News From Outer Space

Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe

Now available on Amazon for Download

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Coming soon… Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe – WPAD Science Fiction.

Also NOW AVAILABLE from WPaD…

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We are Writers, Poets and Deviants, AKA WPaD.

We are an independent publishing group made up of writers who collaborate on thematic anthologies to raise funds for MS research.

We meet on the internet to share ideas and challenge ourselves to write in different genres. The stories and poetry we compose are compiled into books, which are sold to help raise funds in support of group members who live with MS.

To date, WPaD has published eight books, with a ninth already in progress.

Books by WPaD:

Deviant Universe (science fiction ~ published in 2017)
Creepies 2 (horror ~ published in 2015)
Goin’ Extinct (apocalyptic ~ published in 2014)

Tinsel Tales (holiday ~ published in 2013)
Dragons and Dreams (fantasy ~ published in 2013)
Passion’s Prisms (romance ~ published in 2013)
Creepies (horror ~ published in 2012)
Nocturnal Desires (erotica ~ published in 2012)

pepper2017

#NanoPoblano, #ScienceFiction, #WPaD

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe

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Coming soon… Strange Adventures in a Deviant Universe – WPAD Science Fiction.

From the creative minds of the members of WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants) comes

Strange Adventures From A Deviant Universe

With stories from Michale Haberfelner, Marla Todd, Lea Anne Cutler, Mandy White, Diana Garcia, James Cooley, David X. Hunter, Jason Kemp, Debra Lamb, Samantha Nocera, James Turley, Chris Benedict, AND Skeet Beecham.

Cover by Jason Kemp

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Coming soon. Stand by for lift off (and cats.)

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Proof of Life on Mars!

Vampire Maman’s 2017 Fall Reading List

New mystery series, paranormal romance, old favorites, and great short stories… I’ve got it all in my 2017 Fall Reading List. Scroll down some fun fall (and even Halloween) book suggestions. This list contains best sellers and some hidden gems. This is my off the top of my head short list. Like I said, there is something for everyone. Happy Reading.

Unfortunate Souls (Book 1) (Unfortunate Souls Series)

By Jade M. Phillips

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Unfortunate Souls (Book 1) is the start of a new series for Jade M. Phillips, one of the princesses of paranormal romance with suspense. The author warns us that the book contains mild kissing and cursing — and some mild violence — and is meant for readers fourteen years of age or older.

That said, this is a fun book, carried by first person viewpoints, first Ruby’s, then Guy’s. The tale is told in a modern English; the viewpoint characters are up to carrying the plot. I’m not going to thumbnail this book for you, since it is the start in a series where love may not be mortal, nor hate.

If you enjoy Young Adult or New Adult fiction, and want a quick moving story with all paranormal and suspenseful elements imaginable come in to play, you’ll enjoy this first book the series — and by inference, its sequels.

 

Creepies: Twisted Tales From Beneath the Bed

A WPaD Anthology

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– A desperate father, on the run with his daughter reveals a terrifying truth about his child…
– Who is the bogeyman, really? Hear the real story – directly
from the monster himself…
– A tiny burger joint along a desert highway – it appears to be a refreshing oasis for a traveling family… or is it?
– A psychic investigates an apparition of a little girl and uncovers a shocking tale…
Enjoy these chilling stories and more in
Creepies: Twisted Tales From Beneath the Bed.
This collection of short stories is a fundraiser for Multiple Sclerosis, in support of some of our writers who live with MS. For each copy sold, a portion is donated to MS research.

 

Creepies 2: Things That go Bump in the Closet

From the twisted minds of Writers, Poets and Deviants (WPaD)

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Prepare for terror… and a few laughs as well.
– An exterminator meets his match in a family’s attic…
– A cuddly toy with a disturbing origin is all the rage…
– A boy’s survival of a deadly accident turns out to be more curse than miracle…
– A man asks a vampire for a favor and gets more than he wished for…
– A strange device collects and stores the rage from people bent on revenge…
– An exquisite chess set in an old pawn shop is more than it seems to be…
– A WW2 bayonet carries an evil history…
– An ancient vampire struggles with life in modern society…
– Something is alive in the outhouse…

Enjoy these chilling tales and more in volume 2 of WPaD’s popular Creepies series.
But leave the lights on…

 

The Poe Shadow

By Matthew Peal

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I love the writing of Matthew Pearl. It isn’t always easy but it will transport you to another time with his language and story lines. He takes you back in time, not by today’s culture, but really back in time. If you like Poe, and history, and a bit of romance, and a lot of mystery you’ll love this book.

“I present to you . . . the truth about this man’s death and my life.”

Baltimore, 1849. The body of Edgar Allan Poe has been buried in an unmarked grave. The public, the press, and even Poe’s own family and friends accept the conclusion that Poe was a second-rate writer who met a disgraceful end as a drunkard. Everyone, in fact, seems to believe this except a young Baltimore lawyer named Quentin Clark, an ardent admirer who puts his own career and reputation at risk in a passionate crusade to salvage Poe’s.<br><br>As Quentin explores the puzzling circumstances of Poe’s demise, he discovers that the writer’s last days are riddled with unanswered questions the police are possibly willfully ignoring. Just when Poe’s death seems destined to remain a mystery, and forever sealing his ignominy, inspiration strikes Quentin–in the form of Poe’s own stories. The young attorney realizes that he must find the one person who can solve the strange case of Poe’s death: the real-life model for Poe’s brilliant fictional detective character, C. Auguste Dupin, the hero of ingenious tales of crime and detection.<br>In short order, Quentin finds himself enmeshed in sinister machinations involving political agents, a female assassin, the corrupt Baltimore slave trade, and the lost secrets of Poe’s final hours. With his own future hanging in the balance, Quentin Clark must turn master investigator himself to unchain his now imperiled fate from that of Poe’s.

 

Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman

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Norse Mythology is Neil Gaiman’s own take on traditional Norse tales. Thor, Odin, and Loki are all there getting into trouble, making mischief, saving their friends, dealing with their families, falling in love, and facing loss. The book is assorted related stories so you can take it in small chunks if you want. I read this while reading other books – a break between if you know what I mean.

 

Two Nights

by Kathy Reichs

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A lot of you might know Kathy Reichs from her Bones Series. I love the books but don’t like the TV show. Anyway, now that you know where you are… Two Nights is a well written start of a new series. I can’t wait for the next book. You won’t be able to put it down.

Meet Sunday Night, a woman with physical and psychological scars, and a killer instinct. . . .
Sunnie has spent years running from her past, burying secrets and building a life in which she needs no one and feels nothing. But a girl has gone missing, lost in the chaos of a bomb explosion, and the family needs Sunnie’s help. Is the girl dead? Did someone take her? If she is out there, why doesn’t she want to be found?

It’s time for Sunnie to face her own demons—because they just might lead her to the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

Lost City of the Monkey God

By Douglas Preston

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Yes, this is the Douglas Preston who writes the Pendergast books with Lincoln Child. This is a non-fiction adventure about finding a lost city, treasure, and finding something more dangerous than most fictional villains.

In 2012, author Douglas Preston joined a team of explorers searching for Ciudad Blanca (“The White City”), a legendary ruin hidden in the dense jungle of eastern Honduras. To this point the city – also known as “the Lost City of the Monkey God” – was literally a legend; while various hucksters and hoaxers had claimed to have discovered the abandoned metropolis, no credible evidence had ever been presented, and its very existence remained shrouded in doubt. In addition to the objective hazards of tropical disease, wild boars, and the deadly fer-de-lance viper, locals stoked the mystique, describing various curses awaiting would-be discoverers. Don’t pick the flowers, or you’ll die.

But this team had an advantage that previous searchers had lacked: LIDAR, an advanced laser-imaging technology able to penetrate the dense jungle canopy – just enough – and return detailed elevation profiles from which subtle, man-made anomalies could be identified. Almost immediately, two major sites emerged, their scale and architecture indicating a civilization to rival another local, more famous power, the Maya.

The announcement had consequences. The fledgling Honduran government, having gained power through a military coup, sought to use the discovery to bolster its status with the population, while the academic community ripped the expedition with accusations of Indiana Jones-style exploitation and shoddy scientific methods, cries which could be uncharitably interpreted as sour grapes. Encroaching deforestation and the prospect of looters created urgency to conduct a ground survey, and the team ventured into the wilderness and all the hazards that awaited, including an unexpected and insidious danger that cursed the team well beyond their return home.

The author of over 30 books, including number of bestselling thrillers co-written with Lincoln Child, Preston knows pace, and he packs several narratives into a taut 300 pages. Indiana Jones criticism aside, the story of the discovery and exploration of the ruin is solid adventure writing, and he walks a fine line in dealing with the archaeology community’s response, reporting on the bases for their criticism where they chose to provide it. And by invoking Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, Preston speculates on the mysterious, sudden demise of the White City and its inhabitants, drawing ominous parallels between their fate and possibly our own. Lost City is a tale that manages to be both fun and harrowing, a vicarious thrill worthy of a place on the shelf next to David Grann’s The Lost City of Z. –Jon Foro, The Amazon Book Review

 

More scary reading:

The Feeder

by Mandy White

The Feeder gives brutality a new meaning…

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Victims horribly mutilated, with parts missing and inserted in their mouths…

An aspiring actress-turned-prostitute falls victim to the killer, leaving behind a grieving twin obsessed with revenge.

Warning:
Graphic violence and scenes of mutilation. Some readers may find the content of this book offensive. Read at your own discretion.

Biography

Mandy White is a Canadian author who resides on Vancouver Island, British Columbia where she is living her dream of being one of those weird, reclusive writer types. She primarily writes fiction in the horror genre, often featuring Canadian characters and locations. She is founder of the WPaD group (Writers, Poets and Deviants), best known for their charity anthologies.

Published works include:

The Jealousy Game
Non-fiction – A guide to dysfunctional relationships where excessive jealousy is present.

Avenging Annabelle
Fiction – A thriller about a distraught father who seeks revenge on his daughter’s abductor.

Dysfictional: Short Stories for Twisted Minds
Fiction – A collection of Mandy White’s short stories, including the novelettes, A Feast Not So Fancy and The Immigrant.

The Feeder (April, 2013 release)
Fiction – A thriller told from the point of view of an individual whose twin sister is brutally murdered, sparking a gruesome and bloody vendetta.

Creepies: Twisted Tales from Beneath the Bed by WPaD
Fiction – A horror anthology featuring two of Mandy White’s stories along with a collection of chilling tales from the talented writers of WPaD.

Passion’s Prisms: Tales of Love and Romance by WPaD
Fiction – A romance anthology featuring two of Mandy White’s stories along with a collection of romantic tales from the talented writers of WPaD

The Immigrant
Fiction – A Sci-fi/comedy novelette about an alien with extremely poor hygiene who comes to Earth to genetically engineer a new food source. (Featured in Dysfictional)

A Feast Not So Fancy
Fiction – A horror novelette about a loner who finds himself paralyzed and at the mercy of his hungry house cats. (Featured in Dysfictional)

Zombie Cuisine
Fiction – A short story told from the point of view of a zombie who encounters a lost love in her search for sustenance. (Featured in Dysfictional and Creepies)

The Creators by M.W. Sharpe and Mandy White
Fiction – An alternative origin of the species story based on various metaphysical theories.

WPaD Publications

WPaD Publications featuring stories from Juliette

The Crystal Cave

by Mary Stewart

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crystal_Cave

The story of Merlin of the Arthurian legend. This is followed by The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment. Well written and magical the story brings Merlin to life in a way no other book has done. I read this so many times my paperback copy fell apart.

 

And for a fun light romance…

The Girl Who Knew Too Much

By Amanda Quick

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When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool…

The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, a scoop that Irene couldn’t resist—especially since she’s just a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag. But now Irene’s investigation into the drowning threatens to tear down the wall of illusion that is so deftly built around the famous actor, and there are powerful men willing to do anything to protect their investment.

Seeking the truth, Irene finds herself drawn to a master of deception. Oliver Ward was once a world-famous magician—until he was mysteriously injured during his last performance. Now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel, he can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago…

With Oliver’s help, Irene soon learns that the glamorous paradise of Burning Cove hides dark and dangerous secrets. And that the past—always just out of sight—could drag them both under…

reading

This should keep you busy for a while. There is something for everyone on this list. Check my past blogs for other book recommendations. I have a big pile of books I’m working on now.

Morning at the Vineyard

Of course you could always read my short story collection “Morning at the Vineyard.” Also keep reading my blog – start from the beginning. I have posted hundreds of witty, mindful, and interesting blog posts and short stories to keep you amused, amazed, and enlightened.

Happy Reading,

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World

Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World

(Published as author Marla Todd)

The end of the world had come and gone a long time ago. Of course I wouldn’t dare remind Captain Sandy of that extraordinary fact. He stood in the basket of the airship, hands on the control, the tails of his jacket blowing in the wind.

When the end of the world came the evil and the damned were gathered up and taken down to Hell. The pure and righteous were led up to Heaven in a golden white light.

That left the artists and writers, along with a lot of musicians, wine makers, computer programmers and antiques dealers. Of course there were others, but nobody that lacked a certain amount of creative or innovative spirit. One must have spirit and imagination to survive when the world ends without you.

It worked for me. Well, at least most of the time.

I honestly have to say, the world had become way too serious. I adjusted my goggles and scarf as I looked down on the tire fire that had been burning for the past 100 years. Adjusting the leather hood on my cat, I took him out of his basket to take a look. My five year old son Aaron stood on his toes to get a look as I held tight to the back of his jacket. I must have been a sight, boy in one hand, cat in the other.

Life was an adventure to be savored and enjoyed. It was a destroyed world being built up by those of us with visions of beauty and wonder. Captain Sandy always said this was Heaven. Of course I never told him otherwise. It was Heaven to be in the arms of my husband at night and feel the touch of his skin on mine, that is until I’d run my hand over the deep scars on his back. I called him my fallen angel. He would just laugh and kiss me as only an angel could kiss. Maybe it was Heaven for him since he was now dead, but I will never know unless I die too and find him there.

Once when I was younger my brother and I found some old movies in where everyone at the end of the world were driving big trucks and dune buggies as they shot anyone they came across. There were zombies and crazy fucks of all sorts fighting for the last clean water. It seemed they had unlimited amounts of fuel and bullets. No word of steam, solar and silent airships.

My brother and I laughed at the stupidity of it all. That was not our world. Ours was a world to create without hesitation or critical review. Our poets were considered as important as our politicians. Our sense of style always outweighed our sense of practicality. At least we kept telling ourselves that – all of us did as we banded together trying to give off an air of hope and strength. We created our own world going back to a time that didn’t really exist, where all things were possible and the modern world was still a beautiful dream.

Captain Sandy asked me what I was thinking that could have me looking so serious.

I told him and he just shook his head.

“Life isn’t a theater play like you make it out to be my dear. There are dangerous things out in dark areas of stench and smoke that would enslave us and make us into meals if they could. You’ve been protected in your leather and velvet bustle dresses and fanciful thoughts. It’s a good thing to be ignorant of the world but it is dangerous in ways you can’t imagine.”

“Captain,” I said, “you forget that the shadows took my husband. I take flights of fancy so I won’t fall out of the sky and die of sorrow.”

He turned and gave me a quick smile. Despite the dark pattern of scars on the left side of his face the Captain was still a handsome man with a dazzling smile. All the women were quick to notice him.

“Why are you alone Captain?”

“I’m not.”

“No wife or children?”

“I had a wife. She vanished when the world ended. I never knew if she went up or down or just vanished to dust. Who knows. The bitch could still be around somewhere.”

“So you’re alone,” I said.

“Just free of my wife.” He said nothing else then took off his hat and tied his long prematurely silver hair back with a ribbon he’d pulled from his coat pocket. “So, did you like movies back in the time before?”

I nodded. Of course I liked movies. Most of them were gone now. Rare stashes of films could be found and if we were lucky we’d find something to play them on.

Captain Sandy smiled a rare smile at me. “Sometimes I’m floating along above this all, all of this and I start thinking about Blade Runner and then my mind goes to Casablanca or off to Princess Bride then to In the Heat of the Night. I can run them all in my head, every line, every scene, every music score.”

I told him I did the same. We tend not to talk a lot about the time before the end of the world, but occasionally it comes out. We can’t deny our past. We just can’t help it.

“What did you do before, you know, the end of the world?” I asked the Captain point blank.

“I was a high school physics teacher. Physics and engineering to be exact. What did you do?”

“I produced reality TV shows. The last one was for MTV. Did you ever see Love Bytes?”

He laughed. “That was you? All of my students watched that show. Geeks and romance. A lot of them wanted to be on the show.”

The sky gradually started to turn dark. In the distance we could see lightning strike and the silhouettes of other airships.

I hugged my child and put a blanket around his shoulders. Aaron put his head on my lap and fell asleep. Captain Sandy sang softly a song that we both knew so long ago.

It seemed we’d been here for centuries, only the children aging and growing up.

As a rule we didn’t speak much of what we missed or how much. It was always there in the back of our minds. I missed skinny jeans and sweaters. I missed short tight dresses and yoga at the gym. I missed the music. I missed my friends and family. I missed my job. I even missed the orange trees in my back yard and the sound of the garbage truck at 6:45 am on Thursday mornings. I missed it all.

Captain Sandy turned suddenly and looked at me as if he could read my mind. “Don’t think of how things used to be. Don’t think of why we’re here.”

We both knew why we were here. Nobody wanted us. There was no place for us in Heaven but nobody in Hell wanted us either.

“You’ve got to admit,” the Captain continued, “we’re in a unique position. No matter how bad it looks, this is our world. I spent 18 years teaching kids to understand the building blocks of the universe. I thought I was contributing to the future of our young people so that they would make the world a better place.”

“Now it doesn’t matter,” I said in a rare show of depression over the events that brought us here.

“No. Now it matters more than ever. This is our world. Despite the shadows and ghouls, this is our world now, free and clear. We can still use the building blocks of science and art to make it the place we want it to be. Finally we can do it right.”

“You’re always such an optimist Captain Sandy but do you really believe that?”

“Of course I do. What other choice do I have?”

“You have a point,” I said, noticing the spark in his eyes.

He noticed that I’d noticed. “Look at this as the ultimate reality TV show.”

“If that is the case then who, Captain Sandy, gets the hot girl at the end?”

He smiled. “That depends on you.” Then he turned his face away from me to where I could only see the moon lit reflection of the scars that traced his jawline.

The crew of the airship came up on deck to view the stars and take in the night air. It was good to see them laugh and talk freely of the destination ahead. My son raised his sleepy head and laughed too. Maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. Maybe Captain Sandy would win the game and get the girl. I had a pretty good feeling he would.

Tangled Tales

This story was featured in Goin’ Extinct – Tales from the edge of oblivion.

Now for only $.99 on Amazon. Proceeds go to MS Research.

Coming Soon...

Who can come up with a dozen different ways to end the world? We can!
This apocalyptic collection of short stories explores numerous ways in which life as we know it could end. From the traditional nuclear apocalypse to cosmic events, zombies, mysterious alien substances, evil corporations and even… coffee. These stories will shock, entertain and tug at your heart strings. For your post-apocalyptic reading list, ‘Goin’ Extinct’ is a must-have.

Including stories and poetry from: Mandy White (Author), David W. Stone (Author), Diana Garcia (Author), Marla Todd (Author), Nathan Tackett (Author), J. Harrison Kemp (Author), David Hunter (Author), Michael Haberfelner (Author), Jade M. Phillips (Author), Gina McKnight (Author), Mike Cooley (Author), , Chris Da Cruz (Author), S.E. Springle (Author)

Table of Contents

  • Existence is No Longer Profitable ~ David Hunter
  • Zoila’s Zombie ~ Jade M. Phillips
  • Battle of the Bean ~ Mandy White
  • ~ His Beating Heart ~ Poetry by Marla Todd
  • Zombie Days ~ Marla Todd
  • Skeet Beecham’s Confessions from the End of the World ~ J. Harrison Kemp
  • ~ The Quell ~ Poetry by Diana Garcia
  • Quietus ~ Diana Garcia
  • Purple ~ David W. Stone
  • It’s All Over on Elm Street ~ David Hunter
  • Dead Matter ~ Mike Cooley
  • ~ Electrical Chaos ~ Poetry by Sara Jane
  • Survival of the Fittest ~ Michael Haberfelner
  • The Last Summer Storm ~ Val Fox
  • Captain Sandy and the Airship at the End of the World ~ Marla Todd
  • Insectisorium ~ David W. Stone
  • ~ Untitled poetry by S.E. Springle
  • Finding Tennesee ~ Gina McKnight
  • Never Mind the Humans, Here’s the Rodents ~ Michael Haberfelner
  • Lullaby ~ Nathan Tackett
  • ~ The Great Flood ~ Poetry by Chris Da Cruz
  • Just One Kiss ~ Mandy White

 

 

Enough of the official description…

The first time I read this book I laughed out loud – not because it was funny but because it is SO GOOD.

 

WPaD is the acronym for Writers, Poets and Deviants. We are a diverse group of writers who came together on the Internet to support and encourage each other.Our collaborative works are charity fundraisers, with a percentage of royalties being donated to Multiple Sclerosis in support of members of our group who live with MS.

 

Books by WPaD:

  • Nocturnal Desires: Erotic Tales for the Sensual Soul
  • Creepies: Twisted Tales From Beneath the Bed
  • Passion’s Prisms: Tales of Love and Romance
  • Dragons and Dreams: A Fantasy Anthology
  • Tinsel Tales: A Holiday Treasury
  • Silk She Is: Poetry of Daniel E. Tanzo
  • Goin’ Extinct: Tales From the Edge of Oblivion
  •  Creepies 2: Things That Go Bump in the Closet

WPaD books are available worldwide in paperback and ebook editions

Find WPaD Publications on Facebook for updates on our upcoming projects Or follow us on Twitter: @wpadpublication

Add Goin’ Extinct to your winter reading list today. You’ll thank me for it later. Also check out the other books from the WPaD group.

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creepies

v_ndesires

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Dragons and Dreams

Dragons and Dreams

 

 

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LT240EA/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_t2_LfZjybD530NJK

Girl in The Woods (Serial Novel, Part 13)

Serial Novel Girl in the Woods, Part 13

Girl in the Woods is loosely based on the old princess and the pea story, but it goes beyond a simple fairy tale. It is a story about a quest for perfection, or more the rejection of perfection the reality sets in. Because we all know there is no perfections, especially when it comes to love.

It is mostly about a circle of friends. As adults living their own lives, they are still connected.

What you’re getting is the rough story I wrote years ago when I had a small infant who kept me up at all kinds of weird hours.

Girl in The Woods is a regular Friday feature on Vampire Maman. I strongly suggest you start from the beginning as you would with any novel – especially an epic adventure like this one. CLICK here for previous chapters.

 

Before The Trip

Shadowford

Alexander was had a law degree, a minor in poetry and a masters degree in History. The history he really wanted to know was from the Crystal Mountain Republic. The country was hidden away from the rest of the world by mountains as high as thirty thousand feet. The people never left. They never let anyone into their country either.

The culture of the Crystal Mountains was built upon an obsession with both traditional mythology and traditions, mixed with an obsession with technology. Whether they stole it from the Starlings or built it themselves, the technology rarely left the country. He’d used the communications technology and seen the amazing medical technology. He’d also seen the almost magical toys and even heard that they could fly without creating noise or pollution.

At the same time the people of the Crystal Mountains were incredibly superstitious and socially backwards. Most of all they were violent in almost every aspect of their lives. They mated for life and only parted with death. There were no marriages, only personal of vows of love that lasted forever. Violence against woman was common even after the revolution that had dethroned the Wizard Lord Robin Nightlander.

Alexander had founds bits and pieces of his mother’s Crystal Mountain past from Logan, Simon and Alaric Shadowford.

Shadowford was a new comer to Alexander’s life. The Ambassador from the Crystal Mountain Republic, War Hero and 4th cousin.

His mother’s maiden name was Shadowford.

The son of intelligence officers in the rebellion army, had almost single handedly ended the war. At he age of 17 he’d killed Doran Nightlander, master wizard and the youngest son of the Nightlanders. Doran was thought to be the end of the Nightlander line. It was over.

Alaric never basked in the status of hero as would so many young men. He refused to speak of it, saying it was an effort of a people in which he played a small role.

Alaric’s life was blanketed by secrets like most people from the CMR. It was know he’d partnered with a woman who was critically ill and died a few years later. That had been ten years before he taken the ambissordship.

Doran Nightlander was known for his cruelty, which was in contrast to his almost angelic face and gentle public persona. He “dismantle” people, bury them alive, any sort of torture and spell was used to get his was. He’d started to take an interest in long forbidden weapons technology. He was a master at mind control and could read minds. He had long thought that his magic could kill, but it was an art he’d never mastered. Only the Nightlander women could do that and there hadn’t been a Nightlander woman for over 100 years.

Simon’s business partner Olivia Snowhawk had been there when Alaric killed Doran Nightlander, but she wouldn’t speak of it to Simon. Rumor was that she and Alaric were an item. There had been a few pictures in the social sections but nothing he’d been concerned about. Alexander had never met the woman. Simon never spoke of it. Then again, Simon always kept his business and personal life separate.

As children Aleric and Logan had spent a lot of time together. Alaric met with the Queen often behind closed doors.

Alexander spoke the language but truly understood the culture.

He’d invited Alaric to the party, but as with a lot of social invitations he never accepted.

“I’m sorry Alexander, I cannot attend your party.” There was no explanation. That drove Alexander crazy.

“I’m sorry as well. I was looking forward to seeing you there. You know, Olivia Snowhawk was going to attend, but had to bow out at the last minute. I was looking forward to meeting her. She’s an old friend of yours isn’t she?”

“We’ve been friends since childhood. “ Replied Alaric. And not another word. There was another pause.

“You dated her for a while didn’t you?” Alexander asked. “I hear you were pretty serious.”

Alaric gave him a smile. “Do you know her?”

“No, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her. Funny considering she’s Simon’s business partner.”

Alaric gave Alexander a slight and rare smile “I’d love to talk all day about all of the beautiful women we’ve known but my business today is much more serious.”

“What’s up?”

“I’m finished with my assignment here. My business here is over.

Alexander was shocked. Alaric was doing such a great job. “You’re kidding, what about the refugees and everyone you’ve been helping.”

“There are others who will take care of that.” Said Alaric flatly.

Again no explanation thought Alexander. “What others? Come on Alaric, nobody could have the connections and expertise you have.”

“Consulate staff, Universal Technologies connections. Your mother. They’ll all fill the void I’ll leave.”

“I’ll be sorry to see you go. Could you talk Justin Snowhawk into taking your position?” Alexander asked. Justin Snowhawk was the brother of Simon’s business partner Olivia Snowhawk and one of the owners of Universal Technologies, the largest technology company in the entire world. Alexander had met Justin a year before and they’d hit it off like old friends. Unlike Alaric, and most Crystal Mountain natives, Justin was warm and open. He actually had a sense of humor and a worldview.

Alaric’s answer was unexpected. “Justin Snowhawk thinks you’re all barbarians.” Alaric smiled breaking the ice. “He doesn’t trust the people of the country who stole away his twin sister.”

Alexander decided to just get to the point. “Alaric, tell me what’s going on. Why are you leaving all of the sudden?”

“I’ve accepted a position with Justin. He’s in line to be the next president of the Crystal Mountain Republic. He wants me head up his International Relations staff. I’m also leaving on moral grounds. Alexander, I can no longer live here and live with myself.”

Alexander was in shock over that announcement. “On moral grounds. For the love of God, what moral grounds could you be leaving on here? We’re positively bland compared to the Crystal Mountain Republic.”

“Betrayal is a way of life here.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Love between humans is a strong and binding force not to be taken lightly.”

“Is this about Candi? You sound like Simon.”

“No, this is about your mother who would betray all that she is and all that she has ever believed in to force her son to marry a woman he doesn’t love.”

Alexander raked his hair back with his right hand and looked at Alaric in shock. “Nobody is forcing me to do anything least of all my mother. I’m courting Candi of my own free will.”

Alaric gave him a sarcastic mean sort of smile. “Don’t fool yourself cousin. For you the marriage is a legal contract. For those of us from the Crystal Mountains it is fire and passion that does not need jurisdiction of any government. It is a solemn oath between a man and a woman. A vow of love that is never broken. We don’t divorce. Once a vow is made it is forever.”

“Marriage is based on love,” said Alexander in defense.

“Cousin, listen to yourself and look at your own life. Do you love the silly princess?”

Alexander smiled “Give me time. I’m sure will, eventually.”

Alaric looked at him sadly. “Will it be a love of endless passion like that of Dare Crow bound to an enchanted woman who belongs to another? Or the love of two old souls who grew as children but grew apart in their passion only to come together again explode in a flame of need and desire. It can’t be as with your parents, a love a first sight that has never stopped even after 40 years. What will it be with you and your Real Princess?” Alaric’s green eyes sparkled. His face was serious.

“I’ll be right back. Alexander said and went to his bedroom to retrieve the poetry book.”

When he returned Alaric was looking none too pleased. He spoke again before allowing Alexander to say anything. “Unless you can give your soul to this Candi woman you will never find the true love you seek.

Alexander held out the paper he’d found at the fern chapel to Alaric.

“What do you know about this?” he asked Alaric.

Alaric looked at Alexander, he was calm but Alexander saw a hint of recognition in his eyes.

“The woman who wrote this is enchanted isn’t she?” Alexander continued.

Alaric turned the paper over in his hands, and then spoke in his native language. “Aye, she is indeed. The pictures are beautiful. She has a mind that can’t keep still.”

“Who is she?” demanded Alexander switching to the old language of the Crystal Mountains.

Alaric didn’t answer. He looked the paper over and over, gently touching his hands over it as if was a personal love letter.

Alexander pulled out the earring and put it on the table. “I found this too.”

Alaric picked up the earring and studied it. “The earrings belong to someone of great wealth. She could also be the lover of a man who values her beyond all measure. A man who would think nothing of taking her away by force to have her as his own. A man who’s passion she could never comprehend or appreciate. A man who can control her and keep her from her foolish ways. It has a fern pattern, like something you’d pick out. What is it about ferns that you like so much?”

“You know her. You gave her the earrings.” He was going to say they belonged to Olivia Snowhawk but Alaric spoke first.

“No, the object of your desire didn’t get them from me.” Said Alaric.

“The owner of the earrings is not my object of desire. I don’t even know who she is.”

“You’re intrigued, I can see it in your face. You’ve thought of since you first picked up the note.”

“Like you, I’m curious. That is all. Where did you get these things?”

“ I found the earring and paper at the fern chapel a few weeks ago.”

Alaric handed the paper back to Alexander. “Your mother is the only other one I know who has jewelry of that stone, jewelry she brought with her from the Crystal Mountains. The jewels from her castle.” He put the earring down on the table. “Ten years ago, before my diplomatic career I had a partner. A woman I’d vowed my love to. She died of an illness of the heart. There was nothing any wizard or physician could do to stop it. She owned a pair of earrings with stones like that. It’s fairly rare, from the mines of the wastes of the Northern Boundaries. The green stones are favored by the Starlings. I gave them to her the night we vowed our love. She wore them the day she died.”

“I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I never knew you had a partner.” Now Alexander, who usually knew everything about everyone felt like a fool.

“Our life together was quiet. Much different than my life now. Surprised aren’t you.”

“Yes, I am. You never mentioned her.”

“We were together for only 3 years. I don’t speak of her, but she is always in my thoughts and my heart. Some day maybe there will be another. Until then I keep my grief private.

I with to you as your kinsman and as your friend that you shall find the same happiness that I have found.”

They spoke; Alexander got the story of Alaric’s woman, a green eyed, raven haired beauty. She was a quiet loving woman, the daughter of a religious leader. Not the type one would think of with Alaric.

They discussed the new ambassador from the Crystal Mountain Republic and Justin Snowhawk’s political prospects.

In a country where just 24 years earlier nearly half of the population had died from the violence of war, starvation or disease the country had come back as a powerhouse of industry and technology. Alaric was indeed needed at home.

“Alaric have to ask you about your experiences during the war. I know you don’t like to discuss them, but you are credited into killing Doran Nightlander, who at the time was one of the most powerful and evil wizards in the Crystal Mountains.”

“You’ve been looking at old history.”

“Of course I have. Come on Alaric, you were only 17 and killed a man who might have been the most powerful wizard in the world.”

“It was nothing really. We were caught in a storm. Olivia Snowhawk was with me.”

“Were you childhood sweethearts?” Alexander asked.

“Not then. We were close. Friends. Olivia was serious, even for Crystal Mountain standards. She hated the way we lived. There was always a wild part of her ready to bolt and run away. Her father never left her alone in fear she’d run and fall into the hands of the Nightlanders.

We took shelter in the old tower, not knowing what it was. It was a sweet moment, the first time I kissed her. She was so pure and lovely, as beautiful as any princess. Such a pure and innocent moment was taken away by the arrival of Doran’s men. Doran took Olivia to the top of the tower. I fought off the attackers and was able to rescue Olivia, but it almost cost me my life. Unfortunately I don’t remember much of it.”

“Tell me about Doran Nightlander?” asked Alexander, knowing that Doran Nightlander was a wizard of almost mythical reputation.

“Doran was imposing like the wind personified. Powerful and beautiful. He lit up the room, literally. He owned the world around him and everyone in it.” Alaric went to the fire and warmed his hands then he crossed his arms as if protecting himself from an unseen enemy or trying to find comfort. “After it was over all I remember is Olivia holding me and keeping alive. She wouldn’t tell anyone what actually happened, no matter how they tried to pry it out of her.”

“Never?” Asked Alexander, who never took never for an answer. “ Couldn’t you have had a wizard read her memories?”

Alaric shrugged. “Most of our wizards were dead. Those who were alive wouldn’t go near her not knowing what Doran Nightlander might have done to her. Doran Nightlander’s magic is strong, even after his death. Disturbing the memories of his death could have hurt Olivia more than it would have helped anyone.”

Alaric pulled his collar aside, showing Alexander a scar on his neck. “It’s the only time in my life I lost memories. She saved my life. For that reason I will not ask her to bring back the nightmare.”

“Sounds like you saved her from Doran in more than one way.”

“Maybe. Maybe not, but she survived without any physical marks from him. He tried to tempt her with the promise of sex and luxury to go over to his side. When she refused him he punished her by trying to kill me. That cost him his life. “

“You were only 17. I’m not sure what I would have done at that age.” Alexander remembered he was spending his time with Ellie, without a care in the world.

Alaric smiled warmly, changing the mood drastically. “Come to the Crystal Mountains with me and you can see the country for yourself and meet the people. You’ll understand the history of our family, but more see what we’d done to build a better place. Understand our culture.”

“I’d like that.” Said Alexander.

“You won’t be able to open your eyes wide enough to see the beauty of the mountains, or the beauty of the women.”

With that comment Alexander laughed and for a rare moment thought Alaric was laughing along with him.

 

Family History

Alexander is getting ready to leave on his trip. He is looking forward to going out of town. He’d gone to the jeweler but ended up ordering something for his cousin Rachael as an engagement present. He never mentioned rings.

He looked at a portrait of Alexander and Starfire in the small sitting room off of the north tower. It was a place that was hardly used, a small library of old fiction and family archives.

He was tall and blonde like almost all of Alexander’s ancestors. He had the same build as Alexander. About the time he’d started college his father had the painting moved to this out of the way room.

Starfire was the glowing image of a woman in love but a woman of power. One of the greatest wizards who ever lived, she ruled her country with an iron hand. She also captured the heart of Alexander and he turned her heart of stone into flesh again.

She wasn’t tall. A woman with curves in the right place, shown off by the elaborate traditional clothing of her country. She was lovely, her beauty in a different way than Candi or any other woman he had known. Her hair was a reddish brown, not as dark as his.

Alexander sometimes felt as though she looked through the image at him, her eyes alive. He found himself drawn to her.

His father came into the room.

“Why didn’t you give Starfire’s diamond to my mother?”

“She wouldn’t take it. According to her the Nightlanders would get wind and come back for it. We’ll never hear from any of the Nightlanders again, thank God. Were you thinking of giving the ring to Candi?”

“No.” Absolutely no way in hell would he give something of so much value to someone who would never appreciate it’s history.

Florien didn’t comment but looked at his son as if contemplating his future.

“Dad, are there any heirs left of Starfire’s, any Nightlanders?”

“A few in the Crystal Mountains. I know what you’re thinking. Don’t try to find them.”

“I wasn’t, but now that you bring it up…”

“They’re reclusive and dangerous. They want to forget their past.”

“Robbie Nightlander’s children. They’re alive aren’t they?”

“Officially nobody knows. Unoffically, yes they are alive. “

“Where are they?”

“Robbie’s children are of no consequence.”

Do you think Justin Snowhawk would know anything about them.

“Don’t ask him. It will only bring up bad blood. His father killed Nightlanders for a living. I understand Justin Snowhawk is uncomfortable with anything to do with wizards or magic. It’s best not to bring anything along those lines up unless he does first. It will cause suspicion. If he does bring it up be skeptical about anything he says. He’ll speak like a puzzle, only giving you tiny bits and pieces but never the whole. It will drive you crazy.”

“I can handle people from the Crystal Mountains.”

“I know you Alexander, you always want the entire story. Spending time with someone from the Crystal Mountains will drive you crazy if you let it. Believe me, I’m married to one of them.”

“Do you think Justin would lie to me about it?”

“They never lie. They just don’t tell you the entire story. It’s just the way they are. It’s part of their culture.”

“I didn’t hesitate when Logan told me about traveling with Justin Snowhawk, but are you sure it is necessary for you to spend so much time with him.”

“He runs one of the largest companies in the world, and he’s the obvious choice to be the next president of their country. This is a prime opportunity for us to forge a strong and lasting relationship. We’re the same age, we have many of the same interests. I’m also sure that Justin will appreciate the fact than I’m not going to be out trolling for women every night. He’s a devoted family man. There’s almost a sweetness to him, sort of an innocence that you don’t see with many guys his age. He’s safe Dad.”

“Have you met his sister?”

“Olivia Snowhawk? No, I haven’t. God knows I’ve tried over the years, but the woman is a mystery to me. I asked Simon and Ellie to bring her to the party last week. She didn’t make it.”

“You shouldn’t have invited her.”

“I said she didn’t make it. What’s the deal?”

“Alexander, you need to take your duties to Candi more seriously.”

“Candi is a darling girl, but I’m not all together sold on the idea being married to her.”

“By the time I was your age I’d been married 17 years and had sired four children.”

“You were lucky to have found someone you felt so passionate about.”

“I know you haven’t slept with Candi. That isn’t like you.”

Alexander’s temper flared at the question. “I haven’t slept with Candi out of respect for the delicate and formal arrangement you’ve made with her mother. If she was someone like Misty or any of my other former and more mature former girlfriends I would have fucked her silly weeks ago. Are we done here?”

“I’ve set a wedding date. Six months from tomorrow.”

“Than you’d better unset it. I told Candi she’d be better off with Blake.”

“Blake?”

“The wizard. The man she’s been in love with for the past 10 years.”

“The man is nothing but a fashionable fool completely unsuitable for her.”

“He’ll be a rich and powerful wizard in a few years. Blakes’s perfect for Candi. God knows he’s as pretty and air headed as she is. A marriage between Candi and me would be a disaster. We have nothing in common. We have nothing to talk about. It’s a one way road to failure.”

“You will make it work”.

“What kind of life outside of the public pageantry could I possibly have with her?”

“Do you think your mother and I had anything to talk about? She could barely speak the language. She came from a culture so foreign that it was like living with a child.”

Alexander’s stomach sank. He’d never heard his father speak of his mother like that. “Than why did you marry her.”

“Because she was the most beautiful woman on the planet. She was wild and passionate and she twisted my heart with desire unlike any women I’d ever met. “

“Candi is beautiful and sexy but I need more. I need a lot more.”

“You will marry Candi. The date has already been set.”

Alexander began to speak but his father cut him off “There is no getting out of this one Alexander.”

“What if I meet someone else? Do I keep her as a mistress like Graham would or just be myseriable for the rest of my life?” Alexander put his hand in his pocket and fingered the earrings. He felt numb.

“You’ve already proved that you can’t pick a suitable bride. From here on out the decision is not yours. Accept your fate. You will marry Candi in six months. That is an order from your king.”

 

Conversation With Candi

Simon spent the rest of the afternoon filling his friend in on business details for the trip.

Alexander rushed back to the palace to meet with Candi. He hadn’t told her he was to take Logan’s place yet.

He met Princess Candi at his house. She was already settled in the library when he arrived, late. Dora was reading a book by the fire in the downstairs parlor. At least somebody in Candi’s entourage read. He asked her about her book, a recent best seller about fashion. She seemed pleased that he noticed. He felt sorry for such a sweet girl like Dora to have to have spent most of her life being kicked around by Princess Kitti. At least if he married Candi, it would be good for Dora.

Candi ran to greet him when he arrived at the library. “Just like a puppy.” He thought. He gave her a light kiss on her perfect pink mouth. She smiled and led him by the hand to the window. The sunset was a brilliant glow of pink and blue on the large clouds.

“What a beautiful sunset. It makes me think of kisses and true love. I guess I’m just a romantic” exclaimed Candi

“What do you consider romantic sweet Candi?” Alexander asked wistfully, looking into what he had to admit were two of the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen.

“Being showered with flowers and jewels just because I’m pretty. Dancing at the ball with a prince, knowing he thinks I’m the most beautiful woman there. Having you treat me like everyday is my birthday. But do you want to know what I think is the most romantic thing of all?”

“What’s that?”

She gave him a pretty smile and batted her eyes. “Secret names”

Alexander leaned back on the window seat. Her idea of romance was a bit childish and self-centered , but he had to admit she was awfully cute. “Tell me, dear princess, what are secret names?”

“You know, special names. I think you should have a special name for me.”

“You mean pet names?” He asked attempting to hide his sudden disgust. This couldn’t be happening. He was trying to make it work with her, but this went too far.

She put her hands around his neck and leaned into him, almost in his lap. “Yes. Let’s have pet names for each other. I could call you Cuddles or Princely.”

“Candi, I don’t think we’re quite ready for special pet names yet.” His tone changed from light to serious. This is where he had to draw the line on too much cuteness.

“No?” she said with a childish frown.

“No, darling, I don’t think so. I’m not really a pet name kind of guy.”

Her arms dropped to her sides. Her bottom lip went out in a seductive pout. She mocked a little cry. He glanced at the sunset again and thought of the perfect pet name for Candi “idiot girl”.

Candi continued to pout at him. A flock of sparrows could land on that bottom lip. “Listen, Candi, sit down, right here next to me.” He patted the seat next to him “I have to talk to you, seriously.”

She sat close to him, their hips and shoulder touching, a little too close for his current comfort. “About our soon to be engagement?” she asked poised for a kiss.

He shifted to face her, adding a few inches between them. “Candi, I’ll be traveling for a few months on business. I’m leaving in three days.”

“To the River Conference? May I come with you? Please, please, please take me with you.”

“No, the River Conference isn’t for another few months. Remember when we talked about Logan’s trip.”

“At your party. He’ll travel with one of those odd Universal Crystal Mountain people.”

“The Crystal Mountain person you mentioned is Justin Snowhawk, one of the owners of Universal Technologies. Candi, darling, Logan won’t be well enough to travel, so I’m taking his place.”

“Can’t you send somebody else?”

“Candi this is a very, very important diplomatic and business venture. I need to be there.”

Candi threw her arms around his neck. “I’ll miss you so much. I want to go with you. Please, please, pretty please.”

Gently taking her hand, he looked into her beautiful blue eyes. “I’m sorry I can’t. It’s a guy’s trip. It will be all business, and when we’re not engaged in business we’ll be out fishing or hiking around forests and ruins. It will be far too rough and tumble for a pretty princess like you.”

“Announce our engagement before you go and I want a ring. A big ring.” She tightened her arms around him, in excitement, like a child on her birthday.

“Candi, I can’t do that.” He unlatched her arms and held her hands. He saw the hurt in her eyes.

“Why not? Don’t you love me?” she said in almost a whisper, her voice starting to crack as her blue eyes watered over.

Alexander shook his head. “Love isn’t easy for me Candi. I can’t rush my heart. I’m sorry”

She threw herself into his arms again and started to cry. He rubbed her back and stroked her hair like he would a crying child. He wanted to yell, “No, I doubt I’ll never love you. I’ve can’t wait to as far away from you as I can,” but kept his thoughts to himself and told her “I’ll be back in no time. You’ll be so busy you won’t even miss me.”

After a romantic candlelit dinner for two in the flower filled formal dining room, Candi was back to her charming and happy self. Over dessert he presented her with a diamond and pearl bracelet that seemed to make her happy.

After dinner he went to the wine cellar for something stronger. She was gone when he returned. He found a trail of flowers from the vase on the table leading up to his bedroom. This wasn’t what he’d planned on.

She lay on her back on the bed, legs spread, arms over her head. Her hair fanned out around her, the diamond bracelet on her arm. She wore nothing but her sheer lace stockings held up with jeweled garters. She reminded him of a high priced whore, or at least what he imagined a high priced whore looked like. It was sad.

“Put this on.” He said tossing her his robe.

“Don’t you want me?”

“I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t want to have sex with you this very second, but you expect me to love you in return and I can’t give you right now.” he told her, knowing if she had stayed, and if he’d made love to her that there would be no turning back.

“But ….”

“You’re absolutely beautiful. Please get dressed and meet me downstairs.”

He waited with a glass of wine and a headache. He wanted her so badly but it would have been wrong. If she had been another woman it would have been so easy to drop his clothes and join her in bed. And then what? Would they talk? What would they talk about? Another endless conversation about parties and social gossip.

It had been over a month since she had arrived. It had been an exhausting blur of parties and nights out on the town. Time with Candi always lead to conversations on redecorating in colors that only belonged in a whorehouse. After decorating conversation, Candi always wanted to talk about clothes and parties and gossip. It was like having a 14 year old girl around.

He handed her a box containing a necklace and earrings to go with the bracelet he had given her at the dinner table. She squeeled with delight. The damn things cost as much as the college education, but it was worth the bribe to get her leave on her own accord.

After she’d left, with her strange twins, escorted by members of his staff, Alexander felt drained and relieved.

He took out the earring he’d found in the Fern Chapel. It was nothing like Candi would have worn. He carefully unfolded the note and ran his fingers across the water stains.

“Two by love, two by faith. I will find you.” He said aloud.

He imagined the girl with the earring. She was a woman of unmatched beauty. Tall and elegant. She was calm and serene, never making demands, always giving support and comfort. She was intelligent and witty with a smile that would melt a man away. She would be Princess Candi with a brain. Upon their meeting he would release her from the enchantment that bound her. In return she would gladly become his wife. It would be clean and simple. They would live happily ever after.

He thought of past girlfriends. Starting with Ellie and moving on to Viola, all had been strong willed, enormously fun and exceptionally smart and beautiful. There was his college girlfriend, the exquisite Misty Barnes who was now the mayor of Ravenswood, and engaged to be married. There were more he had been involved with briefly. The joke was that he couldn’t last more than two weeks with a woman before he became bored with her. It was true. He had many female friends, but all were too smart to become romantically involved with him.

He’d been involved with three other Real Princesses, Ellie, Viola and Misty. Misty was carnal unlike any woman he’d ever known, but he only truly loved two – Ellie and Viola. Ellie was his first love. He had thought Viola was his true love, his soul mate, but it had been a lie. She had never loved him. Just like he would never love Candi.

He remembered Viola’s words. “I was never in love with you. I was in love with the idea of you.”

Candi didn’t think about ideas. In fact, most of the time it seemed like she didn’t think at all. Everything was clear cut and simple for her.

He picked up the book of poetry he’d found in the Fern Chapel and opened it to a random page.

“My wild unexpected love. You ambushed me, you attacked my senses, you took me by surprise, body, heart and soul.”

His grandfather had written that to his grandmother. That is what he wanted. What they had. He wanted what his parents had. He wanted what Simon and Ellie had.

Again he said aloud to himself “Two by love, two by faith, I will find you.”

 

~ To be continued. Next week: The Journey Begins.

 

 

 

 

Girl in the Wood: Turning Point (Part 12)

Girl in the Woods, the serial novel, is a regular 2016 Friday feature on Vampire Maman. If you’re new start from the top. I recommend you start from the beginning. CLICK here for all of the installments.

Girl in the Wood: Turning Point (Part 12)

Alexander was in his office reviewing trade agreements with the government of the Moonbeam Mountains. He couldn’t help but think of Viola and her betrayal. She had been perfect in theory. Candi was also perfect in theory, if she’d stay faithful.

It had been two weeks since his party and the attack on Logan. It had almost been a week since he’d spent a night out with Princess Candi. He’d met her for lunch and attended an afternoon music recital with her, but nothing else. Even those few short times seemed like an eternity and he couldn’t seem to get away from her and back to work or the quiet of his own home fast enough. He didn’t have time to go to clubs or attend the never ending invitations to parties thrown by people he hardly knew. Candi seemed to be happily entertained day and night without him so he wasn’t too worried about hurting her feelings.

Another lovely young woman was on Alexander’s mind. He couldn’t stop thinking of things Candi had said about Annie Hawthorn. Everything the Princess had said about Annie was true, but it was the hateful mean spirited manner in which Candi said it. From what Logan and Simon had told him, Annie had worked hard and smart to get where she was. Unlike Candi’s circle of pampered friends, not to mention his own, nothing was ever handed to Annie Hawthorne, yet she defied all odds and was at the top of her game, both professionally and personally. She was a jewel, as far as Alexander was, in the crown of his country – an example for all young women to aspire to. She was one to be truly admired. If only he could marry a girl like Annie. She was brilliant, kind, beautiful and well, dating his brother.

Jeff, the one who seemed to treasure only beauty managed to get the smart girl, and Alexander was left with the Real Princess, no matter that she as dumb as a box of rocks with the tact of a five year old. Enough he thought trying to get his mind back on his work.

“I can teach Candi the social graces she needs,” Alexander said to himself.

He put his hand in his coat pocket and fingered the earring. The delicate shape was branded in his memory. It had been a week since he’d found the golden fern shaped earring near his home. She was the woman he thought of when he closed his eyes at night. He couldn’t see her face but he could imagine the touch of her hands, the delicate clean smell of her hair as it brushed against his face and chest, her lips kissing his. In turn he imagined she needed him and longed for him as much as he needed and longed for her. It was his secret and his alone to savor and to be tortured by. But one day he’d wake with her head on his shoulder, her bare leg wrapped around his legs, the feel of her breasts…

“You need to review and sign all of these by this afternoon.”His office manager Marrianna interrupted his revelries with a stack of papers.

“Thank you,” he told her with a glance up.

“You need to sign and date everything or I’ll bring it back.” She was serious. Marrianna ran his office like an army post.

After signing everything he rolled his shoulders then ran his and through his hair. “I’ll be leaving early today.”

“Anything I need to know about?”

“Lunch with Simon, maybe a drop into the stationery store and a few other stops, nothing of importance.” He’d planned on finding out who was buying the same paper as he was. If he went by himself, confidentially his inquiries would be kept quiet.

“I can go to the stationery store for you or send Andrew for you later on today.”

“No need to send anyone. I need some time…” he faded off trying not to spill his guts to one of his loyal staff.

“I understand, you need some time to yourself. I’ll get you some cool compresses for your eyes. You look tired.” It was her job to let Alexander know how he looked. She knew appearances were everything with him.

“I am tired Marrianna.” Old and tired he thought. “But you’ve been with me long enough to know.”

“You’re a hopeless workaholic.” Marrianna scolded him coming back with a cool scented cloth and putting it over Alexander’s eyes.

“I’m dedicated to my people,” he said taking control of the compress and resting his head on the back of the chair. He waited a few minutes then took it off, feeling slightly better, but more so from Marrianna’s attentions.

She was still there, ready to continue her scolding. “I don’t want you dropping dead before your 40th birthday. You’re filling your time because you don’t want to go home to an empty house every night. That will end as soon as you have your young bride waiting at home for you.”

“You never know.” He said giving her a wink. “I doubt if any young bride will appreciate me these days.” He stood up and headed over to the wall mirror.

“You’re too modest for such a handsome man.” She smiled knowing that it was to her advantage to feed into his vanity. As she started to fix his shirt collar, her very pregnant belly brushed against him.”I won’t have you going out looking like you’ve slept in your clothes.”

“I felt that. That was the baby, right?” Alexander asked as her belly moved against him.

“The baby is kicking all the time now. Put your hand here.” She said taking his hand and putting it down on her side.”

“I felt that. That was amazing.” Alexander laughed. It was amazing to feel her child with his own hand.

She smiled “Before too long you’ll have your own baby on the way.”

“Maybe,” he thought. Turning to the mirror he saw a weary reflection. Death warmed over he thought. There was gray hair he’d never noticed before. He looked back at Marrianna who hardly able to keep her balance. “You need to take it easy my dear. Where is Andrew?” he asked wondering where his assistant had been all morning.

“Out riding with Princess Candi. Remember you told him to start taking her on Wednesday and Friday mornings.”

“Right. Sorry.”

Marrianna gave him a sad look and shook her head. They made small talk about the baby and her hopes and expectations for her son. The idea of his own son or daughter was too vague and far away for him to even consider.

On his way out Alexander gave Marrianna and unexpected kiss on the cheek then grabbed his coat and headed out for a lunch appointment.

 

 

The idea of a baby with Candi was someplace Alexander’s mind hadn’t traveled yet. She’d no doubt have the best of nurses and nannies. He’d choose the best teachers and tutors for the child. Their children would have his love of books and her love of music. It would be a perfect fit, or at least he’d try to make it perfect for his children, as perfect as he could.

On his way out he passed a group of women were talking by the courtyard fountain. The Minister of Arts, a judge and one of his father’s financial advisors. Three powerful women. They were all married to equally powerful men. All were mothers of well-adjusted and happy children.

“I need to get Candi more involved in her music career. She needs that confidence to mature and excel in what she loves.” he said to himself. It was a thought he was going to keep to himself for now.

As his carriage pulled up to the Universal Technologies building he looked up at the carvings on the front of the building. He’d always been amused by the Starling symbols carved above the doors. Simon came out of the massive doorway and down the stairway and climbed up into the carriage.

“I’ve always liked the Starling symbols on your building,” Alexander said.

Simon looked up. “Olivia likes the imagery. She said it stands for technology and truth. I don’t know about that but I do agree with her on the great designs. Then again lately it has been all things to do with the Silver Lakes with her. I’m sure you heard about the 5,000 crystal dragonflies she ordered from there for her ballroom chandelier. I swear to God, sometimes I wonder about her.”

It was uncharacteristic for Simon to speak about Olivia Snowhawk of Universal Technologies. Alexander had heard about the crystal dragonflies. Who hadn’t? It was excess beyond anything he’d ever done in his own home. “When do I get to meet your boss?” he asked Simon, not really caring if he ever met her or not.

Simon laughed “Soon enough.”

“I saw the cover of Business Weekly, the picture with you flanked by the lovely Miss Annie Hawthorne and Olivia Snowhawk. You’ve always managed to surround yourself with powerful, beautiful women.”

“That can be a dangerous thing,” Simon added with a smile. “You know how picture sessions go. They even worked me over like an Allegory whore before they got all the hair, make-up and clothing right for that cover. It took almost an entire day to get it right.”

Alexander reached in his pocket. “Simon, I’ve something to show you.” He unfolded the paper. “A woman dropped this in the Fern Chapel, the morning of my party.” He told Simon the story of how he’d watched her from the hill and found the paper and the earring. “Look at the drawing on the back.”

“Ferns. I should have known. Well, who is she?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t get a clear look at her face. There’s no name on anything.”

“I guess you’re out of luck then.”

“On the back, it’s written in Starling. And look at the letter forms, just like the symbols used by Universal Technologies.”

“We’re not the only ones who use Starling symbols. The hip young poets use them all the time. They don’t know a damn thing about Starlings but…really Alex you’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“She could be from the Crystal Mountains, but I can’t rule out the possibilities that she’s from here. The black marks are wizardry symbols. Read the poem. I think she’s enchanted.”

Simon turned the paper over in his hands “Enchanted? Now that’s something different and exciting for you. So now you’re going to tell me you want me to help you find out who she is? I know you Alexander, I know how your brain works.”

“I can’t very well go asking around for a mysterious woman. Both my mother and Dare treated me as if I was crazy.”

“You showed this to them? Bad idea, you should have kept it to yourself, you know how controlling and opinionated those two are.”

“I know Dare can find out who she is but he won’t. His loyalties are with the King, not the King’s son.”

“You can’t stop thinking about your mysterious woman can you?”

“She is THE ONE. I know she is.”

“From your description she could be a romance writer who lost her notes.”

Alexander slipped his hand into his pocket again and took out the earring. “I found this too.”

Simon held the golden fern leaf earring in his hand and looked at the mark on the bottom. “Ferns again. So you think you’ve found your soul mate because you like the same plants?”

“Come on Simon, it isn’t like that.”

“Really Alexander? I know you too well.”

“Don’t tell anyone about this.”

“You’re secret is safe. Anyway, if I told anyone they’d think you were insane.”

“I can feel her Simon. She’s out there, waiting for me. Enchanted or not, she’s my girl in the woods.”

“What if you meet her and she isn’t what you expect?”

“What if I’m not what she expected?”

“I can guarantee you won’t be who she expects.”

“I’m the most handsome and charming man in the kingdom. What more could she want?”

“You’re full of shit. I’m the most handsome and charming man in the kingdom.”

Alexander laughed. “You might be more handsome but I’m a lot taller than you and I’m definitely more charming.”

Simon spun his wedding ring on his finger. He thought of his last conversation with Ellie.” In all seriousness Alexander, your mystery woman will want someone to love her unconditionally without fault no matter what the enchantment or what her past is. In return she must love you unconditionally with all her heart and soul. It’s the only way you can break a spell of the heart, if indeed she is enchanted.”

“Sometimes I feel as if I’m enchanted. I’m 38 and still looking for that perfect love that doesn’t exist, at least for me. I’ll have to be content with beauty and comfort.”

“So in light of your discovery of the mysterious woman with one earring, you’re still going to go through with it, marrying Candi?” he said in open disgust.

Alexander answered calmer than usual on the subject “Unless the mysterious woman appears in the next few months it seems I don’t have a choice in the matter.”

“Candi will ruin your life.”

“Please, Simon I’m tired of your constant criticism.”

“You have too many doubts about Candi.”

“Who doesn’t have doubts about marriage?”

Simon scowled at Alexander. “I didn’t. Then again, I married a Ellie.”

“Darling Ellie. How’s that working out? Does she have any plans on divorcing you soon? ”

“Very funny. Don’t expect me to be at your wedding.

“You’ll be there as my best man. Then you’ll give a glowing speech about how happy you are for me.”

“I’d rather speak at your funeral.”

“You married young. You and Ellie built your life together. My life is already set. Candi will fit into that life… ‘ Alexander had no idea what he was going to say. ‘Candi’s presence will enhance what I’ve already created.”

“Fine, talk yourself into it. Marry an accessory. Evenings at your house will certainly be dull.”

“If her kisses are any indication of how she’ll be in bed, I don’t think I’ll have any problems.”

“The girl can’t say three words to you without making you cringe. After a while the very thought of touching her will revolt you. Keep thinking about the girl with the earring. I’ll check around and see what I can find out. Just don’t mention it to anyone else, alright.”

“Thanks.” Alexander smiled weakly at Simon’s comment and fingered the earring in his pocket. “Where do you want to go for lunch?” he asked Simon, ready to change the subject.

They stopped in front of Logan’s house. “We’re here.”

Tom met them at the door when they arrived. Graham and Charles were there as well.

 

Lady Megan Gold was sitting with Logan, actually on his lap. She stood when Alexander and Simon came in. Megan had been around as long as Simon and Alexander could remember. Alexander sometimes wondered why Logan or Dare had never married her, especially now that she was widowed. Love never made sense.

“Lady Megan.”

“Prince Alexander. I’m taking care of Logan. Poor baby can hardly get up by himself.”

“I’m sure you’ve helped him solve that problem.””

“She certainly did.”

She kissed Logan in a long sensual kiss with no second thoughts of having the others in the room.”Logan, darling if you need anything at all, you know where to reach me.”

“Thank you,” said Logan, then he whispered in her ear. She smiled and laughed.

Megan turned to Alexander. “Alexander it was so good to see you.” She kissed him on the cheek and ran a hand over his behind. “Gentlemen it was lovely to see you.” She gave air kisses to Tom and Graham.

Then Megan smiled at Simon. “You’re so gorgeous it’s sinful. What I’d give for a just a small taste of you.” She kissed him full on the mouth.

“Love you too Megan,” said Simon. “Are we still on for lunch tomorrow?””

“Absolutely,” she said, and left the room.

After Megan left. Alexander looked at Simon. “What was that about?”

Simon shrugged. “She does a good bit of legal work for Universal Technologies.”

“Is it safe, for you to lunch with her, alone?” Alexander asked.

“She knows I’m a faithful husband,” said Simon.

“Too bad.” Said Graham with a smirk.

“Yes, too bad for Megan,” said Simon, then he turned to Logan. “Aside from your private physical therapy from Megan how are you doing?

“Feeling like hell, but better thanks to my many female admirers and some exceptional painkillers. Sit, please, everyone. You too Alexander. Dear nephew, I’ve had Simon bring you here to ask a favor of you.”

“Anything. Ask away,” Said Alexander.

“I’d like you to take my place, on the trip with Justin Snowhawk,” said Logan.

“As tempting as it sounds I can’t,” said Alexander.

“You can and you will”, said Logan

“The timing is off. I can’t afford 3 months on the road,” said Alexander.

“We’ve sorted everything out.” Said Graham. “Tom will go along as well and I’ll meet you in Riverbend. You can work on the road.”

“It will be the same as working from home,” said Logan.

“From Riverbend we’ll go to the River Conference and if you can make the time we’ll spend a final relaxing week in Aurora Lake,” said Simon.

“You’ve been working six days a week, twelve-hour days. You need a change of pace or you’ll wear yourself out,” said Graham.

“I’m expected to announce an engagement with Candi soon. I can’t run off and leave her,” said Alexander.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Remember you never had a problem having a long distance relationship with Viola.” said Graham.

Alexander scowled. “Viola was entertaining another man in my absence.”

“Candi isn’t Viola.” Said Graham.

“Candi is like a little dog. She can’t remember if you’re gone five days or five minutes. She’ll be excited to see you no matter what.” Added Simon.

“Enough Simon.” Said Tom. “We’ll spin it as your last trip before you get married. You’ll do some diplomatic work, kiss babies and pretty girls, attend local town hall meetings and cultural events, and go fishing with your buddies. After that, six weeks in Riverbend, then you’ll end it off with the River Conference.”

“The diplomatic opportunities are immense. Justin Snowhawk will be the next president of the Crystal Mountain Republic. You’ll be the next King. Now is the time to forge those bonds,” added Logan

It sounded good to Alexander. More than good. It sounded great.

“You hit it off great with Justin. You’re really a better choice than I ever was for this trip,” said Logan.

“Does Florien know about this?” Alexander always referred to his father as Florien or The King.

“We have his blessing,” said Logan.

“What did he say?” Alexander asked, starting to wonder if he had any control over his life.

“Your dad said you’re driving him up the fucking wall and he’d like to get you out of town,” said Simon.

Alexander tried not to laugh. “Seriously what did he say?”

“He said it was a brilliant move and it would be great for public relations,” said Logan.

“There’s the business in Allegory as well. I’m still counting on you to back up the operatives in that area.” They turned to see Dare Crow standing in the doorway.

“So Dare why not join us on the diplomatic mission and from Allegory continue the trip with Justin Snowhawk and me,” said Tom.

“Thanks for the invitation but no.” Said Dare. “I’m no diplomat. I’ll leave the matters of diplomacy, commerce and goodwill up to those who actually govern. I might see you at some point along the road but I’m visiting my sister in Riverbend for a week or two.”

“What’s going on in Allegory?” asked Simon, who was no longer privy to government information.

Dare took a seat by the fire and stretched out his long legs. “We’re finally shutting down the cult. Eighty years of organized crime, drug running, under aged prostitution and forced marriages, weapons running, extortion, you name it, and it has got to stop. If they want their own brand of religion or to keep the legal entertainment business going…”

“The whorehouses…” added Tom.

“The legal regulated brothels and other adult entertainments…if they want to keep that open fine. But the rest is going down,” said Dare.

Simon scowled. “You should torch the place and burn it to the ground. They bombed my office last year. It has cost Universal Technologies International a fortune in extra security costs. Not to mention the extra security costs Rich Long has had to put up with after they tried to set fire to his building. People in Meadow Creek were terrified and nothing, not a damn thing was done about it.”

“We know all about that and the dead dog on the doorstep and the rest. I guarantee you it will stop,” said Dare.

“Right. I’ve heard that before. As soon as they get wind of trouble they all have alibis and scatter like the wind. I know they’re the ones who tried to break into Olivia’s house a few weeks ago,” said Simon.

“There was no connection,” said Dare.

“Bull shit,” said Simon. “Someone from Allegory hired thugs to kidnap Olivia. And don’t give me any Crystal Mountain connections Dare, they were from here. None of us are safe until you plow the place into the ground and find out who their spies are.”

“That’s what we’re planning,” said Dare.

“Planning. What good will that do? You’ll never get Lord Mayor and his cronies all in one place,” said Simon.

“Simon, I’m going in as bait. If I’m there all of the top leaders will be there. I’ve sent personal invitations to all for a reception. It’s a trap. It overlaps with the trip,”

“Come with us, just to Allegory. It’s only a day away. With fresh meat like you we’ll be guaranteed all the top cult members will show,” said Tom. “I’m looking forward to seeing the looks on their faces when we tell them no to everything they want.”

“I wouldn’t set foot in Allegory unless they were holding one of my children hostage.” said Simon.

“Then skip Allegory; meet us in the Trinity Valley,” said Tom.

Simon shook his head. “I’ve already made the trip to the Crystal Mountains twice this year so I doubt if I’ll be traveling anytime soon. Four months away from my kids is too much for one year.  I need to be in Meadow Creek for a while. This is a diplomatic mission as well as a business venture for Universal Technologies. Graham and Tom are familiar with the area but it’s been years since you’ve been in those parts. Your perspective will change viewing it as more than a casual visitor. More than that. Justin Snowhawk is an expert in cults and dealing with them. Granted their methods in the CMR is a little heavy handed compared to ours but they’ve effectively dismantled most of the more destructive groups. Justin is going to be the next president of the Crystal Mountain Republic. You need to forge that bond. Despite the fact that it’s a closed country we need them. Their technology …”

Alexander could hear Simon talking but he wasn’t listening to a word he said.

His thoughts were on more personal matters. Justin Snowhawk knew Starlings as few people did. Starlings avoided anyone not of their own kind. They cut themselves off from people, and didn’t seem interested in anything except what benefited them. They were worse isolationist than the people from the Crystal Mountain Republic. Justin would know who wrote the note in the language of the Starlings. He’d know who this enchanted woman with the fern shaped earring was. It was also rumored that Justin was a wizard, so he’d know first hand about the references to enchantments and wizardry.

Justin’s sister Olivia might also have information but Alexander couldn’t ask her. From what he knew she was a workaholic who had no time for anything, much less romance or magic. Wait, he was describing himself. But asking her would be too much of an intrusion, of course unless it was his only options. He didn’t have time to make the trip to Meadow Creek to meet her and her trips to the Capitol were sporadic at best.

Princess Candi was beautiful and a Real Princess. He could make her into his perfect woman with the right amount of training and tutoring. He could hire the very best to help her learn to be the woman he wanted. He could easily do it but his heart said “No.”

He turned to his friends. “Gentlemen, yes, I’ll go in Logan’s place. Charles, you know what we need to do.”

 

~ End

The story will continue next week, right here at vampiremaman.com

For the previous sections – from the start – CLICK HERE

 

Oscar the cat - just because he is so cute.

Oscar the cat – just because he is so cute.

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