August 13, 2019

Chasing Midnight -- Second Chapter Reveal!

Happy #TeaserTuesday!

It's time for another Chasing Midnight chapter reveal! Woohoo!

If you missed the first chapter reveal, click here to go read it now :) Otherwise, scroll down to read the complete second chapter!

If you've read Withering Rose, this scene will be familiar, but reading it from Nymia's POV adds a whole new perspective! I absolutely love how she and Omorose are pitted against each other for wanting the exact same thingtheir sisters.  

As a little reminder, Chasing Midnight goes on sale on August 26th, 2019! If you want to pre-order a copy, just click this link :) And don't forget to check out the pre-order giveaway for a free set of bookmarks if you live in the USA!

I hope you enjoy the preview!

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Before my eyes, the stranger’s rosy cheeks grow pale. She’s young with a sweet face framed by wild auburn hair, reminding me of my sister in a way that makes me squirm. Her eyes are closed and deep wrinkles cut into her brow. Her lips purse as though she's in pain. As she wilts like a flower without sunlight, I sense my own body grow stronger.
Her magic gives me life.
My life will be her death.
I open my heart to the power and pull, ripping it from her thieving soul, draining more and more away. Her body slouches, weakening, but I don’t care. It’s no less than she deserves. Her ancestor stole this magic from my sister, stole my sister’s waking life, so it’s only justice I steal it back.
Aerewyn.
I try to whisper her name, but no sound passes through my lips. It’s been so long, I’d almost given up hope, and now she’s so close. I can see her rose-red hair shining in the summer sun. I hear her laugh like warm mist on my skin. I see the woodland green of her eyes, bright with mischief. My best friend. My other half. My sister.
Aerewyn, come back to me.
The magic floods beneath my skin and I close my eyes, imagining she’s there. A single tear slips down the side of my face. The power begins to fight me, begins to draw back, but I don’t let go. I don’t want it to end. I don’t want her to leave. I need to free Aerewyn’s magic so it can find her, wake her, and bring her back to me.
I feel the stranger’s body collapse against my chest. I feel arms shake us. I hear the shout of muffled words. But I’m lost in the power and the past and the possibilities. I’ve killed humans before. What’s one more if it will bring Aerewyn back to life?
As the magic sinks beneath my skin, I’m distantly aware that something else has worked its way there too—a little piece of this stranger’s soul. Suddenly, pictures fill my mind, flashing faster than I can control, colors and lights and sounds I can’t process as they fly across my vision, stealing it away. A little girl with a princess crown. A carriage ride. An earthquake that sent her flying. A new world. A dark prison cell. An underground home. A kingdom of beasts. A lost prince. Memories, I realize. The girl’s memories. As her life drains into mine, I see it flash before my eyes. Years of loneliness and heartache. Weeks of bright love. All winding down to this moment.
The magical tie between us snaps.
In the whiplash, she stands and stumbles back. I open my eyes, trying to blink her memories away as a guttural scream pierces my confusion.
“Omorose!”
That’s her name. I know it like I know my own, as though it is my own. But I’m Nymia—Nymia the faerie vigilante, not Omorose the human scourge. I force the broken piece of her soul away, down into the dredges of my mind, not entirely sure what to do with it.
I know enough to know I need to deal with it later as I sit up and blink, utterly confused by my surroundings. When I stole the magic from the shifters and cast the spell for healing sleep, I’d been in a small room of a large castle, on a plush bed beneath heavy blankets, surrounded by stone walls as a fire crackled in the corner. But that’s not where I’m waking up.
The air is cold as ice. When I breathe, white plumes billow by my lips before fading into the dim light. I’m lying on a cot of some kind, in a tent. Through the slit in the canvas flaps, I see snow illuminated by moonlight. When I drop my feet over the side of the bed, they land on a thick wool rug, cool against the frozen ground. Omorose’s body is draped lifelessly across a man’s lap. She struggles to keep her eyes open as she stares longingly into a face I can’t quite see. The man holds his hand to her cheek, cradling her as though she might break while he caresses her rapidly paling skin.
“What did you do?” he whispers.
There’s such heartache in his tone, my own chest pinches witnessing it. Omorose tries to open her lips, but she has no strength left. The strip of her soul that somehow braided with mine cries out. Colors flash before my eyes, stealing my vision for a prolonged second. Just like that, I know what she’s done as though it’s my own life we’re discussing.
Before I cast the spell for my healing sleep, I’d heard rumors that human magic was cursed. No one knew exactly why or how. Some said the magic cursed itself as a way to gain freedom. Others believed the faerie priestesses had cast a spell cursing all human magic with their dying breaths. More still that humans had accidently cursed themselves by using a spell they had no right to know. To be honest, I didn’t care. As far as I was concerned, if they were cursed, they deserved it, just as they deserved the blades I plunged through their hearts.
But in these memories that aren’t my own, I see the truth. The magic is cursed. It's a burden Omorose has lived with for most of her life, a constant weight, a constant fear. Her magic is beautiful. Visions flash through my thoughts of flowers blooming to life, of trees growing taller, of vines creeping up walls as petals unfurl, and of dried fields returning to lush meadows. Her magic is to give nature life—such a faerie gift it almost brings a smile to my lips, until I remember it comes at the cost of my sister. Then a twisted sort of pleasure floods my veins as I experience her curse in visions of pain and agony—bits of her own life being stripped away.
The man’s question comes back to me.
What did you do?
Hardly a second has passed since he muttered the words, and yet, I’ve lived an entire life behind my closed eyes. The perverse glee I’d been feeling a moment ago fades away, replaced by stilted disbelief as full understanding of her sacrifice blossoms inside my mind.
What did she do?
“She saved my life.” The answer spills from my lips, a soft whisper, surprising me as the words roll out, steeped with undeniable truth. She used her magic to save my life, knowing the entire time that because of her curse, it would kill her. 
I glance at Omorose in time to see her lips twitch with a smile. Then her body goes limp as death takes her.
The man cradling her in his lap trembles and gently shakes her shoulders. He glances up, swiveling his head in search of help, eyes bloodshot and strained. I recognize him in an instant—those smoky gray irises, that onyx hair, the aura of wildness saturating the air around him. He’s the shifter prince I tricked, whose magic I left intact while I stole the power from his people. He was a young boy when I cast the spell for healing sleep, and something must’ve gone horribly wrong, because he’s a young man now.
Did I fumble the words?
Was I too weak to properly cast?
Was the magic simply above my training?
The spell should’ve taken months, no more than a year, yet it seems a decade could’ve easily gone by—a decade in which I slept peacefully ignorant while his people remained trapped as little more than animals, unable to shift, unable to speak, captives to their baser instincts, leaving him and his parents the only humans in a town of beasts.
Hatred spills from his gaze as he turns toward me.
To be honest, I don’t blame him.
“Do something!” he demands, voice hoarse and crazed.
Cole, I remember his mother calling him, though it seems more from a dream than a memory. I’m having trouble rectifying the change between then and now, between boy and man, between hopeful and unhinged.
“Help her!”
Help her? I think, mind still on his mother and her warm voice. Then I pause, remembering the girl draped lifelessly in his arms, and recoil. Help her?!
I flick my gaze back to Omorose, suffocating her foreign memories as they try to rise to the surface of my mind. I bring my own to the forefront instead. Memories of laughing with Aerewyn as we snuck through the forests at night. Memories of dancing with Aerewyn during the summer solstice as magic simmered and sparkled in the breeze. Memories of spying on the elders, testing our magic, and dreaming of the future ahead—dreams that were snuffed out when her magic was stolen, then mine, then the world’s, all because of humans like this girl draped pale as death before me.
“There’s nothing I can do,” I murmur coldly. Someone of her bloodline murdered my sister and stole her magic, then passed it down from heir to heir until it finally reached Omorose. As far as I’m concerned, this is justice hundreds of years in the making. “Besides,” I add to drive home the point, “I wouldn’t help a human thief even if I could.”
“You’re no better,” the prince snarls, offering a glimpse of the beast trapped beneath his skin. As his arms tremble, I watch his hands, half expecting them to change to claws. “You stole everything from me. Everything.”
“That wasn’t personal,” I snap, denial my gut instinct. Doesn’t he realize why I needed to borrow the magic from his people? Doesn’t he realize I’m trying to save beings like us? Doesn’t he see I’m trying to free the magic? To stop the humans?
No, I suddenly realize as I stare into his broken eyes. He doesn’t. All Cole knows is that I showed up at his castle in the middle of the night and stole his people’s magic. He went to bed with an eager heart, and woke to find his entire kingdom destroyed. Of course, he doesn’t understand my reasons—I never explained. The healing sleep should’ve only lasted months, but it lasted years. I shattered his childhood. I crushed his innocence. I didn’t mean to ruin his life, yet somehow I did. No matter how good my intentions were, I’m the bad guy in his story. And now here I am, awake while the woman he clearly loves is dying in his arms. She didn’t sacrifice her life to save mine. She did it to save his—to bring his people back, to return their magic and reunite them with their prince, to heal his lonely heart before her curse inevitably killed her.
I sigh as all my self-righteous anger oozes away, replaced with sympathy. Whatever brought us to this moment, I don’t want to cause him more pain. I meant what I said—it wasn't personal, none of it was. Voice softer, I clarify, “And this isn’t either. There really is nothing I can do. I’m not strong enough to break her curse, not by myself.”
“What curse?” The prince goes still. A droplet of dread oozes down my spine. “Her curse is pain.”
I laugh. I can’t help it. The sound is dark and disdainful and dripping with irony. Of course, the human lied. That’s what they always do. That’s who they are. A long time ago, a human prince lied to my sister, filling her head with beautiful dreams that could never come true. And now it’s a different world, a different age, a different game, but the players are the same. A human with beautiful lies, and a magical being who fell for them.
I want to hug him as I would’ve my sister.
I want to shake him and shout at his stupidity.
I want to cry.
Instead, I give him the truth.
“Dear prince, her curse is death.”
“No,” he whispers. His pale skin goes positively ashen as the blood drains from his cheeks and his eyes go wide. His face twists in pain as he pulls her limp body to his chest. “No!” This time, the word erupts as a roar, tearing its way free and spilling into the world ripe with anguish. “There has to be something, some way, some…” He hunches over as his voice cracks. With a gentleness I never would’ve expected from a man whose wildness permeates the air, he brushes his fingers against her cheek, staring down with such intensity I have to look away. “Please,” he begs. “Please don’t leave me.”
Despite myself, I almost want to help him.
Not her. Not the girl with Aerewyn’s stolen magic.
But this prince who’s breaking right in front of me.
I spent years hardening my heart so I’d be prepared to do whatever it took—and I mean, whatever it took—to return the magic to the world. I’ve lied. I’ve killed. I’ve turned my back on all the principles of peace I was born to believe in—though, to be fair, I sort of think those principles turned on me first. I’ve become someone I don’t think my former teachers would even recognize. But for the first time since I was a girl, a crack works its way slowly across my shell, fracturing and expanding as my chest swells with his plea.
Unfortunately, there really is nothing I can do.
I wasn’t lying.
Faerie magic is only a shadow of what it once was, and worse yet, I was never properly trained on how to use it. I was still a novice when the world fell, still learning my elemental power, still years away from understanding how to warp it into the grand incantations the priestesses used to weave. I don’t even know all the ancient words, only a limited few. Whatever or whoever wove the curses into the human magic, they were far more powerful than me. I don’t know how to break her curse, and I’m not strong enough to bring back the dead.
Which she is.
I know it the moment the magic detaches from her limp body. A subtle golden shimmer rises to the surface of her skin, a faerie glow to match the one always emanating from my own. All faeries have it—I never thought it was strange until the first time I laid eyes on the dull, lifeless skin of a human. Ours sparkles with magic, a mix of sunlight and stardust we can’t shake away. For a moment, I swear I see Aerewyn before me as the power lifts off Omorose’s body and, still glistening, billows in the air. Then she’s gone. The magic whisks away, vanishing in the blink of an eye and leaving me no chance to follow. 
I’m left alone with the prince I’ve helped destroy.
His cries fill the small space of the tent, forcing out the air until I’m suffocated by his grief. My body splits in two, divided by the worst side of myself and the best. Half of me wants to do whatever I can to help fix this situation I know I’ve inadvertently caused, to ease his pain. Half of me wants to use the opening to escape, to run away and find my sister, who at any moment will be waking to a world she doesn’t recognize, confused and terrified and probably still wrecked by the betrayal that will be fresh in her mind. I’m torn between this prince I broke, and the sister I brought back.
Yet, the choice is easy.
Aerewyn needs me.
I turn toward the tent flaps, already longing for the fresh air, but someone jerks the fabric aside before I get there. A human man with hair that glows silver in the moonlight stands in the entrance, holding it open. A human girl with determined green eyes runs in and falls to her knees beside the shifter prince. I jump back as a frigid wind strikes my chest, chilling me to the bone. The tent flaps close, but the cold remains. It’s in my skin now. A premonition. A sense of dread. The two new strangers share words with the prince, but my ears are ringing too loud to hear as I take in the object they brought with them.
It’s not from my world.
It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen.
The front flashes with numbers. A blue line moves and blinks as it zags across the black surface. Somehow, it makes noise, a beeping sound that grates at the ears. The humans settle Omorose on the floor and press two handles to her chest. When they push a red circle, lightning shoots beneath her skin—it’s the only way I can think to describe it. This strange little box makes a blast of pure energy, as though they’ve bottled up a storm from the sky. Her body jerks on the ground. A buzz hums through the silence. Then they do it again.
“Come on,” one of them says with stubborn defiance.
They can’t mean to…
It’s not possible…
She’s dead…
She—
The charge blasts her chest again, but this time, her mouth opens and she sucks in a breath, suddenly alive. The two humans cheer. The beast prince gasps. I do too, but I think it’s for a different reason.
This wasn’t magic.
This was something human. An invention of some kind, like the ones my sister used to be so enthralled by, but so much more. It terrifies me. While the four of them laugh and cry and hug on the ground, relishing in their victory, I shrink back. My entire sense of the world tilts to the side, gradually slipping away as I dart my gaze around the room. The humans know how to cheat death. What else have they learned while I slept? What new world have I been thrust into? And what about my sister?
Her magic is gone.
There’s no trace of her in the room, but what if they’ve somehow destroyed it? Do they have an invention for that too? Could they bottle her power up in a little beeping box and keep her locked away for all eternity?
I close my eyes, trying to dredge up the memories Omorose accidently flung into my mind, but my thoughts whirl too much. They won’t settle enough to let me focus. Instead, question after question rises to the surface, making it impossible to concentrate, until a voice stops me cold.
“And she’s going to help us.”
A shiver rushes down my spine as I sense multiple sets of eyes on my skin. I blink, feigning a sense of confidence I don’t feel. My arms are crossed defiantly across my chest, as though rebellion has become part of who I am—something the meek little girl I once was never would’ve foreseen. I’m not meek anymore, and no matter what power these strange humans have, I’ll find a way to defeat it. I may be surrounded on all sides, but I refuse to be backed into a corner. So I cock my hip, deepen my scowl, and arch my brow in a silent dare.
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are,” Omorose says, voice sharp with conviction. I don’t know what she wants my help with, but the demanding nature of her tone irks me enough not to care, especially when she adds, “I saved your life. You owe me.”
Owe you? I want to scream. Owe you!
She runs around with my sister’s stolen magic beneath her skin, and now has the gall to think I owe her a favor? For what—destroying everything I hold dear? My spell for healing sleep would’ve worked eventually. I didn’t need her help. I didn’t want it. It’s so typical of a human to take credit for something that was never even asked for in the first place.
I roll my eyes, unable to stop the spiteful response as it rolls from my tongue. “You just expedited the process. I was going to be fine.”
“Are you sure about that?”
I grit my teeth. “Either way, I got out of the business of helping humans a very long time ago, when their greed murdered everyone I know. One act of kindness doesn’t undo all the harm your people caused, all the lives they destroyed.”
“What about helping me?” the shifter prince whispers softly. “My kind?”
I wince and turn toward him, guilt churning in my gut. A glimmer of the girl I once was rises to the surface before I can force her and her caring heart back down.
“I’m sorry.” The apology spills out before I can stop it. I’m not sure if I’m speaking to the prince or to the girl I used to be, the one who would be ashamed to learn of the woman she’s become—cold, and bitter, and cruel to the very beings she was created to protect. But I don’t want to go down that road, so I turn my focus on Cole. “I really am. What I did to you, I did out of desperation. Believe me when I say there was no other way. I never wanted to hurt you, but I needed magic and I needed it fast.”
“You’re a priestess, aren’t you?”
The sound of that word shocks me still. I thought the people of the world had forgotten my kind, that we’d become little more than a myth lost to time. Yet if he believes I’m a full-fledged priestess, maybe that will help me. Maybe it’ll fool them into thinking I’m stronger than I really am, that my magic is more powerful than they could imagine, that I’m not someone they want to cross.
“All faeries have a little magic,” I murmur with a shrug, fully aware that their own imaginations will do more than my words ever could. I let my response hang there for a moment, so it sinks in and expands, teeming with possibilities. “But that’s not the point. Yes, I borrowed your magic. Borrowed. The spell was going to run its course and the magic would have been returned to you no matter what.” I’m not entirely sure who I’m trying to convince—Omorose, the prince, myself? The thought of owing a debt to a human makes my skin crawl. It can’t be true. I plow on, pointedly ignoring the smug look shooting my way. “I left your magic alone and I left your parents’ magic alone, so the three of you could still guide your people until that day came. I wasn’t trying to hurt you.”
I’m not evil.
I’m not a monster.
Again, I’m not sure who I’m trying to convince.
“Well, my parents are dead,” he murmurs darkly. “So your plan didn’t really work out.”
The underlining fury in his tone whispers that my spell undoubtedly had something to do with their deaths, though for the life of me, I don’t know what.
I release a breath.
Myself—I was trying to convince myself. And I failed. I’m a horrible person. I left this boy alone in the world because I couldn’t bear to die without seeing my sister one more time. And I’m doubly terrible because I’m going to do it again. I can’t stay here. I can’t help these people. Not when Aerewyn is out there somewhere, finally alive. I’ve been waiting a lifetime for this moment, and I refuse to wait any more.
“I’m sorry for that. I am,” I mutter, only half feeling the words. My mind has already slipped through the break in the tent flaps and into the crisp night, alive and wanting. I need to go. I need to get out of here. I need to see her. “But there are things I need to do, people I need to see. And I can’t waste my time helping a human, least of all a human who possessed stolen magic”—Aerewyn’s magic!—“not when other people need me.”
“Would it be a waste of your time to break a curse? To free some magic? To give it back to the people you claim you want to help?” Omorose’s voice latches onto my escaping thoughts and yanks them back into the tent. I flinch with the impact.
“What do you mean?” I turn to her slowly, eyes narrowing. “Your magic is gone. Otherwise I’d feel it.”
“My curse isn’t broken.”
“What?” Cole growls, stealing the word right out of my mouth.
The magic fled. I felt it. If it wasn’t being freed, if it was still cursed, then she must mean—
“It’s not me,” Omorose quickly tells the prince to quell his fears. “When I died, my magic transferred to an heir I didn’t know was still alive.”
All the pieces sink into place.
“My sister,” she continues, unaware of how my mind whirls with this new information. She has a blood heir, and that changes everything. “My little sister. My spirit traveled to her. I saw her. I saw the magic consume her. She inherited my curse. And I have to save her. I’ll do anything to save her.”
As I will for my sister.
Aerewyn’s magic isn’t free—it’s still trapped. It’s been passed down Omorose’s royal lineage to a new human host, a new human thief. But it won’t be for long. No matter what lie I have to tell, no matter who I have to hurt, I’ll save my sister. I’ll do whatever it takes to see her again. I refuse to come this close just to fail. Consequences be damned, I blink and meet Omorose’s pleading eyes.
The part of me that’s still a little bit good whines in protest, twisting my insides painfully tight, so I can almost hear a plea in my pounding blood, telling me not to cross this line. Omorose’s memories flood my thoughts until the face of her sister fills my mind, a toddler with chestnut hair and big hazel eyes, the picture of innocence.
I smother the image.
I smother the protest.
I smother the good girl I used to be, and I tell this human the one thing I know she desperately wants to hear. “I’ll help.”
I’ll help Aerewyn—but Omorose doesn’t need to know that. 


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Thanks for reading!

Stay tuned for the third chapter reveal, coming next week! In the meantime, I hope you check out the pre-order giveaway :) 



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