Wicked Willow: Broken Sunrise (an Excerpt> by Yvonne Navarro


Wicked Willow, Book 3:
Broken Sunrise


      Willow couldn't decide whether to be angry or devastated by the Ghost of Tara's disappearance.

      The past week had felt like a month, a year, a decade. The days had passed like weeks, and the hours and minutes... well, let's just say she felt like a prehistoric insect with one leg caught in the unrelenting amber that would ultimately suffocate and entomb her forever. The last Wicked Willow: Broken Sunrise seven days had seen Willow run the full range of emotions: at first, she'd been patient, certain that this was only a temporary setback, that the Ghost of Tara had opted to bow out of the carnage of her awful battle with the Riley golem and was simply, as they said in the movies, "lying low." That patience had bled into stoicism and stubbornness--if the Ghost of Tara was going to be so touchy about the way things had gone that she wouldn't even make an appearance, then fine. It was kind of like waiting for that boy to call you after the first date; a day or so of waiting and the attitude ultimately changed from anticipation into "I didn't like him anyway" and the full spectrum of spiteful thoughts that went with it.

      But, of course, that wasn't the sort of mental position that was going to hold for very long in Willow's life, not at her age, and certainly not regarding the spectral remains of her beloved Tara. Obstinance directed at the Ghost of Tara was nothing but a phase, a facade, and something that hadn't lasted particularly long at that. It melted rapidly into despair, which turned into anger, which went back into despair, ad infinitum, until Willow felt stuck in the middle of an invisible circle made up of her own feelings, a brain-sized, inescapable version of the wheels that hamsters were forever running on in their cages. Even the furious thoughts of revenge against Buffy, Giles, Xander, Anya and Dawn had ultimately become swallowed by her fear over the Ghost of Tara's disappearance, driven into the background and while not forgotten--never that--definitely relegated to the arena of "I'll get around to it."

      Right now, Willow was at the tail end of angry, and she was paying for it... yet again. This was at least the third time she'd repaired the damage done to her loft by her own furious hand, mending broken dishes and shattered lamps, replacing the double-tier of spell books she'd swept onto the floor, rehanging the gauzy white material around the support pillars after she'd ripped it all down in a rage. And all that spent energy for what? So she could do it all over again when she decided to have her next temper tantrum tomorrow morning or afternoon, or whenever. How brain-dead was that? Too much so, since it blackly assumed that by then the Ghost of Tara would not have returned.

      Holding out one hand, Willow floated the remains of a shattered stained glass lamp into the air, then let the pieces swirl slowly in front of her until they rearranged themselves properly. A blink of concentration, barely noticeable, and the lamp was whole once more, giving off its warm, multi-colored glow as she swung it around and set it back in its place on one of the end tables. She stared at it a little dully--as beautiful as it was, she could find no joy in its colors or light, didn't care one way or another that she'd fixed it. Even so, she wouldn't be so quick to smash the thing a fourth time if she weren't able to fix it with barely a thought, now would she?

     p Would the Ghost of Tara be back by tomorrow? Willow sank onto one of the floor-sized cushions and cradled her forehead in her hands, trying, yet again, to pick her brain and her behavior and see what the hell she'd done to make the spirit run out on her. The golem? It couldn't be--that whole situation simply hadn't been her fault. The root of the problem had been Buffy, as usual, who'd stupidly sent the golem after Willow and the rest of the coven and given the creature the world's worst version of instructions. It would simply be too unfair of the Ghost of Tara to hold Willow responsible for the deaths of coven members Anan and Njeri, even if Willow herself had been the golem's initial creator. The Riley golem had been brought to life to protect Willow's coven, and it had been Buffy, not Willow, who had turned it against everyone. Why should Willow be blamed for that?

      Or maybe it wasn't that at all, maybe it had nothing to do with the Riley golem or the two dead witches from her coven. Had she angered the Ghost of Tara with something else, by doing or saying something that had been, at least to Willow's mind, totally innocent? But what? What could make the spirit of the love of Willow's life utterly abandon her like this--no word, no touch, no inkling whatsoever of the faint essence of Tara upon which Willow had so come to depend since the death of her lover's physical body.

      Willow flounced back on the bed pillows and stared up at the loft's faraway ceiling, at the maze of duct work, pipes and electrical wiring twined around each other in the heavy shadows. No--she was convinced she hadn't done any such thing, that it was just the Universe in its willful, twisted ways, playing yet another wicked trick on her. How typical.

      Abruptly Willow sat up. She couldn't stand another night of this sitting around and just... waiting. She wasn't ready to give up on the Ghost of Tara, and certainly not on her goal of resurrecting the physical Tara--never that--but she had to get out of this loft for awhile, be out with the people and the noise of Sunnydale, let the mundane little lives of the town's over-abundance of worker-bee human types sooth her frazzled patience and the jagged edges of her nerves.

      Yeah... an evening at somewhere noisy, crowded and familiar--like the Bronze--was just what she needed to make herself forget the missing Ghost of Tara. Well, maybe not that, but she could leave behind the rest of the annoying problems that seemed to dog her at every turn.

      At least for a little while.



      Willow lifted her gaze from where she'd been contemplating the paper umbrella on the frozen strawberry margarita sitting on the table in front of her. The globe-shaped glass had been overfilled with the frozen sweetness and now the drink was slowly melting, her lack of attention showing in the way the liquefying edges were just about to spill over the rim of the big round glass. To her eye, the little multicolored umbrella looked downright ratty--it was faded and frayed at the edges with the tiny, fragile structure of the umbrella bent in several spots, outright broken in another. Not very tropical, not very exotic.

      Unlike the dark-haired girl in front of her.

      She had shoulder-length hair that curved up at the ends and had in it brown swirls blending to shadowy black and framing a heart-shaped face with full, red lips and almond-shaped eyes that were a nearly perfect match to her hair. Her eyebrows were carefully shaped and arched, like a model's, and it was obvious that she'd given the same meticulous attention to her clothes as she had to her impeccable makeup. In short, the young woman was beautiful.

      "Hi," Willow said in response. "Am I supposed to know you?" "My name is Lilith." The woman glanced pointedly at the empty stool on the other side of Willow's table. "Do you mind if I join you?"

      Willow actually took a moment to consider the question, and ultimately she decided that it all depended on Lilith's motives. The Bronze was a bar, so a person's first inclination might be to assume the obvious--Lilith was on the prowl for a pick-up, be it a temporary bit of company or something longer-term. In either case, Willow wasn't interested. Still, one of the many and more painful lessons that Sunnydale, with all its fine adventures and sundry inhabitants, had taught Willow, was never, ever assume. Besides, Willow was already thinking, just by the young woman's self-confident air, that Lilith was a person about whom she should learn a bit more.

      On that note, Willow waved a hand toward the stool. "Lilith," she repeated. "Very nice." She looked down at the drink she didn't want, then brought her gaze back up to the woman sitting across from her. "They say that Lilith was the first wife of Adam--"

      "--and a female demon," Lilith finished for her. "Yeah, I've gotten the email... a bunch of times. You know the one--it says the name means night monster, storm goddess, blah blah blah."

      Willow couldn't help grinning a little. "Getting a little bored with it, I take it."

      Lilith arched one eyebrow. "Only in the sense of day to day limitations."

      Willow thought about this for awhile without responding, and Lilith seemed content to order her own drink--something with cream and coffee-flavored liquer--and wait out Willow's silence. Limitations. Interesting... she'd never really looked at it quite this intimately before, but limitations were what life was all about, weren't they? A constant search for the all-too-scarce freedom--in whatever form a person deemed it most important--and the will of the world to impose its rules upon that same elusive thing. From the moment a person was born, he or she struggled to be free just as hard as someone else--parents, teachers, bosses, lovers, spouses, whomever--fought to impose structure, a box within which you had to function or risk being beaten back into your place. And Willow knew that concept of place, all right--place was Sunnydale all around her, with its vampires and its supernaturally-sodden history, its pain.

      Its limitations.

      There was Buffy and Giles, of course, and the rest of them, insisting that Willow behave within the rules set down by a sense of conscience and morality that was theirs, not hers. The same went for, say, the Sunnydale Police Department and all the rest of the mere mortals who over-populated this town; they just couldn't get it into their mostly powerless little brains that what Willow did was simply outside of their puny statutes and rulings. Even the vampires tried--unsuccessfully, of course--to impose themselves upon her, thinking ever-so-foolishly that she was just another, sliced juiced-up... what had Spike once called it? Right: Happy Meal with Legs.

      And, most of all, there was this entire pesky Universe thing and how it was applying itself to the challenge of resurrecting Tara. That was the most ultimate limitation of them all, and the most infuriating.

      Willow's even-keel mood abruptly faded and she found herself straddling that edge again, the one where she might start hurling things around the room at any second. Except this time the room was a public place--the Bronze--and the potential objects d'flying were people.

      Ah, those annoying limitations again.

      "Why are you here?" Willow abruptly asked. She didn't try to disguise the sharpness in her voice.

      "For two reasons," Lilith said, and Willow had to give her bonus points for not waltzing around. "Rumor has it there's an open place in that coven you've got going. I know that a bunch of your members aren't there on a particularly volunteer basis, and I don't care." Lilith gave an attractive toss of her hair. "Personally I think they're missing the whole part about how it's a great opportunity to learn."

      Willow kept her silence, although she knew she'd probably go on and let this woman join. Lilith wasn't a huge source of power, but there was enough there to add to the pot--Willow had felt it right away when Lilith had first pulled up her stool. "And the other?" she finally asked.

      Lilith glanced around, as if she needed to make sure that no one else was within earshot. "I figure I ought to offer something to make my joining you a positive thing. Whether or not it's a requirement to offer a token sign-up fee, what I have to tell you ought to at least put you on the high side of informed."

      Willow frowned. "Informed about what?"

      "Where that spirit of your girlfriend went."


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