Friday, March 28, 2014
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Tate surprises Kenzie by showing up on her doorstep late one afternoon… Standing on her front step, he rang the bell and listened to her footsteps hurrying toward the door. The smile on her face forced him to catch his breath.
“Hey! What are you doing here?” Kenzie asked, kissing his cheek then stepping aside so he could come in out of the cold.
Curiosity got the best of her when he stood staring at her, his good hand still behind his back. Trying to look around him, he turned so she couldn’t.
“What are you hiding?” she asked, her eyes warm and inviting when he stepped inside and nudged the door shut behind him with his boot.
“I couldn’t help but notice you’re missing a very important component of proper Christmas décor,” Tate said, sounding all knowing and official.
“What could I possibly be missing?” Kenzie asked, looking behind her and sweeping her arm toward the living room that did look particularly festive, thanks in part to Tate. “I’ve got a poinsettia, a beautiful Christmas tree, garlands, pine boughs, sugary treats, and a blazing fire. Did you bring me
some chestnuts to roast? If you did, I’ve got no clue what to do with them, so you’re out of luck.”
Laughing, Tate raised his arm and held a bunch of mistletoe over their heads. “It seems to me this is the most important decoration of all.”
“Possibly,” Kenzie said, reaching out and looping her arms around Tate’s neck, pulling his head down to hers. Teasing and gentle at first, their kiss soon gained momentum until he dropped the mistletoe on the table near the door and she pressed as close against him as his thick coat would allow.
Taking a breath, she quickly unfastened the snaps on his coat and slid it off his shoulders, carefully over his injured arm, until it dropped to the floor. He tossed his hat on the little chair Kenzie kept by the door while a groan escaped his throat. He took in every feature of her face, the mouth-watering summery fragrance surrounding her, and the softness of the hot pink sweater she wore. Her favorite color currently matched the shade of her flushed cheeks.
Lowering his head to hers again, Tate wrapped his good arm around her waist and slowly backed her toward the living room without breaking the connection of their lips.
“I missed you,” he whispered against her mouth as he carefully guided her to the couch. When her knees connected with the edge, she sank down on the soft cushions, still holding onto Tate. He went down with her, ravishing her neck with sizzling kisses that made her whisper his name in a throaty tone, sending blood surging through his veins.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
I watch her with dull eyes that do not see her movements as she opens cupboards and finds a teapot, cups, and tea bags. I listen with deaf ears to her hum a Russian tune. I sit patiently with no patience sipping the tea I cannot taste. In silence, we sit. In silence, we speak without speaking. Marina’s life force wills me to feel her love.
And then she tells me her plan. “Maybe, I’ll stay with you awhile. Nothing back in Brooklyn right now.” I answer, mouthing words that I want to feel and yet cannot feel because I have closed myself off to the emotions of life, “Oh yes, please stay, Marina. I couldn’t bear all this alone.” I’m overwhelmed by her generosity, my loss, and the hidden truths lurking under the surface waiting to be revealed. Then the cordoned off person inside me breaks through all my controls again and unwonted tears erupt in a torrent of suppressed anguish. I am enveloped in her arms and her soothing voice whispers calming words as I try to regain the safety of stoicism.
Marina and I, sisters of a sort, sit together in my huge kitchen, in my huge house, sharing the huge hole in my heart as my tears pour down my face, flowing as if someone has turned on a spigot. Two small souls in a too-big kitchen of a too-big house silently wondering about the business problems of which his lawyer spoke using carefully chosen words somberly executed while his eyes burned with deep meaning. Problems that would have to be sorted out after I finished sitting “Shivah.” How can one cope with all of this? When will I wake up from this nightmare?
Eventually, it is dawn and I must sit on the wooden bench that signifies my mourning as memories cloud the present and I relive a life that is no more.
Friday, March 14, 2014
Mac leaned back in his chair and observed Rebecca, a fellow editor, as she walked in and sat down.
“So how is it to be back?” he smiled, knowing the answer.
“It’s hard to leave a newborn,” she sighed. “It’s even harder when the minute I get back to work,
Edward’s insisting we sign nothing but porn.”
Mac laughed, “Well, he tactfully called it ‘erotic romance’ but yeah, same thing.”
Rebecca rolled her eyes, “I hate Fifty Shades. Well, I hate what it’s doing to the industry. This hideously written book is being marked as a game-changer. I have to wonder if anyone who actually read the book said this. It was a repetitive and boring pile of crap. I want more literature. I was hoping to come back and do more children’s books and instead I’m ‘encouraged’ to sign porn.”
Mac spotted Kate walking past his office, “Katie, come in and say hi to Rebecca. She’s back from maternity leave and mad as hell.” Mac’s light blue eyes were on her; as usual, she heated up instantly.
A smile rose from his lips, crinkling those eyes set off by his dark, thick hair. She wished she could run her fingers through it.
Pull yourself together, she thought. She took a deep breath, walked in, and sat down.
“Good to see you back. You’re not mad at me, are you? Chelsea did great this morning.” Mac’s eyes were still on her, burning into her. Kate shifted in her seat.
Chelsea was one of Rebecca’s authors, Kate wondered if she should tell her that she had to drug her up. It looked like her coworker had enough on her mind; Kate decided to wait to share Chelsea’s fear of national television.
Rebecca shook her head, “It’s not Chels, though I do appreciate the update. It’s the memo Edward sent around this morning.”
“I didn’t see it.” Kate was puzzled.
“It only went to editors,” Mac began, “encouraging us to sign more erotic books. ‘It’s what the readers want,’ Edward insisted.” Mac tapped a pen on his desk, clearly impatient with his boss.
“Shocker.” Kate threw Rebecca an encouraging smile, “I’m sorry, but you know this will wane. At some point housewives will get tired of reading about red rooms and being tied up.”
Rebecca laughed, “You’re right, I know we need to jump on trends. It was one thing when we were trying to sign young adult after the Potter craze, but this takes the cake.”
“I know,” Mac said supportively, “but you know Kate’s right. Edward will lose interest once something else shiny pops up on his radar screen.”
Rebecca stood, “You’re right, Mac, thanks for listening.” She turned to Kate. “Glad it went well with Chels this morning, I’ll catch her segment online.”
After Rebecca left, Mac turned to Kate. “So,” he smiled a broad sexy smile that drew her in, “how did it really go this morning?”
Mac observed a tiny muscle flicker near her eye. It always happened when she was stressed. She’d smile, her poise never wavering, but Mac knew. He could always tell when she was feeling ready to punch someone.
“I had to drug her to get her to go on. Her manager told me that she gets nervous from time to time, but it’s nothing major. Nothing major my ass! She was in a full-blown meltdown and there I was, shoving a pill under the door.”
Mac laughed so hard, he rocked his chair back. “Katie, world class publicist and author rescuer saves the day, again.”
A tiny smile slipped across her face. Mac was right; she was often less of a publicist and more of an author 911. She shook her head. “I have to call her manager and tell her that she’s either here for the rest of Chelsea’s TV gigs, or I’m pulling them. I barely got her to go on air this morning.”
“I think as a general rule, all authors should be sedated from the moment we sign them.”
Kate stood up. “It sure would make my job easier.”
Mac’s laughter followed her down the hall.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
The Jonas Trust Deception
by AFN Clarke
AFN CLARKE is the author of 8 books, including the best selling memoir CONTACT, that was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award winning BBCTV film. His latest novel, The Jonas Trust Deception, is a Thomas Gunn thriller and follows the success of The Orange Moon Affair. Readers have called it “classy, complex and cunningly compelling” and a “powerful force in the thriller genre”. In solving the mystery of an ongoing conspiracy involving his old friend Morgan, Thomas Gunn, ex-Special Forces, takes an action so shocking and bold, that even his team fear he’s lost his mind. The question is, has he? To get a taste of things to come, here’s an excerpt from the book. And for more information visit www.afnclarke.com or the Amazon Kindle store.
There is something so totally desolate about sitting in a prison cell staring at the blank grey walls that, unless you’ve experienced it, you’ll never understand. There is a finality and hopelessness that is almost beyond comprehension. A despair that sucks at your soul. My salvation was that I knew that my stay here was going to be short-lived, but what the future held was one big question mark. I had the distinct feeling somebody had put a ring in my nose and was leading on a mystery tour with more questions than answers.
Left alone with just the usual sounds of dissatisfied inmates, clinking keys and slamming doors for company, I thought back to the frantic last few days.
Confusion would be an apt description of my state of mind.
What facts could I scramble together?
Several dead bodies at Morgan’s ranch.
A small but ruthless Mexican Mafia gangbanger, with the unlikely nickname of ‘El Cobra Poco’, who seemed as if he could be a strange ally.
And the mysterious Robert Sutherland.
What other questions remained?
There were many, starting with who would have wanted to kill Morgan? Everything went back to my request for her to investigate the financial dealings of the Griffin Trust and its Chairman Ted
How was the Mexican Mafia involved if what Sutherland said about Morgan working for him was true?
I could just lie here all night long and create imaginary scenarios, but that wouldn’t supply any answers, so I closed my eyes and concentrated on emptying my mind.
Sleep was what I needed.
It must have been two hours after the jail cell lights went out, that the goons came for me. Dragged me off the bed and frog marched me down the corridor to the back of the jail and down narrow stairs to a basement garage without saying a word. There was a nondescript cream coloured painter’s van waiting with the rear doors open, and I was unceremoniously bundled inside.
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Book Excerpt: (Chapter 2)
The brass doors opened behind her bringing with it an unexpected guest.
“I knew you’d come home.”
Onyx’ heart sank hearing him speak in that gentle voice. He always used that voice when he knew he was wrong; when he was trying to make her forgive him. It felt repulsively sweet now.
“She was just leaving,” Jade said in a firm tone as she turned to face him.
“Nicky, you brought a bodyguard with you? That hurts,” he sounded genuinely insulted.
“Goodbye, Philip.” Onyx said softly, suddenly lacking the confidence she just had.
Philip reached out for her arm, but Jade intercepted the action, grabbing him by the wrist and twisting it until he let out an almost inaudible yelp.
“You will not lay a hand on her. Not now, not ever again. If you so much as brush against her in a way I don’t like, I will break every bone in your body, starting with your pinky toe and ending with your skull.” She twisted just a little further.
But he didn’t lose his composure. He looked Onyx dead in the eye, “Quite a lot of bark for your little Chihuahua of a friend here, huh? Nicky, we don’t need all of this. This running away, the muscle, the hiding out, we are better than this. You know I love you more than anything in the world. Just come home, baby. I need you. It’ll be different, I promise. I’ll start going to therapy like you always wanted. You can even hang out with that crayon haired one. No questions asked. Just come home. What do you say? Come on, I need you.”
“Onyx, don’t you listen to him. Put the bags in the elevator, we’re leaving.”
Onyx hesitated, switching her gaze back and forth between the two. He looked so hurt, so broken up, she just wanted to leap into his arms and console him. For a moment, she could feel her heart ripping in her chest; she believed him. She believed he meant he would change and things would be different. She believed it and she hated herself for it.
Onyx rolled her bags into the elevator before she lost her nerve.
“Goodbye, Philip.” She said again.
“If you love her even half as much as you say, you’ll let us leave here. You’ll leave her alone and move on with your life. But keep the therapy bit, you need it.” Jade winked at him before joining Onyx.
As Jade released his wrist, he noticed a small green marking on her arm; a very familiar mark that he knew all too well.
The girls disappeared down to the ground floor, leaving Philip alone in his flower filled living room. He pulled out his phone and hit speed dial.
“She’s with the Order of Earth. Find out what family, find out who their Protector is, and find out now.”
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Urban Fantasy
Rating – PG – 13
More details about the author
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Chapter 1: Them Ol’ Paparazzi Blues
Someone called Jilly’s name, then the name of her band, Four Girls on Fire. At first, she thought she was dreaming – they’d just won the nation’s biggest talent show all over again, and from now on, life was going to be really amazing! - then her stomach turned over.
She disengaged herself from Rob, got out of bed and went to the window. Bloody hell, yes, down in the narrow cobbled street that fronted the guest-house. Paparazzi, sixteen or seventeen of them, all men, full of last night’s chip fat and strip-club testosterone, leering up at the net curtain like they could see through it. She swallowed.
The other girls had warned her about dating a member of a boy band, but only tongue in cheek. Twice the publicity, babes, sure you can handle that? She couldn’t help herself, though. Two years ago he’d been her hero and she’d been a nobody. Now they were equals.
“They’ve found us,” she told him.
Rob stretched and yawned. He discarded the bedclothes, picked up his boxer shorts and put his foot in one leg. “The press?”
“You don’t seem very bothered.”
“You were bloody brilliant last night, Jilly.”
“How did they know we were here?”
“I mean it. Outstanding.”
She realised she didn’t even like him much. “Did you tell them?”
“Wake up, Rob! It’s the press! I said the press have found us!”
He pulled on his boxers and put his arms round her. She disengaged herself, plonked herself at the dressing table and brushed her long brown hair, pulling halfway down as if it was full of knots. She was trying to stop herself shaking.
“Anyone could have told them,” he said. “It definitely wasn’t me, babe.”
“Put your clothes on. We’re leaving.”
“Why? They can’t get in here.”
She fished her bra from the pile of clothes on the floor and put it on. “We’re in the bloody Lake District, Rob. We’re supposed to be miles from anywhere. How did they find us so quickly?”
She looked round the room: the plaid curtains, the beds with valances, the 1920s lampshades, all the varnished wooden surfaces, so unlike the places she always stayed when she was touring with the girls. She’d fallen in love with it at first sight. She’d been drunk, true, but she’d never wanted to leave.
Rob pulled his socks and T-shirt on then looked at her. “You’re not frightened, are you?”
“They’ve probably got the place surrounded. And yes. Yes, I am frightened.”
“We’ll just call a taxi. We can be downstairs and in the car before anyone knows it.”
“I’m not bothered about us, Rob. I’m bothered about them.” Tights, tights, where were her bloody tights?
“Yeah, ‘them’. The photographers, journalists, whatever they call themselves. Them!”
He laughed. “First time anyone’s cared what happens to paparazzi. Anyway, what could happen to them?”
“Haven’t you been watching the news recently? Are you really that self-obsessed?”
“Hey, now - ”
“Four photographers shot dead in four weeks. Following Bobby Keynes, Zane Cruse, Mikey from Bad Lads Zero, Stallone Laine - ”
“No such thing as bad publicity, from what I hear. Not that you need it, girl, but it won’t hurt. Besides, they’re all douche bags, right?”
She pulled her dress on and smoothed the waist. She’d had enough now. She wanted out. Of everything. “I misjudged you, Rob. They’re still human beings.”
“No, they ain’t. Anyway, what are the chances?”
“I don’t want to think about it.”
He picked up the telephone. “Is that reception? Hi, yeah … Room …”
“Fourteen,” Jilly said.
“Fourteen. Could you get a taxi pronto for me and the shorty? And fetch us the bill for the room? … Yeah, we’re leaving … Yeah, all good things have to come to an end sooner or later … Yeah, we’re disappointed too.” He put his hand over the receiver. “She knows us,” he told Jilly. “It’ll be her that told the reporters.”
He put the phone down. “About fifteen minutes. Get your face on, gorgeous.”
“I’m not waiting for her taxi to come, Rob. Not if she’s with them. I’ll get my own. There’s a rank down the road. Come on.”
“What about your make-up?”
She rammed a pair of sunglasses on and picked up her travel bag. He followed her downstairs. They didn’t stop at reception. Rob reached into his wallet, pulled out four fifties and thrust them at Mrs whatever-she-was-called, the proprietress. “Keep the change.”
Suddenly, they were out on the street. Paparazzi to their right, shouting Jilly. Jilly take off your shades, Jilly flick your hair, Jilly wave, Jilly smile, Jilly stop, who’s that with Jilly, that’s Rob from Simply Boyz, Rob give us a smile, Rob –
She took off her glasses, grabbed Rob’s hand and turned left and accelerated. She almost changed direction. There was a loud crack and she jumped like she’d been hit.
Behind them, the paparazzi roared. One of them – a photographer, about twenty-five - lay prostrate and bloody. Four others photographed him, ten or twelve were in full flight, one was trying to get a signal on his mobile. No one was interested in Jilly and Rob any more.
Rob looked at them then at her. “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”
Jilly started screaming.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Excerpt from Deleted Chapter at a strange Paris shop. Fun, but it didn’t further the mystery enough.
Dark gleaming eyes watched her.
Black lips parted to show fearsome fangs.
Mesmerized, Theodora stared at the snarling leopard crouched and ready to spring.
Laughter erupted nearby. Paused on the threshold, Theo fought the answering smile that quivered at the edge of her lips. Instead, she pressed one hand to her heart, the other to her brow, and faux swooned against the doorjamb. “Save me. I will be devoured.”
“Save you from such a unique death?” Paul exclaimed. “Never!”
“Indeed, what poet would spare you such a devastatingly delicious experience?” Casimir inquired.
“Delicious for the leopard,” Theo scoffed, stepping into Deyrolle’s taxidermist shop. Underneath bowls of potpourri exuding rosemary, lemon, and lavender, she breathed a musty aroma of fur and feathers, a hint of chemicals. Kneeling in front of the leopard, she felt its sharp fangs and stroked its rough, spotted pelt. She wished she could feel the muscle ripple beneath the hide. How wonderful that would be—to stroke a live leopard.
Despite all the praises Theo had heard, this was her first visit to Deyrolle’s. She loved living animals and had had little desire to visit a shop full of dead ones, however unusual. Now that she was here, to her surprise, she felt caught in its spell. There was a strange blending of cruelty and in love the preservation of these creatures. Violation and honor. Still kneeling, she looked about her. Hovering above the crouching leopard, a crane soared on outstretched wings. A passageway opened to either side. In one, a baby elephant lifted its trunk as if sniffing the air. In the other, a huge king cobra rose, spreading his hood. Beside the winding staircase stood a mannequin in a dapper suit and striped cravat, topped with the head of a gazelle. Deyrolle’s managed to be at once charming, sad, and unnerving.
Theo stood and went to join the Revenants who had responded to Averill’s request to meet here. Casimir, Paul, Jules were gathered around a glass case near the elephant. They were dressed in descending degrees of elegance, aristocratic, professorial, and shabby country church mouse. Also present were les trois Traits—the three Hyphens, as Paul had dubbed them—three slim, dark-haired poets named Jean-Jacques, Pierre-Henri, and Louis-LeRoi, professor, student, and fledgling lawyer …
There was a bucket with three bottles of iced champagne on the floor beside them, and a fancy basket held crystal flutes. An attendant waiting behind the cash register had a towel draped over his arm, as if champagne were de rigueur on such occasions. Theo looked around for Averill and saw him descend the curving staircase that led to the next floor. Her heart trip-stepped at the sight of him. At first he seemed freshly scrubbed, almost boyish. His hair was smoothly pomaded, his linen gleaming white, and his suit neatly pressed. When he came close to greet her, she saw dark circles under his eyes. Too much studying—or too much absinthe?
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Chiku couldn’t help stare at the large bulge that was Rebecca’s baby-to-be. It made her reflect upon the gynecological exam Dr. Kessel had just given her. At sixteen, she couldn’t imagine being anyone’s mother, except maybe a chimpanzee’s. Rebecca was only fourteen, an eighth grader back home, a middle schooler. How could she be a mother? Yet even in wealthy well-educated America girls in their mid-teens were getting knocked up all the time, having their babies, and changing their lives in ways unpredictable and permanent. Not Chiku. Boys could go to hell.
“When was the last time you saw him?” Chiku asked.
“Two week. Three week. He ask me how my baby doing. I tell him, fine. He give me twenty francs. He always give me money.”
“And that was it?” Chiku gazed at Tim who was still holding all of the things she had given him from her buried stash. “What about Dr. Fisher? Do you know why he’d be in my dad’s house?”
Rebecca dipped her head in thought then gave out with a startled grunt as the baby inside her gave a hefty kick. “Soon,” she said, “Any day my Abasi.” Then she staggered against Chiku.
“You okay? Maybe she’s coming out now.” Chiku was aghast.
“No. No. He. Not yet. No water.”
“Well, you can’t stand here. You have to sit, Rebecca. In the shade.”
Chiku pulled the pregnant girl into the cooler cover of the banana tree. “You want water? Something to drink?”
Rebecca leaned against the tree rather than risk getting herself into a position from which she couldn’t rise. She panted, holding a hand against her belly, Chiku watching that hand move not of its own volition but due to the child inside raring to get going with life.
Not for me, Chiku thought.
Rebecca said, “I okay.”
“When the water break, then we know.”
“Know what?” Chiku asked.
“That the baby is coming,” Tim said. He placed his hands on his friend’s shoulders. They were trembling as if she were the one about to go into labor. “Honestly, Chiku, what do they teach you in Brookline, Massachusetts?”
“How to avoid reality.”
Chiku took Rebecca’s hand. It was cool and sweaty and on her ring finger she was wearing something that looked awfully familiar to Chiku. “Nice,” she said. “Amethyst. My color. My ring, actually. How’d you get it?”
“Your father give me.”
“Cool. It matches your dress.”
Chiku didn’t care that it was an old ring, one that she had either lost or forgotten some distant time in the past and that probably couldn’t even fit her fingers anymore. She just wondered why her father would have given this particular girl this particular ring.
“I think they kill him,” she said.
“What?” Chiku’s eyes darted from the purple colored ring to the black face of the Hutu teenager.
“They were mad mad.”
“Fisher. Your father. Dr. Kessel. They all mad. And the others.”
“What others?” Chiku asked. “Does Colonel Fundanga know?”
“Colonel Fundanga one of them,” Rebecca said. “I keep quiet. Bad enough in the camp. I don’t want to die.”
Rebecca let out a long breath, took in a deep mouthful of air, and let out her discomfort once again. Then she smiled at Chiku before saying, “They come for you next. You his daughter.”
Genre - Young Adult
Rating – PG
Ashra pushed past the blackness at the start of his memories, expecting deeper darkness. Instead, the colors shifted into shades of ochre and gray. Memories, older than his body, resided in his soul; memories of an Earth long since lost to them—a planet surrounded and nourished by water; images of tall buildings glistening beneath a benevolent sun, and of thriving cities filled with the bustle of humans; memories of quiet and intimate conversations beneath a silver moon, the same silver moon that now graced Malum Turris with its light, though a thousand years older and viewed only from beneath the protection of the dome.
She saw herself as he must have seen her, a much-younger icrathari, still hopeful for the future, never realizing that the Earth they had all known and loved was irretrievably lost. Had she ever looked that vulnerable? Had her smile ever been so beautiful, so filled with love as she looked upon—
“Rohkeus?” Oh, blessed Creator, was that stricken whisper her voice?
Ashra pulled back and stared at the human. Her mouth dropped open. Her heart pounded in her chest, its beat erratic. It couldn’t be. It simply couldn’t be—
She looked up at Tera. The other icrathari nodded.
Rohkeus’s soul reborn…in a human.
Ashra threw her head back and laughed, a despairing sound.
Elsker stepped forward. The sole male icrathari was slightly taller than the female icrathari, and dressed in a black silk shirt and linen pants. His silver hair was cropped short, and his light blue eyes were wide. “Rohkeus reborn? That’s impossible.”
Siri shrugged, her red gown shifting around her curvaceous frame. Her silver hair, cut short, framed her face. “Stranger things have happened.” Her pale violet gaze raked over the human. “At least he had the good sense to choose a pretty body.”
Ashra shook her head, the movement jolting her out of her daze. Her prince, her love, reduced to a human? Her slender fingers coiled into fists. Her golden eyes glittering, she pushed away from him, though her body trembled from the loss of his warmth. No, the human was not Rohkeus; he could never be Rohkeus.
Steeling herself against the gasp of pain that escaped from his lips as the anesthetizing effect of her kiss faded, Ashra rose to her feet with sinuous grace. “He is not one of us. Not anymore.” Nothing had been more devastating than losing Rohkeus to a human assassin. To see his soul reborn in that contemptible and weak race was an insult to the person Rohkeus had been.
“Should we turn him into a vampire?” Tera asked.
“Kill him. Set Rohkeus’s soul free.”
Siri seized Ashra’s hand before she could turn away. Siri’s lips, painted the same provocative color as her dress, shaped an O. “You’re not serious. How many people are offered a second chance at the love of a lifetime?”
A second chance? Her traitorous pulse raced even as her lips curled with disgust. “He’s human.”
“We can make him immortal—a vampire.”
Ashra swallowed hard. “But not an icrathari.”
Siri’s gaze fell. “No, of course not.”
“You can’t.” Siri stepped forward, placing herself between Ashra and the barely conscious human. “This is amazing. It’s never happened before—a soul reborn.”
“Rohkeus is dead, and I rule Aeternae Noctis.” She turned to Tera. “I told you to kill him.”
Tera hesitated for a fraction of a second, and then she shook her head. “I won’t do it, and neither will Siri or Elsker. If you want him dead, you’ll have to do it yourself.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jade Kerrion developed a loyal reader base with her fan fiction series based on the MMORPG Guild Wars. She was accused of keeping her readers up at night, distracting them from work, housework, homework, and (far worse), from actually playing Guild Wars. And then she wondered why just screw up the time management skills of gamers? Why not aspire to screw everyone else up too?
So here she is, writing books that aspire to keep you from doing anything else useful with your time.
Her debut novel, Perfection Unleashed, spawned the Double Helix series which has won a total of seven science fiction awards, including first place in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2012 and the gold medal in Readers Favorites Awards 2013. She is also the author of Earth-Sim and When the Silence Ends, which placed first and second respectively in the 2013 Royal Palm Literary Awards, Young Adults category.
She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with her wonderfully supportive husband and her two young sons, Saint and Angel, (no, those aren’t their real names, but they are like saints and angels, except when they’re not.)
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Fantasy, Paranormal
Rating – PG-13
Liam was losing his patience. “Aw, come on! Are you serious? You can’t want to ride this thing again!”
Instead of answering her older brother, Lilli remained in her seat as the Ferris wheel conductor looked on expectantly, hand outstretched and waiting for another two tokens.
The way Lilli’s skinny arms hugged her book bag while she stared blankly at the pressed metal floor of their “Fairy Land Caboose” made it hard for Liam to stay angry. The sight of her looking so dejected softened him enough to give the conductor his fifth set of tokens in less than 45 minutes.
Liam settled back into his seat just as the lap bar clamped down uncomfortably against his thighs.
“Lilli, say something. Why’d you drag me out here if you were just gonna sulk? I hate the carnival, you know that.”
“I know something… okay? Just… trust me. We have to stay here.” Her voice was so low he could barely hear her over the wind-up music that was blaring from the overhead speakers.
“Did Mom say something to you?”
Lilli responded to his question with silence and a barely discernable shake of her head back and forth. He tried again.
“Lilli! Did Mom…?”
“Yes,” she snapped.
They both fell silent again as Liam took in the latest weird thing of the day. Lilith Knight, or Lilli as she preferred to be called, had always been strange. Even when she was five, she could beat Liam at chess lazily, without even thinking about it. She would find things and give them to you before you asked for them. Before you, or even she, knew why. Up until recently, he thought she was just a freak.
No biggie. All little sisters are like that, he told himself.
It was only in the past few months that his perception of her began to shift, after her prediction that he would catch his new girlfriend, Krista, kissing his teammate Lance in the locker room after their championship game. At the time, he’d brushed off her premonition as meddling. Krista wasn’t even his girlfriend and his team was 1-1 with the whole basketball season ahead of them.
He’d forgotten her warning completely until two months later when he ran back into the locker room after winning the championship to get the jacket he’d left behind and immediately smelled Krista’s perfume. When he found them, two thoughts overshadowed the scene unfolding in front of him. The first was that what they were doing wasn’t really “kissing,” though he could see how a sheltered thirteen-year-old would describe it that way. His second thought was that Lilli was right; she was exactly right. He was so stunned by Lilli’s accuracy that he didn’t even bother to disturb them, leaving his new ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend to their business. From that moment, Liam understood that Lilli wasn’t just a freak, or more accurately, that she wasn’t a freak at all. She was special…gifted.
The sound of Lilli’s sniffling followed by the trembling of her body as she began to cry uncontrollably broke the long silence that had fallen between them. What the…, Liam half-mumbled as his mind swung from irritation to absolute bewilderment. Slowly and deliberately, Liam moved his palms down the front of his face as he fought the urge to shake the truth right out of her and end whatever this was. But he couldn’t. She’s so brittle already, he thought, without any idea as to why.
So instead, he reached out to envelop his sister in his arms, trying to soothe her and comfort her from some unknown force.
“Lilli, it’s all right. I’m sorry, okay? Don’t cry. Just… tell me what’s going on. Why are we here?”
He tried to wait patiently, to rein in the confusion and frustration that had been piercing through the calm day he had planned for himself when he woke up that morning, as cool and carefree as any sixteen-year-old boy. It was Lilli who had dragged him out of the house before he could even wolf down his second bowl of Honeycombs. “Mom said you have to take me to the carnival. NOW!” She had demanded.
He had started to head upstairs to launch his appeal when his eye caught his mother’s note on the refrigerator door. “Take Lilli to the fair. NOW.—Love, Mom,” it read. He knew that meant his mother had left the house early; there was no appeal to be made. Begrudgingly, he slipped on his sneakers and grabbed the car keys, all the while wondering if Lilli was still too young to be left at the fair by herself.
His earlier thoughts of abandonment brought him back to his sister’s form beside him. Not knowing what else to do, Liam simply held her tight as her convulsing turned to trembling, and finally, back to stillness. At the top of the Ferris wheel, she finally spoke.
“It’s over now, we can go home,” she whispered. But as impatient for answers and a reprieve from big brother duties as he was, Liam knew that it was not over. The emotionless tone in her voice scared him. It made him want to stay on the Ferris wheel he’d been begging to get off of a few short minutes ago. As the music died down and their feet got closer to the ground, he suddenly felt conflicting urges to stay where he was and to rush home to his mother. As the ride came to a stop, he suddenly realized with profound certainty that this was much more than one of Lilli’s “episodes.” Something was very, very wrong.
When Liam pulled his father’s green 2002 Saab in front of their small brick house, everything seemed as it always did—quiet and predictable in their modest yet comfortable home. They had lived in a much bigger house before his father died, but Liam never minded sharing a bathroom with his mother and sister. All the toys and trinkets that had mattered to him when he was a child were rendered insignificant the moment his mother told him that his father would never come home again. As he got out of the car and began to take the front steps two at a time, he noticed that Lilli had stopped at the tree stump his mother had cut down the week before. Sitting down, her eyes remained on the ground. Just as his mouth formed the shape of a question, she spoke.
“No, you go. I can’t see it again.”
Liam didn’t stop to ask what she meant. Whatever she meant, he was sure it was worse than he thought. He tried to hold back the swell of fear in his chest as he ran to the front door, but his emotions spun out of control the moment he tested the front door knob and found it opened—easily. They never left the front door unlocked.
When he stepped into the house, he actually felt the life, the person he had been, rush past him and out the door as his eyes took in the overturned, splintered remains of their living room. It was a feeling he’d felt only once before, when his father died. But what made it worse, what made it permanent, was lying in the middle of the floor, with its contents thrown everywhere. It was his mother’s purse, which had not been there when he left that morning.
“Mom!” he shouted as he raced up the stairs to her room. “Mom. Please!” he shouted again, but no one answered. In every room he looked, it was the same - scattered clothes, broken mirrors, and silence—a deafening silence that rang louder than the sound of his own shallow breathing.
If he took the stairs at lightning speed to make it to the second floor, an age could have passed during his descent. The entire house consisted of three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a small open dining area that you could see clearly from the front door. As he walked down the steps, he knew there was only one room left to check. His mind was frozen on what to hope for as his hand reached the end of the banister. If she wasn’t in the kitchen, she might have been taken, but at least there was a chance she was still alive. If she was in the kitchen, it was unthinkable.
Lilli’s words came to him just as he rounded the doorway to the kitchen.
“No, you go. I can’t see it again.”
He found his mother sitting with her feet planted on the floor, shoulder width apart, bright eyes open and cast to the ceiling, with a hole blown through the middle of her chest.
Liam braced himself against the door frame as he began to sob, the sounds seemingly emanating from a place far away from where he stood. He could not look away from the horrific image before him, the last image of his mother. He stood there with wide-eyed and tear-stained pain as the last measure of his youth drained from him like blood rushing from an open vein. When it was done, his body slid to the ground.
We are alone, he thought. There’s no one left.
Ever since his father had died, Liam lived in fear that one day he would lose her. Unable to tear his eyes away from her body, he could hear her vehemently denying that there would ever be a time when she wasn’t with them. “Never,” she would say.
Never, he thought, has finally come.
Though Liam had been staring at her body since he entered the kitchen, he had not seen the gun in her hand until he noticed a fly land on it. Years of training to keep the gun out of Lilli’s sight made him jump to his feet until he remembered that Lilli was still outside. He knew the gun well; it was his mother’s. She had taught him how to use it and to keep it out of Lilli’s reach when she was small.
At first his mind could not decipher the meaning of the scene before him. Was he meant to believe that she did this to herself? Why would the people who broke into their house ransack the place and then try to make it look like a suicide? But he couldn’t think straight, couldn’t figure out the logic or the answer to any of the crazy questions running through his mind. Why would she kill herself? He was sure the answers were obvious; he just wasn’t making sense. None of this was making any sense.
His confusion caused him to draw closer to her body. Kneeling down beside his mother, Liam took the lifeless hand that dangled at her side, the one that was not holding the gun. Though his eyes were still filled with tears, they were no longer breaking through the barriers of his lower lids. This momentary fortitude allowed him to have the courage to look directly into her face and see her open smile. The sight of it knocked him down and back into the base cabinets. She was smiling. She was smiling, he thought. She had known what was coming, and she was smiling.
Suddenly, he remembered his mother’s constant warning every time they went to the shooting range.
“Don’t pick up a gun unless you mean to use it. There can be no hesitation. Do you understand me?” she would ask him sternly. Liam knew Jill Knight was skilled at using a firearm. If she had a chance to draw her gun, no one could take it from her. The implications made him immediately sick and angry before their full meaning could even register.
As if retching the contents of his stomach into the kitchen sink made room for clarity, he suddenly understood the reason behind her smile. She had killed herself. She had done this to herself, on purpose. He threw up again in a wave of protest at the notion that she would abandon them, even as the resentment of her betrayal took root. When he was done, he didn’t want to turn around, didn’t want to face her.
How could she do this? She wouldn’t do this. She promised.
Holding himself up at the sink, his thoughts turned to Lilli. Is this what she saw?, he wondered, fighting a new wave of nausea. No wonder she cried like that. No wonder… Rather than try to sort out the conflict of thoughts and emotions inside him, he decided to check on Lilli and make sure that she remained outside while he tried to figure out what to do next.
As he peered over his shoulder toward the doorway, his eyes caught the folded cuff of his mother’s sweatshirt, which was turquoise save for the blood, and a little corner of white paper that was peeking out. He knew his mother hid things in the cuff of her sleeve all the time; it was one of the many old lady habits Liam enjoyed teasing her about. He stared at the white edge of paper for a long time, warring with his own feelings of anger and grief before simple curiosity forced him to bend down and retrieve it. As his fingers curved around the edge of her sleeve, he could feel something flat and hard inside. When he rolled down her sleeve to get it, the key to his gym locker at school slipped out before he could fully unroll the note. When he did, it unleashed a new avalanche of questions upon heartbreak over questions.
In his mother’s tiny cursive handwriting, the note read, ‘Go now. Protect her.’ Liam felt a new level of understanding peel back in his mind as he read her note again. He began to see the very real possibility that perhaps his mother had not wanted to do this to herself. Perhaps she was forced by the same people who came into their home. The same people who she wanted him to protect Lilli from now. Liam grabbed the key off the floor before rising to meet his mother’s eyes one last time. They looked so different from how they had even two minutes ago and held so much he couldn’t understand, couldn’t handle right now. He closed his eyes and softly kissed her on her forehead before running out of his home for what he knew would be the last time.
Liam closed the front door behind him and turned to find Lilli sitting exactly where he left her twenty minutes before. He had only two objectives at that point - making sure that she was safe, and getting the hell out of there. As Liam scanned the neighborhood for anything suspicious, he took in the studied quiet of his block. There was no one on the street at 11:23 am on a beautiful Sunday morning. Where is everyone, he wondered, suddenly wary of the neighbors with whom he had grown up. How had no one heard the gunshot? Why didn’t anyone call the police?
The tremor in his neighbors’ curtains gave credence to the sensation that they were being watched, but no one would step outside to help them. This realization came over him with a bitterness that cast itself over all the sorrow he held inside. They had all been witnesses, he guessed, but they would no longer be friends.
Watching Liam as he crossed the small front lawn to reach her, Lilli was struck by how much older her brother looked compared to just a few hours ago. Though his straight black hair hung as sloppy and heavy as it always did over his blue-green eyes, there was none of the playful nonchalance that usually characterized her brother’s disposition. His hair was slick, spiked, and jet black with sweat, and it framed the angles of his face in a way that made her easy-going brother look cold and menacing. But it wasn’t a surprise, Lilli could see everything Liam felt on his face—anger, sorrow, betrayal, and a ferocity emerging that she did not understand. Seeing her brother so unlike himself made Lilli’s face crumple in agony as she trembled under the weight of her own choices.
“I’m sorry, Liam,” she begged in between sobs. “I know you’re mad at me for not telling you. Mom told me that if I did, they would kill you. She said I had to be strong enough… strong enough to save you.”
“Shhh, Lilli. It’s all right. We’ll talk about this later. Don’t cry. Shhh.”
Lilli knew Liam meant his response to be soothing, but his words came out cold, devoid of any life or feeling behind them. When she looked up to search his face and understand the hollowness in his voice, she found him scanning the street with the same look of fierceness. Something in the clenched set of his jaw made her finally understand. He was determined, to keep her alive, to protect the only family he had left.
“We need to go,” he said, as he led her to the car.
“I don’t know, Lilli. I don’t know.”