CURSES & ASH
By Tiffany Daune
Author: Tiffany Daune Discover the spellbinding sequel to Coral & Bone...
Title: Curses & Ash (Book Two)
Published On: January 1st 1970
Publisher: Jester Ink Press Purchase Links:
A demented twin sister, a demon hijacking her powers, and a mysterious journal filled with more questions than answers—Halen needs her Guardian Dax more than ever. But if she confides in Dax, she fears he will never forgive her, not after all he sacrificed to help her vanquish Asair. Halen drowned Asair in a tornado of wings—at least, she thought she killed him. Why then does his mocking voice snake through her thoughts, enticing her to surrender her power? Maybe she screwed up—big time—but she will never allow Asair to control her magick. And when Etils' fires threaten the Earth, suspicions surrounding Asair's death rise, igniting restlessness within the realms. Her life in balance, Halen must race time, purge the demon's soul before flames consume the Earth or the Tari strike first.
Discover the spellbinding sequel to Coral & Bone...
Thank you for joining us today for a very special look at Chapter 2 of Tiffany Daune’s Curses & Ash!
If you haven’t read Chapter 1, you can do so at Becka Marsch and after March 29th you can find chapter 3 at The Book Quarry!
Curses and Ash by Tiffany Daune Chapter 2 Fabulous and Fun
Tage scanned the room for anything useful to bind her spell. Her jumbled nerves fractured her focus; Halen’s sketchy behavior didn’t help either. Something about the way Halen avoided her questions by scurrying off to the shower when Tage had pushed her further about Asair irked Tage. Halen wore her heart on her sleeve—easy for an Empath to read. However, ever since Halen returned from Asair’s dimension, Tage couldn’t feel anything from her—nada. Even when Halen slept, when most Empaths could penetrate true emotions. Tage didn’t like it one bit, which fueled her theory—Asair hijacked Halen. Still, Halen swore he died. Dax backed her up, and that was fishy too. Dax hovered over Halen. If she moved an inch, he shifted too. The girl didn’t even make it into the bathroom without him tailing her. He was more stalker than Guardian.
Through the crack in the door, she watched Dax flip through a magazine and then toss it on the bed. Did he really need to sit outside Halen’s bathroom door while she showered? Unless… She bit her lower lip, gnawing on the silver loops. Dax’s nervous energy made her skin crawl. He was hiding something.
“Why do you keep staring at Dax like that?” Ezra leaned forward. “Do you have a thing for him?”
“What?” She diverted her gaze back to the coffee table. Dax had the body of a warrior with the eyes of an angel, but he was so not her type; perfect turned her off. Tage preferred her guys muddled with complexity. Maybe that was why her relationships didn’t last longer than two months. The messed-up guys never stuck around.
“I can see how a girl would fall for that.” Ezra nodded toward the bedroom door.
She glanced up, meeting his dark eyes, flecked with obvious envy. Her gaze drifted to his oh-so-kissable parted lips. She cleared her throat. “Think whatever you want. Now’s not the time to play matchmaker.”
“I wasn’t trying to hook—”
Tage cut him off. “I know she’s lying. She has to be.”
Her gaze darted to the door. Then back to Ezra. She nodded.
He lowered his voice. “Why would she?”
“To save her life.” She stood up and walked to the side table where a marble pot sat with a plant trailing over the sides. She ran the leaves between her fingers. Fake. She dug under the leaves, finding pebbles shimmering with quartz. She scooped a handful, returned to the coffee table, and sat back down.
“We wouldn’t hurt her.” Ezra sat on the floor across from her.
She leaned closer, lowering her voice to a whisper. “But what if it’s not her? What if Asair has taken possession of her and is pretending to be Halen?”
His eyes widened as he considered the possibility, but then he shook his head. “You can’t think like that. We have to trust her.”
“Yeah, okay, that would be a little easier if the entire Bay area wasn’t an inferno.”
“You do have a plan B—right, Tage?” He thrummed his fingers on the glass table.
Ignoring him, she sprinkled the rocks onto the table top and then stood once more. She scanned the room and, spotting an ice bucket, smiled. She shoved the bucket against Ezra’s chest. “Make yourself useful.”
“Is this plan B?”
The less he knew the better. “Just get the ice.”
He sighed as he stood, then snatched a key card from the desk and headed out the door. She knew she should be nicer to him. He could have taken off as soon as they returned from Elosia, but instead, he remained vigilant by her side. She thought he would be the first to run from the mermaids, but instead, while a storm of chaos tore through the cavern, he clutched her to his chest as she succumbed to the mermaid’s dark spell. When she woke from her trance, he was always but a whisper away, but if shutting him out now kept him safe, then she would turn her feelings off.
She spread out the rocks, tossing aside the ones with little or no quartz. If Halen wasn’t going to talk, then she would handle it her way. She felt a little guilty lying about the protection spell. She didn’t have any of the elements to pull one off anyway. Maybe she was wrong about Halen, but her instincts had never let her down. She had to cast this spell, no matter how ticked off the others would be. They would thank her later. If Asair gained control of Halen’s powers, then Tage couldn’t let him walk out the door.
The door lock chirped. When Ezra opened the door, he had a bucket of ice, three candy bars, and a bag of chips under his arm.
Her eyebrows rose.
“What?” he shrugged. “If I have only a few days to live, a little junk food won’t hurt.” He set the bucket beside Tage and crouched next to her. “You want one?” He offered her a candy bar.
She shook her head “Sugar’s the last thing I need.”
He leaned in closer, hovering over her. “This spell gonna work?” He peeled back a candy wrapper.
“It has to.”
A knock on the door startled her already-unraveled nerves.
“Room service,” a man said from the other side of the door.
“That was fast.” Tage twisted the clock to face her. “Dax ordered like twenty minutes ago.”
“Too fast.” Dax stepped inside the living room.
Tage jumped up and headed him off. “Stand guard outside Halen’s bathroom.”
“Can’t you do the spell before we open the door?” Ezra asked.
“Tage needs the poppy seeds,” Dax said. “The bagels are with the food order.”
Tage shrugged. “Not really.” Her cheeks flushed. “I was just craving them. I have what I need for the spell.”
“Just do the spell.” Dax rolled his eyes and retreated to the other room.
“I got this.” Ezra shooed her to the coffee table and headed toward the door. Tage sat and dumped the ice, spreading it in a circle at the base of the rock tower she had formed with the pebbles.
Ezra peered out the peephole. “Leave the cart.”
“I need a signature sir,” the man said.
“Let me get dressed first!” Ezra shouted.
Tage shot him a pointed stare.
“What?” He shrugged. “I bought you some time.”
“Now he’s going to think we were… Ugh, forget it.” What did it matter what anyone thought, if they were dead? She returned her attention to the spell. Waving her hands in small circles, she chanted, “Zipsolium, volinium, osangi mori.”
The center burned with a soft glow and as the ice melted away, the rocks melded, forming into one solid piece.
“Open the door, just a crack,” she said. “Sign the bill and take the cart. Do not let him set foot in here.” If the guy wasn’t a server, the last thing she needed was an assassin stuck in the room with them.
Ezra wedged the door open and thrust his arm out the door. “Hand me the bill. I can’t find my pants. Wild afternoon, you know.” He glanced back, a broad grin smothering his face.
“You wish,” she mouthed.
The black bill folder passed through the door.
“Hurry,” Tage whispered.
He scribbled his name on the sheet and handed the bill folder back. “Just leave the cart.”
When the server didn’t budge, Tage’s panic swelled. She leaped up, sprinted across the room and slammed the door between the suites. She held her breath with the click of Dax bolting the two rooms off from each other.
“Seriously, dude, you don’t want to see me in the buff. Not pretty.” Ezra stripped off his shirt and kicked his pants to the side.
“What the hell are you doing?” While she stood with her mouth hanging open, he scooted out of his boxers. Then slid the chain bolt from the lock.
“No!” she shouted. “Stop!”
Ignoring her frantic plea, he opened the door. A server stood on the other side, his face flushing six shades of red when Ezra grabbed the cart. Ezra turned his bare ass to the server, rolled the cart inside and slammed the door shut. “No danger. Just food.” He grinned.
Averting her gaze from the cross tattoo inked over his hip bone, she grabbed a robe off the hook and tossed it to him. “You moron! That could have gone so wrong.”
“But it didn’t.” He slipped the robe on, securing the tie at his waist.
“How did you know he wasn’t here for Halen? You don’t get it.” She stepped toward him; the hairs along her arms rose, not from the danger of the situation, but with the thought of the little cross nestled above his hip. Ezra had a way with her she couldn’t deny, but distraction like this would get them killed. “If some shifters believe Asair isn’t dead, it won’t be long before the Hunters and the Elosians know. Word will spread fast. The Tari can’t protect all of us. I don’t even know if they will. Every step was taken to protect the blue moon siren—in order to kill Asair.”
“Are you worried something might happen to me, Tage Summerfield?” When his deep eyes searched hers, her composure dissolved like sugar in boiling water. Dammit. Her fists balled by her sides. “You could have gotten an arrow in your ass.” She broke free from his taunting stare and knocked on the door to the adjoining suite. “It’s okay. It was just the food. Go figure; the world would have to end to get faster room service.”
Dax opened the door. His questioning gaze fell on Ezra’s robe.
Tage held up her hand. “Don’t even ask.”
Dax choked back the laughter. “I’m sure it’s interesting.”
“Is Halen out of the shower yet?” Tage eyed her spell faintly glowing on the table.
“No, the water is still running. I thought I better give her some time.”
“Not too much time.” Tage didn’t care for the idea of Halen being alone. “Are you getting any weird vibes from her?”
Dax shrugged. “I don’t feel anything.”
“What do you mean?”
“I dunno. She’s sort of blank right now.”
“Exactly! I’m not picking up anything from her. Not sadness, happiness… Even after the dragon cracked the glass, she should have been terrified. Don’t you think that’s strange?”
“Maybe she’s numb,” Ezra said. “She’s been through a lot. You know what it’s like.” He turned toward her. “To feel so much you feel nothing.”
Tage knew all too well. After months of grieving the loss of her parents, she had turned to other vices to numb the pain. She ended up in the hospital, on massive detox. When the drugs were flushed from her system, the real pain set in, a sorrow that cut so deep, her emotions bled out until she felt nothing. Happiness became a luxury, tears gems she only dreamed of possessing. Her lips would lift with false smiles; her throat deceived her with laughter. She was nothing inside. “Yeah, I get it.”
“Give her some space.” Ezra flicked on the television.
“Another fire ignited along the Indian Ocean. The Navy has evacuated all ships,” a television reporter spewed.
“I need to call my grandmother.” Ezra’s face paled.
Dax tossed him the cell phone. “Make it quick. My dad will be here any minute. He’s going to call if there’s trouble.”
Ezra sat on the end on the couch, his back to them. He spoke low, but Tage could make out Japanese. He could have been with his grandmother, but had chosen to stay with her. She shook her head. Fool.
“You changed the spell—why?” Dax nodded toward the table. The tower of rocks glowed with a brilliant orange hue, illuminating the carpet beneath the glass tabletop.
“What?” She sidestepped blocking her enchantment.
“I know a few spells, remember? We learned them from the same person. I know a restriction spell when I see one.”
“Please don’t tell Halen. I don’t want her freaking out. It’s better to be safe.”
“You have nothing to worry about. Halen just needs the Etlins to strip out Asair’s memories. She’ll be fine.”
“And what about Etlis?”
“If Halen has access to Asair’s memories, she might discover how to break the spell. She just needs a little time.”
“I didn’t think of that.” Why hadn’t she? Because she had been so hell-bent on assuming Asair possessed Halen. “Do you really think it’s possible?”
Dax ran his finger along the cracked window. “I think she can open Etlis.”
Doubt still tugged Tage’s thoughts. “What if we are the fools and Asair is tricking us? What if Halen is already gone?”
“Then she would have annihilated us by now,” Dax said. “Stop worrying.”
Ezra ended his call and handed Dax the cell phone. “No fires in Japan, but they’re shutting down the nuclear plants as a precaution. My grandmother is taking my cat, Mittens, and going inland to some relatives.” His skin tone took on that “I’m going to puke” pallor.
Tage braced her hands on his shoulders. “We’ll go see her after this is over.”
“If we still have a planet.” His Adam’s apple bobbed.
Nothing she could say would comfort him. Right now, their lives hinged on Asair’s memories. Whether he was alive or dead, their fate still lay in the demon’s hands.
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