Here we are! The last of the mini-contest winners and the last of the excerpts! Now that we’ve done all the mini-contests, stay tuned for the announcement of the Mega Contest later today.
In the meantime, the winner of the very last Blood Lily Countdown mini-contest prize is… Robin! Congrats, Robin. Email me your info, and I’ll send you your hardcover copy of The Temptation of the Night Jasmine.
And now, without more delays, we have the promised Eloise & Colin excerpt from The Betrayal of the Blood Lily….
As you may have seen from reading the Prologue a few weeks ago, Eloise has been determinedly trying her hand at some matchmaking for Serena. But when she tries to explain her reasoning to Colin, via a bad mobile connection, he doesn’t take it in the best of ways….
“Are you saying that Serena needs you to find a bloke for her?”
Put that way, it did sound a little ridiculous. Not to mention condescending and more than a bit of an insult to Serena.
“I’m not saying she can’t cope on her own.” Oh, crap, that hadn’t come out right, had it? I rushed on, “It’s just that dating isn’t easy. Everyone can use a little helping hand now and again.”
“That’s not a helping hand, that’s a bulldozer.”
I’m not the bulldozer; Pammy is the bulldozer. “Fine.” I said tightly, kicking the door shut behind me. “I was just trying to be helpful.”
“I’m not saying your intentions weren’t good.” Now that I was inside, the wind had stopped howling in my ears, but Colin’s voice had gone as crackly as a brown paper bag. My building is a Victorian structure, a large town house turned into a series of flats. There’s something about the old construction that stymies mobile reception. I like to think that it’s the ghosts of disapproving Victorian spinsters going about gumming up everyone’s lines.
A cute conceit, but not exactly useful when one is in the middle of a tense conversation with one’s boyfriend.
If I went down to my basement flat, I would lose him completely, so I stood there on the upper landing, letting my bag drop to the floor as I rested on elbow against the ancient radiator where everyone’s mail got dumped every day. I could feel the damp heat of it against my legs.
“Then what are you saying?” The scent of mold made my nostrils twitch. I scrubbed the back of my hand against my nose.
With only a single bulb hanging drunkenly from the ceiling, the foyer seemed even dingier than usual, with its ancient blue carpet and peeling blue wallpaper. We’d had our first kiss in this foyer, Colin and I, crackling radiator, mold and all.
Colin was clearly not in a kissing mood at the moment. “I’m just saying you should let it go.”
“You mean you don’t want me meddling in your sister’s life.” Fine. I got it. It was his family and it wasn’t any of my business. And maybe it wasn’t.
No, I corrected myself. Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t be any of my business. But it became my business when a good half of our already limited time together had to be shared with his only sibling. He couldn’t have it both ways.
“You just don’t know what you’re dealing with. Our family is”—Colin struggled for the appropriate adjective—“unusual.”
“I would never have gotten that.” Although, come to think of it, everyone thinks his family is unusual. True, the Selwicks did have that whole spy thing going, but everyone kept swearing right and left that that was all in the past.
So what else was there?
“Serena’s had a hard time.”
For heaven’s sake. Not that again. Yes, I knew, Serena had had a bad break-up the previous year. But, then, so had I. If Colin wanted to compare bad break-up notes, I thought that public infidelity, at my department Christmas party, no less, was right up there with some jerk using Serena to get to her family archives. It’s always fun heading back to the history department on a Monday morning, knowing that about half the department have seen your boyfriend—your very official boyfriend of two years’ standing—kissing someone else in the cloakroom of the Faculty Club, while the other half may not have witnessed the deed, but have all heard about it. With embellishments.
It had been painful and humiliating and I had done some nasty things with voodoo dolls, but you didn’t see me starving myself into a size zero and sobbing into my Cheerios over it a year later.
The more I thought about it, the more militant I felt. What had happened to the good old stiff upper lip? I was beginning to get more than a little fed up with the whole poor-Serena-the-martyr narrative. To be fair to Serena, it was never a line she had tried to play. It was all coming from Colin.
Being a protective big brother was one thing, but this was something else.
Which was why I said, in an intolerably bossy tone, “At some point, you’re going to have to stop coddling her.”
Stupid. Stupid. Never ever use the phrase “have to” with a boy. Or anyone else for that matter. It’s the fastest way to end a conversation. Or a relationship.
“Let’s just drop it, shall we?”
“You’re angry with me, aren’t you?” I said unnecessarily.
Silence. I stared at a curl of wallpaper that had started to peel away from the wall. The underside had turned an ugly mustard yellow. I could hear the creak of Colin’s chair as he tipped it back on its hind legs. “It’s been a long day.”
“Right,” I said. I knew I should ask him why, ask him how his day had been, change the subject, but I couldn’t make my lips form the words.
“I’ll see you on Valentine’s Day,” Colin said. He didn’t need to sound quite so grim about it.
“Okay,” I said, in a small voice. “I’ll see you then.”
At Serena’s party. There was no escaping it, was there?
Pressing the “end” button on my mobile, I dragged myself down to my basement flat, hauling my bag by the strap so that it bumped along the steps behind me like a child’s toy.
After that, I only wished I knew what kind of Valentine’s Day it was going to be.