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teaseme

Welcome back to Tease Me Tuesday! We’ve got another small peek into Deception today with one of the things I struggle most with: action. I enjoy writing challenges and so was very happy to do some of this!

* * *

CYRUS crouched on the roof at the corner of the building, his eyes trained on the street below. He fidgeted with the collars on his robe and tunic for a moment, then forced himself to ignore them. It’d been nearly a year since he’d worn a full set of clothes, and he was uncomfortable. But he fell back on his old habits, forced his attention on what he was doing, and ignored his discomfort.

They’d decided to wait to do this until they were sure the public was convinced of their feelings for each other. Bathasar had been positive they’d question anything strange they saw—like them leaving the palace—and, try as they might, they couldn’t leave without drawing some attention. Bathasar didn’t want to take any chances, and they’d agreed.

Cyrus glanced across the alley to see the dark figure on the roof opposite him. Nadir was farther along the alley and only barely visible. Like him, Nadir wore all black robes in silk, black leather boots, and a full black cloak. His face covering was pulled up so the only part of him visible was his eyes, not that Cyrus could see them from his position. It was strange to see Nadir garbed in such a way again after all these years.

Stranger still to see the light of excitement he’d caught in his lover’s eyes before they’d left.

He didn’t miss sneaking across rooftops, hiding in the shadows. He longed for his freedom; that much was true. And the reasons for his shadowy occupation that night meant he didn’t mind what he was doing quite so much. He just didn’t miss the thieving that had gotten them caught in the first place.

He shook the thoughts off, reminding himself what he was doing that night was infinitely more important than any other job he’d done before. He scanned the alley below, finally finding what he was looking for. Teman, who had melted into the shadows of an alcove, was even less visible than Nadir was. He wore the same black robes, boots, hooded cloak, and face cover that they did. Cyrus nodded, shifting just enough to let Teman know he was checking, and saw the shadows move in acknowledgement.

He turned back to the street. Captain Darius, also clad in black so he wouldn’t be recognized, was examining some jewelry in a booth at the edge of the market on a side street. Darius glanced over one shoulder and up toward Cyrus, though he knew Darius couldn’t see him from there. The captain turned back to the booth, then looked up the street.

Cyrus felt the familiar adrenaline hit when Darius raised a hand. He was a little surprised, knowing what this was, but he was glad to know he still had it. He turned to the alley and held up the knife, tilting it to catch the moonlight. He caught one… then two returns. They were ready.

He turned back, feeling his senses sharpen, the instincts he remembered having coming back. He closed his eyes to listen and filtered out the market sounds: the fishwife on the next street pushing the last of her daily goods, the jeweler, the crowds. He’d had a talent for this part of it, for being able to hear. There. He opened his eyes to see the dark-blue cloak approach. He watched the head turn, the figure pause, looking behind him; then it slipped into the alley.

He followed it, keeping to the roof, watching where it went. Getting ahead just a bit, he paused and listened, then shook his head. He was grateful for his own face covering so his teeth didn’t show when he smiled. Signaling to Nadir, who moved out, he took the slight jump, a climb, and moved over the next roof. His blood pumped faster, and he felt the excitement build as he followed the figure down the alley.

They took a quick turn, and he smiled again behind the silk. Quick, but not quick enough. With a hand raise, he made the turn, once more following. A climb, another jump, and when the figure paused, tilting its head, he crouched lower, barely peeking over the edge. The figure shook its head and kept going. Cyrus paused and closed his eyes, listening intently. When he heard what he was listening for, he shook his own head and continued along the rooftops.

He wondered how far the figure was going to go. He saw Teman darting between the shadows below and Nadir on the roofs across from him, but he wouldn’t have known they were there had he not known to look for them. They were little more than darker shadows against the blackness below or the navy sky above.

He glanced up to see Nadir scaling a wall, rising to the roof one floor up, then crossing the tile before slithering down the other side. He felt a surge of pride at his lover for doing so well after so many years.

The figure made a quick right, and Cyrus scolded himself for not paying more attention. He took a shortcut rather than going up and over, and swung around the front of a tower. A moment later, the figure was back in view and he’d caught up. With another grin behind his covering, he knew the game was about to be over.

He watched as Teman caught up to the figure and slid behind an archway when they paused again. He caught Teman’s attention, made another hand signal, then looked for Nadir, who was crouched above the figure. A shift from Nadir, a reply from Teman, and the three of them moved at once.

Cyrus landed on one side of the figure, dagger extended. Nadir appeared behind, blade to the figure’s throat, and Teman was in front, short sword held out and pointed right at Bathasar’s stomach.

“You’re going to have to do better than that,” Nadir said in his ear.

Bathasar sighed. “I knew you were going to gang up on me.”

Nadir let go and stepped back, chuckling. “You—Bathasar, you have got to stop walking so heavily. I could have heard you from across the city.” The knife spun in Nadir’s hand, then was out of sight a second later.

“Indeed,” Cyrus agreed as his dagger disappeared into his robes.

“It was entirely too easy to follow you,” Teman said, sheathing his sword. “And you were not listening.”

“I am not as good as them, and could hear you,” Darius’s voice said from the end of the alley.

Bathasar dropped his face into his hand. “This is impossible.”

“Hardly,” Darius countered, stepping out of the shadow. “It will just take more practice,” he said, dropping his hand onto Bathasar’s shoulder. “Listen to them. They know what they are talking about. I will see you back at the palace.”

“Thank you, Darius.” Bathasar sighed and glanced at the other three, shaking his head. “You can give me pointers in a bit. I have a surprise for you.”

* * *

You can find Deception and the other novels in the Golden Collar series from Dreampsinner Press.

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