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The Bishop – A Tanglewood Novella
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From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Skye Warren comes the next installment in her Tanglewood series.
A million dollar chess piece goes missing hours before the auction.
Anders Sorenson will do anything to get it back. His family name and fortune rests on finding two inches of medieval ivory. Instead he finds an injured woman with terrible secrets.
He isn’t letting her go until she helps him find the piece. But there’s more at stake in this strategic game of lust and danger. When she confesses everything, he might lose more than his future. He might lose his heart.
**Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.**
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One Thousand and One Dark Nights
Once upon a time, in the future…
I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.
I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and
the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast
library at my father’s home and collected thousands
of volumes of fantastic tales.
I learned all about ancient races and bygone
times. About myths and legends and dreams of all
people through the millennium. And the more I read
the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered
that I was able to travel into the stories… to actually
become part of them.
I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher
and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I
would not be telling you this tale now.
But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off
One afternoon, curious about the myth of the
Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to
see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar
(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then
sent yesterday’s wife to be beheaded. It was written
and I had read that by the time he met Scheherazade,
the vizier’s daughter, he’d killed one thousand
Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived
in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged
places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had
never occurred before and that still to this day, I
Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have
taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can
protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to
protect herself and stay alive.
Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.
And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a
point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.
And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that
he might hear the rest of my dark tale.
As soon as I finish a story… I begin a new
one… like the one that you, dear reader, have before
Death has a sound. There’s a rattle in her breathing that wasn’t there this morning. I move the knight over my pawns, which has been my opening move since forever. We can pretend like this is a regular day. Momma studies the board with a look of concentration, even though she makes the same move—her king-side pawn two spaces forward. It’s something I can count on, that move, and it doesn’t let me down. Her hand trembles as it falls back to the couch.
Death has a smell. There’s the cough medicine that’s dribbled some on her dress. The deep infection that wheezes out on every breath. We’ve been living in this world for days, weeks. Years, really. Momma gets sick a few times every winter, but it hit her harder this year. The same thing that made her think slow made her immune system weak.
I move my queen side pawn forward, mostly because I want her to react.
She captures my pawn.
It would almost be enough to convince me everything’s normal, if it weren’t for Poppa watching us from the kitchen. His eyes are rimmed red. There are a hundred orange bottles spread out across the table. None of the pills and ointments are working. Not anymore.
We move a few pieces, taking up strategic locations across the board. There was a time she could read and write. She knew what every medicine in those bottles does, but I was too young to remember. Mostly I know her this way—quiet and focused and simple. She needs help getting dressed and showering every day. Maybe the other kids in school would think that’s weird, but I don’t really care. Poppa’s out on calls most nights, so who else will do it?
Death has a face, and it’s not even my mother’s expression of concentration.
It’s Poppa, with his shoulders hunched over, his eyes leaking. It looks like failure.
I push my bishop forward, angle him so he’s facing her queen. I’ve never had to go easy on her. She needs help doing the buttons in order, but she never stopped being able to play chess.
As soon as my finger leaves the little knob on the wooden bishop I see my mistake. Her castle’s already in the middle of the board. I was so focused on the crack in her defenses that I missed it. I hold my breath, because the boys at school would be watching me. We don’t play chess. It’s strictly poker with lunch money as the bet while we’re on the bus.
Before I can react she’s reaching out to move the castle, to knock my bishop out of the way, to move my piece to the side—in that fast, efficient movement of someone ready to make their next move.
“Good one!” The words bubble out of me, and I’m laughing. It’s too loud.
Except her hand falls to the side. Her arm isn’t trembling anymore. It’s limp. The wooden piece rolls out of her hand and softly, softly onto the carpet.