Posted in Character Stories

An Arrow at his Behest

Three different outfits, a compact bow hidden in an alcove, and a single arrow tucked into the seam of my tights. There’s been weeks of planning in order to get to where I am tonight. I can last a few more minutes. 

Sweat drips down the back of my neck. There’s leaves in my braid. My shoulders tremble from the weight of the taut string in my hands. 

I have one shot. 

It’s meant for the lord of the castle. 

Women in pastel dresses twirl along the floor. He’s been out there dancing for over an hour. A servant took his suit jacket a few minutes ago. In only a white shirt and tie, the blood will be quite prominent when I let go of my arrow. 

When… If… I still can’t believe I’m up here. 

It started as a passing joke. The lord himself put the money up. Should anyone be capable of stealing his heart, they would be given a bounty. 

Over a hundred men have attempted this particular job. Some were brutes who crashed through the front door and were shot down before they could make it to the Lord’s chambers. Others were sneaky. They crept along the outside of the castle, pulled themselves up to the highest windows, and snuck in during the earliest hours of the morning only to be caught in traps and sent scurrying back to their hovels with tales of horror to recount to any who would hear. One person tried to lace the Lord’s food and accidentally killed a passing serving girl instead. He was sentenced to death by the same poison. 

Every entrance to this castle has been monitored since then. The windows are rigged with bells and spikes to deter assassins. The lord doubled his prize, tempting anyone else to try their hand at his death while also testing out his security. 

Of course, no woman has attempted before me. 

The men posted at the doors hardly glanced my way. No one saw me change out of the maid’s outfit into that of the kitchen staff. None still caught me pulling off the apron to stand in this tight suit at the balcony. I climbed the rails, pulled myself up towards the ceiling, and made my camp above the ballroom while all of the table settings were still being placed for the guests. 

And then I waited. 

I’ll continue to wait, my muscles straining and breath barely gracing my lips. This has to be perfect. I can’t hit anyone else. I must strike him in the heart. 

I’m going to be the lady of this castle. I’ll never eat out of the garbage again or have to slink through the alleys behind the bar to collect the change dropped by drunken customers. I will have his riches and his home and the freedom I’ve chased since I was old enough to realize that being born a woman was a prison I couldn’t escape. 

A servant rings a bell, quieting the band. The women in their pastel dresses do a final twirl and then leave the dancing area. Together with their assorted chaperones, they cling to the edges of the room, looking towards the center for whatever is planned to happen next. 

This is it. He’s alone. There’s nothing between us. I have my arrow aligned with his heart. 

That prize is going to be mine. 

My new life is one breath away. 

Before I can release the arrow, he looks right at me and winks. 

No. No, no, no. I can’t get my fingers to let go now that his eyes are on mine. This isn’t how this is supposed to go. 

I can’t breathe. Can’t swallow. Can’t think. 

Why has it never been mentioned before that Lord Durinhan has green eyes?

“Esteemed guests,” he calls out to the gathered crowd, that penetrating gaze never wavering from mine. “I’d like to introduce you to the lady of the night.”

Me. No. How could he have known?

When I don’t move, he clears his throat. “You may come down now.”

This is a trap. It has to be. I’ve heard the rumors of people punished for attempting to take the Lord’s life. Leaving the safety of the eaves could be my last voluntary action on this earth. 

I don’t know what to do. I could still let the arrow go. The prize would be mine. 

Or he would move. The arrow would pierce his shoulder. He would live and have me executed for this attempt on his life. 

“We’re waiting,” he calls from the lower level, his deep voice stern. 

I could make a run for it. They can see me, but I’m quick. No one knows who I am. I’ll retrace my steps, jump down onto the balcony and find a window to leap through and not stop running until I’m back…

At the bar. Where I rent a room that takes most of my pay. A place where assault and violence and mishap live hand and hand with strife and despair and the loss of innocence. 

“Miss, you can come down or my men will bring you down. Your choice.”

I don’t really have much of a choice, do I?

I’m not going back to the bar. This was my chance to get a new life. Taking a deep breath, I let the string loosen and pull the arrow away. 

“How would you suggest I join you?” My voice is trembling, containing none of the power his does. 

There’s a mischievous gleam in his expression as he lets his lips pull into a grin. “Since you’re so far up, I could catch you.”

He’s asking me to fall for him. Ridiculous. Disgusting. Lame. 

“You could drop your weapon first,” he offers as I try to figure out how to slink off of the wooden beam. 

Never. Not an option. Looping the bow string around my left shoulder, I hang onto the shaft of the arrow in my right hand and then swing my legs over the side. It’s a far drop. My shoulders tremble from my weight as I lower myself down and dangle from the beam. 

If he doesn’t catch me…

There’s no time to think about it. My palms are slick with sweat. My shoulders scream from the exertion of waiting with my bow for so long only to be forced down in this show of authority. I can’t hold myself.

I’m grabbing the beam and then there’s nothing between me and the floor. Air whooshes by my face as I fall. A gasp rings through the room. There’s no time to cover my face or catch my breath and ready myself for the impact. 

Lord Durinhan keeps his promise. He snatches me away from the air’s greedy fingers. Letting out an oof, he crashes onto the ground with me on top. 

Guests run from the corners of the room to help us up, but I’m already moving. On my feet, I brandish the sharp end of my arrow like a knife, daring them to come closer. These rich, spoiled people with their thick makeup and frilly clothes let out exasperated cries, stumbling over each other to get away from me. I’m too busy focusing on them to realize that Lord Durinhan has gotten to his feet. 

He clamps heavy hands onto my shoulders and lets out a chuckle, speaking over my head to the gathered people. “What an entrance! I believe this will be a story for all to tell for years to come!”

While they titter at his words, he leans down to me, the stubble on his chin grazing my ear. “Come quietly. We can talk in my office.”

“Why not just make an example of me out here?” I snarl back. 

He tightens his grip on me. “You’re the closest to winning. Don’t you at least want to discuss a portion of the prize?”

Yes. Of course. This can’t be real. 

“But, I didn’t take your heart.”

A shiver shakes my spine as he lets out a low laugh. “You still have time, Miss.”

Author’s Note

Happy short story Saturday, readers!

This one was such a fun dialogue prompt to start with. Just two characters. One with a bow and arrow, the other knowing their life was on the line and smiling up at them. I read it on Pinterest and immediately had a spark for the woman who would climb into the rafters and try to win her freedom with violence.

I hope I’ve left you wanting more. Tension and a spark for a story that could be developed into a bigger novel is my specialty here. It’s fun to take breaks from my regular projects to do these little scenes and even more fun to get feedback from all of you!

Let me know in the comments below if you enjoyed this story!

See you next time 🙂

Posted in Character Stories

The Royal Bodyguard

“Would it kill you to relax?” 

The princess has a problem with quietly sitting in a room. I’ve tried giving her books and scrolls full of vivid pictures for her amusement, but nothing seems to deter the unwavering focus her lavender eyes seem to have on me. 

“Probably,” I murmur, my hands busy polishing the knife in my lap. “It would likely get you killed, too. Your parents are paying a hefty sum to keep your head on your shoulders.”

She sticks her tongue at me. I don’t respond. This is our nightly battle. Princess Iryna is a handful during the day, but she’s mostly occupied with her daily duties of patrolling the estate grounds, tasting different sweets from the kitchens, and pestering the few servants that were shipped out here to stay with us while the war wages back home. 

At night, she’s locked in a tower with me. No windows. One door that’s barricaded with a magic spell and a bookcase. It’s my duty to make sure she sees the morning sun once again. 

Clearing her throat, she slides off of the bed and claps her hands. “Make the music play, Cai.”

Cailleach is my name. Iryna is convinced its far too foreign for her tongue to work. I’ve given up trying to get her to refer to me by anything except that pet name. 

Snapping my fingers, the instruments laying on the side of the room jump to life. First, a sweet lilt of violin. A flute pipes in. Some drums are added. The music plays in a circular fashion, the intruments moving in and out of the tune while also spinning off on their own tangents. It’s something otherworldly, something jaunty enough for a tavern, but unheard of by this spoiled woman in silk garbs. 

Twirling in a circle, Iryna hums along to the tune and then holds her hand out to me. “Dance with me.”

I shake my head immediately. “You’re doing fine on your own.”

“We’ve been here for over a month, Cai. Nothing has come to gobble me up. Please,” she bats her eyelashes at me as I sheathe the knife at me side. “Please, just dance with me.”

“If I do,” I start, already regretting my decision to give into her sweet demands, “you have to go to bed after. Guests from other continents are arriving tomorrow and they need to see that you are well. It gives them hope.”

“Hope, hope, hope,” she grumbles, her higher pitched voice pulling at the edges of the word. “I’m more than just a symbol of hope, you know? I’m a person.”

I have to clench my teeth and take a slow breath to keep my eyes from rolling. These royals. They never understand how ridiculous they sound to the rest of us. My grandmother would have given her life to be remembered as a symbol of hope and love and goodness rather than burned as a witch in a world that feared dangerous women. 

That same world has asked for my forgiveness and given me a bratty princess to look after. It seems witches aren’t the worst thing on this planet. A witch that’s good with both magic and swords is an expensive kind of bodyguard that only the wealthiest clients can use. 


Ones that offered to not keep me in the dungeon for the rest of the crimes I committed before settling down with this job. 

“You’re thinking too much and dancing too little,” Iryna prompts, wiggling her fingers in my direction. 

I suppose there’s no making this go away without actually going through the motions. Uncurling from my chair, I stand and run my hands down my clothes. My red cloak is draped over the back of the chair, so I’m just in my undershirt and form-fitting pants. I’d be wearing my boots, too, but the princess has a rule about shoes in the tower, so they’re at the top of the steps on the other side of the blocked door. 

I look frumpy next to the thin woman in pink silk. She seems to float around the middle of the room. If I didn’t know better, I would think she had some magic in her bloodline, too. There’s no other good explanation for how she convinces me to do these things. 

Crossing the room, I hold my hand out to meet hers. Electricity singes my fingertips. It does every time we touch and I try my best not to think too much about it. 

Likely her parents had some other witch put a spell on her physical form. It’s that or… 

Well, I’m very sure she’s not my mate, so we’re going to leave that possibility out of this current equation. 

Spinning for me, Iryna lets out a giggle and then puts her other hand on my shoulder. We’re close. There’s mere centimeters between our chests and hips. The princess leads. She’s the only one here classically trained to do these little dances. 

I follow her moves and watch as the glow of the lamps catch her features. There. Her eyebrow is in a spotlight. It’s perfectly arched at me. 

And then it catches her left cheekbone. I think poets could fill novels with the curve of her cheek and ballads could be written about the flutter of her eyelashes. 

Another ray caresses her throat and I forget for a moment that we’re from separate worlds. 

For now, we’re two women locked in a room and only a breath apart. 

“You look quite pretty tonight, Cai.”

I shake my head. The princess delights in poking fun at my appearance. I always wear the same things. I don’t know how to apply blush with a fuzzy brush. Red lip stain has never blemished my mouth. 

“You are the beautiful one, Iryna.”

And, even if I regret those words in the morning, I mean it. She really is pretty. Pretty beautiful. 

She’s going to say something else. I can practically see the words spinning to life in her mind. Lips pursed, but not yet parted, she waits a moment too long. 

There’s a yell from outside. I drop her hands and step away. 

“So much for taking a night off,” I grumble in her direction as I hurry to fling my cloak over my shoulders. 

“You can’t go out there,” she calls as I start to push away the bookcase.

There’s a rumble vibrating the stones of this tower. Whatever has arrived is big. Too big to leave this part of the estate unscathed. 

“I can’t let it come up here, either.”

Magic skitters just under the surface of my skin. I’m ready. I’ve trained my whole life to do these kinds of things. A knife in one hand, I start to undo the spell blocking this door. 


I don’t answer. I have to keep muttering the words or the whole spell will dissolve in a chaotic fashion that’ll put both of us in more danger than we already are. 

“Promise you’re going to come back.”

It’s not a question. It’s a demand. I stumble over the end of the spell, orange sparks glittering around the doorframe. 

Glancing over my shoulder, I take in her innocent shape now trembling at the foot of the bed. “I haven’t failed you yet, Princess.”

Then, I’m gone. The door is shut and my boots are left behind at the top of the stairs as the stench of malicious magic wafts up towards our spot. It’s time to earn my wage as the princess’ bodyguard.

Author’s Note

Hey, readers!!!!

I was so excited to sit down and write the first short story of 2023! I hope you enjoyed these two and the upcoming troubles in their world. My wonderful editor put a sticky note on this one for a possible future full-length novel, so, if you enjoyed it as well, please say so in the comments below. Your views and words are what keep me coming back to the keyboard every week!

Thanks so much for being here. I’ll definitely be back Wed for our weekly WIP updates. See you then ❤

Posted in Character Stories

Caller Chaos

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

It’s not even in this room. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wait. Wait. I’m sorry. Wait.”

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

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

“Remember the night we got engaged?”

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

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

“Sera…” he trails off. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I owe you absolutely nothing.”

“I know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I didn’t shut that door. 

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

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

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

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

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

“I really do want you to come, too.”

“And if I refuse?” 

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

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

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

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

I should say no. Just to be stubborn. 

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

“Five days and I pick the island.”

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

“You still have Nyx?”

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

If I had a heart…

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

“Deal. Now, get me out of here.”

Author’s Note

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

Please make time to read Bridgette’s story here:

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

We’ll see you next week!

Posted in Character Stories

Danger in the Dark

“What am I supposed to call you when we’re alone?”

We’ve survived two days together. I flaunt my appearance as Alyssiana Laur and watch the vampires in this mansion shrink away. I don’t know all of her history yet, but she’s a real piece of work who knows how to keep people in line. Perhaps in another life, I would be as cold and malicious as her. 

Laur is always by my side. He’s quiet during the day and a bit boisterous at meals, but he doesn’t truly come alive until we’re shut away in our shared room. I tried to argue to stay in my own chambers, but he insisted that I could protect him better if we stayed close. 

He was right. 

I haven’t slept since receiving the envelope with this job and it’s starting to grate on my general wellbeing. “We could just not talk,” I grumble, the edges of my personality blending with the cruel persona of Alyssiana Laur. 

Laur snags a pillow from the bed and heads for the couch on the opposite side of the room. “I think I liked you more when you were trying to cut my heart from my chest.”

I shouldn’t care. This man is a means to an end. He’s a job. A job that if done well could result in me making enough money to pay off my debts to Jack. I didn’t mean to become a mercenary. It seems like a lifetime ago that I made a deal with the well-dressed devil. Now, though, since Laur has agreed to split the estate’s wealth with me if I remove Alyssiana from the picture, I have the first real chance in eighty-seven years to make a gamble for my freedom. 

The word is a bubble of hope that clogs my heart. It’s stupid. I shouldn’t be putting too much thought into all of this. My dreams are a seal about to be swallowed by a killer whale. 

There’s no real escape from my lifestyle. 

Laur has slung a quilt over his legs and crossed his arms over his chest. I shouldn’t care that he’s a pouting fool. I can’t decide why his scrunched eyebrows under that ridiculous dyed blue hair matters.

It doesn’t. That’s the truth. 

Something akin to sympathy or concern registers in the back of my mind. Feelings. This stupid excuse for a man is ruining my heartless image. 

It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have made this bargain with him. There’s no janitor waiting around these halls to clean up my emotional mess, so I have to deal with Laur myself. It’s for the best that we continue to play a united front. 

At least, that’s how I try to argue that my next words are more for him than me. 

“Phoebe. No last name. Just Phoebe is fine.”

Laur sits up instantly, surprise coating his features as he gathers his blanket in a heap in his lap and stares at me like I’ve repeated complete gibberish instead of real words. “You’re Phoebe the phoenix.”

It’s not a question. He’s tasting every syllable on that silver tongue. It shouldn’t matter what he thinks. It doesn’t. Yet…when he utters a name I haven’t used in the better part of a century like it’s a title meant to be worshipped or praised or never forgotten, I can’t completely ignore the way my chest warms a little too quickly. 

I should say something else. I should turn out the lights and tell him to go to bed. I should…

The power flickers and then cuts out completely, drenching us in darkness. 

Laur immediately scrambles to his feet, grumbling as he stumbles to get out of his blanket and manages to kick something with his big toe. I don’t move. There’s thumping and cursing coming from Laur, but nothing else. 

A sliver of moonlight sneaks into our room through the thick, grey curtains. We’re alone. It’s dark and we’re alone.

Laur doesn’t let fear quiet him. “Who do you think did it?”

The undead man can’t see me any better than I can make out his dark form in this room. If he was a full vampire, then I could use his specialized vision to our advantage. No, as we are, I need him to be quiet while I listen for any threats. 

My arm outstretched, I hold my hand at face level as I let flames break out along my fingertips. It’s not a lot of light, but it’s enough for him to see me raise a single finger to my lips in a motion of silence. Quiet. Somebody has cut the power on purpose. They want to catch us off guard. 

It’s probably that woman from the dining room yesterday afternoon. I can’t remember her name. All of the people here think too highly of themselves. They have ridiculous names to go with their posh demeanors. This one in particular had her hair piled on top of her head and a dozen roses threaded through it. She thought it was clever to hand out flowers to the rest of the gathered women.

I was foolish enough to take it from her. 

A thorn bit into my hand and a single bead of blood welled to the surface. I saw her nostrils flare. My exterior is perfect. I look exactly like Alyssiana Laur, but I’m no witch and no vampire. There’s no way to cover the smell of ash and lingering smoke that runs through my veins. Her eyes dipped right to my hand before I could excuse myself from the room. 

She knows. 

Maybe this isn’t about Laur at all. 

My heart thunders in my ears as I move to stand closer to the window. If this isn’t about Laur, it’s about me and they’ve been smart enough to attack at night. Magic still swirls through me, but a phoenix is tied to the sun. I won’t be able to change my appearance rapidly or keep a flame lit through the long night if I also have to run from a predator or engage in a fight. 

I hear the footsteps too late. They’re already in the conjoining room. 

”Get down!” 

I hiss the words at Laur, but he’s too busy staring at the door to pay me any attention. “Who’s there?”

My physical appearance can be changed at will, but there’s nothing I can do to reduce the effect physics has on me. I can’t move faster. I can’t stretch my arms beyond their limits and wrap them around Laur across the room from me. Instead, I’m rooted to the floor as the door splinters inward and he’s slammed backwards. 

His head cracks against the wall. There’s a smear of something that can only be blood as he slumps to the floor. I let the flames on my hand die. 

We’re trapped. 

“Make this easy, little bird.”

I know that voice. I’ve fulfilled jobs for that sultry voice. I will spend the rest of my days wishing I’d never met the owner of such an addictive tone. 


There’s a snap of fingers and the lights come back on. I blink against the sudden change, glaring across the bed at the man who broke into our room. He tilts his head to the side, taking in Laur’s prone body and my undressed state. 

“Didn’t realize you were getting paid for evening deeds, dearest.”

I bare my teeth at him, flames biting at my gums and reshaping my smile until I am sharper and deadlier than ever before. “Most mercenaries work at night, Jack.”

His black eyes flick between me and Laur once more. “Shouldn’t you already be done taking care of this job?”

I shake my head. “He’s the client.”

Jack’s depraved laugh rips through the room. “I wouldn’t have approved of that. Who gave you the mission, little bird?”

This is not the time or place for this conversation. Cassias Laur is a private man, but his estate is only so large. Eventually, someone else is going to realize that there was a problem with the power and come looking for the supposed master of the house. 

“I’ve been doing this long enough to take my own cases, Jack. Let me finish this one.”

Arguing with Jack is miserable work. The demon has the patience and wit to walk most people in circles. He’ll have me agreeing to something far worse if I can’t get him out of here quickly. 

He obviously has the same idea. Another snap of his fingers plunges the house back into darkness. My heart stutters. It climbs to my throat and demands to be released. 

I wouldn’t admit it to Laur, but I’m terrified of the dark. Phoenixes are terribly difficult to kill. It’s much easier to lock them up somewhere and forget the key. Jack knows that. 

He knows I dread the night. 

His cool breath caresses my ear. I don’t move. My skin crawls and sweat coats my palms, but I don’t dare move. 

There’s certain rules in dealing with Jack. He can’t touch me unless I make contact first. 

“Are you getting attached to your clients now, fire walker?”


Jack’s low chuckle seems to vibrate in my bones as he circles me. The man is more shadow than figure. The moon doesn’t dare peek in anymore. My vision is gone. He moves too quietly for my ears to pick up on the movements. I’m prey sitting pretty for my predator.

Terror winds its way down my spine like a centipede, weaving its writhing body through my nerves and pinning me to the floor. 

I was ready to deal with a witch to retrieve Laur’s heart. 

I don’t know if it’s worth going toe to toe with Jack. 

There’s a low moan from the other side of the room as Laur starts to come back to life. My foolish heart gives a hopeful thump, thump, thump. It’s a worthless reaction, though. Cassias Laur is a coward and a scam artist trapped in this house by the witch who took his heart. He isn’t a hero. He can’t save me. 

Nobody can really save me from Jack. 

Jack is what lurks at the edges of my nightmares. He is night incarnate. A blackened soul ready to reap the vulnerable with a cutting grin and curling fingers. He is the darkness made physical. 

He holds the key to my freedom and knows it. 

Unperturbed by Laur’s waking, Jack clears his throat. He’s centimeters from my face. If I waver at all in my current stance, we’ll brush together. 

“I was contacted to come retrieve my asset by the lady of the house, little bird. You can leave with me now or I will give her permission to deal with you as she sees fit.”

That damn woman in the dining room. She must have snitched to the real Alyssiana Laur. Any attempt to take the witch by surprise is now gone. 

There’s no good way to get back Laur’s heart without going straight through Alyssiana. I wanted to sneak my way into her world and tiptoe back out, but that option has been ripped out from under me. 

We’re completely screwed. 

“Don’t worry ‘bout me. You can go home. I’ll deal with her on my own.”

Laur’s words are slurred. He’s still on the floor trying to recover from the damage Jack’s arrival caused. 

“You’re a dead man,” I murmur, my words struggling to penetrate the consuming darkness. 

There’s a scuffle. Laur must be trying to push himself up into a seated position. “I haven’t lived in a long time. I’m willing to go down for this, but you don’t have to stay involved. Go back to your life, Phoebe.”

Fuck me. 

I would have. 

A day and a half ago, I would have wiped my hands of the money and the possibility to better my life in order to return to the relative safety of my previous lifestyle. Now, with my name on his lips and his pain my fault, I can’t just leave. Cassias Laur needs his heart. He deserves it more than anyone else. 

I won’t abandon him. 

Jack must sense my wavering loyalty as he leans close enough for me to smell the peppermint on his breath. “When Lady Laur is done with you, I’ll have a dark hole to shove you into, Phoebe,” he snarls the threat, my real name a weapon in this circumstance. “Don’t make me the villain, little bird. Come with me now and we’ll pretend you didn’t just try to make the biggest mistake of your career.”

The dark. 

That’s his promise. 

If we fail, Laur dies and I’ll be tortured to live out my extended lifetime in some mildewy pit deep within the earth. I’ll be down there long enough to forget the way the sun feels when it tickles my skin at the beginning of the day. He’ll keep me hidden from the world until my magic is dried up and my name is long forgotten. I’ll die a thousand times in the dark. 

Somehow, Laur makes it across the room and presses his fingers into my trembling hand. “It’s okay. Go home.”

I shake my head. If I leave now, Laur is dead. If I fail, Laur is dead. However, if I stay and best the witch, we both get a chance to live. 

It’s not fair to throw away his life to save my own. 

I may fear the dark more than anything else on this planet, but I won’t let it conquer me. Holding onto Cassias Laur, I send Jack away and accept my fate. 

Win or lose, I’ve made a decision and can no longer deviate from this path. 

Squeezing Laur’s hand, I let my head fall on his shoulder as the lights flicker on and the night continues.

Author’s Note:

Happy Saturday!

Thank you for making it to the end of yet another short story. I made a total of three versions of this story, covering the subject of vampires chasing different characters through the dark and creating intense fight scenes from thin air. None of it hit the mark of being scared of the dark, though, so I dug around in my phoenix story for a better lead. I hope you all enjoyed this character development and the official first time I’ve named Phoebe.

For anyone new to the blog this week, most of my stories have recurring characters. To follow along with Cassias Laur and Phoebe, you can check out my other stories containing them: Here for a Heart, Villain or Hero

As always, take a few more minutes to check out Bridgette’s story as well! Afraid of the Dark

Thanks for your continued support and come back next week for a story centered around a “deal with a devil.”

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.”


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!”



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:

Next week’s prompt: An interrupted journey

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