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Welcome to October!

Yay! I may be pretty over my pumpkin spice addiction, but I still love pumpkin ice cream so rejoice! Also, it is finally cooling off here in Oklahoma. Thank goodness!

My dogs are enjoying the cooler weather. Emma, our eldest, will be taken off some of her meds now that summer is over. Ellie is not such a fan of winter, but will be glad when we are firmly out of thunderstorm time.

The kids are back in school. Things are going... well. Yes, that was cryptic. I am a mysterious woman!

Or, not so much!

This week is going to end on several high notes! First up is the Donner Party Reunion Tour from American Murder Song.  This year's costume is based on the song below. If they're playing near you, be sure and spring for a ticket. As awesome as their music is, the live show is 1000% better!

Get Tour Tickets Now: http://AmericanMurderSong.com/GetTickets Get The Complete AMS Experience on DVD & CD: http://bit.ly/AMS-Set These fine ballads of Murder are also available wherever you buy music iTunes - http://bit.ly/AMS-itunes-Donner-Party Amazon - http://bit.ly/AMS-amazon-Donner-Party Google Play - http://bit.ly/AMS-google-Donner-Party CD Baby - http://bit.ly/cdbaby-Donner-Party Or our website: http://AmericanMurderSong.com/music For more on American Murder Song, be sure to Follow The Mark: Facebook - https://facebook.com/thekillingplace/ Spotify - http://bit.ly/ams-spotify Twitter - https://twitter.com/thekillingplace/ Instagram - https://instagram.com/thekillingplace/ American Murder Song is a collection of original murder ballads by Terrance Zdunich and Saar Hendelman, the star of Repo!

 

Saturday we're driving to Muskogee to take the kids to the Castle in Muskogee for the Halloween event. We have passes to all the stuff that shouldn't scare them. Or me. I am a wuss. 

I'll write up both events next week! And might have decided what Nano project to work on by then. And, I have decided on my December project for my blog. Yay! 

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It's Blog Time! - What's My State?

I don't mean Oklahoma. 

So, where do things stand? 

1. I am actively querying Widowed Witch of the West as of today. OMG! Freaking out! I know it's a long road, but this first step is kinda freaking me out! 

2. I am working on Sanguine Road. My goal is to be done by November with the first draft. I know vampires are a hard sell, but I have faith in Lucy. Who is, after all, not a vampire. Although Emeric is and I adore his differences from other urban fantasy heroes. Early beta feedback on this story has been good so, fingers crossed!

3. For Nano, unless something derails me, I am writing a Copper and Riona novel. This will start after all of the short stories. I am still not sure what, if anything, I will do with those. Other than <3 them forever.

4. Kids are back in school which means my schedule changed. So, give me another month to be fully adjusted to that situation.

5. Next year seems so far away, but I am thinking I might spend some time finishing up the rewrite of Mad Baron. 

That is it for numbers. Here. Let me tease Sanguine Road a wee bit. 

Filthy, ancient carpet passed untouched under my feet as I ignored the sting of bleach in my nostrils to grab Emeric by the throat.  His hands came up, but he could not budge me. Nails dug into my skin, but he’s not my first. A human, or a wolf, would be out by now. Anything requiring air to function would gasp in my face and either fight more fiercely or give up.

Emeric, not needing air, damn the undead, continued to try to pry my fingers from his throat. If he dies, from my hand especially, there would be no payment. My fingers eased up and he took it the wrong way. A fist connected with my stomach and it was me who gasped.

I needed air. Right now, I had very little. Emeric tried to get the advantage, but I merely tightened my fingers again on his throat. His fangs were out and brown eyes were narrowed to tiny slashes in his handsome face.

My own fangs, far longer to contend with a prey who fought, were visible. The couple to the east of my room had stopped fighting. Some speck of animal in them had sprung to life and sent them to the far side of their room. They huddled together in the closet, barely breathing. The parking lot stood empty and I heard five different locks click into place.

Not even the bleach could hide the scent of Emeric. Not when I so desperately wanted to tear out his throat to show him the error of his way. If only he were food as well as prey.

“No.”

I released him, tore my arms from his nails and felt the sting of broken skin, and backed across the room. Time wasted while I fought. Every second could be the death of someone I loved. His nose didn’t even twitch at the scent of my blood. I’m no more food for him than he is for me.

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Oh, my gosh!

It's been forever. I apologize. Things have been crazy hectic. My AC was out for most of the summer. It was repaired and they did not hook something up so part of my bedroom ceiling collapsed. It is repaired now, courtesy of the AC folk. Oh, and my sister came to visit and I met her husband and saw my niece again. They were only here for a few days, but we had to straighten the house and all.

Oh, and poor P Dog has been in the Cone of Destruction since she will not stop getting hot spots. Poor dog! Luckily, she doesn'tmind at all. But, she does smack you in the back of the knees or butt if you're not fast enough to get out of her way. 

I've entered Pitch Wars this year. Second year. Whee. There's lots of helpful stuff if you follow that link! 

Widowed Witch of the West is my entry this year. I know, I'd nearly shelved it, but a couple of people I trust said that was not smart. 

I am working on a new project. Tentatively named: Sanguine Road. For now. It's vampire UF and I'll post more about it coming up because I'm excited!

Also still tinkering here and there with my superhero project. I'm flipping between plotty stuff on it so not too far.

Oh, and I've also written several more Copper and Riona short stories. I love these characters SO much, but don't want to write a book for them. Instead, I'm hopping in and out of their lives and doing short stories I might collect and release togethersomeday. It would be a lot of fun and is a shame to keep them to myself. Maybe when I hit 10 I'll do a collection. 

That's about it! The boys are gearing up for school in less than 2 weeks. Both of them in middle school! Scary! Oh! And waiting for Destiny 2 to release. And for the Xbox One X to be available for pre-order! 

AND! Time for another American Murder Song show. I am all..... So ready to see them live again. Donner Party Reunion! Going to be able to use most of last year's costume. Need a new hat and skirt to go over petticoat.  

And that's it for now! Check out the somewhat redone website! 

 

 

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This is too painful.

Ugh.

Just...ugh.

Seriously...ugh.

Ok, done with that bit of self-pity.

Over the weekend, I did a lot of thinking, a lot of working on anything but what I should be working on, and talking to the beloved. I am going to shelve my Mad Baron rewrite for now. I keep getting stuck, keep fighting with scenes for weeks, and keep working on...well, see above.

I've completed two short stories for Copper and Riona, started a third, revisited all my open projects, and avoided the word doc open on my desktop. I can either continue to beat myself up over this forever, or I can set it aside until the time is right to take it up again. There WILL be a time to take it up again. I am by no means calling it quits on, to me, is one of the best projects I've worked on until now. 

I just can't keep beating my head against this wall. Disa and Sorvjorn and their delightful companions are still inside my head. I will get them out, but not...not quite yet. I'm working on something entirely different now. I'll share a few tidbits of it down the line.

For now, I am giving myself permission to not feel bad about having a project so close to being done and not being done. Because, if I continue to hit the wall, I'm liable to damage myself. This is all still a process I am learning. I know, in time, I can make Mad Baron as kick ass as it appears in my head. For now, I am going to work on something different with no name. The working title is Juggernaut and it's paranormal romance. 

Fine. Here's a teeny peek. :)

Seven hours ago, the job had been easy.

Now I had three dead bodies, one annoyed vampire, and distant sirens to content with. The simplest solution would be to kill the vampire, but then I won’t get paid. Also, he had the potential to be useful. I checked my reflection in the mirror to be sure my skin was blood free. The clothes were a lost cause, but if I made it across town they were an easy fix.

“This is not what I agreed to, ma cannelle.”

I had to turn to see him. It’s not that vampires have no reflection. They did, but it’s not a true one.

 

 

 

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Those clothes...but I still <3 him.

We'll ignore the time between blog posts, shall we? Because I am here to talk about something important. Someone important. Perhaps the best action hero of all time. The greatest man to save the world on the silver screen. 

Jack Burton ruined me for all other heroes.

Jack Burton ruined me for all other heroes.

Now, I know some of you may be wondering how I could possibly adore a character who tucked his jeans into suede boots. I mean, I wonder the same thing. Because, well, you know...it's terrible! :) But wonderful, nay, delightful, when worn without concern. There is no concern here for how he looks. Well, perhaps not. He might think he looks good. It's hard to tell with ole Jack Burton.

I've said before I adore secondary, sidekick characters. Which is what makes Jack the best hero. Because, truthfully, he should be the sidekick. In fact, he IS the sidekick. Except, no one told him. He stumbles through and discovers things without any intention of doing so. What he sets out to do, he rarely succeeds at in a traditionally heroic way. And, most importantly, and despite what one thinks he might desire, he is not an alpha. He's better.

Not that I would call him a beta. He's undefinable in that manner. Instead, he's his own astounding, heroic animal. I totally understood him telling Gracie sooner or later he rubbed everyone the wrong way. Because, oh, my, of course he would. Riding off into the sunset WITH Jack Burton would be no end of trouble. But, doing a thing or two before he left would, no doubt, make someone happy. 

I was about 13 when I saw Big Trouble in Little China for the first time. Not in the theaters because we never had money for the movie theater. Instead, my father brought it home on VHS. (How I date myself!) And, I was instantly drawn to Jack Burton. Hey, Kurt Russell was a good looking man and the character was catnip to my soul. (Ok, in the spirit of honesty, Kim Cattrall as Gracie Law ALSO added to my love of the movie. She was totally crushworthy.) FINALLY, here was a hero I wanted to hang out with. 

Yes, I would totally hop in if the Pork Chop Express pulled up outside my house. And, yes, I would totally be ready to come home when it pulled up again to let me out. Because, some heroes are too awesome to linger in our lives for long.

In the real world. In tv, movies, books, and plays, they can linger forever. Which is good, because we all need inspiration and Jack Burton is mine. 

Now I'm going to go finish watching Big Trouble in Little China. 

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The State of Affairs

I really need to set reminders in my calendar to write blog posts. Because, in the grand scheme of things, I forget quite often. This last month has been more hectic than normal. Mostly, because of good things. However, there was the week our eldest dog Emma had to be in a cone of shame. She was a cone virgin until this year. It was not her sad, sad face within the cone that was trouble. No, it was the way we had to rearrange the whole living room for her convenience. Because, she discovered early on she could knock everything off any table. Not to mention, she learned what a great cow (read us) catcher it was. I can’t count how many times I felt a plastic cone on my butt as I cooked. Don’t even ask about the time we let her outside wearing it and she began to shovel up the whole backyard!

The Sad, I Will Crush You Face of the P Dog.

The Sad, I Will Crush You Face of the P Dog.

 

She’s doing better now. But, we have the cone. She chews on her arthritis and she’s getting older despite my demands otherwise. So, she’ll see the cone again I figure. Other than knocking things about she handled it fine. She really is so lowkey. Nothing bothers her.

More recently, the beloved has developed a bad tooth. Phah. So, he’s been at half-speed about a week and we have an appointment tomorrow to handle it. Here’s hoping it goes smoothly, because…

We’ll be in Costa Rica next week!

I’m bringing no electronics, but plenty of notebooks. So, while I may not get a lot of writing done as I sip fruity drinks on the beach, I plan on doing a lot of prep work for two upcoming items I want to work on this year. The only bad part about this trip is it is over spring break for the boys and we had plans to take them to WA so Shawn could meet his latest grandbaby. We’re going to try for this summer instead. Which likely means no trip to see my parents. It is not cheap to get four people from the middle of the country to Alaska. Worth it, of course, but that does not make the money magically appear.

How’s the writing, you ask?

Well, I ask myself frequently.

Mad Baron is still a work in progress. A third of the way through this rewrite I am rethinking dropping the third pov. Turns out, she was more important than I thought…But I may be wrong. So, I am going to power through and finish this and get some trusted people to let me know which works better.

I have a sci fi idea. I know, I know, I always have a sci fi idea. I’m going to work on it this year. I might dive into Camp Nano and do it then as a break from other things. It takes place on a mining colony on the edge of the second solar system humanity settled after Sol. It’s sci fi romance with a poly heroine and a hero who loves dogs. Really, I can’t say more! I could, I guess, but I am not going to right this moment!

Last week I finished a second Copper and Riona story. It’s not going up on the blog. For now. Still tweaking it here and there.

So, there’s where I stand! I’ve been pretty social media scarce for all these reason and, well, because sometimes one needs a break! I’ve even begun adding 80s music to playlists. THAT’S how much I’ve needed to unwind.

 

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OMG! It's 2017!!!!

I've been meaning to do a blog post. I keep telling myself to sit down and do it, but then something else goes wonky. Speaking of which, I still need to get back to laundry!

But, after this!

So, I know a lot of shit is going on in the world, but I maintain a politics free blog. Not because I don't care, but because I don't believe the internet gives birth to rational conversations about certain topics. It's one of those things I'm likely to be more open to discussing in person with someone I know at least a little than with the internet peoples. And I love my internet peoples!

Ok, that's out of the way!

What am I working on right now? I'm still furiously editing Mad Baron. I've fallen behind, but that happens. I shall get caught up once more! My eldest had his first date with a girl who is a friend. They attended the winter formal together. Super adorable. He styled in a three piece suit. He cleans up well, like his dad. 

See how I tangented off? I've been doing that a lot.

The beloved husband wants to work on something with me. We're currently in the planning stages of a fantasy trilogy. There will be fancy clothes, sword fights, and daemons. It's exciting! Or, it will be when it is done. Right now it is a shared notebook of scattered notes.

That is in addition to Mad Baron. Because, I have not given up on this story! It's just taking some time to rewrite. Because I dropped a POV character. Argh! And changed up the whole beginning. And switched positions of characters.

This March, we will be heading to Costa Rica for a week. Beloved husband won an award at work and we will be going on their dime. I will not even be bringing a computer with me. Other than my phone and I don't write more than notes on my phone. 

If I get these three scenes I am working on done, I am going to write a short story for my blog. Since I missed so much in December. Think I might do my month of short stories earlier in the year. Pre-flu season and all!

I hope you're doing well and I <3 you even if we disagree on things. 

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Happy New Year Eve's Story!

And the year winds down to an end! I'll see about my own year in review post sometime this week. I mean, everyone else does it! In the meantime, one last story. I hate how many days I missed this month. Family, the flu, and family with the flu stole a lot of my time. I managed to get some writing done on the two novels I am working on so that's good, but no short stories.

I'm not sure why, but yesterday I was thinking on Erynna and Clyde from this story. So, I have visited them again. I like these characters, all of them, and their setting, and would like to do more with them all. Probably as occasionally visited people in short stories.

For now, enjoy!

Erynna's Fate, Sealed

1

Erynna sat on the beach as moonlight slid over her wet skin. Clyde had abandoned her again, swimming longer and deeper, searching for something she might never find. Tears mingled with seawater and she let them soothe her skin as the wind gusted tangled black locks around her face. The worst of it was the knowing. Clyde had changed, despite his lame attempts to hide it, and she knew. Now, sitting here, if she closed her eyes she could feel his exuberance.

More tears, her own fears and regrets brought forth most, but there was also the gladness for her brother. If she would be denied, so be it, but the ocean was not so cruel as to steal their heritage from them both. That was good, and it allowed her to sit in the chilly, autumn sand and stare into the ocean until her eyes ached. 

A blanket was draped over her shoulders and she tilted her head up to blink at her father. Kyle said nothing, but he sat in the same sand as her and stared out at the sea with a longing that was, if not entirely the same, as filled with need and regret as her own gaze. Her tears fell in silence, but he knew, and he pulled her a little closer to him. Kyle wouldn’t speak, not right now, because he understood. Oh, not exactly, but if anyone understood a longing for something that each day drew closer to not being, it was him.

In the east, a hazy light began to spill upon their separate, shared misery. The scent of the ocean, a comfort that stung, filled her senses and she closed her eyes. Clyde would be up soon. Knowing it was enough, she could not watch him appear. Kyle could be the witness to her twin’s transformation. For her, there was the screech of gulls in her ears and the scent of a home never to be in her nose. It was enough to make her want to cry once more, but she did not. She would not in front of her brother.

“Graduation is today,” Kyle said as she listened to new footsteps. “You should let me get you home to clean up.”

“I’m not going.”

At her twin’s words, Erynna opened her eyes. Her friends had thrown themselves at her brother and he’d waded through them without a care. He was, she’d realized early, most definitely their father’s son. Their biological father. Not Kyle who still mourned the loss of Ewan after five years.

Clyde wasn’t looking at them, his head had twisted and he stared at the sea. Her nose wrinkled at his attractiveness. Like their father, it would trap him someday. She was sure of it. The longing he showed, that she tried to hide, drew his steps to the cool water drawing closer with the morning tide. He was already gone, she realized. The lure of the sea had settled deep within his spirits and he would not resist.

So, she stood and reached out for Kyle. He stared at her hand, watched her blink once, and took her hand despite not using her help to get to his feet. She released her foster father’s hand to embrace her twin. He patted her on the back once. Kyle got not even a look before Clyde bounded for the sea and disappeared into the waves with a sleek brown fin breaking the water once, as if to wave.

2

“I can’t believe Clyde didn’t show,” Lucy whispered.

Whispered, despite the loud music spilling onto the beach. Because, of course, they’d gone to the beach after graduation. Erynna hadn’t wanted to come out, but Kyle had given her a small smile and shoved her out the door. He meant well. He always did. And, who knew, maybe it was better this way. The sharp scent of the ocean filled her senses in a way the smoke from the bonfire could not. A fall chill had everyone bundled in coats, but she’d only donned a sweater for the celebration.

Lucy, more of a Clyde groupie than a real friend, drifted off to get another beer when Erynna said nothing.

“He changed, didn’t he?”

This voice captured her attention. Erynna turned from the cruel ocean to see Artis grinning. They had not always been friends, despite what their parents wanted. Artis’ mom and Erynna’s dad were best friends. She thought, possibly, they had hoped she would fall for one of Artis’ brothers, but they did not appeal. Not in comparison to their sister with round, freckled cheeks, full lips, a fuller- That was where Erynna stopped herself. Always. Because Artis showed no interest of that sort.

“Earth to Erynna.” Artis grabbed her arm, looped it with hers, and led her away from the fire. Not closer to the water, for which she was thankful. Instead, to her surprise, she led her over to her car. “Come on. I don’t want to be there anymore than you.”

“Why not?” Erynna asked the question as she gazed at her now friend’s arm in hers. It felt nice. Or maybe it was the beers.

“Because I don’t like most of them.”

“Yea, me either.”

They laughed before Artis took off and began to drive, inland. The only noise to keep them company was the crunch of tires on unpaved roads. Erynna kept her window rolled up as if that would stop the teasing scent of the ocean from following her.

“He did though, didn’t he?”

She knew what was being asked, but could not force the words from her tight throat.

“I’m so sorry, Erynna. But, it could still happen, right?”

In a way, it was nice having a friend who knew your blood father was a selkie. In a way, though, it was not. Despite the odd whispers about her and Clyde, most people accepted Kyle as their father. The island was small enough there were no squelching rumors, but they all tried to keep a low profile and engender no new speculations. Because of her mom’s relationship with Erynna’s dad, Artis knew more than most.

“Erynna? Do you want me to take you home instead?”

“Instead of where?”

“I thought we’d go to the old sheep farm.”

“It smells like sheep.” Oh. Erynna blinked twice, but a tear fell despite her efforts. “You’re a good friend.”

“Nah. I just don’t want to go home yet either.”

Also probably true as Artis had been arguing with her mom for the last several months. At least Kyle did not expect her to go off to university somewhere. With Clyde gone, she wondered if he would try to hold her closer, but dismissed the idea. The one thing Kyle had always been good at was letting go. To his detriment. She wished he would find someone new. If anyone deserved it, he did.

3

“Quit moping. We’re here and I need you to get the gate.”

Erynna opened her door and stuck out her tongue. “I wasn’t moping.” But she was, and they both knew it. Once Artis had driven through the gate, Erynna closed it once more and climbed in for the ride to the cottage. The night was cold and she wished for a coat now where she hadn’t on the beach.

“I came out earlier and stocked the cottage. Grandda thought it was to get ready for the winter herders and I did not dissuade him.”

“Do you still want to winter here?”

Artis had been talking about taking the job from her grandda. A few months with nothing but snow and sheep sounded like torture to Erynna, but Artis said it would be lovely. Sometimes, she thought her friend mad.

“I do. Grandda said he would hire me, but I have to get mom to agree. And she’s so keen on getting me off the island and into university it’s not funny.”

The car rattled to a stop in front of the small cottage and neither of them hurried out into the cold.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“Take the winter to think of it. In a way, the school troubles were a boon to all of us. We have a whole year to decide what to do instead of a few months.”

The school troubles had been a gas explosion. Which meant there was no school. Well, some parents boated their children to another, but most had simply waited for school to resume. That was the way it was on the island.

“Come on. It’s only going to get colder out here,” Erynna said as she shoved her door open once more. The inland wind always chilled her bones the way the ocean’s cold could not. It was unfair, how connected she felt to the sea when she was denied a true embrace. Fresh tears threatened her, but she blinked them back into her dark eyes as Artis opened the cottage door. They swiftly built a fire in the wood stove and added a pot of water to the top to make cocoa.

A couple of lanterns lit the room, neither interested in running the generator. Erynna because she hated the smell, and Artis because she hated the noise. They’d been coming here since they were children and it was small enough to have no surprises in the layout. As they waited for the water to boil they hauled blankets from the bed to the couch where they bundled up and listened to nothing but the occasional sleepy bleat of a sheep.

“Do you want to talk about Clyde?”

“Not really. Not tonight. Maybe later.” Maybe never, but she doubted that. They were twins, he would always be somewhere in her mind.

“I heard your dad was going to sell his boat.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Kyle would never sell the Dick. “He loves that boat.” Erynna scowled at her friend for even suggesting such a thing, but Artis only held up her hands and laughed.

“I only said I heard it. Mom said it was a stupid rumor as well. She’s going back to deckhand for him full time. Now that I’m all grown. Being the last one and all.”

“I’ll probably see her more than you if you stay up here with the sheep.”

Artis leapt up when the kettle shrilled its readiness.

Erynna shook her head, but watched her friend with care. Something was bothering her. How had she only now just noticed? Oh, right, because she’d been wrapped up in her own sadness.

“You ok?” she asked once Artis was back on the couch. “You’re being weird.”

“I am not!”

“Are too!”

They both laughed, but Erynna was not going to be deterred. She did let Artis finish her cocoa, but that was only because she wanted to drink hers and finish warming up. The wind gusted against the cottage, searching for cracks to break through and steal away their warmth. Shrill whistles rattled the shutters and they both jumped.

A nervous laugh accompanied Artis’ scooting closer on the couch. Erynna had no idea how she’d survive up here on her own. She was frightened of any noise. Always had been.

“Bogeymen outside?” Erynna asked as she looped an arm around Artis’ shoulders.

“It’s not funny. I saw one here once.” Artis had sworn since she was twelve she’d seen at least one bogey haunting the area by the cottage. She was sure they stole sheep on occasion.

“How are you going to make it up here alone?” Erynna demanded.

“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to.” Artis twisted in the blankets and took Erynna’s hand. “You could stay. You don’t have to work the Dick this winter.” They both giggled, because they’d giggled over the shorthand name of Kyle’s boat since they’d learned what it meant.

“Stay here? With the sheep?” With Artis. Which would be both boon and nightmare. She wanted to be close to her, but not only as friends and she didn’t know how she’d handle the sting of disappointment at such a situation. Not after Clyde.

“With me,” Artis said as the wind rattled the shutters once more. “You could keep the bogeymen away.”

“Artis- I don’t think- It’s not a good idea.”

“Why not? I’m not crazy, you know. I’ve seen them. And the old woman in the cave said they’re getting stronger.”

Erynna’s laugh came quickly she hated the way it made Artis flinch.

“How can you not believe?” Artis demanded. “You’re a selkie!”

“Because I’m not,” Erynna screamed. She shot to her feet, blankets hanging about her shoulders as she glared in the lantern light. “I’m not, Artis. Clyde is. I’m nothing. I can’t- I can’t stay here with you.”

“Why not?” Artis was not upset by her outburst. They were rare, but not unknown to her best friend. She knew Erynna would calm down soon enough.

“Because I don’t believe in self-flagellation.”

“Well, good?” Artis reached for her hand and Erynna let it be taken.

Maybe she did believe in it at least a little because she did not let go of her friend’s hand.

“What’s the real reason, if you’re not afraid of bogens?”

4

“You,” Erynna whispered.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I love you, Artis. And don’t say you love me too, because that’s not what I mean.” Erynna looked down at their hands together and pulled hers away from the temptation their knotted fingers made bare.

“Tell me.” Artis took her hand again. “You can tell me anything.”

“I can’t.” Erynna’s bark of laughter was nearly a sob, but pride protected her. “Because I don’t want to lose my best friend.”

“You won’t. I promise.”

Oh, how she wanted to believe. For years, she’d dreamt of a chance to tell her friend how she felt, but now there was fear in her way. The wood in the stove shifted and sent sparks visible through the grate. Neither of them said anything until, finally, to drown out the wind that bothered her friend, Erynna spoke.

“I’ve wanted to kiss you since we were fourteen. Maybe longer. I just remember, at your birthday party, you let Lyle kiss you behind the house and I wanted to punch him. Every time you went on a date I dreaded hearing about it because I was so jealous. And, I know you’re not like me. So, I never said anything, but I-”

“You what?”

“I dreamed about you.” The whisper froze her throat. There was nothing else to say. So, she waited for Artis to make a joke, or yell, or get up and move away from her.

“I’m not like you,” Artis said, but she didn’t move away. “I like boys fine, Erynna. And I know you don’t. I’ve always known.”

“I’m sorry.” She blinked and stared at the shuttered window. There was no ocean scent in the room, she noted. Only the smell of wood smoke, and sheep, and Artis.

“Silly goose.”

Artis whispered in her ear, her breath warm on Erynna’s skin, and she shuddered. Her friend kissed the side of her neck and she bit her lower lip hard to keep quiet. Maybe Artis had been right and a bogen was here and it had possessed her friend. Which meant, she should not turn her head and let their lips touch. She definitely should not do it.

Except, she couldn’t help herself.

And the wind may have rattled the cottage as mad bogens tried to get in, but neither of them paid it any mind for the rest of the night. Because, there was time enough for sheep and bogeymen when the sun was up. For now, Erynna’s entire existence shrank down to Artis, and even the sea was forgotten.

EPILOGUE

“You know our children are out together,” Selma said over coffee with Kyle the next morning. “At least, I assume so since Artis never came home and Dad said she was up at the cottage.”

“Well, it’ll do her good to be away from beach for awhile.” Kyle topped off his coffee before asking, “Did you know? About Artis? I knew Erynna, well, I suspected, but…I never said anything. Not directly. Maybe I should have?”

“Children,” Selma said with a snort. “They think we know nothing about them. I’d caught Artis kissing her fair share of boys and girls, but only gave her the same lecture my mom gave me about getting pregnant.”

The boat rocked under them as the sun broke through the fog, finally, and gave them a shot of warmth even the coffee could not match.

“I hate how I feel,” Kyle said, getting to the truth of the matter.

“That she’s not going to swim off to the sea?”

“Yea. I’m a shitty dad, Selma. Because I always knew I could lose them, but every year I lied and told myself maybe not.”

“You met the new butcher in town? I hear he’s single.”

“Stop trying to hook me up!”

“I can’t. There’s only so few of you on the island. When I see a fine specimen I immediately covet him for my best friend!”

Kyle had seen the new butcher. The sight had perked up more than his eyes, but he blamed it on celibacy. Ewan’s leaving had been too hard and Kyle had allowed himself to get lost in work and childrearing. Maybe for too long.

“I should talk to him about business.”

“Yes!” Selma’s fist shot into the air and she spilled coffee onto her old sweater. It joined the rest of the stains.

“Business, Selma.”

“Yea,” she said with a smirk. “Dick business.”

Kyle had to laugh, sometimes the teenager was too close to the surface. But, he still worried inside. For Clyde, out at sea, and for Erynna, up with the sheep.

“Do you think they can handle the bogens by themselves?”

Selma sighed and touched the iron nail worn around her neck. “I think our daughters might finally push them back high into the hills.” She shook her head and glanced out at the sea. “I blame this all on you, you know. Before you dallied with your selkie everything knew its place.”

“Oh, Donnan knew his place.” Kyle couldn’t resist. Not the words, or the selkie who still swam ashore every now and again.

They both laughed before finishing their coffee and, once done, Kyle let Selma drop him off at the butcher’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merry Christmas!

So, the flu has hit the Carpenter house. The kids are on some flu medicine after separate trips to urgent care because, of course. :) The beloved has been struck down as well. I am pretty ok. Superior genes and all. ;) Also, I tend to run last in the queue of illness. Everyone says I sound sick, but what to do they know? Sickos.

Everyone at Christmas was sick. So, I did not feel too bad about hauling my flu kids over to their grandmother's for the holiday. They made out like bandits. They always do! I didn't do too badly.

Merry Christmas! Which is what we celebrate although in a pretty secular way. I hope everyone enjoys whichever holiday, or none, you might celebrate this winter season. Personally, I'm more of a solstice person. The kids might celebrate with me next year. Even though it is not a present holiday.

So, as the flu runs its course I've had to halt stories. :( But, with three people sick, not counting the dog who is still on antibiotics and steroids, I am running around twice as much.

Blarg! As the beloved said to his youngest daughter, Merry Effin' Christmas!

 

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Way Back Machine - Chapter Two

I have a sick kid, and one trying to pass himself as sick, right now. So, here is chapter two of my way back machine story. :) Hopefully I've fixed all the odd tense changes. I do NOT know what it is with me and them. I still catch them on occasion. Sheesh!

I've made some changes to the characters in this. As I said, my MC sucked before. I'm trying to make him more bearable to be around. :) Even if I never do finish this.

When the Spirit Moves You - Chapter Two

The mall was packed with weary parents hauling around whining kids demanding everything and anything. Back to school shopping had started early and the roar of noise from the food court changed my mind about getting a drink after the drive. Better to get in and get out. I rarely came to the mall, never without an escort. Once I’d found a directory I discovered my destination was on the other side of shopping hell. A brief debate about the merits of driving around occurred in my heated brain.

The air conditioning won and I started hoofing it across the wasteland of commercialism to my destination. I’d only made it past three stores before some annoying kiosk drone tried to stop me, insisting I could take years off my looks with her moisturizer. I hadn’t shaved in two days so imagined I looked pretty hard, but that hurt. I wasn’t that close to forty. Instead of saying something mean to a poor girl only trying to make a living I kept walking. My momma always said if you can’t say something nice, shut the hell up. Although usually it was only shut the hell up. Especially when her soaps were on.

Ten kiosks and a mall cop later I made it to the jewelry store. Peering into the window for inspiration I let out a huge sigh. Lily would want something nice and I couldn’t spend the kind of money she would think was acceptable right now.

Maybe something simple. Simple seemed to be less expensive. The current trend was for ugly as sin to be more expensive. I’d never understand women and jewelry. Once inside, I was accosted by a shark with coiffed and shellacked blonde hair whose name tag told me she was Bobbi. I’m pretty sure before I’d said hello she smelled the desperation on me.

“I need something simple,” I told her before she could really get going. The light dimmed some as Bobbi took me over to what I was pretty sure was called the “cheap bastard” case by the employees when no one was around.

“Are you looking for something in gold, white gold, or platinum?” she asked without even a look at the silver jewelry on display. I might have gotten annoyed, but I knew Lily hated silver. So, I let it go. Better man and all.

“I’m looking for the right thing,” I told her and pointed to the first thing that caught my eye. “Let me see that.” There was no flicker of disapproval on Bobbi’s face as well manicured hands reached in and extracted a little moon pendant on a chain.

“An excellent choice, sir,” she told me even though the sir probably stuck in her mouth. To be fair to Bobbi, I hadn’t even thought to tuck in my shirt before leaving work.

Thirst was starting to get to me as she extoled the virtues of the pendant and my hurry to brave the hoards wound up with me agreeing to the matching earrings.

“Half-off,” she assured me rapidly as I started to show signs of awareness.  As we waited together for the credit card machine to chirp my approval she carefully arranged silver and gold tissue paper in a little bag. Once that was completed to her satisfaction she set the little boxes in as carefully as a pharaoh was interred.

“Thank you, sir,” Bobbi said as I signed the slip. Approval of three-hundred-dollar purchase had given me a little more grace in her book. I smiled and left with my bag in hand.  Gracious-like, as one would expect from a sir.

With my purchase in hand I made the second run through the gauntlet much slower. Slow enough that a sale at the movie store halted my steps. I dug my phone from my pocket and checked the time. I used to wear a watch, but I was forever losing it. I toy with getting a new one, but never do. There’s still time to beg forgiveness before lunch even if I did stop to check the sale. Streaming and digital were all the rage, but our internet was often spotty. I liked a hard copy.

  Whistling I headed inside and waved to the woman behind the counter. At work, Mandy gave two damns about the way I looked. She used to work for me, before deciding a pay cut was worth air conditioning and screaming brats. There are still days I can’t fault her. Hopefully today wouldn’t turn into one of them.

I headed right for the clearance shelves and began to peruse them. Mostly, it’s summer blockbusters from a few years ago and tv series called the next great thing four years ago. Sometimes I got lucky, but today was not one of those days. I sure hoped it was no indication of things to come.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” Mandy said behind me.

 “Let’s hope later is a win. It’ll mean I can afford to not haunt the clearance shelves.”

Mandy’s laugh was loud and, to be quite honest, abrasive. She was teased about it a lot when she worked for me, but she’d never let it stop her from laughing. Which had made me like her immediately.

“I know you like to pretend you’re some broke ass dude, but we both know it’s not true.” Her eyes flicked downward to the bag and she laughed again. “Ohhh! Someone’s in trouble,” she sang in a loud playground voice. “Someone’s in trouble,” she chanted as she went back to the counter to ring up some pierced and tattooed dude buying Sleepless in Seattle.

I shook my head and waved with one finger as I left.

Another glance at my phone to check the time and I quickened my steps to dodge the old ladies doing their mall walk late. One of them muttered after me about rude kids today, but I didn’t let it slow me down.  The heat assaulted me when I pushed outside and I remembered the drink I’d never bought. Needs warred with each other. On the one hand, I needed a drink. On the other, Lily was not getting any less pissed off. In the end, I convinced myself it was for the good of the company and trudged to my truck.

Besides, there’s a drive thru on the way to Lily’s.

I tossed the bag onto the seat of my truck without thinking.  All of Bobbi’s hard work gone to naught. The traffic out was not as bad as in so I was back on the road soon enough. A quick stop for an iced tea, and a chance to make sure the bag looked presentable, and I was at Lily’s door in under ten minutes.

Her car was in the driveway alone so she had no clients. Thank God for small favors. I didn’t bother locking the doors and was halfway to the house before remembering the bag. A quick trip back for it and I knocked as the curtains twitched.

Nothing.  

I knocked again. It was her game. I didn’t mind.

Although, I did tuck the bag behind my back. I mean, I didn’t put up with her occasional oddities out of sainthood. I’ve got my own share of dickish behavior.

When I was still outside after the third knock, I started to sing. Lily hated my voice, one could not blame her, so I made sure to sing nice and loud. I was on the second verse and the door opened.

She looked pissed. And hot. Not hot like I felt all sweaty from the mall parking lot. On a base level, I knew her hotness made me work harder on our relationship. A man would be stupid to give up someone as incredibly good looking as her. I knew it made me shallow to think it, but when you fall in love at fifteen there’s no getting around all the shallow.

“You asshole,” she began without missing a beat.  “Don’t think I don’t know why suddenly you give two flying fucks about me. You’ve got a job.” Kursk might not be a small town, but it wasn’t exactly large either.  I wasn’t surprised she’d heard about the Stevens’ job.

“You don’t know everything,” I tell her in a low voice.

Two steps forward and she took two back. Letting me in meant forgiveness. Eventually. I kicked the door closed behind me. Lily smirked, but my occasional brutish behavior amused her.

She stepped backward and I followed her down the hall.  The bag dangled from one hand, but she didn’t lunge for it. Truthfully, for Lily, it was always the thought. I’d braved the mall, the jewelry store, and she’d know I picked it out myself. Her largesse only went so far, however, and woe to anyone who ever brought a forgive me gift from the dollar store.

Seeing her, dark blonde hair loose around her shoulders, and hazel eyes twinkling, I forgot why I’d come. Well, I forgot about the work aspect. It had been a week. A long week. Lily said it was fate, I called it pheromones, but whatever it was, when we were together we had a hard time keeping our hands to ourselves. So, when her back hit the bedroom door she opened it and I followed her straight to the bed. The clients would have to settle for our late arrival.

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December Storytime - Way Back Machine

Years ago, I got it into my head to be a writer. So, I sat down with a pretty cool story idea (I thought) and started writing. I stalled at about 6600 words. They were not...good words. Oh, there were bits and pieces of potential brilliance with some work. I am always potentially brilliant. ;)

The story never went anywhere and I didn't do anything for awhile, hating myself for being stuck at my first outing. Then, some time later, I decided to try again. A new idea, new characters, a new attempt to do what I'd not thought possible. And, I succeeded! My first full novel is no better than my aborted attempt. It could be, should I ever want to sit down with five full novel first drafts and turn them into something else.

Which seems like a lot of work. ;) Especially when I have NEW ideas.

Still, I have all of these things.

Including that first, aborted attempt.

The story took place in a small town in OK (because write what you know) and was about a man who ran a moving company that specialized in packing up belongings in haunted houses to make sure no ghosts followed. Because, write what sounds fun. I hate the main character. He was terrible. I am MUCH better at male POV now. I think. :)

Still, I was emptying an external drive to use it for the Xbox and came across the old stuff. I've cleaned it up a wee bit and offer the beginning of When the Spirit Moves You. Which I want to finish, if only because I hate having half-told stories even if only to myself. :)

I wouldn't call this cheaty as it's all rewritten and some of it is new. Maybe I'll post a bit of this story over the next few days. A bit of rewriting, but some of it is usable. And, it's my blog. Haha! You're not the boss of me. I'll do what I want!

Enjoy!

When The Spirit Moves You

 

The dream happened and I’d come to accept that over the years. I was much better at accepting it at night, in my own bed, where no one would hear me if I screamed. When I dozed at my desk and propelled into the nightmare it’s a little different.

It’s always dark at first and I heard the screams while stumbling around trying to find my way out. Out of wherever this horror lurked that wanted me close. Grasping hands found a wall and I fet my way along rotted wood and decomposing wallpaper. Probably some ugly rose wallpaper in some ugly old house, but there was no light to confirm suspicions.

If the screams were bad they’re nothing compared to the whimpering. The quiet sounds of desperation might almost be ignored in the light. In the dark they’re powerful and my feet moved faster to reach the end of the hallway. I always did. Then, there it was, waiting for me. The end, freedom, safety called out to me, but something waited between it and me.  What waited was something hideous and large. And me? I was helpless and small. Trapped as it watched, patiently, for me to get close so it could grab me with its hands and hold tight forever.

I was aware enough to know it’s a dream, but not enough to break it and escape. In the twenty-one years I’d had the dream I’d never been able to break it. The nightmare ended when it was ready and not a moment sooner. Standing just out of reach, just out of sight, was the thing that called me. It was the source of the screams and the whimpers and all the dread I’d ever felt in the middle of the night. This time something was different. I felt the difference.

The door. I saw the door. I’d never seen the door before, only a pulsing darkness around the thing. Even asleep, I’d been sure of escape, but no true exit had ever appeared. Now, if I made it past the thing, there would be safety waiting. Light seeped in from under the door. It illuminated the thing, but I looked away before I saw too many gasping mouths and reaching hands.

My dream self took hold of the hope of safety and I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t.

I never made it.

No matter if I ran, leapt, crept, or dashed, it was never good enough. The thing always got me and I woke to the smothering feeling of hands and clammy breath.

This time it’s different, my dream self thought. I wanted to rail, but it’s as useless as yelling at the movie screen. I watched as the running started and then it’s me running. Always before I watched, but now it’s me and I screamed as I charged the beast and it reached for me, but this time…this time, blessed safety was mine. I felt bone break and flesh tear as one hand got ahold and didn’t let go, but there’s the door. Safety was right there and I touched the knob and turned the handle and the light spilled forth.

Safe. For the first time, I was safe. The dream allowed me think that for a second. Then, I saw what waited in the light and woke up with a scream.

The door to my office burst open and three worried sets of eyes stared. Behind the knuckledraggers, Shelley hovered with a post-it in her hand. A work call, I guessed, since no one else would be on the phone. Not Lily, certainly, who had not returned my calls since I’d forgotten her birthday.

“You ok, boss?” Chip asked.

“You see a mouse?” Marco offered with a smirk.

The new guy said nothing.

“Stepped on a nail,” I muttered. “Get back to work. I don’t pay you to lurk in fucking doorways.”

Only once they’d dispersed did prim Shelley step into my office. She said nothing, would say nothing, until she allowed herself to forget my swearing. So, lunchtime. The post-it was set on my desk and she glanced at my chin.

The door closed and I reached for a napkin from the fast food place I ate at yesterday. Wiping the sleep drool from myself with one hand, I picked up the post-it. Shit. Client on the phone. Why hadn’t she told me?

If I hadn’t promised Lee I’d keep his niece on as office manager after buying the business she’d be gone. A second glance at the number and I picked up the phone.

“Aaron’s movers.”

A timid voice on the other end responded. “Is this Aaron?”

“No, this is Joe. Aaron retired.” Aaron never existed. When the business had been started people still used phone books. Vincent’s Movers would never have been called, the company founder decided, so Aaron it was from then on.

“We need someone to pack our things. We just moved in so there’s not much.”

Another voice spoke, but I couldn’t make it out so waited.

“We were told to tell you this was a special job.”

Which I’d guessed, since their address had been the old Stevens’ place. I could put my non-existent children through college on the money I made off that house. The extra money charged for the move would be helpful, but having to call Lily would be a pain in the ass.

I half-listened as the quiet voiced man droned on, interrupted by hushed comments from his wife. Two emails came in, neither more interesting than the job, and when there was silence on the other end I transferred them back to Shelley to make an appointment.

I checked my email again after that, but nothing from Lily. This would require a gift. This would likely require groveling. Well, no one had said love was easy and I couldn’t do a ghost job without the so-called psychic being involved. Unenthused about braving the late summer heat, I still grabbed the keys to my truck and headed for parking lot.

Several of the guys hollered advice, knowing my predicament, but most of them were too young to have suffered for their passions, so I showed them my middle finger wave as I let the door slam behind me. Which left me on the wrong side of the AC. My old blue truck, waiting in anorexic shade, had seen better days, but what was the point in getting something new? I figured I didn’t put more into repairs than I’d spend on new car payments and just kept her going.

I banged the dash to see if the air conditioner wanted to work and when it didn’t I turned the radio up and rolled the window down. Fucking Oklahoma summers. I was halfway to Lily’s place before remembering my need for a forgive me gift and turned left to head to the mall. She would appreciate the gesture, I hate the mall, but I still could not screw this up.

I turned the radio up louder and ignored the glare from the sheriff’s deputy stopped next to me at the red light. When the light turned green I peeled out, daring him to stop me, but I knew he wouldn’t bother. Damned sheriff’s deputies think they’re better than a traffic stop. I might not have tried that with a city officer.

The mall awaited. With all its horrors. The things a man would do for love.

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December Storytime - Cheaty Day Chapter One

Today, the last day before the kids' winter break starts, has been insane. How I look forward to having them home! :) As I am just getting a chance to look at my blog I have decided to cheat. If you read this story you know Tesia. Here's chapter one of her novel. Which, someday, I will get back to cleaning up. So many new and old projects and only so much time. I am moderately happy with this first chapter. But I'll cut it to shreds when I do serious edits on it.

Enjoy!

Chapter One - Car Trouble

 

It had been one of those nights and I was glad to be done with it. It seemed like every table that came in was looking to pick a fight and that always meant one thing. Lousy tips. By the time I was hauling the trash out on my way to my old truck I was glad to be done with the human race. All I wanted was to make the drive home, have a cup of cocoa, and crawl into bed after a hot shower. A fine and solid plan that kept me going to my truck. My truck that didn’t want to start. Now, I caught hell about my truck a lot. It had been my dad’s before I inherited it at eighteen, but it was always kept in good order. Which is why, as the engine wouldn’t turn over, I swore. Not enough to get them mad, but enough that they stirred.

“I know this is your fault,” I said to the empty cab. My feet hurt and I had a fresh burn where a coffee pot had hit me as Alice dodged a screaming kid who wouldn’t sit down. Grumbling, minus any real swearing, I reached behind the seat and pulled out a battered backpack. I changed clothes in the truck so at least it was only me that smelled like fried food and gravy. Once I stopped looking like a waitress I got back out of the truck and locked it up. Backpack over my shoulder I started walking. There weren’t any real bad parts of town in this area so I wasn’t worried. Still, I made sure my cell phone was fully charged and checked my pockets for anything I might need.

After walking for half an hour I thought maybe I’d maligned them for no good reason. Nothing pulled at me and I didn’t feel anything wrong. Then I hit the old row of warehouses near the train tracks and froze. They stirred again, forcing me to check every move I made. I whispered a prayer taught to me by my mom and crossed the street. For an old warehouse it was in pretty good shape. The For Sale sign was brand new, replaced after the owners switched real estate agents as if that would sell the place. No one wanted these warehouses which was a shame. Their brick exterior looked new and even the windows has survived countless generations of vandals. The glass brick windows gave no clue as to what was behind them, but I didn’t need to see to know.

A demon was in there.

I circled the building, squeezing through the narrow gap separating it from its neighbor and found a van parked in the alley out back. “Who has a van these days other than creeps?” I asked. There was no response. I found the door they’d used and dug my hand into my pocket to find the broken chalk I kept there for emergencies. Ignoring their insistent stirring I drew a quick symbol taught to me by my Dad. It would keep the curious at bay, hopefully long enough for me to finish up in here and get out. It wasn’t the demon that worried me. It was whomever might be with the demon that worried me. I dug out my phone and found I had less than half a charge. My fingers itched to call 9-1-1, but I didn’t.

Moving slowly so I didn’t attract attention by falling on my face I eventually made my way to the main floor of the warehouse. What I saw was not what I was expecting. Well, in truth I had expected to see someone tied up. I wasn’t expecting the demon to be the one bound. Three people I could only make out as shadows were standing around, talking quietly, as one of them drew lines on the recently swept floor. I knew what they were trying to do, but something wasn’t right.

Before I had a chance to figure it out I felt someone behind me. I tried to move, but a hand on my shoulder and what felt to be a gun at my back stopped me. “This is a private party,” I heard someone say in a deep, local sounding voice. When I went to turn my head he stopped me by pressing the gun, it was surely a gun, harder into my back. “We’ll just stay here and wait for them to be done before we deal with you.”

A good idea, if they hadn’t been screaming in my head now. Their will wanted me to succumb, to let them take over, but I fought. NO! I yelled even as their eerily beautiful voices informed me, as if I could ever forget The vessel must not be harmed.

Drawing in a steadying breath I said to my captor, “Look, I understand your trepidation, but something’s not right here.” Something was very wrong. My eyes kept going back to the demon and the poor soul he was riding as they sat looking calm. Not right. If the exorcism was going right he’d be sweating right now. Probably blood. They loved that trick and I was still trying to remove the stains from several perfectly good pairs of pants. I fought to keep them on their leash, but when the demon looked at us and smirked I nearly lost it. So, I did the only thing I could think of doing. Trusting them to keep me from harm I broke free of my captor’s grip, loosened once it seemed I’d be compliant, and ran towards the group of people.

I didn’t make it in time. The demon broke free of his ropes and grabbed the person kneeling on the floor trying to inscribe the circle that would have held him. He tossed the man backwards into another person and ignored the others as they shouted.

Instead he walked straight to me. Shit I said to them. Their annoyance at my language wasn’t so much felt as known. No, I was busy feeling fear. Lots and lots of fear as the demon didn’t try to avoid me. Most of them, once they knew what I was, didn’t want anything to do with me. This one? This one walked right up like we’d went to school together.

“Shit,” I said aloud because we had been to school together. Not the demon, but the body he’d taken. Andrew Denson had been my class president and while we hadn’t hung out he’d always seemed nice enough. I pulled my backpack around and went for the side pocket. When he saw what I was doing the demon hurried his steps. Too fast, too close, I chanted as I dropped my pack and opened the jar of oil I needed. It sloshed on my hands, but that was ok too. I held it, trying not to let it fall, as I said, “Halt and identify yourself, demon.”

Andrew, no, not Andrew I reminded myself, stopped. I don’t think it was because of my words. They buffeted against my control, but I wasn’t going to let them free because I didn’t know what they’d do. Ignoring the other people in the room I focused on the only problem that mattered at the moment. I met his eyes, a big no-no if you’re not protected, and was pretty sure Andrew was gone. If not gone than complicit which would make holding the angels back harder.

“How long?” I asked as I shoved my left hand into my pocket to find the chalk I would need.

The demon, looking amused, watched me. He also ignored the others in the room now. “College was so hard for him,” the demon said in Andrew’s voice. “So very hard. So very alone. I offered him what he wanted. It was a glorious time.” His words made my skin itch, like he was coating me in some nasty liquid. I knew the feeling well enough to identify him.

“Incubus,” I stated as I pulled chalk from my pocket.

From behind him I heard a man say, “No. That’s not right.” Arguing broke out, but it didn’t concern me. What concerned me was the demon and the way he wouldn’t stop looking at me. I let their leash slip a little and that stopped the smirk on his face.

He had other tricks up his sleeve to cause me trouble. No sooner was I thinking I could get this under control again than he was saying, “Witch,” loud enough to be heard by everyone. The arguing behind him stopped and I felt all eyes on me.

So, I had no choice. I felt trapped, surrounded by hostiles, and the demon wouldn’t stop staring. Whispering a prayer of forgiveness, I let them loose. As far as I know they don’t have a physical body. I’ve never seen them, not with my eyes. In my head they were points of light, too bright to see. I heard them all the time. I try not to let people see this at it can be disconcerting, but I had a feeling things had been about to get really bad for me.

The vessel shall not be harmed, Izquisedulu. Demon of Lust.

No matter how often they do it I still get freaked out when they talk through my voice. It echoes with the both of them and is weird. The demon growled, an uneasy noise to hear from my former class president.

Not Andrew they reminded me. As soon as they spoke it the tricks started. Blood, as I suspected. Eyes and ears were always first.

“No, don’t hurt me,” the demon said. He had the cowering down and I knew this wasn’t the first time he’d been caught. I wondered if he pulled the same stunt with the idiots in the room. Unfortunately for him, my companions and I were used to such tricks.

“In the name of God,” my voice said. “By the power he grants all those living to resist evil, I command you to return to the Pit. In the name of Jesus Christ we ask mercy for Andrew Denton. Be gone, demon, and trouble this man no more,” They/we commanded. I felt the power as it poured into me and out into poor Andrew’s body. He screamed, they do that a lot too, and it was horrible. The body collapsed and the angels turned to the room. I saw through their power the corruption left by the demon.

“No,” I shouted as they gathered power to cleanse the rest of the souls. Demonic taint is impossible for them to resist even if it only came from being too stupid to contain a demon properly before exorcising it. I can cleanse them I said to the angels. They argued with me and I was vaguely aware of two people checking the corpse before me.

Knowing how little time we had I pushed them back despite their protests.

 “Listen,” I started to say, but was stopped by four sets of hostile eyes upon me. “Hey,” I tried again as I stepped away and raised my arms to show I wasn’t a threat.

One of the men stepped forward and in the dim light I could see the small cross pinned to the lapel of his suit. No one else wore a suit. He is holy they whispered to me. If they could be mad at me they would be. Disappointment is easy, but as tied as we are to each other they can’t work up true anger. They save that for me, I guess. The stench of the demon taint was overpowering. It’s not sulfur like the internet boards say. It’s more like rotting meat coated in used fryer oil. The first time I smelled it I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was bad.

“Demons are known to lie,” the holy man said. “Was he lying? Are you not a witch?”

Shit. I would have loved to lie. Their disapproval over that desire wasn’t new, but the pain between my eyes was still distracting so I took a deep breath.

“Can we discuss that later?” I asked with what I hoped was a calm voice. “The more important things here are calling the cops about Andrew and cleansing you of the demon’s taint.” I looked at the four men in the room and sighed. “You reek of demon,” I said apologetically. “Was this your first? It’s always the hardest to stay clean from.”

“You knew him?” the oldest looking of them said.

“Yea,” I said as I bent down to slowly pick up my pack. Part of the oil spilled on the floor and I frowned at the loss. At least the smell helped a little. “That’s Andrew Denton. We went to school. Well, that’s his body. It’s pretty clear the demon had been in charge for a long time. He was clean when I knew him.”

“How would you know?” one of the younger ones asked. He had the look of law enforcement. That might explain why the cops weren’t coming already.

“Seriously,” I said as the stench made me dizzy. “Can we please clean this place and you before we talk about my past?” They stretched in my head and I winced. It cleared the taint from my nostrils at least.

Tell them they instructed.  

“My name is Tesia Faustina Jaskolski,” I told them as I clutched my backpack to my chest. “I am the Holder of God’s gift and I outrank all your…selves so we’re leaving now.” I let their warmth and power sooth my doubts as I turned and walked towards the door. “You can be cleansed by me or them,” I said. “You’re less likely to suffer at my hands.”

They were stunned enough I made it to the backdoor. There I learned what had tipped them to my arrival. Sitting in the open door of the van was a woman around my age. She didn’t stop me, but the shotgun in her lap did.

I froze two steps into the alley and said, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” The demon taint was less on her, but it was still there. Whoever they were, they’d really messed this up.

When she spoke her accent was local although not from here. I knew most everyone in town and had never laid eyes on her before. Now I wished they’d let me go home first if only to have taken a shower before meeting her.

“My brother said that may not be true. Get in the van.”

 

 

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December Storytime - The Copper King

Fantasy storytime. With a conflicted mc, a terrible prince, and a lot of rain. I've had A LOT of fun with these characters. I will be visiting with them again. :)

The Copper King

 

1

Outside the door, despite the deluge of rain making the mud suck harder at our boots, mine sturdier than his, I stopped him.

“You shouldn’t be doing this.”

“You have stated such. Several times. I grow weary of your inability to shut up.”

“Beg forgiveness, your highness.”

I ignored his glare at the title. The one time I’d tried to use his name on this ridiculous venture he’d lectured me in the middle of the street. Which, I could not point out, was a bit more of a giveaway than his title. The door opened and the stink of unwashed bodies spilled out into the storm and into our waiting nostrils.

Unused to such humanity, the prince buried his lower face into a handkerchief of dubious masculinity. Not that he made great strides to conform to the kingdom’s occasionally narrow view on gender roles. Only, I’d encourage him to be a bit more…not himself. At least for tonight.

I would like to think I succeeded, but we wouldn’t know until we were inside. I grabbed the door before it could swing closed and held it so he might enter first. Once inside, I squeezed around him and a not-as-bored-as-he-seemed bouncer and began the trek to the corner. The man we sought would be there.

No one gave me more than a second look. The prince, well, he didn’t quite go as unnoticed. Used to being gawked at, he didn’t know to get these particular subjects to not stare. These particulars should be discouraged so when I noticed a few approaching I grabbed the prince by the arm and jerked him the last few feet. No doubt I would be yelled at later.

“Riona. I thought the rain would keep you away.”

The darkness around him was not entirely manufactured naturally. Dramatics I did not need tonight, but he was as much a creature of habit as the prince. I pulled out a chair for the prince, the sound lost in the general din of the tavern. A glare from him before he brushed off the chair with a different handkerchief than the lace he clutched to his nose. Still.

“Not my first rainstorm.”

“No, but you never liked them.”

“Can we get down to business?” How petulant he sounded. More so, compared to Copper’s deep, rumbling voice.

I’d considered killing him more often in the last few hours than I had in the last twenty years. Gods, twenty years babysitting the pampered idiots in the castle. Sometimes I did wish that rainstorm Copper remembered had been my last.

It had not, so we were down to business.

“Copper, the- gentleman here has a proposition.”

“Well, he’s not my type.” Copper pretended not to recognize the prince. “I’ve some men of my own who would be happy to give him a rough night.”

“How dare you!”

Before he might erupt with royal fury, I slapped a hand over his mouth. Now I was sure I would pay later for all my transgressions this evening. I should have hit him harder. At least then it would have been worth it.

“What he is saying,” I said slowly as I removed my hand, “is he does not need entertainment of his own. What he seeks is something more delicate.”

Even with shadows wrapped around him, I felt Copper’s eyes on mine. I had not wanted to come here, but had not been swift enough to lie when the prince made his demand. Every time I saw him, I thought about my decision to stay after the war. We could have- Well, fifteen years was a long time to clutch regrets, but one finds their fingers only hold tighter with each passing year.

“I do not think we should discuss this here.”

The prince was absolutely right. Not that it would do him any good. Copper only met here.

“We will not be bothered. Nor will we be overheard. Tell me the job.” He ignored me now, focused on the potential client. My muscles relaxed despite that meaning my charge was in more danger.

At least, now, I could study my former lover without seeing mockery in his eyes. He looked little different than the last time we’d met years ago. His red hair looked a shade lighter, but it could have been the spluttering torches breaking into his shadow. It wasn’t only lust being in Copper’s presence raised. I missed him in so many ways.

As the prince hemmed and hawed and spluttered as much as the torches, Copper’s eyes slid to me. Their blue was clouded by some emotion I could no longer read in his expression. I met his gaze as steadily as I could, knowing he’d already discovered how different I looked. Some of us could not keep back the years from our features.

“If I can deduce your meaning in your meandering,” Copper said once the prince had drifted into silence, “you wish me to seduce your sister so she will make a poor judgment and be pulled from the line of succession.”

The mockery in his tone was bare to even the prince’s lower intelligence. He huffed, and puffed his chest out, but in the end, he nodded. Because, it was exactly what he wanted.

Which was why I’d instantly thought of Copper. Because he could do it, would have no qualms about doing it, and would make the princess enjoy her ruin.

I’d certainly enjoyed mine.

“I am not sure what your associate-”

“Servant.”

“Said about me.” Copper leaned forward and the table groaned under the force of his arms. He did it on purpose. “I am not in the habit of committing treason. We’ll all forget you came here.”

“You have not heard my offer.”

“And I don’t need to. You have nothing I want. Good evening, your highness.”

The prince was not happy to be addressed as such. Well, not entirely. He stood swiftly, the chair kicking back a few inches. As he stared down at Copper he said nothing. Copper only leaned back and returned the stare. The prince lasted exactly 34 seconds.

I’d counted.

“Come along, Riona.”

I sat, hand on my sword, trapped between the two men. Copper did not command I stay, did not ask, but I hated to leave him. Unfortunately, I had no choice. We stared at each other, the table no impediment to all of our regrets, until I was on my feet.

“Always a pleasure, Riona.”

The words were said to my back and I could not turn to see him one more time. If I had, I might not have left. Treason indeed.

2

“You said he would do as I wished.”

An hour later, exhausted and soaked through, I stood in the prince’s bedroom as he sipped mulled wine and was bundled in a fine robe and slippers. I, of course, had not been given time to change despite his time in the bath. He was making a point.

“I said, if any man could do as you desired, it would be Copper.”

“The same thing.”

“No, your highness. Not the same thing.”

“I will force him to do as I command.”

I snorted, unable to stop myself.

“Riona, your attitude begins to bore me.”

I froze, the rain shivers fleeing as a more immediate terror filled my thoughts. I must have looked suitably frightened because he relaxed and sipped his wine. Which did not mean I was safe.

“I apologize, your highness.” Such sincerity now. Not quite groveling because it was not in me, but it was close. Let the gods convince him it was good enough!

“There are ways to convince a man to heel.” The prince glanced down at the small puddle formed under me on his fine carpet. “Go, stop yourself from ruining a carpet worth more than you. Return in less than half an hour. You will tell me all you know of this Copper.”

Thank the gods! I might not be out of danger, but I could dry off and cease feeling the endless crawl of rain on my body. I hurried from his chamber and down to my own room two levels down.

Which was where Copper sat. He showed not a drop of water on his frame. I was thankful, rather than jealous, because he sat on my bed.

“Your oath ended when his uncle died,” he said as the door swung shut.

“So you say.” I tugged off my boots and tossed them into the corner. Wet socks squelched as I crossed the floor and I peeled them off in front of my chest. With my back to him, I stripped quickly down to nothing before pulling on a clean uniform.

“I would not make you work in the rain.” He stood behind me. The instinct to turn, to defend myself, lost to the feel of his hands on my shoulders. “I would not make you work, Riona. Not here, not wherever you might wish to escape to.”

“I swore an oath,” I stuttered.

His thumb caressed my neck, finding the proper spot to leave my knees weak and my breath caught in anticipation.

I could fight this. I should. I would have, but his words stopped me.

“It was not easy, beloved, to avoid every drop of rain between myself and you. But I did.” A small application of pressure sent my head to one side. “For you.”

He had no breath to caress my skin. Only the feel of his lips before his tongue traced the vein he desired gave me warning. A chance to say no. Copper had always given me that chance. Now, as before, I turned it down and relaxed into what was to come. I would be late, legs too weak even though he never took too much, returning to the prince.

Fangs slid into my skin and I closed my eyes, breath held, determined to experience every moment. Copper fed slowly, drawing blood and whatever else he needed from my spirit, in a manner meant to remind me of every other time. A clap of thunder did what even his teeth could not.

I whimpered in fear and his arms slid around my waist immediately. I leaned against the sturdy, steady feel of his body as he finished. His tongue traced the bite mark as his hands held me close against him. Which was all lovely. Except I was late.

“Domenico.” My whisper was an entreaty, but I think neither of us knew exactly what I sought. It was a name I’d not even thought in too long. The syllables drew memories up from the darkness I’d consigned them to and he held me as I shook.

“You remember your oath,” he whispered in reply as he turned me to face him. “I remember it, Riona.” Fingers combed my short, dark curls off my face. The rain had left them a frizzled mess. “Do you wish me to remember my own oath now? Because I have waited a long time for that to be your desire.”

My answer came in the hurried tread of my steps as I fled my past.

3

The next morning, exhausted from lack of sleep, I stumbled around town.

In the rain.

On a series of increasingly odd and demanding errands from the princess.

The prince had kept me up until almost dawn. I had evaded most of his questions about Copper, but hoped I’d done so in a way to leave him satisfied. No one arrested me so I thought I’d done well enough. Because he had been up late, he’d slept in, and I’d been taken by the princess for her own tasks.

Fetching packages, ordering fripperies, and slogging through the mud did not ease my worries. A fight between the prince and Copper would not end well. For anyone. At the very least, I would be dead. As the sky opened up again and made sure every inch of me was drowning, I waved to the street kid following me. Maybe she would be allowed in from the weather if I showed her I’d known she was there. A little slow, I hadn’t noticed until my second trip into the town outside the moat. An embarrassing admittance, but I was tired and the rain did not improve my mood.

She, I thought, grinned and waved back. So much for that. Well, I hoped whomever paid her was paying her well. I tore the door to the perfumery open and tried not to sneeze as the conflagration of scents attacked my nose. The princess had insisted I remain as her scent was mixed. So, I sniffled and dripped and watched the man mix up the concoction soon to grace her highness.

Behind the clouds, I thought it past noon. Perhaps I would be allowed a break now. I could dry off, however briefly, and take a nap. Food would be good, but I would take sleep over food any day. Doing without sleep only made my brain slow and I needed my wits.

At the very least, I was thankful for the cobbled streets well maintained. I had no treks to muddy back alleys today. I would have been more thankful for a secession of rain clouds and their thunder friends. Rain had never been beloved by me, but that night-

“Riona, there you are. Have you my scent?” The princess in all her coiffed glory stood in the great hall. Servants swirled around her like accessories to her jewel-toned gown. As she stood by the fire, I saw no reason to slow my steps. Her aide took the package and made a moue of disappointment at the damp paper wrapper.

“Thank you so much, Riona.”

Before I might speak, I heard movement behind me. Footsteps, heavy and weighed down by armor, flanked me. I was no fool and did not reach for my sword.

The princess stepped close to me once I’d been relieved of my obvious weapons. A more thorough checking would occur once in the dungeons. For now, she felt secure enough to slap my face.

“This is how you show loyalty?” she demanded.

Not quite what she meant, I did not reply.

“I’ll have the truth out of you.”

Ah, it was to be torture. Well, if they avoided the watery ones I would endure. If they were smarter than I imagined, I would break swiftly.

4

As it turned out, they were geniuses. Because they laid not a finger on me through the afternoon. Instead, I was left with an ankle chained to the wall and all but my undershirt and pants taken from me. Even in the earth’s embrace I heard the thunderstorm. Water leaked from the stone here and there. Which only left me with visions of drowning, chained in a cell, and caused me to whimper.

Quietly. I whimpered quietly. Because I had some self-respect left. Very little as visions of a watery death bore down on me the way stone walls could not.

I was very nearly thankful when the tread of feet warned me of my approaching torturer. Two guards stood with the seneschal. The same dour faced man who’d served the castle since before I was born looked uninterested as he spoke.

“The all holy gods have witnessed an accusation of treason against Riona of TwelfthBridge. It is confirmed by witnesses the accused conspired to remove her royal highness, the princess Leoma Bachendaelle Seridar from her rulership of her rightful kingdom.”

The lock clicked open and I stepped back.

“You will come with us.”

“Can’t you just kill me here?”

“Undo her chain. Bring her to the small council chamber.”

The seneschal did not wait to be obeyed. He would be. Everyone knew better than to deny his word. Even the royal family, it was said.

Although not by her. The words sounded too much like treason. Which was my charge now. Perhaps the gods judged me on my thoughts and not simply my deeds. Well, if so that was unfair. I would tell them so soon enough. I would have all manner of words for them once I was dead.

Cold stone completed my chill and I was shivering halfway to where we went. No one had bothered to give me boots. Or even simple socks. I made a tentative mention of such to the guards, but they ignored me. Well, I was not likely to catch my death of a chill. Not with the noose awaiting me.

The doors to my doom loomed close and I considered escape. I could manage to get out of the castle, but then what? The royal magery would find me before I left the city. Likely it would only make my death more painful. I had never considered myself cowardly, but a slow death at the hands of a cruel wizard did not seem worth a brief freedom.

“Leave us.”

The door had swung open before we were quite to it. Well, they were in a hurry to kill me. Interesting she had not mentioned her brother’s name. So, I was the sacrificial goat, I was too old and tough to be any lamb, to preserve the illusion of family unity.

Inside the room, seated before the roaring fire I craved, were the prince and his sister. They did not look at each other. The seneschal stood behind them, quiet, as I walked closer. Again, I toyed with escape. If there were no guards I could clear the room, commit treason in truth, and run.

Although, I still had nowhere to go.

The door opened behind me and three sets of eyes watched a fifth figure enter the room. I dared not look, no matter the death stalking closer. Because, what else could it be, but the person here to carry out the charge?

“Thank you,” he rumbled and my surprise nearly cost me my feet.

The princess simpered, rose to her feet, and stopped at a look from Copper.

In his chair, the prince did nothing but stare sullenly ahead.

As he walked by me, Copper brushed my bare arm with the tips of his fingers. Enough to draw my attention away from everyone else in the room.

“It is us who should be thanking you,” the princess said. She darted closer to him, but he froze her before she might touch him. Rather than speak to her, he addressed the seneschal.

“We had a deal, Latimer.”

“I have done what I can. I did not know. Could not have known.”

The princess drifted to her brother. Two pretty head combined and whispered. I watched them with less interest than the other conversation. Copper was mad. He held himself too still to be at ease. I expected the anger to hit me for dragging him into this mess. My own fool mouth unable to keep a mess from covering him.

“Enough,” Copper roared. He turned away from the three by the fire and strode to me in easy steps. “Riona.” He took my ice feeling hands in his own cool touch. “Beloved. Have you not punished me enough? My oath-” But his question drove me to interrupt.

“I don’t do this to punish you. Never. My own oaths-”

“Have bound you here long enough.”

“Domenico.” The seneschal’s words turned all our heads. The prince and princess stood together now.

“Who do you call by that name?” he demanded for them both.

“There is no Domenico,” she insisted.

And we all turned to Copper.

“Aw, fuck,” the rightful ruler of this mess said into the quiet.

5

I slid away from him and hurried to lock the door. Once the main door was secure I set to closing off the two other doors to the room. An insane number of doors for a small conference room. The prince and princess babbled as the seneschal stood silent.

From a sofa tucked into the corner I grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around my shoulders. It did not help my feet, but I might not freeze. When I approached our little tableau again I stopped between the parties. By rights, I should stand beside the royals. I was their protector.

It was not where I wanted to stand. All this talk of oaths. I stayed away from everyone. Copper’s grin as he saw my place almost made me smile.

“I demand to know what is going on.”

To everyone’s surprise, I spoke in reply.

“Here stands His Royal Highness, the Rightful and Just King of Dharlag. King Domenico the Silent, blessed by the gods of shadows and revered by the mistress of the moon.” And damn all the gods and their mistress.

“Riona.” He sounded almost embarrassed. I almost smiled again.

“Domenico.”

He took my hands in his and lifted my fingers to his lips. As if I were a lady and not the street brat turned soldier he’d fallen in love with during our disastrous war with those who ruled us now. Those gods’ blessed idiots.

“You swore an oath, Riona of TwelfthBridge.”

“I remember, Copper.” I hesitated, but it was a lost cause. Maybe the years had stretched taut enough to snap my reason. “You swore an oath, Domenico the Silent of Dharlag.”

Only I saw the way his blue eyes lit up at my words.

Only me, because he swooped me into his arms for an embrace that lead to a kiss.

He looked over my shoulder at the seneschal. “I trust you have things under control.”

“Of course, sire.”

I don’t know what he did, nor what control he exerted, because we were gone from the castle before I might blink. Not to his seedy tavern, as it turned out, but a nice, quiet home surrounded by tradesmen and others who worked honestly for a living. A fire burned and I would have pulled from his embrace to reach it had he not carried me there.

“Not a drop of rain,” he said as he pulled the blanket from my shivering body.

“Which was quite difficult,” I teased as he tugged me onto a sofa just big enough for two.

“Anywhere in the world, beloved.”

“Anywhere?” I asked as he pulled me closer and bent his head to my neck.

“Yes. Only, not tonight.”

Well, it was not as if I wanted to travel in the rain.

 

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December Storytime - The Broken Path

I am back in sci-fi land. If you've read my other stories you will remember Boden. If you want to know more about this setting you can read this and this. The first is about Boden's aunt. The second is about a woman Boden meets after the war. Before the second war. Which I want to write about someday. Today is a shortened version of Boden's path to where he in An Abominable Gift.

The Broken Path

Two days ago, Boden made up his mind.

Yesterday, he had been to the garrison to run their gamut of tests.

Today, he had to face his family.

On the whole, it felt like today was the worst of his hurdles.

“Boden! Turn that off.” His mother’s voice, even from the kitchen, drowned out the latest news report. “Go get your grandmother if you’ve nothing else to do than watch the lies broadcast on that evil box.”

“Yes, mother.”

The news wasn’t good. It hadn’t been good since the first arrival of the Graff. The small aliens had fled a larger, more dangerous species and all of the military talking heads said it was only a matter of time until the Unger arrived. Earlier in the week, a mining colony on the edge of the system had gone dark. No one said it was the Unger.

Upstairs, at the end of the hall, Boden poked his head into his grandmother’s room. She sat in an old rocker by the window and watched the world outside. Boden was careful to step on the proper board and he felt it give underfoot and watched the ripple until it hit his grandmother’s chair. She turned from the window and smiled with a mouth full of teeth to envy a woman a third of her age.

Fingers moved as she greeted him and he was swift in his reply. Boden enjoyed talking to his grandmother. In a family of ten it was a quiet peace he found nowhere else. So, rather than bring her downstairs he pulled up the worn bench he’d been sitting on since he was three.

“I went to the garrison today.”

“Yes. I saw you.”

“You did not. I went after work.”

Grandmother laughed and reached out to slap his fingers. It wasn’t often she interrupted their conversations. In all his nineteen years he could count on one hand how many times she’d done so.

“You’ll have to tell your father.”

“He won’t understand. I know what he thinks. He says it all the time. I just- Grandmother, if half the stories are true then we all need to fight together. The Unger won’t care about our borders. And, I know no one will say it, but that mining colony… I want to fight. To protect you.”

“I am old. I do not need protecting.” Before he might interrupt, her fingers flew to add, “But perhaps you are right. Your siblings are young. Will you tell your parents tonight?”

He nodded.

She shook her head.

“Don’t look so surprised,” she signed. “Boden, I will cry with worry over you every day, but I understand. Your mother, your father, they will not. Leave without saying anything. I shall give your goodbyes.”

He knew he had tears to match hers. Worn, wrinkled fingers brushed at his cheek and he helped her to her feet. This would be goodbye, he thought. She would die while he was far away. So, he embraced her a little longer and kissed her cheek twice.

After bed, he slipped out, but he saw the candle in her window.

#

The pain was immense. Even the drugs could not hide the feeling of life gushing from holes that should not be there. He could not feel his arm, his legs…how could they still hurt when he could not feel them? Boden bit down on a scream as a booted foot stomped on his chest.

Oh, he didn’t quite stifle it.

“He’s alive.” The voice sounded surprised.

Well, Boden was surprised. When the mine had gone off under him, setting off another and another and dropping his squad into this muddy, bloody pit he’d thought death had come. He had not wanted to die, but was satisfied with his actions. The Path would bend him in another direction, but he accepted it.

#

The pain was gone. There had been so much and now there was only a dull ache over his entire body. Crusted eyes peeled open and he stared around in alarm.

“He’s awake.”

“I still think this is a mistake.”

“Orders are orders.”

“He’s a Seeker.”

“Where?” Boden managed to croak.

“Private D’Aramitz. I’m Lieutenant Chii. I work for General Suharto in Intelligence.”

“The others?” His squad, his family. “Where?”

“Private D’Aramitz. You are dying. We can keep you alive a short time longer.”

“I’m ready to die. She awaits me with all Her charity.”

“Are you ready to die then?”

“I- I’m dying. Ready or not. I knew this could happen.” His words slurred at the end. Dry eyes blinked closed.

“You can live.”

“Chii, I don’t think-”

“I have my orders, Harris.”

“I can’t live.” He remembered what he’d felt. More important, he recalled the hushed conversations in the transport back to the base.

“If you sign up for non-standard treatment.”

“Machines,” Boden whispered. “Abominations.” The end of his seeking. The path would be broken to Her great charity if he became an abomination.

“I’ve read your files, private. We think you’re an ideal candidate. And General Suharto wants you to come work for him.”

“Chii. He’s fading.”

“General?” Boden slurred.

“Yes. You’re an excellent soldier. Wouldn’t it be a waste of that gift to die now? When you could live.”

She watched him. He felt Her great eyes upon him in this moment. Which was why his own closed. Because he did not want to die. Not now. Not yet, with the Unger undefeated. Not with his friends unavenged. She would turn away, but he could not let that stop him.

“Yes.” Boden felt the room spin before even when he tried to open his eyes he saw nothing but black. “Let the path break.”

“Harris, move him now.”

Chii’s order was the last thing he heard. Other than the great silence of Her absence. Which was what he deserved.

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December Storytime - Cheaty!

 

Today was a busy family day. We had to take the dog to the vet, her arthritis was acting up and she chewed on herself. Now she has all her antibiotics and steroids. Poor baby. Then a trip to the post office, the hardware store, and a day spent doing Christmas stuff.

Which, basically, was hanging the felt tree and then sitting down with the kids and the beloved husband to make ornaments. We use construction paper, markers, glue, and scissors to decorate a felt tree. We used sequin strings as garland. It's fun. Next year, the kids want a real tree. Meaning a fake tree. The beloved always wins that argument. LOL

So, the short version is, today is a cheaty day. I wrote a diesel punk story a couple years ago that takes place in Oklahoma. Here's chapter one!

Will Rogers Rocket Port - Rise of the Plastics

 

I’d not anticipated the party turning out the way it had when I showed up. Hardly an hour ago I’d been standing on the edges of the dance floor watching the couples and wondering if I’d be labeled too forward if I were to ask someone to dance. No one had, so far, been inclined to ask me and that had led me to do the one thing I’d sworn I wouldn’t do here.

“Wish Roy would come over,” I mutter to myself before quieting such thoughts with another sip of rather good champagne.

Not that I’d expected anything but the best at the party, but having never had champagne before I wasn’t sure what the best would taste like. I suppose people who can afford to attend parties like this aren’t getting their drinks from a bathtub. The ballroom was decked out for the event, but under the silver and crystal I could see it would be impressive with nothing in it. The floors were hard wood with inlaid silver inscribing something around the edges. I’d been tempted to walk the perimeter to read it, but thought maybe I’d look weird. Also, I’d have to walk right past Roy and Al.

As the dancers continue their fun a steadily louder thump makes itself known throughout the room. The only reason I see what happened is because mere seconds before the glass shattered into millions of pieces I’d been caught staring at Roy. By Roy. Across the room a flash of silver had drawn my eye and I’d found Roy and Albert sharing a drink of something stiffer than what was on offer by the waiters. His eyes had almost instantly found mine as if he’d felt my look. The shared glance lasted only a few seconds, but it was enough to set my heart beating faster than the wild drums of the band and my blood to heat up hotter than the rocket fire I’d witnessed a few months ago. Thinking now of escape, when I turned I was in time to see the windows explode from nothing. Sonic, I thought with the detached part of my brain as people around me begin to scream.

The glass does a good job of creating not only wounded guests, but chaos. At the very least this takes my mind off Roy and how good he looks in his uniform. Instead I get to focus on not being knocked to the ground and trampled by panicked guests. From somewhere close I make out the sound of metal on metal and turn in time to see four odd-looking men in black suits ushering a young woman out of the room. It almost tricks me, but then I remember the efficient and polite security men that had searched me before allowing me into the estate were wearing grey suits.

Before thinking I shout, “Hey!” but it’s drowned out by the screams and sobs of the injured guests. Shoving my way through a knot of people I take off at a run towards the door. I wish I could take off my shoes, but already the sting of glass along the left side of my face and body has me wanting to avoid further injuries.

Reaching the door before it shuts I manage to shove my foot out and muffle a curse learned from eavesdropping on my older brothers when I was younger. The door doesn’t close and as I shove it open I’m relieved there’s no goon in black waiting for me on the other side. Now that I’m past the glass I can remove the heels borrowed from my cousin and take off at a run towards the end of a short hallway. The door on the other side stands open and I burst through in time to see the young woman slump forward and be tossed into the back of an unmarked black van. With another shout I take off for my truck. It doesn’t surprise me the old farm truck was carefully kept away from the nicer cars as if dirt and work were contagious. At least getting out of the parking will be easier. As I yank the rusting door open a pair of hands grab me from behind.

“Hey!” I yell as I’m spun around and see looming men in grey. Estate security, I think with a relieved sigh. Relieved, that is, before I realize they’re not letting me go. “They’re getting away,” I shout at them before one pulls a misting wand from his pocket. “Hey, no! Let me go!” I yell before a fine mist hits me on my next inhale. These guys were good.

The last thing I hear before the knock out drug takes over is an amused sounding, “Vera Pearl, don’t you ever wear shoes?” Then blackness catches me and carries me down into unwanted slumber.

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December Storytime - 8 Dates, Epilogue

I can't resist an hea. :)

The Epilogue

The warm water stole over her toes as she continued to stare at the blinding sea. It was not that she didn’t have sunglasses. It was only, quite simply, the view was too lovely to dampen with eye protection. Even a good book, and she’d packed many, had been unable to steal her attention away from the water today.

Two days into her vacation and Delaney had already exorcised all her bad dates from her memory. The only downside to her day was she had to go into town and buy food. She should have brought more with her, but hadn’t wanted to shop beforehand either. Well, later. For now, she had the ocean and the sand.

“Shark attacks? Jellyfish? Sudden tsunami?”

The words drifted in under the crash of waves and Delaney forced herself not to spin around and confront the speaker of them. Because if she ignored him, pretended he were not here, he might go away. It had worked the last few months. Craig had been forced to do some mighty social dancing and she’d never even explained why she could not stand to be in the same building as Tim.

“Thirteen percent.” She spoke despite her intention to be silent.

“Which?”

“None of them.”

“Then what?”

He came around and stood beside her. She noted his bare feet in the sand beside hers. Since feet were not as interesting as the ocean, she looked up and out again.

“The chance of your showing up here. Well, of my trip being ruined.”

“And you assumed my showing up would ruin your vacation?”

“I’ve already told you I won’t go out with you.”

He ignored her statement. “I can help your vacation, Del.”

“How?”

“I can buy your groceries for one thing. We both know you don’t want to go into town.”

Those words turned her away from the ocean. She blinked, the dazzling light from before making him harder to see. He wore shorts the same as her, but his chest was bare. The sun hadn’t browned it much, unlike her skin which ran to dark even without the help of the sun.

“You don’t know me.”

“I know.”

“I’m not a nice person.”

“That I know.” He smirked.

She felt no need to hit him. Only a tenth of a tenth of a percent. Not enough to act on it.

“My father was not Parith.” He didn’t speak. The percentages swam through her brain. They were not high enough, but she said it anyway. “My father was Torrin. Full blooded.”

“I know.”

“Then why are you here?”

“I’m not nice.”

“Then why would you offer to buy my groceries?”

“I really want to spend time with you. At least long enough to get you naked.” He winked.

She thought her laugh only startled herself. Her mind could not help but run his percentages again. A broken heart was almost a sure thing.

“You ever think about living by the smaller numbers?”

“What do you mean?” As if she didn’t know. As if Pariths like her brother did not do it every day. To their ruin.

“Take a chance, Del.”

“A very small one.”

Her eyes slid downward and it was his turn to laugh.

“Not that!”

“Buy my groceries and maybe I’ll give you a chance to prove it.”

There was a small chance he would not. That she would eat another grilled cheese for dinner even though the cheese might be a little off. It was a small chance she was willing to take. A start, then, to something. Even if it did turn out to be nothing. Vacations were for taking chances.

 

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December Storytime - 8 Dates, The Eighth Date

There were roads last night too potentially slick to make getting home quick. Brilliant person I am, I forgot to schedule my blog post. Ah, well! Here it is! Umm, it takes a slight turn into a bit of sci fi. I can't believe it! But, hey! :)

If you're debating Rogue One, you can quit. It was a great movie and the ending was epic.

Now to post this and finish up today's story. Which may be an epilogue to this whole mess. Ahem. Might be. :) Stay tuned!

The Eighth Date

No sooner had Delaney decided this date, the last, the worst, could not be more terrible, their waiter arrived.

“Good evening,” Tim said with nary a hint of knowing her.

“Where’s Craig?” she demanded as officious twit examined his cufflinks.

“He went home early. Sick.”

“Is he ok?” A glance at the twit before she said, “I should go home and check on him.”

“He’s fine,” Tim assured her and she was not thankful. “I promised to keep an eye on you.” He winked.

Just in time for the twit to look up and notice him for the first time.

“Don’t waste your time with the specials. And I don’t want that other person fetching anything for us. You are here to wait on us, not some unskilled immigrant.”

Delaney glared at the twit, but before she could stand and storm off, Tim laid his hand on her shoulder. He left it here as he assured the twit, Darren, that he would be taking extra care of them tonight. She made a note to not drink or eat from his meal. Not only did she room with a waiter, she’d been one as well. Darren’s meal would not be what he expected.

“You can unhand me,” she whispered.

To her surprise, Tim did, but only after the tips of his fingers brushed against the side of her neck. This, she did not need. If he thought one passable night watching a movie in the dark meant she didn’t know he was a jerk, he was so wrong.

Darren went on about himself as they waited for their drinks. She hadn’t bothered with the menu. She ate here at least twice a week and knew even the specials by heart. Which was why she was annoyed when the twit tried to order for her. He actually told Tim what she would have. He handed the menus back and Tim took them, but then he looked at her.

Jerk.

“Surprise me.” Ha. Let him try to not be a jerk now. No one wanted to be told that and Tim would be unable to resist doing something crazy.

“Very good.”

“You associate with odd people.” Darren stared at his water glass.

Delaney didn’t quite know how to respond. She was much too busy regretting this date. A friend at work had set her up and she wondered why. Maybe Darren had been bugging her and she was trying to unload him? Whatever the case, Delaney was thankful he was number eight. All she had to do was survive dinner and there was a warm, quiet, uninhabited beach house in her future. She could do this.

Well, she could survive. Even that became a chore as the meal continued. Darren complained about everything. Tim smiled through it all and didn’t touch her again for which she was quite thankful. At least the meal was good.

Or would have been if the company had been better. The food was exceptional and nothing she’d tried here before. Well, the cooks liked her and maybe Tim had told them to take pity on her. She said no to coffee after he’d said no to dessert. He’d had the gall to look at her in a disapproving manner when it had been offered.

If there had been wine left in her glass she might have spilled it on his immaculate gray suit. Instead, she said something about having a lovely time and left before he could get up from the table. Tomorrow, she knew, she’d have to send Craig to work with a tip for Tim. There was no way Darren left a good one. And, as much as she disliked him, he had done an exceptional job.

Ugh. Why had he been so good? He should have just been an ass. Darren deserved it and the owner wouldn’t care.

“Where are you going?” Darren grabbed her arm from behind right after she’d started her car. The battery must be low because she’d had to get closer to start it tonight. Well, she had bought new ones- Oh, he still had her arm.

“I’m going home. Because I lied. It was not a lovely time. You’re an odious jerk. Good evening.”

Her tug to free her arm didn’t work. His fingers dug into her coat and found her arm underneath. Darren moved from annoyance to something more.

“I paid for your dinner.”

“Did you tip?”

“I don’t believe in tipping.”

“Of course not. Let me go.”

“Not until you pay for my time.”

Fury sprouted in her blood and began to spread. Too fast, but if anyone deserved it, this was the jerk to unleash her repressed anger on from the last week. Delaney tore her arm from his grasp and turned to face him. He barely had time to gasp before someone else was there.

“Get in the car, Delaney.”

Tim. Because, of course, Tim. He interposed himself between her and the twit. “It’s cold. Go on. I’ll talk to you in a minute.”

He sounded reasonable. How odd. Even as she felt her blood pounding in her ears she walked to her car. What the hell?

Tim spoke quietly to Darren. What he said, she didn’t know because between the closed door and the heater blasting her she couldn’t hear. Soon, she watched Darren turn and walk away. Tim watched him cross the parking lot before he went around her car and slid into the passenger seat.

“Fuck it’s cold.”

“What did you do?”

He’d done something. She was sure of it. The question was, would he tell or deny?

“I told him to go call the police and confess every terrible thing he’d ever done. Every law he’d broken, everything he’d done he knew or suspected was wrong. I imagine it’ll be a long list and they’ll pick him up before he’s done.”

“You’re Faleaz.”

“Only on my father’s side. Your Parith comes from your mother’s side, yes?”

And here was why she’d never felt comfortable around him. Fucking Faleaz and their ability to pick up on things no one wanted picked up on. He stretched his legs in front of him and reached over to adjust the heater to blow on his feet.

“Doing the odds?”

“Fuck you.”

“Heh. What are those odd?”

Everyone thought that about Parith. As if their brains calculated odds and chances all the time. Her brother had succumbed to the affliction. He spent his time in one casino after another, always just one hand away from being truly down on his luck.

“My mother’s grandmother,” she finally said.

“Huh. Only one quarter?

“Basically.”

“He didn’t tell me.”

“What?”

“Craig. He didn’t tell. I knew.”

“So?” Fucking Faleaz and their leaps from one random thought to another. All to trap you into succumbing to their suggestions.

“I want you to know. Because I know you two are close.”

She was sure he didn’t lie. The percentages didn’t add up to him lying. And here was the other reason to not like him. Around someone else like her, even if he was Faleaz, made it harder to deny her mother’s blood. And she tried very hard to deny it. Even after so long there were plenty who didn’t want trust someone with alien blood.

“Thank you for your help tonight,” she began, but he stopped her.

“I had fun last night. We should go out. For real. Stop dating idiots from the ‘net.”

She said nothing.

“Del?”

“I’m doing the percentages.”

“And?”

“You’d break my heart. The odds are not in your favor.”

“And you’re enough Parith to live by the fucking percentages?”

Why was he angry?

“Do you want a ride home?”

“No, Del. I’d hate for your precious numbers to make you miss my place. I’ll walk.”

“Don’t be stupid. It’s too cold outside. And where’s your coat?”

“Have a good night, Del.”

“Fucking Faleaz.” But she only whispered it after he’d left and she was halfway home. In her mind, she halved the tip she would send with Craig tomorrow.

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December Storytime - 8 Dates, The Seventh Date

Here is an example of things changing. Because, I had something else in mind for today's entry, but this happened instead. Such is life! At least, for me. Nice to be caught up again!

The 7th Date


She wiped the fogged mirror with her hand and stared at herself through the misty air. Speaking of which, she should call the office about the busted fan. Again. They were always on top of problems. If only they’d do regular maintenance.

To clear the air, she opened the door before returning to the mirror. Another wipe with her hand let her see herself enough to get ready. Then, when she plugged in the hair dryer the lights went out in the room.

“Dammit!”

She yanked the cord out and plugged it into the other socket.

Nothing.

“Fucking. Just. Great.”

Hair dripping down her back, one hand clutching a bright yellow towel around herself, and the other holding her dryer she stomped into the living room and smacked into someone.

“Watch- Shit.”

It was not Craig.

“Sorry, Del. Craig said I could hang out since I have to work a split.”

“No. It’s fine. I just- I’m not dressed.”

He didn’t take the hint. Tim never took the hint. She would not have been even half-friends with him if it weren’t for Craig.

“I don’t mind,” he said into the prolonged silence. “The not dressed part,” he added unhelpfully when she didn’t speak.

“Will you go to the breaker box by the washer and reset it please.” The please was pulled from her and by his smirk he knew it. “Never mind. I’ll finish in my room.”

“I think I can flip a switch,” Tim offered.

“I’m not replying.”

He would make some off-color remark. He always did. Instead, she went to her room and shut the door. She did not slam it. Only close it firmly. Unfortunately, the lights were not working in there. She was supposed to be seven blocks over in half an hour and the only way she would make it was if she left with her hair wet.

A knock on her door came before, “It’s not working.”

“No shit.”

She threw the hair dryer on the bed and opened the door.

The last of the light from the day was disappearing and she sighed. Their apartment was dark to begin with, but without power it would be impossible to see. Did they have batteries in the flashlight? Shit. Where was the flashlight?

“I have a date,” she offered weakly as he grinned for no reason.

“I heard. The grand experiment.”

“I can’t go out. My clothes were in the dryer. My hair is too wet. I can’t miss this fucking date.” The last she yelled and Tim stepped back. Good.

“Can’t you wear something else?”

“Yes. Of course, I can, but…shit. I really wanted to look nice.” She’d thought this one had prospects. They’d texted a few times. What was clean? Nothing potential good date worthy.

“Can’t you reschedule? Craig didn’t say anything about a deadline.”

“Great. He told you?” How much more embarrassing could this night get?

 “He tells me everything. Go text your date and try to reschedule.”

“Stop being reasonable. God. If you’re going to hang out call the office. Be useful.”

She retreated to her room and before doing anything else got dressed. Once in something warmer than a towel she sent a text to tonight’s date.

LOST POWER. CAN WE RESCHEDULE?

CAN’T. HUSBAND BACK IN TOWN TOMORROW. I CAN COME OVR IN THE DARK. ;)

Delaney stared at her phone. Husband? She had never mentioned a husband. Fuuuuck. Her life sucked. No power, no date, and stuck with Tim.

“The office said the whole floor was without power.” He knocked after speaking. “Sorry. It’s me. They’re working on it.”

“Don’t you have somewhere else to go hang out?”

“And leave you alone in your moment of peril? Never. Come on out. We can keep each other warm on the couch.”

Delaney rolled her eyes. From her bed, she pulled her old comforter and wrapped it around herself before she opened the door. Tim grinned, but stepped back so she could leave her room.

“We could call this a date,” he offered. “I wouldn’t tell Craig it wasn’t real. Unless you invited tonight’s date over?”

She forgot to put her hair up. She dropped the comforter and retreated to her room. In there, she ran a brush through it and braided it quickly. Phone in hand, she came back to get her blanket.

“I don’t want to talk about it. You can go.”

“I really can’t. Craig would never forgive me.”

“I am not going on a date with you.”

“That’s not what I said.”

“You said-”

“That I would lie for you. And say you left on your date. And we can sit here, in the dark, on the couch, and you can be grateful.” He waggled his eyebrows and she couldn’t stop her laugh. Tim was something of a jerk, but he wouldn’t actually press himself on her.

“She has a husband,” she said before she might stop herself.

“Tonight’s date?” He was quick enough.

“Yes. I thought she seemed nice. I should have known.”

“I would make you cocoa and sooth your sadness away, but, no power.”

“You could go out and get me some.”

“You would lock the door.”

“No.”

“I don’t like you enough to go up and down so many stairs. Not unless you’ll be truly grateful.” Even in the waning light she saw his smirk.

“I can’t even watch a movie. My phone battery is dripping.”

Tim brushed by her to sit on the couch and pat the cushion next to him. “Come on. I’ve got a full charge and three hours until my shift.”

“I don’t trust you in the dark.”

He laughed as his phone lit up. “Smart woman. Come on, Del. A movie date. And I will swear to Craig you left, looking all hot, and probably scored with a woman I don’t know has a husband.”

“When you put it that way,” she grumbled.

Tim smelled like food and didn’t move as she sat close to him on the couch, still wrapped in her blanket. Despite her misgivings, he never made a move. They watched a dumb action flick and one episode of a stupid comedy before he had to get back to work. The power was still out, but calls to the office assured her it was being worked on and would back soon.

“I’ll tell Craig to be careful coming home. Scary dark apartment with a scary woman and all.”

Delaney snarled and tossed the one throw pillow in the apartment at his head. He caught it and threw it back, hitting her head. Refusing to give him the satisfaction of a return throw, she tucked it under her head on the couch.

“Was I the worst date of the week?”

“Alas, no,” she admitted.

“If you ever want to do it again, call me.”

He sounded sincere.

Which left her shocked.

Which was why, when Craig got home a few hours later, she was still on the couch. Because he could not have meant it. Because they were so not dating compatible. Since there was no sign of power returning, her and Craig shared the couch and the blankets as the temperature dropped. Well, at least she’d gotten to stay home.

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December Storytime - 8 Dates, Third through Sixth

Catching up! As promised. Here are entries for Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I'll be following up with today's shortly. Sorry for the delay! This won't happen again!

The Third Date

“What are you waiting for?”

She was halfway up the rock wall and Delaney could only stare. Samantha, pretty and blonde, was turning into as much a nightmare as every other date. Thinking she’d be able to do it, Delaney had let them harness her up and even put on the gloves she was told she needed. Then they’d offered a helmet and she’d froze.

“I don’t think this is going to work.”

The employee standing beside her gave a sympathetic look. Maybe it was a pitying look. Unsure, she only motioned him to help her remove the trappings of rock climbing from her unwilling body. He’d offered to track down a female employee, but she’d demurred.

Samantha had stopped upward movement, but not come down. It was hard to tell, but she looked either annoyed or pissed. Not sympathetic.

Maybe the employee was single.

“You said you enjoyed outdoor activities in your profile,” Samantha huffed.

“We’re inside,” Delaney pointed out to her date. Also, she’d meant lying on the beach under an umbrella with a juice pouch and a book. Which one did outdoors so she had not lied.

“I paid for an hour.”

“Well, you didn’t ask if I liked heights.” Really. This was not her fault.

“Your profile didn’t say you did not.”

“For the love of-” The profile questions had not had a spot for minor terrors. Like heights. Not a phobia, but she avoided ledges and cliffs and all that stuff if she could.

As they argued, she was freed of any look of rock climber. Already she felt better. The employee smiled and hauled off the esoteric gear once she handed over her gloves.

Samantha still did not move to come down to her.

“We could go get dinner,” Delaney offered, not wanting to give up so easily.

“I ate already this evening.”

“Wow.”

Because, what else could one say?

Head shaking, Delaney officially gave up on her date.

Craig could understand or not. At this point, she really wanted to give up. Only thoughts of a week of solitude on a beach would keep her going. At least, she consoled herself, today was over. She’d grab dinner on her way home and watch whatever channel Craig had left the tv on before he’d left for work.

 

The Fourth Date

It was not, Delaney mused, that she didn’t enjoy giant robot movies. It was only…this one was terrible. She’d never heard of it, but didn’t think it meant much since she was constantly two years behind on her movie viewing. Although, she began to think she hadn’t heard of it because no one had.

Except her date.

He was nice enough. Earnest, a little goofy looking, and unable to be quiet during a movie.

Which bothered her. Not that she was able to stay quiet through an entire movie, but he wouldn’t shut up. Since the title crossed the screen he was a font of never ending information.

“Umm,” she whispered about halfway through, “Are all the women going to wind up in their underwear?” They were pretty women, sure, but it was a little…exploitative.

“Well, not the old ones,” he replied. Without looking away from the screen. Where two busty women in their underwear were fighting in the rain. Over…well, she wasn’t sure.

“I have to pee.”

“You’re going to miss the big-”

“Look, we both know I’m not coming back. Enjoy the movie. You can keep my popcorn.” It had been stale.

In truth, Delaney was not even sure Scott noticed her absence.

 

The Fifth Date

The bench at the police station was cold. Every time the door opened a blast of frigid winter air blew right through her clothes. She wasn’t even sure why she was still here. There was no reason to remain.

Inertia, she supposed. Or some other science word. Normally, she’d have looked it up, but her phone was currently in a baggie in several pieces. Because, of course, her date had been a disaster.

This time, she promised herself, this time she would tell Craig to forget it. Bad dates were one thing, but having to call the police was quite another. She should have known when his mother kept calling during their coffee. He had actually handed her the phone twice. To assure her, he’d said, it was not another woman.

She’d pointed out it was, in fact, another woman, and he’d giggled nervously.

Giggled.

Not that she held to standard displays of masculinity, but between the giggle and his mother she’d finished her drink fast enough to burn her tongue.

#

“Which was not the worst part,” she told Craig after midnight when he was home from work.

“No, that would have been being attacked by Mrs. Bates, right?”

They had opted for ice cream, since she had to work in the morning. Craig hogged the spoon and she debated the walk to the kitchen for a second one. If they had one clean.

“I swear, I was perfectly polite, but I had to get out of there.”

“I understand.”

“You don’t!”

“We’ve all dated people with clinging parents.”

“Not me. And I am not going to start.”

“Are you sure you didn’t insult his clothes? She probably dressed him.”

They both snickered at that and she snatched the ice cream away from him.

“I said I had to go. She must have been…lurking. So creepy. I was at my car when that…”

“Mother?” he offered with a smirk.

“She grabbed my phone and smashed it into the car. Then stomped on it. I had to dive into the car and call for help. And, after the police came, he kept giving me this look like it was all my fault.”

Delaney offered the ice cream back and asked, “Can’t we call it even? I’m afraid one of these last three dates will end in death.”

“Theirs or yours?”

“At this point, I’d be happy with either.”

“Three more. How bad can they be?”

“Don’t call attention to my misfortune.”

“Too late. Go to bed. I’ve got a date with my console.”

Too depressed to be entertained by his poor gaming skills, she did go to bed.

 

The Sixth Date

 

“Beach house,” she repeated under her breath. Her mantra did her no good. No matter the thoughts of warm ocean water, falling asleep to the sound of waves, and solitude, were going to save this date.

“Because nothing can.”

“What?”

“What?”

Patrick looked at her oddly and returned to his conversation. That did not include her. It was not that he wasn’t nice. It was, she decided, he was too nice. He was not having a good time. She was not having a good time either, but was determined to stick it out for once. Because, maybe, if they got over the bad part they might get along.

He was cute, almost funny, and not a dick to their waiter. So, he had points in his favor. A shame liking her was not one of them. Instead, as they’d waited for their salads, he’d begun talking to anyone else. She didn’t know why and worried about asking.

So, she suffered through salads and entrees, but dessert was a no go. She could not take much more. Actually, she decided as he waved to someone at the door, she couldn’t take any more.

“Did I run over your dog?”

“What?” he demanded in shock.

“It’s just- you know, you haven’t said more than three words to me all night. So, I thought maybe, you know…”

“No. I’m sorry. It wasn’t- This was a mistake.”

“Yea,” she agreed.

“I shouldn’t have agreed to this. My friends wanted me to date.”

“Oh. Well, that’s never a good idea.”

“You speak from experience?”

“I made a deal with my friend. My roommate.”

“My buddies, we play basketball. They thought I should get back on the horse.”

“Craig just says I need someone to get laid regularly.” Her blush came quicker than his startled laugh. “I was not- I mean-”

“My wife died.”

“Oh, shit.”

“Yea, I keep thinking the same thing.”

“You should have said. We could have just hung out.”

“I promised I’d give it a try.”

“So? Are they here watching? Because, seriously, I’ve had one creepy watcher date already this week.”

“No. But I said.”

“You’re too nice for me.”

“You seem nice.”

Only she laughed at his words. Well, he didn’t know her. And by not laughing he pretty much proved he was too nice for her.

“How about we split the check and lie and say it went pretty good?”

“I can get the check.”

“I know, but…I’d like to split it. Save getting the check for when you meet someone you want to pay for.”

Patrick grinned and she kind of hated his dead wife for a second because she thought a second date might have been fun with him.

Just her luck.

They traded numbers off the dating site and promised to text. She would wait and see if he did first. Because, as nice as he was, he might only be saying nice things and hoping she didn’t misunderstand.

At least her new phone was in one piece. Two more dates. She’d made it too far to stop. Even if they were terrible. Maybe she’d get another nice widower. She’d definitely had worse dates.

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