I had a miraculously short work day today, and so I’ve been hard at work writing while I can. Here’s another excerpt from Deep Breather!
“Why did it happen?” Ash wanted to know, getting down to business. “Why did the ocean attack you? I thought it whispered sweet nothings in your ear and…embraced you, like family.”
Breya’s willingness to linger in Ash’s arms faltered as the subject arose, and she distanced herself ever so slightly, resigned to the fact that this kind of thing would come up.
“It didn’t attack me,” she said, a different explanation resonating inside her. The blurry vision that cleared when she splashed her face, the heaviness on dry land, the cold core temperature… It was all evidence that supported another theory.
“What do you mean, ‘it didn’t attack you’? Have you seen the sting? It left you unconscious.”
“It didn’t attack me,” Breya maintained. “It branded me.”
If Ash was dismayed at the explanation, he didn’t immediately show it. He looked at her, measuring the meaning of this response, and then his jaw grew tight.
“Well you aren’t the only one it branded,” he said, once again drawing a furrow to her brow.
“What do you mean?”
Stepping back, Ash lifted his shirt. Breya’s eyes traveled down to the welt that graced his side, looking suspiciously like the one she sported, just without the unnatural iridescence.
Words escaped her. “Ash, what–”
“It’s how I knew what happened to you. It woke me up.”
After the initial shock wore off, Breya let the remaining awe command her fingers, reaching up to touch the raw brand. Ash didn’t hiss or flinch, and she ran a fingertip gently down a tendril of the mark. It was warm and smooth, and abruptly the moment was extremely intimate, not lessened at all by the reason he sported the mark to begin with.
“Our mingled life forces at work,” Ash put voice to what she was thinking. “Thanks to your magic kisses.”
“It happened to both of us,” she murmured, just to affirm the obvious out loud.
“And hurt like hell, as they say these days.”
It was shocking and somewhat horrifying, though admittedly incredible on some level as well. But mostly it left Breya uncomfortable, feeling like too many lines and wires were getting crossed. The conflict inside her was rising to a crescendo, overflowing and wreaking havoc on her physical body, and now she was hurting Ash too. Physically.
The turmoil going on around her was burned into his skin.
“Ash, I’m sorry,” she stammered, feeling the sudden need to apologize.
But it was as if he could see she was apologizing for her very existence, and that wasn’t what he wanted from her.
“Don’t,” he said, stopping her. “There are worse things than having a connection this intimate to the person you love.”
It wasn’t that what he said wasn’t impacting, and greatly so, but something nagged at Breya that she just couldn’t quite get past. She shook her head, sick with the pessimistic implications of the issue. “Maybe,” she said doubtfully. “Or will I just get swept out to sea for good one day, and will you spend the rest of your life drowning?”