Living between worlds has never been comfortable, but it’s where I’ve always fit: between human and fey, illness and health, magic and reality.
I’ve spent the last six years looking for a cure for the nameless sickness eating me up. If I believed there was one out there, I would keep searching. But there isn’t, so I’ve come back home, where my past and present tangle. Come home to live . . . and to die.
But my father insists I meet Kin. He’s a healer, and determined to help, even though I’m not so hopeful anymore. But Kin isn’t what I expected, in any way. He sees me, not my illness. He reminds me of what it’s like to be alive. And I can’t help falling for him, even though I know it isn’t fair to either of us.
Kin thinks he has the cure I’ve been looking for, but it’s a cure that will change everything: me, my life, my heart. If I refuse, I could lose Kin. But if I take it, I might lose myself.
Now available from Riptide Publishing. http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/half
About Eli Lang
Eli Lang is a writer and drummer. She has played in rock bands, worked on horse farms, and has had jobs in libraries, where she spent most of her time reading every book she could get her hands on. She can fold a nearly perfect paper crane and knows how to tune a snare drum. She still buys stuffed animals because she feels bad if they’re left alone in the store, believes cinnamon buns should always be eaten warm, can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the tardigrade, and has a book collection that’s reaching frightening proportions. She lives in Arizona with far too many pets.
Connect with Eli:
To celebrate the release of Half, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide Publishing credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on February 18, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
Sometimes, when the weather was just turning from autumn to winter, and the last of the late fruit was clinging to the trees, we partied in the apple orchard. The stories always talk about fey partying, and mostly those stories are true. The fey love a good revelry. They love the music and the fire and the food and the complete abandon of it all. And the apple orchard was as good a place as any to do it. It belonged to my father, and I’d laid the glamour on it myself. It was hidden, tucked away, the perfect place to get lost, let go.
Most nights when I went to the fey parties, I enjoyed myself. Everyone pretended a bit at those gatherings. I could be someone else there. Or no one. I got a few sideways glances, and most of the fey still kept their distance. But I could be lesser there. Or more. The fey let me pretend for a while that I was a whole thing, not a creature living in two worlds. That I wasn’t my father’s son. I loved being able to disappear into the fey, become invisible. There was a freedom in it I found almost nowhere else.
But sometimes, I hated them. Sometimes even the sneakiest glances were like weights, levered against me. Sometimes I didn’t want to be anywhere near the fey, didn’t want to spend my midnight hours in the middle of a cold, damp apple orchard, no matter how beautiful the music was. No matter how much I liked the way the bonfire turned the trees’ branches red and gold. Sometimes I just wanted to be home, curled in my bed, warm and alone and safe. But some of the fey found it easier to deliver messages to me here, make requests, and it was my job to listen.
I stood at the edge of the lit area, close enough that I could see the fire in the middle of the little clearing, but deep enough into the dark between the trees that no one tried to pull me forward to dance. I switched from resting on one foot to the other. The ground was frosted over, the weather far colder than it should have been for this time of year, for this place. Even my leather boots couldn’t keep the chill from seeping in, not when I was standing still like this, away from the warmth of the fire and the fey, my back against the old tree’s gnarled trunk.
A tiny woman appeared at my elbow. Her head barely came up to the middle of my chest, and I was not a tall man. Her hair was a wild puff of blond curls, frizzy and disarrayed but downy. The way it fell over her shoulders, soft and flyaway, made me want to touch it. She wore a thick sweater, holes here and there in the weave of it letting the cold air in. Her feet were bare.
“You should dance,” she said, her voice high and breathy. She ran a hand down my arm, her fingers stretching like claws over the leather of my jacket, catching on it the same way the bark at my back did.
I shook my head. “What do you need?”
She turned her face away and watched the dancers. For a long time, she said nothing, but I didn’t need to remind myself to be patient. I was used to the way the fey got distracted, lost track of conversations. I waited, letting my body go still so she wouldn’t think I was restless.
“Saben wants you,” she said at last, her voice rising and falling in strange places. “And I need two copper pocketknives.”
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. “What for?”
The woman turned her head and smiled at me, her eyes just a tiny bit unfocused. “For coring apples.”
I didn’t get any more out of her after that. Her mind was caught in the music, in the flutes and fiddles and the pulsing beat of the drums. I glanced around for Saben, but either her messenger had mixed up her times, or Saben hadn’t bothered to wait for me, because she wasn’t there. I admit I didn’t search too hard. I wanted to leave.
I didn’t go straight home, though. I had to drive through the center of the city to get back to my house, tucked out of the way and far from my father like it was. It was the weekend, and the streets were packed, people walking to and from clubs and bars and restaurants, arms around each other, faces lit up, maybe a bit rosy-cheeked from drinks. It all seemed so far away from me. I was still wrapped up in the fey, their music stuck in my mind, calling to me, just like it’d called to Saben’s messenger.
I wanted to get it out of my head, the lot of it. I found a place to park, not far from a few of the clubs. I picked one at random and ducked inside. The room opened onto a bar and a few tables. There was another door off to the side, a bouncer standing in front of it. I paid him the cover, and he opened the door so I could walk down a steep set of stairs, narrow slats that caught at my boots. I stopped halfway down, squashing myself to one side so I wouldn’t block anyone, and glanced around the room.
It was darker down there, of course, and warmer. The shadows were highlighted with bright flashes of pink and purple and blue, sparks of light that came and went. They illuminated just enough that I could make out the mass of people, all tangled together on the dance floor. The music was something thumpy and deep and electronic. It pushed at me, made my heart beat faster, but in a way that was totally different from the fey music. This sound, this place, wasn’t forcing me into anything. I was being asked.
I wasn’t sure that I had the energy to join the crowd, but I wanted to be near them, near all that humanity. I made my way down the rest of the stairs and around the edge of the dancers, dodging people who were too lost in themselves to watch where they were dancing. I found an empty spot against one wall, and I tucked myself into it, pressing my back against the concrete. Blending in so I could watch. So I could lose myself in a completely different way than I usually did with the fey.
I let my gaze drift around the room, stopping whenever I saw someone who caught my attention. There were fey here too. I’d expected it—they loved to party, no matter where the party was taking place, and there were more than a few who had no problem interacting with the human world. No humans would notice if they weren’t searching for something out of the ordinary. The fey glamours were good. But my eyes snagged on hair that was too feathery, glittery skin, the soft flutter of wings, all of which could have been a costume or my imagination, but weren’t. I ignored them. They didn’t really matter anyway. They weren’t there to see me, and I wasn’t there to see them. And this place, for once, was more my world than theirs.
I swayed back and forth with the music and the flickering lights. The crowd moved in a lazy way, and I watched them in a lazy sort of way. I wasn’t looking for anyone in particular, didn’t even expect to stay long. I just wanted to be part, even a fringe part, of something different, for a few minutes.
My eyes snagged on a bright-blue shimmer. I turned my head, searching for whatever it was I’d seen, that deep-aqua light. It sparkled again, and I saw the boy, the man, it had come from. He was maybe a bit taller than me, his skin lightly tanned, his hair long and black and straight, loose over his shoulders. The sparkle had come from the flecks of glittery color at the corners of his eyes, across one cheekbone, down the side of his neck. He raised his hands over his head, and I saw splashes of green, shining and catching the lights of the club.
If I hadn’t known, if I wasn’t always so aware of things that were different, I would have thought the shimmer was makeup or some elaborate jewelry. But I’d spotted the other fey in the crowd, and I knew this man was one too. I wanted to turn away. I’d come to get away from all things otherworldly, not to latch on to it, even in this indirect way. But I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He was sleek and graceful and beautiful.