Here’s one of the bonus scenes from Bright of the Moon! If you don’t yet have your copy of the book, you can pick it up on Amazon or read free with Kindle Unlimited. (Audiobook coming soon!) This scene would best slot into Chapter 13, after the first scene!
Shaking off the slight chill, Bella placed her bare foot on a sturdy gnarl of the towering white pine, one arm wrapped around the trunk while she reached up for the lowest branch with the other. She gave it a tug, testing to see whether it would hold her weight, and it felt solid. The bark was rough and sticky, but that wouldn’t stand in her way.
Ever since she’d started running away to the woods and the ruins as a girl, she’d wanted to do this. She’d always loved the woods, their quiet serenity and vibrant life, how the trees gave her respite and comfortable solitude, and yet kept her silent company. It had been a sanctuary when home had shaken with arguments about politics and battles. She’d spent days with her back rested against trunks, and days stretched out on the forest floor, gazing up at the leaf-and-sky patchwork of the canopy. But she’d never seen the entire woods from a tall peak, the vast sea of trees and where it ended. She’d imagined it, of course, but her eyes had never feasted upon the sight, upon the new perspective she’d longed for.
Holding the large branch from underneath, she pulled herself up until her arms rested on it, then tried to swing one leg up and over. It took a couple tries, but she caught it at last, and swung herself up onto the branch. Once there, she wedged a foot perpendicular to where the branch met the trunk, and she reached for the next hold.
This wasn’t so bad. Silly things had held her back—not wanting to rip her dresses or get them dirty, the notion that she could always do it tomorrow. But she’d had her tomorrows as a human taken away from her once, and there was no telling how long she’d have them now. She had today, however, and she was grateful for it. There was no telling how long she’d have control of her form, so when Dhuro had stopped to confer with Zoran, the perfect chance had presented itself. Of course, the riding habit Gavri had given her, a thing of Princess Alessandra’s, made this a bit easier than a dress would have.
Pulling herself up, she ascended, one branch after another, while the trunk narrowed and narrowed.
The wood crunched.
Her heart racing, she reached for another hold and swung herself up quickly.
Beneath where she’d stood, a crack split the bark. The wood there had been damaged. As the wind rustled through the trees, she held on, clinging close to the trunk. Above, the canopy cleared, as if the blue sky hung low enough to touch. She was close, very close, and she wouldn’t let one damaged branch and some wind stop her.
Gathering her courage, she looked for the next sturdy branch, and carefully made her way up. Strangely, the top forked, but she was almost there, and the trunk was still about the width of her foot. She’d never climbed a tree before, but that had to be safe, right?
With a nod to herself, she pushed herself the rest of the way, gaze fixed on that nearer and nearer expanse of vivid blue. Almost there, almost there, almost there…
At last, her head poked above the canopy. She held on to the trunk and her handhold, and looked out above the woods.
A verdant ocean of green peaks sprawled as far as she could see, a line that met the bright golds and blues of the sky and stretched to infinity. Puffs of white clouds floated in the dizzying expanse, lined with hints of gray and bright with warm sunlight. With this sublime beauty came awe, but also a peace in her heart she’d never before felt.
She’d known the woods, at least those surrounding Roccalano; she’d known them so well she could’ve walked them blindfolded. She’d known their solitude and their comfort.
She’d thought she’d known the woods.
What she had loved so deeply and so well looked very different from here; she’d had no idea what the woods had actually been. Something that had seemed simple to her, straightforward and familiar, had in truth possessed a vastness and a depth she’d never thought possible.
“Bella,” Dhuro’s voice called loudly.
With a start, she held on and peered down through the pine branches and their needles to where Dhuro stood next to her discarded boots, his eyes wide.
Her head spun. She wrapped her arms and legs tight around the tree.
Wood crunched. The forked top. Weak after all, despite its thickness.
“Bella,” he called again, hoarse. “What are you doing up there?”
Clearly, she was holding on for dear life.
“Climb down. It’s not safe.”
She tried to look down, but the wood crunched again. Merciful gods and empyreal Veil threads. Her body, arms and legs both, clutched the trunk tightly with no prompting from her. With a swallow, she shook her head. “I… I don’t think I can.”
All her life, she’d never climbed a tree, and so excited by the prospect, she hadn’t thought about the critical part—descending it.
“I’m coming up,” he shouted.
Gods above, wouldn’t that make the tree less stable? She chanced a look down.
Dhuro backed up, then ran toward the trunk. He planted the ball of his foot on it and pushed himself upward. His arms caught the first branch, and in a movement that looked like a dance or a swim, he flowed up the tree. It shook as he ascended, and she squeezed her eyes shut, ignoring the speeding pulse pounding in her ears.
At last the movement stopped.
“Bella,” his voice came from below, grave but soft. “That forked top won’t support us both. You’re going to have to drop down to me.”
Drop down? Are you insane? Her arms gripped the trunk closely.
“It’s either that or stay up here.”
She winced. He could hear her thoughts. Of course he could.
At least if she did stay up here, no one would have to risk their lives to help her acquire arcanir. And she wouldn’t endanger anyone with her powers.
“The view is breathtaking.”
She glanced down at him again. His gaze rested on her backside. “Dhuro,” she chided.
He opened his arms wide for her. “Trust me. I won’t let you fall to the ground.”
He wouldn’t—she knew that much.
With a deep breath, she pulled away a little, and the trunk cracked. Gods above, would it give way completely?
Nodding to herself, she squeezed her eyes shut again. Trust Dhuro. She could trust Dhuro.
She let go.
Her body slipped along the pine’s coarse bark, and pure terror rushed through her veins like ice. Only a second later, she landed in a strong embrace, held against a firm chest. Dhuro’s.
“I’ve got you,” he whispered, that firm chest rising and falling quickly.
Her eyes fluttered open, enough for his intense golden gaze to pierce her, boring into hers. His racing heart beat against her body, slowing a little now, and his grip was tight—a little too tight. Although she tried to move her arm, it didn’t budge at all in his hold.
That golden intensity in his eyes didn’t fade, holding her in place as strongly as his arms. Warmth swelled in her chest, spreading pleasantly. He hadn’t wanted her to fall. He really hadn’t wanted her to fall.
“You’ve got me,” she whispered back, her face feeling stretched from smiling. As she held that intense look of his, his eyes widened and he blinked it away.
She fought another smile. He was relieved she was safe. He was really relieved. It seemed she’d made something of an impression on him. At least a little.
Before she could tease him about it, he quickly moved her to his back, wrapping her arms around his neck. She locked her legs around his waist instinctively, and he shifted them slightly.
“I’m taking us down.”
No better words had ever been spoken. Closing her eyes, she held on tight as he began the descent.
“What were you doing up here?”
She fought back a scoff at herself. “I’m sure you’ll think it’s foolish, but I’ve always wanted to climb a tree and I never have. I wanted to see the woods from above and experience them in a new way for the first time.”
A laugh rumbled beneath her.
“I knew you’d think that.” She sighed, hiding her face in his hair. Not that he could see it.
“No, it’s not that.” He paused in his descent. “It’s just… When I first visited the sky realm, I loved it. But among my people, I’m a volodar, a hunter. I ended up spending much of my days up in a tree, and it became… common.”
“I’d love to do this every day,” she blurted. “If I could climb down, I mean.”
He laughed again. “That is an important part.”
Was he laughing at her?
“How was it? At the top?” He moved beneath her again, resuming the descent.
“It was…” There had been so many feelings, she wasn’t sure how to describe it. “It was peaceful, unlike anything I’ve ever felt. And I saw a side of the forest I’ve never imagined, like seeing a color I didn’t know existed. I’ve lived in Silen all my life, but it’s as though I’ve just seen it for the first time.”
“You thought you knew the woods,” he agreed, “but you realized they were different, yet not unsettling. Beautiful.”
What she’d thought she’d understood had changed before her very eyes, but it hadn’t scared her. It had dazzled her.
He stopped moving. “You can let go. We’re at the bottom.”
She cracked her eyes open, and the forest was again what she’d always known. The view at the top had been beautiful, but the ground felt safe. It would be some time before she found the courage to climb up again. Some time, and probably a lesson or two in climbing back down.
She let her feet find the cool dirt and slipped her arms free of Dhuro’s neck. As he turned to face her, she wobbled a little, and his hands on her waist steadied her.
“Thank you,” she said softly, avoiding his gaze.
He gently raised her chin, holding it up until she met his eyes. They weren’t giving her the scolding glare she might have expected, but gleaming half-moons. He stroked a slow caress along her jaw. “You see the world in a way I don’t, sheihan.”
If she’d seen it the way he had, she might have thought ahead to knowing how to climb down. And what did “sheihan” mean? He’d called her that before, when he’d very optimistically tried to charm her into bed. She had been tempted then, and as she looked him over—gods above—she was tempted now.
There was a spark in his eyes, and the slightest mischievous upturn of his lips. Had he heard that thought, too?
He nodded, giving her a pleased once-over. “Don’t worry. Zoran and I have a plan for helping you control your abilities,” he said, but his gaze lowered to her lips. “I was just coming to get you.”
“Then let’s go,” she breathed. Being this close to him was dizzying.
“You might want to put on your boots first.” His mouth twitched in an almost-smile as he leaned in and kissed her, his lips meeting hers gently. As he pulled her in close, deepening the kiss, her hand slipped up his chest toward his face. He caught her wrist in a loose grip.
She blinked up at him as he raised an eyebrow. “What is it?”
A soft huff, and he tipped his head toward her hand. Her dirty, sticky hand. “I like where this is going, sheihan, but tell me, have you ever tried to get sap out of hair?”
That’s it! Did you enjoy it? If you did, let me know in the comments below!
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