This is the first novel from Amie O’Brien, but she would tell you her characters are constantly nagging her for their future installments. Madly in love with her husband and children, she hopes to spend more time petting horses, reading books, and pursuing her addiction with world travel.
I had so much fun writing this chapter. I can remember sitting in the front passenger seat of my husband's car, surrounded by miles and miles of mountains, him poking at me to lift my eyes from my laptop and see the beauty around me. (This is nothing unusual when we travel. I have learned to save my work now for flatter states like Ohio and Indiana.)
But I think there is something truly playful about crafting your characters and seeing where their personalities lead you. I knew Leila's right from the bat. But Emre...I wanted Emre to come across as someone the reader couldn't make heads or tails of. That they would encounter him and, eventually, find themselves completely befuddled by him. Is he good? Is he just careless and selfish? Should she trust him? Why the heck do I suddenly want this girl to be with him???
I think this is a debate that Leila soon finds herself to be in.
The Merchant’s Pearl
He remained out of his seat, clamping the brass fire tongs over a log. He gently turned it so that it stacked against another, creating a steeper peak than before.
“I heard you had a little scrap with Aster and a bush your first day here,” he said. “What was that all about?”
“It was a juniper tree,” I corrected. “Apparently, your favorite doesn’t care for French undergarments…or for me.”
He looked back at me with puzzlement. “My favorite?”
“Yes.” It was obviously true. He had called on her nearly every night since I had arrived.
“Well, what set her off?”
“I’m not sure. All I did was set my things on one of the empty beds.”
“So it wasn’t her bed?”
“No. I suspected, at the time, it was completely unoccupied territory. Dariya later confirmed my suspicions. I’m guessing it was your newest wife’s old bed.”
“Hmm…Jasmyne. Aster wasn’t too keen on her either,” he said with a little smirk. “So, what then? She forced you out of it?”
“In her own way, yes.”
“And you let her?”
“Forgive me, Sire, for my apparent weakness, but she threw my things out the window.”
He paused for a minute. “Has she used the bed since?”
“Then, it’s simple.” He smiled. “I think you should reclaim it.”
My eyebrows shifted involuntarily. “And how do you suppose I should do that? We are clearly not speaking of the same girl here.”
“You could always tell her I have given it to you. She cannot argue with that.”
“Why? Why would you have me say that? Why should you care if I should sleep under or away from a window?”
He hesitated as he tried to control his face, crinkling his nose as he formed his answer. “You would allow her to dictate things right from the very beginning—let her push you over that quickly?”
“Some things aren’t worth fighting for.”
“Unless,” I softly muttered a moment later.
“You want us to fight,” I guessed. “Hmm. That’s so…”
“Mean?” he said, losing the battle to stifle his smile.
I didn’t answer.
“Say it, Leila. It’s so what?”
I still didn’t give him the satisfaction he was looking for.
“Leila, go ahead. I demand that you finish.” He chuckled.
“I cannot say what I’m thinking. As you know, I’m not a free agent. It would be impertinent and only cause me trouble.”
“Hmm,” he mumbled again. “Childish?” he eventually probed. “Perhaps…impish?”
I couldn’t help but smile through pursed lips.
“Typical…ish,” I finally whispered back. I set my eyes deeply into his. “You enjoy your prized girls fighting over you. You are bored. It must make you feel valued.”
His smile faded and a serious look fell over his face. I instantly sat back in my seat, bounced my eyes back to my lap and took a shallow breath. I dared not look back at him.
Why did he insist on cornering me?
After a few seconds he murmured, “Good word.”
I looked up at him. He had a big smile on his face.
“Sorry, Leila. Your defensiveness makes you far too easy to taunt. I couldn’t pass up such an opportunity.”
I rubbed my forehead in relief, hiding my eyes as I agreed with a laugh. “In that case, then, yes—you’re also mean.”