About Daughter of Glass
Sasha Alexander has a powerful ability. Either that, or she’s dangerously mad.
Her father shrouds her in isolation, convinced he’s protecting her. But the seven guardians that only she can see insist she’s gifted. Her companions since her mother’s suicide, they protect her from hurt, pain and fear. They also keep her from feeling love. Sasha doesn’t know how to react when Noah explodes through her defenses. This strange young man with the scarred hands suddenly makes her feel again.
But unless she can learn to control her own emotions, the biggest danger to them all may be Sasha herself.
“Your father left orders, Miss Alexander,” Lars said, blocking my way to the front hall with his massive shoulders. Our chauffeur resembled a large, testy boulder. “You aren’t to go out alone.”
I took two steps back so I could see his icy blue eyes clearly. Lars meant it this time; I wasn’t going anywhere without him unless I wanted to throw a fit so loud and unholy every single one of my guardians showed up to block my dangerous emotions.
Even then, he’d probably follow me on the sly.
And my guardians- any guardian- was the last thing I wanted right now. I was determined to make it all the way to the gallery alone.
Except, apparently, for Lars. My eyes rested on the chessboard set up for play in the sunny little sitting room. I took a deep breath and relaxed my fists, running through the next several imaginary moves I would make, should my father have time to continue our game. The cold light of logic calmed me and washed away most of the lingering annoyance. What I felt now wouldn’t be enough to bring Anger to my side.
Chess was more than a game for me. I started playing young, and now it was as important to my psyche as the morning yoga I wouldn’t skip. Both encouraged the kind of mental discipline I needed to keep my emotions, and thus my guardians, at bay.
It worked some of the time, anyway.
Lars waited patiently, his blond good looks filling up the doorway while I stood motionless, breathing deeply. This didn’t look odd to him. I often performed this little exercise when he was around, probably because my father seemed to have hired him for the sole purpose of ruining my fun. I didn’t buy the line about “chauffeur,” either. I knew he was my unofficial bodyguard. This irked me even more, because to me it seemed a sign of my father’s pretensions.
He was the mayor, for god’s sake, not the president. Why would anyone want to kidnap the daughter of the chief elected official of a boring little town like Whitfield?
“Ok, fine,” I said evenly. “You may take me to the gallery, Lars. But I would really appreciate it if you waited in the car while I’m there.” I widened my eyes slightly and let what I thought of as my ‘sad orphan face’ creep in a little. “I’m going to see my mother’s paintings. It’s the only time I really feel her presence.” I said the last bit softly and fluttered my eyelashes, not sure if I was fooling Lars. It didn’t matter. If my safety wasn’t at risk, he generally gave me some breathing room.
Now I had a bodyguard-chauffeur and seven supernatural guardians to avoid if I had any hope of spending time with Noah alone. If he was even there, and felt like speaking to me after I’d run off like a crazy person the night before. I barely managed to stifle a groan.
The long black Lincoln with the tinted windows and temperature-controlled seats swung around the driveway and waited as the gates slowly opened. This was yet another of my father’s pretensions, as far as I was concerned. Who put a gate inside a gated neighborhood? The mayor of Whitfield, of course, to protect his precious daughter. Or did I have it backwards? Was he trying to keep me and my madness inside? I sighed and rested my forehead against the cool glass, thoroughly sick of my life.
The gallery was smaller than it had seemed during the day. It sat away from the main art building, connected to it by a path of smooth stepping-stones. A riot of greenery surrounded it, making its pale stone seem anemic. Still, the whole place gave off an air of quiet peace. This was the kind of place a person would take their lunch, or read a book. I thought my mother would have approved.
I smoothed my skirt nervously while Lars parked the car. “I really will be fine without you,” I assured him yet again. At the same time, I performed more mental chess moves to keep my emotions in check. No Lars, no guardians. Just my mother’s paintings and me.
And hopefully, Noah.
I drifted to the gallery entrance, the same place where I’d stood the night before holding a very scarred hand. What had happened to him? I thought about it as I signed my name in the guest book with a barely legible scrawl. What did that to his hands? I wondered if I would get the chance to know.
I kept my eyes off the paintings as I peeked through the few rooms. I knew the subject matter well. I’d seen most of them being painted, and been going to gallery openings since I was eight. Father couldn’t seem to stop showing them. We’d been as far north as Toronto, showing these damn paintings.
Noah was nowhere in sight.
I tried to stifle my disappointment, unsure if it would bring a guardian running. In his absence, the paintings seemed almost to speak directly to me. I couldn’t help but study them as I stood there, hoping for a boy whose possible presence here had been a wild guess made the night before. Noah seemed like one of those afternoon types, the ones who actually cared about the paintings and made a point of coming when there were no crowds. It was hard to think of a less crowded time than a Sunday afternoon, even if it was the very day after the exhibit.
I found myself drifting towards a painting of Whitfield’s Old Town Church, with the graveyard containing our earliest settlers just visible behind it. The church itself was vividly rendered, with special attention paid to the stained glass windows and their images of sacrifice and faith. But it was the cemetery that interested me the most. I could just make out some of the guardians dancing through the tombstones if I looked hard enough. Many an art critic had missed them entirely, but not me. I knew them too well.
Anger and Desire held hands in some kind of crazy dance. Hope stood off to the side, performing a neat little half-bow as if she was telling them to go ahead, and not mind her. This painting puzzled me the most because its meaning was so unclear. Why the cemetery? Why Old Whitfield, whose residents were so insular and peculiar and gave every indication of hating my family?
“I like that one,” a familiar voice said softly at my shoulder.
I straightened like I’d been electrified. Knight to Queen’s Four, I thought resolutely before turning to see.
Sure enough, forest green eyes sparkled above the biggest grin I’d seen all day.
The only thing I could think to say was, “Hi.”
“Um, me too,” I added hastily. “It’s kind of eerie.”
“I’ve always thought so, too. Those figures in the graveyard? I look at it and just wonder what they’re up to, why they’re there. They look like they’re having fun, but in a graveyard?” He folded his flannel-covered arms under each other and moved closer to the painting. This moved him closer to me.
“I, uh…” My throat was suddenly so dry I choked. I took a deep breath and tried again. “Not everyone sees them. Even some of the gallery owners who’ve had this in their shops have missed them. “
Noah frowned. “But they’re right there.” Then he shrugged, sending his loose flannel shirt billowing around his waist. “Maybe they’re blinded by the church.”
“I think that’s her point,” I said, his presence suddenly unlocking thoughts that had barely begun to form. “Most people focus on the forms of faith, and not its actual practice. The… people… dancing represent life and death, happiness and celebration, with just a kick of spooky. That in the shadow between faith and doubt, life goes on.” I narrowed my eyes and leaned closer. “Life is easy to miss, and then you die.” I straightened, startled. It wasn’t like me to talk about my mother’s paintings like this, baring my soul. I instinctively hugged myself, feeling suddenly emotionally exposed. “Or something,” I added lamely.
“Or something,” Noah echoed with feeling. “I never thought of it like that. But then, I guess you’ve thought about her paintings a lot.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I said, trying to play it off. I couldn’t help a quick glance around the gallery, checking for a visitation. It was the last thing I wanted, but a thing that was almost sure to happen. It was a rare day when I slipped my guardians completely. I could certainly hope, though. Standing next to Noah, watching the way he studied everything carefully; the way he prowled instead of walked; the fact that none of the obnoxious boys from my school would be caught dead in the flannel he wore so well; all these things caused a spike in my breathing.
“Well hello, darlin’,” drawled a familiar voice from behind us. “Having trouble?”
I tried to ignore him and focus of Noah’s description of a painting his friend had just finished. I didn’t turn around as my guardian continued his teasing monologue.
“I like finding you like this,” Desire said. “All breathless and nervous. It happens so rarely. Of course, I generally approve of your lack of a love life, even though that means I rarely get time with you. There are so few worthy of you.” I didn’t have to see to know he’d slipped up beside Noah, who, of course, couldn’t see him at all. I heard the sharp snick of Desire’s silver lighter as he opened and shut it with his thumb. It was a familiar gesture. “Anger told me about this one. I have to admit, I was curious. We’ll have to see if he’s worth a damn.” I smelled flame mixed with whatever fluid kept his lighter alive.
Desire liked to play with his lighter. I wanted to hiss at him, but smiled at Noah instead. “What do you think of this one?” I asked too-brightly, leading him to the painting of the wolves. For whatever reason, my mother had painted a pack of white wolves circling below her former bedroom window. It was deep winter in the painting, and New Whitfield was dusted with a rare coat of snow. I loved it because it was one of the few paintings that didn’t have a guardian in it. That alone made it the subject of much critical discussion, but for me, it was one of the rare pretty things on display. Just wolves and white snow and a full winter moon; so what if wolves running loose in Whitfield would never happen? To me, it looked like a fairy tale.Noah, however, didn’t seem to agree. He pulled his scarred hands up into the cuffs of his shirt. “It’s weird, don’t you think?” He leaned into me until our shoulders touched, an act that made Desire chuckle. “I mean, wolves in New Whitfield? White ones, at that? I’ve seen them in the forest, and heard reports that there are a few in the Hollow, but in somebody’s yard… that’s strange.” He didn’t move away, even though a brush of shoulders had turned into his arm touching the length of mine.
So close, I thought. So easy to grab his hand. I let mine brush against his scarred one, which he’d uncurled the closer we got. Once again, a stab of something rushed through me just as it had the night before. I couldn’t put a name to it; I had never felt it before. I felt electric, with every single sense heightened. Noah, I noticed, stiffened at the contact.
He didn’t pull away, though, and so I let our hands brush and stood there and burned.
“Well well,” Desire said. I heard the snick and click of a lighter kindling a cigarette to life. He inhaled a time or two, sending acrid smoke only I could smell. “That’s a new one, Sasha. I’m not sure I like that feeling. Not sure it’s healthy for you, darlin’.” He inhaled a couple of more times, fast and careless. “Not that you’re going to listen to me.”
“You’re probably right,” I said aloud, suddenly miserable. Noah looked at me sharply, hearing the misery in my voice.
“Hey now,” he said, turning to me. “It’s just one shitty art student’s opinion. I really love her paintings, or I wouldn’t be here, you know.”
“You wouldn’t?” I said, even more misery creeping into my voice, feeling myself become heavy with it. If I wasn’t careful, Sadness would show up as well, and then we could have a great big old guardian party. But it was my worst fear, that no one would ever like me for me, and that I was nothing more than my mother’s cast off, insane daughter. Was Noah here because he wanted to get to know a famous painter’s daughter?
But then he lifted my chin with a single scarred finger. If his hand on mine had caused electric frissons, this made my eyes pop open in surprise. I could feel the heat between us like it was as alive as any of my guardians.
“Holy shit,” Desire said, directly behind me now.
“Even if you weren’t Sarah Alexander’s daughter, I would have come here today. Do you know why?” I shook my head. “Because I hoped you would be here, without a crowd. Because I wanted to see you.” His knuckles brushed my jaw before dropping his hand. He took a small step backwards, as if afraid he’d overstepped. “Is that all right with you?”
“More than,” I said, ready to launch into a confession of how much I wanted to see him too. But Desire gripped me by the shoulder, his hold heavy and hard.
As soon as he did, I felt the fire between us start to fade. Damn Dez and all guardians, I wanted to snarl.
“Sasha, you can’t,” Desire whispered in my ear. “It’s too much. You don’t know what it will do to you.”
“I want to find out,” I ground out through gritted teeth, not caring if Noah heard. He did, and looked at me strangely. So I gave him a brilliant smile. “Give me just a minute, ok?” I indicated the restroom with a nod. “I’ll be right back.” He nodded, a bit guardedly. I felt his eyes on me as I walked away.
Unfortunately, Desire in all his black leather-clad glory was right beside me, following me into the ladies’ room.
“I hate you for that,” I hissed. “You made me look like an idiot in front of that boy. A boy I like who likes me back. What’s wrong with you? You’re supposed to feed off that kind of thing, but you’re acting like you don’t want me to feel anything at all. What the hell, Dez?”
Desire flicked his lighter. Mirrored aviator glasses peeked out at me from one of his jacket’s many pockets. A brief spurt of flame reflected back to me from their lenses. Dez shifted in his boots. “I don’t know,” he said, reluctantly. “There’s something about this one. I’ve never felt you feel so powerfully before. Anger warned us…”
“I don’t care!” I said, dropping my voice. “She’s not here! This is your emotion, Dez, your ball game! Are you saying it’s too strong for you to handle?”
He hooked a thumb in the waistband of his jeans. “Hell no,” he asserted indignantly. “It’s just… you need to go slow with this one.”
I stared at him, trying to dampen the anger before I summoned its namesake. I gave him a curt nod before stalking out of the bathroom. I spun halfway at the door. “Please try and shut up out there, ok? It’s hard to talk to both of you without looking like I’m talking to myself.”
Dez just laughed and blew smoke in my direction, “If I were alive,” he said, bemused, waving the cigarette in my direction, “These would kill me.”
“Whatever,” I snapped to a comment that would have once made me laugh. Noah was waiting in the dead center of the gallery when I got back, away from all the paintings. His face lit up when he saw me.
“Hey!” He strode towards me quickly and took my elbow. Dez leaned next to the painting of the white wolves, smoking and smirking, and I felt only an echo of our former heat. I struggled mightily not to give my guardian the evilest look I owned. “It occurred to me that a gallery exhibit of your mother’s paintings isn’t the best place to get to know each other. What do you say to getting out of here?”
I found myself making fists of my own. “I would love too,” I answered truthfully, “but I can’t right now. Today is really bad, in fact. My father’s expecting me home.” That was not strictly true. Father was only expecting me to stay with Lars, who was expecting to bring me back home directly after the exhibit. I didn’t want to subject Noah to my icy bodyguard and a snarky Desire. I didn’t think I could take both. “But we could meet up tomorrow night, if you like,” I said, to my complete surprise. How was I supposed to manage that?
“Uh, ok,” Noah almost stuttered in response. “That would be… great. Really. I’ll pick you up…?”
“Can we meet up somewhere?” I asked, my plan firming up a little in my mind. I heard Dez’s indrawn breath from feet away. Well, he could find some way to deal. He was going to have to, because I wasn’t giving up on this without a fight. “Ex Libris. The one near Harker’s Court. Do you know it?”
The little chain bookstore in the complex of outdoor shops was within walking distance from my house. I clearly was going to have to sneak out for this. If I planned this carefully, I might actually have a chance. And I suddenly wanted to sneak out with this boy very badly indeed.
“That’s in New Whitfield?” he asked, perplexed. “Ok. I can do that. What time?”
“Nine o’clock.” I could claim a headache, like the one that was building now from Dez’s death stare and cigarette smoke, and dodge Lars’ and my father’s watchful attentions. “Can you drive us?”
“Sure.” He smiled again, relaxed. “We’ll grab a bite to eat, and walk around the square. The shops are open late there.” I knew this to be true. Old Town Square stayed open the oddest hours.
“Um, ok,” I said suddenly shy again. The both of us just stood there, awkwardly unsure of how to end the moment. I broke first, thinking of Lars waiting in the car, possibly spying on us to give my father a full accounting of my whereabouts. “So. Until tomorrow night, then.” I reached for his hand one more time and gave the fingers a quick squeeze, savoring the frisson that traveled through me. From his post against the wall, Dez hissed and dropped his cigarette. Before either one of them could say one more word, I sped out to the waiting car.
“Sasha,” Dez said in a tone of barely restrained anger, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
I didn’t dare answer him back. The panel separating me from the driver was down. Lars was no doubt listening to my every breath. I smiled cruelly at Desire, wondering how many guardians he would tell about this. I wondered how many would come tomorrow night, and decided it didn’t matter. I would deal with whatever they wanted to dish out to have this chance. Not only was I seeing Noah, I was going to the forbidden part of town. And I would have to sneak away to do it.
Suddenly Lars adjusted the rear view mirror. I saw Anger’s bloodthirsty smile on my face when he did.