Sneak-Peak: Notte Grows a Conscience

This is an unedited snippet from my upcoming book, Notte. Enjoy!

“Do those you drink from die?”

“Yes,” I said, but wondered. “Most of the time.”

“Most of the time?”

At this point, I knew an opening to answer more when I heard one. “Sometimes they live. And sometimes — once — she became mine. My child. My daughter became mine, after I drank from her.”

Six’s ears flicked back. You would have thought I’d spat at her feet. “Your daughter became like you when you drank her life?”

I nodded.

She leaned back; perhaps I already needed another shower? “Are you certain?”

Why was she so afraid. “Yes.”

“Has anyone else been made like you?”

“No. If they had, maybe he would have killed them, too, and then I would be in more pieces.” I ached. Ached, so much, shattered. Broken.

“You said others lived.” Having stalked close, she changed direction, eyes still locked on mine, and continued to pace in the other direction.



There was a question I’d never asked before. I frowned, brow knitting, and fiddled with my hands. “I don’t know.”

“Yes, you do. Think over it. Why did they survive?”

I sighed. Thinking back to that time was hard, fuzzy, all in a different color. Anything before Death’s healing seemed so far away, distant, untouchable. There was the man in that village, when we’d been set upon by a small contingent of soldiers. There was the little girl I’d been drinking when my daughter pulled her away from me. There was that old woman who’d just tasted awful, and I’d spit her out and left her on the floor of her hut, sobbing.

Come to think of it… that was terrible! My heart ached remembering her, all of a sudden, when it never had before. How could I have done that? What had become of her? Had she lain in her blood, suffering, sorrowful, and died there? Had she been aided? Could she ever feel safe again, when I had torn so easily through her mud walls and her straw door?

Six did not prompt me, content to wait while I worked at my own sad speed. I finally looked up at her, though her form had blurred with the onset of my tears. “They lived because I stopped drinking them.”

“Left them with some life, did you,” Six said thoughtfully. “Are you able to stop drinking life from anyone?”

Another strange question! If I had known how to shrug, I would have. “I do not know.”

“Figure it out.” Six spun back for the stairs. “We’ll see what the king decides to make of this.” Silent and swift, she descended and was gone.

Her questions had done their dirty deed, and the faucet of my memory, now turned on, would not switch off. Faces and screams marched before my mind’s eye in an endless parade: a merciless tapestry of condemnation and regret.

I’d seen almost all of them, their eyes wide and their pores sweating, their mouths wide like raw, red wounds and their hands desperately clawing, uselessly tearing, to push me away from their necks. And I had not stopped. I had spared none of them. I had pulled back not at all, moved away not even once, and only begun to grant pleasure toward the end because it made them more pliable.

I gave pleasure because it made me happier, not because it spared them. Had it truly spared them? At all?

No. I had taken so many lives. Try as I might, I could not comprehend the number of them, even if I were able to count them.

Before, I did not even consider that others might be bereaved as I was. Now, the grief I had wrought was this: I had taken their lives as the wicked creature had taken my daughter’s.

I put my face in my hands and wept.


A three-times bestselling author, Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and been the keynote speaker for the Write Practice Retreat. Author of two series with five books and fifty-plus short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom and used up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon in the process. When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away. P.S. Red is still her favorite color.