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UNEDITED EXCERPT. Confidential. Unrevised and unpublished proof. Please do not quote until verified with finished book.

This copy is not for distribution to the public.

Quickly, he bowed over the spell again and continued his reading. This time he gave voice to the words, speaking them out loud. The power of the spell intensified.

She uttered a ferocious hiss. The soft petal-lips gave way to biting teeth that grabbed and savaged his ear. The dangerous fingers playing across his skin tore deep into his flesh, and blood flowed, soaking through his shirt and robe, pouring rivulets down his body to pool on the floor.

Why do you fight me? Why do you resist? Was I not created for you and your pleasure? Why do you refuse all that I can give?

He read on, his voice louder than before. With each word, the spell strengthened, and her hold on him faded. The shadows retreated, dissipated, and vanished. Only a soft flutter in his ear remained, a ghostly echo.

You will understand in the end. You will be mine . . . mine . . . .

His candle burned down. When at last it guttered in its bowl, golden dawn-light streaked through the eastern window and bathed his desk in its glow. By that light he read the last of the spell, the final words. The Binding.

A tremulous sigh gusted from his chest. He shut the book fast and sagged back in the chair. Sweat soaked through his matted hair. He put a hand to his ear, wincing, and drew back his fingers to find them stained with blood. More blood soaked through his shirt and robes. Not as much as he’d believed, however. Most of the attack had been a dream. Only a dream.

But she was getting stronger. Her reach into the physical world strengthened every night.

The mage rose from his seat, his legs shivering. He stripped off his outer robe and let it fall in a pile on the floor. Then he staggered to the narrow, rickety bed on the other side of the basin and collapsed across it, little caring how many bloodstains he left on the threadbare blanket beneath him. He lay for some while, neither sleeping nor awake, simply existing.

Her voice whispered at the back of his mind, like a wind wafting through an aromatic garden, tickling his senses: You will be mine. Mine for eternity . . . mine . . . mine . . . mine . . . .

At last he fell into a dreamless sleep.

End of Excerpt

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