In Pouring the Cup, our protagonist Axandra gets finagled into meeting Quinn Elgar, archeologist of the Ancients and historian of all things Old Earth. We find out as we read that he had seen her months ago coming into a port, fell in love at first sight but had no idea who she was or how to find her. Here is a glimpse of Quinn and his colleague Tomas Kirk making a discovery.
“There you are, QE, my boy,” Tomas Kirk called from a meter away on the grassy patch of lawn. “I thought you’d run off again.”
“No,” Quinn Elgar sighed, betraying his exhaustion. “Just thought I’d have tea outside this morning. Ready for our hike?”
“I am, but you look like you didn’t sleep last night.” Tom studied his friend’s face from brow to chin. Quinn turned away slightly to hide his bleary eyes. Tom would just needle him again. The constant teasing grew old.
“You are still thinking about that woman,” Tom ribbed ruthlessly, grinning the entire time. “I’ve never seen anyone so lovesick for someone they’ve never even met. By the suns, you didn’t even come within two meters of her, and you can’t stop—”
“But you can stop!” Quinn snapped back. Sipping his hot tea, he felt the buzz of the caffeine begin to surge in his veins, waking him up a little more. “You just don’t get it. You don’t understand how drawn I was to this stranger—and I missed my chance. I’ve tried to get her out of my head, but—I just can’t seem to.” He decided to gulp down the rest of the liquid in his mug. The tea burned his throat on the way down, causing tears to spring to his eyes at the pain, but he blinked them back as he set the cup aside.
“Well, get over her quick, because I just don’t think you’re going to find her,” Tom advised, taking up residence in the other chair on Quinn’s back porch, facing the rear of a neighboring house. “Hey, I take it you didn’t read the newssheet yet this morning, since it was still on the front stoop. We’ve got ourselves a new Protectress!” With a flip of his wrist, he tossed the light sheaf of paper onto the table between them.
“We do? Where did she come from?” The news stunned Quinn. He’d more likely expected the Council to struggle to make a decision over how to fill the position, or perhaps even disband the office in favor of some other form of leadership. According to all information, there were no family members left along those bloodlines. Only one female child had been born per generation for almost as long as the Protectresship had existed. He pulled the sheet toward him to look over the article.
“I’ll give you a run-down while you’re looking,” Tom offered. “Apparently she floated over from the July Islands off the coast of Westland. Claims she’s the missing daughter, and the Council says they verified her identity using the archives and a blood sample, not to mention I heard rumor that a Prophet was over in Undun last week, too—Probably involved somehow. Are you listening to me?”
“It’s her,” Quinn muttered, realizing his mouth hung gaping open as he stared at the photograph taking up a quarter of the first page. He hadn’t even begun to read the words. “This is the woman I saw.”
“You’re joking,” Tom scoffed. “You must be mistaken.”
Quinn glared at his friend, a scathing look that made Tom wither.
“Okay, you’re not joking. You’re telling me that you saw this woman in the Port the day she arrived and you tried to chase her down? She probably thought you were stalking her and ran.”
“No,” Quinn said, looking back down at the black and white photo. The woman’s face smiled slightly, trying to look happy. Instead, she appeared uncomfortable. There was no doubt in his mind that this was the elusive catch, the one he tried to follow through the crowded port that morning, never quite catching up to her before she disappeared. For nearly a week, his brain dreamed her in his sleep and even when he was awake, torturing him with his loss. She resembled her mother, when the Protectress-past was a much younger woman, with brunette spirals, almond-shaped eyes and dainty aquiline nose. Even in the photo, the eyes seemed to look at him in a gentle, soulful way. “She probably didn’t even notice me. She was preoccupied with getting herself to the city. I understand why.”
“So, now you know who she is, what are you going to do?” Tomas asked. He seemed much more serious at the moment, truly curious to know.
Sighing, Quinn pulled himself away from the picture and settled against the back of his wooden chair. “Nothing.”
“You’re just going to give up?”
“She’s the Protectress!” He laughed heartily at his bad luck. “She won’t want anything to do with me. Surely she’s already married, anyway. Unavailable.”
“She’s unwed, and how would you know what she’d be looking for. You haven’t talked to her, remember.”
“Surely you’re not suggesting I walk into the Palace and ask to see her and—and maybe just say ‘Hello. I fancy you. Want to go on a date?’ Never going to happen.”
“Probably not that way,” Tom shook his head and sneered at the daft idea. “But you do have a friend in the Palace, someone close by the Protectress who could introduce you . . .”
“Sara!” At the mention of the name, the idea of meeting the Protectress seemed like a reachable goal. Sara Sunsun, a long-time friend, served as a Councilor and spent hundreds of hours each year at the Palace in the course of business. Quinn’s mind reeled already with what he might say to the Protectress. Dreamily, he imagined seeing her face in person, up close. What did she sound like? What color were those eyes?
Then abruptly, he shook his head, discouraged. “I must be out of my mind to think that she would even talk to me. And you!” He jabbed his finger in Tom’s direction. “You wanted me to stop thinking about my stranger, yet you are encouraging me to try—Oh, I get it. You want me to make a fool of myself. You’d like that, wouldn’t you.”
“As much as I enjoy your misfortunes, QE,” Tom admitted, “this time I want you to try because, knowing you, you will always wonder IF. You try, you fail. Fine. At least you know. Besides, she may fancy you, too.”
“And what if she does? What then?”
“Then you live happily ever after, I suppose. I don’t know. I’m not the falling-in-love type.” Tom waved a dismissive hand as he referred to his propensity to love and leave a multitude of women. He enjoyed the physical part of a relationship with the opposite sex, but was married to his emotional freedom.
Again, Quinn leaned back in his chair, looking at the paper and thinking hard. Tom was right. He would always wonder if he could have done it, if she would have liked him.
if . . .
Sara, his dear old friend, would be glad to help him get an introduction. She would probably laugh at him, too, but he deserved it for this.
He’d never looked at anyone before, no woman or man, and felt such a craving to learn about them. Before seeing her, he felt content with his life, with his friends, with his service to the community. He hadn’t ever thought about having a companion, let alone getting married and having a family. Yet, when he looked at this face, he desired all of those things. He felt so certain that she was the one he was meant to be with.
He was going crazy. He convinced himself of that in just a moment’s time.
And he liked the feeling. Giddy with excitement, he hopped up and prompted Tomas to start their hike, just as they did every morning. When they hit the first ridge, he soared over it like a falcon.
Pouring the Cup is currently availabe on Amazon.com in paperback and for Kindle. Coming on January 29th, look for Pouring the Cup on Smashwords.com for other ebook formats.