Excerpt - Part 1

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"They have given you over to my child," are the first words Lydia can parse out of the throbbing ache between her ears, the dull thud behind her eyes. "I believe it is to teach care for lesser creatures. To instill kindness.Tch."


There is a huffing scoff of disbelief somewhere off to the left of her, and Lydia turns her head to follow the sound, but finds her eyes won't open. All remains wrapped in nauseating darkness.


She tries to remember where she is, how she got here, but all that will come is her name, and the vague sense that this is not her home. The bed, even the smell of the air is wrong.


The woman (for she sounds like a woman; voice age-worn and woven with threadbare compassion) mops at Lydia's brow with a tepid cloth. Perhaps once it had been cool, and that is what had woken her: the short, sharp shock of cold water on skin. But the fever that Lydia can feel crawling over her flesh has warmed the cloth. The water is uncomfortable. Her whole self feels uncomfortable, and itchy, and clammy.


"If it will work, I do not know. But I can hope. I do hope. My child is filled with such caprice. It burdens a mother's heart. Ah, but why my husband thinks... well, many and mysterious are the ways of the King." The woman scoffs again.

"Tch."


Lydia pries her dry lips apart and tries to un-stick her tongue from the tacky roof of her mouth in answer. She's not successful. And even if she were, she has no idea what to say in response. Lydia closes her eyes again instead.


That is the first and last time she ever hears the Queen's voice.


#


Lydia wakes wondering what kind of crazy dreams she's been having, what she'd eaten to cause them, and if she'd gone to bed drunk. She always has crazy nightmares when she goes to bed drunk.


She feels like seven kinds of garbage, her mouth tastes of stale fuzz, her joints feel swollen and achy, her skin hot. She feels like the crap left at the bottom of a pan when you lift the bacon.


She wants to get out of bed, go to the washroom, stare blearily at her reflection and try to figure out where she was last night. But she can't seem to move.


 It isn't restraint; it's weighted lethargy. She feels like she literally doesn't have the energy to move her arms, to get her feet under her, to do more than roll her head side to side on the pillow and crack open her eyes. The air is more than cold, it's freezing, and it stings the sweat that's making her face sticky, her scalp itch with grime.


It takes a few tries, but when she does finally manage to pry her eyes open, the cold makes them water. Beneath the billowed duvet, she's warm as toast, but her face is tight with the chill. She grunts with the effort of trying to tuck her head under the covers, the wriggling an exertion that is agonizing in her extreme weariness.


Hold on.


Lydia doesn't own a billowy duvet. There's no duvet in her apartment, not in her room at her parents' house. Not even in the guest rooms of any of her friends' houses and condos, that she can recall. Lydia is allergic to feathers, there's no way she should be even remotely comfortable, let alone breathing without sneezing, if this is a real duvet.


The urge to jerk upright in shock is great, but the dark lethargy refuses to give her limbs any of the necessary strength. She crashes back into sleep still wishing she could totter to the washroom and vomit. Only now fear colors her every breath, tries to keep her eyes open, wriggles and fights against the lethargy. It cannot win.


Lydia is sucked down.


*

"Lips Like Ice" is now available for all eBook formats and in paperback from Circlet Press.

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