With my good arm, I pull my leg up to bend the knee. Hiking the hem of my dress up, I reveal torn muscle and shredded skin. I wince as the fabric moves over it, tugging flaps of skin in directions they aren’t meant to go.
Elias’ hands set to work, scooping water up, and pouring it over my thigh. Each drop, gentle as the administration of them may be, pulls a moan of pain from my lips. Wrapping fingers tightly around a stone, I do what I can to bear the pain without making Elias feel worse.
The blood washes away, revealing the true devastation wrought by the dead wolf’s jaws. My leg hangs open, dark muscle showing itself to the sky as it was never meant to do.
“Itand have mercy,” he whispers, calling on the goddess of fortitude.
But she’ll spare no blessings for the likes of me.
“What do I need to do?” he asks. His eyes roam over me, and one hand finds its way to my cheek. Brows knitted together, he clearly longs for something to do, some reassurance that I’ll be ok.
Does he want me to be alright for the sake of spending more time together? Or merely for the sake of having an escort for the rest of the trek?
I hope for his sake that it’s the latter. But the well of loneliness within me wishes for the former.
Either way, there’s nothing he can do.
“My body will mend itself,” I tell him. “It’ll hurt, but it’ll mend. It’s already started.”
His eyes drop to my arm, my leg. The bleeding has stopped, and the cuts aren’t as deep as they were mere seconds ago. Had he seen it when the wounds were first inflicted, he likely would’ve been sick.
“I wish you would’ve let me help,” he murmurs, sliding his hand along my jaw until his thumb finds my earlobe.
Exhaustion pulls my inhibitions low. Despite myself, despite the guilt churning within me, I lean into his caress.
Nolan won’t want me back, anyway.
My heart shrinks from the thought, and I close my eyes, nuzzling my cheek into Elias’ palm.
“Letting you help would’ve been a terrible idea. They could never kill me. They had no salt, no silver. They couldn’t say any incantations.”
I pause, squeezing my eyes tight against the horrid images which flash before them. I don’t want to see the ways they could’ve hurt him. I don’t want to watch them tear him to shreds. I don’t want to see his blood on the ground.
“They could’ve killed you, though,” I whisper.
Suddenly desperate to see him alive and healthy, to ease my conscience just a bit, I open my eyes. Sure enough, he’s there, face inches from mine. The moonlight glows in his magnificent eyes, but the blood of the Howlers still adorns his face.
Reaching for his sodden shirt, I lift a corner of it to his face. Wiping away the dried blood, I memorize the strength in his jaw, the kindness in his eyes. I trace the small kink in his nose, a remnant from a previous fight.
From a distance, it’s almost impossible to notice, but this close…
My eyes drop to his lips, full and soft. They part, but only to speak.
Confusion wrinkles his brow. “If they couldn’t kill you, why were they sent after us? To maim you and kill me?”
“No,” I say, shaking my head. I stifle a groan as my thigh stitches itself together. “They sent them to find us. They know where we are, now. They know which way we were headed. They’ll find us.”
Those words sew our lips shut, for we both know. This won’t be the last of the vampire and his pledge. And if this was just the search party, what awaits us down the path?
What is it about this book that makes it special?
A Heart of Salt & Silver is guttural and sensual. The characters break in the face of trauma. They falter. And they get back up.
They move forward, clawing through life and into love.
This book takes things that we see all the time in paranormal romance and fantasy romance, things like vampires and shifters and witches and love triangles, and it twists them. It digs deeper, flooding each of those tropes with genuine emotion and psychology.
Because without true motivations, without relatable characters who’ve seen the darker side of human nature and still kept going, it’s harder for me to get into a book. But if you give me that desperation, that struggle, if you show me a character willing to keep trying for what they want even when everything around them tries to stand in their way, it sucks me in.
So of course, that’s the kind of characters I generally write.
But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the thing that every beta reader mentioned as something they loved.
Some immortals can smell emotions and whether someone is mortal or immortal. They can also hear heartbeats.
Basically, there are two types of energy (also the foundation of magic and immortality in the world), Nether and Ether. As such, there are two types of Immortals, Netherspawn and Etherspawn, named for the type of energy they have an excess of. This excess allows them certain abilities, since they’re more in tune with that energy.
Ether is cerebral in nature and incredibly contained, so its affects on the outside world are hard to discern, if not impossible. Skilled Etherspawn can reason their way through any problem, making all the difficult decisions necessary without batting an eye. And after a couple centuries of practice, they can read minds.
Nether is unruly and hard to restrain. Emotions and heartbeats are rooted in Nether, and thus affect the energy around the person or animal. Heartbeats vibrate the Nether in the air, allowing practiced Netherspawn to find their prey or detect excitement in a lover. Emotions affect the way the Nether in the air smells, telling Netherspawn exactly what’s going on within someone, once they learn what each smell means.
Love smells like sugar, and hope smells like lilac. Worry smells like sweat and onions. Fear smells like spoiled food.
Lust smells earthy, like freshly tilled dirt.
As for mortals vs immortals, their scents fall into certain classes. Mortals smell like normal objects or food.
Netherspawn have very distinctive scents. Vampires smell like types of alcohol, and wolf shifters (called werewolves in the book) smell like woodland trees or flowers. Sirens smell like tropical plants. Demons and Demi-Demons smell like types of smoke.
Etherspawn are incredibly rare, limited only to Gods and Demi-Gods, and have no overwhelming scent, which tells Netherspawn exactly what they are. Since Ether is so contained and doesn’t resonate as easily, they’re naturally more reserved in what they put out into the world. Only their emotions come through on the wind, but those are few and far between in these cerebral beings.
Of course, the immortals also have other abilities too, but this one, the way their immortality tunes them into the world and the people around them, has been remarked upon by every reader thus far.
Elexis Bell is a quiet nerd with too many hobbies, including everything from gaming to shower-singing and even archery, weather permitting. She specializes in sarcasm and writing stories that make people feel. She's made a home for herself with her husband, their dog, and a small army of cats.
She writes dark, gritty stories, sprinkling gut-wrenching emotions over high fantasy romance, thrillers, post-apocalyptic romance, and science fiction.
For further information, follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, or check out her blog on her website.