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Shattered Glass eNovella Excerpt:
Heat pours from the kiln, fanning the skin on my face. I open the kiln's door just enough to insert the pontil iron. A super bright orange glow spears my vision as I dip the iron's tip into the cauldron and twirl it, gathering a slug of molten glass.
Closing the door with a hip, I turn and place the iron on the rails of the gaffer's bench where my adopted daughter Reema sits. Her blond corkscrew curls are pulled back into a ponytail and her brow is creased in concentration.
"Keep the iron spinning or the glass will drip," I instruct over the roar of the fires in the kilns. All four of them are in operation, which means four times the noise and heat.
"Then what?" she asks.
"Use the tweezers to pinch and pull the glass." I gesture to the row of tools lined along the bench.
She picks up the metal tweezers. They appear overly large in her small hand. Though not as small as they were when I first met her almost two years ago. Soon she'd be tall enough to gather a slug on her own. An inner warmth spreads through my chest that has nothing to do with the kilns and everything to do with the sudden desire to press a kiss to her sweaty forehead. I suppress it, knowing it would result in an irritated eye roll.
"What should I make?" she asks.
I shrug. "Whatever speaks to you."
Reema huffs in exasperation. "I told you before; it doesn't speak to me!"
"Take your time and listen. But don't take too much time, it cools fast and will soon be too hard to manipulate."
That comment earns me a glare, but I smile sweetly at her--a trick I learned from my good friend Janco. Reema frowns and pokes at the glass with the tweezers. Despite the waves of heat radiating from the slug, the glass resists the metal.
I point to the glory hole located on the side of the nearest kiln. "Reheat it until it's pulsing with orange light and try again."
Reema hops off the bench and jams the iron into the hole.
"Not so far, you only want to heat the glass, not the metal or it will burn your hands. And keep it spinning."
My name slices through the din, and I glance up. Devlen gestures me away from the main work area of the factory. I join my husband outside my office. His strong features and blue eyes never fail to make my blood sizzle.
"Why are you teaching Reema?" he asks. "She does not have the patience to work with glass."
"Ah. You are hoping to teach her patience." He gazes at our daughter.
Reema yanks on the glass, making...tentacles? She flings the tweezers down and storms over to the glory hole. Once again shoving it in too far.
A smile tugs at Devlen's lips. "Good luck with that."
"Is this why you called me over?"
The humor fades from his dark face and is replaced with concern. "No. A messenger is here and he insists on delivering the message only to you."
Oh. It's odd, but not worrying...I hope. I call to my assistant, Lee, to watch over Reema and ensure she doesn't burn herself or set the place on fire before I follow Devlen into my office where the messenger is waiting. He's an older man who looks like he has missed a few too many meals. Clutching a letter in his bony fingers, he glances at me then eyes Devlen.
Tall with broad shoulders, dark hair and the powerful build of a Sandseed warrior, Devlen can intimidate almost everyone.
But the man's voice is steady when he says, "This is a confidential message for Opal Cowan."
"I am her husband," Devlen responds.
"Good for you. But my instructions are clear. We must be alone."
"Go on." I shoo Devlen out. He knows I will share any news with him.
When the door shuts, the messenger studies me. I resist the urge to squirm under his intense scrutiny. My long brown hair is frizzy and clinging to my sweaty neck. And my plain tan cotton tunic and pants are more for functionality for a glass factory than for fashion.
"You match the physical description I was provided," he says. "Now for confirmation. Where did you go on your first mission for the Master Magicians?"
An odd question and I wonder if this message is from Valek, the spymaster for the Commander in Ixia. "I traveled to The Cliffs on the coast."
"And what did you discover?"
"That the glass orbs were being sabotaged."
"You are indeed Opal Cowan." He hands me the letter.
"Oh good, I was beginning to worry." I snark.
The man fails to see the humor, and I don't bother to correct him--I'm Opal Cowan Sandseed now. I tip him extra, and he leaves. Devlen returns as I examine the envelope. Worn and smudged with dirt it has either been in his possession a long time or has traveled a long distance. There is nothing written on the outside. The wax seal is also devoid of decorations. I break the wax and extract a single piece of parchment. Ignoring the lines crossing the page, I skip to the signature at the bottom. I grope for my chair in shock.
Devlen is by my side in a heartbeat. "What is the matter?"
"It's a letter from Zitora." She retired from the Sitian Council two and a half years ago to search for her older sister, Zelene, who'd been missing for ten years. No one has heard from Zitora since she left.
"What does it say?"
"Oh." I read it aloud. "Dear Opal, I hope you are well. I'm in dire need of your special naturalist services. You did a terrific job curing Councilor Tama Moon with your leafy teas, and I can't trust anyone else to heal my sister. I'm in Tsavorite, located about two days southwest of Kohinoor. Please come right away. Your cousin, Zitora Cowan." I blink--the note doesn't make any sense.
"Is that written in code?" Devlen asks, peering over my shoulder at the page.
Good question. "There must be another meaning." I reread the letter, paying attention to the individual words. "'Dire need' might mean she's in trouble."
"'Special naturalist services' could be referring to your immunity to magic," he says.
"But then she mentions me curing Councilor Tama Moon with leafy teas. Yelena helped cure Tama not me. Plus don't you think it's odd she didn't make a big deal about finding her sister?"
"Yes, but it sounds like she is sick. Too sick for Zitora's skills."
"So why send for me and not a healer? I can't heal anyone. And if it's dire, then she might be dead by now." A sobering thought.
"Maybe ‘leafy teas' is a reference to Leif's concoctions?"
The passage--"I can't trust anyone else"--worries me. Something's wrong, and she needs me. But...Zitora wants me to pretend to be a healer. Not a magical healer, but one like Leif--who uses herbs and plants. I share my guess with Devlen.
"It is an ambush," Devlen says.
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A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Araella, an 18 year old friend of my daughter who was recently diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. :( The money will help her with medical and travel expenses as she undergoes extensive chemotherapy.
You can download a copy of SHATTERED GLASS online at these international retailers: