One of my favorite review quotes so far?
“Have you ever looked at a piece of cake and wanted to just gobble it up ? Well that’s exactly my feelings when it comes to the boisterous, oh so confident Jakral ! He might be fully human and younger than Stella but he knows what he wants and always pays attention.” – Marta Cox on Amazon
Jak is totally cake. He was super fun to write, too. Jen Twimom has a snippet from one of my favorite scenes over at That’s What I’m Talking About. What’s funny is that what ensues in the carriage was a total surprise to me. Jak shocked me as much as he did Stella. If you’ve read, you know what I mean. I almost tried to soften it or even take it out, but I decided that Jak is just not a character to be easily muted.
Here’s a snippet from another scene I love, where Jak is attempting to teach Stella some self-defense.
He didn’t care how much it pissed her off: She was going to learn to wield those blades or… He didn’t know what, but something. He wasn’t afraid of going to the alter-realm, but he was gut-wateringly terrified of coming back to find her gone. Or worse.
In a rare temper, Stella flung open the door of a room on the second level. An unmade bed took up most of the small space, her minimal baggage on a low table nearby. With her back firmly to him, she rummaged in her bags, searching for her blades. Jak leaned against the wall, arms folded, watching her, keeping his body loose and relaxed—but fighting his own mounting temper as she took forever to find the fucking things.
At last—minutes later, during which a toddler could’ve skinned and gutted her—she exclaimed in relief and turned to show him the daggers. Her triumphant smile faded at whatever she saw in his face. Probably good that his expression got the point across, as the next step would be throttling her.
“Put them on,” he instructed softly, not trusting himself not to shout at her again.
She sighed in exasperation. “Is it really necessary to—”
“Yes,” he bit out. “See how the pretty daggers sit in sheaths on that lovely belt? You buckle the belt around your gorgeous hips, and then you wear them. All. The. Time.”
Her eyes darkened, thunderclouds gathering. “There is no need to be sarcastic with me.”
“Isn’t there? Then, pray tell, what will get through your thick skull?”
The sense of a pending storm thickened. “Don’t you speak to me that way, Jakral Konyngrr.”
He rolled his eyes, making his disdain clear. “I’ll speak to you any way I like. Not as if you can do anything about it.”
Lightning flashed in her eyes. “You forget that I have offensive magics. Powerful ones.”
“Useless ones,” he sneered, goading her further.
“How dare you!” Her streaming dark hair stirred as if in an unseen wind.
Though the hairs stood up on the back of his neck, he didn’t move, considered yawning in her face, but even he didn’t have the balls to push her that far. Instead he lifted a shoulder and let it fall. “I dare because I’m a better fighter than you are. Not because you’re female, but because you’re defenseless. That’s why you need protecting. So, quit whining about everyone being overprotective and accept that you need a big strong man to—”
With an incoherent screech, she dropped the knife belt and hurled a ball of blue lightning at him. As it flew toward him, he pulled a dagger, threw it, and ducked. The lightning grazed his shoulder with a light tingle—he hadn’t even needed to evade that tickle—and his blade shaved off a long lock of Stella’s hair before thudding into the wall behind her.
Stella gaped at him. Without speaking, she dropped her gaze to the severed lock of hair lying like a snake at her feet. “I…” She lifted her eyes to his, shock clear in them. “You… you threw a knife at me.”
“You threw lightning at me,” he pointed out.
“Because you provoked me!”
“Yes, I did. Worked pretty well, except that was the most pitiful lightning I’ve ever seen. If that’s the best you can do, then—”
“It isn’t,” she snapped.
“Why not?” When she didn’t reply, he pushed away from the wall. “Because you pulled your punch.”
Unhappily, she watched him pick up the lock of hair. Coiling it into a tight circle, he stuck it in his pocket. A nice keepsake. “All the magic in the world does you no good if you won’t use it,” he said.
“I can use it.”
“I know you can. I also know you won’t.”
Pressing her lips together in something just shy of a mulish pout, she glared at him. “Are you saying you wish I had hurt you?”
He tugged the shortened lock of hair. “I can take it.”
She didn’t smile. “You’re not immortal, Jak.”
“And yet I survived a brush with death, thanks to you.” He grinned jauntily at her, unbothered that she didn’t return it. “Let’s try that again, but this time, try harder.”
“But I don’t want to hurt you!”
He blew out an impatient breath. “If something is trying to kill you, then it’s your enemy and deserves to be hurt.”
“You aren’t my enemy,” she pointed out.
“I’m glad to hear that, but you still need to learn to strike true. You can always heal me again.”
“True…” She gazed at him, uncertain.
“I’d rather you hurt me a little bit now than deal me a mortal wound by getting injured or killed. I couldn’t survive that.”
Her eyes widened, and he considered maybe he’d said too much. “Besides,” he added with a grin, “at this rate, you’ll have no hair left, and I’ll be untouched. I’m really not worried.” Drawing a new blade, he spun it through his fingers, picking out a new lock of hair to sever.
She growled low in her throat. “You wouldn’t.”
“I would, and I will,” he said, letting his grim resolve show. “Or maybe I’ll just aim for that sleeping gown. It won’t last long against my blades and would be a fun striptease.” He leered at her. “Finally I’ll get to see you naked—a dream come true.”
With a shocked gasp, she blushed hot. “You—” She bit down on repeating the challenge, possibly reading his utterly serious intent. Briefly, a jaguar stood where she’d been, then she reappeared in her fighting leathers, her hair tightly braided back, a smug look on her face.
“Do you think that will spare you?” he murmured, just to see her blush deepen. “I could still slice those leathers off you.”
“But you won’t,” she replied with confidence, “because you’d risk cutting me, and you would never hurt me.”
That was true. Too bad she knew it. “Moving on. What was your first mistake?”
“Pulling my punch.”
“No, that was your second mistake.” Scooping up the knife belt from the floor, he dangled it in her face. “Never, ever throw away your blades.”
“You throw your knives all the time,” she pointed out.
“Yes, but I know what I’m doing, and it’s still a calculated risk. You will do best to keep your blades in your hands.” Threading the belt through the loops on her pants, he settled it low on her hips, moving the sheaths to the optimum position. “How’s that for drawing?”
He glanced up as he asked, finding her face very close to his. The storm in her gray eyes had subsided, leaving them the clear misty color of the sea just before sunrise. “I feel the same,” she said, briefly confusing him. “When I thought they might be right, that you really were dead, I thought I might break apart into a million fragments.”
For once, no clever remark leapt to his tongue. He smoothed her hair back from her face, careful not to brush her skin. It clung like silk to his fingers, and he knew she was right—he would never jeopardize her beautiful hair, he loved it too much. The thought of slowly cutting away her clothing, however… Well, it was a good thing he was getting practiced at exercising iron control over his lust around her. Her lips parted, her kitten tongue darting out to wet them. So tempting to kiss her just then.
But time was short, and this was more important.
“We’ll just have to keep each other alive, then,” he replied. “Now, try drawing your blades.”