— One —
Talikan, Spring, 1323
The door began slowly, oh so slowly, to swing wide. Johanna was leaning forward, almost on her toes, every fiber of her being yearning toward the other side.
A small, slim figure slipped through the crowd of women and rushed forward. She had dark flashing eyes, an infectious smile and a merry disposition. She reminded Johanna of Fatima, a childhood friend.
“Hayat,” she said, striving to sound patient. “What is it?”
“Only this,” Hayat said, seizing Johanna’s hands in her own. “I need more indigo. Could you ask the guards to stop at the dyers’ shed on your way back?” Hayat dimpled at Kadar. “You don’t mind, do you, Kadar?”
Even the chief eunuch was not proof against Hayat’s wiles, as indeed few of them were. Nevertheless he said sternly, “The master’s orders are specific, Hayat, as you well know. Nazirah is to go directly to the stables and to return directly to the harem.”
Johanna felt a scrap of paper transfer into her left palm. Her own closed over it. She gave Kadar a sunny smile that was not meant to be friendly and the chief eunuch was not so foolish as to take it so. “The dyeing shed is along the way,” she said to Hayat. “If they have it, you will have indigo when I return.”
She turned back to the door, smoothing back her braid and brushing the front of her tunic. In the process she slipped the scrap of paper into her sash.
With conscious ceremony Kadar bowed her through the doorway. Was the bow a little too exaggerated, a little over-elaborate? No matter. The door shut behind her with a thud that resounded off the blue-tiled walls of the harem’s antechamber, vying with the trickling water of the inevitable fountain for precedence.
She felt rather than saw the two armed guards falling in behind her, fierce with scimitars and daggers. She knew the way by now and her pace quickened, until she was almost running again by the time she reached the next door. She didn’t wait for the guards, she flung it open and burst into a walled garden. She threaded through roses red and white and pink and yellow — forever after she would associate the scent of roses with a feeling of imprisonment — and reached yet another door in the wall on the other side. She didn’t wait for the guards to catch up with her, she hammered on the door with her fist. “Ishan! It’s Johanna! Open the door!”
And for those of you who like their books in print…
I’ll be signing the trade paperback edition of By the Shores of the Middle Sea, live! and in person! at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale on Saturday, November 29th, at 2pm. Click here to pre-order your copy of the trade paperback.
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Of course because I love you, but mostly because I’m determined to seduce all of you die-hard “I only read Kate books and when is the next one coming out” fans, upon publication of By the Shores of the Middle Sea the price of the first Silk and Song Book, Everything Under the Heavens, drops to $4.99.
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