating? For a second I wished for another family. A sensible one without all this…stuff, like the Bloodrose clan, living in austere isolation.
“Opal, stop making that face.”
I glanced over the list, but her back was to me. Long strands of hair had sprung from the knot she had tied this morning. She rolled dough with quick efficiency.
“How did you know?”
“I’m your mother. I see all. Hear all. Know all.”
I laughed. “If that’s true, then why do you ask me so many questions?” Ha. Got her!
Her hands stilled. She turned to me. “Because you need to hear the answers.”
My father’s arrival saved me from a retort I didn’t have. He filled the room with his large frame. Even though most of his short hair had turned gray, he still looked young.
My brother Ahir bounded in behind him. A mirror image of our father except Ahir’s thick black hair brushed his shoulders.
“Hey Mop Top,” I said to Ahir.
“What’s up peanut?” He smirked.
I used to tower over him, but now he was six inches taller than my own five foot seven inch height.
Before I could throw another insult at him, he handed me an aqua-green glass vase. “New recipe. Look at the clarity. Sharp.”
I examined the glass in the sunlight. The cold crystal felt dead in my hands. No throb of potential. No song vibrated in my chest. Nothing. My glass magic was gone.
Although painfully aware of my loss, a small part of me hoped to feel a spark every time I touched glass…only to be disappointed each time.
“Working with this melt is pure joy,” Ahir said. “Let’s go over to the factory, I’ll gather a slug for you to try.”
I gave him a tight smile, letting him know I saw through his blatant attempt to interest me in creating with glass again. But no magic equaled no passion.
Before Yelena had uncovered my abilities, I hadn’t known about the magic. It had been masked by my desire to create.
Now, the inert lump in my hand was just another reminder of my useless existence.
“I think I’ll go for a ride instead.” Returning the vase to Ahir, I left the kitchen. My mother’s protests about missing lunch followed me to the shed.
My family owned an eight-kiln glass factory not horses. However, when I decided to stay for a while, my father cleaned out the shed, converting it into a temporary stable for Quartz.
The small enclosure had room to hang my tack and saddle, and to give Quartz shelter from bad weather. Being a Sandseed horse, she preferred to graze in the Avibian Plains, bordering our land.
No one would dare bother a Sandseed horse in the plains. I scanned the tall grasses. They swayed with the wind.
The reds, yellows and oranges of the cooling season had faded into the gray and brown dullness of the cold season. I shivered, thinking of the miserable weather yet to come.
Believe it or not, I had been anticipating this time of year. The fierce storms on the coast had abated, and Kade planned to spend a few weeks with me.
Until the Commander of Ixia had summoned him to demonstrate his Stormdancing powers, taming the killer blizzards blowing from the northern ice sheet.
Kade had invited me along, except I hated the cold and would rather not be anywhere near the ice sheet. Plus what would I do there?
I would have no job other than keeping Kade’s bed warm. Well… That wouldn’t be a chore at all. I smiled, but sobered.
Despite my mother’s intentions, my one reason for being home wasn’t to help with Mara and Leif’s wedding. I needed to make a decision.
Unease twisted. My bad decisions outweighed my good ones by two to one. I had a thirty-three percent chance of getting it right.
Dismissing those useless thoughts, I stepped into the plains to search for Quartz.
After I traveled a hundred feet, magic pressed on my skin as if I pushed against a giant sponge. I waited for the pressure to dissipate.
It was usually suicidal to walk into the plains without permission from the Sandseed Clan . Their protective magic would confuse me, sending me into a panic, convinced I was lost.
My new immunity blocked the Sandseed’s protection, and being able to sense magic was also new. Nice perks, yet…
Without my glass magic, I felt as if a chunk of my soul had been sliced off. I had no regrets over my actions, sacrificing my powers had been the right choice.
So if I wasn’t moping, then why the ache? Why did I feel trapped in the shadow world?
All maudlin thoughts vanished when Quartz trotted into view. Considered a painted mare, her coat was a patchwork of white and auburn colors.
The darker color covered her face, except for a white star between her soft-brown eyes. Forgoing a saddle and bridle, I hopped onto her back and left my worries and Mother’s wedding plans far behind.
Sitting in the living area later that evening, I addressed envelopes. My mother had appealed to my ego by complimenting my handwriting and had bribed my stomach by baking my favorite pie—black raspberry.
Warmth and light pulsed from the fireplace. I felt better after my ride with Quartz. Mother sat in her favorite chair, sewing Mara’s veil. Ahir sprawled on the floor, snoring, and Father worked on bills.
A true moment of family peace. And like all such moments, it was too good to stay true for long.
A knock on our door broke the silence. Mother glanced at me in confusion, then brightened. “It’s the printer! He said he might be done with the invitations tonight and I told him to bring them over right away.”
Silk and lace filled her lap. Before she could untangle herself, I offered to answer the door. I suppressed a sigh.
If the invitations were indeed here, I would have to stuff them into the envelopes, sealing them with wax. A tiresome chore.
I glanced through the peephole. Shadows covered the face of a man holding a bottle. Not the printer.
He must be the local winemaker Mother commissioned to distil the special wedding wine. She spared no expense and, for that, I was glad.
When I had sacrificed my magic, the power had transformed into diamonds.
The Sitian Council had returned them all to me, and I had more than enough money to pay for all the wedding expenses—my gift to Mara and Leif.
I opened the door and froze in terror.
Valek, the Commander of Ixia’s personal assassin waited outside. Only one reason for Valek to be here.
“Hello Opal. Sorry for the surprise visit. Is this a bad time?” he asked with a pleasant tone and quizzical smile.
It was always a bad time to die.
From SPY GLASS (Glass Book 3), MIRA Books, September 2010
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