We Stand Together
Years have passed. Elvira and certain close companions have been traveling the world, offering their assistance whenever and wherever needed. When they at last reach the untamed country of United Districts of Novus Mundus to the west with the intention of lending Rozlyn aid in finding a torn page from Elvira’s Aethaumaturgy Grimoire, Elvira discovers an ethereal city built by and for Aethaumaturges. Aetheoasis is a haven for her people, and it is there she meets not just one, but two unexpected women who change the course of history.
A secret prophecy is revealed.
Aether becomes available to all.
Will it be enough to combat the world’s persistent, ominous threat? Can the CURSE truly be broken?
Can Elvira finally untangle her true feelings amidst it all?
Excerpts from We Stand Together:
Chapter 1: End of an Era and the Beginning of Another
“Come with me to my room,” she crooned with a drowsy cast to her eyes. She didn’t miss the gulp he took or the way his chest rose and fell at a quicker pace. “Keep me warm tonight.”
His voice was rough but tinged with an apology. “I would love to…”
“But. You know. We’ve been down this road before.”
Elvira’s face was drawn as she felt her heart sunder. “Maybe. But that was years ago. For the love of Over-Soul, Sylas. We’ve both been single for a long time now. What exactly is it you’re waiting for?”
“You,” he responded almost too quickly, a hint of bitterness woven into his lighthearted tone.
“By the Ancients, Sylas. I’m here!” she declared, trying her best to not slur her words from the vestiges of the alcohol, her tone suffused with overflowing emotion. “If this is about Rozlyn, I haven’t even seen her since she left Brume.”
“Yet we’ve been in UDNM for over a year now, tracking her down, which I’m happy to help with in any way I can, if it means gaining something important for you in the end. But what do you think happens when we find her?”
A moment’s consideration was all she allowed herself. “Whether that day comes eventually or not, this is what I want right now. You can’t be my guardian forever. You have to let me make my own decisions. To make mistakes…or whatever the opposite of mistakes are, because who knows if this is what’s right for us! I need to be able to do what will help me grow, so that I can finally follow my heart.”
“It’s your heart calling me into your bedchamber tonight?” he teased, that vicious smirk begging to be bitten off.
So, she did. Her face collided with his with a demand that strayed from familiarity, a kiss wrought with a raw intensity. Recklessly, her lips pressed against his, and then her teeth found purchase on his lower lip, tugging and compelling him to relinquish control. With a sense of urgency, her hands pulled his form-fitting shirt out from his trousers and slipped under both it and his vest. An involuntary gasp escaped her at the sensation of his firm abdomen and chest. The tactile reality of his body beneath her touch sent an electric thrill coursing through her veins, igniting her senses with an exhilarating fire.
With an anguished moan that resonated with both pleasure and conflict, Sylas shifted his head from the kiss. “Elvira…” he groaned, his voice throaty and making her itch for more.
“Come in my room,” she implored in a whisper. “In all the ways.” She kissed him again and again, daring him to end it, but knowing he wouldn’t or possibly couldn’t. “We could have fun together,” she tantalized between kisses.
“I want you so badly,” he admitted in an agonized grumble, so unlike his usual voice.
She smirked, stealing a glance southward at his trousers, at the evidence of what exactly all this could be doing to him. Her eyes bulged at the sight of the impressive press of something solid against the fabric.
He caught her looking down and lifted her flushed face back up with a tender hand. “This isn’t a novel reaction to you, you know,” he murmured.
“Then prove to me how much you want me,” she pleaded, even her eyes solicitous as they made contact with his, which were dazzling with desire.
Time itself stretched before Sylas finally nodded several times. Surrendering to this. To them.
They ascended the remaining stairs, sometimes two at a time, rosy in the face and still giggly, before bursting through the hatch to their deck and finding the sealed door to Elvira’s cabin just down the passageway. Her hand hesitating on the handle, Elvira spun to find Sylas inches behind her, his breath hot on her face. He was wearing one of his disarming smiles.
“You really want this?” she verified, her tone vulnerable and suddenly uncertain.
His eyes blinked slowly, pleasure and reassurance dancing behind them. “Oh, I know I want this. It’s not me I’m worried about.”
She rolled her eyes and shook her head with a vague smile. “Silly boy,” she breathed, turning the handle and waiting as the complicated mass of cog-wheels covering the impressively-detailed door spun, moving it aside on its own.
A crack of light from a gas lantern on a reading table cleaved through the dark, illuminating a small corner of her spacious cabin. Her wide bed, covered in layers of linen, rested against the back wall in the center of the room on a four-poster frame of sturdy, rich walnut. A dark emerald curtain canopy draped over the four corners, lending it an air of intimacy.
As soon as the door closed and was, by Sylas’ hand, locked, the two silhouettes gravitated towards each other in the muted light. Their hunger for one another was palpable, an insatiable yearning that ignited as their lips fervently converged. Their pent-up desires from the years that had kept them apart were unleashed. Elvira's fingertips ventured beneath the fabric of his shirt once more, a daring exploration that carried with it a promise of further intimacy. With a willing compliance, Sylas tore himself away to shrug off his vest. Then, with deliberately-slow, teasing motions, he unbuttoned his shirt.
Chapter 8: Extermination
Amidst the calamity and swirling darkness, a solitary HAVOC emerged from the sinister horde, a harbinger of terror with sunken eyes that burned like twin moons in the abyss. His malevolent gaze fixated on his targets — Elvira and Nell. His maw dripped with viscous saliva, and his hulking form showcased the gruesome evidence of battle, a grotesque sight of wet and sticky blood from bullet wounds endured. A creature of nightmarish proportions, he rose with an eerie grace, arm-wings beating threateningly at his sides as he unleashed a blood-curdling roar that reverberated off Elvira's bones.
A lump of revulsion had risen in her throat.
In a single swift motion, he lunged, bridging the short gap between them with a terrifying swiftness. Their protective shield held steadfast against his assault, yet they felt his strength and stamina with the heavy blow. Their sanctuary rippled with attrition as yet more assailants, having moved in, struck from behind and at their flanks. They quickly found themselves encircled by multiple HAVOCs, all converging upon the vulnerable heart of the grassy field, bereft of any aircraft or mount to aid in their escape.
Nell's voice pierced the cacophonous bedlam, a desperate plea above the dissonance. "What do we do?" Her grip on Elvira was unyielding.
Elvira strained to survey their surroundings, trying to see past the relentless onslaught of HAVOCs, with wings and bodies clamoring around them, which obstructed her vision.
With a resolute inhale, she unleashed a shockwave of energy from their location. The HAVOCs were thrown into a deadly spiral before hitting the ground, their bodies torn asunder upon impact, but not before the sickening sound of shattered bones and ruptured organs met their ears.
The reprieve was fleeting.
In the blink of an eye, a fresh wave of HAVOCs, now joined by a legion of CURSE, descended upon them, drawn by the scent of easy prey and the desperate screams of their own kind.