I’m going to keep Tabitha’s storyline under wraps for now in her upcoming sequel, Sky Queen. Instead, I wanted to share a snippet of Aelu’s subplot, on another world, which follows on from the first time we met her in this preview…
Aelu smiled to her date as he made his way back to their table from the men’s room. He was more rugged than handsome, she supposed; but he seemed to have a certain confident, dangerous charisma that meant people generally just got out of his way. Aelu glanced around the restaurant and just hoped no one recognised her or knew her husband – or why she’d left him. Checking herself, she dragged her thoughts back to her date and smiled warmly at him as he sat down. She played with her necklace delicately, and smoothed her hair down across one shoulder as she laughed at some joke he’d made; she wasn’t listening.
‘I like this place,’ her date said gruffly, sitting back in his chair to admire the high classical ceilings. ‘Maybe I’ll buy it, what do you think?’ Aelu could’ve cringed at that; instead she raised her eyebrows furtively and tried to look equal parts impressed and a little aroused, and leaned in closer to whatever he was saying now. Somehow he didn’t look right in a suit. He was too muscular for the tailoring, as if he’d been crammed into it and was just putting up with the discomfort for her sake. He was talking again; he was always talking. Talkers pissed her off.
‘Why don’t you finish that drink and we can go somewhere a little more private?’ she purred to him, running her fingertip around the edge of her empty glass.
‘Yeah?’ he said with a grin, looking back to her from the waitress he’d been ogling all night. ‘Anywhere in mind?’ he asked her, as he gulped down the last of his drink.
‘How about your place?’ she said quietly, looking up from her wine glass to stare, smiling, into his eyes.
It took a few smacks around the head for Aelu to wake him up; he was practically comatose. Maybe she shouldn’t have emptied the entire phial into his drink, she considered. When her date groaned and came round, he realised he was tied to a dining chair in his penthouse.
‘What the fuck, you psycho bitch?’ he growled groggily, trying to whip his tail to catch her leg and trip her. She’d tied his tail to the chair too. When he tried to struggle against the creaking chair Aelu pressed the pistol hard against his temple.
‘I wouldn’t,’ she told him flatly, pushing his head hard to one side with the gun muzzle. ‘Tell me what you know about Raiu Atur.’
‘Who?… Oh yeah, that little shit? That’s what this is about?’ her date chuckled arrogantly. ‘Fuck, that was years ago! He shouldn’t have come anywhere near us, the limp-dick little shit. He was asking for it.’ Aelu didn’t say anything about her dead son. She just stormed over to the dining table, picked up the hammer she’d found and smashed it into his face with a dull bony knock. He bellowed in the chair and tried his hardest to struggle free.
‘Say that again,’ Aelu growled, as her date spat a tooth from his bleeding mouth and glared at her murderously.
‘I said, he was a limp-dick little shit,’ he replied, grinning savagely. She swung the hammer into his face in a succession of cracks and knocks and screams, until he was begging her to stop.
‘Who killed him?’ she screamed at him, clutching his jaw and raising the hammer again. ‘Who killed him!?’ he said nothing. She hit him, hard. ‘Who killed him!?’ she demanded. He was laughing through broken bloody teeth. She dropped the hammer and took a pair of pliers to his mouth, clattering them in among his teeth. Squeezed hard; pulled. He was screaming so loud she thought she’d go deaf as she wrenched the tooth out. He was grunting and moaning in a pained daze; choking on blood.
‘You think you’re badass?’ he laughed at her eventually, spitting blood in her face. ‘People like you don’t last two seconds around people like me.’ Aelu dropped the pliers with a clatter and took the small laser torch from the table. It’d always been great for browning up cake toppings; it seemed to be just as good at browning up gangsters too. By the time she’d done with him, he’d screamed every name he ever knew.
‘You’ve been very helpful,’ she told him approvingly, as she packed her torture tools back into her handbag on the table. He gasped and choked some words at her while her back was turned. ‘Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that,’ she said warmly, stepping closer.
‘I said, all those names I just gave you, they’re all going to take it in turns on you. And they’re all going to cut off a little piece of you when they do.’
‘That’s nice dear,’ Aelu said dismissively. ‘Thank you for dinner, by the way.’ She pulled the pistol from her handbag, aimed it between his manic bloodshot eyes, and blew his brains all over the giant windows and the moonlit city view.