Since everybody seemed to mostly dig the character sketch/outtake idea, I figure I might as well share the character sketch I just did for Rab, the hero in my next novella Edge of Shadow. This little scene takes place just before EoS and shows the softer side of our hero.
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“—And just last week, I caught her sending her incorporeal half to class so she could sleep in.” Profound disapproval was etched on the bodyguard’s face, a considerable feat since the gargoyle’s usual expression more often resembled the stone he could become at will.
Even as his mind calculated the threat of exposure, Rab’s lip twitched. It was so much the kind of thing he’d have done if his childhood had included novelties like high school instead of endless years of training.
His gaze shifted to Emily, who had the good grace to look embarrassed. She picked at the chipped blue nail polish that matched her eyes and hid behind the long, dark tangles of her hair.
You’re the parent now, remember. You have to be the responsible one. “Em, is this true?” He folded his arms and waited.
She mumbled something and picked at her nails some more, shifting to prop one of her hot pink chucks against the ankle of the other, which was a dead giveaway.
“Emily Lorraine Coulter, look at me.”
Her face popped up, eyes wide with surprise. “Geez, you sound just like Dad.” Then the surprise faded to the quiet pain that always came on the heels of any mention of their parents.
“What class were you ditching?” he asked.
“Physics.” She assumed a mutinous expression. “It’s so boring, Rab. Your lessons are so much cooler.”
Yeah, what with the breaking the so called laws of physics, I guess they would be. “Maybe so, kiddo, but you know the rules here. Model student. Perfect attendance. Do everything Meshach tells you to do. What would have happened if somebody walked through your other half? Or if you’d accidentally walked through a desk because you were asleep and not fully in control of yourself?”
She looked down again. “I won’t do it again,” she said, her voice small.
Rab hooked an arm around her neck and tugged her close for a hug. “I know this isn’t ideal, but right now it’s the only way we can be sure you’re safe.”
“I’d rather stay with you.”
Rab’s heart twisted.
The life of a spy for hire was hardly the place for a teenage girl. Their parents had wanted Emily to have a normal life. Rab was going to do everything in his power to see that she did. Even if it wasn’t quite the normal they’d had in mind.
He hated that she was so isolated here—she and her bodyguard were the only Mirus in the place. Which was why he’d picked Prescott Academy. It was full of the kids of human dignitaries, celebrities, and politicos, so bodyguards weren’t out of place. The biggest threat she faced here was fitting in. That was all anybody should expect of a high school junior.
“I promise I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he said.
“When?” The question, muffled against his shirt, was half plea, half demand.
“I don’t know.”
It was the truth, however unsatisfying. The series of recon missions he’d been doing to fund the fancy pants boarding school and Meshach’s salary had taken him all over the world. Sometimes they went quick and he was back within a week. The longest one had run just over two months, and his satellite phone had been crushed in a cave-in halfway through. Since his employer hadn’t deigned to actually tell him what he was looking for, he didn’t dare shadow walk back. No way in hell was he chancing leading anything or anyone to his sister. Emily had been frantic by the time he’d finally made it back to civilization and found a secure line to call her.
She still hadn’t quite forgiven him for that.
“I wish you had a normal job,” she said, pulling away.
“Me too, kiddo.” A normal job definitely would not foot the bill for this life he’d bought her. After all these years working for the Council, the only other thing he was suited for was being an assassin, and killing really wasn’t his preference when he could avoid it.
With a sigh, the untold depths of which only a teenager could manage, Emily asked, “When do you have to leave?”
“Tonight. But I can hang out a while first. We can hit up that Italian place you were telling me about. The one with the great ossobuco. You can tell me about school or whatever.”
Turning to Meshach, Rab said, “Meet you back here at nine?”
Despite the sticky air that met them when they exited the apartment building, Rab slung and arm around her shoulders. “Shall we?”
“We’re getting gelato after.” It wasn’t a request.
As thin as she was these days, he’d give her a gallon. “Sure. So what’s been going on since I last popped in?”
Rab listened with half an ear as she talked, telling him about classes and teachers and homework. The rest of him was busy scanning the streets, searching the shadows. They stretched long in the late summer sunset, beckoning. He saw nothing and no one from the Mirus world, but he didn’t relax. He wasn’t sure he’d ever relax again.
Emily’s voice broke in, dragging his attention back. “—and there’s this guy.”
“Guy? What guy?” Rab demanded, focusing fully on her again.
Emily chuckled and tugged open the door of the ristorante. “Just a guy in my chemistry class. My lab partner. He’s pretty cute actually. He asked me out for coffee the other day.”
“Coffee,” Rab repeated. As he followed her inside, he wondered if he wouldn’t have to revisit the idea of assassin after all.