Posted in Character Stories

Fated

It’s the twenty-second day of winter and I am nowhere closer to winning this battle. Mushrooms are thriving around the doorway of the apothecary shop. At this rate, they’re going to have me sealed in before spring can arrive. That’s not my main problem, though. 

I scrounge around the back of the shop for another watering can and then head out to the garden. The green house in the far left field is untouched. I wasn’t stupid enough to let him in there. The rest of my plants, though…

My lettuces have turned grey and started to flake under the distress of the gentle wind. The stems for my carrots rotted the moment he stepped foot in this area, a prisoner in their soil. When I pulled them up, they were black and shriveled. Other plants show the same treatment. What was once a thriving garden is now in a match for life over death and losing more each day. 

Harry is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. He’s kind and funny and paid attention when I talked about my little business. I liked that he wore bow ties to every one of our dates and didn’t make comments about my ladylike career like other people I’ve wasted time on. I wanted to take him home. I wanted it to work between us. However, he forgot to mention that he’s a lord of the Underworld. 

I should have noticed sooner. There were never plants around us at our dates. Later I found out that he always got there first and disposed of them. What a huge red flag. 

Other people acted odd around him. I didn’t notice. Instead, he got into my head and became attached to a sprocket of my thinking mechanism. I didn’t find it odd that severs would linger closer to my side of the table or set his food down on the edge without leaning into his personal space. 

How could I?

He had me captivated with his dark, brown eyes and I was in a frenzy to find anything worth holding onto before this wretched, winter season took over my life once more. 

I’m an idiot.

It killed me to oust him from my garden. I didn’t notice anything when he first stepped into the shop. Most of the plants in there are dried and mushrooms apparently have no dislike for his kind. The moment he stepped out back, though. I shudder at the memory of my plants withering before my eyes. 

I finally found someone I really, really liked, but I won’t give up my life’s work and my garden for what would likely only be a fling. 

I walk the even lines between garden boxes, gently watering anything that seems to still be hanging on. More blackened leaves fall from my dying plants. I don’t dare dig up the affected soil yet to see their dead roots. I have to swallow a sob. This is so not fair. 

It’s fine. 

It’s not, but I’m not going to dwell on it. 

Taking my watering can with me, I leave behind my dying plants to visit the green house. There’s a padlock on the outside just to keep any rambunctious teenagers or animals out of my exotic plants, but otherwise, my path is unobstructed. Using the key I keep around my throat, I let myself into the building. 

Lush, green plants sprout from their designated pots. I grow things from outside of this country. Orange and yellow and pink fruits dangle from trees that branch up towards the vaulted roof. There’s a rainbow of vegetables alongside the left of my greenhouse, all of them expensive species that can single-handedly pay the rent on my property when the market comes to town and tourists arrive in hordes. 

To the right, flowers in every shade appreciate the soft glow of special orbs I have situated above them. There’s striped petals on some and beautiful gradients on others. I have one species that is pink with gorgeous, yellow dots. A few carnivorous breeds hide their sharp feeding canals with bright red leaves. There’s more diversity here than the entire west coast. 

I can’t ever lose this. 

Lost in thought, I move around the space, gently talking to the plants as I water those that need it and sprinkle love on the ones that don’t. I could do this all day. I honestly would do this all day except there’s a knock at the door. 

“The neighbors probably need something,” I mutter to an especially dazzling Dahlia before setting it back down and heading to the front of the greenhouse. 

The door is already open. This can’t be happening. I recognize the tall figure from the middle of the greenhouse. He’s wearing odd clothes and partially obstructed by dangling monstera leaves, but I know who he is. 

“You can’t be here!”

I inwardly cringe at my own voice. It would probably be smarter to not scream like a mad man at a lord of the dead, but I can’t contain myself. These are my plants, my life, my entire business and his presence is enough to slaughter them all. 

No. I can’t do this. 

Out. I have to get him out before I lose the rest of my livelihood and have to move to some deserted town in the middle of nowhere just to get by for the rest of my miserable days. 

“Percy.”

His voice is a cool balm to my frazzled nerves. It shouldn’t be. It should have the opposite effect since he’s literally every one of my current problems. However, I can’t ignore it. My shoulders loosen and a rush of excitement zips from the base of my skull to my stomach. 

Gods, this isn’t fair. 

As much as I would rather hide in here and not make any real eye contact or have a physical altercation, I have to save my plants, so I step closer to the door. Not directly in front of him, but within a couple of meters. He can see me. I can see him. I think I’ll completely lose my nerve if he reaches out to touch me. I’ll forget my head and say yes to some kind of deal before I can get him out of my greenhouse and effectively out of my life. 

We were working so damn well before all of this. 

“Percy?”

Oh. Harry’s been talking, his face blurry behind a shield connected to the weird suit currently covering his body. I haven’t heard a single word from him. My mind is abuzz with thoughts. There’s electricity trapped within my veins. I’ve been struck by Zeus and I might not live through this encounter. 

“Why are you here?” I choke on every syllable, but I get the words out between us. 

He makes a gesture at his suit. “I’m trying to make this work.”

The cackle that leaves my body belongs more to a witch than myself. “Make this work? This? This isn’t anything. You left three weeks ago!”

Harry tries to put his hands in his hair, but just plunks his gloved fingers against the cage surrounding his head. “You told me to leave. I’ve decided that I should have stayed.”

What a man. Of course he thinks the solution to our problem is just him making a definitive decision and following through with it. I would kick him in the shin if I wasn’t keeping my distance from him. 

“I can’t have you here, so please, just go.”

“Percy,” my name is a plea on the lips of a hanged man. He has my attention. “Please, just watch.”

He reaches his left hand towards the large, holey leaf on his side. That plant took me five years to grow. My heart leaps up from its proper place and stuffs its throbbing body into my throat.

 No. Please. Not that one.

I can’t get anything out as I stagger forward and try to catch his hand. He’s quicker than me, though. The black fingertips of his suit make contact with the plant. 

It’s over. It’s over. I met the wrong guy on a dating app and now my life is over. 

Except…

The plant is fine. 

Unlike everything in the garden outside, the monstera leaf is absolutely perfect. Heck, it’s gorgeous in his hold. 

“How are you doing that?”

I can just barely see his grin through the clouded mask. “I had this suit made to contain my powers, Percy.”

I don’t know if I should laugh or cry or sputter something incomprehensible, but all of it comes out of me at once. My knees cave in. The dirt floor meets me as I crumple. 

Harry kneels down in front of me while the world continues to spin. “Are you well?”

“You made this to protect my plants?” I gasp, reaching out to touch my fingers to the thick fabric covering his right forearm. 

Harry’s opposite hand comes up to cover mine. “I made it for you. So, I could see you. If you’ll let me come around again?”

The words are so sincere. I’ve got this man on his knees and I have absolutely no idea what to do with that information, so I focus on something else instead. 

“Wouldn’t you rather have someone more like you?”

Gods. It shouldn’t matter. My eyes are hot. The tears are starting and there’s nothing I can do to cover it. My legs are soaked from the watering can landing on its side next to me. I’m a dirty mess and this man, this lord of the dead, is staring at me like I’ve sprouted a field of dandelions off the top of my head. 

Harry shakes his head. “I’m tired of those like me. I want you, Percy.”

Again, he’s made a decision and is willing to make it work by sheer force alone. “How?” 

Harry gently tilts my chin up to meet his gaze through the thin barrier between us. “However you’ll have me.”

I swallow hard. He means it. This is everything I’ve fantasized about since throwing him out of my life three weeks ago. 

Am I allowed to say yes to something like this?

We’re so different. We’re literally from completely different worlds. I am plants and life and he’s… he’s staring at me like nothing can change the way he feels right now. 

“Okay.”

His teeth are a million north stars blinking to life as he grins at me. I think this may be the first time I’ve seen him smile like this. Like it’s real. Like it might last. 

“Okay?”

I nod, my mind stiff foggy from the onslaught of emotions his appearance has brought. “We’ll try to make it work.”

In the next moment, he clasps his arms around me, tugging me tight to his broad chest. “We’ll make it work.”

When said like this, when uttered by a lowly god, I don’t think I have a chance to oppose him. 

Our fate has been set.

Author’s Note:

For this week, I wanted a small reprieve from the crazy cast of characters I usually use. The phrase “tumultuous soulmates” immediately reminded me of the Hades and Persephone lore, so I decided to write a queer story between a plant shop owner and the devoted lord of the dead. This was a really quick and fun write, so I hoped you enjoyed reading it!

Thank you to everyone supporting this blog and my writing career! It means the world to me to see views and comments on this page every week 🙂

Please take a moment to check out Bridgette’s prompt as well: The Cornfield

We’ll see you next week!

Posted in Character Stories

Villain or Hero

Someone is playing a wicked prank this evening. Witchcraft of this sophistication must cost more than all of the rare sand dollars in the world. I eyeball the woman on my arm as we step out of the dining hall. 

The paprika-spiced pudding in my other hand was a dreadful decision to grab. If this interaction turns into a bout of fisticuffs, I’ll be forced to smash it into her pretty face before running for my life. I haven’t lived as long as I have by taking on my problems head first. I’m much better at getting some distance and strategizing. 

I’d recommend that lifestyle to anyone. 

Run and live another day. 

It’s how I became Cassias Laur. 

Which, I’m fairly sure, is the reason there’s a shapeshifter playing the woman of the house. 

She follows along, matching my pace as we leave behind the hall and enter a room lit only by a small night light in the corner. There’s a hiss next to me. Dammit. She’s taking this opportunity to attack me. 

Nope. Not going to do that. 

I step back, ready to throw the pudding as hard as I can, but she’s no longer by my side. Squinting into the dim room, I don’t see her again until the plate is slapped out of my hand and a knife is pressed to my throat. 

Awesome. 

Not how I intended to end my night. 

I mean, I’m aware someone is trying to kill me, but this is just getting ridiculous. 

“Woah, woah, woah. What did I do to you?”

Her voice is so quiet next to my ear. “It’s not personal, darling. Someone paid me for a heart and I’ll be taking it now.”

Wait. 

I’ve always been a nervous laugher. Now, the giggles start and I can’t stop them. I’m trying to explain to this shapeshifting woman why this is hilarious, but I can’t seem to get anything out other than blatant gibberish. 

Confused or infuriated, the woman pulls me tighter against her lithe form. The knife travels from my throat to my chest. She’s trying to get my heart. 

I’m trying to get my heart. 

I’m going to kill my friend when I find him. That letter wasn’t really meant to be shipped off to an assassin. Now, it has completely backfired and this woman is going to be quite upset when she realizes that my ribcage is lacking the one thing she is trying to take. 

“I don’t have it,” I finally manage to wheeze out. 

Her hold doesn’t loosen. “What do you mean you don’t have your heart?”

I truly doubt that she finds me intimidating in any way, but I put my hands up in the general sign of complacency and innocence. “Please let me explain. I haven’t had it for years.”

“If you try anything…” 

She doesn’t need to finish the sentence. “Totally. Of course. My heart is already gone, but you can take a kidney or something if you want.”

Releasing me, she lets me turn around to face her before she slams me against the nearest wall and replaces the blade over my chest. “Talk fast. I don’t get paid to wait.”

“I’m the one paying you!”

There’s a war playing out over her borrowed features. I’ve seen the real Alyssiana Laur make that face. She’s either going to demand a heinous crime of me or commit one herself. 

“Look, I don’t really have a moral stance on suicide, but this isn’t really an appropriate way to go about ending your life.”

 Those blue eyes almost seem kind on this supernatural creature. She’s giving me a moment to explain myself. 

“No. I’m not a vampire.”

It’s a strong start. Doesn’t explain anything really. I have to say more. 

I’ve got this. 

“The woman you’re currently using as a costume is my boss. Well, more like my keeper. She’s a witch and she took my heart and I just wanted it back, but I didn’t really mean for a letter to get sent out to someone like you.”

I drag in a breath of air after spewing out way too much information. The way she’s watching me makes my skin feel too tight. She could still stab me. It won’t kill me. The only thing that could kill me is the real Alyssiana destroying my heart. However, stabbing doesn’t feel nice whether or not one is immortal, so I am really trying to avoid that outcome and I can’t relax until the weapons are put away.

Frustration tears through her pretty face. She pulls down the bracelets on her wrist to flash a dark tattoo at me. “Show me yours.”

Oh. That. I unbutton the first few buttons on my shirt and pull the fabric down to reveal the jagged scar on my chest. “It showed up this morning?”

The woman, creature, she-demon lets out a yowl and stalks away from me. Her muttering is interspersed by her making jagged swipes at the air with her very sharp knives. I keep my back to the wall and my mouth closed. This isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with an angry woman and I’d like to leave this room with most of my important parts. 

Finally, she composes herself enough to whirl back on me, her knives tucked into sheaths somewhere on that stunning dress. “If I don’t get your heart, I give up mine at the end of our agreement.”

Shit. That’s some crazy stuff. 

I didn’t write that.

But I know who did. 

“Look, this is all a huge misunderstanding. My friend got overzealous in his attempt to help me. Can’t I just release you from the bargain?”

Her sneer is sharp enough to cut through a stack of wine glasses. “That’s not how magical bargains work.”

Right. I should have known that before I said anything. My bad. I’ll make a point of researching magical practices at the first opportunity. 

I stare at the woman impersonating the tempestuous witch who chained me to my current predicament. This doesn’t have to be a truly bad situation, does it?

Before I can lose my nerve completely, I just blurt the next words. “Maybe instead of being a bad guy who stabs people, you could help me?”

A barking laugh blasts through me as she throws her hands up into the air and stomps back across the room. We’re in a small tea lounge. I figured most of the house guests would be busy until later, so this was a safe space to talk to this woman, but now I’m concerned she’ll start smashing the quaint furniture and wrecking the glass cabinets.

None of it is really mine, but still…

If we could get rid of Alyssiana, then technically I would be the rightful owner of this whole estate. 

Not a bad idea. I don’t have a plan yet, but this feral creature has to be the key to getting the freedom I have craved for centuries. 

For too long, I have played the part of doting husband and loyal subject. Alyssiana tricked me into this. She carved my heart out of my chest and tied my immortality to herself. I didn’t do anything to deserve this and I truly feel remorse for getting this woman involved, but… if it helps… I really would like to see if she can retrieve my heart before the month is out. 

“You want me to play hero?” 

Her voice is hollow from the other side of the room. This isn’t a joke. It’s a real question as she contemplates her place in the world. 

“You could be villain-adjacent if it means I walk away alive at the end of this.”

There’s no humor gracing her severe expression. “I thought you were the villain when I arrived.”

Her words are soft and thoughtful. She’s hiding in the shadows, likely more herself here where I can’t see her clearly than she ever would be in any physical form under direct lighting. I don’t know how long she has lived or how many lives she has taken. Perhaps our lives have crossed for the betterment of both of our stories. 

“Well, this is a chance to work together and be whatever we want.”

“Free?”

The single syllable is whispered so quietly that I could have imagined it if the aching hole in my chest didn’t suddenly feel full. She gets it. We’ve been used and pushed into black and white boxes as simple as hero or villain. 

It’s time we take back our stories and write the ending we deserve. 

I hold my hand out towards her. “No more contracts, but I agree to help you if you help me.”

She regards me like I’m a bug that has wandered in off of the street. I’m worthless and small and inconvenient. Her head tilts to the side. Those soft eyes can’t belong to a monster. She lets her gaze travel over me and I feel like a marble statue being inspected and admired and remembered. 

Crossing the room, she slips her hand into mine. “Words are just as binding as paper, Cassias Laur. If I play your hero, you agree to be mine. Deal?”

Yes. Of course. This is likely a terrible idea that will earn me the death Alyssiana has been foretelling for decades, but I don’t care. 

Yes. I want a chance at my own life. 

Yes. I want someone to think of me as a hero. 

“Deal.”

Author’s Note

While this portion can stand alone for my villain to hero prompt, I would like to point out that it is a continuation of my “Here for a Heart” story a few weeks ago. I flipped the perspective and gave Cassias Laur a chance to speak his mind this week. Goofball characters that are unsure of themselves and mesmerized by the sophisticated, supernatural counterparts I cast opposite them is probably my absolute favorite thing to write, so please keep coming back to the blog if you enjoy it!

These are characters that I don’t have a decade long outline to work off of, so if you enjoyed this or the “Here for a Heart” told from the phoenix’s perspective, please let me know in the comments, so I continue to make time to shape these foolish people and their complex outline.

Thank you for reading this week and make sure to check out Bridgette’s prompt as well: Room 313

We’ll see you all next week!

Next week’s prompt: Tumultuous soulmates are on opposing sides of a conflict

Must include the words: apothecary, bow tie, ladylike, sprocket, mushroom, scrounge, frenzy, match, oust, prisoner

Posted in Character Stories

Mischief Managed

I don’t know how long it has been since I last set foot in Ireland. Gideon saved me from an angry mob and my blackouts have gotten under control, but I’m far from normal. There’s a long journey ahead if I have any hope of moving out of the hidden compound below this bustling city. 

I’m on assignment today. 

With no real chance of me ever leaving, Gideon has been kind enough to give me a larger role in his lifestyle and work. My job is to gather the newest recruits. My friends often go out to the port to collect people who come in from overseas, but this particular vampire has been causing a commotion in the downtown area a few miles from our compound. 

It wasn’t anything big, at first. Some electrical surges that caused food vendors to shut down until further notice as their fryers went on the fritz and touchscreens died. A few days later, there was a news story about a block of houses that played a synchronized song through their malfunctioning doorbells. Someone else reported glowing kitty litter. After the first odd circumstances occurred, a signature in dripping graffiti was then hidden at the next areas. 

A Krav Maga class had the looping letters scrawled over their training mats while they experienced flickering lights and flying objects. All of the sweatbands at a particular gym turned pink and stained the foreheads of their wearers. The signature was scrawled on the back of a trash can in the lobby. Whoever is doing this wants credit. Whether it’s a prank or magic gone awry, they’re not scared to take credit for their work. 

Gideon picked me because I’m nice and rational. Usually, I would have an aversion to the simple description, but he’s correct. Nice and rational are probably the most important skills I’m taking into this meeting. Seymour is too ready to get into a physical altercation and Connor would become the butt of an intense magical prank far too quickly. 

Nice and rational. Plus, I come with my own color of magic. 

I can’t make things move or short circuit electrical items, but I’m just as dangerous in close proximity. 

Hopefully, we can finish this quickly. It’s unlikely, but, maybe, for once in my short life as an asset obtainer, I can get in, make a friend, and go back home before dinner is over. My stomach growls its approval for that plan. This virus leaves me always hungry. 

The sharp scent of fish overtakes the street. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a good fried basket. Maybe I can convince Gideon to stock the fridges at the compound with fresh halibut or shrimp or both. 

Since this isn’t the pier, it’s odd the smell has carried so far. Time to keep my wits about me, I suppose. I don’t know what exactly he could be doing with fish, but I bet I’m about to find out. 

Glass shatters to the left. I bound across the sidewalk without waiting for the cars to slow. Nobody honks. They’re all too busy staring at the same ridiculous sight I am. 

A line of salmon float through the broken window of the five-star restaurant. They’re fins on the fish in front, my jaw falls open as they dance a perfect conga line out into the middle of the street. The cars that have been stopped begin to vibrate. Music blares through the air. An upbeat sound of opposing instruments. 

My knees crack against the sidewalk. Freaking asshole. One hand covering my right ear as it starts to bleed, I fish out the noise-canceling EarPods in my pocket and stuff them in. It’s not a perfect fix, but it calms the noise enough for me to pick myself up and start to walk towards the restaurant. 

This particular show has gone on far too long. 

Civilians form a circle around the broken glass and stare up at the procession of lettuce leaves that show up to wiggle around the still dancing fish. Several of them have their cell phones out. I have to be careful to not cause any reason for them to record me. Gideon is not going to be happy if I end up on the news again. 

Ducking past the crowd, I slink into the restaurant and then freeze. It’s so much worse here. The people that were seated at their tables are now clapping an intricate beat. Clap. Pick up a cup, slide it to the next person. Clap again. Clap above their head several times. Most have thrown pieces of their food up into the air to join the parade of dinner plates jiggling to the resounding claps. All of them share a strained smile as sweat beads on their brows and fear shines through their eyes. 

I’ve gotta stop this. 

“Who are you?”

The voice comes from behind me. I turn quickly to see the child holding his hands up like a choir conductor. No. This can’t be my mischievous vampire. 

I don’t answer quickly enough for his liking, so he stomps his foot. “Everyone in here should be under my spell, dude. Who are you?”

I raise my hands to either side of my head, trying to show him I’m peaceful as I think calm thoughts. I have to get this under control. These people need me. 

“I’m like you,” I decide to say, turning my face away from the recordings outside to let my fangs fall out of my upper jaw. “Special.”

His wide eyes threaten to roll out of his prepubescent skull. “That’s so cool! What else can you do?”

I hold my hand out towards him, beckoning him to me. “If we go somewhere more private, I can show you lots of stuff.”

He immediately shakes his head, his fuzzy hair bobbing along with the motion. Instead of giving me a verbal answer, he blows a raspberry in my direction. The next moment, a glass of water pours over my head. 

Real freakin’ smooth. 

Running towards the back of the restaurant, he’s out of sight before I can wipe the liquid off of my face. Fine. Two of us can play this silly game. 

I take a deep breath. Calm thoughts. Really calm thoughts. 

I cannot imagine strangling the brat that decided to give me a public shower. I won’t think about catching him and dunking him with my own cup of water. That’s immature. I’m a sophisticated vampire with special abilities. 

I can handle a kid. 

Calm. Right. Another deep breath.

I shut my eyes and immediately see the frantic auras of the people in the restaurant. They’re colored in purple shades of panic. Others are flashes of distressed red. In general, there’s a wave of unease crashing through the room as the kid’s magic wears out and the food falls to the floor. 

Calm and cool, Cedric. 

I’ve got this. 

I imagine the feeling as a ball in the center of my chest. Calm. It’s turquoise. It’s the exact shade the waves used to be on a really sunny day back home. 

Once I have it gathered, I let the color move out from my body and wash over the patrons of the restaurant. The change is immediate. People with fisted hands or their heads buried on the table cloths straighten up. The room seems to let out a collective exhale. 

That’s step one. 

I gather a grey orb in front of myself, something visible to only my eyes and then start to walk around the room. “The entertainment here is great. Magic isn’t real, but that magician was really good.”

I chant the words as I pass by each of the affected people. This is what makes me useful to Gideon. I adjust emotions and I can make it so there aren’t any questions to be asked later. Opposing vampires would demand death, but my method is a lot cleaner. 

Everyone gets an explanation they can understand before walking away from an otherwise deadly event. 

I leave the crowd outside to disperse on its own. There’s no time to wipe their cameras. I don’t need to anyway. Nobody in the twenty-first century believes magic exists if the evidence is caught on camera. Technology is too good and people think they’re too savvy to be tricked into falling for a video containing real magic. 

I direct the patrons to exit the restaurant before turning my attention to the back of the building. 

Just me and the kid, now. 

I don’t bother trying to see his emotional state with my extra abilities. Supernatural creatures are impossible to pin down until I’ve made physical contact with them. Most are still incredibly difficult to sway even after I’ve made a connection. 

“We can leave together. There’s a safe place for people like us.” 

My words echo around the metal interior of the restaurant’s kitchen. There’s a hundred places for him to hide here. Inside cupboards, under prep tables, behind the bubbling fryers. It’s going to take me all night to find him at this rate. 

Fortunately, he’s a chatty guy. “I’m not supposed to trust strangers.”

There. I tilt my head. I can just barely see his reflection in the stainless steel door to the fridge. He’s crouching by their paper stock. 

Scared. 

I don’t have to use magic to realize the threat I am to him. 

Okay. More deep breathing. Calm thoughts. I am still wet and inconvenienced by his prank, but I’m not some monster here to enact revenge. 

I’m a good guy. 

At least, that’s what Gideon keeps trying to imply. 

“Okay. How about I tell you a little about myself? Then, we won’t be strangers.” He doesn’t answer, so I go forward with my plan. “My name is Cedric Smith. I was born with a different last name, but it doesn’t matter anymore because my old life is over and I live here now.”

That catches his attention. “Is that why you say words all funny?”

“Yes, I have an accent,” I grin at his distorted reflection. “Where are you from?”

The boy shrugs. “My parents are gone. I took a bus as far as it would go and stopped here.”

Good. I’m getting a response. 

“I used to be a human. I lived with my mom. We had a really big garden together and she would spend the seasons canning all sorts of different stuff. After I was turned into what I am now, I had to move here to stay in a place that was safe for me and kept people safe from me.”

“So, you’re admitting to being dangerous?”

The kid is quite sharp. “I think anyone who can move items with his mind is probably more dangerous than me.”

There’s a scoff. “It’s just funny, dude. I’m not trying to hurt anyone.”

Uh huh. Children should never be given such power. They simply cannot handle the responsibility. 

“Those people out there were scared. Normal people can’t handle this kind of stuff.”

We share a long moment of silence as he chews on his left thumb nail before continuing the conversation. “How do I know you won’t take me somewhere to run tests?”

“Have you met people like that before?”

“It’s why I’m special now,” he pops off as if I should have known that already. 

I don’t dare take a step closer. This is the best response I could probably hope to get from him at this point. Let’s just hope I can get him to trust me enough to come out here on his own. 

“Well, I take tests all the time. It helps me figure out if my powers are getting better or not. They aren’t scary, though.”

The kid inches out away from the table enough to peer at me from around the corner. “You have to take tests, too?”

I nod. “And I’ll stay with you for everything you go through, too, if that’s something you want.”

Carefully, I extend my hand between us once again. Please. Please, let me take you home. Don’t make me chase you through the whole damn city. I will never hear the end of it if everyone back at the compound realizes that a kid made me look like a chump with his magical abilities. 

“I’m hungry,” he announces, standing in front of me without taking my hand, but close enough for me to know he’s leaning towards returning home with me. 

Letting my hand fall to my side, I let out a chuckle. “Me too. How do you feel about pizza?”

“I love it!” 

My smile takes over my face as I wave for him to follow. “I’ll buy you a whole large pizza if you don’t give me any more trouble walking home.”

The prankster falls into step with me as we take the back exit and disappear into the night.

Author’s Note

Happy Saturday! Thank you to everyone who made it to the bottom of this story. It makes my week every time I see views on these silly renditions.

It was a race to the finish this week. I hope you enjoyed the return of Cedric and my magical prankster. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Please read Bridgette’s story about the everyday magic found between friends:

See you all next week!

We’ll be discussing villains! 🙂

If you have extra reading time this week, please check out my Kindle Vella story: Lore Click here to see Lore now

Posted in Character Stories, Uncategorized

Piracy

“Name?”

I stare down my nose at the stout man in charge of the pier. “Captain Evans.”

His bushy eyebrows bob as he starts to write and then stops. “First name, Sir?”

I cross my arms over my chest. “Captain, Sir.” He opens his mouth to respond, but I’ve no time for it. “My parents were very set on me becoming a seaman. Full name is Captain Evans.”

I watch him take in my dark boots and the red coat draped over my shoulders before glancing to the ship behind me. “So, Captain Captain Evans?”

I have to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing as I nod. “That would be me, Sir.”

“And your crew?”

I shrug. “We’re docking for just the night. They’re likely to stay onboard while I procure provisions.”

He pulls out a handkerchief decorated with purple paisleys and dabs at his moist brow. “If they come out, I’ll need proper identification.”

They know the drill. Most of them are probably already off of the massive ship. Sneaking behind naive dockmasters is a specialty of the men following me. 

Waving the man off, I give him the proper money for the ship to stay and then meander down the well-built pier. In the distance, the blare of a French horn cuts a festive tune. There’s an answering lilt of some pipe. Christmas songs likely. 

Have we really been out at sea that long?

The scent of the ocean fades as I enter the bustling city and sweet maple wraps its way through my senses. Orange and yellow leaves are dried and gathered into long ropes that hang around doorways, giving the dull brickwork a bright pop of color. There’s a market out here, the citizens wrapped in fur coats as they try to persuade sailors like me to give up their well-earned coins in exchange for worldly goods. 

There’s pastries and wrapped sweets. Another stall offers all sorts of nuts. I don’t slow as I walk by, sticking my hand into the almond bin and then stuffing the stolen pieces into my pocket. Nobody says anything. They didn’t see anything. I didn’t fight my way to be a Captain only to be shoddy at my immoral activities. 

Up ahead, a woman inflates rubber balls with her breath and then holds them out to children. There’s squeals of delight as they take the balloons in exchange for a single copper piece. Flashes of red and yellow and blue overtake an alley to the left as the children run off to play. 

This is a good city. There’s honest work to be made. It’s the only reason we stopped. 

It’s my home. 

It was my home. 

I gave up the finery of lace dresses and servants at my beck and call for the rough seas and a rougher entourage. We’ve had a good year out there. I went from a staff of three to thirteen. We upgraded from a sad excuse of a boat to the ship I commandeered half-way across the world. Captain Evans is a name to be feared. 

Funds, however, aren’t the easiest to keep. There’s holes in my clothes and not enough food on the ship to keep us going for another two months. Should I want to pay my men for their time and loyalty, I need to gather chests of gold or equivalent jewels. I won’t be letting my ship and crew and fate fall through my fingertips at the expense of pride. 

It’s time to make a house call to the neighbors that owe Amelia August Evans a favor. 

A scream rips through the air. The horror and agony is something I’ve heard from men unfortunate enough to find their way into a lion’s teeth. Curiosity digs serrated claws between my ribs. 

It won’t hurt to take a small detour. 

Abandoning the road that leads home, I break into a run as I follow the screams. A woman. The words are unintelligible. There’s no plea for help. Instead, she’s a cornered creature yelling out her last sounds into the cruel world. 

Not on my watch. 

Not in my city. 

Sweat and sea air cling to my brow as I hurdle down another street. The screams are getting louder. 

A small voice in the back of my mind warns me to slow down. This is unusual for this area. Crime is hardly a concept here. Men and women get along. The people are happy for the most part. 

This is something else. Perhaps something I don’t want to entangle myself. A year of rowdy taverns and finagling my way through a man’s world has given me an engorged sense of self-confidence. I’m going to be the one to save this woman.

There’s a crowd. I don’t leave time for pleasantries. No words are passed between me and the band of strangers as I shoulder my way through the mass of well-dressed men. Grumbles and complaints come from a few of them as I press forward. They’re not my concern, though. 

There’s a woman in trouble. 

Up ahead, I catch sight of the girl. She’s in a plain dress. Likely a serving woman. A cart of goods has been knocked over, littering the street with red apples and tangled balls of thread. 

The man in front of her is someone I hoped to never see again. 

My ex-fiancé. 

The Count of Oceanend has his back to me and the girl corralled against the wall. I don’t care to find out what he’s trying to get from her. My hand on the hilt of my sword, I yell over the din of unhelpful men roaring for him to do worse to her. 

“Unhand her!”

Wet eyes meet mine as the girl shakes her head. Her screams have stopped. As the Count turns to face me, she immediately grabs her things and hurries down the alley. 

A trap. 

Malice glitters in Marcus’ eyes. “Welcome home, Amelia.”

Heart thundering in my ears, I stare at the jagged scar down his left cheek as I remember the night I left. Bruises marred my body for weeks after my escape. The memory of his hands on me… 

I can’t think about it right now. 

Now, I have to escape once again. It was a mistake to come home. 

Of course, there should be no reason he would know I’m here. 

“There’s a snitch on my ship, isn’t there?”

Marcus grins as he unties a bag of coins from his hip and tosses it behind him to a member of my crew. “I hear you were a plenty good leader, Amelia, but money has a way of changing loyalties, doesn’t it?”

Bastards. Every last one of them. 

I unsheathe my sword and level it between myself and Marcus. “I won’t be going anywhere with you.”

He clasps his hands behind his back, that awful smile turning into a sneer. “I don’t think you have much of a choice, fiancée. Your parents and home are gone. Your crew has turned on you. It would be foolish of a woman of your stature to turn away my good grace.”

I won’t let my hands shake. The crowd behind me is murmuring. There’s questions about my identity beneath the loose fitting clothes of the sea. They expected a fight between men. Nobody wants to see a woman dressed as a man. The concept could collapse society. 

The fragility of society and the male existence is too complex for this moment, so I brush it aside as I step to the left. Marcus hasn’t moved. He doesn’t think he’ll have to make any real attempt to contain me. Between the crowd and the chaos he’s stirred, he thinks I’ll give in. 

Marcus has made more than one mistake in underestimating me. 

Another step to the left. 

He’s talking, but I’m not listening. Instead, I’m trying to figure out if I can leap over the barrels blocking that path out of the alley. 

Doesn’t really matter, does it?

Even if I fall or make a mess, I’ll go down fighting for my freedom. 

So close. Almost time. If I was a man on the run, I’d probably make some comment about how they almost caught me. 

I don’t have the time or ego for it. 

More yells come from up the street. Heads turn. They’re distracted. I brace myself to make the jump and run. 

I don’t get the chance. 

Horns blare. Soldiers on foot and seated on horses make a semi-circle around us, yelling for everyone else to leave the vicinity as a man pulls out a scroll and starts to read in a booming voice. 

“Captain Evans?”

As the only person dressed in any form of attire for a captain, I don’t ask them to clarify that they mean me. I could still run. I won’t make it far, though. I slide my sword back into its sheathe. 

“How can I help you fine gentlemen?”

The sour-faced man glares over his scroll at me. “You’re to be arrested for the act of piracy. Give up your weapons and come willingly.”

I sputter. “Piracy? I’ve not done anything here besides walk down the street.”

This man doesn’t care for my arguments, he clears his throat again as he looks over the edge of his wired spectacles. “The King has need for a pirate, Captain Evans. Do we need to take you in chains or will you walk along yourself?”

The King?

If there’s anyone who can get me away from Marcus, it would be royalty. 

And I want a new ship with a better crew. 

Negotiations already turning in my mind, I wave the men to lead the way as I exit the alley and head towards the castle.

Author’s Note

Happy Saturday, loyal readers!

The prompt was vague enough this last week that it could have honestly fit any of the characters I’ve already introduced, so I wanted to challenge myself to create someone new. I hope you enjoyed Captain Evans as much as I did! Let me know in the comments below if you would like more stories done from this perspective!

As always, please take a moment to read my writing partner’s story on the same prompt.

Bridgette White: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/09/24/meet-me-at-the-elephant-ears-a-short-story/

We’ll see you next Saturday!

Posted in Character Stories

News

“Ashby!”

A hand towel thrown over my shoulder, I look down at the list of ingredients for this recipe again while Lucy bounds in from the other room. Cooking is still difficult. Baking is impossible. She wants me to make cherry blossom cookies from some handwritten recipe her mother gave her a lifetime ago. It, however, is not going well. 

Unconcerned with my baking implements or her personal safety, she hops up onto the counter. Flour coats the side of her leg. Her dazzling eyes snag on my boxers and then bare chest before meeting my gaze. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the way she devours me without any hesitation. There’s no way to describe the way my chest begins to flutter at her mere presence. Lucy is magic and that’s all I truly know in this world. 

“Yes, Lucy?”

She flips her phone towards me, the bright screen jittery in her hold as I try to read the bold words: Archaeologists in Poland Just Unearthed the Remains of a 17th Century Vampire. My fingers wrapped around her wrist in order to steady the device, I read the heading twice while I try to suppress a smile. I think I already know what she’s going to say. 

“Did you know her?”

Yep. That’s it. Grabbing a pinch of flour off of the counter, I flick it onto her tank top while I shake my head. “How old do you think I am again, Lady Lore?”

She laughs, scooping up flour and sprinkling it into my hair. “Just old enough, Mr. Carter. Seriously, though, I know you couldn’t have known her while she was alive, but do you know about the vampires in Poland?”

I shrug. “Ivan supposedly comes from there. He might have known her.”

Turning the phone back to herself, she scrolls further down to show me details of how the poor woman was buried. A sickle over her throat and a padlock on her left toe. It makes for a great story, but would be effectively useless against an actual creature of the night. Not that I’m volunteering to test that theory. I think being buried alive is one of the worst punishments in this world. I’ve lived through it and I won’t do it again. 

“Apparently, she had large front teeth, so the community thought she was either a witch or a vampire.”

I work on putting all of my ingredients together as I shake my head at her. “You’ve likely met more than a few vampires in your life, Luc. We don’t walk around with our fangs showing.”

Waving my reply off, she continues to scroll. “This anthropologist down at the bottom says that the fear of vampirism has always been thought of as an outside issue in these old towns, but this woman seems to have been a wealthy occupant of the community. That’s so horrible! Her own people likely turned on her because she got sick.”

“People have died for less, love.”

She pushes my shoulder. “You’re so pessimistic today, Ashby!”

I pull myself away from the cookie dough long enough to give her a lopsided grin. “Death is something that has been put into artwork for centuries. Talking about it doesn’t stop it from existing. I didn’t know this woman. I just know that she’s likely not a vampire.”

The oven chimes to let me know it’s hot enough to start baking the cookies. Lucy pulls the mixing bowl closer to herself and starts spooning cookies out onto the already lined tray. She’s quiet. I don’t’ push her to say anything. Instead, I give her a moment to process what she’s read and come up with the questions I know she’ll want to ask next. 

There was a time in my life that I built a metaphorical wall between me and anything else. When I met Lucy it became a chain link fence, letting good moments filter through between us. Now, there’s nothing but comfortable silence as she scoops my poorly mixed dough onto the tray. 

“Do you think you’ll ever have to bury me?”

The words are so quiet, I would’ve thought they came from the back of my mind if I hadn’t seen her lips move. Panic swells through my chest. Yes. I’ve thought about death for months now. I know how it looms over the naive, more than willing to take a life before it’s ready to go. Death will not come for me. Try as I might, it seems to pull away every chance I give it, but it could definitely hurt me more by coming after this woman on the kitchen counter. 

“Why would you ask?” I finally make myself say, depositing the first tray of cookies into the oven and leaning against its warm front to give myself a way to stay grounded in this tumultuous conversation. 

She shrugs, eyes down as she starts dishing cookies onto the next tray. “I’m a syren. I have magic and I’m pretty cool, but I don’t know what my expected life span is supposed to be. My mom left so early, you know?”

I nod and cross the space between us. She spreads her legs to allow me to slip between them until I’m close enough to hold her warm body to mine. Her head on my shoulder, I hear her sniffle and my heart breaks. 

“I’m going to find a way to never have to leave you, Lucy Lore. I’ll do whatever it takes, okay? Vampires have been taking on mortal companions since the beginning of time. I’m different since I’m a man-made vampire rather than a naturally occurring phenomenon, but I know there’s an answer out there.” 

It’s the best I can give her. Research on this subject hasn’t been the easiest to find. There’s too many unaccounted variables for me to make any positive assumptions. All I know is that it’s possible and I’m the scientist that can figure it out. 

Nothing is going to take me from Lucy. 

She sniffs again and then leans back, giving me a chance to wipe the tears from her face. “Do you promise?”

My chest aches at the way her voice cracks and I immediately nod as I press my forehead to hers. “Yes. I promise that nothing will part us, Lucy Lore. Death can try, but I will always find my way back to you.”

She presses a kiss to my nose. “I promise, too.”

Author’s Note

This week is just a short and sweet scene between Ashby and Lucy since they’ve been on my mind. I completely stumbled across the article detailing the recently discovered vampire and thought it would be a fun conversation between these two. Obsessed with vampires, it was a fun week to dig into some different myths and legends surrounding the death and captures of these infamous creatures.

If you have been following these two in my Lore series on Kindle Vella, you’ll be excited to know that episode eleven will be available this afternoon!

If you haven’t check it out yet, use this link to follow Ashby and Lucy through the beginning of their romance: Lore by A. D. Reece

As always, Bridgette has a story for this week’s prompt and it would mean the world to us if you read that as well:

Have a great Saturday! I’ll be here next week 🙂

Posted in Character Stories

Artists

It looks like my silent visitor is back today. Tucked into a secluded booth usually reserved for V.I.P. guests during the shows, Miles slowly unpacks his art bag with a determined expression. I work through the rest of the steps to the dance I’ve been choreographing for the hotel’s latest show as I watch his gentle brushstrokes onto the canvas. 

Once more with music. 

I click the remote in my pocket. A popular pop song about pondering love blares through the speakers. Miles jolts in his seat, his wild eyes scanning the room. Sometimes I forget that he isn’t used to loud noises. 

Turning the volume down to a whisper, I step through the dance. My focus isn’t on the movements, though. It’s on the way Miles has switched from watercolor paints to a charcoal pencil as his gaze flicks back and forth between me and his work. I wonder what he sees up here. Probably a girl with her life together. At least, I hope I’m managing to pull that much off these days.

The last thing I need is my boss learning from his husband that I am not emotionally competent at the moment. I swear the last three years have shaved a decade off of my life. I’m still a dancer. I still sing. However, if anyone is looking close enough, they’ll notice I’m just going through the motions. 

I run through the dance twice more, sure that I can teach it to the weekend crew. Matthew Krawlski asked for better dances or he would change the entertainment deployment, throwing some of these hardworking dancers out of a job or back into the serving industry they are trying their best to escape. 

I’ve known a hero or two in my lifetime. Good people who gave their lives to better causes than themselves. That’s not who I am, but I think people deserve a chance to fight for their happiness and success, so I’m going to give all I can to these new shows opening at Matthew’s hotel lounge and bar. 

Sweat drips from my hairline as I step off of the stage on tired legs. Dabbing at my face and neck with some napkins, I toss them into a trash can on my way to Miles’ table. It’s not very often the mysterious man is left alone with me. It’s not very often he’s let out of his apartment. Matthew must be too busy to take him out on a proper date. Whether or not he’s attempting to make up for it by letting Miles linger down here isn’t really my business. I think I’ll just take a few minutes to keep Miles company before I head back home and start working on the dance routines for my own club. 

Sliding into the booth across from him, I give him a gentle wave and a big smile. “How are you today, my artist friend?”

His returned grin is a mixture of embarrassed and proud as he points to the canvas he started working on when he got here. The sketch is incredible. A large skull. The impressive shading makes it look like I could reach out and grab it. In each of the eye sockets, he’s carefully painting vivid depictions of the galaxy. It’s beautiful. 

“What does it mean?” 

He pulls out his notepad and jots down a quick note. Does it have to mean something?

I smile at him and shake my head. “Guess not. It’s pretty amazing, though. Has Matthew offered to get you a gallery yet? You must have so much art around your home.”

His nose scrunches. Not very many good pieces.

“Hey,” I tap his note. “Don’t talk about yourself like that. I love your art. You’re a real artist, Miles. The kind of tortured soul that sees more than he could ever say.”

Red brightens his cheeks. Embarrassed. Excited. Some combination of both? Either way, Matthew must not be paying him enough compliments on his work. I’ll just have to make up for it. 

“Can I see what else you were working on?”

That pink stain continues to mar his face as he shakes his head. Not finished.

I shrug. “That’s okay. I won’t judge you. Come on, artist, show me it.”

Biting the corner of his lip, he taps his pencil on the table. Some kind of internal battle is happening behind his brown eyes. I don’t say anything else to pressure him. This is his decision. I won’t take it personally if he’s not ready to share his sketches. 

He returns to writing his notes instead of uncovering the sketch. You’re an artist, Lucy.

I start to shake my head, but he taps his note as if to emphasize his point and then points to the stage. Tears prickle my eyelids. It’s been a long time since someone complimented me for doing more than just my job. 

Before I can come up with a response, he uncovers his sketch and flips it towards me. It’s…Well, it’s me. He has captured my round face and full hips. I’m in just a tank top and leggings today, but this sketch has me in a costume with a plunging neckline and criss-crossing tights. It’s what I wore the last time he came to my show. 

My fingertips flutter over my lips as I stare at the looping lines. He’s captured me with my arms above my head and my expression serious as I stare out at the audience. Not stare. I’m looking for something. For someone. 

Tears burn my eyelids. 

I blink them away to give him a wide smile. “You’re really good at this, Miles. I feel really beautiful in your art.”

His head tilts to the side and then his pencil is moving again across the notepad. You’re sad?

I wave him off. This is not the time and place to admit my own emotional shortcomings. “You’re just so good. I can’t believe someone would draw me.”

He reaches across the table and puts his hand over mine. Tilting his head again, he silently implores for me to say more. 

I almost do. 

The words are clawing at my throat. Vegas has been more than just a difficult transition and the last three years were more than I ever thought I could survive. I’ve had some small successes. I’ve had more failures. I lost everything I thought I needed and survived. 

I’m cut off from explaining myself by a shadow drifting over our table. Matthew Krawlski stops next to Miles, his dark gaze pinned to the spot our hands are connected. I should move. I should walk away. I can’t, though, because Miles tightens his hold on me and bids me to stay with a gentle smile. 

“Do I pay you to sit around, Miss Lore?”

I blow out a slow breath. Smile. Ignore the condescension. A boss is a boss whether I’m home near the Bay or out here in the desert. “I’m not actually on the clock, Mr. Krawlski.” I utter the words with as much polite energy as I can muster, daring him to reprimand me in front of his fragile husband. 

“Miles,” Matthew turns away from me to focus on the real artist at the table. “We have somewhere to be.”

I could have imagined it, but I swear Miles flinched. He pulls his hand away. Everything is happening quickly, but I know his fingertips trembled just slightly before he got his hand off of mine. 

Matthew Krawlski puts on the mask of a good husband. He shows off Miles, forcing him to stay on his arm during big events and make several appearances each month. They have been put on the covers of magazines and interviewed by several large news stations. Of course, the cover of a story isn’t always the truth. 

Miles isn’t really in a position to speak out. He might be good at playing his part as a compliant spouse, but there’s worry in his eyes. He fumbles with his pencil in front of me, ducking his face away from Matthew as he scrawls a signature into the corner of his notebook and rips out the sketch of me. 

“You don’t have to give this to me,” I murmur, gingerly accepting the paper from him as I set aside my worries to focus on this moment. 

He smiles and insists, taking his hands off and waving for me to leave. Ever so carefully, I slide out of the booth with his sketch and grin back at him. 

“This is going to hang in my office, Miles. I really love it.”

I watch as he lays his right hand over his heart and mouths two words: thank you.

It’s such a simple gesture. My chest warm, I step back a few more steps, my smile never leaving my cheeks. I need him to know that I appreciate this. 

What can I do for the husband of the richest man in Las Vegas?

I’ve got it. 

Directing my attention solely on Miles and not on Mr. Krawlski as he hovers over this moment, I hold up one finger to him. “I have something for you, too.”

I run to my bag near the edge of the stage before either of them can stop me and pull out the business card from my latest entrepreneurial venture. Crisp, black script cuts across the center of the card: Nabil’s Night Scene. My friend has had the business for a long time, letting it exist as a seedy bar for shady business dealings and mercenaries looking for a night off, but I’m working with her to retheme and make it better. I’ve already got her to agree to let me choreograph some dancers and to let me sing on the weekends. I think she wouldn’t mind letting me convince her to show off some art, too. 

“Whenever you’re ready for people to see your work, call this number. I think I’ve got the perfect spot for you.”

I hold the card out to Miles, but Matthew plucks it out of my hand and shoves it into his breast pocket. “Thank you, Miss Lore. I think that’s quite enough of you today. Please return for your business hours only.”

Matthew Krawlski has the exterior of a model. He’s got the charming smile with a dimple on his left cheek and dark hair to contrast against his blue eyes. On the outside, he’s everything that people look for in a businessman and potential crush. 

Inside, though, there’s something dark and twisted waiting to take an unsuspecting victim in the dead of night. His tone is polite and he smiles at me, but I know there’s ominous implications to his words. I can come back when I’m scheduled. Matthew doesn’t want me anywhere near Miles. Failure to comply will risk my job and possibly more. 

Ducking back towards the stage, I grab my things off of the ground and sling my bag over my shoulder while I continue to hold Miles’ sketch with all of the care it deserves. I’m out of the employee entrance a moment later. 

I don’t glance back to see Miles, but I hope someday he has a chance to reach out to me.

Author’s Note

Happy Saturday, guys! Thanks for reading this week’s prompt. I hope you all enjoyed a little Lucy and Miles scene. Come back next week to see what happens!

As always, please check out my partner’s blog as well!

Bridgette White: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/09/03/the-broken-shell-a-short-story/

Posted in Character Stories

Interruption

My brothers never heed my warnings. I don’t give them speeches about the butterfly effect or other useless theories. In this day and age, all I ask is that they keep their heads down and beware of the vultures hidden as human beings in every city. 

Seth thinks I worry too much. Of course, I do. Dressed in black, my hands loose at my sides, I am worried that I won’t get to my destination in time. 

There’s so much in this world I don’t have to worry about. It’s highly unlikely Seth will ever die from snorkeling or a fitness purge. He doesn’t need to fight for a space in the music industry or have to deal with corporate snitches. The newspapers are always full of crazy stories about young people who sell their souls for fame and fortune only to be destroyed far too quickly. 

I’ve created a home and safe place for us, so my brothers never have to fend for themselves. 

Does that mean I don’t have to worry?

No. 

I was on my way to the grocery store when the messenger found me. He had no scruples pushing me up against a wall in broad daylight. There was no reason to defend myself. People on the sidewalk around us had started to stare. This was not the time or place for a supernatural showdown. Instead of trying to overpower me, he leaned in close enough for his hot, garlicky breath to waft over my face. 

The message was simple. A location. A time. An exchange. 

Normal rules applied, of course. Don’t tell anyone. Come alone. Any deviation from the request would be met with extreme consequences. 

He shoved a vial in my hand and then left. The exchange. Ivan is getting impatient. There haven’t been any more success stories after mine. My brothers were infected by me and share the same strand of the virus. All other twenty-first century vampires have irregularities in their blood and virus’ that leave them having issues that science has yet to fix. 

Most aren’t too much of a problem. I scour the world helping people infected by rare strands and teach them how to function once more. Cedric from Ireland blacks out when he’s overwhelmed, leaving him to become a notorious “werewolf” in the area that I recently brought back home to recuperate. He’s no monster. Just a vampire without any sense of control and a few memory problems. He should be fine in a year or two with a rigorous schedule full of training and consistent sleeping schedule. If he should choose to stay on, he’ll become part of an onboarding team for more future inhabitants. 

Ivan isn’t looking for vampires that need a little bit of work and gentle counseling. He wants killing machines. He wants lethal soldiers that can walk off of a battlefield no matter the strength of the army they’re facing. 

He wants me and the special properties that come from my blood. 

I didn’t head home. Seth would immediately see my face and know that something was wrong. Should things go wrong, he knows what to do. I’ve left him a cabinet full of advice and helpful materials, but he understands the importance of our operation and that the lives of our occupants come before any attempt to come find me. 

We’ve had longer together than most brothers. It would be an honor for him to carry out my legacy. 

Seth, of course, has never been the problem. Ditching the grocery store, I slipped into a back alley and cut my hand, letting my blood fill the vial without hesitation. This sample of my DNA could be all that Ivan needs to create a superhuman army ready to take over the world. It wouldn’t happen today or tomorrow, but in two decades, this vial could be the reason the world has gone from a place that struggles to balance good and evil to purely a dystopian novel. 

It’s worth it, though.

Ashby and I haven’t always seen eye to eye. He came to America without a dream, trapped as an immortal because of mistakes I made. I’ve never asked more of him than to try to be happy. He did that for a few years and has now lost it all. 

This is inevitably my own fault. 

It’s been a year, but I knew he wasn’t doing well after the death of his boyfriend. He moved back home. I thought that would be enough to keep him out of trouble. 

Clearly not. 

I make it across the city in less than an hour, my legs cramping from speeding through intersections and taking shortcuts around the humans still crowding the sidewalks as the evening starts to creep across the sky. Seth always teases that I spend too much time doing bureaucratic bullshit and not enough hours in the gym. Perhaps he’s right. If I make it out of this predicament alive, I might just make it a goal to join his daily workouts. 

I’m almost ten minutes early, but Ivan and his men are already here, taking over the darkened corner of an abandoned parking lot. There’s no point in creating a strategy or trying to sneak up on them. They know I’m coming and I won’t risk Ashby’s life. 

Already, a fire burns behind them, one that licks purple flames towards the coming night sky. The only way to kill someone like Ashby or I. Expose the virus and burn it to a crisp. It’s rare for a vampire to survive some fatal wounds, but this is a surefire way to keep me in line and threaten Ashby’s existence. 

I walk towards them, my hands at my side, the promised vial tucked in my pocket. “Where’s my brother?”

Ivan, the large brute in his typical black trench coat, steps out of the way to reveal Ashby being forced to sit in a chair while a man presses a blade to his throat. Not the worst situation I’ve found him in, but definitely dangerous. We have to be careful with this exchange or I’ll lose more than just the fate of the world. 

Ashby’s eyes widen as he gets his first look at me. “What are you doing? I told them you wouldn’t come.”

Pupils too large, words slurred, he shakes his head at me, his hair sticking to his sweaty forehead. There’s more he wants to say. Insults and commentary on my failure as his brother most likely. He doesn’t get a chance to say more as the man holding him cuts him off with a hand over his mouth. 

I should have had someone watching him. I don’t know if he’s drunk or high or a combination of both, but he’s been out of control for the last year and too reckless to be left alone. It’s the only reason Ivan has him now. 

Another failure to add to his list of faults for me. 

Ivan isn’t here to deal with my family drama. “This is an exchange, Carter,” he prompts, stepping back in front of my brother. 

Plucking the vial out of my pocket, I hold it out for him to see. In the flickering light of the raging fire, the red liquid looks ominous. No different than anyone else’s life force. Ivan thinks it’s the key to his campaign and I’m happy to give it to him if it means Ashby comes free. 

“Let him go, Ivan.” 

Those are the only words I let myself say. More demands push their way up my throat. He’s just a kid. He shouldn’t be involved. If you wanted a fair fight, you would have sent your goddamn goons after me. 

I can’t say any of that. Ivan already predicted my presence by kidnapping Ashby. The man is more monster than anything akin to human. I won’t give him the satisfaction of begging for my brother’s life when he has never had the capacity to love anyone or anything in his prolonged existence. 

We’re at a standstill. 

Ivan is still standing in front of Ashby, unsure of how to let go of my feral sibling without giving me the upper hand. I haven’t stepped any closer. I’m not fool enough to get into his arm’s reach with this vial. Staring across the parking space between us, I dare him to make the next move. 

He’s the one that demanded my presence. 

Deep breaths. Stay calm. Even though rational thought is begging to exit my mind, I have to stay sharp enough to get Ashby out of this predicament. 

He doesn’t deserve to die for my inability to keep him safe. 

If I can just get him out of here, Seth will know what to do with him. He could lock Ashby in a room and throw away the key for all I care. An isolated life is better than this dangerous path he’s been barreling down for too long now. 

Ivan lets out a ragged sigh. “Release him.”

Ashby staggers to his feet, rubbing his neck and smearing the line of blood the knife had created. He’s muttering curses under his breath in French and English. I want nothing more than to grab him and pull him behind me, but I can’t do that without walking past Ivan. Ashby has to come to me himself. 

I’d appreciate it if he could do it sooner rather than later. 

My brother is barely strong enough to stand on his own, using the chair as a crutch to keep his footing. I don’t know why he was outside in this condition. He put a target on his back and then dared the bad guys to come get him. 

There will definitely be a lecture for him if we both get out of this. 

Ivan waves for the man who was holding my brother to come forward. “Make the trade.”

Grabbing Ashby’s arm, he drags him a few steps in front of Ivan and then holds out his hand. It’s now or never. I hand over the vial and take my brother. Everyone walks away a winner. 

That’s the point, right?

Ashby’s hands dangle at his sides, black claws appear and then retract back into his skin. He’s barely keeping his virus at bay. I don’t even think he realizes how close he is to losing control. As much as that could help me in the event of a fight, he’s not in any condition to have my back. 

I just need to get him away from here. 

Reaching forward, I let the man snatch the vial from my hand while I grab onto Ashby’s arm. We both pull away with our chosen prize. I’m ready to run for our lives and slam the doors behind ourselves back at my compound, but Ashby has another idea. 

“I’m worth one vial of blood?” His unfocused gaze flicks between me and Ivan. “That’s all you wanted? You know he and I have the same blood, right? We’re literally brothers infected by the same viral strand.”

I’m stepping backwards and Ashby isn’t budging. A cruel smile peels across Ivan’s face

“I do know that, little Carter.”

The next moment happens almost too quickly for me to follow. Two more goons appear from the shadows behind us. The one who was holding Ashby before lunges forward, stabbing at me with a previously concealed knife. The blade catches my bicep, tearing my T-shirt sleeve and leaving a bloody gash in its wake. 

Ivan starts to walk away, his coat fluttering behind as his heavy steps echo around the empty space. “Don’t waste too much of that blood. Take them alive if you can. Otherwise, there’s still one more Carter I could get my hands on should the need arise.”

The fight I was worried about having to survive is here. I barely feel the cut on my arm as my blood clots and it begins to heal. My main concern hasn’t changed. Ashby is in no condition to make a smart decision right now. I have to get him out of here.

My hand wrapped around his shoulder, I pull him back just in time to miss the next slash of the knife. Ordinary weapons have no real effect on us. It’ll take them too long to hack us into small enough pieces. 

This is just a distraction. 

Ashby fighting against my hold as much as he is flailing against the next swipe of the knife, he stumbles over his own feet as I turn to see the real problem. Chemical warfare was created by humans, but perfected by vampires. Dressed in specialized hazmat suits, the other two goons toss a grenade. 

It explodes with a blinding light. Bits of rock and shrapnel embed themselves into my back as I throw myself over my brother. Ashby lands with a thud, any argument covered by the boom of the weapon behind us. 

Blind, my ears ringing, I struggle back to my feet while I hold my breath. Gotta move. Gotta get out of here. 

Ashby doesn’t get up. 

The three other men don’t give me space while I try to retrieve my brother. Blood splats over the concrete as I take a punch to the ribs. Choking on air, I cover my face with my shirt while they surround me. There’s no way to protect myself and defend Ashby’s still body, so I take several more hits to my back and stomach and one to my cheek that makes me see stars before my knees hit the ground. 

We made a pact several decades ago to never show the other vampires what made us special. 

Today I have to break that. 

Blows rain down on my body as I curl over Ashby. Home. I have to get home. 

Black tendrils leak from my wounds. The attacking vampires stagger back. Shocked or surprised or disgusted, I don’t care what they’re feeling. 

Thirty seconds. That’s all I need. 

My body weak from the fight and the breaths of contaminated air, I blink away the dark spots clouding my vision. Home. 

Grey walls and grey floors. Tunnels beneath the city. I haven’t had time for major decorations, but my bed has red sheets. 

I hold that color in my mind’s eye. 

Red like the blood dripping from my mouth onto the floor. 

The black tendrils swirl around us, creating a cocoon that has the other vampires keeping their distance. Ashby and I are specimens they could never understand. Danger fills the air around us. 

 Should I fuck up, Ashby and I will die here. 

Not at the hands of our attackers, but as a consequence of using powerful magic I still don’t understand. 

Home. 

Seth. 

My mother’s dining room table sits in my living area. There’s a picture of my brothers taped to the wall next to my bed. Red and grey and black. The colors swirl through my mind as I let my eyes fall closed and feel the inevitable tug of the magic on my bones. 

I wrap my arms around Ashby, clinging to him harder than I have ever tried to cling to life. This will not be the day I lose him. Even if this destroys me, he has to get home safe. 

I don’t dare open my eyes. Even as the other vampires shout, their voices sounding muffled from the cloud of darkness around us, I focus on getting Ashby home. 

I’m too far gone to do anything besides hold my brother and hope for the best. 

Screams fill my ears as the magic starts to pull me towards my destination. Fire rages along my arms as the tendrils try to separate me from Ashby. He’s a lead weight in my grasp, threatening to stay here as I plummet through space and time to home. 

I pull him tighter, burying my face in his hair long enough to take a deep breath of his expensive, vanilla shampoo and the lingering hint of smoke. 

Please. This has to work. 

In the space of a second that seems to last forever, my joints seem to dislocate and slam back into each other. We’re weightless and then dropped onto concrete. Every moment of my long life hits me at once. I feel the wounds of injuries received and healed three decades ago. Gunshots and broken bones from my past. That pain in my shoulder that never seems to quite heal roars back to life. I can’t breathe. 

It takes every remaining ounce of strength in my body to force my eyelids open. 

Home.  

Ashby in my arms. 

Seth must have heard our fall. He’s at the open door, his mouth open in a question or a yell for my attention. 

It doesn’t matter right now. 

I close my eyes. 

We made it.

Author’s Note

Happy Saturday! Thank you for checking out Gideon’s ordeal this week. When I first saw the prompt for an interrupted journey, I thought it was something that could fit any of the characters that I’ve brought out onto this blog. There are several story ideas jotted down for other characters and the various journeys they could have been on before their inevitable interruptions, but I thought Gideon was a fun person to follow this week, pushing further into another of his many adventures before he runs into Tamyra Raeleigh.

I also hope this was a little bit of insight into the character of Ashby Carter long before my kindle Vella series: Lore. There’s a long timeline to play with and a lot of different phases these characters go through over that span, so I hope it continues to be interesting enough to bring my readers back every week.

As always, please take a moment to drop a like or a comment to let me know how I’m doing!

Bridgette’s story will be up soon!

Posted in Character Stories

Here for a Heart

I pull out the thick envelope one last time. It was left at my doorstep. The corners wrinkled and bent now. Instructions and a picture included. Lacking the usual seal from my clients, I opened it anyway to find enough cash to afford my current lifestyle for several months as well as this limo now driving me to the location. 

A heart. 

That’s my objective. Sneak into this party as the woman in the picture and then take the heart of Cassias Laur. A picture of him was included as well. Intense eyes, blue hair and a tightly set jaw. It should be easy enough to find him. 

I don’t bother to take out a mirror to check my disguise. It’s perfect. With the provided picture laid out on the edge of my desk, I put my powers as a Phoenix to good use. The fire is warm. It bleeds out from my bones and chews at my flesh, reshaping my body to match the woman in the picture. Where I once had full curves and an olive complexion, I am fine and pale. From the view of an onlooker, I am blonde and as delicate as a porcelain doll. They’d have to get real close to realize I’m far more dangerous than the woman I’m pretending to be in order to get into this party.

A dress was sent along with the rest of the package. Red. The sleeves drape over my upper arms to leave my shoulders bare as the edges float to the floor in an odd sort of cape. Every man has a kink. This isn’t my favorite outfit and it’s clearly not conducive for my task, but my client wants to see me in it, so here I am. There was no signature on the envelope, no secondary letter to tell me who my current boss is, but that doesn’t matter. He’ll know I’m here and, once I’ve completed this job, he’ll pay far more than what was already delivered. 

Of course, there’s a danger to these deals. A phoenix can slip through this world in any bodily image, a shapeshifter with a tendency towards flames. There’s infinite power locked in our modified cells. It’s a power that comes at a cost. My current deal is printed over my skin in a red splotch, the single inconsistency to my otherwise perfect disguise. An anatomical heart with a dagger through it. The magical tattoo is on my left wrist, hidden now by an array of bangles, but otherwise a clear sign to the rest of the supernatural world that I’m not merely a woman nor a shifter. 

I’m a mercenary on a job. I’m the kind of bitch they don’t want to get in the way of or interrupt lest they want their name added to my list of cleared targets. 

This party, though, should be fine. I don’t need to flaunt my powers or my reputation. I’m already disguised as a rich woman with the clearance needed to walk into this fine establishment. 

My driver starts to slow. We’re here. I felt the buzz of a magical boundary line zip over my skin about a mile back. No obvious cameras so far. No other clear security. 

Vampires are usually much more careful. 

No matter. I’m not trying to sneak past cameras or avoid eyesight. My client wants me to make a grand entrance and be seen. Otherwise, he would have allowed me to wear a less revealing outfit. 

“Here is fine,” I tell the driver, slipping him an extra hundred for his service before gathering my things. The poor man has taken me two hours out from the nearest city into the middle of nowhere, the grand estate of Cassias Laur rising from the brown hills like a castle straight from the dirt to glare down at the rest of the world. It’s the least I can do.

I let myself out of the car. He pulls away in a plume of dirt as I stare up at the massive estate. No birds linger around the rooftop. Some potted spruce decorate the entry way, but that’s all the greenery to be seen out here under the fading colors of the sunset and the final rise of evening. There’s no noise. No crickets or frogs or cicadas announcing to the world that they survived the hot day in order to sing for their nighttime audience. 

It’s an odd place. Immaculately clean white, brick walls and red shutters for the windows. Ornate pillars wrap around the porch to give it an ostentatious feel that belongs somewhere in Rome rather than out here in the hills of California. The entire image is odd enough to make a creature absolutely homesick for a place full of noise and humid air. I’m not staying, though. Just one mission and I can take that trip I’ve been planning to head back to the south to remininsce about a time long gone.

About a woman who no longer exists. 

I climb the shallow steps, my heels clicking across the porcelain material as I sweep my skirt up into one hand. There’s a crisp ding the moment that I set foot on the wooden planks of the porch. The double doors swing inward and a man dressed in a tuxedo emerges to welcome me inside. 

I don’t think twice about wrapping my fingers around the curve of his arm. He is all smiles and dark skin, gently leading me into the house with a well-practiced script. I’m sure he’s been doing this all night for the rest of the guests. If things were planned correctly by my current boss, I should be the last to arrive. 

My thoughts on my mission, I hardly pay attention as the man leads me down a hall filled with art, the personal gallery a host of pieces lost to time as well as several canvases depicting the house we’re currently walking through. We walk further, the man pleased with my gentle smiles. It isn’t until we’re at another double door entrance that his words give me pause. 

“It’s wonderful to have you home, Mistress.”

Home?

Perhaps I didn’t ask the right questions when I took this job. It seemed straight forward. I didn’t ask any questions. As much as the feeling of confusion is washing through me, I don’t let it touch my features, smiling wider at the helpful man with a rather orthodox appearance. 

“It’s great to be here.”

Dipping into a slight bow, he gestures to the door. “Should I introduce you, Mistress?”

It would be a good idea to know the name for my current disguise. I nod. He doesn’t need any other permission. 

Bursting through the doors, his voice booming, he announces my arrival just as my client asked in his letter. “Ladies and gentleman, please stand and greet the lady of the house. Mistress Alyssiana Laur!”

Laur. 

No. 

That cannot be my name. 

There’s clapping in the room beyond and the man who announced me waves me forward. No time to contemplate it now. Time to don a sweet smile and walk gracefully down the stairs. 

I’m halfway down when I feel the gaze of my target. At the head of the table, his expression stoic, his dark eyes bore into my form. Perhaps he didn’t intend for his wife to arrive. 

I didn’t mean to show up as his wife, if we’re being honest here. It could be easier to get him alone, though. I’ll use this to my advantage as much as I can. 

Gliding down the stairs, I accept the arm of another able-bodied man in the same attire as the last and allow him to lead me to the only empty chair at the obnoxiously long table. Vampires will never get over themselves. They have to have the biggest houses, the longest tables, the most servants or they’re nothing in the world of pompous showboating that they all seem to live within. 

One night. If I can get this over quickly, it won’t even have to be a whole night and then I can leave, collect my earnings, and figure out the details of that vacation. 

The only chair is next to the host of this ornate house. His gaze follows me all the way from the stairs, past the row of men and women in their best finery, and to the seat on his right. I don’t let it bother me. Men spend their lives looking at women like me. 

His life will end looking at me, too. 

The man pulls out my chair and seats me next to Cassias Laur. Those dark eyes bore into the side of my face. He doesn’t say anything, though. At least, not to me. 

Pushing back from his spot, he stands and holds a champagne flute out to the gathered party. “You have such a way with timing, darling,” Laur begins, the pet name thrown at me like a dagger. “I was just finished telling our guests that you would be unable to make it. However, we’ll be all the more happy to have you here with us. Please, let’s continue our meal.”

Chatter breaks out along the table. Most people spend several moments glancing between their salad and me. I keep my hands folded in my lap and my chin held high. In a room of creatures with heightened senses, it’s important not to bring too much attention to myself. A prick of my finger on a sharp edge of one of these glistening utensils would be enough to alert the entire room to the sheer fact that I, myself, am no vampire. 

All the magic in the world can’t possibly cover up the fact that I am fire and wrath. 

A waiter brings me a glass of champagne. Laur watches me grab the glass. I take the smallest sip, feeling his eyes on my throat as I swallow. 

The first course is cleared moments later. The main dish is delivered. A spicy soup with chunks of meat and vegetables. I pick at it, avoiding any of the meat bits in case they aren’t merely chicken and pork. Most of the guests cough and sputter at the soup, thier heightened senses attacked by the meal they can’t refuse without being deemed impolite. Whoever was in charge of the menu made sure to pick things that would be difficult for the guests to eat. 

That is, the guests are struggling, but Cassias Laur is eating without a problem. Perhaps the host is impervious to the spice and did this to pick on those brave enough to step through the doors of his house. 

I don’t have much time to think about that before the partially eaten dishes are removed and an array of desserts are set out down the middle of the table. Interspersed by red roses in ornate vases, the trays of desserts carry everything from classic sugar cookies cut into intricate stars, pudding combined with blood oranges, and macarons in every shade of maroon. A gothic menu for the vampires. If this was Laur’s doing, he has an odd sense of humor. 

Too bad he won’t get to use that funny sense when I come for his heart. 

Our host waves for the guests to serve themselves as he grabs the small plate in front of me. “What can I interest you in, darling?”

This must be a test. A man has to know there’s a reason his wife didn’t show up to a party on time, right? 

What do I know about Alyssiana Laur?

She’s married to a vampire and presumably one herself. In my reference photo, she stood with her back to a white wall, her imperial figure a contrast to the plain setting. Head high, her ears and neck dripping with jewels, she looked down her nose at the cameraman. Alyssiana Laur liked to be in control of her surroundings. 

Could this be my chance to get him separated from the rest of the room?

“I’m not very hungry, dear,” I reply, hoping she wouldn’t simply call her husband by his name. “Perhaps now would be a good time to speak. Privately.”

A wicked smile cuts across his face as he spoons out a large helping of pudding onto the plate. “It’s been a decade since you wanted to be anywhere near me, but I won’t protest much to your request.”

Fuck. He knows. My appearance is perfect, but I didn’t have time to learn enough about this woman. 

As soon as we’re alone, I’ll have to incapacitate him. 

Standing, the pudding and spoon in one hand, he holds out his other to me. I can’t refuse. Not in front of all of these people. 

I slip my fingers into his warm hold, my fate sealed long before this moment. 

It’s Cassias Laur or I. One of us will not be leaving this party.

I don’t dare look back on the guests. Without another moment’s hesitation, I follow him from the room. It’s time to retrieve my heart.

Author’s Note

For this week’s prompt, I stepped outside of my normal circle of characters. There’s still vampires and tension between the different people, but I wanted to introduce a new supernatural character. Currently unnamed in this story, my phoenix is a possible candidate for a new Kindle Vella romance. Let me know in the comment section if you’re interested to hear more from her!

As always, thank you for reading to the end of this post and please make sure to check out Bridgette’s story as well!

Bridgette White:https://bridgettetales.com/2022/08/20/the-masterpiece-a-short-story/

Next week’s prompt: An interrupted journey

Check in next Saturday to see what we come up with! 🙂

Posted in Character Stories

Meet Me at the Waterfall

There’s a knock at my door. I don’t bother to answer. They took the locks away a long time ago. Nothing is stopping them from coming in. 

My nightmares still roaring in my ears, I wipe my nose on the back of my hand and then go back to fiddling with the tie of my left shoe. “Hey. You’re already up.”

Seth. He’s only here half of the time. I don’t glance up. “Do you need something?”

He takes three steps into the room and sets a glass bottle down on the table against the wall. “Just wanted to say happy birthday before I head out.”

I glance at the pink substance. Twenty-one. I didn’t think I’d make it this long. Most days, I wish I hadn’t survived. 

“Thanks,” I murmur, my throat tight. 

Seth hesitates in the doorway, his bulky frame overtaking the small space. “I don’t have to leave if you wanted to do something special tonight. I could push the rest of my plans, Tamyra.”

I shake my head. I don’t have the energy to argue with him. What would we possibly do? My birthday is the anniversary of everything going wrong. 

He doesn’t insist on springing any other surprises on me. “You should put that in the fridge if you don’t want it until later. I put some other stuff in there, too.”

“Thanks,” I say again, my hands undoing and redoing the lace of my boot as I wait for him to leave. 

He lingers there again, but I don’t continue the conversation. There’s too many muddled emotions between us to try to sift through it right now. I owe him my life. I hate him for it. He wants me to have a future, to be happy, and there’s just no way I can promise to do that. My life ended three years ago and I continue to go through the motions every damn day for his sake, for the sake of people I don’t know and may never meet, for the memory of everyone who lost their lives so I could continue to trouble the world with my presence. 

Finally, Seth leaves, his heavy footsteps thudding through the rest of our shared cottage. His departure means Seymour should be getting here any minute. I only have one shot. 

Grabbing the bag I stuffed under the mattress, I sling it over my shoulder and tip-toe out of the room. Silent. One careful step after another. These vampires have better hearing than most and will catch me if a single wooden board dares to squeak. 

I just need to get away.

To breathe. 

To scream out into the world and not have someone watching me break down. 

It’s all I want for my birthday. Not to hurt anybody or escape. Just to have a moment alone. 

They boarded up the windows in my room and the bathroom after my last escape attempts. There’s another window in the kitchen and the front door, both of which Seth or Seymour could see me using to leave. Typically, they keep the room they share locked, but they’ve been getting sloppy the last few times they swapped positions. I can grab a few more supplies and sneak out the window in there before they have a chance to realize I left. 

I inch the door at the end of the hall open and squeeze inside, careful to hold the handle as I put it back in the closed position. Breath frozen in my lungs, I listen for footsteps. Nothing yet. I don’t hear Seth talking, either. He’s probably out there waiting for Seymour to get here. 

There’s locks all over the drawers and cabinets in the rest of the house, the two men in charge of me making sure I don’t get into anything without their direct permission. I brought that on myself. The first few months of my imprisonment are a blur, but I remember acting out. I broke so many dishes that they switched everything to plastic after only a week. I let the stove run just to press my hands to the hot grates and then sit on the floor to watch it heal. I couldn’t hurt myself, punish myself enough, so I took it out on the rest of the house and the two men working to keep me alive. 

Three years later, I have a better understanding for why they did the things they had to, but it doesn’t mean I like it. It certainly doesn’t mean I appreciate any of it. Seymour likes to tell me that grief is immeasurable and will ease with time, but I can feel its deadening weight in each of my limbs. 

Every day. 

Nothing helps. Nothing erases the memories of that night or quiets the screaming that fills my dreams. Nothing takes my focus off of the past, I suppose, but the letter tucked into my pocket. 

A careful handwritten letter composed of three lines. 

You are in grave danger.

Your friends can no longer help you.

Meet me at the waterfall.

I found it tucked under my pillow three days ago. The words woke something dormant in my veins. Not fear. Fear is an old friend at this point.

Something else. 

Something dangerous and thirsting for retribution. 

Whoever left it had all the chances they wanted to attack me when they dropped it off. I don’t know how I slept through an entire person in my room, but I won’t let it happen again. I’m not even worried about the warning. There’s always someone trying to kill me. It’s an average Tuesday after the last few years. 

Whoever this is needs me alive and needs me to come willingly or they would have kidnapped me from my bed. Curiosity piqued, I need to get out there to see who it is and find out what they want. I cannot have a whole entourage, so I need to be out of the house in the next thirty seconds or so in order to slip my personal guards. 

Stopping in front of the dresser placed at the foot of their bed, I pry open the first drawer and take out a handful of sharpened blades. They slide into the designated sheaths in my pants. Four blades total. Two slipped in at thigh level, the metal pressed tight to my body. The other two are smaller. They slide into the pockets designed into my boots. All of them padded and secure. All of them seamlessly designed to make it nearly impossible to see the weapons before I pull them out. I pull out one more and tuck it into the holster-like pocket attached to my hip for quick access. 

It’s time to go. 

I slide open the window and slip through without a sound. It closes with a whisper, straining to tattle on me. I don’t stick around to see if either of them noticed. 

Nobody comes racing around the other sides of the cottage as I step away from the building and disappear into the trees. Tightening the bag on my shoulders, I take off at a sprint. The waterfall isn’t far from here. It’s a space they use for training me in different combat combinations, forcing me to keep my balance along the wet shore and uneven rocks or hold my breath under the water until I can reach the other side. It’s basically home territory against whoever left that note. 

I don’t slow down until I’m almost there, listening for any pursuit from my guards while also scanning the area ahead. There aren’t very many hiding places out here. The trees are a bit more sparse in this area and are too thin to truly hide behind. I press my hand to one of them, my fingers sticking to the syrupy substance bleeding from the trunk. 

The rushing of the waterfall makes it impossible to hear anything clearly. I step past the tree line and look over the bank of the river in our metaphorical backyard. Nothing. No one. The writer didn’t give me a timeframe. 

This was stupid. I don’t know what I expected. 

That’s a lie. I do. I’m waiting for an opponent who can finally put me out of my misery. Someone good with a blade. Someone better than me at hand to hand combat . Someone faster and stronger and merciless. Someone dressed in old fashioned robes and spouting insane science like an alchemist out of the old world who just needs my heart or my blood or my spleen, but not me to continue on with their evil plans. 

I won’t go down without a fight, but there’s a dark part of my soul that would happily lose. 

When still no one comes rushing behind me to drag me back to the cottage and no strangers pop out from the dirt to end my life, I walk to the edge of the water and settle onto a large rock. The waters are clear here. Small fish wriggle along the bank, picking up bits of sand and spitting them back out as they search for food. 

My reflection taunts me from the surface of the water. Look, it dares. 

I don’t meet its challenge. 

I can’t. 

There’s a shoescuff behind me. I’m off of the rock in a split second, my boots splashing into the water as I pull the knife from my hip. 

The man behind me has his hands held on either side of his head. Not Seth. Not Seymour. Taller than me by a few inches with long, black hair and a prominent nose, he watches me with careful eyes, his posture too casual for someone at the other end of my blade. 

“I just want to talk, Miss Raeleigh.”

My hands don’t tremble as I stare across the space. “Talk fast.”

“You’re in danger.”

He waits for a response. I don’t give him one. That’s not news. It hasn’t been news for years. 

“I want to take you somewhere safe.”

I can’t stop the snort that huffs from me. “And you expect that I’ll just go?”

“I expect that you won’t have much of a choice.”

My blade catches the early morning sun. “Why’s that?”

“Ivan’s troops have learned the location of your safe house. We have a couple of hours to clear everyone out before they’ll be here.”

Ivan. It’s such a simple name for such a terrible man. 

I don’t lower the knife between us. “I can handle it. I’m not abandoning the others here.”

He lets his hands slowly fall and rest at his sides. “They’ve been made aware of the situation. They know what to do.”

No. That’s not good enough. Seth and Seymour aren’t family. They’re barely friends. I don’t know what relationship title to give them, but, whatever it is, they don’t deserve to die in a battle that was meant for me. 

Nobody else gets to die for me. 

“Either let me walk away or try to restrain me, but I don’t have time to stand here with you.”

He doesn’t move. “I’m on your side, Miss Raeleigh. I can take you somewhere safe and your friends will join us later.”

Each step a carefully calculated risk, I move out of the water and then circle him until my back is to the trees. He can attack and die here on this lonely beach or he can let me go. Those are the only options I’m giving right now.

Before either of us can make a move or issue further threats, a boom echoes through the forest behind me. Ivan. He’s early. 

I don’t bother with the man by the river. I sheathe the knife at my hip and start running. Back to the cottage. Back to Seth and Seymour. Back to all I truly have in this meager life. 

The man from the waterfall is yelling. He wants me to stop. Desperation burns through each syllable.

I don’t care. 

They need me more and I don’t owe him a damn thing. 

I’m halfway back, the acrid smell of fire burning its way through my sinuses, when he launches his attack. He doesn’t tackle from behind or throw weapons. He just appears in front of me, in the line of my path, and I have no way to stop. 

Smashing my shoulder into his chest, he lets out a groan as he hits the hard-packed dirt first. I roll, but he’s not out of the fight, his hands clinging to my backpack. Hunched over in an attempt to get away, I pull the knives from my boots and let him pull me back. One hits dirt. The other hits its mark. 

The vampire lets out a snarl as the knife wedges itself deep into his bicep. “I’m here to help you, Tamyra Raeleigh. Do not stab me.”

I don’t care that he knows my name, that he isn’t retaliating other than to let me go and pry the blade from his arm. All I care if that I’m on my feet. The ground rumbles with the machinations of war. Birds launch into the sky in a cloud of black bodies, their screams just barely audible over the next explosion. 

No. 

I don’t know if I yell it. It’s my only thought. No. Not this. Not again. 

I stumble forward a few steps on the uneven ground before the vampire behind me grabs me around the waist and lifts me from the ground. Thrashing in his hold, he knocks my next knife out of my hand before I can use it. I elbow him in the abdomen. 

Growling ensues. We’re worse than two mountain lions fighting for territory. I scream and he demands that I stop. 

I’m drawing attention to us. 

Good. 

If they know I’m here, then they’ll leave the others alone. 

My last two knives in my hands, I stand my ground against the vampire from the waterfall. “I will end you,” I spit. 

“You could definitely try,” he snaps back. “Let’s agree to do this another time at a safer location and I’ll let you show me all your best moves, Raeleigh.”

The ass. Without thinking, I throw the knife in my left hand. It whizzes through the air, narrowly missing him as he leans to the side. It lodges into a tree several yards away. 

“If that’s your best, I think I’ll be just fine.”

Killing vampires has been my main curriculum since the creatures crept into my life. Nobody told me I’d have to have a conversation with them. They certainly didn’t mention how infuriating that could be. 

I bare my teeth at the creature. My human teeth. I may share some of their DNA, but I refuse to finish a fight as anything but a woman. 

“Why don’t you just stand still and take it like a man?”

He clucks his tongue at me. “I expected you to think like someone born close to the twenty-first century, Raeleigh. It’s not very feminist of you to try to belittle me based on my gender.”

Who is this guy? There’s a full scale attack happening up this hill and he wants to discuss philosophy. I shake my head. This is ridiculous. A ridiculous waste of my time. 

That. 

Dammit. 

He’s trying to waste my time and keep me down here. Ivan’s people couldn’t beat me the last dozen times they tried and they won’t now. Seth and Seymour need me. 

Without another word, I go back to racing up the hill, zipping past trees and keeping my path irregular in order to keep him from popping back into my path again. Up. I just need to get up. They need to be alive. 

The man appears on my right, lunging to stop me. I swing at him, but he grabs my hand, pinning it to the ground as he falls on top of me. His legs on either side of my hips, his hand holding mine down, he doesn’t expect me to punch him in the face. 

Blood trickles from his nose as his fangs appear just over his lip. “Seth is my brother. I’m not trying to hurt you or him. He has everything covered up there.”

There’s still yelling in the distance. No signs of fighting, though. Either they’re already dead or this guy is being honest.

“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

His chest expands as he takes a deep breath. “You don’t have much of a choice right now, Raeleigh. Say you’ll come with me.”

What choice do I have? If he’s telling the truth, the only thing waiting up there for me is a lot of angry men hurt by the explosion Seth set. If he’s not, I can figure out my next moves from somewhere that isn’t the floor of a forest. 

I can always escape and start my life over somewhere else. 

“Fine. Let’s go.”

Author’s Note

Happy Saturday and welcome to the first story from Tamyra Raeleigh. The main protagonist for my vampire novels, she’s a character that fights for the bare minimum, clinging desperately to an idea of normal while she’s swept away by the actions of those surrounding her. Fiery and feral, she’s ready to spill blood to save those left in her life.

Please also check out my writing partner’s blog piece on this mysterious letter prompt!

Bridgette White: https://bridgettetales.com/2022/08/13/blood-moon-messenger-a-short-story/

I can’t wait to see what we come up with next week! Thanks for supporting my blog 😊

Posted in Character Stories

Florida Isn’t Far Enough

Still dressed in the same tux I wore to the funeral, I step into the Florida sun. Erik has several weeks on me and this is the only lead. The humid air settles around my shoulders as I leave behind the private plane and slip into the black Hummer waiting for me. 

My driver is a woman in a leopard print dress with red headphones looped around her thin neck. She slides sunglasses down her nose to look at me in the rear view mirror. “Looking hot as magma, Mr. Firoli.”

I shake my head at her. Any other time I would give into the gentle teasing. I would probably say something back about her appearance and wind up getting her number to meet me at my hotel room. It’s definitely my reputation preceding me that she felt safe enough to say something. This isn’t that kind of trip, though. 

Taking out my phone, I start to scroll through my notes while she pulls out of this makeshift lot in the middle of swampy land. Erik vanished three weeks ago. He called me the day before and joked that he would put me in charge of his funeral if anything happened. Well, something happened. 

I saw the crime scene. His apartment was destroyed. There’s no way my brother staged it on his own. I had the blood spatter tested. All of it came back as his. There’s no evidence of a single other person in that place. 

I saw his body. Just the one time after I got the call. I wouldn’t let my parents make the identification. 

I went to the damn funeral and I’m no closer to having any real answers. 

God, I can’t breathe. Sticking my fingers under my tie, I pull it away from my neck. Not enough. I’m not here to look nice for anyone. I take the black tie off and toss it onto the seat next to me. My jacket is next. This woman works for my family. She’ll have it cleaned and sent back or I can just buy a new tux before the next funeral. 

“You hungry, Sir? I know a place that does great spaghetti and Italian doughnuts.”

She’s being kind. I know that. I understand it, but I do not have time for it. “Just take me where you were previously instructed.”

Her hands tighten on the steering wheel. “My apologies, Sir. I just didn’t take you for a guy who likes tiki huts.”

I’m not. I quite frankly don’t like most of America, especially not tourist areas that hand out alcohol like it’s the source of fortune and health. If it was my choice, I would never set foot out of Italy. However, my brother is missing and I’ve promised to not leave a single stone unturned in my search for him. 

I don’t give her an answer. It doesn’t matter what kind of man she thinks I am. She’s in charge of driving me there and then we’ll go our separate ways. 

There’s an important meeting I need to take care of between me and the “tour guide.” 

Erik mentioned the guy once in the last six months. They met on a dating app. Erik thought he was funny and might plan to come out here to see him in person. 

That was it. 

Not something for his big brother to worry about or stick his nose in. At least, it wasn’t until all of the research I could obtain through hacking his computer turned up this guy as the last person to talk to Erik. 

Not three weeks ago, but three days ago. 

While I stood through funeral arrangements and recitals for the big event, this guy was texting Erik. He told my brother that he was enamored with him, that he hoped his new life was going to work out, and that they would meet again. I cringed by the way he mentioned his love for Erik, not because they’re both men, but because nobody should ever say they’re “magnetized” to another human being. 

The armored car cuts through the crowded streets, leaving behind beach shops and girls in bikinis as we maneuver our way to the bar this guy is known to work. He’s expecting my brother. I changed all of the passwords and took over Erik’s accounts two days ago. He’s either going to have to go through me or continue to pretend that he’s a dead man living in this country. 

I haven’t told anyone else my suspicions. I held my father as he sobbed by the closed casket this morning. My mother stood over the grave as they piled each and every last bit of dirt back onto the grand plot. They’re good people. They shouldn’t have to live through losing a child. 

They especially shouldn’t have to when it’s all fake. 

I let my fingers tap away at the phone until I pull up my text thread with my mother. Be careful. She said it twelve times in the span of a couple of hours. I’m her only remaining child, for as much as she knows, and she’s terrified that something is going to happen to me as well. Scrolling to the bottom, I type out a quick message to let her know I’m okay, I’ve arrived, and I’ll be out of contact for a few hours while I deal with business. 

She thinks I’m out here expanding my body guarding enterprise to American soil. I probably should do that while I’m here just so I don’t have to deal with the guilt of lying to her. There’s no reason to get her hopes up that I can bring Erik home until I have my hands on the motherfucker and find out why he put us through this in the first place. 

It has to be something bad. Erik has always had a rebellious spirit. He fights for the smaller guy. There’s at least a dozen scuffles I’ve pulled him out of or had to clean him up from because he wouldn’t let someone be bullied. It’s a good look on him. The hero. Even after coming out queer, he was a part of the family life and welcome at ever function. Our distant relatives don’t understand it so much, but our parents and I have always been there for him. 

This has to be something else and it has to be really, really bad for him to not mention it to any of us. 

I don’t want to string together false theories, so I let my eyes mindlessly browse images on my phone. There’s no telling if this is drug or gang related. My family has had problems with those topics in the past. I’m old enough to understand that my parents don’t run a regular bakery. There’s shady deals made in the back of the store and odd shipments that come in during the late hours of the night. My father is the face of the business, passing down age old recipes from his mother and his mother’s mother and keeping people happy with his desserts while my mother does more than just housekeeping at the end of the night. 

She has never told me more about her extra activities and I’ve only asked once. Just before I left for college. It was late at night. There had been blood on her apron. I asked if it was safe for me to leave or if she would rather I invest in the family business and stay to help her. 

Go. Make a better life. She wouldn’t condemn me to carry the burden of her career. 

Erik stayed home longer than I did, though. He didn’t leave for college right away and I was gone for a handful of years while I completed my business degree. Could he have known more? If so, is this the reason he has gone into hiding? Wouldn’t my mother know something?

No. 

Her eyes were rimmed with red this morning and her fingers shook when she pulled me in for a hug. That wasn’t an act. She lost a son and almost couldn’t bear letting me walk away. 

I’m going to fix this for us. No matter what this takes. Erik is going to come home and my family will be whole once again. 

The car eventually stops. I slip the woman a twenty as I thank her for the ride and then excuse her of her duties. I won’t be needing someone to pick me up. I’m plenty capable of taking care of things on my own. 

My black carry-on in my left hand, I stride towards the bar. Neon lights twinkle around the roof, beckoning tourists to stop in and try a fruity beverage. There’s wood etchings of Hawaiian deities and some signs with quotes dangling around the door. Well, the curtain. This place has beads covering the entrance. 

I blow out a sigh. I can make this quick. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot the guy I need after all of the mostly naked pictures I’ve gone through in the last forty-eight hours. He’ll give me my answers and I’ll be on my way. No need to stay and try a coconut hurricane.

As if to prove my point, I step into the dim interior and blink to clear my vision, my eardrums immediately accosted by the awful singing of a clearly inebriated man. Not any man. TourGuide1986. Got him.

Waving off a waitress that offers me a drink menu, I watch the man finish his song. Thin, dressed in a tank top, board shorts, and flip flops, he has no chance of getting out of here without dealing with me. He falls to his knees as he finishes the ridiculously long note at the end of the song. I am going to be merciless about teasing Erik. This cannot possibly be his kind of person. My brother is so level-headed and kind. This man, Mr. TourGuide1986, is a fool. 

He waves for the crowd to demand an encore, but they boo him off of the stage. Helped down by a security guard, he staggers down to a booth in the back corner. Clearly, he spends a lot of time here. Nobody steps into his way and the table is clearly filled with all of his empty beverage glasses for the night. 

I waste no time joining him there, setting my bag amongst the chaos on the tabletop as I slide in next to him, cutting off any chance for him to escape. “We need to talk.”

TourGuide1986 lolls his head from one side to the other, cracking his neck in the process as he moves his thigh against mine. “Well, hello there, Sir. Are you extremely happy to see me or is that a revolver in your pocket?”

“Sober up or you’re about to find out,” I snap, more frustrated by the second as I come to understand that this worthless human being is the only tie I have to my lost brother. 

Erik better be healthy when I find him. He better be in the best shape of his life because I’m going to strangle him when we finally have a moment alone. This man, this entire situation, is a ridiculous detour from my otherwise perfect life and I do not have time for it. 

Seeming to use all of the effort in his body, he blinks his eyes a few times and then reaches across the table for an empty glass, slurping the last bits of the long gone drink from the ice cubes. “Look, if Benji sent you, I’m getting his money together. We don’t have to play hard to get. I’ll even take you to a private room and-.”

Nope. Not what we’re here for. I don’t let him finish the thought and offer before curling my fist in his flimsy shirt and pressing him into the darkened corner of our booth. 

“My brother, Erik. What do you know?”

“Erik,” his glass falls out of his hand, spilling ice into his lap as he wraps shaking fingers around my wrist. “Erik, Erik, Erik. I don’t know man. I don’t think I know an Erik. You must have the-.”

I slam my fist on the table. Another person has started singing at the front of the room. It covers up the clinking of glasses in our area as I dip my face into his and drop my voice to a threatening whisper. 

“Do not tell me I have the wrong guy right now. Erik Firoli. You’ve been in contact with him.” Blowing out a deep breath, I switch tactics. “QueerItalian93. That ring a bell?”

“Ooooooh.” He excitedly taps my wrist. “Yeah, man. I know him.” Eyes rolling back in his head, he lets out a hearty laugh. “Do I know him. That guy is one fine-.”

Why am I putting myself through this? Is my brother really worth it? He’s clearly gotten into some bad shit with bad people and it isn’t really my responsibility to clean up after him. 

Even if I wanted to, I can’t walk away until this is finished. I won’t go home to my parents without Erik. I’m going to fix everything. 

It is my goddamn job. 

“I don’t care what you think of him. I know you’re not really a tour guide and I’m pretty sure he saw you a few days ago to pick up some forged papers. Where the Hell did you send my brother?”

The red-faced fool fumbles his words. “Look, man, I can’t just be telling you these things. There’s like client confidentiality or whatever.”

I tighten my grip. “You can tell me or we can go outside, so I can show you what the fuck’s in my pocket. Where is Erik?”

Snot dribbles from his oversized nostrils and his long, blond bangs fall into his eyes as he tries to shrink out of my hold. “No, man. It’s okay. We don’t have to do any of that. I got him an I.D. That’s it. He could go anywhere with it.”

I swear, if he makes me ask him again…

I don’t have to, though, as his nervous tongue keeps talking. “Vegas, okay? He told me that there’s a job waiting for him in Las Vegas. Nevada. You need a map. I’ll mark it down for you. Vegas. I promise that’s the best place to go. He probably didn’t even need fake I.D., but he’s covered now and anyone out in that godforsaken desert will employ him without a question. Vegas,” he repeats, his bloodshot eyes wild as he searches my face for a scrap of mercy, “I know it’s Vegas. Vegas is my final answer. You wanna find your brother, you go there.”

It’s a lead. Not the most concrete evidence out there, but I’m already grasping at straws and in over my head. I’ll take what I can get. 

“I find out that you’re lying to me,” our faces are an inch apart, his acrid breath washing over my face as I keep my threats between us, “I’ll be back. It wasn’t hard to find you.”

There’s no reason to wait for his response. Dropping my hand, I slide back out of the booth and pick my bag off of the table. No one turns to watch me leave. 

Las Vegas, Nevada. 

I thought Florida was far for him to run. 

I still don’t know what’s wrong with Erik, but if he felt the need to fake his death and get fake identification in a different country, it’s something real bad. It won’t be today and likely won’t be tomorrow, but I’m going to find him and get to the bottom of this. Family matters more than anything else. No drunk forger is going to stop me from finding my brother. The Devil himself could try to chain me down and I would break away. 

My phone buzzes and I answer without checking the screen. “Yeah?”

“Is this Malcolm Firoli?”

The full force of the Florida sunset beating down on me, I pause at the accented voice on the other side of the line. “Who’s asking?”

“Gideon Carter. Your secretary passed on this personal number. I have an urgent job for you.”

I shake my head. I’ll have to reprimand Amy for that. This is the third time she’s given a potential client my personal number. “I’m sorry, Sir, but I’m out of town right now. I won’t be able to set up a new account at the moment. If you want to call back at my office, then-.”

“Money isn’t a problem. There’s a woman in trouble. I am willing to do anything I can to get her the best security in the world right now.”

How am I supposed to say no to that? Erik’s currently evading me. I may as well set up an American account while I’m looking for my brother. 

“Where is she?”

“Las Vegas.”

Well, that’s just purely convenient. “Name?”

“Lucy Lore. She’s a burlesque dancer.”

I don’t need to ask anymore questions. “Fine. You’ve got a bodyguard. Call the office back to finalize details. I’m on my way to Nevada for another job anyway.”

He doesn’t hang up right away. “Mr. Firoli, there’s something else I can only tell you.”

Shit. This is about to be one of those prank calls. “What?” I bite out, fighting every instinct to just hang up. 

The next statement out of his mouth makes no sense and all the sense in the world at the same time. I know why Erik left. There are greater evils in the world than those brought forth by regular men. Plenty of good men fall ill or are overtaken by this specific evil. My mother is terrified one of us will fall prey to the disease online articles are coining as Stoker’s virus. 

Vampires. 

They’re real and they’re going to hurt this girl. 

Their influence has been growing in Italy. Erik must have made a bad connection with one of them. He fled the country to keep us safe, to keep us from being the next victims of this growing bioweapon. 

“I understand the danger, Mr. Carter. I’ll be there as soon as possible.”

He murmurs his thanks as I turn off my phone and tuck it back into my pocket. There’s some supplies I’ll need to gather before I head to this job. Enough gear to protect myself and this girl and my brother. 

It’s a good thing that playing the hero pays well.

Author’s Note

Thank you for reading this far! I hope you enjoyed the introduction into Malcolm Firoli’s mind and the tiny peek at the end of his importance to the overall story. I cannot wait to come back next week with something else for you all!

As always, please take a moment to read through my writing partner’s story, too!

Bridgette White: