EXCERPT: The night was starkly beautiful under a canopy of jeweled stars. I savored my moments of freedom, which were marred by the realization that it was dripping away day by day. The sizzle of coffee beans roasting in the skillet floated across the still air. Cups clinked on a tray as my father passed them around the circle. The aroma of roasted brew spiced with cardamom seeped into the night. As I tried to slip past, Horeb’s eyes caught mine. Firelight flickered over his face, outlining his jaw and wind-tangled black hair. He was devastatingly handsome just as all the girls said, but his lips curled into a smile that sent shudders down my spine. Horeb’s glance lingered on my body, settling not on my face, but lower, as if he was undressing me right there on the dirt path. His eyes locking onto mine, Horeb rose from the circle of men. I jerked around, breaking off his stare. Walking faster, I turned the corner of the tent just as his arm reached out to stop me. “So, little cousin,” Horeb said. “Have you been enjoying the betrothal ceremony? Tell me, are the women telling stories of marital relations?” My breath caught like a thorn in my throat. The women’s ceremonies were not discussed with any male—only inside the privacy of a marriage bed. “You shouldn’t be saying these things to me,” I said. Running his fingers down my arm, Horeb continued to study me. “There are many things I’d like to say to you, Jayden. There used to be a time when my throat pounded every time Horeb turned my direction. A time when he was growing into those big, dark eyes and that hard, muscular body. Moments when I wanted to touch his thick, black hair, or run my finger along his jaw to discover what a boy’s skin felt like with a newly growing beard. But now that I was sixteen, and he twenty, his stares made me uneasy. My heart still pounded, but not from love. And I wasn’t sure what it was or what to call it.
Author Kimberley Griffiths Little
Award-winning author Kimberley Griffiths Little was born in San Francisco, but now lives in New Mexico on the banks of the Rio Grande with her husband and their three sons. Her middle-grade novels, When the Butterflies Came, The Last Snake Runner, The Healing Spell, and Circle of Secrets, have been praised as “fast-paced and dramatic,” with “beautifully realized settings.” Kimberley adores anything old and musty with a secret story to tell. She’s stayed in the haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle in Scotland; sailed the Seine in Paris; ridden a camel in Petra, Jordan; shopped the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul; and spent the night in an old Communist hotel in Bulgaria.
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