As you all know, I’ve been through a few covers for Coal because a great cover can a big difference in snagging new readers. Well I’ve found the one. So I interrupt the next section of Coal to reveal the new fabulous cover. 
For another bonus, Coal is available for pre-orders on Amazon!!! Woohoo!!! Happy Dance.  Get your copy today because after July 25 the price will increase.

The previous chapter links are here: Chapter One, Scene 1Scene 2Scene 3Scene 4Scene 5

Without further delay, here is Chapter Two of Coal:

Chapter Two

On horseback, Coal followed Chalcedony away from Legacy, through the town square and into the royal forest. After a few miles, they came upon a lake.
“We can leave the horses here. We have to walk the rest of the way.” She bent down and put her hands in the water. “Remember this place?” 
“Yeah.” The sound of waves falling onto the shore mingled with the chirping of the birds and created a melody that made Coal feel like they were the only people left in the world. “We used to get in so much trouble for using your portal to come here to swim.”
“Well, we’re a little bit ahead of schedule. Do you want to go swimming?”
“We didn’t bring any swim clothes.”
She gave Coal a wicked grin. “Never stopped us before.”
“That was a long time ago.” Coal glanced nervously at Chalcedony’s chest before he quickly averted his eyes. “We’ve changed since then.”
Chalcedony tilted her head to the side. “We haven’t changed that much.”
She walked towards the lake and took off her clothes. At least she was wearing underwear. “You’re trying to get me killed aren’t you? What if Madoc is watching?”
“Don’t worry about Madoc. He promised he’d let me do anything I wanted today. And right now this is what I want to do.”
It had been a while since he’d been swimming, Coal thought, as he stripped down to his underclothes and followed her into the water.
***
After being picked up and thrown into the water more times than she counted, Chalcedony ran out of the lake and sat on the grass. It had been a while since she’d done anything merely for fun, and she was glad Coal had warmed up to the idea of going to the human realm. The rift that had been growing between them over the past few months had finally closed.
Coal left the lake and sprinted towards her. She was seventeen, one year older than Coal, and until recently she’d always towered over him. Her growth had slowed and she would look this way for the next fifty years. But Coal continued to grow, and surprisingly he’d caught up to her.
His ebony skin glistened in the midmorning sun as he stood above her. “You give up?” He laughed, one dimple forming on each cheek.
Madoc’s rule number eight: never admit defeat. So she changed the subject. “One of your braids has come undone.” Chalcedony sat up and patted her lap. “Come here. I’ll re-braid it.”
He appeared as if he was going to refuse but sat down and laid his damp head on her lap anyway. She undid the rest of the braid before passing her fingers through his thick hair to remove any kinks. Then she grabbed a small section and separated it into three before she began. “It took you forever and a day to learn how to braid. You were the worst student,” Chalcedony said as she worked.
“I didn’t want to learn. I liked it better when you did it.”
“You have gotten better, though.”
“I didn’t have a choice. You’ve been too busy to do it,” Coal said.
“Madoc thinks it’s beneath me to braid my own hair. He most definitely didn’t like it when I braided yours.”
Coal tensed beneath her fingers at the mention of Madoc, so she changed the subject. “I love how your hair makes a halo around your head. For years, I tried to get my hair to match yours. But it’s only darker, not curlier.”
“Mmm,” he murmured, sounding content and halfway asleep.
She couldn’t blame him for being suspicious about this trip. He’d been correct. She was supposed to leave him in the human realm. Agreeing to leave Coal behind was the only way she could get Madoc’s approval to bring him along with her. Her coronation was in two weeks and she needed to relax. Coal was the only person she relaxed with because he was the only person who didn’t expect her to be perfect. Lying to her advisor wasn’t something she did often, but there was only so much arguing she could do.
Coal’s even breathing told her he’d fallen asleep. She’d forgotten how having his hair braided lulled him to sleep—once she’d learned how to avoid painful tangles.
She bent down and whispered in his ear. “I’m finished, Coal.”
He turned his head, but he didn’t open his eyes. She placed her hand on his forehead and studied his delicate lips, wondering if they were as soft as they seemed. She forced the thought out of her head and stood, causing Coal’s head to drop from her lap and fall onto the ground.
“Ouch.” He patted the side of his head. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry.” Chalcedony staggered towards her clothes before she dressed. “We need to go. It’s getting late.”
Kissing Coal was the last thing she needed to be thinking about. She stared ahead, avoiding Coal’s gaze. Everything’s complicated enough.

***

“What’s wrong, Chaley?” Coal asked. Her relaxed, playful mood had vanished. What had happened while he slept? What had startled her?
“Nothing’s wrong,” Chalcedony insisted. “We just need to hurry.”
“Which way?” Coal asked, happy to be off the horse and traveling by foot. His butt and inner thighs were beginning to chafe from the saddle.
Chalcedony pointed to a bridge about a mile away through a small opening between the trees. “It’s just over the bridge. I’ll race you.”
She sprinted away before he answered. Relieved she had cheered up, Coal didn’t think to run after her until she had already left.
Halfway to the bridge, his legs burned and begged for him to stop. But instead of slowing, his pride pushed him faster and closer to Chalcedony. She twisted her head and grimaced when she saw him nearing. Chalcedony hated to lose. Elves were natural runners and predators, unlike humans, but he’d been running with Chalcedony and other elves for as long as he’d been here. He’d never won, but it never stopped him from trying.
He broke through the trees and into a clearing. The bridge was only a few feet away. With fewer trees, he was able to run fast enough to pass Chalcedony.
Looking to the side, he saw she was half a step behind him. He glanced back towards the bridge, just before colliding into it.
Chalcedony was on the bridge a fraction of a second later.
“I beat you,” he gasped. “For the first time, I beat you.”
“You nearly killed yourself trying to do it.” She stood next to him, steady and calm. A thin layer of sweat prickled the skin above her top lip, but she wasn’t breathing nearly as hard as him.
“I still beat you.”
Chalcedony stepped behind him with a knife at his throat before he thought to move or defend himself.
“If we were fighting, you would have won a battle but lost the war. You no longer have any strength to combat me.” The metal was cold and sharp against his neck.
Coal sobered, his breath finally under control. “Is that what you think?”
She let the knife prick his skin. “Yes.”
He grabbed Chalcedony’s wrist and twisted it, making her drop the knife. Then he pushed her onto the grass. “Hasn’t Tetrick taught you not to underestimate your enemy?” he asked, standing above her, feeling cocky and triumphant. Chalcedony swung her legs at Coal’s ankles and he fell on his back. She rolled onto him, laughing and straddling him with her knees. Her long, dark hair hung over the side of her face.
“Are we enemies?”
“Madoc says everyone is your enemy,” Coal answered.
“Is he right?” she asked. “Are you my enemy?”
Coal lifted himself onto his elbows and gazed into her eyes. “Chaley, I would die for you.”
She bent down and touched her lips to his. She tasted salty, but the kiss was sweet, and it awakened a hunger that had been brewing for longer than he wanted to acknowledge.

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