Black Moon Draw (Chapter Seven, page 1 of 14)

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Thank god it was just a dream. I sigh as I come out of a deep, restful slumber. The sheets beneath me are rougher than usual, my pillow hard and flat. I'm not very comfortable at all for being in my bed. I'm too warm and something smells like burning bacon.

Distant alarm flutters through me.

Opening my eyes, I stare at the ceiling of a tree house.

What the hell?

I sit up and stare at the jittery boy around fourteen seated on a wooden box opposite the low bed I'm lying in. He's wringing his hands and bouncing his legs, staring at me with a mix of uncertainty and curiosity. The moustache he's trying to grow looks more like a smudge of dirt above his upper lip and his limbs are too long in the way of nearly every boy in his early teens.

This isn't home.

"No, no, no!" I press the meat of my hands to my eyes then wrench them away, staring at the palm of the hand I swear that beast cut off.

Flipping them over, I stare. The coral nail polish on my left fingernails is completely absent from my right hand. Not chipped or faded.


But my hand's there, and so is the countdown. Nine days.

"It grew back," the boy volunteers. He stands and draws something from the knapsack across his chest. Whatever it is, it's wrapped in cloth. He sets it on the bed near my leg.

"What is it?" I ask suspiciously.

"Your hand." He opens the loosely draped cloth to display a hand. Blue-white skin, wrinkly, smelly, and. . .

. . .coral nail polish.

"That is so gross," I mumble, feeling a little sick. "Why would you keep something like that?"

The boy blushes. "The Shadow Knight said you need to learn a lesson. Only a witch can regrow her body."

Definitely the Villain. No Hero would ever cut off the hand of a damsel in distress.

"Put that away, squire." The soft voice of a female draws both of our attentions to the entrance of the tree trunk.

A woman fit to be a Disney Princess stands in the doorway in a flowing, elegant gown of rich blue beneath a plush cloak of darker blue. Her eyes are large and clear, a perfect spring green, her auburn hair in perfect, loose curls around a face that resembles a doll's.

She's stunning. Absolutely gorgeous.

"M'lady." The squire bows and scoops up the hand, returning to the box to sit.

"I am pleased to see you awake." The woman speaks with an accent as rich and elegant as her clothing. She lifts her skirts to step over the threshold and enters, clasping her hands before her.

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