Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Blog Hop!!!

So today the lovely Erica Chapman is hopping by Love YA! 
Erica is a YA writer represented by Judith Engracia at Liza Dawson Associates. She's also a literary agent intern for Louise Fury of L. Perkins Agency.
And she has a great post for us today. 
Thanks, Erica,  for being here with us!!


Happy Halloween!!

I’m so excited to be here!! I have to thank Mónica for hosting me on her blog today. I just love Mónica!

The YA Misfits are traveling around today to different blogs talking about the same topic.


First off, how hard is it to spell that right on the first try? Apparently, pretty hard… at least for me.

For me, the villains I like most are the ones that have a vulnerable side. If they have a sad back-story, you almost feel for them. Even the evil ones. It’s that dichotomy that compels me to read on, to tell people about the story. I truly believe you can’t have a good story without a good villain. You can have the best protagonist in the world, but if that character doesn’t have anyone to butt his/her head against, it’s going to be boring.

Why is it so hard to pull off a good villain?

Well, I believe a lot of writers think the villain has to be pure evil. Some writers spend all their time perfecting their main character but not their villain. This is such a mistake. Without that conflict, the story goes nowhere. Who is the MC going to fight to win? Who is the MC going to have that big confrontation with? There are many sides to a villain and it needs to be treated that way. Even the villain believes they’re justified to do what they do. Most of them get others to join them even, so there must be more to him/her than what is on the page.

Villains don’t have to be human either. It can be an idea or something intangible. In fact, some of the intangible villains: cancer, death etc. can be the most emotional. Villains can also be a house or a town, a doll * shudders * Sometimes, there doesn’t need to be a heart beating to make me completely freaked out. Dolls scare the *&^% out of me.

Some of my favorite literary villains are ones that have a convincing dichotomy. It’s not that I like them or root for them, but I understand them, understand their motives. They have vulnerability, they have a past I can relate to, but they also kill and torture people. It’s a hard balance to pull off but when it’s done right, it’s literary gold.

Voldemort in the HARRY POTTER series is a great villain. J.K. Rowling did something brilliant. She made him have a similar past as Harry. The fact that he and Harry both had a muggle parent, made us see Voldemort in a different way, a more sympathetic way. He’s not a full-blooded wizard, which is what he always wanted. He felt inadequate from the start and denied that part of him. I mean, he was still evil, but there’s something more to him. Something we can relate to.

I also like when the “bad guy” is really not the bad guy--the whole bait-and-switch thing. Such a beautiful thing. Snape is a perfect example of this. He appears to be evil at the end of book 5 but in the last book, we’re crying our eyes out because of all the sacrifices he made, and we realize he’s really been good the whole time. Such a pivotal moment.

Hannibal Lecter in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS by Thomas Harris is one of the best villains. I mean, he eats people and we’re sort of intrigued by him. That scene when he’s asking Clarice about the lambs. Brilliant and so well done. Can we even call him a villain since he helps Clarice? It’s those sorts of questions that make us wonder about his motives.

Jack in THE SHINING by Stephen King. Oh man, this guy scared the crud out of me. He was just a regular guy who lost it. I had to sleep with the lights on for a while after reading that one. The whole idea of losing it so bad you want to kill your family? And the hotel was a villain too, with all its secrets and crazy stuff behind the doors and the history of the place. Really, it’s the hotel that pushes ol’ Jack along with his insanity. Is there a better line than “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.”? No way.

Villains can just be evil and still work. It’s been done. BUT you need to have something else in the story if you’re going to have a pure evil villain. A great example is Pennywise in Stephen King’s IT. We never really got exactly what IT was, right? It’s lights and it changed forms. IT works as a villain on pure mystery and by being an unknown entity AND by being scary as hell. IT’s one of those intangible villains, so it’s hard to relate to it. But that’s okay, ‘cause not all villains should be sympathetic. Some just need to scare the &^%$ out of you and be done. They’re not my favorite, but there’s definitely a place for them.

So that’s my take on villains. I’m sure I can come up with others, but those are what popped in my head.

Who’s your favorite villain? What do you like to see in them?

Thank you again, Mónica!! I had so much fun over here. Be sure to check out the other misfits’ posts! The list is on our website .

Have a SPOOKTACULAR HALLOWEEN!! Mua ha ha ha ha

<3 Erica

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why it’s Important to Click with an Agent When Offered Representation

I’m lucky to have many writer friends in the blogosphere, and I chat with them often. Around twenty of them are agented, and more than a few don’t click with their agents. Fortunately, that’s not my case because I *adore* my agent (and, um, I hope she adores me too). Anyway. I’ve been hearing a lot of troubled writers and it makes me sad. :(
So, if you don’t have an agent yet, you might like to hear these thoughts—they may help you decide between offers so that you can land an agent that is great for YOU.

As a big FYI, this isn’t a post about some agents being bad at what they do or something like that!! It is just about clicking together.

For instance, there’s the type of agent who is all like, “I want to handle everything by myself; you just sit back and worry about writing.” So, if you’re a nervous writer who’d like to take a break from the submission process and don’t want so many updates, that’s great. That agent is for you. However, if you like to be on the ball, you probably won’t feel so great with an agent like that.

Then there are the huge agents, who have tons of experience, are close friends with many editors and have coffee with them often, and they have so many six-figure deals on Publishers Marketplace that your eyes go like this: 

If you like the wow factor, and you want all that experience from them no matter what, then great. But probably those big agents have a big list of clients too, which means that they won’t have so much time for a new one. And they probably won’t become your BFFs, either.

There are also the agents who are just starting and have all that oomph and energy for new writers, but maybe don’t have too much experience and don’t elbow with editors that often. But they love you, because you’re one of the first authors they’ve ever offered representation to. You are their babies. If you want to be cuddled and self-assured, then that might be a great agent for you. Most likely, they will read your new projects so fast and they will gush about them, apart from giving you notes to make it shine. But then again, they are just getting started, and what if suddenly they decide that agenting is not their thing?

Now let’s talk about their personalities. Some might be shy and sweet. Some might be competitive and aggressive. Some might be very friendly and chatty and some might not. And you have to know what types of personalities you’re okay with. Because let’s not forget: agents are people too!

And then there’s a huge thing that might make an agent/client relationship crack. Tastes. What if the book you wrote that landed you some offers of rep. has a mochachino flavor… but now you’re thinking about writing a book in that same genre, but that has a pistachio flavor? Mochachino and pistachio are very different, right? What if the agent you’re excited about gags when he even hears the word pistachio? So this is why it’s important to know where you want to go as a writer after you’re done with your current book. It’s good to chat about the agent’s tastes and what type of book in the genre they represent they wouldn’t do. And sadly, this mochachino/pistachio problem happens more often than not. And we don’t hear about it openly because no one wants to post their troubled stories on the web.

So. If you’re querying, I say take a long while to research. Follow agents on twitter, feel their personalities. Chat with them. Read their blogs, if they have them. Talk with persons who have met them. Because these agents might be INCREDIBLY GREAT… but not incredibly great for YOU.

I hate to see writers who are going through a rough time, even being “released” by their agents, and that is why I really wanted to write something like this to maybe help someone in their process.
Is there anything you would like to add?


PS: I really do adore my agent. And if this post wasn’t as long as it is now, I’d probably write a few paragraphs gushing about her. ;) What can I say, I’m a really lucky gal!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Kiss / Kiss Off Contest -- WINNER!!!

We just heard from our special judge, Lizzie Friend. Without further ado... 
(In Lizzie's words!)

Alright guys, I'm ready to make my decision!
This was incredibly tough. Each of the entries had its
strengths and weaknesses, and I debated back and forth so much it's a
little embarrassing. There may have been pros/cons lists involved, and
I changed my mind at least 3 times. In the end, I went with the entry
that worked best as a standalone scene, the one that I felt best
fulfilled the kiss/kiss-off requirements, and the one that left me
wanting to know more about the characters and find out what was going
to happen next.

First, the top two finalists...

Kiss-off 1:
I was intrigued by the world KO 1 created, and I can see how this
scene could be part of a really great MS. There were some great lines
in here, and I really like the dynamic the writer set up between
Brielle and Prator. Simply put, the scene was fun and I enjoyed
reading it. A strong, female MC who's also some sort of prize-fighting
gladiator has a place on my bookshelf anytime. I also felt, though,

that the strength of the scene wasn't really in the kiss-off (it was
missing that extra twist of the knife I wanted), and there were a few
more technical errors than I'd like to see in a winning entry.

Kissy 1:
For this scene, the strengths/weaknesses of KO1 were basically
reversed: While I thought it was great as a standalone scene, I'm not
entirely confident the dual perspectives can hold up over an entire
MS. That said, I felt like this perfectly embodied the criteria
(KISSY!) and provided just enough extra story to make me want to know
more. It also did a great job invoking that feeling of all-consuming
first lust, and I liked the final twist. I'm guessing this might be
controversial, but I also liked the last line in Auri's section. It
had a really nice rhythm to it, and it stuck with me.

So! My pick is....


(Awkward screeching as she stops to adjust the microphone)

Kissy 1! *Cue the confetti*
On a last note, honorable mention to Kiss-off 2 and Kissy 2.

Kiss-off 2: I thought the author did a great job building tension, and I could feel myself really wanting Dec to breathe.

Kissy 2: There was a little too much lojacking (my hand did this, her hand did that) for me, and the non-kissy details were a bit confusing without the rest of the MS to back them up, but I could definitely feel the passion.

Like I said, you guys made this really hard. Thanks for letting me help out!
Kissy #1: Bria will contact you with instructions on how to go about contacting Lauren!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kiss / Kiss Off Contest -- WHO WINS??


As you can see from the comments, there's been some consideration about an issue with the voting. While we were super excited at the volume of votes, it became clear that there were some unfair practices going on that raised several questions.
Ultimately, the Kiss/Kiss Off Contest is about finding the best scene so we've thought of a way to keep this fair: we've called in reinforcements. When you are signed with Lauren MacLeod, you don't just have an awesome agent--you're inducted into the MacLeod Clan. We'll announce which members will be determining the winner soon.
Since we've had to call in the Clan to decide, winners will now be posted on Friday morning.

Kissy, kissy,
Bria and Valerie

Agency sisters Bria Quinlan and Valerie Cole agree that there are two favorite types of scenes—the ones where the characters kiss and then the ones where they get the kiss off! So, they had a little KISS / KISS-OFF throw down and YOU were the judge!

Valerie was on the hunt to find the best KISS OFF scenes on her blog, and Bria hosted the best KISSING scenes on hers. They've narrowed it down to a final four and are ready to go head-to-head to determine who has the BEST SCENE.

The prize for the last one standing is either a 20-page manuscript request OR a 20 minute phone call to answer all your publishing questions from our awesome agent, Lauren MacLeod of the Strothman Agency!

Now they’ve sucked in Agency Sister Monica to host the Big Finale!

Who gets that awesome opportunity? YOU decide. Please read the four scenes below and vote for the best one at the end of this post!  (Voting is open until Wednesday morning--10/3/12.)


Title: Beyond Chains and Stars
Genre: YA Sci-fi

Finally he says, his voice like silk, "Have you given any more thought to my proposition?" I shake my head and his eyebrows rise. "You should consider it, Brielle."
"Oh, I have. I'm not interested. I'm here to train the draken, and I will because I have no choice. But I do have a choice in this and I won't warm your bed. Find another slave to screw." I say, and though my voice is calm, inside I'm shaking. Hoping that everyone I care about will survive my defiance and overly aware that today, Kristoff will fight on the sands.
Prator is very still and quiet for a long moment—long enough that I begin to worry, begin to regret my harsh refusal, and then he nods. "Come with me," he says brusquely. He leads me to a lift, and I step in behind him. I'm tense, standing as far as possible from him, but as we glide upward, and he makes no move toward me, I relax by slow degrees. A few seconds before the lift stops, he looks at me. "Brace yourself."
The door opens and the noise of the crowd engulfs me. And the emotions. It's euphoric, mass hysteria that feeds on itself, each nudge of excitement building on the last. It hits me like a drug, and I gasp.
 Under the arena it is filtered, all of the anger and hysteria without any of the endorphins--but here nothing buffers me from it and for a moment--in the heartbeat it takes me to slam my mental walls in place--I don't care. I don't want anything to buffer it. Prator's hand is on my arm as I shudder free of the emotion, pulling me along and for the first time, I am grateful. I can't look weak in front of these people who will scream for my blood in only a few hours. And they are watching, curious eyes drawn by my jakta colors and Prator's familiar face.
"Can you handle this, on the sands?" he asks, voice pitched low. I nod, paling. If I had felt this on the sands, when facing a phlanax--I shudder, shaking the thought. My death is too easy to contemplate.
"Come, Brielle. Patrons wish to see our new spectacle."
I grit my teeth and follow him. The room we enter is crowded with people, Pente mixed with Others, all seeming to swirl around Ja Argot. His eyes dart to us as the door opens, and he smiles. "Ladies, Gentlemen, I am so pleased to introduce you to our new spectacle."
Prator gives me a light push and I'm in their midst, the curious and hungry gazes, the high pitched voices and wandering hands glancing off me as Argot draws me to his side. He positions me at his shoulder, just behind him. A subservient position, even as he uses it to draw attention to me.
A Myeteran glides closer to eye me. "What will she do? She's a bit small to face the arena." he says doubtfully.
There is a surge of relief from Prator as Henri smiles, "Would you like to wager on her?"
I'm dismissed in the sudden interest of betting, ignored except for a few assessing glances as one of the arena’s robots records the odds.
"If I lose, I'll beggar the jakta." I whisper, listening to them.
Prator laughs, and turns me away. "Then be sure not to lose, Eleyi."
The sands are ready, and the furor begins to die as attention is called back to the arena. I stare at a distant spot on the sand--the robots missed a splotch of blood when they readied the arena this time.
"Watch, Brielle," Prator says, and I glance at him, startled. He nods at the sands and I look down.
My blood runs cold. Two glads, both clad in the silver and black of the Argot jakta. Kristoff is easily recognized, with his traditional Pente locks and nervous swagger.
Jemes stands across from him, his familiar face pale. I feel my gorge rising and I choke it down, clutching the wall to keep from falling. Prator is standing too close to me, and I can feel his psyche spiking, lust radiating off of him in unrelenting waves.
"Who would you rather live, Brielle? Both are there because of your refusal." He says it so casually, like he has not pronounced a death sentence on both my lover and mentor.
Who would I see live? How can I make such a decision?
I lick my lips, and the bell rings. Jemes’ trident flashes in the sun, and Kristoff steps away, drawing his attack. Without hesitation, he follows. Blessed tears blur my vision as they fight. A shrill whistle, and spray of blood--first blood goes to Kristoff. He'll win. There is no doubt, not watching how Jemes overextends himself, how he commits to an attack even when Kristoff would give him a chance to rest.
One of them will die, and I'm not ready for another loss. I shudder as a sharp breath goes through the patrons, and Prator's interest intensifies on me. The fight drags on for an eternity, as the patrons begin to exchange bets, laughing and gasping, watching the men dying in the arena. I turn away and Prator catches me, forces my gaze back to the sands. "Watch," he hisses. "This is your doing, and you will watch."
Guilt rises in me, hot and choking and I watch. Kristoff is bleeding now--Jemes is staggering from a blow to his leg that is gushing blood. Kristoff glances up, and something changes in his eyes. My mentor moves, faster than I can watch, his ax swinging up and around and the crowd’s screams drown out my own as Jemes collapses, his head spinning with a spray of hot blood. I stumble, falling, and Prator's arm catches me.


Genre: YA Sci-fi

I am a black hole, everything crashing into me and dying at my hands. I destroy everything that touches me.
“Wake up, Dec.” I can’t stop my body from shaking, terror taking over. My head is dizzy, black spots crowding my vision, obscuring the precious and terrible sight of Declan.
I crumple onto his motionless chest. My sobs soak into his clothes. My stomach turns, disbelief churning it into a tight ball. I want to scream at Dec and hold him close forever. He has to stay with me.
I grip his jumpsuit, until my fingers ache and my knuckles turn white. I press my face against his chest, crying and begging for his heart to beat beneath my cheek. To feel even the faintest pulse of life. He can’t leave me. He doesn’t even know what he means to me. I never told him I loved him. I never told myself.
He has to wake up. He has to breathe. I have to tell him.
He isn’t breathing. Declan isn’t breathing.
I can’t lose him.
But I am.

My heart is frozen like Declan’s body.  I can’t stop the tears coursing down my face and falling on him. Each breath is a shudder that racks my whole being. Dread shivers down my spine, burrowing deep in my blood and bones.
I can’t lose him. I won’t.
My fingers twitch as I unzip his jumpsuit, exposing his chest. My hands tremble as I place them over his sternum. Learning CPR to work with the elders and actually doing it on my best friend are two completely different experiences. This one is paralyzing, full of fear and a burden I can’t bear. What if I fail? I swallow the knot of terror that’s lodged in my throat.
I can’t think about that.
I take a deep breath and push down. Hard. Hard enough that my knuckles protest and Declan’s bones and cartilage crack under the pressure. “Come on, Dec!” Screams mix with my sobs as I push. “Wake up! Please!”
One. Two Three. Four. Five. I drive my hand into his chest. Over and over and over again. Unrelenting in the repetition. His breath wheezes out through his lips each time I force more pressure on his sternum.
Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. The numbers pile up in my head, keeping me sane, driving me crazy. There’s no breath left in him. Nothing but emptiness and a terrible stillness.
Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen. Bones and cartilage crack and break under my palms, the sound caught in my ears. My stomach revolts against each crunch and snap.
Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. He’s too still. Silent in every way that the real Declan isn’t. I push, harder and harder, trying to bring him back.
 Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty. Twenty-one. His body jerks with each thrust and falls with a sickening thud. Again and again.
Twenty-two. Twenty-three. Twenty-four. Twenty-five. Tears blur my sight until I can’t see him anymore.
Twenty-six. Twenty-seven. Twenty-eight. Twenty-nine. I bit my lip, teeth sinking into tender flesh.
Thirty. Nothing. He doesn’t move. He doesn’t breathe.
I can’t stop the shout that bursts out of me, inhumane, full of every fear and nightmare I’ve ever had. He won’t die. He can’t.
I peel my hands off his chest, my knuckles and fingers aching. I ignore the pain and slide closer to his head. My hand slips through his sweaty hair, the other pressing against his chin, as I tilt Declan’s head back. I pinch his nose closed and part his mouth, covering it with mine.
This is not how I imagined my lips touching his for the first time. There is no life, no passion, in this—only need. The need to get air into his lungs. To keep any from escaping. To save him.
Dried blood from his nose coats his top lip, filling my mouth with the scent and taste of metal. I ignore it and breathe for him. Two steady puffs. His ribs rise and fall with each lungful of air I give him.
Dec’s mouth hangs open when I let go. He doesn’t move. I start the process all over again, praying for him to wake up. Push. Count. Breathe. The cycle repeats. My body shakes from exhaustion. I never thought it would be this hard, this tiring.
Declan’s eyes flicker under his eyelids for a second, and wild hope surges up, filling my veins.
I stop breathing. Wait for him to look at me.
But he doesn’t.
His eyes stay closed.
My stomach plummets, an icy pit. I don’t know how much longer I can keep it up. Each push down on his chest is harder than the last, my strength waning. “Come on, Dec!” Push. Count. “You can’t leave me.”
Another breath forced into him, but he still doesn’t move. My scream chokes me, burning my throat, leaving it raw. He can’t leave. He can’t.
“Please,” I cry to Declan, to the air, to the stars outside. To anyone or anything that will listen. Tears fall onto his chest as I shove down on him, over and over. I won’t give up.
He’s still beneath my hands. The only movement of his body comes from the thrusts I force into him. The numbers I count are a whisper on my lips and a shout in my mind.
“Move away, miss,” a voice commands. I jerk at the sound, but don’t stop as I try to force life back into Declan. “We’ll take it from here.”
Hands pull on me, trying to separate me from Declan. “No!” I shout. I can’t leave him. He’ll die.
I fight against their grip, but they’re stronger. My palms slide off of Dec, my fingers grazing over the skin of his chest before cold air is all I hold. I thrash against the people that tug me away, stretching and reaching for Declan again. I have to get back to him. I have to. It’s my fault he’s lying there.



Luc sways out of the crouch he’s been frozen in and lands on his butt in the soft grass.  He blinks a few times before giving his head a vigorous shake.  His silver-lake eyes are no longer skittering back and forth in a bizarre imitation of sleep. They’re clear and bright again, staring into mine.
I’m glad I’m kneeling, because my legs are incapable of holding me. My voice comes out a terrified stutter. “Wh…what happened? I kept saying your name, but you wouldn’t respond. I was waving my hand in front of your face, Luc! I would’ve called an ambulance, but I can’t get signal and I didn’t want to leave you alone and--”
Luc pulls me close, cutting off the torrent of words. I bury my face in the crook of his neck. The night air is cool, but his skin is hot. The small curls at the bottom of his hair tickle my nose. He smells like a mixture of Polo Blue and springtime. When he talks in my ear, I feel his words tip-toe down my spine. “I’m sorry, Aur. I’m sorry. I’m fine. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Even now, being this close to him is playing havoc with my entire system. I reluctantly let go and kneel in front of him. “What happened? Who’s catatonic one second and fine the next?”
“I wasn’t catatonic. I was…it’s hard to explain.”
“That seems to happen a lot with you.”
He twines his fingers through mine. “I’ll tell you the truth. About everything. I promise. But you have to trust me.”
There’s something profound about the way he’s looking at me, like he can see the deepest, darkest parts of who I am. He asks, “Do you trust me, Auri?
“Yes.” My answer comes without thought, like his gaze pulled it from the pool of confusion I’m swimming in.
He studies my face like he’s never seen me before. “I’m so sorry.”
 “It’s alright, as long as you tell me what’s going on.” I brush his bangs out of his eyes. Despite dancing with him earlier, it’s the first time I’ve done something so overtly… intimate.
I start to pull away, but he catches my hand. "I will. But that's not why I’m apologizing."
I try to sound unaffected by his closeness. “Why’re you sorry?”
 “For doubting the one thing I’ve always been sure of.” He brings my hand to his mouth and presses his lips to my wrist.
My voice comes out embarrassingly weak. “And what’s that?”
He gives me a small, cryptic smile. “You.”
I want to ask so many things, but my words dry up when his eyes find my mouth. I recognize the now-familiar thrum of my pulse in my ears, the ribbons of heat that wrap my nerve endings together, until my whole body is bound in fire. Even now, I’m afraid. Being this close to Luc feels like dancing on the edge of a volcano.
The wind picks up, tugging a wayward curl out of my headband. Luc leans closer and tucks it behind my ear, his calloused fingers trailing against my cheek. His mouth grazes my temple, so gently, like a whisper against my skin. My fear thaws and the only thing I’m left with is the deepest ache I’ve ever felt.
He whispers, “I still want to kiss you.”
My head tilts up without thought. His lips barely touch mine, like the brush of a butterfly’s wing. That’s all it takes. There’s the same feeling as before, like I swallowed a beam of sunlight. Our eyes meet. His are wide and stunned. Then he’s leaning in again, his hand wrapping in my hair and tilting it firmly to the side, his lips suddenly hot and insistent.
And, in this split-second of our first real kiss, something in me gives way—some unseen, never-before-touched part of my heart becomes completely, unequivocally his. I’d be terrified if I could feel anything but bliss. My hands slide around his neck, pulling him closer. His mouth is soft and sweet with just a slight edge, like burnt sugar melting through me.
Luc pulls me into his lap, one hand around my waist, his fingertips slowly tracing my face, like he wants to memorize the shape of it. And everything in me is burning hotter and brighter than ever before. In this moment, I know I’ve spent my whole life lost. Now, somehow, I’m finding myself in the feel of him, the scent and taste of him. It’s like I needed his breath in my lungs to be able to really breathe.
His mouth slants over mine again and again, until the heat building in me is almost painful. I gasp, “God, Luc…please…”  I don’t even know what I’m asking for, but Luc seems to. His hand sweeps the ground and then we’re tumbling back against the cold earth. His body presses against mine. The pressure building in me both eases and surges—all at once. His skin is soft and hot, the muscles underneath hard as steel. He kisses me with an urgency that borders on desperation.
And, for the first time in my life, I’m completely at peace…But I’m also spinning through a blizzard. I’m floating in a summer lake. I’m soaring through a star-brushed sky. Whatever I thought I knew is gone. I’m ready to accept whatever he tells me, because nothing could surprise me more than this. Kissing Luc is like sinking and flying and waking and dying all at once. 


My whole life feels like it’s been just a torturous maze I had to navigate to reach this one, perfect moment. All I hear is the beat of Auri’s heart, pounding in unison with mine. I only taste the honeyed warmth of her mouth. Feel the satin of her skin, see the rapid rise and fall of her chest; smell the sweet spice of orange blossoms. She brands every one of my senses with a single kiss.
I’ve always known there’s a light in Auri other people don’t have. I can see it, shining through her eyes, every time I look at her. I never thought she could pass that light on, but right now it’s spinning through the darkest parts of me, illuminating them. Kindling me into life.  I’m like a match that’s never been lit, unaware that all I’ve ever been meant for is this—to burn.

Five years of intensive training but I’m completely lost in her.
I never hear the crunch of leaves. The stumbling feet.  The angry slur of words.
I never hear a single thing.

Something connects with the back of my head. White hot pain erupts behind my eyes. And everything goes black. 


The absolute dark made me feel both safe and vulnerable. Pandora's hands slid up my back, tracing my spine, to my shoulder blades and around to my chest. Her face burrowed into my neck and I smiled at her heightened breathing on my skin. I lowered my nose to her hair as my hands moved as slow as hers. I followed the arch of her hip and the dip of her waist to the delicate ridges of her ribs. My hands slid around to her shoulder blades and up her back. Her hands dropped to my waist and traveled around to the front of my stomach.
My heart thundered and my blood roared in my ears.
I traced the slope of her neck with my fingertips. Her pulse jumped as I traveled over it and I leaned over, pressing my lips to that spot.
A faint gasp escaped her, her fingers curling into the waistband of my pants.
I traced her jaw and kissed it. My fingers memorized her cheekbones, followed by my lips. I kissed her eyelids. My thumb followed the outline of her lips, which parted under my touch. Her breathing sped up and I knew mine was doing the same as I leaned to her and brushed my lips so faintly over hers it was if they hadn't touched.
Her fingers curled into my shirt then slid up my chest as I whispered my lips across hers again. "Pandora..."
"Kiss me, Lucas."
I let out a strangled exhale and kissed her, parting her lips gently with my own. My world became fire and water and energy and summer. She sighed into my mouth and her hands sunk into my hair. Her mouth parted under mine and I gathered her to me as tightly as I could. This was so much more than I'd ever imagined it would be. Her body warmed in my arms and I groaned as she pressed against me, pushing me against the wall. Our lips possessed each other like this was the only time they'd ever touch. Hands roamed, fingertips curled into skin, curves sealed to straight lines. Everything else outside of this girl disappeared. Any hesitation I'd felt about pursuing Pandora fled in this moment. This was right. This was natural.
I pulled away from her lips and kissed down her jaw and her neck, finding her pulse again. Her forehead sank against my shoulder, her breathing ragged. It matched mine rather well. I nuzzled her neck and breathed her in, existing only in her and her warmth. I knew even if I opened my eyes I wouldn't see a thing. And that was fine with me. In the darkness, there was no separation. It didn't matter that our skin color was different, that our elements were different, or that we had separate ancestors. We were just a boy and girl who lost themselves in their first kiss.
"You have a tongue ring," she whispered.
I smiled against her neck. "Is that okay?"
"Gods, yes. If I'd known that, I would have kissed you sooner."
I chuckled silently and nipped at her neck. Her fingers dug into my scalp and she tucked her chin, finding my mouth in the darkness again. I wanted to crawl inside this kiss and live in it.
When we came up for air, I kissed back to her ear. "We should probably go before the search party gets bigger." And before I take complete advantage of the darkness.
She nodded. I reluctantly let her step out of my arms, my hand finding hers. I led us back to the gap and shimmied through first, pulling her after me when I didn't see anyone. We took off down the corridor, the mirrors betraying our flushed faces and bright eyes. I grinned at the beautiful girl trailing after me. She smiled back as I twisted around corner after corner. I reached a junction and rounded the corner, skidding to a halt when I saw Tiro's back. I pushed Pandora back into the corridor and held her at arm's length.
"Dude, I'm behind you. Stop shouting." I leaned on the corner of the mirror, arranging my features into a bored expression.
Tiro spun around. "Godsdammit, man, don't sneak up on me like that."
I smirked. "And miss the expression on your face right now?"
"Funny. Come on, Lede wants to leave."
"Why? We just got here."
Pandora pulled my hand to her face and nuzzled her cheek into my palm. I ground my teeth in an effort to stay neutral.
Tiro raised an eyebrow. "If you call a couple hours just got here, sure. She's tired."
I rolled my eyes. "She's whining. I'll be out when I'm done."
A soft warmth pressed to my fingertips one at a time and I gripped the edge of the mirror as she kissed my fingers. Energy bolted down my arm and I could barely keep it from exploding out my fingers. I vaguely registered Tiro asking me a question. "What?"
"What are you doing in here?"
"Uh, going through a maze? Relax, I'll be out in a sec. It'll do Lede good to have to wait for a change."
Tiro laughed. "True. But it also means I have to listen to her bitching the whole time."
"Hey, you wanted to date her."
"For various reasons."
"Whoa, seriously don't want to know that, man." I clenched the mirror as her kisses traveled to my palm and the inside of my wrist. Holy gods, was that her tongue?
Tiro raked a hand through his curls. "All right, I'll tell her you're still geeking out in here. She's not going to like it."
"She'll live. And maybe next time she'll drive herself."
He laughed. "Right. And the gods will return." He gave me a mock salute and spun away, taking a left down a corridor.
Wasting no time, I pulled Pandora to me. "That was mean."
She grinned. "I thought it was very nice, actually."
"Oh my gods, you are so much trouble," I growled and yanked her down another tunnel.
After some trial and error, I spotted the curtained exit. We stopped, staring at it, knowing what lay beyond it. The real world. Our laws. Consequences. I squeezed her hand and pulled her to me. "Pandora, if you don't—"
"Shut up." She rolled up on her tiptoes and covered my mouth with hers. It was a fierce kiss. A kiss that spoke of promise and rebellion. A kiss that scorched through me and pooled in my chest like hot oil. I twisted my hands in her hair and held her against me. I couldn't imagine a better place to be.
We pulled away, breathing hard. "You need to go," I gasped out.
Her quicksilver eyes met mine. "I meet with the Moirai day after tomorrow in the morning. Will you meet me in the Labyrinth after?"
"Oh gods, yes." I ran a thumb over her lips. "I don't care what anyone says. You're mine."
She smiled and kissed my cheek, lingering for an extra beat. "And you're mine."

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