The Secret Swan
Amiranth sighed and turned in her sleep, tired of remembering, tired of the heat that drenched her, and the sorrow, and the fear. When she tried to push it all away from her she found her arms constricted, bound tightly to her sides, and this sent her to weeping, because she could not even do what she had always done, and force away the pain.
Someone was speaking to her, a man, his voice soothing and low. She could not hear him well enough to make out his words; he was all but drowned beneath the rushing in her head, a steady, rapid cadence that sent ripples of pain through her body.
She was cold, and then she was hot. There were only extremes around her, nothing sweet or mild, nothing to rely upon, save the steadiness of that man’s voice, familiar yet so obscure. Who could be speaking to her in such a tone? Who could be touching her in such a way, soft whispers across her face? Who would stroke her so gently?
She opened her eyes and saw him, disheveled black hair that fell to his shoulders, sparkling eyes that smiled at her. Those lips, with their enticing curl at the corners, a secret mirth....
Tristan was dead. So now Amiranth supposed she was as well, for never had he looked at her so kindly in life. She grew still, staring up at him, blue sky beyond his face—that made sense, for heaven would be blue, wouldn’t it? And there was sunlight on him too, falling across his shoulders...she had seen him like this before....
Amiranth saw her hand reach up and touch his cheek, a test; his own hand caught hers there, pressing her closer. He turned his head and kissed her fingers, his eyes closing.
She said, marveling, “Why, death is surely a wondrous thing.”
His eyes opened again. He leaned down closer to her, dark and handsome as the blessed night.
“Sleep now, Lily. You’ll feel better soon.”
“No,” she said, struggling to make him understand. “I...I’m not...”
But the rest of her sentence faded away, and she felt the dusk of heaven come up around her, as safe as his arms, enfolding her with velvet and satin, utter stillness.
Excerpted from The Secret Swan by Shana Abé. Copyright © 2001 by Shana Abé. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.