As I said last week, Cassie's Story is finished, the book that is. The book on Saffron is next, and Cassie will be in that, so her story continues. I'll keep you updated on Cassie, as the book progresses towards publication. Right now I'm working on the cover. Here is the rough idea for the cover:
This week I'm beginning a serialisation of Zora's Light. This is book 2 in the Defender series, which is a fantasy series - complete with vampires, witches, shifters, werewolves, fairies, and Zora - who is none of those. If you want to read the first book in the story the link is here:
Here is the first part of Zora's Light:
Zora was woken from restless sleep, fractured by visions of baleful yellow eyes, to a hand on her shoulder and a voice in her ear.
“Zora, Zora wake up. The plane has landed and it’s time to get off.”
She stared uncomprehendingly into Powers face, her mind still asleep.
“Axel has a hotel ready for us, and we will be taken there as soon as we clear customs.” Powers stared into her sleepy eyes. “Zora? Are you awake now?”
Zora flexed stiff muscles and rotated her head to release the tension in her neck. Looking out the window she saw the tarmac, a multitude of runway lights and the dull beige of the desert. Covering her mouth with her hand she yawned, before looking back at Powers.
“What time is it?”
He glanced at his watch. “Just gone 5.00 am, remember they are eight hours behind us here. Did you get your coat ready? It may be summer in Australia but here it’s winter, northern hemisphere and all that.”
Coming more awake by the second she narrowed her eyes at him. “I’m not a total idiot Powers, I do know that and yes I have a coat and even a scarf.”
Powers smiled at her, a smile that caused a frisson of warmth in the pit of her belly. She shook it off, it was just the effects of the fairy spell that bonded them, it wasn’t real. And besides, as her Guardian she was sure that Powers was off limits in any other way.
She looked out the window again. “I can’t see the pyramids, will we see them on the way?”
“Oh, I think you will little Zora.” Axel had come up behind her seat. “Come now, let’s get the red tape out of the way so we can get to the hotel.”
“Doesn’t your mother maintain a home in Cairo, Axel?” They had stayed at a royal residence at all of their stops in Australia so Zora felt it was a reasonable question.
“She does indeed little Zora, but it is not close to the pyramids and I believe that we need to be in the same area.”
Zora’s curiosity was piqued. Even though this quest they were on was dangerous and – for her at any rate – downright terrifying, the pyramids were something she had always wanted to see. She looked out the window again. Apart from the desert they could be in any airport in the world and she was a little disappointed. Although perhaps if she had been awake she would have seen Cairo from the air, and would now be feeling like she was really in another country. Right now she felt that they could be anywhere.
Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she reached for her coat and bag. Axel and Powers had continued walking down the aisle so she moved up a few seats and joined Sunny and Shax. Shax was looking cool and collected, fair enough since she had been living in Egypt for quite some time.
Frenchie the French bulldog, her familiar, snuffled at her feet. Sunny was bending down to peer through the window while her familiar, the pure white cat Sabrina, perched on her back. Sabrina looked a bit irritated, also fair enough Zora thought. Sabrina had been brought to Australia by Shax and had claimed Sunny as her person. Perhaps she didn’t wish to come back to Egypt, or maybe she was just unimpressed with her perch on Sunny’s back.
“Do Frenchie and Sabrina need to be quarantined or something?”
Shax snorted. “Nah, they’ll let them in ok. And if they say not Axel can make it happen.”
Zora supposed that was right, since Axel was a fairy he could probably make almost anything happen. Not for the first time she wondered why the fairies didn’t just take care of the rogue werewolves themselves.
Customs and immigration finished with, they exited the terminal to a chilly winter morning. Zora sniffed the air, smelling dust, exhaust fumes, smoke and an indefinable something that marked this as a foreign land.
“All countries have their own unique smell little Zora. It’s a scent of history really, as it is the result of centuries of layers of smells.” Axel was smiling at her, his expression serene.
“I don’t think the exhaust fumes I’m smelling are the result of centuries of layers.”
“No little Zora, but close your eyes and pay close attention. What else do you smell?”
Zora obediently closed her eyes. “Sweat, dust, oil – not cooking oil but some scent I don’t recognize, and spices.” She opened her eyes and looked expectantly at Axel.
“Yes little Zora, you can smell the fragranced oil and the spices that have been used in this country through the ages. They leave a signature that contributes to the overall scent. Over time you will be able to distinguish even more scents, it is a valuable skill.”
Axel clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. “The cars are just over this way, follow me.”
They all followed, Zora thinking that they must surely look like a tour group with Axel as their tour guide. She smiled to herself – in a way that was exactly what they were.
The press of people at the entrance doors thinned as they walked to the cars. Zora had heard a multitude of languages as they walked through the airport – German, English, French, Japanese and some guttural language she wasn’t sure of but thought was maybe Russian. Floating over the top of the tourist voices was the lyrical rise and fall of Arabic. Finally, Zora felt like she was in a foreign country.
That feeling was compounded on the drive to the hotel. There wasn’t much traffic at this early hour for which she was thankful. She remembered Shax saying that her terrifying brand of driving was simply the result of having to drive like a local in Egypt, so Zora was not looking forward to the experience of driving on busy roads.
She looked out the window as they drove, seeing tall date palms lining the side of the road while the traffic seemed to be mostly trucks covered in fairy lights, and other trucks painted in bright and complex patterns. There were a few cars even at this early hour - ancient vehicles that would be taken off the road in Australia, driving next to brand new cars. Once she saw a donkey pulling a cart loaded with fruit.
Graceful buildings could be glimpsed behind the date palms. As they drove closer to the city these gave way to apartment buildings that looked ready to fall down. Every vehicle on the road seemed to communicate by blowing the horn, little beeps and long honks which she imagined was some sort of code for polite and irritated. Zora could only imagine what it must sound like when the roads were busy. Their driver exhibited a cheerful disregard for line markings, making Zora again thankful for the light traffic.
The tarmac gave way to dirt, smaller buildings lined the road, and convenience stores appeared, each one carrying what seemed to Zora’s tired eyes to be hundreds of bottles of water out front. She saw small cafes with tables and chairs on the dusty footpath; even at this hour men sat drinking tea. Zora wondered if they were up early or if they had not yet gone to bed.
Finally they turned into the hotel entrance. Their car was stopped by an armed guard, and Shax explained airily that every hotel in Egypt had security guards at the entrance. Once through the gate the driveway opened up to a grand looking hotel. Zora was so focused on this building that looked more like a palace, that she resisted Sunny’s pull on her sleeve.
“Zora, Zora! Look!”