In this week's excerpt from TESS AND THE TRINKET, Tess is caught by Tynaiv, who has been tracking her through the Hinge. They are standing just inside the front door of an old bear's den. The last time she saw Tynaiv, he slipped right through Prince Christopher's fingers in the middle of a storm - but not before stealing a kiss from Tess. As Tess tries to make her getaway without Tynaiv taking her magical object, Tynaiv tries to convince Tess that the kingdom she thinks she is fighting for is brimming with corruption.
“So you wouldn’t be surprised to learn, for example, that your Queen was spying on Atheos?” Tynaiv treated himself to another puff from his pipe.
“Not ridiculous,” There was a note of injury in his voice. “I saw her myself. I followed her for months. Every three weeks she would meet with someone a few miles south of here. They thought they were alone, but I saw them.”
Tess made a disgusted noise. This really was too much.
“You sound like a child, Tynaiv. Just leave me alone.”
But Tynaiv took her left hand – the one that held the spiritus.
“Let go, let go!” Tess struggled, but she did not put the candle to his hand.
“Listen to me. I am not a child. I am a grown man. I’ve seen more countries and civilizations that you can name. I can live on the sea for months at a time. If I saw your queen meet someone at the lake, then that is what I saw.”
Tess lessened her struggle and tried not to bring Tynaiv’s attention to the contents of her fist. He had let something slip that he had not intended to. She could tell from his face.
“What lake, Tynaiv?”
By the sunlight streaming in, Tess could see Tynaiv’s intense blue eyes glaring at her.
“Did I mention a lake?” he said coolly.
“You did. You said that Queen Aideen met someone at a lake.”
“I thought you didn’t believe me.”
“I’m interested to know the extent of this fantasy.” Tess felt the spiritus prickle against her squeezing palm and fingers. The sensation crackled on her skin like kernels of popcorn in a pan.
Tynaiv thought for a moment, taking a series of puffs from his pipe. The smoke clouded his face.
“If I tell you what I saw, then I’d like something in return,” he said slowly.
Tess made ready her declaration never to give up the spiritus, but Tynaiv saw the retort coming.
“No, no, not that,” he said. “It will come to Counselor Pider one way or another, and the sooner you realize that, the better. No, I just want to know your thoughts.”
“My – my thoughts?”
“Your thoughts. Your feelings.” Pider finally let go of Tess’s hand, emptied his pipe, and placed it in his pocket. “I’ll tell you what I saw at the lake if you tell me what you thought of my kiss.”
“Oh, was that you who kissed me? I thought it was Chris.” Tess pressed her left hand to her navel and breathed more heavily than she wanted to.
“Oh, has the prince kissed you? I had quite the opposite impression – I got the feeling that you had never let a man that close to you in your life.” Tynaiv took a daring step toward Tess.
“I hardly let you –“
“So we are agreed, then? I will tell you about the spying of your queen, and you will tell me how you liked my kiss?”
“A ridiculous bargain. Weren’t you just trying to convince me that you were not a child?”
“Children pretend, don’t they, Tess? I am not pretending. I am quite serious.”
“So am I.” Tess tossed her hair behind her back.
“So it’s settled?”
“Good.” Tynaiv hooked his thumbs upon his sash (which he had returned to his waist) and grinned jauntily. A thin breeze shifted the strands of his hair. “Though you won’t like my news, I’m hoping to hear something encouraging from your end.”
Tess kept her nose steadily in the air.