I’m so happy I can share the opening section of my new novella, Ivory! It was just released by Samhain and comes from the beginning of the first chapter.
Copyright © 2013 Lola Dodge
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
Eight hours out of Auckland, the plane’s temperature controls fizzled. Instant passenger meltdown followed and call buttons lit the aisles like stars on the tundra.
In the oppressive heat and recycled air, my coworkers wilted. Red-cheeked and dripping sweat, they fetched non-stop drinks for the passengers, filling their plastic cups with sorry, melted ice cubes.
I handed my passenger a frosty cold can of Heineken. “Anything else, sir?”
“No. Thanks.” The man pressed the iced-over can to his neck, and his head lolled back in bliss.
Rewa scowled at me from the opposite side of the drink cart. Her hair lay plastered to her face, and she muttered about switching sides on the next run. Trading positions wouldn’t make her cans any colder.
I wouldn’t use my powers on a routine flight, but chilled drinks were harmless, and I was enjoying myself. When I pressed my hand to my cheek, it felt almost lukewarm. The cold lived in my family’s blood, and such warmth was a rare treat.
We docked the drink cart in the galley, and I left Rewa to commiserate with the others. When I checked my reflection, I didn’t blame them for the dirty looks. My tight bun hadn’t shifted all flight, and my fair skin was the same smooth porcelain as always.Should I mist myself to hide the difference?
No. If the droplets froze against my forehead, I’d hardly blend with the regular humans and no one who noticed my lack of sweat would realize what they were really seeing.
“Val?” I snapped my mirror shut as one of the first-class attendants approached, looking as harassed as the ladies in coach. “Can you pop up to first? Janna might have heat stroke.”
“Of course.” First-class passengers were fussy, and on this flight, I was the best equipped to handle their complaints.
For what they paid, I’d be fussy too.
The first-class cabin was tucked upstairs, away from the gaze of the commoners. It wasn’t as crowded as coach, but the heat still rose. A few more degrees and I might have broken a sweat.
Despite the plush lounge chairs and carcasses of tiny alcohol bottles—or maybe because of the alcohol bottles—misery hung in the heat-choked air. The worst off was the screaming infant in the first row. The mother’s hugging and rocking were all in good faith but weren’t helping matters, and her designer makeup looked like a melted mask.
Babies could be forgiven in most situations, but with no air-conditioning, the other passengers might mutiny.
“May I, ma’am?” I opened my arms to the child.
She probably wasn’t in the habit of handing her child to strangers, but she took a long look at me. The wheels turned as she noted my cool skin and untouched complexion. Maybe she caught the chill off my hands. She handed the baby girl over.
“What’s her name?” I patted the baby’s downy head, taking care not to cool too fast.
The woman pulled a cleansing cloth from her Birkin bag. “Madeline.” She wiped down her face and shuddered when she checked her mirror.
I rocked Madeline, and as her temperature fell, her cries silenced. “That’s a good girl.” By the time I handed her back, she was drooling with sleep.
“Whatever they’re paying you, I’ll double it if you ever want to nanny.” The woman shifted the girl into the crook of her arm.
I smiled. Money was a poor substitute for traveling the world, and I’d plenty left to see. But I was glad to have helped the baby. “Can I get you anything?”
“All set.” She flicked off her light.
Quieting the child had leveled down the tension, but it was far too hot for real comfort. Janna wasn’t the only one dealing with heat stroke. The passengers looked a dangerous combination of limp and furious.
I knew I shouldn’t use my ice so obviously, but this was past the point that I could look away. As I strode down the aisle, I released the cold inside me.
It bled away from me like mist, invisible to human eyes, though it would’ve showed on a thermal camera. I doubted any of the passengers had one of those in their seat.
One man in disheveled Armani shot me a hard look, but I returned a pleasant smile, and he turned around. As long as no one snapped, I could handle a sour glance or two.
In fractions of degrees, the cabin cooled. Tucked in the back corner, I found a man asleep under his blanket. Curled in on himself, he couldn’t hide his massive height, and his skin was so dark it approached black.
He must have been sweltering.
“Sir?” It wasn’t good policy to wake customers, but I couldn’t let him sweat himself to death.
His eyes opened, instantly alert and shocking yellow. He hadn’t been sleeping, and I couldn’t imagine how he’d been comfortable.
Instinctively, I took a step back from him. “Sorry to disturb you. I wasn’t sure if you’d suffocated.”
“I like the heat.” The man smiled slow and lazy, his white teeth vivid against his dark skin. As he cast the blanket aside and unfolded, my old hunting instincts tensed. I’d known he was large, but I hadn’t expected his frame to be so muscular.
Taller than me. That was rare.
He radiated a predator’s energy that needled at too many parts of me. His coloring—yellow against black—and the carved shape of his body were exquisite.
His eyes felt like hands as they worked their way up to my nametag. “Valdís. Where’s that from?”
“Scandinavia.” I’d been named for the lady of the dead, which most found morbid but was the highest compliment from my people. Another reason I didn’t talk about such things. “Can I get you anything, sir?”
Just standing next to him, the hairs at the back of my neck lifted. Some part was an unavoidable flush of attraction. With that body and those eyes, I couldn’t help myself.
Primal response. This man was a hunter, and even relaxed into the leather seat, he represented such a physical threat that my suppressed powers stirred. If I stayed long enough, I’d be forced to respond. That would mean shattering my carefully maintained cool and risking the life I’d carved for myself. No man was worth that. No matter how much man he was.
And he was.
“Hmm.” He leaned in, forcing me to back away from his palpable body heat. “Just wondering how a stone-cold goddess like you ended up a stewardess.” He grinned a cat’s grin, pleased he’d figured me out, if that was what he’d done.
I went colder than usual but kept my mask. “Sorry, sir. I have to see to the other passengers.”
As I retreated to the galley, I could practically feel his gaze on my back. I pulled the curtain closed like I was draping myself in armor.
Retreat didn’t suit me. I fisted my hand and the hard ice in my blood seeped into my palm. I ached to draw it out into a spear and run across the frigid wastes like I had as a girl. No fear. No knowledge of anything else. I never would’ve let his challenge go unmatched. Things were different now.