When I landed an interview for my job, I promised myself I’d commission more art from Laya if I had the position. And I did! (It’s going great, by the way. The place and the people are lovely, though I do come home exhausted). Laya, who did the Halfies Trio art, has provided me with another gem: Andeal and Maniel being absolute cuties! I’m so happy with it, and with Maniel’s hair. *contended sigh*
For those who haven’t read (you should! You can even get it for free by subscribing to the news, on the right), Maniel and Andeal are both part of the rebels in Viral Airwaves.
So here we go! I put an excerpt to go with it, too. 🙂
They headed toward a smaller table, set apart from the others by a somewhat less-imposing stalagmite that created a deep alcove and offered some privacy. A tall woman leaned against the rock formation, her dark eyes following their progress through the dining area. Her natural hair hung loose on her shoulders, thick and frizzy, and she waited with her arms crossed. The sky-blue robes contrasted with her dark skin.
“We’re home, sweetheart,” Andeal said.
The corners of her lips curved upward, as though she was trying to suppress a full smile. When Andeal’s shoulders slumped, she laughed, and her deep voice echoed off the walls. Henry found himself smiling, too. There was something reliable and welcoming about her. His house had been ransacked by soldiers, his peaceful life might be gone forever, but her laughter made him feel better. Safer.
“I’ll forgive you this time,” she teased. “You brought back an honored guest, after all.”
“Honored?” Henry didn’t like the sound of that. What could his father have done to deserve this much respect? The man couldn’t even control his grief enough to stay with his son! “I’m here because I didn’t have a choice.”
Her thin eyebrows arched at his answer. “Did my husband capture you? I’m good with rescues from evil monsters, if you’re in need.”
There was an edge to her voice when she said ‘monster’. Henry thought of the blue skin, of how terrified he had been at first. Better not tell her he’d shot Andeal. He lowered his gaze, his cheeks flushing with shame.
“It’s all right, Maniel,” Andeal said. Henry couldn’t help but feel this was also addressed to him. “Union soldiers arrived. We fled before they could spot us.”
There was a tense silence and Henry glanced up, confused by it. Maniel studied her husband with such intensity Henry felt compelled to look away. Yet Andeal held on, his gaze unflinching.
“Are you certain they didn’t see you?” Maniel asked, her voice subdued.
“And you left no tracks? They can’t—”
“We’re fine.” Andeal put a hand on her arm and squeezed. “We’re safe. They’re not coming for us.”
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, nodded. “That was close.” Her gaze turned to Henry and her smile returned. Her anxiety from a moment ago had vanished. “But I imagine if Andeal hadn’t gone, they would have you now. It’s good to know we could save Lenz’s son. We owed him as much.”
“Did you, by chance, owe him dinner?”
All this talk about horrible danger and owing his father unsettled his stomach. He had been promised a meal and the smell of fish still tickled his nostrils. While his reply confused Maniel, Andeal chuckled.
“We’ve been walking all day and I did say there’d be a meal,” he explained. “To be honest, neither of us had much to eat since morning. There was no time for provisions at Henry’s home.”
“Well, aren’t you lucky I thought to keep some safe? You two sit down while I go get it. You’ve done enough walking for the day.”
They had done enough for a lifetime as far as Henry was concerned, so he collapsed into a chair with a huge sigh of relief. Andeal first caught his wife by the waist, stopping her as she tried to walk away.
“Nuh-uh,” he said with a playful smile.
“Already desperate for more? You’ve barely been gone more than a day.”
Despite her protest, Maniel was smiling and did nothing to escape his grasp.
“Too long.” He pulled her a little closer. Henry felt like an intruder. “Besides,” Andeal added, “I’m doing it for you. If you wait until I eat, I’ll have garlic breath.”
She laughed, but not for long. Andeal linked his hands behind her back while she settled one on his shoulder. Her loose hair slid forward and obscured part of her face as she bent to kiss him. Henry couldn’t help but smile as they remained locked together. He had no idea what would’ve happened to Andeal had soldiers caught them, but he was glad they’d escaped. Maniel pulled away and pushed her hair back.
“You’ll have to wait for more,” she whispered. “I think we’ve made our guest wait long enough for his due.”
Andeal allowed her to go with a reluctant pout. Henry watched her disappear with an excited smile. As heartwarming as their little reunion was, he could not remember being this hungry.