Book Two in the Hart and Soul series sees Matthew and Cadence trying to figure out their new partnership, whilst both are facing things from their past that they’d prefer the other not to know about. Here’s a sneak preview of chapter one.
The sun beats down on the streets, baking that hot tar smell out of them. Sweat beads along my hairline, pooling beneath my body armour. It’s one of those April days that got kicked out of August for showing all the rest of the summer up. A day that doesn’t agree with dark hair or uniform, of which I have both.
“I need to get out of the office, Manning. Running all these numbers is driving me mad, Manning. Give me a case, Manning. A job, Manning. Anything, Manning! Next time I start saying anything so chronically stupid, I’m expecting you to point it out,” I say.
“What are you talking about?” Matthew says. “It’s lovely out here.”
He’s wearing a jacket more suited to cold autumn days, and jeans, but today, here, he doesn’t look out of place. The crowd before us is littered with Souls, most of them forever adorned in seasonally inappropriate clothing. It makes no difference to them, being unable to feel anything, and it makes no difference to Matthew: Soul, specifically Sin, escaped from Hell. My partner for the foreseeable future.
Most people think I should have a problem with this arrangement.
Most people don’t realise I requested it.
I squint at the crowd. We’re just a presence really. Things have been peaceful – a few sign wavers, human and Soul alike, but the rally is so far less a march, more a giant picnic. The heat has turned everyone languid. Matthew and I amble along, just two of a number of gradually wilting police officers – there in case things turn sour.
The crowd loses what little momentum it has outside a government building. A podium has already been erected at the top of the stairs there, miked up so the speaker’s voice will reach the crowd. I turn and face the speaker, who’s walking through the camera flashes to the podium now.
Agatha Martin, leader of the Soul Rights movement, lobbying for change to the way Level One and Two Souls are recognised in the law, in civil rights. With the bill coming up for review in parliament soon, the campaigns for change are in full swing. A little off to the right I notice Samuel Waterfield, leader of the opposition. Agatha is fanning herself with her notes cards, her blouse patched with sweat. Waterfield looks so crisp and cool in a brown suit, I would have thought him a Soul had he been rooting for the other side.
“Good afternoon, everyone,” Agatha begins. There’s something grandmotherly about her – from her floral blouse to the chirpy way she speaks and smiles. I don’t doubt for a second that she has that sharp tone of voice grandparents sometimes use up her sleeve. “My, it’s very warm out here today. Thank you for persevering with the weather, and for making it here.
“It’s an important message that marches with us. Our action is letting the Government know that we are not about to be forgotten. That our voices aren’t going to stop trying to be heard. We believe in change, and that change should be now – not in some distant future, put off by men without the strength and conviction to make the choices that need to be made.”
My attention is wandering already. I don’t buy Agatha as leader of a movement – there’s a flustered edge to her words, as if she’s found herself in charge of something that started as pub banter and got out of hand. The crowd doesn’t seem rapt, either, most eating ice creams, pressing cold bottled water to their foreheads, or fanning themselves with pamphlets and protest signs. The Souls amongst them stand mostly still. I spot a woman wearing heavy petticoats beneath her skirts to make them balloon outwards, as was the fashion once upon a time. She has a hand fan that she snaps open with a flick of her wrist. She can’t feel the heat. The motion must be habit.
“We aren’t asking for something groundbreaking. We aren’t asking for something that’s never been done before,” Agatha continues, punctuating her words with sharp jabs of her hand clomid tablets. Her fingers are arthritic. I wonder who she lost, who came back to her. “We’re talking about basic civil rights. A prisoner in one of our jails is entitled to a roof over his head, meals, basic amenities. When they are released from jail, they are entitled to jobs, the vote and every other civil right that we all expect in a free country. If we afford these rights to offenders, then why not to Souls?”