Teaser: Chapter 1
For the upcoming novel debut written by Viktoria Laudo "Ghost Eyes"
She couldn't breathe. Her chest heaved as she ran down the labyrinth of streets. The smack of her shoes on the empty cobblestone path gave away her trail in the near quiet of the early morning.
That was the only thing on her mind. There was a small voice in the back of her head on a constant loop, wondering how long she could disguise herself from the soldiers. That she's not one of them. It wasn't like Leila wanted to steal. Her crime? Hunger. At least, that's the only crime they knew about.
The deep baritone of the church bells clanged in tune with her footfalls as she eluded the guards just as she had done a thousand times before. The turn to the ghetto marked by uneven, cracked cobblestones didn't make her retreat any more accessible, but it's easier for her than the soldiers. Just over her shoulder, she could hear the guards, who were weighed down by their muscles and armor, closing in, their heavy breathing echoing off the walls of the alley. They were getting faster or at least becoming as familiar to every crack and pebble in this slum as she was. No one, not even soldiers, penetrated the stench and squalor of the ghetto, except when chasing thieves or looking for favors from Madam's business.
Whipping around the corner and into the tent city, the soldiers advanced in their pursuit. Leila couldn't lead them to the brothel; Madam would kill her for bringing trouble. Her aunt, Greta, could only protect her so much from Madam's wrath. No, if she could get to the center of the square, her scent would mix with the unwashed bodies, sewage, and smoke from the underground fires. Then she could be free.
Darting around a gypsy's tarp and hurtling over another, the center hit her like week-old stockings in the face. Thankfully, the smell of the crowds from earlier that day still permeated the air due to the humid night. The soldiers wouldn't be able to track her. She grinned at the thought of having the upper hand again. Being malnourished had its perks. She could fit into tight crevices and alleyways they could not. Her size had helped her escape from them on more than one occasion.
She knew this city inside and out, every secret twisting passage, every turning staircase that led to open and locked doors. She wasn't expecting, however, for her usual path, a small, near impassable alleyway between two buildings to be barricaded with massive marble boulders. They had discovered her usual route.
Slowing her run to a walk, in defeat, she darted her eyes this way and that trying to find an escape route without any luck. Slowly, she turned facing the guards, her face still shrouded by her threadbare cloak.