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A Scary Encounter on the Flight Home

As you know, I’ve been in the States visiting family the last three weeks. It’s been a happy time spent playing with the nieces and then later huckleberry picking and road-tripping with my sister. It’s been a restful, healing time away from the Guardian and the interview that, I’ll admit, had me pretty frazzled. The last thing I expected when I boarded the plane to Heathrow for the return flight was an encounter with Magda Gardener. Here’s what happened. 

 

“I know what you’re doing.” I’m instantly wide-awake. For a second I don’t remember where I’m at, but then the flight attendant brushes past me in the aisle and I can just make out the sonorous buzz of a snore coming from the man in the seat behind me. The too warm cabin suddenly feels like the arctic, and my arms prickle in a wave of goose bumps. I feel like my insides have turned to ice and the urge to run is cut off at the pass. I can’t run. I can’t even breathe. And just as panic sets in, the feeling passes and I’m breathing again, gasping like I’ve just run a marathon.

 

 

A warm finger nudges the hair away from my cheek. “Did you think I wouldn’t figure it out?” A breath of a whisper brushes my ear. I recognize the voice and I’m covered in goose bumps all over again.

 

Slowly I turn in my seat to find the empty space next to me filled with Magda Gardner, who’s smiling down at me as though we are just two girlfriends having a chat. “I know what you’re doing,” she repeats in a low even voice. “Though I doubt that you have any idea.”

 

“I figured you’d find out soon enough.” I try to sound like I don’t care, like it doesn’t matter to me one way or another that the woman knows I’m interviewing the demon who lives inside her vampire Scribe. Seriously, you can’t sound anything but bat shit crazy if you say something like that out loud in casual conversation.

 

“And you didn’t think it might be wise to at least give me the heads-up?” Her voice is still ridiculously conversational, bestie casual.

 

“I had no way of giving you the heads-up when I don’t even know how to get in touch with you.” Not that I really wanted that information. I’d prefer the woman forget all about me entirely, but Magda Gardener/AKA Medusa, never forgets anything … or anyone if she has a good use for them.

 

Without being asked, the flight attendant delivers her a whisky in a cut crystal glass. I assume Magda is back here with me because she’s slumming from first class. The attendant delivers me a flute of champagne. Magda Gardener is a lot of things, but she’s not cheap.

 

She thanks the woman, then dismisses her. Once she’s gone back to the first class cabin, Magda lifts her glass. “To lies and the nasty truths they uncover,” then she sips daintily.

 

I go through the motions of joining her in a drink. Enjoying what I’m sure is very expensive champagne is impossible under Magda Gardeners scrutiny. “I didn’t lie,” I say.

 

“Was it Susan who contacted you?” she asks, running a well-manicured nail around the rim of the glass.

 

“It’s not like he could contact me on his own.” I reply.

 

“You should have told her you wouldn’t do it unless I knew.”

 

“He didn’t want you to know. Any good journalist wouldn’t reveal her source.”

 

“You’re not a journalist,” she says, “and he’s not a source. He’s a demon, a monster, and you’re way out of your depth of experience no matter how good you are at what you do.”

 

“I didn’t say I was good.” I was neither smug nor arrogant about a situation that scared the crap out of me from the beginning. I would have gladly turned down the offer if I hadn’t feared the consequences of doing so.

 

“Believe me, there’s no question of your abilities or I wouldn’t have allowed you to write my story and the stories of my people. “But the issue is what contact with him will do to you. It’s already affecting you, whether you’ll admit it or not.”

 

“You owe him. All of you owe him.” The words slip out of my mouth before I could stop them.

 

To this she simply chuckles and sips at her whisky. “I rather think it’s the other way round. He owes us, and he knows it. He’s got a helluva lot to answer for, in case you’ve forgotten.” She waves a dismissive hand. “Of course he loves Susan and Michael, at least as much as a being like him can love anyone. And I dare say he’s very fond of Reese and Alonso too. He wants them to think better of him. His existence is easier if they do.” She waves a hand. “As for what he did in the fight against Richard Waters, he has no choice but to obey Susan’s commands. You wrote the story. You know this.”

 

I stare at my barely touched champagne. I know better than to look her in the face. “You think that’s all it is, he’s just obeying commands?”

 

She doesn’t answer immediately, and for a moment I wonder if perhaps she’s chosen not to, but then she sighs softly, pushes the ever-present Ray-bans up close against the bridge of her nose and says, “I don’t know. But he and I have a long and unpleasant relationship. Neither of us has any real reason to trust the other. But don’t you think a demon like him would take whatever pleasure he could get in whatever from it took, even if he is a prisoner?”

 

“You think I’m the entertainment.” A cold shiver ran down my spine at the thought I’d too often contemplated.

 

“I don’t think anything. But I do know that no matter how completely he’s incarcerated, he’s still dangerous.”

 

“So what exactly is it you want me to do,” I ask. “It’s not like I wanted this job, but then that’s never mattered much to any of you, what I want, has it?”

 

Her lips curl in a smile that’s nearly sentimental, as though in her mind’s eye, she’s fondly recalling all of our encounters to date. “No. It hasn’t.” She downs the rest of her whisky then turns to face me, and like it or not, I feel compelled to look at her, even with the chill creeping over my arms and throat. “As for exactly what I want you to do, first I want this conversation to stay between us. He doesn’t need to know we’ve spoken. Second, I want you to limit your time in his presence when you’re doing this silly interview. I’ve already talked to Talia and she’ll be monitoring you more closely.”

 

“No.” The word comes out lacking conviction and sounding almost like a plea. “I won’t keep our conversation from him. He knows you’ll find out eventually, and I don’t want to be the one caught keeping secrets from him. It seems to me that could be a whole lot more dangerous than being above board.”

 

To this Magda laughs out loud and the woman sitting across the aisle from me looks up from her magazine in irritation. “Choose very carefully which monster you refuse,” she says. “He fears me, and he’s a lot of things, but he’s not stupid.”

 

“The way I see it, my choices are pretty thin on the ground,” I replay.

 

“He would possess you, use you up and spit you out in a heartbeat if he thought he could get away with it,” she said. “Don’t believe for one moment that he doesn’t know exactly what effect he’s having on you. He knows how you crave his company, even as you fear it. He knows how he worms his way into your fantasies, even though you try to deny it. He knows that the longer he drags out the interview, the more danger you’re in. He knows all of this, K D, and he keeps inviting you back.”

 

“I won’t lie to him,” I say, not even trying to hide the trembling that seems to have taken control of me. “If you want me to stop the interview, then you have to put an end to it. Otherwise I’ve made a commitment. Up until now, I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to, in spite of the uncomfortable, and dangerous situation it’s often put me in. I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, but I’m not about to make it worse by lying to him.”

 

The glasses slip down her nose, and I nearly dump champagne in my lap I’m shaking so hard. My heart feels like it’ll beat me to death in its mad hammering. I can just make out the flutter of golden eyelashes before she pushes the glasses back into place. “All right. But we’ll all be monitoring you closely, and if I feel it necessary to put an end to the interviews, I will, no matter what you, or he, want. Is that clear?”

 

“Perfectly.” My voice is little more than a whisper.

 

“Good. Now drink your champagne.” She watches until I swallow it back in a single gulp, wishing I’d had her whisky instead. “That’s a good girl, now get some sleep.”

 

It’s the announcement of the descent into Heathrow that wakes me. The champagne flute is gone and so is Magda Gardener. There’s absolutely no evidence that she’s even been there. I return my chair to the upright position and close the tray table thinking about the encounter. With all that’s been happening to me since I began the interview with the Guardian, I’m well aware that it could have easily all just been a dream. But I’m certain that it wasn’t.

 

Ironing is a Musing

What is it about ironing that’s so damned inspiring to me? I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. And yet, I always seem to get my best ideas while doing the very thing I dislike.

 

Me: I don’t wanna!

 

Muse: (Poking me in the ribs with her big stick) Stop winging and do it already. I don’t have all day.

 

Me: (Glaring at her over my shoulder as I set up the ironing board) I’m busy. I got stuff to do.

 

Muse: (A harder poke. This time in the stomach) Stop wasting my time. And get on with it. I’ve got places to go, people to inspire.

 

Me: (grabbing a very wrinkled shirt and slamming it down on the ironing board – after I catch my breath)

 

Muse: Now, about this story you’re trying to write. Just how does Michael become a fallen angel?

 

Me: (pouting) You tell me. You’re the muse.

 

Muse: (nodding at the sleeve of the shirt) You missed a spot.

 

Me: Right. ( ironing and thinking) Michael. He loses a bet. At Buried Pleasures. That’s how he does it.

 

Muse: Big deal. Lots of people lose bets. Most people lose bets. That’s gambling, that’s not a story. That’s boring. How does he lose? Who is he playing? What does he want?

 

Me: (carefully ironing the seam along a pair of trousers) He’s playing poker with Magda Gardener. He bets his wings.

 

Muse: (rolling eyes and giving me another poke) Cliché much? Pa-lease! Don’t waist my time. An angel losing his wings is the oldest ploy in the book. Tell me the story. Go over it again from the beginning. Out loud.

 

Me: (Starting another shirt) Well, what if he keeps winning, even though he wants to lose.

 

Muse: That’s better. That’s better. Tell me more.

 

Me: (Repeating more slowly the plot so far)

 

Muse: … Aaaaaand …

 

Me: (cramming a shirt on a hanger and grabbing for another – a little more violently than necessary) … And, I don’t know. I don’t know already! That’s my problem, isn’t it?

 

Muse: (Poking me hard in the ribs) Think! It’s what you have that brain for, isn’t it. You might try using it.

 

Me: (Grinding my teeth and rubbing my poor bruised ribs while offering up a few whispered curses to whatever writing god decided to send me the sadistic Muse from hell) Can’t I go for a walk to get inspired?

 

Muse: It’s raining, and you’ll just get distracted. Besides you have to do the ironing anyway. Focus. Focus! What’s more important to an angel than wings?

 

I iron another shirt. My head hurts from thinking. I drink some more tea. I iron another shirt and another, careful to get all the wrinkles out. All the while Muse simply watches me. At last she grabs a glass from the cupboard, pulls out the bottle of Glenmorangie and pours herself a generous amount. She sips and watches and taps the end of her stick on the floor.

 

I iron and iron and iron while I go over the plot so far out loud. I go over it again and again and again.

 

And suddenly it happens — that Eureka moment that, for some dumb-assed reason, comes only when I’m ironing.

 

Me: I have it! I know! (nearly burning my finger with the iron before setting it upright and pushing it away to pace the kitchen a couple of times) I have it! I know what’s more important to an angel than wings. I know exactly what Michael has to lose, and I know that once he loses it, he can never, ever get it back.

 

Muse: (Lifts her glass and salutes me, then downs the rest of the whisky) Good girl. (She never has to ask. She always
knows when I really do have it. She sets down her empty glass, pats my arm and smiles) Now finish up here and get busy. The story won’t write itself.

 

And just like that, she’s gone – off to poke someone else in the ribs and drink their whisky. My Muse may be sadistic, but she’s effective. And suddenly I don’t mind. I got exactly what I needed for the story and the ironing is done to boot.

 

An Unexpected Encounter with Magda Gardener

 

With Blindsided, book 2 in the Medusa’s Consortium series, set to be released September 29th, as you can imagine, my characters and their situations are on my mind a lot. That was never more true than this past ten days while I was in New York City, where Blindsided is set. I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was being watched, shadowed even, by someone who has a lot invested in me getting the story just right.

 

I hear that you occasionally encounter celebrities while walking in New York City, though I never have. I’ve never
encountered anyone I even knew – at least not until this time.

 

I was enjoying one of those lovely solitary city walks. I can combine the total pleasure of exploring with a little research along with the chance to be inspired by the walk, which is always a win-win. One of my favorite things to do is walk the bridges. I love to meander down to Lower Manhattan, slip into China Town’s manic hustle and bustle and then step back out of it onto the gloom and concrete of the Manhattan Bridge. Unlike the bright and airy Brooklyn Bridge that feels almost like it’s suspended above the water on gossamer wings, the pedestrian walk over the Manhattan Bridge is flanked by the noisy clatter and clang of the subway. There are no views off to the left, except for the frequent and noisy trains, sandwiched between traffic crawling over the highway above and steel girders plunging into the East River below.

 

 

To the right the river view is compromised by sinister stretches of high wire fence. I keep coming back not for the glorious views, but for the gated off concrete alcoves and pillars that mantle sections of the walkway in deep shadow and drive an overly active imagination like mind into sheer ecstasy at the story possibilities. While I adore the Brooklyn Bridge, it’s not a place of solitude, always jammed cheek to jowl with tourists. The Manhattan Bridge, however with it’s sparse influx of tourists and its tatty, seen-better-days but totally practical look, inspires me to darker, grittier thoughts.

 

I hadn’t gone very far this time until I had that prickly sense of being followed. Not much of a surprise on the darker, more sinister stretches of the bridge. Even in broad daylight, the place feels a little bit dangerous. Those slightly dodgy sections are the reason I love the bridge, the reason it inspires me. A train rumbled by to my left and the feeling intensified. I stepped aside and let two runners and an elderly Chinese gentleman pass me. I was safe here. No need to worry.

 

 

Photos are hard to take on the Manhattan Bridge because of the heavy cross-hatching of the wire fence, so imagine my delight when I came to a spot near the center of the bridge where someone had torn a hole in the fencing just large enough to get a good photo. I was so caught up in capturing images that I forgot all about that feeling of being followed until I felt a sudden chill crawl over me, and for an instant, I could swear I saw my breath rising in icy puffs. It was eighty degrees already, so I knew of only one thing that would put a chill in the morning, or should I say one person.

 

“Magda.” I didn’t turn around. I’m neither brave nor stupid. The air around me warmed and I felt the heat of her body as she sidled up next to me.

 

“KD.” She returned my terse greeting. I could almost hear the smile in her voice. “Thought I might find you here. I’ve heard you’re quite fond of this bridge. I rather like it myself,” she added. “And Desiree, well that bitch has some chilling tales to tell about experiences of this bridge back when it was being built. A walking history book of the city, that one is. Most of it she was there for.”

 

“I sort of suspected she’d been around awhile.” I risked a peek at Magda’s feet, surprised to find her in soft leather sandals, toenails painted a bright shade of coral.

 

 

She followed my gaze, then chuckled. “I do enjoy a little summer heat now and then. I don’t get enough of it in the Lakes.” Then she huffed out an irritated sigh. “Oh for fuck sake, KD, don’t be such a wuss. After all I’ve allowed you to write, if I was going to make a statue out of you, I’d have done so a long time ago, and I certainly wouldn’t be doing it in the middle of the Manhattan Bridge.”

 

“And the little chill?” I asked, still not looking at her. Frankly it took all the courage I could muster to confront her.

 

I felt more than saw her shrug. “Oh that’s nothing, just a friendly little reminder that you’re playing with the lives and the hearts of my people when you tell their stories.”

 

“They tell their stories,” I replied, still trying to keep my knees from shaking.

 

“Exactly my point. As long as you let them tell their stories, as long as you don’t try to rewrite them, you’re perfectly safe with me.”

 

“I’m not Susan,” I commented, finally getting up the courage to glance around at her. “I can’t make something reality just because I write it.”

 

 

“Can’t you?” She took me by the shoulder and turning me to face her, and for the briefest moment, I felt as though the bridge was collapsing beneath my feet. Then the world righted itself and I found myself looking into the face of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen, eyes hidden beneath a pair of Ray-Bans. She wore her long locks in the usual careless black ribbon. Honestly, she could have passed for a tourist in a calf-length turquoise sundress exposing porcelain skin that on any other person would have been sunburnt red in no time. Somehow I doubted that was a problem for Magda Gardener. “What do you think storytellers do, KD? They make what’s in their imagination real.” She offered me a quirk of a smile. “At least to everyone who reads their stories. And that’s a lot of power for one person to wield.” She nodded me forward and we continued on across the bridge.

 

Neither of us said anything as a train rattled by to our left, and when it had passed I asked, “is that why you came to me, to warn me about the power I have?”

 

“Maybe I just like your company,” came the reply. “Certainly I’ve been spending a lot of time with you lately. And anyway,” she added, “I can tell by the sound of your voice you don’t believe you have much power. That’s probably more the reason why I’m here, to remind you that you do. Taking it lightly is just as dangerous as wielding it in the way Susan has, in the way she’s been forced to. There are few things more powerful than the written word. The truth in it, the weight of it, even in fiction, can affect change in ways you never anticipated.”

 

I didn’t respond. She was preaching to the choir here. I always believed that the written language is one of the most powerful tools of civilization and that there’s living, breathing magic in it every time we put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) And sometimes that magic is manifest in words we never expected, or intended, to have any power at all.

 

 

Another train rattled by and a jogger with a Rottweiler on a leash bounded past. “The situation is about to get really hairy. It won’t be easy, what you’ll have to write from now on. You know that?” She said without looking at me.

 

“I know.” My pulse raced at the thought of what I’d have to write next. “I hope I’m up to the task.”

 

“So do I,” she responded. That wasn’t exactly the ringing vote of confidence I’d hoped for. Then she added. “I want you to tell the truth. That’s what I want. I’m not sure all of my people want that. Some don’t have truths they’re proud to share.” She huffed out a little laugh and I swear I saw frost around her lips. “I’m not particularly proud of my truth, for that matter, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want it told.” She nodded. “It needs to be told.”

 

“Even with what’s coming?”

 

“Especially with what’s coming.”

 

As we drew near the end of the bridge, there were more people to dodge, more joggers, a few tourists, several dog walkers. We walked on in semi-comfortable silence.

 

“I’ll be checking in,” she said. “You won’t be left to struggle on your own, at least not for too long.” She looked up and I noticed the black limo waiting at the edge Jay Street.

 

“One of Desiree’s?” I asked.

 

“One of my own,” came the reply. “Where I need to go is too far to walk. Good luck K D.” She turned and headed toward the limo without asking if I needed a ride. But then she didn’t have to ask. She knew I was walking the story, and it would be a long time before I was ready to head back to Penn Station.

 

I watched the driver get out and open the door for her, keeping his eyes straight ahead. For the briefest of moments, I thought I saw a snake slide from beneath the black ribbon and curl around her neck almost like a caress. Then she disappeared into the car, and I continued my walk, finding it a little easier to breathe as the limo drove away.

 

 

Don’t forget, you can still get your copy of my M/M Medusa’s Consortium novella, Landscapes for FREE by following the link. Also if you want a taste of the first Consortium novel, In The Flesh, you can follow the link.  Download! Read! Be happy!

 

A Sneak Peek at Blind-Sided

 

As you can see, I’m working hard on the final rewrite of Blind-Sided, and yes I am a heavy drinker, when I work. coffee — hot and cold, iced tea and water. The clutter, well that’s just a part of my creative process, that and being too tunnel-visioned to notice. All that aside, I’m so excited with the rewrite of Blind-Sided. In addition to our usuals, Alonso, Susan, Michael, Reese, Magda, there’s a whole panoply of new players, and wow, are they fun … and scary.  I thought this weekend I would give you a shameless selfie that involves a bit of a tease from Blind-Sided, book 2 of the Medusa Consortium Series, a tease in which the plot seriously thickens. For those of you who haven’t read book 1, In The Flesh, be sure to check out my book page for a preview. Enjoy!

 

Blind-Sided- Now that I have Your Attention:

I killed someone tonight, Michael. I just snapped his neck. It wasn’t about blood, it wasn’t about losing control. I knew exactly what I was doing. He hurt a friend of mine – tried to slit his throat, so I killed him without remorse.

Susan paused, device in hand. She decided it best not to give details that it was Reese she spoke of and that his throat actually had been slit. She didn’t want to alarm Michael, if Michael actually even read her texts anymore. She continued.

My regret now is the constant reminder that I’m no longer human in that I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Sadly, Susan discovered that vampires couldn’t hide away in shock and sleep through their depression and trauma like humans could. Neither did sedatives or anti-depressants or alcohol work. A good topping up of blood, and lucidity, in all its ugliness, returned with a vengeance. For a long time she sat staring at the text on her iPhone. She could call him, but he wouldn’t pick up. She’d tried to call him, and she got only his voicemail. She didn’t want to trouble Alonso until she could talk to Reese about why he was here. She certainly didn’t feel comfortable bringing her problems to Magda Gardener. As for Desiree, well she’d made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t sympathetic. Susan had never felt more alone, nor more envious of Reese, sleeping peacefully and well healed on the wide four-poster bed she could easily imagine him sharing with Alonso. Desiree had them taken to Hawthorne House, which was in a secluded area on Long Island that felt a million miles from the hustle and bustle of the city. Susan had never been there before, but when she arrived a whole new staff of familiars and employees were there to serve, and Millie had already arrived with Doctor Carlson.

Once Susan was certain she’d get none of the easy rest and oblivion that engulfed Reese, once she had changed out of her ruined clothes and showered, she insisted upon staying with him, even though there was little she could do. He was drunk on her blood and sleeping like a baby – as for the wound at his throat, it had healed into a thin pink ribbon of a scar that looked as though he had done it years ago.

“Because he’s the familiar and the lover of a vampire,” Dr. Carlson had said, “he already has better healing abilities than the average human, but, there’s no way he would have survived what happened without your blood.”

Without her blood, her precious fucking blood – all of which she had taken from someone else, including the one who loved Reese, the one who had loved her too, in a different way. She stood and paced, device forgotten in hand. She was a thief now, as surely as Michael was for Magda but, unlike Michael, her survival depended on thievery. She deleted the text and shoved her phone in her pocket.

“You’re beating yourself up.” She turned to find Reese wide-awake watching her pace. “I’ve seen Alonso do it a thousand times. It doesn’t surprise me that his fledgling would do the same, though I suspect you were prone to it before you ever met Alonso.”

He made an effort to sit up, and she came to his side to help. As she rearranged his pillows, he eased his way into a sitting position. He moved slowly at first, as though he wasn’t sure everything would work okay. She realized she’d never seen him without a shirt before. The man wasn’t quite as big as Michael, but he was as well muscled, muscles he’d gotten from hard physical labor. As he shifted and the duvet fell back to reveal the hard ridges of his belly, an image of him feeding from Alonso’s heart’s blood, of him wrapped in her maker’s arms left her breathless with its power and its passion. How could Alonso not love him? She’d always liked and respected Reese, and she knew the extent to which he had fought to make sure their plan for the recapture of the Guardian had worked. He was worthy of Alonso’s love. In every way, he was worthy. Once he was comfortably seated, he cautiously lifted his fingers to his throat, which he cleared experimentally a couple of times.

“How do you feel?” She carefully sat down on the edge of the bed, as though she feared she might break him, strangely close to tears at seeing him like this. At least this one thing she had done right. Alonso would not lose the one he loved.

“Fine, I feel fine. A bit of a blood hangover, but then you know, that’s not a bad thing.” A blush crawled up his newly healed throat, and he rearranged the duvet in his lap to cover the more obvious symptoms. A blood hangover meant a buzz no drug could possibly match, and it made both the giver and the receiver horny as hell when it was shared during lovemaking. Fortunately the exchange had been only one way. She had been in no position to experience anything but the horror of the situation. At least he had been spared that. She’d leave him to take care of himself in a minute, but first she had to ask. “Do you remember what happened?”

“Of course I remember,” he said. “You didn’t shield yourself when you fed me.” His face darkened. “You had other
things on your mind, like saving my life. Oh God! Oh
Christ!” He caught a deep breath and his pulse hammered wildly in his throat just above the scar. For a second she thought he was having some sort of seizure. “It’s Alonso. That’s why I’m here. Alonso’s been taken, kidnapped!” He tried to shove his way out of the bed but she held him.

“Fuck! What? Who kidnapped him? Reese, who has Alonso?” At last she gave up trying to be gentle and shoved him hard against the headboard. “Calm down, and tell me what the fuck’s going on. I can’t help until you do.”

She had just managed to settle him and get him to drink some water when his cell phone rang and they both jumped. It lay on the bedside table where one of the servants must have tossed it when they undressed him. With a move surprisingly fast for a human, he grabbed it and switched it on. The color that her blood had returned to his cheeks left. He nodded to her and put it on speaker.

“It’s as I suspected then,” came a rough baritone voice on the other end, a voice that sounded like whoever it belonged to was a two packs a day sort of person. “Reese Chambers is alive and well in spite of my Myrmidon’s best efforts.” There was a chuckle that sounded more like a cough. “Which is more than I can say for him, from what I understand. Seems like our little scribe of a vampire is not so jealous of her maker’s lover that she wouldn’t move heaven and hell and pull the head completely off my poor unsuspecting servant to save him. But then unlike you, Mr. Chambers, she has another lover. Don’t you Ms. Innes? An angel named Michael, am I right?” Before Susan could respond he continued, “Never mind. You don’t need to answer that, I know all about your angel. You see he’s now keeping your maker company as my guest.”

Susan’s blood turned to ice in her veins, and her nails cut half moon circles into her fisted palms. “Who are you,” she asked, “and what do you want?”

“You may call me Cyrus if you wish. As for what I want, all shall be revealed to you in good time. I’ll expect you to meet me at midnight tomorrow. I’ll let you know the place. Though there have been rumors, Ms. Innes, that you are a vampire who’s able to walk in the daylight. While I’m intrigued by the idea, I prefer the mystique and the magic of the midnight hour, don’t you?”

“It isn’t going to be easy for me to get to the UK and be where you are by midnight tomorrow,” she said.

The chuckle was like a clearing of the throat. “Oh I’m not in the UK. I’m plenty close for you to sleep late, have a nice snack and still be there on time.”

“How do I know you have them? How do I know you’ve not killed them already?”

Susan’s phone rang. She nearly catapulted off the bed and yanked it out of her pocket. “Pick up, Ms. Ennis,” Cyrus said. “Lover boy is dying to talk to you.” There was the laugh again. “Well not actually dying, and he won’t be as long as you two do as I say.”

With fingers icy even for a vampire, she connected. “Susan, don’t worry,” came the blessed voice before she could speak, the voice she’d been desperate to hear, “I’m all right, Susan. Alonso’s all right too. Cyrus has us safe underground so Alonso won’t be caught out and –”

One didn’t have to have a vampire’s preternatural hearing to recognize the sound of a fist slamming against flesh. She roared, and Reese cursed, then Cyrus came back on the line.

“I’m curious, Ms. Innes. If while you’re here, I slit your angel’s throat and restrain you just long enough that your only alternative is to let him die or turn him, could you do that? Could you actually turn an angel into a vampire?” He chuckled to himself. “I would think that would be the ultimate abomination to your god, wouldn’t you?” Susan’s stomach clenched to a painful knot. “Can you imagine such a thing as an undead angel cursed to roam the earth and feed on the blood of those he is sworn to watch over and protect?

“I’m retired,” she heard Michael’s voice in the background, clearly struggling to breathe through the pain of what must have been a gut punch. She swallowed back a sob of a laugh. One of the things she loved about the man was his sense of humor.

And then anger threatened to strangle her. “If you hurt him, or if you hurt my maker, I won’t rip your head off like I did the vermin you sent tonight. I’ll make sure you live long enough to suffer for your deeds.”

For a moment there was silence, for a moment she thought she’d lost the connection, and then Cyrus spoke again. “You may have the blood of your maker in your veins, woman, but he’s such a civilized vampire. You’re not like your maker at all. No, I see you have the barbaric heart of the vile bitch who owns you.” This time there was no chuckle.

“So you know Magda Gardener?” With stealth she supposed came from living among monsters, Reese had moved to her side, holding the throw from the end of the bed around his waist with one hand and shoving his phone close to hers with the other. It was then that she realized he’d been recording the conversation, and her respect for the man, which was already high, went up still another notch.

“Let’s just say she’s … an old friend of the family – one we’d do anything to reconnect with. Which brings me back to our little rendezvous, Ms. Innes. You are to come alone and –”

“She’s not coming without me,” Reese interrupted, pressing in close enough for her to feel his body heat and smell the
scent of him, so like Alonso, and yet so different.

“You may come if you like, Mr. Chambers, though it’ll do you no good. It is only that I wish to meet face to face to tell you my terms. You’ll not be allowed to see your lovers, neither of you. Nevertheless, you will come to me, and the two of you will bring no one else, and you will tell no one. You will most especially not tell Magda Gardener. If you do, I’ll make sure your lovers are delivered back to you in pieces much too tiny for you to resurrect with your vampire blood, Ms. Innes. Do I make myself clear?”

“You’re clear,” Susan growled.

 

Blind-Sided and Tunnel-Visioned

writing-imageIt’s crazy times at Grace Manor right now. Yup! You guessed it. I’m finishing up Blind-Sided, the sequel to In The Flesh. I’m at the “runaway train” part of the writing when the novel not only takes on a life of its own, but takes over  my life as well. I’m at that mad rush to the end in which my mind is on one thing and one thing only — finishing the book. Right now I’m eating, sleeping, and breathing Blind-Sided. My world has been reduced to the dilemmas of my characters and my efforts to gett them to the end of the novel in one piece with, at the very least some, HFN. Everything else falls by the wayside until I write those two magical words THE END.

Well, actually, that’s not the end, because then I’m bereft, but this year, I have NaNoWriMo and another novel waiting in the wings to help me through the empty nest period. In the meantime, if you’ve been noticing my absence on social media and wondering if I’ve fallen off the planet, I haven’t. And since you’re all so patient and lovely, I thought I might share just a little bit of Blind-Sided.

Please remember this is a work in progress. It’s the author’s equivalent of sharing the sonogram of the new baby. And yes it’s a girl! And a boy! And a demon and a vampire and … well you get the picture. Enjoy!

 

Blind-Sided Excerpt: Demon Dreams

Susan was running, being chased by Cyrus, his axe raised above his head ready to split her in half. He was gaining on her with every step. “It will do you no good, Scribe. Your angel is dead. Your vampire is dead. Your human is dead and the bitch, Magda Gardener, is captive where she belongs, to service the one she has wronged for all eternity. And you! You will serve him too, but you won’t be required to spread your legs for him like she will.” He roared with laughter, “Or perhaps he will require that of you too. Perhaps he might even give me the honors. But you, little Scribe, you will write the future world order, under his command.”

She stopped dead and closed her eyes. Better the axe than the future he painted, the future she would be forced to write. She waited for the blade to fall.

“There is no axe, my darling. Dreams are often filled with lies and deceit, the things we most fear, perhaps fear even too much to contemplate when we traverse the waking world.”

            She opened her eyes with a start and found herself in the Guardian’s prison, which was much more like a garden 431px-medusa_mascaron_new_york_nythis time. He chuckled softly. “I am, perhaps, influenced in my decorating by quality time spent with Reese Chambers.”

            She smiled in spite of herself. “You could do worse than be influenced by him.”

            “As far as humans go, he is, indeed a jewel, as you say. A pity human life is so very brief. I can scarce imagine how one such as he would evolve given a millennia or two.”

            “Sometimes a deadline is a good thing. Humans tend to do their best work under pressure,”

            “That is true. Time on one’s hands can, indeed, be an unwelcome curse. One does things … things one would not ordinarily do, when one is bored. Things one would regret, if one had an understanding of the transience of the moment.”

            “Ah, I didn’t know you were a philosopher too,” she said, half wondering why she was in pleasant conversation with the bastard, but then it did beat the hell out of being locked in a nightmare with Cyrus and his axe.

The Guardian chuckled. “I shall take that as a compliment, my dear Susan, a thing to be treasured in our … interesting relationship.”

It was only then that she realized where he was. He lay spooned against her back, gently stroking her hair. Her insides tightened in a strange combination of fear and pleasure – fear that the pleasure she felt would lead back to the obsession that had nearly destroyed all their lives.

“That will not, my darling Susan. My desire is but to comfort you and to lend what aid I can to your healing.”

In truth, his touch was making her feel better, but then that could have been just the suggestion of it, just the fact that she was dreaming it so. She lay quietly in his arms savoring his touch, thinking that perhaps she shouldn’t, and yet her doubts were not enough to compel her to action. It was a pressure in her chest, just beneath her sternum that she recognized as his desire to ask something either he feared would make her uncomfortable or he feared her response to. For a moment she wondered how she knew that. She had no memory of them discussing it. “What’s on your mind?” She asked. “You have a question, I can feel it.”

“Why did you not call upon me in the time of your great danger? You left me little choice but to seek out Reese Chambers and to simply battle for our lives. If you would have but called on me, I could have done so much more.”

“I didn’t think about it,” she replied. “I suppose because up until all that has happened with Cyrus, and especially kdgrace-itf-finalbecause I was a bit frightened by what happened at the Dark Side bar three months ago, I didn’t trust you.”

“You may trust me, Susan. You are the possessor of my being, and your body is my home. While it is true that it is also my prison, to be without it would be untenable.”

“Oh don’t you worry, I will most definitely call upon you the next time.” And she was as sure as she was of her own name that there would be a next time. She shuddered and pushed back against the Guardian’s warmth and found him hard. She froze. “Please don’t,” she whispered. “Please don’t ruin it.”

“I am sorry. It was unintentional. I am after all a male.” Before she could respond, he said. “I will leave you.” And she felt the sudden cold of his absence. Shortly after that she woke to find Reese sitting by her bedside holding her hand.

 

 
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