Thursday, January 10, 2013

Another excerpt from A Simple Charm

Four more days until the release of A Simple Charm, so I'm going to share another excerpt for everyone to get a taste.

This is in Seb's (the carnival barker) POV. His second encounter with Levi, when Levi has snuck out of his house in the middle of the night to watch the carnies.

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“So tell me what your favorite part of today was,” Seb prodded. It felt important to keep Levi talking, utilize the one skill he could guarantee to wind a proper web around the moment and cocoon it safely away.

“The whole day.”

Seb laughed. “Oh, come on, there must be something you liked better than anything else. The rides? The games? The acrobats?”

“What do people usually say when you ask them that?”

“Ah, now, you’re making assumptions that might not be true. I don’t go around gathering up comment cards when people shuffle on back home. My job is just to get them onto the midway.”

“You do more than that.”

“Did you see me leave my stage at all today? No, you didn’t, because that’s where I work from. I get to see everyone when they’re still excited about what’s to come, not after they’re hot and tired and want to go home to sleep until Tuesday.”

“That’s not what happens.” Levi’s sudden vehemence came with a roll onto his side, more of their limbs coming into contact as he propped his head on his hand to stare down at Seb. Their closeness finally gave him the chance to see the pale brightness of Levi’s eyes, burning again with a fervor that stole Seb’s breath away. “What you do, it’s magical. It really is. People love you.”

The corner of Seb’s mouth lifted into the semblance of a sad smile. “They love the carnival. There’s a difference.” One he’d learned too late.

“And you’re part of that,” Levi insisted. “Some of them wouldn’t even go in if you weren’t there to tell them how wonderful it was.”

His estimation of what lit Levi up had been wrong, or rather, incomplete. It wasn’t just that he was smart. Innocence radiated from every pore, the type that would wither at the first sign from the real world that the dreams he concocted could never come true.

“What is it you do?” Seb asked, changing the subject. “You’re too old for school, right?”

A quick frown pulled Levi’s brows together. “I hope so. I’m almost twenty.”

“Practically ancient.”

“Not that much younger than you.”

Only in biological years. “There’s more to age than a number.”

“I know that, but you don’t or you wouldn’t tease me like I’m some kid.”

“And what kind of experience could life have possibly thrown at someone like you to make you capable of even thinking such a thing?”

His lashes ducked, and his gaze slid to the side. Avoidance. Brought on by shame? Fear? Seb craved discovering why, though at the same time, a curl of anxiety wound through his gut at finding out the answer. He didn’t want his ideals of Levi shattered, just like he knew Levi wouldn’t want his fantasies about the carnival destroyed. Out here, they could live in a bubble where both existed peacefully together, but only if they took care not to burst it with the wrong words.

“I’m sorry,” he heard himself say. “That was rude of me.”

His apology had the desired effect. Levi let out a long, ragged breath, and lifted his eyes to Seb’s again.
“I work in the general store,” Levi said, going back to Seb’s earlier question. “I’m kind of an apprentice there. Working my way up.”

“Does your family own it?”

He shook his head. “My mother’s the teacher in town, and Pap works out on my grandfather’s farm. I’ve always been better at books than baling hay.”

“Bookworms belong in college.”

“Is that how you see me?”

Such a simple question, but more simmered behind those eyes, an almost desperate hunger that had nothing to do with college, everything to do with Seb. The walls around them strengthened, willing away the rest of the world for at least a few minutes longer.

“It’s my job to notice things.” The corner of his mouth tipped. “And I’m very good at what I do.”

“You said that this morning. About noticing things.”

Had he? His exact words eluded him, but apparently they hadn’t done so for Levi. “Because it’s true.”

“But sometimes, what looks like truth is really magic.”

“Ah, we’re back to that again. At college, they’d teach you different, you know.”

“I can’t go.”

“Why not?”

“We can’t afford it. But that’s all right. With the store, it’s all still good. It’ll work out for everyone in the long run.”

Seb didn’t believe him. Someone who stole out of his bed in the middle of the night to watch carnies sleep would never be happy stuck behind a counter, waiting on old biddies and cranky farmers until some girl convinced him to settle down and lock himself into an even duller future.

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