Sneak Peak: Echoes & Silence, The Dark Secret Series, A.M. Hudson
Bonfires warmed the wind that swept the plains of the open field. From as far back as the doors to the Throne Room all the way to the rocky edge before the beach, stall masters had set up games and displays, and people in the hundreds gathered around them, laughing and talking loudly. The costumes of the greater population strongly resembled clothing worn in the 1400s and I got a sudden sense, as we stepped out of the tree line in awe, that I had gone completely back in time to when Lilith reigned.
“Wow.” I laid one hand softly across my belly, the orange flicker of fire coloring my skin. “This looks amazing.”
Blade stepped up beside me and swept his hair back, leaving his hand on his head. “I feel like a little kid. I’m not sure what to do first.”
“Well, I already put dibs on pie throwing, remember.”
“Come on then.” A surefooted Ryder marched straight out of the trees and led the the way down a slight slope toward the crowd. “And, after, I wanna see you two go at it with a sword.”
The chatter and laughter enveloped us as we mingled among the people. Those that looked up at us saw two tall men in Core uniforms, leading a small well-dressed girl through the churned up grass, so they’d tap each other, whisper and then bow, moving aside to clear a path. I wished I’d worn something a little bit plainer then—maybe so I could blend in and just enjoy the evening, instead of feeling like an outsider.
It was much warmer down here, packed tightly in a crowd, with several bonfires marking the boundaries of the festival. I rubbed my arms, pushing the last of my goosebumps into my fesh.
Up ahead, I could see three large wooden boards with a small hole for willing heads, painted in blue and gold, with a banner overhead that marked our destination. I walked on my toes for a second to see over the crowd and maybe get a glance at Margret’s face all covered in cream. But, curse the gods, I was just too damn short.
“Hey, Ara,” Blade said as we joined the line.
“I was just thinking.”
“Ooh, didn’t hurt yourself, did you?” Ryder said.
Blade just ignored that with a shake of his head. “If you throw a pie at Margret’s face, it might make things worse between you two. As it is, she doesn’t exactly like you—”
“Say no more.” I put a hand up to silence him. “I’ll take Edgar on the far right.”
“I’ll take Old Margie,” Ryder said, rubbing his hands together. “That old hag needs a good creaming from a guy who knows how to handle his pie.”
Blade and I stared at him. “Ew,” I said, and took three tickets oﬀ the vendor, moving to the headboard on the end just as Nate knelt down and stuck his head through the hole.
His sweet boyish face met mine and he laughed. “Just my luck,” he said. “I’m about to get creamed by the queen.”
“Aw, I wouldn’t worry, Nate,” Blade said, standing beside me. “She’ll probably eat the pie before it gets to you.”
Everyone around me laughed loudly, in a friendly kind of way. I considered the pie, then Blade’s face, but thought better of slamming it into that smug grin. He was just bold enough to return the favor, and I really didn’t want to go back to the ball later with pie on my face. So I turned quickly and ditched it straight at Nate’s head. He gasped just before it struck, and an explosion of white cream slapped his brow and burst out over the board around it.
Blade and I chuckled lightly, while Nate’s head popped away for a second, coming back with a little less cream.
“Nice one,” he said. “But it was beginner’s luck. Let’s see if you can hit me twice.”
“I accept your challenge,” I said, cradling another pie tin while the stall master slopped a few dollops of cream on it. “You ready?”
He smiled, closing his mouth and eyes tightly.
While I pretended to aim, I snuck a glance across at Ryder as his pie impacted Margret’s face. And I couldn’t help it. All respect for her few oﬀ into outer space and I just had to laugh. Seeing that white cream splash across her snooty chops then blast from her nose like dragon’s fire completely made my
day. Blade formed a wall between her and me to help hide my laughter before she cleared her eyes and noticed.
“So you gonna throw that pie at him, or what?” Ryder said, wiping his hands on a cloth as he sauntered over.
“I…” I tried to breathe, but the laughter had complete control of my body. “I can’t.”
“Mind if I do?” he said.
Blade put his arm across Ryder’s chest to stop him. “I got this one, man.”
Ryder stepped back. “Come on then. Show us what you got.”
I sobered myself, still hiccuping a little, and stood beside Ryder, our gazes aiming cleanly down the line to Nate.
“Hey, Ryder?” I whispered.
“Wanna see how much my powers have progressed?”
I checked over my shoulder and then leaned a bit closer to him. “The telekinesis.”
He drew his gaze away from Nate to smile down at me. “Yeah.”
“Okay.” I folded my arms and looked back at Nate. “Watch this.”
Blade’s arm went straight as the pie left his grip, and a mysterious wind that no one felt swept the pie back toward him. His mouth popped as white wings of cream wrapped his head and the silver tin clanked as it his nose.
“Bah!” Ryder slapped his knee, a burst of amusement leaving his throat so loudly I jumped a little.
Not one person standing nearby could stand straight. Ryder fell to the ground with about half of the other people around us, and Blade just stood there, the tin still glued to his face, the thick white cream dripping from his jaw.
“I know this is a costume party,” he said under a mouthful of cream, slowly removing his tinny mask and scooping it all from his eyes. “But I didn’t think masks were compulsory.”
I laughed timidly, getting some distance, even though there was no way he’d know it was me.
After mopping up a bit of his face with a rag from the vendor, he looked down at Ryder, a clear look of revenge moving in under his white eyebrows. “Okay. Fess up. How’d you do that?” he said.
“What!” Ryder stopped laughing. “Me?”
“Yes. You.” Blade stepped closer.
“Dude. I was standing behind you.” He presented the scene. “I couldn’t have done it.”
Blade, realizing how ridiculous it was to blame Ryder, reached down and oﬀered his hand. “Fine. But that was one hell of a breeze then.”
Ryder took Blade’s hand and got to his feet, making the mistake then of winking at me. And Blade caught on instantly, realization filling his face with surprise first and then malice. He let go, dropping Ryder back on his butt, his steely gaze fixing on me.
“Blade.” I put both hands up, backing away. “You don’t wanna make a scene.”
He took a step in my direction, but stopped. “You’re right.”
I tensed for another second, then relaxed completely with confusion. “I am?”
“Yes.” He grabbed another rag and wiped his face again. “I’ll get my revenge in the fencing match.”
My gaze absently moved across to the slashing and clanking of swords in the arena.
“Come on then.” He oﬀered the way. “Let’s see how well you do when you fight like a man.”
“Like a man?” I raised a brow at him.
“Yeah.” He leaned down, his head almost against mine, and whispered, “When you fight without using your ‘special’ gifts.”
I checked around to see if anyone heard that. They didn’t. “Fine. No cheating allowed then. But I’ll still win.”
“Don’t be so sure about that, queeny,” he said. “You’d be surprised how significantly the need for
revenge tips a fight in one’s favor.”
A. M. Hudson loves her life in Australia and, despite wishing it would snow at Christmas, couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.
She fell in love with her husband at just sixteen, and since then, has added three boys to the mix.
A. M. prides herself on writing the shocking, the depthy and the highly-emotional subjects other writers steer away from. She addresses the uncomfortable with conviction and enjoys taking stories down dark paths.
Some of her heroes are Stephen King, Walt Disney, Hamish and Andy, Muse and 30 Seconds to Mars, and with influences like these, one can only imagine what stories will unfold.
When she’s not writing, A. M. reads books, watches movies and chats with fans on Facebook.
©AM Hudson 2014 Echoes & Silence Sample