First Look At Zyon Chapter One
Michele and I didn't know when we started this book--over a year ago now--that we were going to fall so in love with these characters and this crazy, often brutal world they live in. Now, it's finally time to share Theon and his men with the world and we couldn't be more delighted with the reception they've already received. In lieu of posting a traditional teaser today, we wanted to share an excerpt directly from chapter one. We hope you'll enjoy!
Zyon will be available on March 18th on Amazon and is still available for pre-order HERE.
I landed on the stone floor with a grunt. The guards that had upended the crate I’d been carried in spared me only a glance before slamming the door of the small room shut. Dim ribbons of light slithered through the creases around the edges of the door, bathing my newest prison in shades of gray. Large clay pots lined one wall and wooden shelves were affixed along the others. A storage closet.
Closing my eyes against the aches in my cramping limbs, I took a slow breath and let the chill of the stone soothe my protesting muscles as I stretched them out until I lay flat on my back. Deep tremors wracked my body as I tried to calm myself. I’d gone to sleep, what I believed to be a fortnight ago, tipsy on too much wine. Warm and comfortable, I’d floated in dreamless peace before awakening in hell—a wooden crate, only big enough for me to get up on my hands and knees. I’d spent days stuffed in that box with only the cracks between slats for air.
The first day I’d screamed myself hoarse. Demanding answers. Swearing retribution. That lasted until the need for water overtook any thirst for truth. Instead of releasing me, they dumped a bucket over my crate. To my complete shame, I licked up every drop I could, then lapsed into silence. There was nothing I could have done from inside the box, so I waited, peeking through the slats in an attempt to discern my location and conserve my energy. Energy that fled the longer I went without food, hope, or a reprieve from the box’s suffocating heat. I wasn’t allowed out of the box until the snow-capped slopes of my kingdom gave way to rolling green hills and finally rugged brown terrain, signaling that I was farther away from home than I’d ever been. They still stuffed me into the box to endure the daylight hours, but I was allowed out every night to stretch and sleep on the ground.
The cold stone beneath me was heaven in comparison.
A shadow passed across the line of light beneath the door. Muscles screaming, I hauled myself up to sitting, having to fling my arms back to brace myself. The door opened with a gentle creak, letting in a swath of candlelight and the face of the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. A set of short, slender fingers gripped the edge of the door as he stepped inside. He had a tray braced against his hip, and my eyes zeroed in on the pitcher sitting on top of it.
“Who are you?” I rasped, tearing my gaze away from the tray and sweeping it down from the fine white blond hair on his head to the lean contours of his pale legs. Heat rose in my cheeks as I tried not to stare. Did everyone here wear clothes that exposed them so? He was small—shorter even than me—and fine-boned, but compactly muscled with a sharp hairless jaw and perfectly straight nose. He wore golden bracers on his wrists and a simple, well-made tunic the color of soft lavender—the same shade as his large luminescent eyes.
He set those eyes on my face before lowering himself to his knees beside me. “I’m Florin.” Setting the tray on the floor, he picked up the pitcher and poured a healthy drought into a cup before holding it out to me. “I mean you no harm. Drink this slowly.”
My hand was reaching before I gave it permission, but at the last moment I paused, remembering how the wine in the last cup I’d held wrought only suffering. “What is it?”
His gaze was steady on mine as he put the cup to his own lips and took a long drink. “Only water.”
Half a sob tore out of my chest as I pulled the cup from his hand and brought it to my mouth.
“Easy,” he soothed in a low voice. “There’s more, and you’ll make yourself sick if you drink too fast.”
With more strength than I thought I possessed, I lowered the cup and took a deep breath in an attempt to regain control of my heaving chest and cramping stomach. I clutched the cup and looked at my strange visitor. With deft movements, he picked up the jug and filled a bowl that was also on the tray. Gripping a square of cloth, he soaked it in the water before wringing it and shifting closer to me.
Swallowing hard, I watched with wary eyes as he brought the damp cloth up to my face and wiped it across my forehead. “Why are you doing this? Where am I?” I whispered as he continued to clean my face, pausing to let me speak and take a sip from the cup.
Florin let out a short breath. “You’re in the House of Tarquin Natas in the kingdom of Zyon, and I’m doing this”—he looked directly in my eyes—“because it needed doing.”
Zyon? Goddess. I’d never been this far from home.
Footsteps and the creak of leather armor sounded somewhere beyond the door and both our faces turned toward it. He’d left it open only the smallest crack, letting in enough light to see one another, but not much else. The way he tensed sent a spark of unease through me. “You’re not supposed to be here, are you?” Looking back at me, he gave a quick shake of his head. The burning sting of tears pricked the back of my eyes as it hit me that he was a slave. A slave in this House, and for whatever reason, he was risking himself… for me.
“Here.” He finished wiping my face and lifted another cloth revealing a small plate with grapes, a hunk of bread, and a sliver of cheese. “Eat half of this now and the other before they take you in the morning.”
Florin nodded and pulled one of my hands from the cup to clean it with the cloth. “I don’t know for sure, but I think you’re to be… the prize for tomorrow’s champions.”
“P-prize?” Despite the water, my mind felt sluggish. How could this be happening to me? Panic welled up in my chest again only to be chased away by Florin’s gentle ministrations. He moved the hand he’d finished cleaning back to the cup and gripped the other, quickly washing away the harshness of the last two weeks from my skin.
“Easy. Honestly, it could be much worse. The three of them do revel in their victories, but they seem to take no pleasure in causing undue suffering. Hopefully that extends to their activities outside of the arena as well.”
Water dripped down my chin as my stomach cramped again. Three champions? Noise sounded again from the house beyond, and Florin rose to his feet and hastily moved about the small space. He placed the jug and plate of food behind a basket on one of the lower shelves before kneeling beside me again. Reaching under the dark purple sash tied around his waist, he produced a small stoppered vial and handed it to me.
“Here. Remember to eat the food and drink the water.” He lifted his hands and cupped my cheeks before leaning in and placing a gentle kiss to the middle of my forehead. “Goddess willing, it will restore your strength. Best of luck to you, Theon.” Rising to stand, he turned for the door.
With wide eyes and a pounding heart, I stuttered, “Wait!”
He paused with one hand on the door and looked at me over his shoulder. The spill of his hair was much longer than I thought, woven into a loose braid that reached the swell of his ass. A million questions flashed through my mind, but in the end my hand clenched around the glass vial, lifting it toward him. “What is this?”
He lifted a brow, looking from the vial to my face. “Oil. Use it if you have the chance.”
Oil? What the hell would I need oil—blood drained from my face at the sympathy that flashed over his when he lowered his eyes to my lower half. Good Goddess, but I couldn’t think about that now. Teetering on the verge of panic again and not wanting him to leave, I scrambled for something else to keep him there. “Won’t you get in trouble for helping me?”
Something like a smile ghosted across his face. “How could I help? I’m fast asleep in our master’s bed, and surely it’s impossible that I could slip from his presence unnoticed.” With mischief lighting his huge purple eyes, Florin winked at me and disappeared out the door, closing it with a gentle click behind him.
It was only in the sudden quiet that the relentless frozen fingers of Florin’s final words laced themselves around my heart.
And only much, much later, I wondered how he knew my name and if I’d ever get to hear it fall from his lips again.
Copyright 2021 Michelle Frost and Michele Notaro
All Rights Reserved