Excerpt from my novelette, “White Bone,” published in the Fantasy short story anthology 9Tales From Elsewhere #7. This is a tale of revenge and romance, inspired by the Chinese myth of Bai Gu Jing, or White Bone Spirit, in which a king storms into the woods to slay a beast, and there encounters a woman whom he falls in love with. But she is dead unless he comes face to face with his troubled past.
He had been nearing the temple, but first he had decided to stop by the river for a quick rinse, to wash the grime off his face and hands before entering his ancestral abode. Now, weary though he was, he felt the familiar stirring in his blood, and was glad he had stopped. There by the river where the wild peony grew, where its thousand-petalled blooms dripped their heavy inflorescences from their arcing branches, there a slender arm lifted languidly and lowered, trickling diamond water; and the shining wet ebony sheet that was her hair rose with it to reveal just the barest sliver of hip, then rose some more to uncover, just for a moment, the perfect, shadowy dent in the small of her back, whispering secrets.
His heart quickened; his blood sang fire. Desire strained his will, shackles of decency ringing a low note against the burn.
Water lapped, black and lustrous, against her hip, indistinguishable from her floating hair. Sinuous curves melted into it, pink-tinted, like the colour of snow under an alpenglow of dawn. His foot crunched on the forest bed.
Startled, she paused, then turned curiously to peer over her shoulder. Dark eyes lifted, uncertain, round shadows cast like clandestine meeting places in an exquisite face that, unveiled of her hair, blossomed out before him like petals of a moonflower, opening one by one.
For a moment, he saw his own reflection in them. Such a powerful, striking figure he cut, in those deep pools silvered like mirrors. Above them, her eyelashes lightly quivered, like the shadows of flickering candle-flames, shivering though untouched by wind. Then the petals lowered again over her eyes, and her moon-washed hair cascaded back over her shoulders; she had not seen him.
He snapped. All at once he was an animal—and like an animal he took her, from the back, just out of sight of the temple by the river where the wild peonies still grow.
She moulded herself meekly to his rough hands, silent and acquiescent as river water shaping itself around the hard, feverish body of a man cutting through it. Forward and speedily he propelled himself, his arms knifing through the waves, crushing with the weight of the world; but the water dispersed around him, and drifted at his touch, so that though he swam through it he could not grasp a single, sliding drop in his hands.
You can get the full story from the Amazon Kindle store. Comments / reviews welcome. 🙂