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Interview with Elise North Part from A Demon’s Tale

Welcome back to the second and final instalment of my interview with PI Elise North, straight from the pages of my WIP, A Demon’s Tale — the next novel in the Medusa Consortium series. I’ve refilled coffee cups and topped up the shortbread, and we’re ready to chat.

 

KD: Elise, if Magda Gardener, and now the Guardian, are any example of your clients, I would say your life is not dull. Can you give us a peek into what your client list looks like?

 

EN: Well, KD, living here in the Big Apple, I get my share of vampires, most with the same reasons for coming to a PI as any other client. Sometimes they want me to help them find a way to let those they left behind before they were changed know that they are okay, to give them some closure, but they still don’t feel it’s safe for them to put in an appearance all transformed. I do get some vampires wanting me to check up on their familiars. I’ve worked for witches and shape shifters. I’ve worked for a lot of ordinary folks who want me to investigate strange activity that would get them laughed out of any other PI’s office. Of course I’ve done some consulting with New York’s finest – mostly with Detective Paul Danson because he’s always open-minded enough to realize when he’s investigating something outside the box, so to speak.

 

Ghosts, yes. The strangest one calls himself the Historian. He lives in the basement of the New York City Public Library. I had to meet him after midnight when we met. I don’t mind saying that place is creepy after dark. Even more so when I had to virtually break in to talk to him. Most of the time, though,  I liaised with his PA, who is an actual sibyl straight from Delphi. Can you believe it? She’s immortal, so she’s well preserved, but flakey as an old paint job, scary as hell too, when she lapses into prophecy mode.

 

KD: Wow! You should write a book.

 

EN: Don’t be silly, KD, I think writing is kind of like music, there’s magic in it. I mean just look at Susan Innes. I’ll stick to being a gumshoe.

 

KD: As I mentioned earlier, you were hired by Magda Gardener to follow an incubus, a Mr. Sands, I believe?

 

EN: Oh yes. Daniel Sands was an interesting character. Seemed he only ever fed on women who’d never orgasmed, never killed any of them, just made them sing the Hallelujah Chorus. That job bordered on voyeurism almost from the beginning. Strange though, Magda Gardener had me tailing him for months, then all of a sudden she pulled me from the case telling me she had all the information she needed. I haven’t heard any more about him since I left the case. When he’s not in feeding mode, I think he keeps pretty much to himself somewhere in remote Scotland.

 

KD: And the Guardian is the first demon you’ve worked for?

 

EN: Oh I’ve investigated a fair amount of demon activity, but I’ve never actually worked for one before. Would have never thought I would accept one as a client, actually. They’re just too unpredictable.  The Guardian is a special case, though. Any other demon would not have found me so receptive.

 

KD: Having made an attempt to interview the Guardian myself, I shiver at the thought.

 

EN: He’s okay, G. Got a wicked sense of humour he’s still trying to figure out how to use.

 

KD: Wait a minute, G?

 

EN: Well I can’t go around call him the Guardian all the time. Especially when that’s just his last job title, not his name, and since he doesn’t remember his name, or maybe he’s just keeping it to himself, G does the trick and he’s okay with that. As for working for him, well he’s a great client, actually. He’s honest and above board with me, intrigued by the fact that he can’t affect me. I think he might have tried a bit in the beginning, but he mostly wanted my help for Susan Innes, his jailor, so to speak, whose dreams were being invaded by a megalomaniac god claiming to be her father.

 

KD: Poseidon?

 

EN: Yup. What a twat. Calls himself Richard Waters now. Wants to take over the world for Olympus once more and needs Susan Innes’s help to do so. Anyway, that was the original purpose of my visits with G. I found that I enjoy his company, and I’m totally intrigued with gaining some insight into what makes demons tick while I’m working for him.

 

KD: And have you? Gained any insight into demons?

 

EN: Well, I’m not sure, actually. He’s been very open in telling me about what it was like for him before he was imprisoned, and frankly I wouldn’t have wanted to be in the same city with him when he was free. One scary bastard, from what I here. But I think it’s changed him, being imprisoned in a woman – now vampire – he clearly sees as a dear friend, I would say he even loves, though he claims demons don’t feel love. I think, interacting with humans in such a human, such a vulnerable way, he’s evolving. That’s exciting to see. Oh I know you can’t trust demons. But frankly I don’t trust most people either.

 

I find that I enjoy his company, and I’d love to spend more time with him, but there’s only one way I can go to him and not have to go through either Susan Innes or Reese Chambers, who is Innes’s fledgling and the prison annex, as he calls himself. The only way I can visit G. privately is to fall asleep and dream. He has his own dream construct, and I can get there because dreaming does not involve magic.

 

KD: Thanks for stopping by today, Elise, and sharing a bit about yourself with my readers. I know you keep a busy schedule with important cases.

 

EN: My pleasure, KD, and the coffee was great! Since I was up all night working. I’m heading home hoping to grab some shut-eye and maybe dream my way into a visit with G.

 

KD: And the coffee won’t keep you awake.

 

EN: Never does. I guess even coffee’s magic doesn’t really work on me. Or at least not the bad insomnia juju.

 

KD: Come back any time, Elise. Maybe we can catch up later in the book.

 

EN: Sounds like a plan.

 

An Interview with PI Elise North from A Demon’s Tale

I’m very pleased to have the lovely Elise North to mine for coffee with
Elise this morning in the first of this two part interview, which will conclude next Monday, the 21st.

 

KD: Elise is a private investigator with some very unique gifts, and one of the main players in A Demon’s Tale, my present WIP, the next instalment of Medusa’s Consortium. Elise, I first heard about you when I read your reports for Magda Gardener concerning your investigation of an incubus, Daniel Sands. What got my attention is that you could get close to an incubus and not be affected by him. Tell us why that is

 

EN: “First of all, let me say wow, I love your coffee. I adore cold brew, and this morning I really need it. I was up all night searching for a wayward shape shifter. Anyway, never mind that. (runs her hand through short blonde hair, her large brown eyes sparkling like she’s about to share a good joke.)Of course I can’t talk about it at the moment. But to answer your question, yes, for some reason I can’t explain, nor can anyone else, magic has no effect on me, but I can sense its presence, even when no one else seems to be able to. Sort of like a sixth sense I guess you could say.

 

KD: Let me get this straight, you’re not affected by magic at all? Of any kind?

 

EN: Nope. Nada. But the flip side of that coin is that I don’t have any magic in me. I mean most normal people don’t, or think they don’t, but almost everyone has a smidge, even if it’s just a bit of intuition that’s uncanny from time to time.

 

KD: So there’s never a chance of someone slinging magic at you?

 

EN: Nope, never. The real risk is, for example, the strength of a vampire. I’m as vulnerable to strength and physical power, or a plain old handgun as anyone else. While I’m not vulnerable to demons, a person possessed will have super human strength. It’s the secondary stuff I have to watch out for. But I’ve trained for that. If there’s a physical threat, I mean. I spend a good bit of my leisure time at the little dive gym just down the street from my flat, or on the shooting range and I’m well trained in several martial arts. That’s a part of my job.

 

KD: So this being immune to magic but at the same time being able to see it, how does that work, exactly.

 

EN: Well for one thing, I do see dead people, like the kid in the film, though they almost always know they’re dead, and they come to me because they know I can see them, which means I might be able to help them.

 

KD: I take it you don’t mean help them cross over.

 

EN: Nope. Like I said, I don’t have even the teensiest bit of magic. They have to find someone else for that, if they’re in a traveling mood. They come for the typical PI stuff, you know, to find out if a spouse was cheating on them before they died, if said spouse might have been responsible for their death, to find treasure that was stolen from them, to get me to sort out things that only the living can sort. They’re only a small part of my business though.

 

KD: How do they pay you then?

 

EN: Well, as you might guess, KD, it costs a lot to hire me. You wouldn’t believe what I have to pay for insurance. I mean most insurance companies would laugh me out of their offices. So there’s that, but also, my line of work involves a lot more potentially dangerous situations most PIs would face. I mean most don’t have to worry that a less than well-behaved vampire might try to make them lunch or that they might get caught breaking and entering in the New York City library in the middle of the night to speak with a ghost. And I’m pretty sure none of them has ever had to deal with a demon possessed person trying to hammer their brains out. So while I do have a sliding payment scale when need be, generally speaking, I charge a lot.

 

Problem is that more often than not, I’m paid in assets that are only moderately liquid or in come cases not very. I get old coins, jewelry, even pirate treasure on occasion. I get a lot of stuff that has a high value, but can’t be easily converted to cash. One vampire paid me with a priceless Stradivarius. I actually kept that, even though I don’t play. At the time the legal hoops I’d have to jump through to place it in a museum without it looking like I’d nicked it were just too much to bother with. It didn’t seem right to take money for it. I figure some day I might know someone who can play, or maybe I’ll take lessons. Not likely, since I’m tone deaf. I wonder if music is a type of magic. Can I have another cup of coffee?

 

KD: Yes, of course.

 

I pour her another cup, and push a plate of shortbread across the table

 

KD: So I imagine you must have a lot of acquaintances and colleagues who can help you convert those sorts of things to cash.

EN: I have connections. Believe it or not a lot of them are in the police department,
mostly people who know someone who knows someone else they talked to while investigating a theft, but they have lots of connections at the NYPD. I try to stay on their good side.

 


KD:
Very wise, I’d say.

 

Check in with A Hopeful Romantic next Monday, the 21st for the conclusion of our interview, in which Elise North discusses her relationship with the Guardian and what it’s like to work for a demon.

 

A Demon’s Tale New Excerpt Celebrating 50K NaNoWriMo

While the novel is nowhere near done, I have finished the 50K required to complete NaNoWrimo, and I’m very excited to say that Magda Gardener’s world, and the world of the Guardian are just as much fun as they always are.

 

To celebrate my completion of NaNoWriMo’s 50K requirement, I’m sharing a new excerpt from A Demon’s Tale. I’d like to share with you a pivotal scene in which the two characters around which the novel revolves meet. The Guardian, you already know, but I’d like to introduce you to Elise North, whom you may remember from the first person accounts with Daniel Sands. Mr. Sands story is one for another time, however. For the moment,Private Investigator, Elise North, has a new client, and that client happens to be a demon. Please remember, this is a work in progress, so be gentle.

 

A Demon’s Tale: Chapter 7 Not What I Expected

“You’re not what I expected,” Elise North said when dear Reese shook her hand, and I felt her delicious warmth and the delightful callouses that told me the woman did more with her hands than research on a computer. She wielded weapons. I had not existed as long as I had without coming to recognize that exquisite feel. And in spite of my incarceration, in spite of the impossibility of my situation, I lusted, I lusted to feel the delight of her more deeply, knowing that even if I were free to do so, I could not. That she was somehow, inexplicably, beyond my reach made me lust all the more. All of the longing, all of the hunger that had driven me, that was my nature for as long as existence had been mine, rushed through me with such force that I forgot myself, only for an instant, and in my exuberance, in my lust, I threatened to overwhelm poor dear Reese. It was the sudden surge of blood in his veins, the shocked sensation of muscles forced to tense unexpectedly that brought me back to myself, brought me back to that horrid, human sense of guilt that haunted me these days more often that one such as myself would care to admit. And the lovely Elise North, though somehow she knew full well what I had just done, was not even slightly alarmed by my behavior. I, on the other hand was embarrassed, even humiliated that I had behaved more like a dog after a bitch in heat that a being who had seen eternity unfold and forgotten long ago exactly his own beginnings. Horrified, I whispered my apology to a confused, even slightly frightened Reese, who gratefully took the seat the dear woman had offered in front of her battered desk.

 

“I was unaware that the demon had any freedom of movement beyond the confines of Susan Innes’ body,” she said as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

 

And Reese, dearest Reese blushed at that, but he quickly added, “I suppose you could consider me the prison annex.”

 

“And you’re a vampire,” she said, holding Reese’s gaze. The poor man was very uncomfortable, for ours was both a secret and a cover-up of a secret. I encouraged him, then to ask the woman just how much she knew, for I too was surprised at the depth of her knowledge.

 

“I know a vampire when I see one.” She nodded outside her window to the deepening night. “Most of my clients contact me during regular business hours, though I once had a strange ghost who insisted I meet him at the stroke of midnight in the New York Public Library.” She shivered. “You’d be amazed how creepy the place is after dark.”

 

“You had a ghost for a client?” Reese asked. How I love the man’s delicious curiosity.

 

“Several, actually.”

 

“And how do they pay you?”

 

She smiled a very playful sort of smile that I found I liked very much, then she kicked her booted feet up onto her desk and leaned back in her chair. “Well, some of them have other, more valuable forms of currency, but it’s not that uncommon for them to have a large stash hidden away that no one living knows about. Often they want me to find it for a loved one or for a cause they meant it for before they died, and then it’s just a matter of allowing me to take my cut off the top.” Again that delicious smile, and this time I was certain it was aimed at me as much as dear Reese for the charming Elise North was as aware of my presence as if I sat in the chair next to Reese. “I really don’t appreciate being paid in pirate’s gold or heirloom jewels. While they’re incredibly valuable, you can’t imagine the hoops I have to jump through to turn them into a currency I can use.”

 

“Do you not wish to keep those that are more rare?” In my excitement to work with this woman, I completely forgot that dear Reese had not given me permission to use his voice, and he covered his mouth in surprise as though he had suddenly belched rudely in gentile company. While I apologized profusely, and silently, for the breech, the delightful Elise North only gave us a knowing smile.

 

“I’ve kept a few, even donated a couple on occasion to museums, anonymously, of course.” She righted herself and rolled her chair closer to her desk, folding her hands in front of her, suddenly all business. “Now, gentlemen, what can I do for you.”

 

This time without so much as a word between us, dear Reese stepped back and gave me control. “You wished to speak to Susan Innes enough to come to her book signing last night,” I made no effort to change Reese’s voice, when I was in control, it was always obvious that it was I who spoke. “While I am not entirely sure of your reasons for desiring to question dear Susan, I believe that you might be useful to me, and in being useful to me, you may do her a far greater service than I can say.”

 

Elise North studied us carefully, and I had no doubt that for some reason, this woman was looking at me, truly seeing me rather than Reese Chambers. The sensation was one new to me, one I found more disconcerting than I would have thought for one who had so longed for all things that wearing flesh entailed. It was at that moment I realized that the flesh I wore, no matter whose it was, I wore like a mask, a cover-up, a veil behind which to hide myself. This was not a discovery that pleased me, for it smacked of human frailty, of human neuroses, and I was, after all, not human.

 

Just when I was beginning to become uncomfortable with her intent gaze, just when I was tempted to step back and let dear Reese take control once more – such a cowardly act to consider under the circumstances – Elise North tilted her head slightly and drummed strong fingers against the desk blotter. “And Susan Ennis Doesn’t know that her demon is on a field trip.”

 

“I wish her not to know.” I said, “for I fear her response to what I must tell you if I am to help her. I have gained a modicum of trust from the dear woman, trust I value, and what is now my tale to tell could cost me that trust. But if it will ease her suffering, stop our foe from harming her, then I will do what I must. And I believe you may be of assistance because you cannot be affected by magic.”

 

She offered that teasing smile of hers again, and I found myself growing fonder of the dear woman by the moment. “By your foe, I assume you’re talking about Richard Waters, AKA Poseidon.”

 

Even with me in control of Reese’s body, we nearly fell off the chair. “You know about him?” In my state of surprise, Reese wrested control from me.

 

“I know about him, yes, and I know about how he and his son, Cyrus Rivers, or Polyphemus, I believe was his Greek name, tried to infiltrate our world to allow the Olympians to take control once more.”

 

“And you believe it?” Reese asked. Before she could answer he was out of the chair hands resting on the desk, looking down at her. “What do you know about it? Who told you?”

 

“My client’s name is confidential, as yours’ will be,” she said calmly, as though the fact a vampire glaring down at her didn’t bother her one bit. Even though dear Reese could not have glamoured her or used any vampire tricks on her, his vampire strength was not magic, and that combined with the strength of a demon inside him, surely the woman had to know we could crush her like an insect, and yet I smelled no fear on her. I smelled nothing on her at all.

 

“While I had in mind to question Susan Ennis,” Elise North said, nodding for Reese to sit back down, which he did, with a little extra encouragement from me, “I knew instantly she wouldn’t speak to me. I knew something other than the events of the Grey Goose Tunnel was bothering her. But I also knew instantly that if I waited long enough, her prisoner would find a way to contact me.”

 

“And it doesn’t frighten you, that I am a demon?” I asked, once again in control.

 

She blinked, and I realized that her eyes were the color of brown sugar heated just to the melting point. “Of course it frightens me. I know that while your magic may not affect me, the physical strength you lend to a human, let alone a vampire, could crush me or so much worse,” and then the wicked smile was back on her face, “that’s why I’m so expensive to hire.” She rolled her eyes. “You have no idea just how much my insurance premiums are.”

 

And once again dear Reese took back control with a belly laugh in which I utterly delighted. The feeling of good humor, of laughter, of a joke shared, all of those sensations are new to me. As Susan Ennis often tells me, I need to work on my sense of humor, and yet Elise North, I understood, though I did not know how that could be, since technically the woman was by far more human, more mundane than any I had ever meant.

 

“Tell me what you need from me,” she said again when the room became quiet.

 

“The sea god has found a way into my dear Susan’s dreams, I fear, and try though I might, I cannot protect her from him. He tells her lies, he tells her she is his daughter, he tells her that her mother was his lover, and I am forced to watch helplessly as he torments her. It is only the witch Glinda who is able to free her, and I do not know how.” I blurted all of this out as though I had vomited up all of my shame and horror onto her desk.

 

“Wait a minute, Glinda, as in the Wizard of OZ, that Glinda?” she asked.

 

“So I am told, though I do not know this pop culture reference and I am assured that this is but the name she shares with others while keeping her true name secret.”

 

“That makes sense,” the dear woman said, and her brilliant eyes held my gaze and studied me as though I sat there naked and shed of Reese Chambers’ flesh.

 

The planes of her face became like granite as she stared and stared and studied and studied, and I, in my nebulous place inside Reese Chambers, squirmed and writhed in my discomfort. For one who has lived an eternity, it is strange that a matter of a few seconds can seem longer still, and yet so it was as we waited for Elise North’s response.

 

“You want me to infiltrate Susan Ennis’ dreams and drive Poseidon out?”

 

“You are immune to his magic, as apparently I am not. Or if perhaps you could find this Glinda and we could work with her to find a way to shut the sea god out.” I said.

 

“I don’t see how I can do any of this without Susan Ennis’s permission,” she said. “Besides, dreams aren’t exactly magic. They’re much harder than magic. I have no idea how I could get inside someone else’s dream, even if I am immune to the magic happening there.”

 

“What about a succubus? I know you’re immune to her magic, but is there some way she might be able to help you?” Reese asked.

 

She shook her head. “She can’t infiltrate my dreams because what she does is magic.”

 

“Can you infiltrate mine then,” I asked without thinking. “Susan has always visited me in my dreams, for it would have been a violation for me to visit hers. I visited Reese only in dire need of his help, feeling that he would understand the violation, which he has. But Susan is my home, her dreams are only open to me when she comes to my dreams. There is an overlap that I cannot explain, and yet it exists, perhaps because of our unique circumstances, but perhaps you could infiltrate my dreams, Elise North, perhaps that is our way in.”

 

She cocked her head and her short pale hair was like a halo around her face in the harsh florescent lighting. “Infiltrate a demon’s dreams? And how do you propose I do that?” There was no judgment, no accusation in her voice, only curiosity.

 

“Through your own dreams, of course, for that is how Susan enters.”

 

She stroked her chin and pursed her lips. “Well, I do dream very vividly. I’ve even had some luck with lucid dreams. Perhaps that’s due to my immunity to magic, I don’t know, but I suppose it’s worth a try.”

 

It’s NaNoWriMo Time with an Excerpt from A Demon’s Tale

Yup! I’m actually doing NaNoWriMo this year, and very excited about it I am too!  This is the first time I’ve participated in a couple of years. For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, which is every November. The challenge is to write a 50K word novel in a month. While my novels are always well over 50K, to be able to get that much done in a month means enough momentum to carry on to the end.

 

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in NaNoWriMo several times when my schedule has allowed it. Those times have resulted in Body Temperature and Rising, book One of the Lakeland Witches Series, The Tutor, which is a contemporary erotic romance, and a SciFi novel called Piloting Fury, which I’m still rewriting and deciding upon a home for.

 

This year I’m writing another novel in the Medusa Consortium series. This novel is a story readers have asked for, it’s the Guardian’s story, A Demon’s Tale. With the Guardian’s permission, here is a rough excerpt from Day One of NaNoWriMo and the prologue of the novel. Enjoy.

 

Guarding Her Sleep: Excerpt from A Demon’s Tale

He watched her sleep, something that he did every night, something that, until very recently, he had enjoyed immensely, for there was always the possibility that when she slept, she would dream, and perhaps in those dreams, she would visit him.  Truly, he treasured those visits. They were a time of getting to know her, of learning to understand her a little better so that he might become a more suitable companion, might better realize what behavior would be most pleasing to her.

 

In truth it was only in dreams that his constant, though unavoidable, presence was not a violation, however unintentional that violation might be. In the beginning, it mattered less, in the beginning when he was still angry at her for what she had done to him. But the anger was nothing compared to the mourning at the loss, her loss, what she had done to herself because of him. Mourning, such a very human experience, one of which he could not have imagined himself capable. And yet he had mourned, had hated it, had raged against it, that thing that made no sense to him, that loss that was so needless, that terrible, irreversible loss for which, in his solitude, to his horror, he came to realize he was fully to blame.  Blame had always been a thing he had thrust upon others, never a thing he had felt himself, never a thing he could have understood until she did what she did, until she made the sacrifice she had made. Because of him.

 

It was in dreams that he had slowly come to realize his need for her forgiveness. It was in dreams that slowly she began to give it. It was in dreams that, for the very first time, he found himself wondering at his true nature, doubting just how well he understood it even after so very long. It was in dreams that he could sooth her, comfort her, and he knew better than anyone just how very hard she battled to heal, to learn how to live now that she had been changed, to come to grips with her own losses and to fight for the protection of those she loved. The knowledge of what she brought to him in dreams, of the weight she bore in no small part because of him meant the guilt that he thought he could never feel was his constant companion driving him to seek redemption in pleasing her, in being useful to her. The irony of it all was not lost on him – a demon seeking redemption. How often had he wondered if perhaps he only dreamed such insanity. And yet when she came to him in dreams, he wanted nothing so badly as to be redeemed for her sake. When she came to him in dreams, he believed that perhaps in time, she would forgive him and come to feel more kindly toward him.

 

Yes, he had anticipated her dreams, longed for them and now, as he watched her sleep, he fervently hoped that she would not dream, at least not that kind of reality wrapped within a dream that had brought her to him. For to his horror, dreams were the one thing from which he could not protect her. The very thought made him frantic, made him rage, that he was so helpless against a violation greater than any he had ever committed in all his years. When these dreams came upon her, he could not free her, he could not protect her, he could only watch impotently while her worst nightmare grew into a reality he could not stop.

 

That the one who had come to her aid seemed as invisible, as incorporeal as he was
did not ease his worry, for the one who called herself Glinda was unknown to him. While everyone believed her trustworthy, he did not know her, he did not understand how she was able to pull his dear Susan from the depths of the nightmare when he, who was her constant and intimate companion could not, when he, whose power Susan and her companions had called upon with confidence could only watch her suffering. Who was this Glinda? Who was she that she could stand against the gods themselves and why did he find that even as he was grateful for what she had done for his dear Susan, he hated her that she could do for her what he could not.

 

Interview with a Demon: Instalment 10

Chapter 10 Choices and Connections

(Links to the rest of the interview at the bottom of the post)

 

The Guardian was silent, lost in thought. I waited, holding my breath, for the part of the story I knew changed everything, changed the lives of all those involved and so many more besides, including my own. I was just about to be very rude and prompt him, like a child waiting for the ending to a bedtime story, when he released a long, unnecessary breath and spoke.

 

“There are pivotal moments, K D, moments to which we can look back with the understanding that but for what at the time, might have seemed the most logical of choices, we could have changed everything by simply making a different choice, or perhaps no choice at all.”

 

“You’re speaking of the choice Susan made?” I asked tentatively.

 

“Of course I’m not speaking of the choice Susan made.” There was an edge of irritation in his voice that made the fine hair along the back of my neck bristle. “Have I not already said, Susan had no choice? This much you must understand if you’re to ever comprehend the story I’m telling you. Susan had no choice, no more than Annie did nor any of those who came before her, no more than Michael himself did, and he an angel fully clothed in the grace of his god. You see, my power has always been to be the maker of choices. Or viewed in a different way, the remover of choices. Yes, that perhaps is a better description of who I am, of what I’ve done.

 

“When Susan came to me that night in the crypt at Chapel House, she could have done nothing else. Her arrival was fated to her from the very moment she set foot on the premises. What I didn’t then understand, and certainly she didn’t until much later, was how she would free me. For you see when she arrived at the crypt, she brought her laptop. I thought at the time it was a strange thing to have done, though it truly didn’t matter. She seated herself on the floor, with her back against the wall. Her poor body shook as though she were a blade of grass caught up in a storm. I drank in her terror and her determination as she wrote, fingers trembling over the keyboard, and I read her words.

 

The narrative unfolding before me was a wonder I could have scarcely imagined. You see, there was no magical key, no hocus pocus she was obliged to speak, no potion or incantation that would set me free. My jailor had been very thorough in securing my bonds. But what my dear Susan did was a thing Magda Gardener – oh she went by a different name back then – could not have imagined when she imprisoned me. Susan simply wrote the opening of the rusted narrow gate that blocked off the lower, more treacherous, passage at the back of the crypt. She wrote herself into that narrative making herself both figuratively and literally my liberator. I lingered close to her, my excitement rising, with the realization of who she was, of what she was. Oh, of course I was not physically bound behind that gate. Such a thing could have never held me, but Susan had, in her magic, used the opening of that gate in her tale as the method of my release. You see, hers was the power of the written word, a power she could not yet completely comprehend.”

 

Here the Guardian paused only briefly. I was startled to discover he was breathing heavily, as though the excitement of the tale he told might overcome him. I quickly reminded myself that he didn’t need breath, that once again I was assigning to him human characteristics. Then with a tremor up my spine as I realized the assigning to him of human traits was the very trap all of his lovers, his victims, had fallen into. That brought with it the realization that he was suddenly much closer to me, and I felt his presence moving over my skin like fingers caressing.

“Stop it,” I managed, my own breathing suddenly accelerated nearly to hyperventilation. “Please stop it.”

 

His withdrawal was so sudden that I felt as though my skin were being ripped off. The groan which he offered was one of pain, not one of arousal. Once again his image became visible. He turned his back on me and walked to the edge of the beck, then sat down abruptly, cupping his head in his hands.

 

My own feelings were a roil of confusion, arousal, sadness and fear. I waited, struggling to catch my breath quietly, unobtrusively. But when he didn’t return his attention to me, I gathered my courage and asked in a very small voice, “Do you want me to leave?” His response was abrupt, startling.

 

            “Susan said later that what I did to her, what I did to all of them was … rape,” he spoke the word as though it were bitter on his tongue, and my insides clenched tight at its speaking and all it conjured in my head. It disturbed me deeply to realize that not long ago, I might have agreed with her, and now I was no longer sure. But what he said next made me even more uncomfortable. “It was, you know? The way I took her, the way I took them all. What else could it have been?”

 

“Isn’t that a … human response?” I couldn’t keep my voice from quivering as I spoke. “I mean, to think of it, of what you did, as … that?”

 

“Of course it’s a human response, for you see, Susan, at her very core is still human. Even that horrible creature, Desiree Fielding, is still human in her deeper nature. The succubus, some of Magda Gardener’s other more exotic minions, even Magda herself, though they have never been human, they … attach themselves to humans, to humanity, because … I suppose because they feel a need for connection they would not now otherwise have, as far removed from their original context as they are.”

 

“Is that … is that what’s happening to you?”

 

His laugh was so bitter I hardly recognized it as such. “I have not … attached myself to humans. It seems I’ve been attached to them by Susan’s fatal act, by what was, in earnest, her only true choice in this whole tale I tell. You must understand, being prisoner was not my choice, and while I have endeavored to make the best of the situation in which I now find myself, I would not have chosen it. For what you cannot see, what you cannot begin to understand, my dear little scribe, is that I battle every day against my nature. I battle every day to find a way to balance the love I bear Susan, Michael, and now Reese and his vampire against what I would do to them, to those they love, if I were at liberty.”

 

This time the slight chuckle was more bemused. “There, you see, K D, I am now assigning to myself the very human traits I have warned you not to.” Another slight chuckle with a shake of his head and he continued. “Susan has given me more liberty than she must, in some cases far more than that with which she is comfortable. I find, however, that it is less the liberty I crave than it is those connections of which we speak, the intercourse with other beings, even that horrible succubus.”

 

My own laugh was a burst of relief as much as anything. “I’ll be sure to tell her
that when she brings me back.”

 

“Please to. I delight so in irritating her.”

 

Once again we were silent. It was not a comfortable silence. I knew what was to come, and I knew that the Guardian would not gloss anything over for my own protection. I suppose a part of me hoped he would do what so many of the more conservative storytellers did and “close the bedroom door,” so to speak. Susan told her story with open, honest candor, and I’m not ashamed to admit, I found myself drawn to the Guardian, fatal though any attraction to him would be. But I knew only too well, that he lived for, in fact he fed upon that attraction, that sexual act, and I doubted he would spare me anything.

 

“Do you wish me to?” He asked. I jumped at the realization he was once again closer to me than an embrace, close enough to read my thoughts. “Do you wish me to spare you the details, KD?”

 

I shoved up from the chair, which I found myself once again inexplicably sitting in and stumbled to the edge of the beck, hoping for a bit of breathing room, or perhaps hoping he would take the choice out of my hands. But he moved away. I wanted to berate him for once again invading my thoughts, but I doubted he’d really had to in order to understand the emotions racing through me, the fear, the desire, the loathing of what I knew I could not help but feel in this voyeuristic act I was about to commit. I took a deep breath, which unlike him, I very much needed, and then I took another and looked out onto the beautiful Cumbrian night, which was no more real than the chair I’d just been sitting in. “I’m here to record your story. Isn’t that what a scribe does? You tell it as you need to, and I’ll write it.” I had an overwhelming urge to turn and face him, but he took away that possibility by moving behind me, close behind me, and resting his hands on my shoulders.

 

“Then I will not be gentle, KD.” I felt his breath against my ear. “I will be as painfully honest as I must. If I had not believed you capable of hearing my tale, capable of recording it in an unbiased way, I would not have asked you here into what I know is a very compromising situation. But you’re trembling. For that I’m sorry. I’ll give you a moment.”

 

From a long way off, I could hear Talia and Reese arguing, an argument in which my name figured frequently.

 

I took yet another deep breath and opened my eyes. “I’m ready,” I said, and the voices receded.

 

The Guardian guided me back to the chair and said softly, once again close to my ear. “Then I will begin.”

 

Links to Previous instalments of the interview

 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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