Now that I'm into the edits on Ghost in the Mythe, Book 3 of the Guardians of the Pattern series, it's time to share a snippet. This is unedited, subject to change, blah blah blah...
Miko clenched his hands into fists. He shouldn’t have come here, should just close his eyes and not look. But he couldn’t look away. Tarrin’s sword dance was the most beautiful thing Miko had ever seen, and even if watching him did make Miko feel like his blood was on fire, not watching would be worse.
Tarrin continued to move through his routine, faster now, muscles stretching and flexing as he worked, a thin sheen of sweat glistening on that golden skin. Miko licked his lips and wondered what it would feel like to lick the sweat from Tarrin’s skin. Heat pooled low in his belly for a moment until he remembered where he was and what he was doing. His chest tightened painfully, and he clapped a hand over his mouth.
How could he even think something like that?
That was sex he was thinking about. DeMira had made him do things like that, and even the seemingly harmless things that didn’t hurt had always led to pain. Sex, in Miko’s experience, always ended up hurting, even if it started out feeling good.
He scooted deeper under the pile of mats on belly and elbows, folded his arms in front of him, and buried his head, determined that he wasn’t going to watch anymore.
It was only a few moments before he lifted his head to peek again, unable to keep his eyes off of Tarrin.
Except Tarrin wasn’t moving anymore. He was standing in the center of the gym, sword lowered, eyes narrowed as they scanned the pile of mats in front of him.
Miko worried his lower lip between his teeth. Had he let his mythe-shadow slip loose when he was imagining the taste of Tarrin’s skin?
Tarrin set the sword down on the floor and strode across the gym, straight toward Miko. He stopped right in front of Miko’s hiding place and peered in. “I know you’re in there, Miko. You can come out. I don’t mind you watching me.”
Miko froze. His face felt hot, and he could feel the shakes starting. He scooted forward and slipped out. Tarrin took his hand and helped him to his feet, then looked down at him, a crooked grin on his face.
“Was there something you wanted, or do you just like watching me?” Tarrin asked in a voice that sounded soft and easy, not sharp or biting.
Miko thought fast while he loosed his mythe-shadow and sensed, with relief, that there wasn’t any anger spiking through Tarrin. Amusement, perhaps, though Miko wasn’t sure what was funny. And something else — something warm and glowing that Miko couldn’t quite read.
<Will you teach me?> Miko asked, hoping to shift Tarrin’s attention away from the fact that he’d been spying on him.
Tarrin raised an eyebrow. “Teach you?”
<How to move like you do. How to fight with a sword.>
“Why do you want to learn to fight?”
Miko set his jaw and hoped his face wasn’t as red as it felt like it was. <So nobody can hurt me.>
Tarrin nodded, his expression grave, belying the prickles of excitement Miko could feel lancing through his mythe-shadow. “I can teach you how to fight, but I don’t think a sword is the best weapon for you. They’re heavy, and you’d have to be a bit stronger and taller to use one effectively. A sword isn’t the sort of weapon you’d be allowed to carry with you all the time, either, not in the Federation. You’re more suited to learning to fight with a knife or a dagger, and those can be concealed quite easily.”
<So you’ll teach me?>
“I’ll teach you. Shall we begin now?”
Miko nodded slowly. Anything to keep Tarrin’s mind off of why he’d been watching him.
“Then the first thing we should do is get your hair out of the way. May I braid it for you?”
Miko blinked and nodded again. Tarrin moved behind him and began running his fingers through Miko’s hair. Usually such close contact with another person was uncomfortable for Miko, often to the point of pain. All he felt now was the intoxicating song of Tarrin’s mythe-shadow as it mingled with his own.
There was a gentle, calm feeling about Tarrin as he stroked Miko’s hair, massaging his scalp with strong fingers. It felt good, and Miko closed his eyes and leaned into the touch.
The massage didn’t continue nearly long enough before Tarrin swiftly divided Miko’s hair into sections and began weaving them together. Miko had to fight the impulse to turn his head and watch what Tarrin was doing.
When Tarrin was satisfied that Miko’s hair was out of the way, he moved back to the center of the gym and pointed to the spot where he’d been standing. “Come, then.”
While Miko made his way across the gym floor, Tarrin bent to pick up his sword and carried it to the wall where he’d left his clothes and the sheath. When he returned, he stood before Miko and looked him up and down, studying him with a faint frown. Miko looked down at himself. He wasn’t wearing anything different—a pair of white jeans, a T-shirt, and a pair of battered sneakers that were too comfortable to throw away, even though Cameron kept hinting that he should order new ones.
“Tomorrow, wear something looser,” Tarrin said. “Sweats or shorts. Something you can move around in easily. Today, I’m just going to show you some basic positions. We’ll do some warm-ups first. For now, try to mirror me.”
Miko watched Tarrin move and tried to copy his movements. It quickly became apparent to him that what looked as easy as breathing when Tarrin did it was not so easy at all. Miko hadn’t ever done much in the way of exercise. He spent most of his time hiding in the net, so he was sweating and panting and after only a few stretches.
Tarrin didn’t say anything about how out of shape he was. He set his feet a little bit apart, one forward a little, one back, and bent his knees slightly, saying, “This is a good, loose stance—knees bent a little, with your weight resting on the balls of your feet. Feel how stable you are.”
Miko studied Tarrin’s stance and attempted to copy it.
Tarrin shook his head. “You need to distribute your weight more evenly, otherwise you’re off-balance, and it will be too easy for your opponent to knock you over.” He moved toward Miko and set his hands on Miko’s hips, shifting him a little.
The moment Tarrin put his hands on him, something wild and wanting flared through Miko, and something in Tarrin’s mythe-shadow answered. Miko’s groin felt hot and tight, and his breath quickened. He needed... needed...
He stared up at Tarrin, and saw heat and hunger flaring in the blazing violet eyes that locked onto his own. Flames twisted through Tarrin’s mythe-shadow and spilled over into Miko’s, licking along his limbs and making him want so badly he could hardly stand it.
Tarrin’s hands tightened, gripping his hips as he drew Miko closer. “Miko...” he whispered.
Miko could only stare at him in horror. The burning-needing-wanting that twisted through Tarrin’s mythe-shadow was far too familiar. It was the same thing DeMira and his men had felt when they looked at him, and it had always led to pain and humiliation.
But it was Miko’s own feelings that frightened him the most. Because there was a part of him, deep inside, that wanted Tarrin’s hands on him, wanted nothing between them but skin.
His body burned with the same feelings he’d had when DeMira had drugged him, except this time there were no drugs—everything he was feeling was coming from inside himself. His own body was betraying him, and the only way Miko knew to stop it was to get away from the thing that was making him feel so crazy with want.
With a cry that made no sound, but cut through the mythe in a keening wail of anguish, Miko wrenched himself from Tarrin’s grip and fled. He heard Tarrin’s bare feet slapping against the floor, heard him call, “Miko! Wait!”
But he couldn’t wait. He couldn’t bear to be near Tarrin for one more moment. The things his body wanted right now could only lead to pain. The last thing he wanted was to watch the colors of pain and suffering infusing Tarrin’s beautiful mythe-shadow. He couldn’t stand the thought of hurting Tarrin, and he couldn’t understand how people could possibly want to do those things to each other.