Mirror Sacrifice, Book 2 in the Ardere Series, will be available for purchase on Amazon in February.
“Let’s go.” Gavin gave her an odd glance, as if he was seeing her for the first time. She had no time to dwell on it as she stepped onto the platform and admired Paddington station with its vaulted glass dome, countless stores, and hundreds of people in a rush. Sierra jostled her way through the crowd, struggling to keep up with Gavin and Cooper’s quick pace. A myriad of smells, including pizza, noodles, and fried chicken, tempted her as she hurried past various food vendors. With the afternoon tea looming ahead of her, comfort food was out of the question.
A huge pack of tourists blocked one side of the exit while earnest-looking business people scurried down the other side, clasping newspapers and briefcases. Words of different languages pelted down upon her ears.
“Jag kommer att vara sent för klass!”
“Ile to kosztuje?”
In addition to Spanish, Swedish, and Polish, a dozen English accents assaulted her, coming at her from all sides. In Savannah, where foreigners were the exception, not the norm, it had been easy to deal with her omnilingualism. Yet London was a different beast. Less than ten minutes in the bustling city, and already her head throbbed. When Gavin hailed a black cab, Sierra climbed in hastily, eager to escape the cacophony.
Throughout the drive, Gavin remained silent. Fixated on his phone, he was oblivious to the nervousness raging within her. Trying not to read too much into his behavior, Sierra fastened her attention on Cooper, who was playing tour guide.
“Hyde Park, a fantastic place to explore on the few yearly days when London’s rain is on vacation. Westminster Cathedral,”—he pointed at a beautiful red and white Neo-Byzantine building—“a must-see if you’re capable of enduring the several hour-long wait to get inside.”
The famous and gothic Westminster Abbey and Big Ben followed. “It’s not as big as I’d expected,” Sierra admitted about the latter.
“It was built in the nineteenth century,” Gavin commented dryly. At his haughty tone, she scowled. He didn’t notice her misgiving, still preoccupied with his phone.
“When are we meeting Lorna?” Sierra asked, pushing back the cuticles on her nails.
Gavin’s body stiffened. “As soon as we arrive at Atterbury. Lorna will discuss your training and my case.” Gavin’s turquoise eyes were hard and cold. For someone who had insisted on coming to London, he didn’t seem happy to be here.
The cab came to an abrupt stop, jerking Sierra forward, then back into the car seat.
“The Strand. Please follow me,” Cooper said with a playful flourish of his hand. He had mentioned earlier that he had worked for Lorna the last few years as an apprentice, and Sierra bet he knew London as well as a native.
She climbed out of the cab, anxiety at the upcoming meeting turning her back clammy. Her fingers itched to reach out to Gavin and seek his comfort. But her pride won out, and she tucked her hands into her jeans pockets, surreptitiously glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. His chiseled face was schooled into an impenetrable expression, his lips a harsh line.
“Welcome to Atterbury House,” Cooper said.
In front of them stood a grandiose, white building with dramatic columns at the main entrance, atop of which a triangular pediment showcased a war scene, reminiscent of ancient Greek architecture.
Sierra was surprised how much she remembered from her high school history lessons on European architecture. It seemed the onset of her Fluidus powers had sharpened her mind, in addition to improving her senses.
“Who will be present?” Gavin asked, ripping Sierra out of her thoughts.
“I don’t know. Lorna didn’t give me a list.”
Gavin’s jaw twitched at Cooper’s reply, and Sierra tried to understand why Gavin was so on edge. As far as she was concerned, she was the newcomer. He had grown up in the Ardere society and had met Lorna before. This was his world, and he should feel at ease.
Whoosh! One step past the entrance, Sierra’s foot slid forward, and she found herself on her behind.
“You okay?” Cooper held out his hand to help her up. She took it, cursing underneath her breath at the polished, marble floor. Her eyes met Gavin’s, and she could read the clear disapproval in them. Well, she wasn’t too fond of him at the moment either. Rubbing down her clothes, she was glad to find her modest sweater-and-jeans attire hadn’t torn. Her mahogany, suede ankle boots, however, now featured dark stains, courtesy of London’s rain-soaked streets. Great, she already felt self-conscious about her first meeting with the supernatural royals, and now she had to worry about her appearance as well.
The empty, long marble corridor with snow-white columns only intimidated her further. Her footsteps reverberated as she passed an array of rooms adorned with velvet couches, gilded chandeliers, and crown moldings, depicting acanthus leaves. Cooper stopped at an intricately carved wooden door, which opened without him knocking.
A gray-haired butler bowed and indicated for them to come inside. “Welcome to the tea room. Lady Lorna Windsor will be with you shortly.”