So! On A Dark Tide is done and in the hands of my publisher. Fingers crossed for good news on that soon! In the meantime, it's back to work on Imperial Demons. I think finishing the first draft by the end of April is probably unlikely now, but this is going to be a long book. I want it to be an amazing book. And that means being patient with myself and not worrying too much about when it gets done.
With that in mind, here's a snippet to prove I'm on the right track!
Two hours later Tristesse had been primped and pampered back to perfection. She examined herself critically in the mirror while the maids hovered nervously nearby, waiting for her verdict on their handiwork.
The dress was a cream velvet concoction, sewn with seed pearls and trimmed with ice-white fur that set off her hair beautifully. She ran her fingers through the now-silken locks absently, missing the length. But she didn’t have the energy to alter her appearance and it was hardly important. Changing one’s shape required vast reserves of magic, and was considered a waste of it these days. Once, when the walls between the worlds had been open and demons travelled from Gehenna more freely, it had made sense to keep a more human appearance. Like many of the aristocracy and nobility, Tristesse had moved between realms at whim. Now, with the barriers firmly in place and the routes out of Gehenna so few and so random, hardly anyone worried about looking human. There were better things to spend the magic on.
Her naturally resilient demon body had healed the worst of the wounds Sonneillon had inflicted on her already, leaving behind not a single scar to mar her. She regretted that. It would have been bitterly satisfying to bear some visible marks of his torture, to remind everyone that she was not here willingly, that he’d had to cross worlds to drag her back and that she’d resisted fiercely.
Emerald had fastened a diamond choker round her neck and placed a matching tiara on her head. The jewels were simple and understated, and the entire effect put Tristesse bleakly in mind of weddings. Which was, of course, surely the point. She fingered the sparkling diamonds, sending rainbows cascading across the room as they caught the winter sun. She looked regal. A creature fit for worship. She smiled darkly at her reflection, at all the pointless finery.
“Do you think he would spurn me if I came to him with a noose around my neck, dressed in rags?” she asked the maids.
“His Highness likes everything to be beautiful,” Asra said.
Tristesse sneered at her reflection now. “You dress me up like a doll, and for who’s sake? His? If I were a gargoyle, he’d still marry me for the blood in my veins. Mine? If I could end this by ruining my looks, I’d mutilate myself this instant. This –“ She grabbed the hem of the dress and shook it at Asra, who recoiled. “All this is just make-up on a corpse, darling. A lie, and a pointless one, because everyone knows it is a lie. He likes things to be beautiful?”
Rage spiralled up in her as she spoke, the last remnants of the madness, and she lashed out, punching the mirror. It shattered, jagged shards of glass tumbling to break into invisible pieces on the stone floor. The maids whimpered, Asra rushing forward to clean up the mess. Tristesse exhaled heavily, studying her bleeding hand. Tiny slivers of glass jutted from her fingers and knuckles, and the blood flowed freely, eagerly. She wet her lips and pressed her palm to her heart, leaving a bloody handprint on that exquisite cream velvet.
“I like things to be honest,” she said.