It's Time To Share Again!
Several weeks ago, I posted the opening pages of my work in progress. I'm now ready to share another excerpt, this time from further into the book. Over the Edge is an erotic horror novel destined for the Shivers line at Ellora's Cave (my publisher).
Over the Edge: The Blurb
Dahlia, a novice Healer, is accepted into a mysterious school in Seattle that teaches Curative Touch - only to realize too late that she is in grave danger. She and the other students are being used as a Guinea Pigs for newly-adult Sex Demons in training in the usage of their own powers. But Dahlia has done the forbidden: She's fallen in love with her Demon instructor and unearthed the truth.
(The setting for this excerpt: It is the first day of lessons at the Institute. Dahlia and her classmates are learning the first exciting steps of Curative Touch, as taught by ... Demons.)
Professor Abiba turned to his audience. "And now I shall conduct a little exercise, to get us started. Put your hands together. Like this." He clasped his hands in a prayerful sort of way and held them out for all to see.
We copied him, a room full of pious students.
"Now give your hands to the person sitting next to you. One of you will put your hands over the other person's hands. Gently, now."
I turned to Coralee. She took my hands in hers, and her skin felt warm and dry. We smiled shyly at each other at this intimate, unexpected contact. On my other side, Ellen moved a few seats over so she could give her hands to Preston.
Professor Abiba's voice turned soothing. "This is your first official lesson at the Institute. A momentous occasion, to be sure." He waited until the last student pairing was settled, and then continued. "Rule Number One. Always ask for permission before you start a healing. Always. Without fail. Even if the person has requested your help. Even if you are only doing a practicum with your Model. It is an enormous breach of trust to not do so."
I sat with my hands embraced by Coralee's, pondering his words and wondering—had I asked permission before touching people during my painful years of stumbling in the dark trying to help people? Always and without fail?
I knew I hadn't.
Sometimes—most times—I had, but not always. Perhaps I didn't have explicit permission, but I always had implicit permission. I always knew that what I had to give was something they wanted.
Professor Abiba cleared his throat. "But once isn't enough. Asking permission is a two-part process because we believe that asking once isn't sufficient. We must let patients know exactly what we want to do. But fear not, my earnest pupils, for I shall teach you the verbiage." He nodded sagely. He raised a lone finger as emphasis. "First, acknowledge your patient's suffering. Use their name if you can. Now listen closely. These are the exact words—except for the name—that you must memorize and take to heart." He cleared his throat, looked at his wife, and then spoke in a theatrical-sounding voice. "Zettia, you are suffering. May I put my hands on you?"
Mistress Anjoli inclined her head.
He turned back to us. "Now you do it. Go ahead. Say the words to the person whose hands you hold."
Coralee and I shared an excited little smile.
I took the plunge. "Coralee, you are suffering. May I put my hands on you?"
Her eyes shone. "And I see that you are suffering too, Dahlia. May I put my hands on you?"
The same thing was echoed all around us, with minor variations.
Professor Abiba nodded. "Well done. Now for the second part. May I conduct a healing for you?"
I turned back to Coralee. "May I conduct a healing for you?"
Coralee said the words back to me.
We squeezed each other's hands, a silent yes. Then I thought about Gage, about how he'd put his hands on me yesterday, about how he'd said these very words. He'd even used my name.
It made me shiver.
Professor Abiba was speaking again. "The words I just taught you will become so familiar that you will be able to say them in your sleep. They are words that will stay with you for the rest of your lives. They are potent words which will settle you into the proper frame of mind to unlock your Curative Energy."
They'd certainly been potent when Gage had said them to me.
Professor Abiba waited an extra moment before continuing. "But even that is not enough. You are not yet ready to begin a healing. You must obtain assent." He moved to the edge of the platform. "The assent doesn't need to be verbal, because sometimes a patient may not be able to speak, but it must be clearly given. Why do we need assent? Why can't we heal a person just because we can, because we have the knowledge and the ability, and because we wish to help those in pain?" He left the stage, taking his robes in his hands and raising them to knee height before letting them drop again after he stepped down to the lower level. He was wearing loose ankle-length white pants underneath. "Why do we wait for assent? Because the nature of what we do demands it."
He walked back and forth, so tall that he towered above us. Coralee and I, still holding hands, craned our heads when he came our direction. Then he turned around and walked the other way.
"You see," he said, "our art works best if a patient is complicit in their own healing."
Oh! I hadn't known that. I wished my hands were free so I could write it down.
"A willing patient will open themselves to you. A willing patient will be relaxed. He or she will respond to your touch. He or she will offer their energy to you, even if they do not realize what they are doing." He stopped in front of me and Coralee. "Take these lovely young ladies in the first row. Our Dahlia will utilize Coralee's energy alongside her own to do her healing work. Two streams of energy are stronger than one. Understand?"
"Yes," I whispered. Because I did understand, and it was beautiful. It was simple. And it was so obvious, although I hadn't seen it until Professor Abiba had shown me.
I stared up at him, transfixed.
And then I wondered how he'd known our names.
He moved away. "Good. My job is to teach you to direct the flow of energy. To use it for a specific purpose, targeted toward one part of the body. And to direct your patient's energy alongside your own. It's more complicated than that, of course, but that right there is the basis of Curative Touch as we understand it." He stepped back up onto the podium. "You're still connected with your patient, still holding hands. You've asked for permission. Twice. You've obtained assent. Now it's time for the next step. Ask your patient to close his or her eyes."
I asked Coralee to close her eyes. And then I closed mine.
His voice came out of the darkness, silky and warm. "Now we're starting the simulated healing. Keep hold of your partner's hands. Take your time. Be gentle but firm. Be mindful." He waited a good minute or two. "Your hands should be feeling heavier. And getting warmer."
I sucked in my breath. My hands were getting warmer, just as he'd said. And they felt like they weighed twenty pounds. I wondered if Coralee's hands felt like that too. I noticed that we'd allowed our joined hands to fall to the arm rest that separated our seats. I breathed in, out. In, out. Taking my time.
Finally, he spoke again. "This is a simulation. We're not going to do any healing this time. All I want is for you to know what it will feel like when we actually do get to that point." He paused between each instruction. "Feel your partner's skin…feel your own skin…feel where your fingertips meet…feel your partner's warmth…take it in…share your own warmth with your partner. Feel it. Don't think of anything else—just feel."
Institute Time was a funny thing.
It seemed to stand still, waiting, poised, full of potential.
And then, without warning, something wonderful happened. Color! Fiery vermillion! A shocking burst of brilliant red that flooded my awareness and left me dumbstruck. Even though my eyes were closed, I saw color all around, so much so that it crowded out everything else. I became a ball of pure red light with the name Dahlia attached to it, and it was the most marvelous thing that had ever happened to me.
I made some sort of sound.
"Ah," said Professor Abiba.
I opened my eyes to find him standing right in front of me.
"Tell me, my dear—what just happened?"
"Color!" I gasped. "I see red!"
He regarded me, looking rather proud. "Ladies and Gentlemen," he said to my fellow students as he gently parted my hands from Coralee's. "Something momentous has just happened here. A benchmark. And it happened well before anticipated. We don't usually see this occur for days yet." He tugged lightly on my arm, urging me to stand next to him. Which I did, still seeing the world tinged in that delicious vermillion. "Our Dahlia has accessed the Nurturing Forces! Let us give her a round of applause!"
They clapped for me, all of them, as I stood dazed and happy next to my professor.
The Nurturing Forces.
Who knew they were red?
(End of Excerpt)
Working on 'Over the Edge'
Thank you for reading! I'm still hard at work on Over the Edge - I'm currently just over 40,000 words into the novel, almost halfway through. I plan to post more excerpts occasionally, so please do check back.