Posted in Character Stories

New Year’s Eve

“The rebranding event is going really well.”

I don’t think I’ll ever grow bored of the way Erisa Nabil murmurs every sentence. She curls up like a cat next to me, her legs crossed as she settles into the booth, her long fingers wrapped around the neck of an expensive bottle of vodka she has definitely not been sharing with the regular guests. She’s celebrating.

“We still have to make it to midnight,” I tease, her good mood already pushing away the nervous edge that has clung to me all night. 

I don’t move away when she presses closer to me, our shoulders touch as she lets her head rest on the back of the tall seat. Under the table, our thighs brush, neither of us dressed in anything that covers us. Just my bare skin against hers. 

I barely manage to blow out a stuttering breath. This. It’s… electric. 

I mentioned it to Ashby once in the first few months here in Las Vegas. He told me it was normal. Erisa has had plenty of lifetimes to create her perfectly brittle exterior. She knows how to lure her prey in by seeming demure and wanton. It’s a piece of ancient magic very alive in her amber eyes. 

It happens to everyone. 

Except, I don’t think she treats me like anyone else. There’s a purr to her words that vanishes when shouting commands to our staff. She chooses her words carefully when she speaks to me. Any other time, she’s lightning fast wit that could give whiplash to our drunk and handsy regulars. 

This, I think, is something else. 

I’m supposed to be going back to the hotel to give Ashby his midnight kiss for the new year, but I’ve come up with a thousand excuses over the last fifteen minutes to linger here. I can still make it if I leave in the next five minutes. I can just hail down a cab and hop on over to the street and meet him outside where I know he’s probably already pacing. 

I wanted to see her before I stepped out, though. See her smile. See her shimmer in the glow of success. Erisa Nabil was supposed to be a queen in her past life. I like her very much as a business owner, though. 

“Even if everyone left now instead of waiting the next ten minutes, we would be up in profits for the entire year. We’ve done as much tonight as I usually do in a month.” Her eyes are open as she looks down at me, a hidden message sitting there behind her pupils just out of my reach. “You made this happen, Lucy Lore.”

She tips her slender neck back and drinks straight from the bottle before shoving it in my direction. I shouldn’t. My head is already fuzzy and I have to make it back to the hotel. At least, I think I tell her that I shouldn’t. Before I know it, however, the hot liquid is burning the back of my throat while the lingering flavor of her dragon fruit lip gloss clings to my tongue. 

The bottle ends up on the table. Her fingers are cradling my face. I think she asks me a question. 

I don’t know what it is, just that my answer is yes. If she’s asking, the answer will always be yes. 

Leaning forward, Erisa presses her mouth to mine. She’s all demand. Her fangs pull at my bottom lip, not enough to break the skin, but hard enough to remind me that she’s more than capable of tearing me apart piece by delicate piece. 

I think I would like it. 

I think…

I’m not thinking. 

Shaking my head, I struggle out of her grasp. “I have to go.”

Her fingers form a gentle circle around my wrist. There’s a request written across her vulnerable expression. I just shake my head. 

This is getting out of hand. I have other promises to uphold. I’ll see her next time we work. 

No words pass my lips, but she lets me go. I hope she understands. I need her to understand. My heart is spoken for already and I won’t be the one to teach Ashby Carter about infidelity. 

We have a good relationship. Me and Ris. We work well together. I love my job and our time together, but I can’t offer her much else. No matter how much I want to turn around and ask her to kiss me again. 

A small voice in the back of my mind tries to reason that Ashby would understand. Syrens and vampires have always been bound together. Somehow my bloodline was always meant to find that of a Nabil, a creature old enough that it predates the science that created Ashby and his brothers. 

The rest of my liquored brain is blaring an alarm to get out now and I listen to it, staggering out on my heels against the flux of hot bodies and confetti poppers people are setting off early for the occasion. Swiveling lights meant for the disco balls near the ceiling pierce my eyes as I make my way to the door. Out. I need to get out and everyone is in the way. My success is now my downfall as I grumble apologies to the three hundred excited participants of our little rebranding event and shove towards the exit. 

Finally. I suck in a huge gulp of air as I pass the door. 

And then realize that I didn’t grab my purse or my coat. 

Rain splashes onto the sidewalk. I linger in the overhand of the building and stare at it. Water has never bothered me before. I used to live by the ocean and swim in its frozen waves. 

I can handle a brisk walk in the rain. 


I have to because there’s no way I’m heading back into that club and chancing another intimate moment with Erisa. I don’t have my phone, so I can’t call Ashby. I don’t have my wallet, so there’s no way to pay a cab. My feet work fine, though. 

I can do this. I can do this. I’m pretty sure I can do this. 

It’s only two blocks to the hotel. 

I make it out from under the awning. The rain finds me immediately, reveling in the low cut dress that leaves my chest and most of my back open for its icy touch. Three steps into my journey and I already have my arms crossed in front of myself to ward off the cold as my jaw clenches in an attempt to stop my teeth from chattering. 

This is a bad idea. I’m not going to go back, though. 

Head down, I trudge along the sidewalk. A car zooms by on my right. I barely see the wave of water it splashes my way before it dunks me from head to toe. 

Hot tears leak from my eyes as I pull the drenched scrunchie out of my leaking hair and brush it back from my face. It’s not even supposed to rain this much in the desert. This has to be karma. It’s what I deserve for getting carried away on the magic of Erisa Nabil. 


I glance up in time to see Ashby jog across the street. He has his jacket off by the time he gets to me, throwing it over my shoulders before I can protest or tell him that I’m not worth his chivalrous behavior. He’s such a good guy and I…

I don’t know what I am. 

Not good. 

My heart is too big. I have too many emotions. I think, given the chance in another lifetime, I could definitely love Erisa just as much as I do Ashby. 

Which, if I believe the common media, makes me a whore. A cheater. A bad woman. 

Ashby has me wrapped in his coat and whisked off to the hotel room in no time, his dark magic sweeping us off of the wet streets. The constant pelting of fat rain drops is replaced with numbing nothingness. It’s quiet in the room. Candles line the windowsill and rose petals cover the bedspread.

Ashby Carter is too good for me. 

I’m sobbing before he has a chance to ask me what’s wrong. Too cold, too overwhelmed, I can’t feel my legs. Somehow I end up on the ground. Ashby follows, crouching next to me with a towel to dry the water from my face. 

“Hey, it’s okay. Ris called. I’m not upset.”

He has to repeat himself four or five times before any of his words actually penetrate the grief building a fortress around my mind. “She told you we kissed?”

He offers a lopsided grin as I clap a hand over my traitorous lips. “She forgets her manners when she’s happy. It’s okay. You can’t guess how many times she’s kissed me or one of my brothers.”

A hiccup bubbles out from me as I try to swallow my heavy breaths and calm down. He knows. Ashby knows and he’s not mad. 

Somewhere down the hall, there’s cheers from other guests. It must be midnight. Ashby glances to my lips. 

“What’s your wish for the new year, Lady Lore?”

“To be enough for you,” I whisper immediately.

He shakes his head. “You are. You always will be. Promise to always come back to me?”

Forgetting my wet clothes and misery, I throw my arms around his neck as I crawl into his lap. “Of course I promise.”

He doesn’t complain about my cold body as he presses a kiss to my head. “I promise, too. Always, Lucy Lore. No matter what happens in the next year or the next ten or the next fifty if you’ll give me all that time, I will always be here and I will always love you.”

“I love you.”

My words are eclipsed by his lips. We kiss. He’s a decadent chocolate meant to be unwrapped slowly before thoroughly enjoyed. He’s the warmth of a fire when I just stumbled in from a hurricane. He’s warm and safe and mine. 

He doesn’t fill me with electricity like Erisa. And that’s okay. 

I think. 

I think that everything will be okay. As long as we’re together and honest and true to ourselves.

The new year rings in. We’re together on the floor and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Author’s Note

Happy New Year to all of my favorite readers! It has been a whirlwind six months for me, going from keeping every snippet of my writing saved in a drawer in my desk to putting a little bit of different characters onto this blog to publishing whole chapters on Lore. Every view and comment and congratulations in person has made me feel validated and loved and pushed forward on this reckless attempt to be a “real” writer.

I am nervous and excited to start this new year. Nervous that this was all a fluke and I’ll suddenly fail. Excited that maybe I won’t and that I have no real idea of what success is going to look like in the coming months. I have plans to start more published series on kindle vella as well as working out a schedule to post more frequently here. No matter where the next year takes me in my writing journey, it started here at the gentle suggestion from Bridgette to actually show people my writing. I will always be grateful for that push and for the feedback I got in these first months.

You, readers, are the reason I haven’t given up. Thank you for coming back week after week.

If you enjoyed this story, please leave a like and a comment in the section down below. If you want more of Lucy and Ashby and Erisa, be sure to check out Lore on kindle vella: Lore by Angelica Reece

As always, please take an extra minute to read Bridgette’s amazing story and follow her page to see where the new year takes her as well!

Rainy Day Recruit

I’ll see you in the new year. 🙂

Posted in Character Stories

A New Orleans Evening

Olivia clears her throat. “Do you think this calls for an apology?”

Never. I shake my head, my gaze flicking between the raspberry mush in the microwave and the body by the fireplace. “He broke into my house.”

Her laugh carries no real merriment as she paces the length of the room, her cloak fluttering around her legs. “It’s kind of his thing, Avery.”

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that. I didn’t freaking believe it. 

There’s nothing I can really do about it now. The chubby, red-suited fool got caught in my bubbling cauldron like it was a snare set out for a much more malicious entity. There was a quick shout and then he hit his head and passed out. 

I’m still learning how to become the matriarch of our coven and now I’m faced with a seemingly impossible situation. Either I finish the spell Santa Claus ruined and tide us over for another year, or I save his life and the benign magic the humans look forward to every December.

There’s no way to choose. 

“I don’t understand why you find this so hard. Send a letter to the North Pole or whatever, tell them they have to find another guy to sit in the sleigh, and use your limited magic to give back to the coven, Ave.”

Olivia is my voice of reason. I called her immediately. She arrived in a burst of purple smoke with wide eyes and a smirk, her feline expression immediately taking in the collapsed form by the fireplace and jumping into new plans. 

In rapid succession, she voiced her ideas. She suggested disposing of the body with a spell containing fireplace soot and a bottle of vinegar. She told me to save my magic and move houses, leaving him here for the New Orleans police to find sometime after the holiday. She even suggested doing nothing and focusing solely on the spell trying to bubble in my caldron, the spell that’ll give magic back to the other witches who depend on the yearly routine to be able to do more than a simple levitation throughout the long months. 

It’s a yearly sacrafice. The magic festered under my skin starting last Monday. It seeped out of the other witches and returned to me, having been my mother’s before her recent passing. I could see pink specks of it color the air as it gathered in my home and infiltrated my body, wriggling under my fingernails and burrowing into my pores. To hold all of this magic is overwhelming. It takes all of my conscious energy to simply stay planted on the ground when all of this mystical dust wants to float me away to the ceiling and then out into the great beyond. 

One witch each year holds the power to change the world and it is our duty to return it to those who dutifully released it to us. 


The microwave dings before I can get any further into thinking about what I’m going to do with ‘ol Saint Nick. Olivia wrinkles her nose as I open it, the tart smell of raspberries overtaking my apartment. 

“I do hope you aren’t planning to share a slice of that. I think it’s burnt.”

I shake my head. “That’s the sage I mixed in. It should wake him up if I hold it under his nose.”

Of course, it doesn’t. Kneeling next to the unconscious man, I wave the raspberries near him. I flap my fingers in his direction. I even conjure a little tornado to specifically carry the smell straight to his nostrils. 

It does nothing. 

Crap and fiddlesticks. Why did he have to come in here? I shouldn’t be on his goddamn list. I don’t celebrate his holiday or look forward to strangers breaking into my apartment. All of the different herbs hanging from the rafters make a point of keeping most malicious entities out of here. Mr. Claus apparently didn’t get the memo. 

Olivia crosses her arms and taps her boot heel to get my attention. “Hey. We only have the duration of the peak of the full moon. You need to finish the spell.”

I know that. I can feel the magic getting jittery along my bones, begging me to put it to good use. My job is to return it, though, not use it. 

Of course, this is a bit of a different circumstance. 

“One spell,” I whisper, so that only I and my unconscious acquaintance can hear. 

Olivia, obviously, isn’t going to go for it, so I make a big deal of crossing the room to check out my mother’s spell book. “Liv, I need you to grab me two canisters of mustard seed.”

“You mean eye of newt?” She teases, rolling her heavily lined eyes at my refusal to use the old lingo for these spells. 

“You know what I want. And grab a bushel of lavender and a sack of honeycomb, too.”

She leaves in a poof. I don’t have much time. 

I toss my spell book to the side. Mom wanted me to be a good witch. She wanted me to focus on my cauldron work and never depend on the yearly dispersal of real magic. We just weren’t that kind of witch, she would say. We’re the kind that depend on nature and its limitless gifts. 

Except, I’m not. 

I’m full of this electrifying power and I know that I saw something in this little black book I picked up at a tavern a few months ago. 

Something to revive. Something to help a body thrive. Something to help him survive. 


The book tingles under my fingerprints, humming as if it too cannot wait for me to pick the right spell and give this magic a whirl. I shouldn’t. Hesitating, I glance again to the red-suited man that this world looks forward to every year. I must. 

Of course, this isn’t entirely my fault. The guy is supposed to check his list twice before jumping into any old chimney. 

I’ll fix him up and send him on his way and, if I’m quick, I’ll still have time to share the magic with the other witches. There’s a whole six minutes left before the window for my spell. They probably won’t even notice the little bit I borrowed for this jolly fellow. 

At least, that’s what I hope as I clear my throat and clearly enunciate the words on the page. I don’t know what language they’re in. Something Latin-based. Not something I recognize, though. Hopefully, I pronounce it closely enough. 

When I’ve seen other witches perform magic, the spell usually starts at their chest, little sparks flaring like fireflies bursting to life around them. Mine, though, doesn’t. It shoots straight out of my extended fingertips. Not yellow, but maroon. 

The magic flies straight for the man on the floor. It sizzles and pops, swirling around his head and then disappearing into his nostrils. 

There’s a long moment in which I think I might have made the situation worse. I can’t see the magic. He’s not moving. Christmas is over and I’m about to be the world’s most hated witch. 

Then, he sucks in a gasp and rolls over to cough up burgundy sparks onto my antique carpet. 


It worked. Now, I just need him on his feet and out before Olivia can try to stop me. 

Crossing the room to him, I hold out a hand as he carefully pushes up to a sitting position. “Sorry about the cauldron. I really wasn’t expecting a visitor.”

He lets out a raspy laugh that sounds too similar to the “ho, ho, ho” he’s known for. “No need to apologize, Avery. It was my mistake.” The guy lets out a hefty breath as I help heave him to his feet and then hold out my hands to steady him. “How may I repay you?”

I shake my head. “Totally unnecessary. Just have a good night and a merry Christmas and get out of here. You’ve got a lot of people to help.”

“There must be something I can do,” he insists, reaching into his pocket to put on some old spectacles. 

Purple mist appears to my left. Out of time. I try to pull Mr. Claus to the door, but he’s not budging. 

Olivia drops the ingredients as her jaw falls open. “You. Did. Not!”

Oh, but I did. This is bad. 

“I can still do the spell. We have,” I glance at my watch, “four minutes. Let’s toss everything in, stir counterclockwise and get this show on the road.”

“You broke the law, Ave. You can’t use magic that isn’t yours. Do you know what will happen if the council finds out?”

I imagine it has something to do with ropes and a mighty hot fire. “The only people who know are you and me and him, so we’re fine. Let’s just do the spell.”

She shakes her head and staggers back a step, her heeled boot thudding heavily on these old floors. “It’s my duty to report this, Avery. I can’t burn with you.”

There’s no time to convince her otherwise. Purple smoke makes me cough as she vanishes. 

Toad toes and crab claws. This is bad. This is really freakin’ bad. 

I’m not alone, though. 

Turning to the big guy at my side, I blow out a slow breath. “I think there is something you can do for me.”

He nods immediately, somehow already following my train of thought. “My sleigh has enough room for the both of us.”

And so, I grabbed a bag with my emergency essentials and then fled into the night, the sound of sleigh bells covering the panicky thud of my heart.

Author’s Note

A merry Xmas eve to everyone who celebrates! I hope you have a wonderful time with your friends and families and look forward to Mr. Claus’ arrival.

Thank you so much for taking a moment out of a chaotic holiday schedule to read this cute story. Leave a like and a comment in the area below to let me know if you enjoyed it 🙂

As always, check out Bridgette’s story as well, dealing with holiday traditions in a New Orleans graveyard: Christmas Eve in the Graveyard

And, if you’re looking for more from me, check out Lore on kindle vella for vampire shenanigans and a cozy romance this week.

We’ll see you next week for our official last story of the year!

Posted in Character Stories

Caller Chaos

The phone is the worst invention created by mankind. It’s a lousy waste of time and space and it won’t fucking stop ringing. 

It’s not even in this room. 

Tossing the blanket aside, I squint at the red glow of the nearby clock. Three. No. This has to be a joke. 

I should pull the blanket back over my head and wait for it to stop. It would teach these fools a lesson about bothering me so early into the day. It’s not even early. The day hasn’t had a chance to begin and whoever it is thinks they have the right to bother me with their mortal concerns. 

Three a.m. is an ungodly hour. I suppose it makes sense. I’m about as far from holy as one can get. 

Stepping out of bed, I grab my emerald robe from the back of the door and then stagger out into the hallway. I have to make it all the way to the living room. Why did I put the goddamn phone so far from me?

Because I’m a fool who thought people would be decent enough to use the phone at normal times in the day. 

This had better be important. I swear to whatever larger force gathers in the air above Manhattan that I will smite whoever disturbed me if there isn’t a good reason. Perhaps I’ll liberate their heart from their chest while it still beats. 

Deep breath. I didn’t go to the last three years of mandated therapy just to lose my cool over a phone call. It’s not a good time to get careless. There’s still some people I need to impress before I can move on with my life. 

Robe tied tight around my hips, I tread down the stairs, leaving behind plush carpets for the icy feel of the laminate flooring that came with this rental. Supposedly it’s good for the environment. I miss the feel of real wood under my bare feet, though. Wood and stone and less of this nonsensical alternative crap. 

The phone blares again. It’s louder than all of the traffic on a busy Friday afternoon. The single, shrill scream rips through the still air of the house. It must be the seventh time that thing has rattled and demanded my attention. Whoever is calling is adamant that they need me. 

I pluck the red phone from its stand and press it to my ear. “Do you own a clock?”

“Clocks are for those already running out of time,” is the hissed reply from the other side. 

Az. If I had a heart, it would beat harder for that damn voice. I take another deep breath. I don’t have a heart. It was surgically removed after the trouble he got me into last time. I’ve moved on. I don’t need my heart or any soft feelings and I certainly don’t need to worry myself with the adolescent musings of the male on the other end of this line. 

“You can’t truly want to sleep in when there’s adventures to be had, Sera?”

There he is. Waltzing back into my life after years and expecting nothing to change. Well, this time things are different. 

“Lose this number,” I snarl into the phone. 

“Wait. Wait. I’m sorry. Wait.”

The apology catches my attention more than his whining. Azazel isn’t the kind of creature to offer his condolences, not now and certainly not when something is actually his fault. He needs something and he’s willing to play nice. 

I don’t slam the phone down even though the muscles have tightened in my hand and that’s all I want to do. “What could you possibly need from me?”

“Remember the night we got engaged?”

He sounds out of breath. This can’t be a good conversation. I shouldn’t have answered the phone. 

“Humans get engaged. We made a blood pact that you weaseled your way out of.”

“Sera…” he trails off. 

This is an old argument. He doesn’t want to hear about it, but I don’t care. I got left behind. I’ve paid the ultimate price for the trouble he caused. My life has been altered. If he thinks for one minute that he’s going to get anything from me without having to politely listen to my every rancid thought on this particular subject, then he is supremely in the wrong. 

“I gave you a necklace,” he continues before I can compile my thoughts into a starting statement with the way I hate his guts and every piece of connective tissue holding him together. 

I’m aware. The red oval with a single, gold wave cut through the center of it is currently dangling from my neck. I stole it back from the surgeons the last time I was at the hospital. There’s nothing quite like a man trying to steal your memories while you rob his office. 

“You can’t have it,” I bite into the receiver. 

He blows out a sigh. “I need you to hear me out.”

I laugh. No, I throw my head back and cackle like the madwoman I’ve become since the last time I laid eyes on Master Azazel Aticulen. It seems the man has left me to go work on his sense of humor. 

“I owe you absolutely nothing.”

“I know.”

Dammit. He’s done it again. I should throw this phone across the room. I should rip the cord out of the wall and smash the rest of it to pieces. I don’t. Az has never agreed with me before in his long, miserable life.

“I’ll break you out, but I need that necklace and I need you.”

He needs me. I’m not some whimpering waif in need of his approval. That being said, that’s exactly who I was the last time this demon tempted me away from my path in life. 

I’m not Miss Sera Phim, an innocent soul captured in a never aging body. I’m just Sera. Crotchety and bitchy and tragically unimportant Sera. 

“I don’t need you,” I grumble into the phone. 

It topples from my hand. The stupid thing clatters as it lands. I don’t bother picking it off of the floor and putting it back in its stand. I have no intention of answering it again tonight or any other night. 

I shouldn’t have gotten out of bed. Three o’clock is for demons and devilry. It’s the hour of mischief away from the omniscient view of well-minded beings. I stumble up the first few steps as my throat tightens. It’s the hour of hope and I cannot, I will not, allow myself to hope that Az is going to keep his word after all these years. 

He probably tried to get this necklace from the hospital just after I retrieved it. It’s the only reason he called. Likely, it’s more than a relic containing our blood and resolution to stay with each other. It’s probably a key for some hidden treasure he located. 

Too bad. He’ll have to find a spare or give up on his incessant need to uncover the Earth’s secrets. 

I’m at the top of the stairs before I realize my bedroom door is closed. 

The phone is downstairs. I could walk back down there and call for help. 

I didn’t shut that door. 

There’s only one pesky man with enough magic to get past the wards surrounding this estate. 

As if entranced by his presence, my feet move forward against my will. I cross the landing and press my fingertips into the painted white wood of the door. Az is hunched over the dresser in the corner, his hands very much in my underwear drawer. 

“Looking for this, then?” I snarl, pulling the amulet out of my nightgown to flash it between us. 

He straightens immediately, letting his phone fall from his ear and bounce across the floor as he looks at me. There’s no words to be had. He looks the same and I…well, time has been unkind. Time and the torture. Both are quite stressful on the stained soul. 

Az looks like he always does, though. Broad shoulders and black hair that frames his piercing eyes. He still has that obnoxious lip ring. 

“I really do want you to come, too.”

“And if I refuse?” 

He shrugs, his beautiful figure stuffed into a suit jacket that has to be a size too small. Stolen. He probably needed something with a specific scent to get by the bloodhounds stationed on the lawn. “I’m not against playing the villain, Sera.”

“I think we both know you don’t just play the villain, Azazel.”

He winces. I don’t usually call him by his full name. Today, things feel a bit different. It seems like the kind of day I stand my ground and fight back against the man who ruined my life. 

“Please,” he extends one hand towards me, each of his fingers ringed by silver jewelry, “I’ll make everything up to you. Give me a week, Sera. To use the necklace. You can keep it when we’re done and I’ll even hide you on a personal island if that’s what you want. You can’t possibly want to live out this morbid attempt at banality. White was never your color,” he murmurs as his eyes touch the blank walls. 

I should say no. Just to be stubborn. 

He’s right, though. No promise in the world could convince me to stay here for any longer than necessary. 

“Five days and I pick the island.”

His lips twitch upwards. “Six days and I’ll throw in the cat.”

“You still have Nyx?”

He nods. “Couldn’t let the bugger go. He reminds me of you.”

If I had a heart…

His words make me feel warm, but I brush that aside. 

“Deal. Now, get me out of here.”

Author’s Note

Thanks for reading this week’s prompt about a call at three a.m. This was a tough one! New characters, new tension, and new dilemmas. Let me know in the comments below what you liked and if you want to see more of this story!

Please make time to read Bridgette’s story here:

As always, check out Lore here: Lore by Angelica Reece

We’ll see you next week!

Posted in Character Stories

Midnight Moon

“Callisto, come on down, honey bear.”

I blow out a sigh. This is temporary. I have to keep reminding myself over and over again that tonight is no longer than every other night of my life. It might drag itself out for as long as it can, clawing at the remnants of time as it makes every single second unbearable, but I’ll make it through like I have each day since the beginning of my life. 

I survived last year when Niko decided to play by the dam that inevitably burst and sent him careening into the next village. His stunt probably shaved off six years of my life. If we were closely related to cats, I would still have plenty of time. Since we live our lives connected to the moon and the beasts that came before us, I really can’t afford anymore scares or infirmary stays. 

I survived three years ago when dad went out to an inventors’ meeting and never came back, throwing me in charge of this entire farm while mom took to the streets looking for any little sign of him. 

I’ve survived and that is all that really matters in getting me down the stairs and out towards the group that’s gathered for tonight’s event. 

We don’t have any typical farm accessories here, I think, as I stand at my window and look out at the expanses of fields that belong to our family. There aren’t horses or cows or sheep. There’s enough human farms that can take care of those needs. We don’t use traditional pulley systems or build silos to hold grain for the next year. The Hati family farm is a special place. 

“Callisto, it’s nearly time.”

Grandmother’s tone is not to be trifled with tonight. She’s more on edge than anyone else. This means more to her than to anyone else, too, I suppose. 

It’s an old tradition. I thought it would be one that I skipped completely, but my life has fallen out of my hands since both of my parents disappeared. No longer a woman fiddling with the pieces on a chessboard, I’m merely a checker being moved about the simpler game with ease. 

Go here, Callisto. Make your family proud. Hold your chin up when you speak to these men, Callisto, and know that someday it will not matter that you managed to keep your family alive for years without help because you’ll still be expected to marry one of these under-qualified oafs. 

I should have gone down earlier when there were less people and attempted to drown myself in the punch bowl. Grandmother is going to be at my side every step of the way from here until the dawn’s first lights. My fingers curl around the windowsill. There’s a crack in the next moment. I stare down at the dark claws extending from my hands and then glance at the splintered wood scattered over the floor. 

I’m supposed to be able to trust my instincts. Instead, they seem to be getting the better of me. I sweep the bigger pieces under my bed while Grandmother calls for a third time. 

I really have to go down there. 

Soon, the clouds will pull away from the sky and the full moon will wink down on our lush fields and we’ll know whether or not the Midnight Goddess is going to bless us for another year. If I miss an appointment with the lady of the sky, my grandmother will never forgive me. 

Here goes absolutely nothing. 

Trudging downstairs in the lavender, silk gown Grandmother had designed specifically for this night, I tilt my chin up and assume the haughty expression demanded on eldest daughters. Grandmother is at the foot of the stairs. She’s unconvinced by my stiff shoulders and casual movements. No matter. The point is to trick the people into appointing me to this annoying council. Grandmother is stepping down and her vote has already been cast for me. 

“Took your sweet time, honey bear,” Grandmother grumbles as I curl my fingers around her elbow and allow her to lead me into the greater part of the house. 

I’ve known this place my entire life. It’s my home, my shelter, my forever and always if the council has their way in determining the course of my life. It, however, looks nothing like the memory of my childhood. 

The shadows are darker in each of the corners. All of my nicknacks have been removed and replaced with ancient relics meant to bring good luck and well being to the head of the household. To me. I have no idea if any of it is working as I sneeze on a breath of lavender and sage and wish that I didn’t have to go through with this entire ordeal. 

“Head up, Callisto. We cannot show weakness in front of the council.”

I know. She has told me a thousand times in the last fortnight. 

Don’t scuff your shoes, Callisto. Head up, eyes forward, keep your face expressionless. Be a leader. Prepare to be led to your doom. 

Well, she didn’t say the last part, but I feel it in every vein of my body. Something is going to go wrong here tonight. 

And it’ll probably be my fault. 

“I’m ready,” I answer instead of confiding my concerns and insecurities. 

We don’t have time to deal with negative emotions. We hardly have time to recognize celebrations and good moments. It’s incredibly hard work to keep magic alive in the world. Humans don’t even understand the importance of our work. The council takes us for granted. It’s best to keep a stern expression and shoulder the weight of reality without murmuring a complaint. 

We make it out of the den and past the dining room. I try not to think about the way my stomach grumbles. I don’t think I’ve eaten since yesterday. I forgot. I keep forgetting. There’s so much to do and so little time for myself between it all. 

I hope there’ll be some ham left over for me. 

The thought almost tips me into a fit of giggles. Almost. I’m a mature adult. I’m the head of my household and positioning myself for an esteemed seat on the council. Thoughts about food are frivolous. 

Besides, my brothers aren’t going to leave a morsel for anyone else. 

We’re outside in the next moment, Grandmother and I stepping through the large, open door as one. She doesn’t offer any final pieces of advice. Perhaps she’s just as nervous as I am. 

Little lights flit throughout the tall grass in the fields. Fireflies, humans say. Fairies, I think to myself. Evidence that magic is real and alive here in the Hati farmlands. 

A single path has been mowed through the grass. Grandmother and I enter it together, the bits of greenery seeming to lean closer and brush our shoulders. It’s a caress of good luck. It’s a warning to watch our backs. Some of them linger longer than others. All of them wish for our safe return. 

The council is erected in a large circle somewhere fifty yards away from the main house. We’re directly under the fullest point of the moon. It’s here that my fate will be decided. 

Entering the main area, I keep my chin high as Grandmother bows. I don’t dare stoop into a curtsy. It’s far too early in my life to be throwing respect to everyone around me with the kind of enthusiasm of a child tossing confetti. These men should be tipping their heads for me. Instead, we stand across from each other with tension thickening the air. 

“Callisto Hati, your arrival was predetermined in the stars.”

It wasn’t. I keep that to myself, though. Nobody knew my parents would be gone by now. These kinds of rituals are more interesting when we blame the stars rather than the people who hurt us. 

“Are you prepared to receive your share of the Midnight Goddess’ power?”

“I will take whatever she deems appropriate,” I answer carefully, heeding Grandmother’s warning to not be too excited for power in front of these hyenas. 

There are more speeches. They go over my history, my lineage, and some of my successes of the last few years. None of them truly understand who I am. To them, I’m a data sheet with a couple of major accomplishments. I’m not a person. Soon, once they know what kind of magic fills my veins, I’ll be no more than a possession. 

Run, the wind seems to whisper as it whips by my face. 

There isn’t time. The clouds begin to part. Candles around this circle are extinguished. We bask in the coming glow of the moon. 

The next moments pass by in a haze. Moonlight dances over our circle. It seems to shrink away from the men in an attempt to sidle closer to me. My veins are on fire. There’s power and magic tingling along my skin. 

Potential. Something big. 

“Are you ready for this, Callisto Hati?”

It’s a woman’s voice, but not my grandmother. The Goddess. I can’t answer. My voice is frozen somewhere with the air in my lungs. 

Yes. No. I truly hope so. 

“You’re meant for more than this world,” she murmurs so close to my ear that I feel she’s really in my head, looking at my soul and poking around in my personal bits. 

I don’t know what that means. I don’t get a chance to ask. The Midnight Goddess wraps her arms around me and chooses my fate. 

The world I’ve always known disappears with the blink of an eye.

Author’s Note

Happy stormy Saturday!!! Thanks for visiting my page. I hope you enjoyed a little family story with a little magic and a lot of potential. Callisto Hati is a spur of the moment character I crafted for this particular story, so leave likes and comments down below to let me know what you think!

As always, please take an extra moment to read my writing partner’s story on the same prompt. Bridgette White:

And if you’re looking for more, please check out Lore: Lore by Angelica Reece

We’ll see you next weekend!

Posted in Character Stories

Luna’s Library

The butcher next door sent us a pot roast for the coming holiday. Luna has it chilling in one of the employee fridges downstairs while she keeps me up on a ladder. I convinced her not to force me to decorate outside, but I have twelve boxes of tinsel and baubles and identical red ribbons to disperse through the library. 

There’s three levels for my festive obligation. Two for guests. One for us. Especially funny or slightly inappropriate signs get put in a separate pile to be used in the employee quarters. 

Stepping down, I move the ladder over another shelf and then climb back up. I would argue this as an abuse of Luna’s employer rights to have me on a ladder in the middle of the night making this place a holiday wonderland before the children and avid readers can come back tomorrow, but I don’t really mind. She’s done too much for me since my head injury. I’ve had amnesia for well over a year now with no indication that I’m ever going to remember what my life was like before she took pity on me and gave me a job and a purpose at this quaint library. 

Luna broke a lot of rules to get me in here. I didn’t have any legal identification to submit. I don’t even remember getting here, but when I told her she didn’t have to help me, she just smiled and promised that this kind of thing was what librarians lived for. 

There’s a couple of other employees who fill in throughout the week, but it’s usually just the two of us here. I really wouldn’t have it any other way. The others are fine. The readers are nice. But Luna is the best. 

I don’t know how to put it into words. I get a warm, fuzzy sensation in my chest when I look at her in her oversized, purple sweater and round golden glasses. Her hair is always thrown into a messy bun to keep it out of her eyes while she reads and bustles around this place. The library wouldn’t stand without Luna. I swear some of the books lean out of their shelves and peek at her in the same way I do whenever she walks by on a mission to another part of this old place. 


That’s her. I swivel to find her with her arms wrapped around yet another box. Through the partically open flaps, I can see that this one is full of stars in a million sparkling colors. 

“I’m so sorry, but I just found this one downstairs. Do you think you could do them across the ceiling in the children’s reading area?”

She could ask me to catch and slay a dragon and I would say yes. Nodding down to her, I give a thumbs up. The work truly doesn’t matter. I get to do it in this place with her and that makes me so bloody happy. 

“I have one more favor to ask,” she calls up to me after I turn back around to finish securing my tinsel. 

“Yes,” I answer, eyes forward on the sparkling bits of plastic that seem to bring our readers far too much happiness. 

She lets out a giggle, her simple mirth-filled sound infectious as I let myself blow out a chuckle. “I didn’t even ask it yet. How do you know the answer is yes?”

Turning back around, I grin down at her. “It’s always yes, Luna. Whatever you need.”

Her lips twist as she squints up at me. “What if I asked you to clean the toilets?”

I shrug. “Yes.”

“Or I told you I needed you to scrape the pigeon droppings from the roof?”

“Yes,” I’m barely holding in laughter as I step down the ladder.

When I’m on solid ground once more, I step over a couple of boxes to share the same small aisle with her. We’re shoulder to shoulder with the contemporary and historical romance novels. Dozen of tiny eyes stare at us from the shelves as I wait for her next question. 

She steps back a step, some of the joy of the moment fading from her eyes. “You’re too nice, Liam.”

“I don’t see how that would be a problem.”

She rakes her fingers back through her frizzy hair. “Of course you don’t know it’s a problem. That’s the whole tragic flaw in your character.”

Usually, I wouldn’t think twice about the odd way Luna speaks. She lives in these shelves and breathes the air of these old books every single day. Literature is in her veins. She makes odd comparisons to novels all the time. 

She’s not usually upset about it, though. 

So, instead of doing the smart thing and letting this go, I push her to explain. She lets out a strangled sigh and starts to walk away, muttering that she can’t tell me the truth without telling me the truth and I have no idea what that means. 

Abandoning the decorations, I follow her past the fantasy books and the horror novels and the poetry section on the way to the employee stairwell. She’s already through the door, the heavy thing thudding shut behind her before I can grab it. I watch her brown hair bob as she takes the stairs two at a time in a near jog away from me. 

I can’t leave her to just be upset. Maybe I am too nice, but she’s done a thousand tiny things for me since I stumbled into this little town with nothing except the clothes on my body. She even converted one of the office spaces downstairs into a bedroom for me to use while I try to figure out who I am. Nobody accepts the credit of a person without photo identification or a birth certificate. Without Luna, I wouldn’t have a place to stay or a place to work or a purpose in this world. 

I think it’s only right that I’m too nice in return. 

Taking my time going down the stairs, the worn handles sliding easily under my fingertips, I amble down to the employee area. I don’t have to look around for her. She’s going to be in her personal library. The little room has enough space for two shelves packed with books that are out of print or too battered to be put back out on the floor and her reading chair. It’s her place of comfort. It’s the one place she could try to lock me out of since I have a set of keys to the rest of the doors. 

As suspected, the door is shut and locked when I make it down the hall. Letting my forehead rest on the cool wood, I try to listen for any sounds from the other side. There’s some rustling. Perhaps she’s already flopped into her chair with a favorite book and she’s trying to find that one specific page that brings her joy. 

No matter what’s happening in there, we still need to talk. I’m not going back up that ladder until I know she’s okay and she tells me what exactly I did to cause this reaction. 


The door flings open before I can get her name out of my mouth. Stumbling forward, I fall into her and the book shoved my way. She’s talking before I can steady myself or get out the next question. 

“You don’t have amnesia, Liam.”

That has my attention. The old book now in my hands has no cover. It’s just a green volume with wrinkled yellow pages. Nothing special at first glance, but clearly loved by its weathered condition. 

“Of course I do. I didn’t even know my name when I got here.”

She shakes her head, her eyes too wide behind her lenses. “You’re not a real person.”

Maybe she had too much spiced eggnog. This is getting increasingly worrying. I don’t have a question at the front of my mind. Well, more honestly, I have a hundred questions, but I can’t figure out how to form any of them into words before she lets out an exasperated moan and snatches the book back out of my hands. 

Ripping it open, she flips through it until she finds whatever she’s looking for and then shoves it back in my direction. Her pink, painted nail points to a sketch with a single word caption: Liam. 

That’s my name. That’s certainly a drawing of my face. I trace the jawline and the nose before glancing towards her. 

“What is this?”

“You were so nice,” she remarks again, her voice too high pitched. “But the writer gave you a terrible end and I just wanted to help.”

I’m not following this conversation. “This is a book, Luna. Just a story. It looks like me, but I’m sure it’s a coincidence and-.”

She shakes her head. “Just listen. It is you. You don’t really think you just stumbled by my library and then I took you in, do you?”

Of course I do. That’s been my daily background for the last year. I’ve lost my mind and Luna took pity on me and I work really hard to make sure she understands that I appreciate her. 

When I don’t answer, she scrambles to continue, “Okay. I know this sounds crazy, but magic is real. Most people don’t believe it and they probably won’t ever see it, but I can and I found a spell in one of these books,” she flings her hand behind her to draw my attention to the haphazard stack of ragged volumes. “I used it. On you. And now you’re in this world instead of dying in this book.”

Oh. Okay. That seems perfectly logical. I keep my sarcasm tucked behind my locked jaw as I continue to stare at her. 

“You can say something now,” she prompts, her fingers curling into nervous fists at her sides. 

“I don’t know what you want me to say.”

She sighs. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

I shrug. “I think you think this happened, but it’s been a really long day and we should probably get some rest be-.”

Luna isn’t sticking around to hear what I have to say. Turning away from me, she grabs her reading chair and, using the full force of her petite frame, drags it away from the center of the space. I want to ask what she’s doing, but I don’t need to. There’s a hidden door. 

Opening it, she steps down onto the ladder. “I wasn’t going to tell you anything, but the magic has gotten out of hand and there’s a leak and I can’t just keep this a secret forever.”

I stay in the main room, holding the book with my face and leaning over to try to see into her secret space. She’s back up in a minute, a wire cage in her hand. “Page 67, Liam.”

I don’t have to turn the pages to know what she has trapped in that very small cage. “So, dragons are real?”

With a skittish nod, she climbs off of the ladder and sits on the floor with the scaly creature tucked onto her lap. I sink down to be across from her as she tells me the story of how her magic escaped and I’m now not the only fictional character to make my way into this world — her world. 

“I’m sure you’re upset and confused and I completely understand, but you’re kind of the only person I can ask to help me.”

She’s right. What I thought would be a typical day has now been flipped upside down and shaken around for good measure. That doesn’t change anything between us, though. 

Reaching across, I let the lizard with wings smell my fingers while I look ahead to the girl who brought a book to life. “Yes. I’ll help you.”

Author’s Note

I had no idea what I was writing when Bridgette sent me this prompt. I usually have no idea, but this vague “day in the life” prompt really threw a wrench at my personal muse. Tossing aside my usual vampires, I had to search for someone with a more interesting spark.

Liam is a character I once wrote an entire Hallmark-esque novel about ten years ago. He’s a hero in every sense of the word. Got the girl, saved the day, did everything he had to in order to fill his position. I just don’t love writing contemporary romance, so threw the book in a dark drawer to rot while I wrote about vampires and danger.

I think he’s going to be amazing in this magic filled fantasy alongside Luna the librarian/amateur witch.

Thanks for coming this week! Please leave your comments and thoughts in the section below. Reader insight is the best motivation to moving forward with these different projects.

As always, check out Bridgette’s story as well: Under the Sign

And catch up on Lore here: Lore by Angelica Reece

We’ll see you next week 🙂

Posted in Character Stories

Enemy Fire

Somewhere in the rafters above me a parakeet squawks. My father’s friend refuses to have a normal pet. She signed up instead for a service bird who has managed to escape every attempt she’s made to take him to Sunday service. 

Maybe he’s a demon trapped in the tiny body and trying to run away from this cathedral before the singing commences. 

In that sense, he and I would have some common ground. 

My heels drag with each step. There’s a pounding in my skull that gets incessantly louder the further I make it into this holy place. My skin doesn’t burn, though. I don’t feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust or puke out the virus that has attached itself to my system. 

The virus that I had hated until it saved my life.

My limbs heavy, I press forward past a handful of bystanders who pretend not to see me. Everyone says help is at the church. It sure is for the wealthy and the affluent. Me, though, in my bloodstained shirt and bare feet, I look like a dead man walking, a bad omen that they would rather avoid than face head on. 

Ash coats my tongue from laying face to face with Death all last night. Some might argue that destiny finally caught up with me. I’d argue that a coward with a hammer caught me off guard. 

There has to be cracks in my skull from the impact. At least, there were several hours ago. I heard the crunch and then laid on the cold concrete while the insidious disease I contracted a few weeks ago carefully put my fractured bits back together like they were only pieces to a simple puzzle. 

My vision wavers as I take another step forward. My right side swings forward fine. My left leg drags. I continue in that movement as wave after wave of nausea tries to overtake me. I continue anyway, my limp more and more pronounced with each step closer to the front of the cathedral. The bishop is speaking over my movements, pretending that I’m not getting closer and closer to his precious grasp on this audience. 

“Where’s my mother?” I gasp over the pain lancing from my shoulder down through my ankle. 

He doesn’t even bother to look at me. Someone nearby tries to hush me. I’m not about to be silenced. My life on the line, the life of my family as it currently stands is in danger. I won’t just be shushed and pushed aside. 

I make it almost to the first step up towards his lifted podium before someone actually gets up to stop me. The bishop never stops speaking. He doesn’t hesitate to spread lies to these gullible people. 

“Let me go,” I growl, my hold on the virus slipping as my vision turns red and claws extend on my left hand. 

I haven’t had nearly enough time to come to grips with the supposed vampire variant. I didn’t even believe it was real until a few days after my run-in with the savvy businessman. The guy who exposed me to the virus left me a number to call if the shit hit the fan. He wasn’t exactly in a place to educate me while I fought to suck in a simple breath of air. He, though, had more civilized compassion than the person who attacked me last night. 

The good samaritan who came to my side is babbling about a hospital when he notices that my eyes aren’t a normal shade. Jumping back from me, he clutches at the crucifix around his throat while some kind of garbled prayer sprays from his lips. If I was a Dracula knock off, that might have done something. Since I’m a very real, likely an invincible recreation of Stoker’s first imagined creature, it does absolutely nothing. 

I make it up the first step before another voice rings through the confused din of the audience. “Erik!”

Mom. Mother. The high heeled attacker who left me for dead in a cold alley. 

Glaring at the Bishop, I watch as his hands tremble over his text. Another time. I’m not going to forget the person who brainwashed my mother and then sent her after me. 

I am going to deal with her first. 

Staggering away from the front of the cathedral, I follow her out the side door and into a dim hallway. She’s uninjured and far faster than me. While the beast resting just under the surface of my skin wants bloodshed and revenge, I only want to talk. 

She’s nowhere to be seen.

Leaning against the stone wall, I squint into the next room. Some kind of archive. Maybe just an individual prayer room with a stack of ancient texts for every need. 

She’s in there. 

“Does Dad know?” I ask the room as I step past the door frame. 

She seemingly materializes from an exit across the room. Hiding. It’s not really the way innocent people act. 

“He knows you got into some trouble.”

Right. Dad runs a bakery. He was injured in the army a long time ago and now she coddles him from the real nasty bits of our world. 

“So, you left out the part where you tried to kill me?”

She doesn’t flinch at the statement. I thought she would show some emotion. Maybe she would take a breath to beg for my forgiveness. Instead, she straightens her shoulders and looks down her nose at me even though I’ve been taller than her since I turned fifteen. 

“When you started sneaking around with questionable men, you betrayed the family. You’re not human anymore, Erik. If you cared for any of us, you would take care of this mess yourself.”

I’m going to puke. 

“Kill myself,” I breathe, the words barely penetrating the thick air between us. 

She shrugs, her thin frame wrapped in a jacket. Like this, she just looks like the woman who used to stand in the kitchen and ask about my grades. That’s not who she is now. It’s more than the additional lines around her lips and eyes or the gray strands she can’t seem to keep covered with expensive dyes in her hair. She chose the goddamned Bishop over the rest of us, vowing her life to his secret society. 

One that dislikes anyone who strays from the traditional path and despises vampires. 

“It’s the best choice for the family.”

Of course. The family is the most important thing. We’re not supposed to upset Dad’s life or distract Malcolm from his booming security business. We’re just expected to keep our chins up and our mouths shut. 

I haven’t ratted Mom out in years. She’s been moving family funds around and going to these secret meetings with the Bishop and his followers. I open my mouth to argue with her and then firmly shut it. 

There’s no point. I dragged myself off of the ground and came here to make a statement. 

But it doesn’t matter. 

“Tell Dad I died. I’ll get out of your life.”

For the first time since we came face to face, her stern mask cracks. There’s something else underneath. Likely not sadness since she was already prepared to wipe me off the planet with nothing more than a hammer and her personal conviction. 

“Where will you go?”

That has to be a ploy. She isn’t really going to let me walk out of here. Is she?

I shrug, the action making everything on the right side of my body ache. “Anywhere that isn’t here.”

“You can’t reach out to your brother.”

“I know.”

It would defeat the purpose of faking my death if Malcolm was aware that I was alive. I’m not willing to keep playing these games. I’m mad, really fucking mad about all of this, but it’s not a fight I can win on my own. 

We’re at a standstill. I don’t know if we’re supposed to say more. There’s no way that I’ll be trading statements of love and well being. 

This sucks. 

It really, really sucks. 

But I know when I have to throw in the towel. 

I didn’t stumble through college just to die in an alleyway. 

I’ve got dreams and I know there’s places for me to follow them. There’s a mysterious number in my phone for me to call. I’ll see where that lead takes me while I buy a ticket out of town. 

Still, I don’t know if there’s something else to do. I went through all of the effort to chase her down and say something. Is this really how we’re going to leave things?

I don’t get a chance to make that decision. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out her phone, clicking through several screens before her dark eyes, the same dark eyes I inherited, pin me to my spot. 

“I can buy you eight minutes. Get out. The others are coming.”

A last minute show of loyalty or just a way for her to force me out of her life, I don’t think twice about turning away and limping down the next hall. The door closes behind me with a final thud. Half dead, rage and disgust and grief rampaging through my intestines, I keep my eyes forward. 

It’s time to see where life will take me.

Author’s Note

This writer is physically and mentally exhausted. November has been a very long month packed with keeping up with all of my usual updates and working on the NaNoWriMo challenge.

I started this prompt this morning with a vague idea that I would introduce yet another one of my characters. If you enjoyed The Last Dance a couple of weeks ago, I’m happy to introduce Erik as the stranger that whisked Miles away at the end. Erik’s story is going to play with familial tension and a resistance to religion as he tries to find himself in this terribly complex world.

As always, thank you for coming to read this blog and support my dream to write. It has meant the world to me these last few months.

Please check out Bridgette’s story as well on the theme of chasing an enemy: Chalky Hands

And if you’re reading Lore, come meet Erisa Nabil through Ashby’s eyes: Lore by A D Reece

I’ll see you next weekend, readers! ❤

Posted in Character Stories

Kitchen Antics

“Izacc, I need you to be down here. You can enjoy the festivities once all the food is ready.”

I’m not surprised. I already told Ma that I would contribute to the cooking and baking and decorating and drink serving that’s going to commence for the Thanksgiving feast. The other boys my age are out kissing girls under drawbridges and playing games that demonstrate their strength. My own thin frame was not made for such things. I’ll gladly stay down here where it’s quiet and safe and the panic that wraps around my chest like an iron vice isn’t so bad. 

She sends me to the electric ice box that we keep on the lower level of the castle’s kitchen. The wizard who brought it called it a ‘refrigerator,’ claiming it was named after the great man who originally crafted it. Refrigerator is a ridiculous name. It’s a mouthful that doesn’t tip off of the tongue correctly. 

It should be called something mighty. Like frost falcon or ice eagle. The doors on the front spread like the giant wings of some arctic bird. The world would be so much cooler if we stopped naming everything after wrinkly wizards who haven’t seen the light of day in half a century. 

I make it all the way down the stone steps before I notice the voices. Not the din of the overhead kitchen. There’s hushed whispers from somewhere down here. 

It’s probably just other kitchen staff. There’s herbs and wines and all sorts of different ingredients stored in the bowels of the lower kitchen. It’s best to keep my nose out of others’ businesses and just grab the list of things Ma insisted were a staple requirement of her feast. 

They already have all the meat upstairs. There’s pigs that have been roasting for over a day and huge slabs of steak that they marinated and left out to make the entire kitchen drool worthy. Ma said if I was really well behaved, she save me an entire lamb leg. 

So, well behaved I intend to be. 

The voices get louder as I wander through the dusty storage areas. There’s flour spilled on the floor. I step right in it, leaving a clear foot path for anyone to see my movements. 

I’ll clean it later. Ma won’t mind. 

White prints stamping along the dark floor, I brush aside some hanging herbs, the sweet scent of rosemary wrapping around my shoulders and wriggling into my nose. Crap. I take a deep breath and try to hold it in to no avail. 

I’m going to sneeze. There’s no stopping it. 

Clamping my hands over my face, I stagger back from the force of the sneeze, bumping into the nearest shelf and sending glass jars tumbling to the floor. They shatter in a ten different piles of glass, some spilling liquids onto the ground while others dump salts or dried flowers. 

Ma is going to kill me. 

I’m not getting a special, holiday plate. 

Crap. Crap. Crap. 

There’s gotta be a broom nearby. If I can just sweep it up quickly, I might still be able to grab all her ingredients and get back upstairs before she thinks I’ve been gone too long. 

It isn’t until I’m at the end of the aisle that I realize that the other voices haven’t spoken in a few seconds. I’m going too fast to stop. I run straight into a wide chest. 

The man reaches out to grab me, his hands wrapped around my biceps in order to keep me on my own feet. I open my mouth to apologize. Nothing comes out. 

This cannot be happening. 

The man keeping me upright isn’t just another member of the kitchen staff or family. He’s not any kind of serving staff. He’s… Luke. Not just Luke. Prince Lucas Lucke of Asterium. 

And he should not be down here. 

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I have to make this better, but I am physically shaking in his hold and I can’t get a single word out. 

“Hey, it’s okay.”

I understand that he is saying those words, but I continue to stare at him with my mouth open and my eyes far too wide to be considered respectful. Why is the prince in the bowels of the castle? I mean, it’s his castle, I suppose, and he can go wherever he wants, but I just have never seen him here. 

I’ve seen him pretty much everywhere else. He plays tournaments in the summer with his shirt off. Girls are prone to fanning themselves and I have had to hold back from doing the exact same thing for the past two years. 

In the winter, he wears bright tunics that stand out against the white snow layer and rolls his sleeves up to his elbows when he gets warm. There isn’t a single horse he can’t handle. His father is proud of him and awards him several badges each season for his achievements. For that matter, they’ll probably have a gratitude ceremony before dinner tonight. 

Dinner. The feast. Ma is going to kill me. 

Maybe she won’t get a chance if I just dissolve into ash in the prince’s hands. 

“What’s your name?”

My heart hammers against my ribs. It rattles in my ears. Of course he doesn’t know my name. 

I’m just some kitchen boy. 

“You’re not in trouble. What’s your name?” He coaxes, his hands gentle yet firm on my upper arms. 

“Zac,” I squeak, my voice cracking on the single syllable that I push through my clenched teeth. 

“Zac?” Prince Luke repeats. He says it slowly like he’s really trying out the weight of it on his own tongue. “I see you a lot in the library.”

I duck my head. Crap. “I’m sorry. I’ve been learning to read. Ma said it wouldn’t be a problem as long as I stayed out of the way.”

“It’s not a problem,”he responds, calmly cutting through my stuttered response. “I think I’d like to see you there more often.”

Me? Little ol’ me?

That’s crazy talk. 

Maybe the prince isn’t feeling well. 

I don’t dare ask, though, as he finally lets me go, but doesn’t take a step back. We’re still so close. I can smell the citrusy scent of his expensive soaps. I always thought he would smell like grass. This is nice, though. 

Or it’s not. 

I’m supposed to be down here gathering supplies for Ma. Not talking to a prince and most certainly not thinking about the way he smells. 

That’s not a normal thing to think about for a boy my age. 

“You can say no if you don’t want to see me, Zac.”

He says my name again and my heart explodes into a million little pieces. “Of course I want to see you,” I blurt, my foolish mouth running ahead of my mind. 

I’m going to have to change my name and go to work at a fishing pier in another land. This cannot happen. I’m a serving boy and he’s a prince. There’s no way we can be friends. A tiny voice whispers in the back of my mind that I’d like for us to even be something more, but I toss that aside. 

Crazy. Super freaking crazy. The kind of crazy that gets people like me thrown in a dungeon or sent on a wild quest that either kills them or drives them mad. 

I’m not the kind of guy who can shoulder his way through the world and come out unfazed. I’m small. I’m frankly quite pathetic. 

Ma says I’m a good boy. 

I don’t want to just be a boy anymore. I want to have a conversation with a prince and not feel like I’m completely lesser. I’m old enough to be providing for my family. I should act like a man. 

Straightening my spine, I take a gasping breath that’s a little too loud for our close situation. “I have to get some things for the kitchen, but if there’s a time you’d like to meet again…”

I trail off. It was a good start. I had the right idea, I think. 

Luke’s lips curl at the edges as he nods. “After dinner, meet me in the library. I’ve got some favorite books you should add to your reading.”

Oh. Today. The Prince wants to see me again. 

There’s no good reason that should make my blood race and my breaths short, but Luke steps into a slight bow and takes his leave. I’m frozen in place for several ragged seconds. The Prince bowed to me. 


Just plain ol’ Zac. 

I hear Ma yell my name from the kitchen, her no nonsense tone carrying all the way through the lower kitchen. Right. Right. Right. Chores. Help Ma. Dinner. Library.

With the Prince. 

My heart a wild bird in my chest, I hurry to finish cleaning and grabbing things for the kitchen while my mind looks forward to the rest of the night. Today’s the day my life changes forever. I hope it’s for the best.

Author’s Note

Thanks for checking out the latest installment on the blog! If you’re a Zac fan, this story is going to take place a couple of years before his last story: The Bird Cage.

As always, check out Bridgette’s story on the same prompt: Late Night Visitor

And if you haven’t checked it out yet, I’ve just published the twentieth episode of Lore. You can check it out on Kindle Vella or click the link here: Lore by Angelica Reece

Have a wonderful week, readers!

We’ll see you next Saturday 🙂

Posted in Character Stories

The Last Dance

Matthew secures the mask over my face and then steps back to look at me. “You’re divine, darling.”

I don’t bother to look in the mirror or offer my opinion. This doesn’t need to be a controversy between us. If he says I look better with my face covered, then so be it.

I take a deep breath and try to push down the juvenile need to rip off this entire outfit and hide in my room. Instead, I perform the twirl that Matthew is asking for as he claps and tosses praise my way. 

Maybe it will be a good night. He’s gone out of his way to make this an event for me. I flash him an awkward smile, the edges of my mask pressing into my lips. 

“You’re going to enjoy the carnival themes, darling,” Matthew continues talking, holding his arm out for me to grab as he sweeps us out of the room. “Everyone will be dressed well and have masks and then there’s all sorts of apple treats and I even got a pianist to come play.”

Lucy isn’t performing?

I jot the words onto my pocket notepad in a quick rush.

Matt shakes his head. “She had other plans.”

Oh. It’s fine. I try to breathe past the rock now settling in my chest. This is okay. I’m great. She’s allowed to have a life outside of me. A dark little whisper at the back of my mind whines that something is wrong, but I shake it off. I just thought she would have done something special for my birthday.

No worries. My husband hasn’t let me out of his sight today and I’m in for an evening of perfectly executed activities orchestrated by the great Matthew Krawlski. 

We enter the elevator together as I stuff away my pad of paper, Matt stepping in first as I follow a step behind before coming to stand at his side. He presses the button to plummet us to the bottom, keying in a special code to keep the doors for opening for anyone else in the hotel. I stare straight ahead, my eyes catching on the gold mask covering my face. It follows the curve of my cheekbones, arching over my nose and sealing itself to my features. There’s no embellishments or feathers or anything fun. Its solid gold form fitted to conceal my identity.

Matthew made a point of physically turning me into a trophy husband. 

Whatever. It doesn’t matter. He isn’t even wearing a mask. Matthew Krawlski isn’t the kind of man who hides his face when he can flash people his charming smile and get people to simply do anything he asks. 

It doesn’t bother me. It shouldn’t bother me. 

I don’t know why my head is such a mess today. 

I take a shuddering breath as the elevator eases down to the lowest level. Here we go. Time to be excited for a party I didn’t ask to have. 

The doors slide open. I wrinkle my nose. Sassafras. It’s not my favorite smell. Sweet and woodsy. The cloying quality of it makes me sick to my stomach. Matt takes a deep breath, though, so I don’t say anything as he leads me out into the dimly lit room. 

The party is already in full swing. There have to be over two hundred people milling about in the space below. Matthew clears his throat. I don’t need him to verbally lecture me right now. 

Eyes forward, shoulders straight, and for the life of me, I need to not trip down the stairs. 

The music is silenced. Our names are announced. People cheer as Matt waves and walks with me down the spiral staircase meant for these theatrics. 

When we reach the bottom, my too shiny shoes squeaking across the polished tiles, Matt clears his throat and looks out at the crowd that looks as excited to praise us as they would be to rip us to shreds. “Thank you all for being here. My husband’s birthday is a grand affair. I even got him out of his room.”

There’s chuckles through the surrounding group. To them, I’m a weird recluse, a nobody, a man who sunk my claws into Matt for his money and didn’t look back. Nobody knows the real reason Matthew so rarely drags me out to these affairs. They don’t know that I truly have claws and not enough self-control to always hide them. 

Deep breath. Again. My last therapist insisted that breathing was the key to everything.

I can’t tell if it’s working as Matt signals to someone in the crowd and the lights turn a moody red. Everyone is ushered to the sides. A piano is lifted up onto a stage and light music begins to play at the whim of the pianist. 

“I hired him just for you, darling. He plays all that classical shit you adore.”

If anybody else was nearby, Matt wouldn’t curse. He feels comfortable here. He thinks he’s done a good job. 

We walk by a large table filled with food. There’s chocolate fountains and mountains of meats and cheeses on gold platters that sparkle with the red lighting. Desserts tower everywhere else. Truffles and flaky cookies and a hundred other pastries line circular plates. At the end, there’s sweet caramel apples, some of them sliced open to show off the center. They’ve been there too long. Oxidation has settled in the core, turning them brown amongst the table of delicacies. 

It’s rare for Matt to allow an imperfection. 

I don’t mention it. Instead, I keep my fingers on the crook of his elbow and follow him to the front of the crowd. The dancefloor. He turns to face me as the pianist switches to a slow tune. 

“Will you allow me the first dance, darling?”

It’s not a choice. I don’t need to pull out my notepad to form an answer. I just put my hands into his and follow along to the steps of the waltz. 

The crowd cheers as we spin. I shut my eyes as the lighting changes from red to blue to pink to yellow. It’s a rainbow array meant to dizzy and disorient. 

I miss my footing. 

Matt catches me as I crumple, a curse under his breath. “Keep it together, Miles. We’re in front people,” he growls, no concern on his harsh features for what is likely a sprained ankle as I gingerly limp through the rest of the song. 

There’s applause. My whole leg is throbbing with it. Matt pulls me down into a bow before welcoming the rest of the people out onto the dance floor as the pianist begins a jaunty tune. 

“You should take a minute to recover.”

No pet name. Matthew’s mad. In his mind, I just embarrassed him in front of hundreds of people. 

Even if I wanted to complain, I don’t dare grab the notepad from my pocket. There’s no way I’m writing out my feelings to him in the middle of this elaborate affair. I’ll stay quiet. I’m plenty good at staying quiet. 

Matt tucks me into a booth to the side of the stage that’s mostly hidden from the party. “Take a few minutes. When you’re ready, I’ll be making arrangements with some of the big players in the city. There’s a private table at the back. The security knows to let you pass. Can you handle being alone?”

I excel at being alone. Matt grabs my chin, though, when I don’t answer quick enough. His hold is rough enough to bruise. A shuddering breath rushes through my clenched teeth as I stare up at him. 

I will not cry. I won’t make a sniffle. He’ll be distracted soon. 

“Behave yourself. Do you understand?”

There’s no hesitation this time. I nod. I nod too quickly into his hand and he drops it. Stepping away, he throws an unnecessary affectionate phrase over his shoulder to keep his image good with anybody nearby and then struts off to care for his precious business. 

God. I hate my birthday. 

If I could laugh, I would now. Not some mirthful sound, but a choked gasp at my situation. This is my life. This is the foreseeable course of my life. I have years if not decades or centuries going through these motions. 

Matthew Krawlski will never let me go. 

The piano music changes. I tilt my head to look over at the dark form walking away from the stage as the pianist gives a thumbs up for the requested song. It’s not a classical tune. 

Matt is going to be so upset if he realizes this guy is playing other songs. 

Yet… I don’t want it to stop. I think I can recognize it. 

It’s on the tip of my tongue. A warm wiggling at the base of my mind, the title just barely escapes my capture. It’s something that probably played on the radio once when I was walking through the hotel lobby.

Before I can come to any conclusion on its origin or importance in my life, the lights swivel to catch on a man in a mask similar to that of the Phantom of the Opera. He has a microphone in his hand. He’s…

He’s singing and looking straight over at this booth. 

That deep voice. The amusing swing of his hips. This guy must be a performer. He’s used to standing in front of people and making a fool of himself. 

But that voice. I could listen to it every day for the rest of my life. 

My fingers trail the scar on my own throat. My memories are jumbled. I think I used to like to sing, though. I would have liked the chance to sing with this man as he repeats the chorus and demands that the audience to his words saves the last dance for him. 

I’ve heard those words before, but I just can’t remember. 

Eventually, the song ends and the pianist continues onto another song. Someone else gets on stage to sing. She’s nowhere near as good as the last guy. 

I don’t have much time to ponder anything because I’m no longer alone. My shoulders stiffen. I try to paste on a bland smile to fend off Matt, but…it’s not him. The guy with the phantom mask. He unabashedly shows off half of his handsome face, daring anyone to identify him outside of this particular event. 

He holds his hand out to me. “I really would like that last dance if you wouldn’t mind.”

How do you know it’ll be the last? I want to ask. I want to know his name and why he has gone out of his way to make a spectacle in my husband’s hotel. 

But, I look into his deep brown eyes and forget to grab my writing pad. 

Is this what it feels like to know in your soul that you’ve met someone in a past lifetime and they’ve managed to make it back to you?

I don’t know. 

I want to find out. 

Knowing there will be consequences, I slip my fingers into his gloved hand and step out of the safety of the booth.

Author’s Note

Welcome back to Miles’ portion of this complex story. If you’re new or want to follow re-read his stories, check out: High School Nightmare, Three Little Words, and Artists as well as this week’s prompt.

There are some exciting twists coming in his story, so hang in there and keep checking back here for his intermittent additions.

If you’re following along with Lore, Matthew Krawlski just became a named character in the latest episode. Read it now by clicking here: Lore by Angelica Reece

As always, I would not make it every week without my amazing writing partner cheering me on. Please go see Bridgette’s rendition of this piano prompt! A Night at the Carnival

Thank you so much for coming here every week. We’ll see you next time!

Posted in Character Stories

Fate and Fortune

We’re eating Chinese food. Again. It seems to be Ashby’s absolute favorite. Take out boxes stick out of the top of the garbage can as I shove in the last few and then return to the fridge to put away the leftovers. 

“Come eat. I can take care of that.”

The silly man pops back into the kitchen from the living room, our plates of food balanced in his hands as he gives me a meaningful look that suggests saying no isn’t really an option. Sticking my tongue at him, I cross the space between us and accept my plate. We haven’t picked out a kitchen table yet. I’ve convinced him that we really should have it before the holidays, but he’s skeptical of online shopping and we haven’t decided on a day to visit the furniture warehouse. 

I settle onto my spot on the couch, my laptop already set up on a chair opposite our sitting space to give us something to watch. “What are you in the mood for tonight, Mr. Carter?”

Mouth already too full of orange chicken, he gives me a shrug and motions for me to click something. Rolling my eyes at his silly expression, I turn on the documentary I was in the middle of on my lunch break at work. A complex look into numerology and astrology and the way the two sciences might be able to help each other further find answers to the biggest questions of the world. 

“I didn’t know you were so interested in the stars, Lucy.”

I give him a shrug as I spin chow mein noodles around my fork. “I like to watch all sorts of things. The last one was about the ocean.”

He nods along to my words. “I remember. You didn’t like the giant squids.”

“The purpose of the video was to talk about recycling and cleaning up the ocean. They didn’t need to traumatize me with clips of the scariest aliens in the universe.”

Ashby throws his head back and chuckles like I’m the most hilarious person ever. I love his laugh. I love the way that he lets the sound vibrate from his chest to his mouth like he’s savoring every part of it. It reminds me that he hasn’t always had a happy life.

Rather than get into our crappy origin stories, I focus on the computer screen as dictionary definitions for different words flash across the video. Ashby munches next to me, the sound competing with the calm voice of the documentary. He’s an impeccable eater when anybody else is here, but an absolute gremlin when we’re alone. 

He trusts me enough to be himself. 

That thought settles like a brick in my stomach. It knocks the wind from my chest. I almost choke on my last bite of food.

He trusts me. 


I was a mess when we met. I’m still a giant mess. Ashby Carter flaunts our relationship. He shows me off and then stands back when it’s my turn to perform. I don’t know what to say other than he’s absolutely perfect. Even my mom liked him. 

I just don’t know if I’ll ever be enough. 

He’s had eighty years of life before running into me. There’s no way for me to bridge that kind of experience. I’m making shit up as I go. Whether at work where I challenge my boss for more hours and to give me creative freedom or out at any of the fancy restaurants Ashby wants to try after dressing me up in all sorts of colored fabrics, I always feel a bit out of my own depth. 

Everyone else has their shit figured out and I’m over here watching videos steeped in conspiracy theories. 

Real sexy, Lucy. That’s what gets a guy to stay. 

“Do you think any of this has real substance to it?” He asks next to me, his hand halfway raised to his mouth with a piece of broccoli while he arches an eyebrow at me. 

I knew he wasn’t going to like it. “We can watch something else.”

He drops his fork and grabs my wrist before I can click the laptop mouse and put myself out of this misery. “Why? I’m enjoying it.”

I shake my head. “You think it’s silly.”

Confusion clouds his dark eyes. “It’s not silly. I think it’s interesting. You’re interesting, Lucy, and I’ve never seen this topic discussed before. I just wanted to know if you think it’s real?”

It might be foolish of me to tell the truth, but I can’t lie to him, so I nod my head. “I hope so. I’d like to believe that there isn’t necessarily an omniscient spirit carving out our lives, but that the universe has a hand in crafting fate. How else would I have run into you and fallen in love?”

Pink colors his cheeks. “You don’t think my good looks and awkward tendencies had anything to do with falling in love?”

His hand is still on my wrist, those cool fingertips pressing against my pulse as I smile at him. “It might have done a little something. We’re basically opposite astrological signs, so I guess the universe didn’t technically set us up for success.”

Questions flit over his features. It’s not a night for questions. My scientist can’t focus on anything else until he thinks he has an entire problem solved. I tug him close and silence him with a kiss. 

Ashby melts against me, his immediate reaction to deepen our intimate touch as he carefully balances his plate in his other hand. This. I could do this every day and I believe that we were destined to stay together. 

Tears threaten to spill. I need a moment to myself. Just to gather my thoughts and compose myself. My emotions are sitting right under the surface of my skin. They’re pushing and pushing and going to spill over if I can’t go take a deep breath and calm down. 

“Where are you going?”

I barely manage to lean back and disentangle myself from the man. Off the couch. I have to move and get space and… and I don’t know what else, but I can’t draw a full breath and there’s tears already blurring my vision. 

Crap. I don’t want him to see me like this. 

I don’t have a way to answer. Shaking my head at Ashby’s next words, I leave at a slight jog, taking my entire plate with me to the bathroom as I close and lock the door behind me. I let the plate sit on the edge of the sink as I settle onto the ledge of the bathtub. There’s no stopping the tears. 

I bury my face in my hands, but it’ll never be enough to silence the sobs coming out of me. Ashby can hear. He can hear everything. Usually, it’s cute, but right now I don’t need him privy to my mental breakdown. 

As always, he’s there anyway, his voice low on the other side of the door. “Lucy? Did I say something wrong?”


He could never say anything wrong. That’s the problem. 

I’m the problem and I have no idea how to express that without him coming to the rescue like a vampire in shining armor. 

“I can’t help if you don’t talk to me, Lucy.”

My chest is so tight. I stagger to my feet and stare at my red face in the mirror. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know how to feel better. How’s a girl like me supposed to wake up every day next to someone like him and feel like the world isn’t going to tear us apart?

He’s too good to be true. 

There’s some crinkling on the other side of the door. Ashby must have brought his food, too. I listen to him rustle in the hallway as I grab a handful of toilet paper and attempt to fix the mess that is my face. 

“You believe in constellations bringing people together, right?”

It’s not exactly how I would usually phrase the concept of astrology, but I don’t bother correcting him as we continue to speak through the door. “Yeah,” my voice leaves me in a croak, the traitorous vocal cords doing nothing to mask the fact that I’m upset from the caring man waiting for me. 

There’s a snap and then Ashby’s voice filters through the wood once more. “So, do fortune cookies fall into the same category? Like fate has a way of making sure you get the right words at the right time?”

“I suppose.”

“I hope so, because mine says,” there’s a dramatic pause as he pulls the paper out from the cookie. “You will marry your lover.”

I let out a hiccup as I smile at myself in the mirror. “Marriage, Ashby? Is that something you’re already thinking about?”

“It’s something I would like to think about with you. You’re my everything, Lucy Lore.”

Here he goes again. Telling me that I’m amazing. He’ll confess to our empty hall that I bring magic into his life. The walls of this house have heard every way he can possibly phrase the words I love you. Ashby Carter loves loudly and on repeat. 

He deserves a girl who does the same.

“What if you find someone who is better?”

“That’s impossible. I want you, Lucy. I’m not going to change my mind.”

For a genius, Ashby can be so thick sometimes. I don’t want to spell out my insecurities to him. I don’t even know if I can find the words to do so, but we’re clearly not going to continue our evening until I can, so I try my best to get it out. 

“What if we get fifteen years down the line and you realize that I’m annoying or I just stop fitting into your life? You have a whole family that’s immortal. I haven’t even met your older brother. What if he hates me and you decide to take his side?”

I wish I could see him. He probably has his forehead on the door as he listens to each and every syllable of my ridiculous monologue. 

“Love isn’t something that just happens to people, Lucy. It’s a choice. I’ve made it every day since you patched me up after the carnival and I’ll continue to make it every day after that. I want everything you’ll give me and I’ll never think you’re boring or annoying or not enough.”

“But how do you know?” I’m yelling the words at my reflection, the stupid girl in the mirror pressing me to get to the bottom of this before we lose our heart completely to that man out there. 

“I just do, Lucy.”

Hot tears streak down my cheeks. It’s not enough. I can’t base my entire future on him just happening to think he knows something.

“I was born in 1926, Lucy Lore. Since then, I’ve survived war and been transformed into something more than human. I’ve loved one person before you and only stopped when he threw me out of his life.” There’s a short pause as he takes a shuddering breath on the other side of the door, the impact of those words rattling me to my bones. “I’m not asking you to be certain about this right now, but I’ve lived long enough to know when I want something, someone, and I will never give up on you. If you asked me to leave, Lucy, I would, but I wouldn’t stop loving you.”

That’s it. The right combination of words to thaw the icy hold my emotions have had on my heart. I leave the sink in a near sprint, fumbling with the lock and crashing out into the hall. 

Later, he’s going to lecture me about how hard it is to get fried rice off of the floor. Now, though, he doesn’t say anything about the plate of food on the floor, the sweet and sour sauce exploded over both of our ankles. I wrap my arms around him and bury my face in his shoulder.

“Just tell me if you ever start to resent me.”

He chuckles into my hair, promising that my worst fears will never come.

Author’s Note

This blog post was a special request from my number one fan and amazing spouse. She’s the entire reason behind my Lore series becoming a published sequence and I can’t so no when she begs for more Lucy and Ashby scenes.

Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed this week’s story and be sure to check out Lore on kindle vella to catch up with these two characters: Lore

As always, please take an extra moment to read my writing partner’s story as well! Let’s go to the ocean by Bridgette White

Have a great night and we’ll see you next Saturday!

Posted in Character Stories

Devilish Dealings

The King is busy. 

I let my head rest against the cold, stone wall at my back as I watch the flickering light of the torches dance down the never ending hallway. It seems the country has room to make plenty of enemies. So far, I seem to be the only one lodged down here. Perhaps the King has run a more peaceful regime than propagandists would have suggested. 

My feet scrape across the cracked and sandy floor. For what it’s worth, it might not have been sandy before I got here. I took off my shoes awhile ago and seemed to dump out a whole beach. 

Twiddling my thumbs, I let out a sigh. This is not how I intended for today to go. I should have taken a different highway into town. Maybe then I would have avoided Marcus and the king’s men altogether. Now, my life is hinging on a contract between me and royalty. 

There’s a cough from somewhere down the hall. I suppose I’m not alone. I would have taken more time to thoroughly investigate this area if I hadn’t been promptly dumped in here by the soldiers who took my weapons. 

Nobody is coming to get me. I may as well make a friend while I’m stuck down here. “Hello?”

My voice is carried away on a draft. There’s no immediate response. Pushing to my feet, I tread across the frozen floor and wrap my fingers around the icy bars that contain me to this cell. I press my face against them to try to peer further into the dark. 


I haven’t been in here long enough for my mind to be playing such tricks. 

I’m about to give up and return to my creaky bench when I hear something else. A tap. Tap, tap, tap. It’s a steady sound across the solid floor and it’s getting louder. 

“Hello? Can you hear me?”

The tapping doesn’t stop. Closer, ever closer, it rings out and echoes down this corridor riddled with empty cells. That doesn’t sound like a guard and I can’t imagine a prisoner from the depths of the prison is ambling towards me. This person is unhurried and precise, the sound of their movement never wavering in their approach. 

Patience may be a virtue, but it’s never one I learned. Grabbing the bars on either side of my face, I give the door a shake, the old metal rattling together in an cacophonous clatter. It makes me grit my teeth and stagger back to clap my hands over my ears. It’s loud enough to stir the dead. It has to be enough to get the attention of that approaching person. 

The tapping has stopped by the time I can unplug my ears and straighten. Nothing. Gone. Maybe they were trying to avoid detection and failed when I made noise. 

Ridiculous. I kick at a clump of hair on the ground, my mind full of possibilities for my current predicament. I came peacefully. There was no reason to resist when I was told that the King wanted to see me. Now, though, a niggling fear wriggles at the forefront of my skull. I was a fool. I’m going to be lead to the docks for a well-fitted rope and a pirate’s demise. 


Marcus is going to barge into the administration chambers and demand that I be returned to him. My parents signed over the entirety of their estates to him before their deaths. They bought me a place in his home. While they thought it was safety and security against the coming evils of the world, it was a mistake they didn’t live long enough to see come to fruition. 

I can’t go back to Oceanend’s Manor. 

A low rumble behind me pulls me out of my thoughts. Whirling to face the front of the cage, I stare at the well dressed man leaning his weight onto a thin cane. The dungeon isn’t exactly the kind of place for a suit. He’s clearly the person I heard walking closer, though, so I step forward and thrust out my hand. 

The man’s dark gaze flicks over my fingers and then back to my face. “I suggest you hear the terms of my deal before you go shaking hands, little girl.”

There’s a terrible power to his voice. Not something I necessarily hear when he speaks, but something I feel at my core. My soul trembles as I let my hand fall back to my side. 

“Who are you?”

His full mustache wiggles as he blows out a sigh. “There isn’t time for trivial questions. I can get you out of this cell for a price. Are you willing to listen to the terms?”

No. Yes. I don’t know. Either way, I won’t be intimidated into a deal with him.

I take a step back from him. “I can just wait for the guards to come down for me.”

He doesn’t move from in front of the cell as he bobs his head in agreement. “You could. You have every right to sit here and rot until they finish their deal upstairs with a very irate man claiming he has right to the lady pirate.”

Marcus is already here. 


“Why would you help me?”

His pink tongue flicks out to wet his bottom lip. “Because I, too, need help and we’re in the right predicament to help each other. Are you done with the inquisition, madame?”

I know better than to stop asking questions. Good women hug walls and win wars in silence. I’m not a good woman. 


That hypnotic undertone to his voice has made a hole in my logic and left me a victim to his offer. “What are you proposing?”

Tapping the cell bars with his cane, he clears his throat. “I’ll get you out of here. I’ll outfit you in a tip-top wardrobe and give you chambers to carry out our business until the terms of our deal are met.”

Perhaps he thinks that I’m frivolous enough to give away my hand for the offer of fine clothing simply because I’m a woman. His mistake. “And what do you need from me?”

There’s a wicked gleam to his eyes as he tilts his head, the flames seemingly dancing across his pupils. “I need a champion, Amelia Evans, and I believe Fate is too wise to bring me a capable woman for it not to be you.”

There’s a compliment in that statement that has my guards falling further down. Nobody has ever insisted that I’m capable. I have fought tooth and nail for everything that has come my way in the last year. Just today, my crew gave me up because it’s easy to replace me with a wealthy man. 

“A champion for what?” 

My words barely wriggle past my tight throat. Everything about this man makes me want to say yes. The deal can’t be that bad if it gets me out of here and far from Marcus. 

One eyebrow pops up towards his dark hairline. “You’ve not heard about the King’s proclamation?”

“I just got into town a few hours ago.”

Every syllable is tugged right out of me. This man is a force I’ve yet to meet in my short experience outside of this country. I’m losing my ability to think for myself. It’s as if a ribbon is tying itself around the both of us, trapping us in an ebb and flow of conversation I have no chance to contradict. 

The man is nodding to me, a slight grin curving his lips. “The King’s daughter is to be married to whoever wins the competition. Not all people can make the trip or attend the battles, so he has allowed for neighboring kingdoms to send their champions as well. I would like you to be mine.”


“So, if I win…”

“Participate and I’ll grant you your freedom when this is over, Amelia Evans.”

Hope is a bird flapping its wings against the confines of my chest. “I don’t have to win?”

His smile widens. “I know you will.” He extends his left hand through the bars. “Say yes, so we can move you to better quarters and start planning our victory.”

My fingertips are centimeters from his grasp when I remember to stop myself from just giving into his demands. “Say I don’t have to win. I have no idea what’s waiting for me out there. I want my freedom even if I lose.”

“Make it into the final game, Amelia and, win or lose, you’ve done enough to be granted your freedom.”

The final game. I have no idea what it will take to get there, but that seems like enough wiggle room for me to earn back my right to live my own life. 

Our hands are nearly touching, the strange man almost statueseque as he waits for me to close the miniscule distance. “I’ll be needing money and a boat when we are done with each other.”

Mischief curls his grin. “Do well for me, Amelia, and I will grant you your heart’s desires after each portion of the game.”

It seems too good to be true, but the alternative is sitting back down on that bench and waiting for fate to find me. I grip his too warm hand and give it a confident shake. “Deal.”

Invisible fire licks up the expanse of my left arm. I try to pull away, but his hold tightens. We’re bound together as the heat intensifies and pain scrapes across my forearm. My knees give out and he continues to hold onto me as I gasp for air from the floor.

Seconds or minutes pass. I can’t tell. Eventually, he murmurs for me to pull up my sleeve. 

In doing so, I find a perfectly formed rune burned into the flesh of my arm. “What the hell is that?”

The man releases me. “It’s been said to be the mark of the devil, Amelia Evans.”

There’s no chance for me to say something in return. The world tips sideways and blackness washes over me.

Author’s Note

Thank you for reading this week’s prompt! While Phoebe would have been the obvious choice to use after last week’s hint of a demonic deal, I wanted to challenge myself to something different. Here’s the second installation of Captain Evans and the journey she has unwittingly began.

As always, if you enjoyed this story, leave a like and a comment down below, so I know to continue tinkering away at this character.

If you’re looking for more of my writing, Lore Ep. 17 is already available on Kindle Vella. Check it out if you’re in the mood for a fun romance between a vampire and the girl who stole more than just his wallet: Lore by Anglica Reece

Be sure to check out Bridgette’s “deal with the devil” prompt as well:

Have a great week and we’ll see you back here next Saturday!