Midweek Summer Reading: Suspect

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I first experienced Suspect by Robert Crais as an audio book. My husband is reading it now, and I plan to read it again when he is finished.

Most of us know Crais from his Elvis Cole and Joe Pike series. This is a stand alone book with an entirely new cast of characters.

Below is the description from the the Robert Crais web site:

LAPD cop Scott James is not doing so well. Eight months ago, a shocking nighttime assault by unidentified men killed his partner Stephanie, nearly killed him, and left him enraged, ashamed, and ready to explode. He is unfit for duty—until he meets his new partner.

Maggie is not doing so well, either. A German shepherd who survived three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan sniffing explosives before losing her handler to an IED, her PTSD is as bad as Scott’s.

They are each other’s last chance. Shunned and shunted to the side, they set out to investigate the one case that no one wants them to touch: the identity of the men who murdered Stephanie. What they begin to find is nothing like what Scott has been told, and the journey will take them both through the darkest moments of their own personal hells. Whether they will make it out again, no one can say.

The fact that I’m diving into Suspect for a second time says how good it is. Robert Crais gets into the soul of Maggie the dog. It isn’t always easy. It isn’t always feel good. Read the book. You’ll be moved.

For more about Robert Crais go to: http://www.robertcrais.com/books/book_suspect.htm

I love this book.
Buy or borrow Suspect and look at the photos below of my German Shepard Alice.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

 

Midweek Summer Reading: Ian Rutledge Series by Charles Todd

Ian Rutledge has returned from WW1 and is back to his job as an inspector with Scotland Yard. The woman he loves has left him. The ghost, only he can see of Corporal Hamish MacLeod is in his head, or riding in the back seat of his car. The war is over but violent death is still part of his life. His sister Francis is always there for him and always a delight.

I love these books. Right now I’m reading “A Pale Horse” which takes place in 1920. The characters are alive and believable. The story lines are captivating. If you’re looking for a new series (especially fans of Nigel the Ghost) you’ll like love these books.

The author is a mother/son team. They do a magnificent job.

The first Book in the series is A Test of Wills : Ian Rutledge, returned home from the trenches of the Great War, loses his fiancée Jean after long months in hospital with what is now called PTSD, and faces a bleak future. Fighting back from the edge of madness, he returns to his career at Scotland Yard. But Chief Superintendent Bowles is determined to break him. And so Rutledge finds himself in Warwickshire where the only witness to the murder of Colonel Harris is a drunken ex-soldier suffering from shell shock Rutledge is fighting his own battles with the voice of Corporal Hamish MacLeod in his head, survivor’s guilt after the bloody 1916 Battle of the Somme. The question is, will he win this test of wills with Hamish—or is the shell shocked witness a mirror of what he’ll become if he fails to keep his madness at bay?

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For more information go to: https://charlestodd.com/the-history-of-inspector-ian-rutledge/

 

Happy reading.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Midweek Summer Reading: Tropical Treats that will have you laughing out loud

Today I’m taking you to Florida for two of my favorite books. Both will take you on a wild ride with characters you’ll never forget.

Favorite is an understatement. I’ve read one of them four times and plan to read it again this summer. The other is a book I discovered in 2013 and might also add that to my reading list again.

Warning: These are both laugh out loud, pee your pants, spit out your coffee funny.

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As a parent I knew all about the fun books for younger readers by Carl Hiaasen – Chomp, Holes, Hoot, and Scat. I had no idea he also wrote even  more books for adults.

Bad Monkey
by Car Hiaasen

Andrew Yancy-late of the Miami Police and soon-to-be-late of the Monroe County sheriff’s office-has a human arm in his freezer. There’s a logical (Hiaasenian) explanation for that, but not for how and why it parted from its shadowy owner. Yancy thinks the boating-accident/shark-luncheon explanation is full of holes, and if he can prove murder, the sheriff might rescue him from his grisly Health Inspector gig (it’s not called the roach patrol for nothing).

But first-this being Hiaasen country-Yancy must negotiate an obstacle course of wildly unpredictable events with a crew of even more wildly unpredictable characters, including his just-ex lover, a hot-blooded fugitive from Kansas; the twitchy widow of the frozen arm; two avariciously optimistic real-estate speculators; the Bahamian voodoo witch known as the Dragon Queen, whose suitors are blinded unto death by her peculiar charms; Yancy’s new true love, a kinky coroner; and the eponymous bad monkey-who just may be one of Carl Hiaasen’s greatest characters.

 

Where is Joe Merchant
By Jimmy Buffett

I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH.

Where is Joe Merchant? That’s what his sister, Trevor Kane, the hemorrhoid-ointment heiress, wants to know. For Desdemona, Merchant is the missing link in her ongoing communications with space aliens. Tabloid journalist Rudy Breno only cares that Merchant gets bigger headlines than Elvis. And for renegade seaplane pilot Frank Bama, the mystery of the presumed-dead-but-often-sighted rock star is turning his life upside down.

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Now all you need to do for a perfect summer reading experience is to sit back on the deck with a Margarita, or an ice cold beer, and escape with Carl Hiaasen and Jimmy Buffett.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Mid-Week Summer Reading: Norse Mythology & a Greek God

Mid-Week Summer Reading

For the rest of the summer I’ll be sharing books and stories I think you might enjoy. Everything from adventure to poetry, to horror, to romance will be here, and just about everything else.

If you have a suggestion for a fun summer book or story you’d like to share list it in the comments or send me an email (juliettevampiremom at gmail dot com.)

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Looking for a book to bring camping and read by a gas lamp under the pine trees and stars? I’m speaking from experience.

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Neil Giaman’s Norse Mythology is a fun collection of stories about Thor, Loki and all of their family and friends. This isn’t a novel. It is stories that start at the beginning of time and go forward. That is why it makes a good travel book. If you lose your place it is easy to catch up. The stories are entertaining and told in an entertaining non-lofty way.

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If you’re looking for another quick fix, but from a different author, add this story to your summer reading list – something free for the middle of the week.

Ode to a Greek God

A story by Marla Todd

I’ve been 6000 years at the top of my game. I knew it was too good to last.

I’m having breakfast on my deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the perfect amount of salty warm breeze drifting over me. A beautiful redheaded woman is still in my bed and I can still feel the warmth of her skin against mine. Fortunately she’ll be gone in an hour.

Anyway, I’m having coffee and some amazing cheese and apple pastries my son dropped off this morning. I’m also checking out a box Pan had dropped off with the pastries. That’s my son Pan, the famous happy-go-lucky satyr who dances through the woods making merry. That’s over. He settled down about 150 years ago with a wood nymph named Gloria and they’ve been keeping domestic bliss ever since. I never thought I’d see the day. Anyway, they were cleaning out some closets and found some stuff I’d swiped a few years ago. Thirty-four years ago to be exact.

It looked like I’d gone into the backpack of a college girl. I’d been in college mode that year for a change of pace. I was young, buffed and blue eyed and a killer smile. Female heads all turned in my direction.

In the box was a silver hair clip in the shape of a flowering tree branch, a delicate sexy lacy cream-colored underwire bra size 32C, a sea shell and a folded up piece of college ruled notebook paper. I unfolded the paper and read the words that would change my life.

It was a poem. It was in a round girlish script written in blue felt tip pen. No name identified the writer. I started to read, expecting the usually silly girlish babble about the meaning of life, teen angst and the horrible nature of never being understood. What I read was something else entirely.

As I stood upon the steps,

Halfway between the land and sea

The messenger god Hermes

Came to me,

Swift footed and bright

But somewhat overtaken

By his cousin Dionysus’ last visit

He brought me a message

And I read it through his blue eyes

“I bring you myself” he said.

No answer came from my lips

Except a kiss,

Which spoke very clear.

Oh happy was I,

When hand in hand

Under the stars we ran

For my mythical Hermes

Turned into a man

I took a gulp of coffee and stared at the poem. A poem about me? People had written poems about me, of course, but this was personal. It was a poem about ME, not a god of tales and lore but about ME, Hermes. It was about ME.

This girl knew me. I mean she KNEW me. She knew who I was. How? I never let on to any mortal to who or what I am. Never.

She wrote me a poem. It wasn’t a great poem. It wasn’t even a good poem. It wasn’t epic. But by my father Zeus, it was tender and sweet, full of the promise of love. It was happy. It was from her heart. A heart that considered me more than just a good body and maybe a great fuck, if I did indeed fuck her. I know I must have kissed her. I must have made love to her, because a girl who wrote the poem would never just fuck a guy. She’d have made love to me in a way I should have remembered, but damn it I couldn’t remember a thing.

A kiss. I tried to recall it. Such a kiss I should have remembered. It should have burned on my lips. It should have taken my immortal breath away. I sat going through all of the dusty file drawers in my brain trying to remember, but NOTHING came to mind.

Don’t get me wrong. I am usually NOT the romantic type. I love women but I refuse to be the kind of guy or god who is going to turn into a jellied mass of so much romantic bullshit over just any female. Or am I? My stomach knotted up. My head spun. My heart started to beat fast. I thought I was going to throw up.

By the way, I am Hermes, the messenger God. I go by a lot of names but my friends and family and people who worship me call me Hermes. The Romans called me Mercury, but that is a completely different story, one I’d like not to bring up right at this moment.

So I close my eyes and THINK. 34 years. I’m trying to get a face. A location. Who the hell wrote that poem? There was a ski trip to Aspen and another to Tahoe. An uneventful week in Miami brought back no memories. Of course there were trips to Greece and Paris. The summer was spent in San Francisco and a little north of there was the beach house. Fall brought on New York and Boston. I was in Vermont for the holidays with my family (I know what you’re thinking and yes, we do get together for the holidays just like any other large dysfunctional family).

I heard a car start and looked back to the side of the house. The redhead drove away in her red BMW. I wouldn’t see her again. She got what she wanted and was happy. Fine with me.

Up the drive walks my cousin Dionysus, who happens to be staying at my brother Apollo’s place next door. There again, he was the PARTY GOD. Now he turned into Mr. Bottle Shock. Always going up to Napa, Sonoma, Amador or jetting over to France, Australia, and all corners of the Earth for wine tastings. The guy has been going on about Lodi wines lately so much that I wanted to smack him until I tried them. He was right; it was the nectar of the God’s. But really – Lodi? Have you been to Lodi? Despite all of that he’s still my best friend.

He read the poem. “Halfway between the land and the sea. She was at the beach house you dork.”

“Do you remember her?”

“Yes I remember her.”

“Who was she?”

“Miranda. Quiet girl with the pretty blue-green eyes. She was cute enough.”

“I’m trying but I don’t have a face yet.”

Dionysus poured himself a cup of coffee, added about a gallon of milk to it and half a cup of sugar before sitting down. “She drove a beat up old MG Midget. You talked cars. She was impressed by your Porsche. The two of you hung out all weekend making small talk. Saturday night you went for a walk on the beach and she had sex with you. You thought she was sweet. Remember, she was getting ready to go off to UCLA for the fall. You told her you were going to Harvard.”

Pictures, smells, sound and feelings started to flood my brain.

“She’d been there for several weekends. We always ended up talking on the porch.” I said as images started to come back into my brain.

“Right. She liked you a lot but she didn’t come out and hunt you like the other chicks always did. It wasn’t until that last weekend that you acted on it.”

I remembered. She was a cute, somewhat pretty 17-year-old girl with long brown hair and aqua marine eyes. At a party she wouldn’t have been the girl all the guys were after, but I noticed her. Well, she noticed me first. She started out talking to me about cars. From cars we talked about the tides and the ocean and movies and music and school. She wanted to travel to Nepal and spend time in Europe. Most of her friends were moving on to different colleges but she seemed all right with it. Her mind was set towards the future. I liked her company but she didn’t indicate at all that she wanted true love or a lasting relationship.

We’d walked on the beach. I’d made a few jokes and she’d laughed. She said a few things that were so funny it surprised me. I kissed her and a few hours later we made love by the base of a cliff in a private isolated area of the beach. She didn’t howl at the moon or put on a show. She wasn’t a virgin either.

Miranda let me take the lead but followed with quiet perfection. She lost herself quietly in the moment (which by the way lasted a good hour) and in me and didn’t ask for more. She could kiss too and had an amazing body. What more could a young man want?

We walked back to the house with all of our friends and she never said a word about it. The next morning she gave me her number and said, “Call me”, knowing full well the chances of me doing that were slim to none.

I never called her back.

Now I sat alone in my anguished romantic hell. She’d written a poem that morning and I’d stolen it along with a few other items to remember my lovely weekend. The god of thieves had taken a token of love she dared not share with me and for 34 years I had no idea what she’d written on that piece of folded up note paper.

“Where is she now?” I asked Dionysius, knowing if he didn’t know he’d find out.

He pulled out a large wine glass; the big kind used for reds and filled it with water.

“Take a look Hermes. But you might not like what you find. I guarantee you that one like her isn’t sitting around pining for the boy who got away.”

Images and information started to swirl in the glass. And I guarantee you, it sounds primitive, but you get a lot better information in a wine glass than you’ll ever get on Google.

Miranda had earned a doctorate degree in Genetics from UCLA and an MBA from Stanford. She was currently the Director of Development for a biotech firm in Northern California. The husband was an advocate for foster youth and has been a public defender for 20 years. They’d produced two lovely children, one of each. 11-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy. Both in swim club, good students, get along, popular, no problems. Lots’ of friends with kids, vacations and barbeques. Her home is in a fairly upscale neighborhood but not too pretentious. They go wine tasting a lot and like to cook. My kind of mortals if you don’t mind me saying. The husband even built sort of a wine cellar in the basement. She also likes to build garden sculptures but the visuals were blurred.

“Like whirly gigs?” I asked, thinking of pink flamingos with wildly spinning wings and little figures of men chopping wood. The idea was too weird to digest.

“Kinetic yes, but more large found items, tiles, wood, paint.” Answered my cousin.

“Like the Watt Towers?”

“Not that extreme. More like something out of Sunset Magazine. Understated with a touch of rustic charm.”

Enough of the garden shit. “What’s the relationship like with the husband? What is he? Some middle-aged Viagra popper?”

Dion gave me a smile, like the kind you’d give someone who just said something incredibly stupid. “Hermes, I’m surprise in you. The husband doesn’t need Viagra. He functions quite well on his own.”

“I didn’t need to know that. Did she ever write HIM a poem?”

“The husband? No. You’re the only one she has ever written about.”

“Does she still write anything?”

“She just finished a novel. It’s a mystery romance sort of deal.”

“Can you get me a copy?”

“Sure. I’ll call her up tonight and ask her to email it to me.” He said with a slight touch of sarcasm in his voice.

“Am I in it?” I asked too urgently, hoping the answer would be a definite YES.

“I have no idea but I seriously doubt it.”

“Is she looking to publish it?”

“As we speak. This is her dream Herm. She wants to be published before her kids get into high school so she can be home more with them.”

How could any woman with such a romantic soul, who wrote a poem to a god end up where she was I wondered? “What the fuck is she doing in Biotech?” I asked my cousin.

Dionysus shrugged. “A growing and diverse field with fulfilling opportunities to make the world a better place. She loves it but after 25 years of it she is ready to move on, maybe be a consultant but her family is everything to her.”

I looked into the glass again and saw her as she is now. The brown hair was a little shorter falling slightly below her shoulders, now lighter with blonde highlights. She was dressed stylishly in one of those cute little sweater sets all the women are wearing with a slim skirt and flats with bows. She wore bows on her shoes, a fact that turned my body to so much more jelly. I remember she always wore some bit of fluff or frill along with her Levis and rag wool sweaters. The aqua marine eyes sparkled with little signs of aging. She laughed out loud filling the room with joy. How could someone be so happy working in a science lab? How could someone be so happy without me?

The glass told me that she is known for her humor and mirth. I hardly saw any of it 34 years ago. How could I have been so blind?

To make matters worse was the fact that she was lovely. Fifty one years of lovely female bliss aged to perfection – like the most exquisite and complex wine ever made. She was something to be savored. She was something to be lingered over and enjoyed slowly with great appreciation. I wanted her so bad I ached.

I’m not the kind of guy, or god for that matter, who turns himself into an animal (like dear old dad) to trick a woman. I’m not going to do anything to hurt or use a woman. If a woman wants to use me, then fine, I’ll let her, but that doesn’t make me a bad guy. But I guess I was the perfect asshole to Dr. Miranda Wilkenson Hobbs. She wrote me a poem and I never called her.

I looked up at my cousin. “What was it like before she met the perfect husband?

He shrugged. “She traveled a bit. Worked a lot. Dated a lot. Had a couple of serious relationships but nothing she couldn’t walk away from. She met her husband 16 years ago at a party.”

“Did she write him a poem?” I asked.

“No. Nothing.”

“Nothing. Any hang ups with old boyfriends?”

“None. She’s still friends with a few. They’re all married with kids. Nothing unusual. She didn’t write them any poetry either.”

I conjured up an image of the husband in the glass. Average to nice looking middle-aged man. Full head of black hair, sparkling bright blue eyes, slightly crooked nose but with one of those warm and fuzzy charm filled smiles that women love. Nice slightly better than average guy who could in no way compare to me. No way. Not enough for her to write him poetry. Asshole bastard.

During the following weeks I pulled strings and called in favors that sent Miranda’s book right into the waiting hands of Bryan Woods, literary agent extraordinaire. By the way, Bryan Woods was the name I went by when I spent those weekends at the beach house 34 years ago.

When she received my call I couldn’t believe how good it was to hear that lovely voice. Why of course she could meet me. Where? I made arrangements in San Francisco. She’d have to drive to the big city which was A) always a treat for her and, B) a few hours from her home and away any distractions, C) a most romantic spot for seduction.

It was a beautiful day in the city with clear skies and a high of 68 degrees F. I wore gray Armani and my Rolex Daytona (yellow gold), and of course a Hermes tie. The blonde highlights in my hair were perfect and natural. The smile was a zillion watts. The eyes sparkled blue as a Maxfield Parrish sky.

I picked a restaurant with impeccable service and food, an excellent wine list and a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Exactly at noon Miranda showed up. She scanned the room and saw me with a slight hint of recognition. She’d dressed carefully with thought as women do. A flattering and pretty pink tweed suit over a pink silk blouse with high t-strap shoes that was so classic and sexy I nearly laughed out loud with joy.

She smiled and took my outstretched hand. I took her back to our table. There was the usual required small talk about the drive over, the weather, etc etc etc.

We ordered wine and food. I told her how impressed I was with her book. By the way, I was impressed. The woman could write a story. We spoke of publishing and possible options and contracts. I told her I could see a movie deal coming out of all of it. No lies there. After a flurry of animated conversation we suddenly stopped.

Then she looked at me with slightly squinted eyes and asked “Have we met before?”

I said “The beach house.”

“Oh my goodness. That is you.” She said looking slightly embarrassed.

“We made love on the beach.”

She glanced down unable to meet my eyes for a moment then took a sip of wine and looked up at me again. “We were just kids. Wow that was a long time ago. Small world. Um, it’s good to see you again. You’ve obviously done well for yourself”.

“So have you dear Miranda.” I put the piece of notepaper with the poem in front of her. “Read it.”

She read it but her reaction wasn’t what I thought it would be.

“Where did you get this?” she demanded.

“I took it from your backpack.”

“It wasn’t yours to take.”

“You wrote it about me.”

“Just because we…Bryan, this was private. You betrayed my trust in the absolute worst way.”

“It’s Hermes.”

“It wasn’t yours to take.”

“I’m Hermes. My real name is Hermes, not Bryan. On some level you had to know. Tell me you knew.”

It was as if she didn’t hear a word I said. “Yes, it was about you but the poem was mine,” she said. “You were not supposed to see it.” She was clearly upset, not in a crying angry way but in a calm and collected rage.

“How did you know?” I asked calmly trying to sooth and comfort her.

“Because you shrugged it of the next day like nothing ever happened. I really liked you a lot but oh well. Shit happens.”

I took her hand. “But it did happen Miranda. You and me. You wrote a poem about us.”

“Guess what? It happened a long time ago. I’m not that girl anymore.” She said obviously not following my lead as she pulled her hand away from mine.

“Obviously. How did you know that I am Hermes?”

“You were cute and light on your feet. You made me think of Hermes. Jeeze Bryan. Is that why I’m here? If this isn’t about my book…”

I put my hand on hers again. “I didn’t mean to upset you. But yes, Miranda, I am the messenger god Hermes. Hear me out. I only use the name Bryan Woods when I mix with mortals. Your poem touched me to the very soul and to my bones in a way that nothing else has ever touched me. Nobody has ever written anything so personal to me or about me before. I’m sorry I over looked you. I am sorry I never called back. I’m sorry that it has taken so long for me to tell you that I love you.”

“I should go.” She said trying to pull her hand away and starting to stand up.

“No” I said still holding her hand as I transported her to another time and place.

I took her to a beach. The air was cool and breezy not too cold. She wore a sweeping filmy dress of lavender and white that highlighted her curves. Her hair was slightly blown by an ocean breeze. She was bare footed. I wore a romantic poet’s shirt, sleeves rolled up, half way open to show my spectacular chest.

Against the cliff was a bed piled high with romantic white on white pillows and flowing curtains off of high bedposts. Pink garlands of fresh roses wound around the bedposts. It was one of her dream sort of things.

Miranda looked around 360 at her surroundings, completely ignoring me. Her eyes squinted at the sight of the bed. She turned to me with a total lack of expression on her lovely face except for an angry fire in her aqua marine eyes.

I put my arm around her waist and pulled her close then buried my face in her hair. “It’s been too long”. I said.

She pushed herself away. “What the hell is going on? Did you put something in my drink?”

“I told you I’m Hermes. You’re in my world now.” I said.

I grabbed her wrists. I would have her and she would submit and enjoy ever bit of it and then be glad that she was mine. Or so I thought. She twisted to get away and stomped on my foot. We lost balance and went down to the sand. I was still holding her wrists as I landed on top of her. I could have taken her then and there as I lay between her legs, but I didn’t. Not with Miranda.

“Let’s move it to the bed.” I said gently, my lips meeting hers.

“No, I’m not going to do this. Please. Don’t make me do this.” Tears welled in her eyes. I felt a knot in my stomach and then a wave of nausea swept over me. I rolled over onto my back letting her go. The day was not going as planned.

She got up and walked down the beach a ways then stopped dead in her tracks. She stared at the surf. The sea serpents were out there wrestling. They’re as big as humpback whales with all the teeth, big eyes and claws one expects from them. She froze, and then looked back at me.

“Sea serpents.” I said catching up with her. “Listen Miranda, I’m really sorry. Yes, I’m an arrogant son of a bitch. When I read the poem I thought just for a moment that, no it was more than a moment. Nobody has ever cared like that.”

She didn’t hear a word I said as she stood transfixed on the sea serpents. They roared and crashed into each other in kitten-like play. Green, blue and gold scales sparkled in the sunlight.

I put my arm around her shoulders. “Pretty magnificent creatures aren’t they?”

“Will they come after us?”

“No. They pretty much stay to themselves.”

“This is amazing. Are they real?”

I turned her around and looked into her face. “Yes, they’re as real as I am.” Taking her face in my hands I kissed her. She didn’t fight me, but didn’t exactly jump in my arms either.

“We’re at that point between the earth and the sea.” I kissed her again. She stepped back and crossed her arms. This was going to be more difficult than I thought.

“You’re Hermes, the god Hermes.”

“Yes. I am Hermes.”

“You’re real.”

“I am.”

I expected her to kiss me or something now that she realized who and what I was. She turned away from me and looked at the sea serpents again then looked back at me.

“I wish my kids could see this.”

“My children always loved it when I took them to see the sea serpents. They still do.” I said suddenly thinking that I’d done well by my children and their mothers. In these modern times we’d be a typical blended family. Go figure. Miranda didn’t say anything but kept looking out to the sea.

“This could all be part of your life Miranda. Few mortals ever see this. I’m willing to make you part of this.”

“I can’t.”

“You’d give up immortality?”

She gave me a look that would have killed any red blooded mortal. I watched her take off again down the beach.

I suddenly understood that she’d never love me in the way I wanted her too. Honestly I did. Of course understanding and acceptance are two different things. I ran after her and caught her by the arm spinning her around to face me.

“Miranda stop.” I said trying to reason with her.

“What about my book?” She demanded.

“What about it?” I spat back at her.

“Did you like it or were you just saying that to get me here?”

“It could be a best seller.”

She glared at me. “I won’t sleep with you to get it published.”

I was slightly offended but saw her point. “That isn’t good business Miranda, you should know that. Your book is good enough to publish without sex.”

“I know it is. But as my agent can you get me a good deal and top posting on Amazon and book and posters in the window of Barnes and Noble? Can you get me on the best seller lists? Can you get me an interview with the New York Times and NPR?”

“I’m your agent now?” I asked.

“Yes, I mean don’t you want to be?” She asked looking at me like I was stupid or something.

“What about your biotech job?”

“I’ll keep working until the royalty checks start coming in,” she snapped.

I put my hand on her shoulder, ever so gently. “I’ll get you a six figure advance. You can quit your job tomorrow if you want.”

Her face softened. I could feel her shoulders relaxing. “Really? You’d do that?”

“Of course I would. I’ll be your agent but you have to do something for me.” If I couldn’t have her love, I’d get something almost as good out of her.

She squinted her eyes up at me. “What?”

“You have to write about me.”

“Poetry?”

“Books. The modern adventures of an ancient god.”

“I can do that.”

“I’ll have the contracts drawn up. I believe you’ll like the terms.”

“I’m sure I will.”

“One day I will make love to you again.”

She finally smiled. “Don’t count on it.”

“Let’s go back.” I closed my eyes and when they were open we were back in San Francisco. The restaurant (which by the way I own) was empty of any other customers and fresh blackberry pie and fresh made vanilla ice cream was on the table along with coffee. The sun was starting to set over the San Francisco Bay. We talked about our lives and our kids for about another hour or two. It was so easy with the elder Miranda.

“You’re going to get caught in some pretty nasty traffic.” I told her in my most concerned and caring voice. “You can stay the night here with me.”

“It’s ok,” she said,”I have a couple of audio books in the car.”

I walked her out to her car, a blue 2010 Mustang convertible. I should have known she’d still have a convertible.

I didn’t want to let her go. “Miranda, I’m sorry I was a jerk. I didn’t know how you felt about me. Another time and place and we could have…”

She put her finger to her lips as if telling a child to be quiet. “Listen, Bryan, I mean Hermes, I’m sorry it didn’t work out the way you imagined it but I have a good feeling about this, about us. I really do and we’ll make a good partnership and maybe even become friends. I take that back. We will become friends. Okay?”

Friends usually means the kiss of death in a relationship but not this one.

“You’ll write about me.” I said, not as a question.

“I will write about you Hermes.” She put her hand on my waist, stood on her toes and kissed me. “I will write wonderful things about you that everyone will want to read.”

I opened the car door for her. “I’ll fax over the contracts in the morning. Drive safe Miranda.”

Late into the wee hours of the morning I sat on the balcony overlooking the Bay and thought of her kiss that lingered on my lips. The messenger god Hermes had indeed turned into a man.

 

Sea Monster

I’ll see you next Wednesday for more Summer Reading. Maybe it will be Vampires. Maybe it will be Dinosaurs. Maybe it will be romance. You never know.

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Girl in the Woods: 2016 Serial Novel, Part 19

Each Friday in 2016 brings a new installment of the serial novel Girl in the Woods. If you are new to this romance/fantasy/adventure please start from the beginning. CLICK HERE for previous installments. And remember – you’re getting the unedited rough version. Have fun and happy reading.

 

Girl in the Woods

 

Girl in the Woods: 2016 Serial Novel, Part 19

Three Brothers Vineyard: The Past That Haunts

The road to the Trinity Valley turned from wooded areas that surrounded Allegory to orchards and vineyards. Dare Crow had vanished to parts unknown. Olivia could hear the younger men, Michael, Andrew, and Charles laughing from inside of the carriage. She rode her own horse alongside Alexander and Tom. The group of a dozen guards, led by a man called Captain Wallford followed.

Bob, Roy, Dan and Bob’s wife Alyssa ran the Three Brother’s Vineyards and Winery. Olivia waved at Roy who was out in the field with some workers. She looked forward to seeing her old friend later. The Three Brother’s Estate, including the main manor house, and guesthouses stood absolutely beautiful among the vineyards.

There would be several days of meetings, public appearances, and parties. But all Olivia could think of was maybe an hour or two to herself in an attempt to refocus and heal. It was difficult to feel any excitement over the upcoming events with the ever present headaches and the phantom visits from her nemesis. Such was the life of Olivia Starfire Snowhawk. She scanned the others, then tried to smile, as they arrived to the open arms of their hosts.

After a lavish dinner and a bottle of wine to toast the evening and coming days, was smiling and laughing.

In Alexander’s room was a basket containing recent magazines. There was the issue of business monthly with Simon, Olivia and Annie on the cover. The entire issue was nothing but a love letter to Universal Technologies. Logan had said that Annie was the master at public relations getting them on the cover of just about every magazine in the country a month before the River Conference. Interest in Universal Technologies had skyrocketed in anticipation of their latest breakthroughs. He’d read the article before he left home and congratulated Simon on the good press coverage.

He set his eyes on Olivia’s picture. She was the most prominent in the grouping, showing a completely secure in-charge business leader. The woman described in the article wasn’t the woman he was traveling with. “Why are you so agitated and angry? Your health? Your relationships? Your traveling companions? Don’t blame me for your bad mood Miss Snowhawk. I wasn’t the one who volunteered you for this trip.”

The last few issues of Fabulous Homes were in there as well. A few months before his own home had been featured along with a complete diary of the restoration. He made him cringed thinking of the accompanying editorial saying that the home was incomplete without a wife. He picked up the latest issue. It must have just come out. He didn’t remember seeing it before he left home. There was Olivia again, on the cover. This time she was on her front porch dressed exquisitely casual, smiling with a large black cat in her arms, as she stood in front of a massive door covered with carvings of a fern grotto. The cat could have been a double for his own cat Rufus. He stared at the image scanning Olivia’s smiling face for some resemblance to the woman he’d met just a few days before.

He ignored the rest of the features and went directly to the spreads of her home. The kitchen was warm and inviting. It was huge with high ceilings. Her own recipe for an elegant vegetable soup was in a side bar. She grew her own herbs and had a vegetable garden.

Her main living area was warm and homey, filled with shelves of art pottery and books. The rug on the floor was almost exactly like the one he’d had custom made. Large windows overlooked her famous gardens. He saw the famous crystal dragonfly chandelier in the formal dining room as well as a comfortable guest room. The centerfold out spread was of her home library. “Wow” he said aloud. It was smaller than his but equally impressive. It said that built in bookshelves also lined the upstairs hallways. He could live in that house. It was spectacular. It was Fabulous. He looked more. No pictures of her bedroom. He wondered what her bedroom looked like. No, he wondered whom she entertained there.

Alexander made a mental note to himself to ask Rich Long to dig up something. Rich knew everyone and everything in Meadow Creek. He’d know who Olivia was spending her time with.

She was quoted in the article next to a picture of her in beautiful green dress, her arms full of flowers. “This is the only place I’ve ever called home.”

He turned the next page and froze. The next article was pink. Metallic pink letters splashed across the page. Princess Candi at Home. Solid pink with touches of cream and yellow finished it off. He felt flushed and slightly uncomfortable. Beautiful Candi was lounging on a pink fur covered fainting couch in a low cut pink gown, her perfect mouth formed in a sweet smile. The sight of it was slightly childish and slightly erotic. It was embarrassing.

“She can’t actually live there in all that pink.” he thought.

The headline read “Candi Just Can’t Get Enough Pink!!!”

Alexander scanned the article.

When asked about Prince Alexander, Princess Candi replied, “Alexander is so absolutely handsome. Sometimes I just have to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming.” Then the darling princess giggled in her lovely bell like little laugh and clapped her hands together.

He continued to skim the article passing over her remarks about fashion. He stopped skimming when he saw his name again.

“What sort of decorating plans do you have for after you marry Prince Alexander?”

“His musty old house is like an old hunting lodge so I’ll HAVE to redecorate. Unfortunately I don’t think Alexander will let me have pink all over so just the ball room, and my sitting room will be total pink paradise.” she pouted with her famous perfect pink lips. “The rest will be golds and whites and bright sunshine yellow. I might let him have a really masculine red and black bedroom for when he’s feeling really naughty, I mean amorous, whoops, you know, romantic, I mean a girl can wish can’t she?”

Did she really say that? First of all his house wasn’t anything like a hunting lodge. He’d have to have a serious talk about her when he returned. He made a note to have his public relations staff approve any future interviews she did. No, he’d personally approve all of her interviews for print. He could see in his mind the pout, the puzzled looks, tears, then the kiss filled apology.

Alexander let the flash of anger roll over him. It wasn’t worth getting angry about. She could be trained. He was a master of damage control. He’d dealt with all the other woman in his life, Candy wasn’t that much different. In fact she’d be easier than most. Still, he knew most of his friends would call it off at this point and start dating again. Unfortunately that wasn’t a choice he could make.

He flipped back to the pages with Olivia’s house, then back to Candi. The contrast made him almost feel sick. He dropped the magazine on the table.

 

He went downstairs to find the others. A small blue lantern was lit on the porch. Olivia sat alone in the clear cold air, bundled in her coat with several bottles of wine next to her. There were several glasses on the table and a wine opener. He hadn’t seen her all day and noticed she’s been quiet at dinner, excusing herself early then vanishing.

 

“Expecting someone?”

Olivia looked up with a slight smile. “Not really. They always have wine out in the guest quarters, this being a vineyard and all. I’ll pour you a glass.”

“What’s up with the blue lantern?”

“Old wizard’s trick to ward off bad magic.” She didn’t tell him she was afraid of the night.

“Come inside. It’s freezing.”

With a quick glance at the outdoor hearth a fire blazed up. She gave him a quick smile and unbuttoned her coat. She’d become comfortable openly using her magic around him. Alexander sat next to her on the couch. The air around them quickly warmed up.

“The heat feels great.”

She stretched her legs in front of her. “I’m so used to the cold sometimes that I forget…” She trailed off not finishing her sentence. She glanced at the fire. “I sit outside a lot at home too, to see the night sky.” She added in an attempt to break the uncomfortable silence.

“I saw your house in Fabulous Homes. You’ve done a great job.”

“Thanks, they did a nice job of the spread. I saw your home in the magazine last year. You did a great job at restoration. I like your style.”

“It’s a lot like yours.”

“We’ll have to go shopping together sometime.” She said with a smile, then looked away.

He was surprised she didn’t mention the article about Princess Candi and her juvenile decorating taste. “You live alone.” He said.

“That information wasn’t in the article.”

“I pried it out of Simon. Who takes care of your place?”

“I employ a married couple who live in a cottage on the grounds of my house. Mac manages the grounds and stable staff. Daisy takes care of the household staff. Sometimes she helps me with special projects, like party planning, organizing and domestic stuff. They’re dear folk, really and I like having them around, but not in my line of sight.

In the evenings and weekends, it’s just me and my cat in the big house, unless I have guests. I entertain almost every weekend so it’s not as if I’m not a hermit.”

He thought again about who her guests might be. “Sounds nice.”

“It is. When we get done with this, business of ours, I’d like you to come over, as my guest.”

“I’d like that.” The tension started to ease out of his neck. It would be nice to visit Olivia’s house, walk the grounds, cook with her in the big kitchen while listening to her rattle off stories in her Crystal Mountain lilt. He wanted to see her library, her art collection, and the famous dragonfly chandelier. The thought of seeing her bedroom made him slightly uncomfortable.

They opened the bottle of wine and made small talk about Freddy Green’s architecture and the events of the day. Conversation came easily.

His mind kept going back the fact that she lived alone, unmarried, away from her family. She was famous and her face in the press almost as much as his own, yet she kept her private life almost completely closed off to the public eye. He wanted to know how this woman who headed up the largest private company in the country seemed like such a mystery to him.

“What do you really want Olivia?” He asked

“More wine always.” She smiled then looked at his serious face. “I guess I don’t understand your question.”

“In life. What do you want for yourself?”

“I want that dress Roy wore the other night.” She laughed, “Actually, I have everything I need.”

“That’s not what I asked. What do you want? Worldwide domination of the technology market? “

“I’ve already got that one wrapped up.”

“Then what’s next? Power? Fortune? A castle and your own personal army?”

She wasn’t sure if he was being humorous or on the attack. “Personal army? I’ve had enough of fighting to last ten lifetimes.”

“A woman of your influence might need a bevy of well built young men to protect you, or at least keep you entertained.”

“Oh you make me laugh. As my business grows, I want Universal Technologies to be instrumental in bringing beauty and hope into lives of those who lack hope. I want to teach more. I want to continue to provide a work environment that encourages free creativity and innovation. I want to contribute to the well being of my community and give back a hundred times what it has given to me.”

“Admirable goals for someone who is insidiously self-centered, manipulative, sarcastic…”

“I am not self-centered.”

“I stand corrected, you are not self-centered. All kidding aside, what do you want outside of your work?”

She spoke deliberately choosing her words carefully. “I have everything I want. Despite what you read in the society and gossip sections of the newspaper, like you, I treasure my quiet evenings at home with my books or with a few friends gathered in my kitchen. I like a good party or a night out like anyone else, but I guard my privacy and my independence. I’m not in this for the notoriety.”

“I’ve found a kindred spirit. Olivia, marry me tonight.”

“I wish I could dear prince, but we have a busy day tomorrow. I’ll be needing my sleep.“

He had to smile. She’d made a flirtatious joke back in response to his. “Seriously, do you want a family of your own? A husband and children to share your home?”

“I want you to stop asking me questions.”

“After your interrogation of me last night you owe me. Just one more.”

“Alright, ask away.”

He looked at her comfortably on the opposite end of the couch with her feet tucked up underneath her, her hair falling haphazardly over her shoulders a slight smile on her lips. Despite their differences he found himself again oddly fascinated by her. “You are so different than anyone I know, but that isn’t a bad thing. You’re absolutely lovely. Why hasn’t some man enchanted your heart?”

Most woman would have swooned and been in his arms with that statement. Olivia stretched out her legs and leaned back into the pillows on the couch. “Enchanted is an odd word to use.”

“Don’t you want someone to share your life with?”

“I have plenty of people to share my life with.” The smile vanished from her face. He knew he’d put her on edge. He decided to nudge her over.

“What about Alaric Shadowford?”

“Oh please…” she rolled her eyes at him in disgust. “I haven’t been involved with Alaric for over a year.”

“Is it over because of Simon?”

“Simon has nothing to do with it. Alaric didn’t just want to be my partner, he wanted to dominate and own me. He kept watch on my every movement and track of every man I spoke to, yet he took other women to his bed every chance he got. I got tired of the drama and dumped him.”

The confession sat cold with Alexander. He suddenly saw her in a different light, not as the aggressive seductress of his embarrassing fantasies, but as someone he could relate to. “He cheated on you? Why?”

“Because he could. You’ve seen the man. He’s gorgeous. Then kick in the war hero mystique and women line up to be with him.” There was a pause. Alexander looked intensely at Olivia, not saying a word. Not asking a question. She looked out over the vineyard. It was obvious she had been hurt by the man. “It was horrible.” She added quietly.

“Simon told me about the Spring Ball.” Alexander said quietly, trying not to be obvious about setting her up again.

“Oh that. What else did he tell you?”

“Nothing except the fact he doesn’t want you to be around Alaric.”

“This is embarrassing. I know you wonder why I ever got involved with Alaric or stayed with him as long as I did.”

“I don’t know you well enough to even speculate. I suspect you were alone and he was available. That’s what usually gets me into trouble, you know, being alone and available.” He smiled at his own joke. Olivia gave a weak attempt at a smile.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. Alaric and I grew up together during the war. Our parents ran the intelligence units for the rebellion. We lived in the same, it’s hard to explain, um, the same compound, or I guess you’d call it a camp of a sorts. Justin and I moved around a lot more but we stayed with the same group of families more or less. Alaric and I always ended up hanging out together. He was one of the only kids who wasn’t all flipped out that I was a wizard, and well, different from the others. I think he took me under his wing get into my father’s good graces. Anyway, to make a long story short, when we were just teenagers I saved Alaric’s life. Then, right before I moved here, he saved my life. That makes a bond that ties us together for always, at least it does at home, in the Crystal Mountains. Stupid tradition if you ask me, but then again when it came to Alaric my opinion never did matter. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

When Alaric took the position as ambassador to the Northwestern Kingdom, we reunited. It all happened so quickly and I thought…it doesn’t matter what I thought. Now it is over and done with.” She sat for a moment not saying a word. He had her flustered and off guard. Alexander waited until she was ready to say more.

She spoke again, quietly still looking over the vineyards. “To make matters worse my dear misguided brother begged for me to make it work. God knows what sort of future Justin and Alaric had planned for me. The one thing I do know is that their vision meant I’d have to leave my life here and turn my back on everything and everyone I’ve come to love.” She turned her face to Alexander and looked straight into his eye. “I won’t do that, not for any man. I’m never going back to the Crystal Mountains. Never.” She turned away from him again and poured another glass of wine. “This wine is absolutely wonderful. I could drink an entire bottle in one sitting.” She wanted to change the subject.

“I’m sorry to hear they had such dismal plans for you. I’m sure you already know that Alaric is a distant cousin of mine. I thought it was odd that he never brought you around to meet me.”

She looked disgusted. “Alaric is too possessive. Within a day of introducing us he would have accused me of having an affair with you.”

“Like when he accused you and Simon of being lovers.”

“Simon and I aren’t lovers.”

“Not since you were young.”

“You know then?”

“It’s no big deal. It was a long time ago. So why are you still in contact with Alaric at all?”

“I told you, we have a history. Our families, our pasts are connected.”

“You were with him the night he killed Doran Nightlander.”

She crossed her legs and pulled her jacket tight.

“I was there. What has Alaric told you about it?”

“Nothing really, aside from the fact that you were there and you saved his life. He isn’t one for details so that’s all I know.”

“It wasn’t a high point in his life, or mine for that fact. We don’t talk about it.”

“I’ve always wanted to know what really happened. Seems odd that a seventeen year old boy would kill the most powerful wizard in the Crystal Mountains all by himself.”

“I understand you’re quite the historic scholar. I don’t blame you for wanting to know everything, but sometimes it is better if history is not investigated too deeply.”

“You know Olivia, it would be easier for you to tell me about how Alaric killed Doran, and how you saved Alaric now rather than to have me pry it out of you later.”

“Alexander, please.”

“Why are you protecting someone who physically and mentally abused you? Alaric didn’t kill Doran did he? Someone else was there that night.”

She squinted her eyes at him. “The official story was that Alaric killed Doran and his men. The fact is that it didn’t happen that way. You are correct in your assumption that someone else killed Doran and his men.”

“Who was it? ”

“I killed them. All of them.”

“Olivia, don’t lie to me.”

“I’m telling you the truth. ”

“Doran was one of the most powerful wizards alive. You were just a girl.”

“I’m also a wizard, a very powerful wizard at that, remember?”

“You couldn’t handle Dare Crow back in Allegory. How do you expect me to believe you could neutralize Doran Nightlander, much less a dozen other men?”

“Believe what you want. I’m so sick of the lies and pretending. If it had been my brother I’m sure you would have believed him.”

“Oh come on…”

“The truth of the matter is that the meeting with Doran wasn’t accidental. He had been searching for me for years. He planned to …just forget it. You’ll never understand what I went through much less believe me.” She started to stand but Alexander caught her hand.

“Doran was looking for you? Why would he want you?”

“Why wouldn’t he want me? I’m Jonathan Snowhawk’s daughter. One of the chief ways to get to your enemy is to take what is most precious and turn it against him.”

“Why not take Justin?”

“Because I was the rare female wizard child, in a time when most wizards in the Crystal Mountains had been eliminated by the Nightlander clan. If both parents are wizards that will guarantee their children will all be wizards. As far as anyone knew I was the only known female wizard of any power left in the country. I was the key to passing on their magic for future generations. They wanted me for breeding.”

“That’s insane.”

“Everything was insane.” She crossed her arms and leaned back into the corner of the couch. “Since you don’t believe me, just forget I said anything to you about it.”

He gently put his hand on her knee. “If you’re telling the truth then show me your memories. Memories can’t lie.”

She brushed his hand off of her leg. “Forget it. You either believe me or you don’t.”

“You don’t trust me, do you?”

“Not anymore than you trust me. I’m not letting you into my head.”

Alexander had to laugh. “We can’t go on like this. We need to have some amount of trust between us. Show me what happened.”

“No.”

“Show me. I know you’re not lying but I need to understand.” He stared into her eyes for what seemed like an eternity. The bright teal color flecked with gray was as cold as the northern sea.

“I can’t.”

“You can. You will.” It was an order cold and clear. “Olivia, do it now.”

“Dare Crow said he would lock me up if I ever did any magic around you.”

“ I will handle Crow. Show me what happened with Doran Nightlander. You know you want to, otherwise you wouldn’t have told me about it in the first place.”

“Promise on your word as the Crown Prince of the Northwestern Kingdom that you’ll not tell a soul what you see or take any action against me for what you are about to see.”

“It’s that bad?”

“Promise me.”

“I promise you, Olivia Snowhawk, on my honor as Prince of the Northwestern Kingdom that I will not speak of what you show me tonight, nor will I take action against you for anything you did that night.” He gave her a warm smile that would have melted any other woman and almost for a second melted her.

Out of control again, she wanted to smack Alexander’s face but she kept calm. “Fine, I’ll show you but don’t blame me if you have nightmares for the next year.” she said scowling at him. “Give me your hands, palm down.”

He brushed his hand through his hair and put his hands out for her to take. He’d done this with Ellie when they were younger. She’d show him her memories of places she’d been and things that had happened in school. Over the years Dare Crow and others in law enforcement and government had shared brief images of events he needed to understand. It was an odd experience to say the least but thrilling too.

“This isn’t a good idea,” Olivia said.

He smiled at her. “I know you want to show me what happened.”

She stared at him again with a slight squint in her eyes. He locked his eyes on her and wouldn’t let go. He’d rarely seen anyone holding back so much anger.

“I’ll show you everything,” she said, “Just be prepared. It isn’t pretty.” Olivia closed her eyes for a few seconds then looked at Alexander. “Don’t judge either Alaric or me for what happened. It wasn’t your battle to fight and I don’t know if you can understand yet that our lives were not the same as yours. We didn’t go to school or have carefree teenage years filled with parties and dances. We were trained to fight and survive. We wanted to be children but we didn’t have that luxury.”

She looked at his hands and rubbed the tops with her thumbs, almost a lover’s caress. Unlike her touch, the sound of her voice was cold and distant. He could feel a slight warmth moving from his hands up to his arms and shoulders. A wizard’s touch.

“Stop me anytime you feel uncomfortable.” She sat in front of him and held his hands. He felt a slight tingle in his fingertips. Olivia closed her eyes for a few moments and took a few deep breaths. He suddenly had an overwhelming wave of desire for her. He leaned over to brush his lips to hers, when she sat up straighter, away from his face, opened her eyes and spoke in the old language. “I haven’t done this in a while, so I can’t guarantee how well it will go. It is important for you not to ask any questions or talk until I’m done. Relax. Close your eyes. Don’t let go of my hands until I let go. Alright, here we go.”

 

Vivid images, sounds and smells entered Alexander’s mind. Dusk in the woods. The trees were gnarled and tangled. Snow was deep on the ground. He could feel and smell the bite of the cold winter night. Two teenagers with packs on their backs hiked along. The tall young man was Alaric, about 16 or 17 years old. The other teen was smaller, a lot smaller. Two long braids hung out from under a cap, falling a few inches below her knees. He saw the face. She was just a baby, maybe 14 at the oldest. It was Olivia, with a freckled unadorned adolescent face. A dull pain throbbed in her balled up, almost useless right hand. The girl was crippled and in constant pain.

Olivia looked at Alaric; she was in love with him. Alaric never noticed her that way.

Next he saw an ancient stone structure with a high tower. The snow fell harder. They made their way to the locked door. Olivia held her hands over the rust covered lock. It clicked off and with a glance from Olivia the heavy door opened with a groan.

Alaric removed his heavy coat to reveal the broad shoulders covered by a heavy sweater. His dark ringlets curled over his shoulders and down his back. He already had the arrogant serious look that he wore as an adult. However Alaric’s fresh young face could have been that of any teenage boy who was lost, tired and trying to hide that he was also frightened.

She lit a blue light. Dropping the big coat Alexander saw she already had her luscious curves. Those curves were a burden for a girl so young. She wore a dark well-worn and patched sweater pulled down over layers of skirts and heavy scuffed boots. An untied knit scarf hung from her neck. Her ears were already pierced with three small studs in each, two in her ear lobes and one at the top curve of each ear. She wore a dozen beaded bracelets on her small wrists that were her own handiwork made from discarded and broken jewelry she’d found and squirreled away in secret.

There were weapons in the trunks. Odd highly destructive and illegal weapons. It was unlike anything they had ever seen. It looked as though nobody had been there for months or even years.

“I’m never going to hear the end of it from my dad.” She knew what Jonathan was worried about. She’d freeze to death in the snow or worse lose her virginity to Alaric. He and his brothers already had reputations with girls. She’d told him time and again that she could take care of herself but Jonathan never listened.

Alaric went to work checking their surroundings. He surveyed the room like an experienced soldier. “Did you set any spells yet?”

“Sure, I locked the front door. I also made footprints going back out into the forest. They aren’t great but it looks like real feet.”

“Why don’t you do more magic? You could enchant everyone in the Baron’s army.”

“Who told you that?”

“I over heard the adults last week. You scare the shit out of them.”

“It scares me.”

“You’re so useless. If any other girl was here instead of you…”

“You would have been up her skirts and forgetting how lost you are. Dick head.” She rubbed the dust off of an elaborate old mirror and stuck a few poses.

“Think you’re pretty?” Alaric asked with a look of disgust.

“One day, I might be pretty and fall in love with a handsome wizard.”

“Who filled your head with ideas of romance?”

“Nobody,”

“Well, don’t get your hopes up because you’re so freaking strange and ugly only things any guy will be looking at will be your big tits.”

“Asshole.” The mirror glass exploded sending glass flying in his direction. He ducked under one the open trunks.

“Stop it.”

“Why are you so mean to me?” tears brimmed in her eyes.

“Just shut the fuck up and get some heat in here.”

“I’m not ugly.”

“You’re sure as hell not pretty.”

She already knew why he didn’t like her. He resented the fact that she was a wizard and she could throw a knife better than any of the boys in their group. He wanted to be a great fighter and ended up as a baby sitter to the weird wizard girl. Now they were lost and it was his fault. She made a ball of smokeless flames in the old fireplace. It wasn’t much but it would heat the room.

“Hands,” she demanded holding out her own to him. He pulled off his worn gloves and took her hands. Heat radiated through his body.

“Thanks,” he said, and then turned to look more at the weapons.

They talked of staying the night. It was another 5 or 6 miles to the safe house. It was already dark and snowing hard. She thought of making a snotty remark about his insistence on taking a short cut but thought better of it. She didn’t want to make him mad. Even if he was an asshole, he was the most handsome boy she’d ever met. All the girls worshiped the ground he walked on.

She started chatting away about the weapons in an attempt to impress him with her knowledge when without warning Alaric pinned her to the back of chair she was sitting on and kissed her. She tried to push him back but he continued, his hand went up her sweater working quickly to get at her bare skin. Despite her attempts to push him away he continued work on getting her clothing undone. “Relax. You’ll like it. I promise.” He kissed her again. She turned her head away from him in a panic.

“My dad will kill me if he finds out.”

He stood up in disgust. “Your first kiss and you’re worried about what your daddy will think. You want to die a virgin Livy?”

“Leave me alone.” Tears blurred her vision as she got up and headed to the door.

“You’re fucking crazy. Any other girl would be begging me to be making out with her right now.”

“Go to hell.”

As she reached the door it flew open almost knocking her to the floor.

The next image was a blinding flash of yellow light. Wizard light. Three men grabbed Alaric. Two were giant muscular men with long dark hair. Third was smaller and looked like a rat wearing a coat richly decorated in bronze and copper colored embroidery. He was obviously someone important.

A fourth came through the door, the Baron’s youngest son Doran Nightlander. He was in his early thirties. The most beautiful man she’d ever seen. His hair was the same color as Olivia’s, brown shot with auburn, long and silken flowing down his back. His eyes were golden brown like jewels. At the time he was the most powerful wizard in the Crystal Mountains. He seemed to know who Olivia was.

He approached her holding out his gloved hand. His smile was warm and inviting. His voice was calming. “So, here you are my little wizard girl. I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Do you remember me? No? I’m not going to kill you. In fact, you’re in for a real treat.”

Doran glared at Alaric. “How dare you treat her with disrespect.” Alaric screamed with pain inflicted by some invisible hand.

The wizard took Olivia aside and made her turn around for inspection. “You’ll clean up nicely,” he told her. “You have the sweet face of a girl but already the body of a woman.”

 

He took her hand and led her up the stairs and unlocked the door. “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to help. I’m your friend. Remember that.”

At the top of the stairs was a chamber with a large bed. It was an elaborate lush room made for comfort. Doran closed the door. Olivia heard the click of the lock behind her.

“This is where my mother used to meet her lovers. After her sons were born she needed assurance she was still desirable.”

He picked up a picture. “This is mother. Words can’t express how much I miss her.”

She’d seen pictures of her before, the Baroness Nightlander. The woman was stunning. Olivia had never known anyone could be so beautiful. She could see the resemblance in Doran.

“You look like her,” Olivia said, barely able to get the words out. Her heart was pounding fast. She was terrified and uncomfortable with his talk about his mother’s lovers, but trying to keep calm.

“Yes, I look like her. My dear departed brother Robbie looked more like our father. And my other brother…he was a traitor, now he’s a dead traitor.”

Olivia held the picture in her hands still looking at the lovely face. “She died in childbirth,” whispered Olivia. That much she knew of the Baroness.

“That is what we tell everyone, but it isn’t true. My mother gave birth to my beautiful little sister, who died a few minutes after her first breath. My father suspected the child wasn’t his and stabbed my mother in the heart. She was exhausted from childbirth and too tired to use her magic to defend herself. He later found out the baby was his. You can’t imagine how angry I was at him. I’ll get even with the old bastard eventually, then I’ll be the Baron of the Crystal Mountains.” He smiled at Olivia and took the picture of his mother in his hands. “One day soon you’ll be as beautiful as she was.”

He took a dress out of the wardrobe and handed it to her. “Put this on. I’d love to watch but I’ll turn my back for you.”

Olivia stood motionless clutching the dress. Doran lowered his voice in a demanding tone. “Put the dress on now.” He turned to the window with a smile.

Frightened, she quickly stripped off her worn clothes and put on the dress. Never in her life had she felt fabric so soft or touched anything so beautiful. It fit her as if it were made for her.

“Turn around” Doran told her. He gently unbraided her hair and fanned it out over her back and shoulders. It fell almost to her ankles. Look at yourself he turned her again towards a full-length mirror. “This is your future.”

She gazed at herself. Her serious face cracked a small smile. The teal color of the dress matched her eyes.

Doran lifted her chin and looked into her face. “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to rescue you my love.” He held her gaze. Everything became quiet. She was frozen as if in a trance, unable to move or see anything outside of Doran. “You’re going to be my partner. You’re going to vow to love me forever, even after death and in turn I shall worship the ground you walk on.”

Doran kissed her. Not like a hormone crazed boy but like a man, slow and sensuous. She’d never imagined how wonderful a real kiss could be. He held her close in a gentle embrace. Olivia felt so warm and safe with his arms around her. She could hear his heart beating slow and steady. He stroked her hair and gently spoke to her.

She felt something she’d never felt before – desire for a man.

“Tonight you’ll become a woman and the world will be ours.” He kissed her again making her almost feel like jelly in his arms. “Such a pretty sweet thing.” His lips moved to hers again. Olivia closed her eyes and was lost as if in a trance. He was going to take her away from it all just like the stories she’d read about Hyacinth meeting the handsome Prince Florien in the Northwestern Kingdom, and they’d live happily ever after.

From his pocket he pulled a gold necklace with a large golden stone. Purple and blue light sparkled in it.

“This belonged to my great grandmother Starfire. You know who she was, a powerful wizard, the mother of our country. One day you too will be a great wizard like her. Consider this symbol of your future.”

He put the necklace around her neck. She could feel a surge of magic tingle down to her fingers.

“You’ve always felt like an outcast, haven’t you my little wizard girl? Tonight you’ll sleep in this beautiful bed, not on an old rug on the floor. You’ll be treated with the respect you deserve.”

He gently pulled her down on the bed and kissed her again. His hand drifted to her hip.

“Doran, if my dad finds out I’m here with you, making out…”

“I know Jonathan Snowhawk. We used to be friends. I know he’d approve.” He kissed her again “Clear your mind my beauty. Clear your mind of all the pain that has followed you for so long. Close your mind of all the horrible things you were forced to do.” He unfolded her fisted fingers. She pulled back in pain.

“Let me see. Poor darling.” Doran then kissed the palm of her right hand. The raised scar grew thinner and smooth. The cruel pain she felt in it for as long as she could remember vanished. She opened her damaged hand painlessly and with ease for the first time she could remember. He smiled at her. “This is the first of many gifts of love I’ll have for you. I’ll make you whole, I promise.”

She felt uneasy, unsure of what he was feeling or her own feelings. She was too young to understand why he spoke of love to her but she knew it was wrong. She knew she was too young. There was something else about him, something familiar. She did seem to belong with him. The jumble of thoughts and emotions confused her.

She lay back on the bed, trying to read his thoughts. Then she remembered who he was. She’d been sucked into his world through thoughts and dreams before.

This was the man who had caused hundreds of thousands of deaths of innocent people. He’d started the practice of disassembly – taking prisoners of war and political prisoners apart one body part at a time until they died. This was the man who is responsible for the slaughter of 90% of the Crystal Mountain wizards,including men, women and children. This was the man who had imprisoned her father Jack Snowhawk for over a year. This is the man she’d used her own magic against to keep him from further torturing and mutilating the woman Jack loved.

Olivia locked up that portion of her mind so Doran couldn’t get to her, giving him a sweet smile. Lies came easy to Olivia. It was the only way she could survive without going completely crazy.

“I’m only 14,” she said, trying to stall him.

“You’ll be 15 in two months time. Old enough to know the love of a man.”

His voice calmed her and made her want to completely surrender to him. She kept her composure and kept his magic from touching her. “I don’t know what to do. I’m scared.”

He sat up and pulled her up too. “We’ll get to know each other better. I will teach you. This is what I offer you.” He took her hands and showed her visions that astounded her, of what life with him could be. What surprised her was that she wanted what he showed her more than anything. She belonged in the world that he showed her. She belonged with Doran. He took away her pain. He showed her love. He told her that she was lovely, when everyone else around her viewed her as plain weird wizard girl.

 

There was a noise from below. He went to the door and called down   “Kill the Shadowford brat”.

Before Olivia could shout for them to stop, she willed them to die with her mind, with her own magic. The three men lay in a heap on the floor. Blood came out of their ears and noses. The smaller man twitched as his lifeless glassy gold eyes stared in her direction. The bodies went up in flames.

A chill of pure fear ran through Alexander. He could smell the blood and burning flesh. He involuntarily shuddered.

“Stay in there, I’m not finished.” Whispered Olivia, heat from her hands radiated through his body.

Doran pulled her back up the stairs and tighter to him then laughed. He didn’t care his men were dead. He was delighted by the fact that she could kill with the power of her mind. He laughed with joy. “This is better than I imagined. Olivia my love, you are such a rare and wonderful treasure. By the gods of the stars, this is the beginning of a new age.”

“I didn’t mean to kill them.” Olivia barely got the words out.

“Of course you did my lovely beautiful perfect little wizard,” he kissed her again and then laughed.

Olivia had a sense that Alaric was dying. She could feel his life slipping out of his body She tried to get down the stairs but Doran stopped her. “Let him die. He will be nothing but trouble to you.”

“He’s my friend.”

“That resentful adolescent bastard? Tell me Olivia, will you call him your friend when he beats you and belittles you in the name of love?”

Alexander went cold. It was a vision of what was to come. He thought of Simon’s hate for Alaric.

“Don’t go there Alexander, let’s stick to this story” Olivia said out loud.

Doran took Olivia’s face in his hands.” You’ll learn our ways. You’ll learn to channel your power. You’ll learn to love like you’ve never imagined. Tell me you’ll love me forever Olivia Starfire and we’ll rule the world together.”

“I can’t do this. What if I get pregnant?” It sounded so desperate. She sounded so young.

“My precious darling little wizard, don’t worry about that. I’ll take care of everything.”

Alexander heard Olivia’s adult voice speaking aloud but saw her violent memories in his mind.

Olivia spoke out loud. “I don’t know exactly what happened except that a surge of fear ran through my soul. I wasn’t thinking about Alaric. I was thinking about all the innocent people Doran and his minions had tortured and killed. I pulled myself together and smiled, making him think that I was willing to give myself to him. I leaned into him and kissed him.

She kissed him and whispered in his ear, “I’ll learn to love you Doran. I’ll be a real woman for you.”

He put his arm around her waist and pulled her closer. The passion of her kiss intensified. A low groan of pleasure came out of him.

She looked into his golden eye,s “I don’t want to wait. I want to know what it’s like to be with a man. Please, Doran, I’ll be yours now. Right now. Teach me now.”

“ It was the most convincing lie I’d ever told. Just as his hands started to slide the dress from my shoulders I slipped my dagger out of the sleeve and stabbed him. One upper thrust through the heart just like my father had taught me. Then I stabbed him in the neck. Doran just fell limp right on top of me, with my hand still frozen to the hilt of my dagger. It seemed like I lay there underneath him forever while all his blood drained out on me. It felt like someone was running hot syrup over me. When I finally pulled the knife out of Doran’s neck and pushed him off of me the blade of my dagger blazed up like a paper knife and was gone. God, it was strange.”

Olivia said nothing for a few seconds. Alexander looked at her sad expression. She gave him a quick glance.

“Doran Nightlander, the most powerful wizard in the Crystal Mountains was dead.”

She stood and backed away from the body and stared at him for what felt like hours. Then she pulled off his rings and took the medallion from around his neck. She emptied his pockets into her own. Next she went through the trunk that had belonged to the Baroness. Olivia jammed the love letters and jewelry into a bag. She took the small portrait of the beautiful and gentle Baroness, then sat on the floor and cried until she thought she would pass out.

Alexander suddenly saw a jumble of images and feelings. A woman in an elaborate blood covered dress on the floor, her face covered in blood, her arm severed just below the elbow. A man held by chains attempting to get to her. An unseen child screaming.

Is that the Baroness? Alexander asked.

“Crystal Fox, my…dad’s partner, Doran had her tortured, years before…I killed Doran for her, because of what he’d done to her and so many others. My thoughts aren’t on track anymore,” said Olivia. “I’m sorry, you shouldn’t have seen that. “ Olivia dug her fingernails into Alexander’s wrists. He was back in the tower, seeing the scene through Olivia’s 14 year old eyes.

“I scrambled down the stairs and found Alaric on the floor bleeding from a beating and a knife wound in his neck. He should have died of internal injuries, but I was able to save him with my own wizard healing. My abilities seemed to suddenly grow stronger in my fear.

I’d never known life without war. I’d killed before, with firebombs and thoughts, but this was different. It was with my own hands. There was nothing heroic or noble about it. It was ugly and sad. I knew he was evil, but killing Doran Nightlander left a hole in my soul that I couldn’t understand. I felt a strange bond with him. In a horrible perverse afterthought I wanted to be with Doran, to be his partner, his lover, to live in his world of comfort and luxury. I wanted the pageantry and ceremony. I wanted to be in a place where I’d never be cold or hungry, or in pain.” She paused to compose her emotions.

“I saved Alaric from bleeding to death, I healed him with my wizardry, but I felt like a traitor. Then I realized that was what Doran wanted me to feel. He wanted me to feel like I was one of them, like a Nightlander or one of their true followers. He wanted me to turn against my own family and friends.”

She caressed Alexander’s hands again but her attention was on her story. “When Doran died it was the beginning of the end. The Baron died a month later. The Nightlanders were more or less gone. Within a year the fighting stopped. Alaric was the brave young hero everyone needed.

Anyway, to finish off the story, Doran had six more guards posted outside the door, watching the woods. They had no idea what had gone on inside. I killed them the same way I’d killed his other men.”

Alexander took in a breath.

“I had to kill them, I had no other choice. It was them or Alaric and me. Later than night I contacted my dad. He was there by noon the next day.”

Knowing Alexander would ask she added, “I can speak to people in their dreams or come to them as a phantom while they’re awake.”

Alexander saw the 14-year-old Olivia again, still in the beautiful dress now covered in blood. She had been crying. Tears streaked her face. A 36-year-old Jonathan Snowhawk stood next to her, tall with broad shoulders, his hair not yet touched with grey. His handsome brow was furrowed with worry. Jonathan spoke to Olivia in a gentle voice. His emerald green eyes locked on hers. “Never tell anyone what Doran asked of you or that you killed him. Let them think Alaric did it. There are men, even on our side who will hunt you down and kill you if they discover what happened between you and Doran.”

“Dad, he was so beautiful. He kissed me. He said he loved me. I told him that I wasn’t ready. I told him that I’m just a girl.” She started to sob again.

“Did he take you as a man takes his partner?”

“No, almost but no. I killed him.” She buried her head in his shoulder crying even harder now.

“Don’t think about it anymore. Forget the night ever happened.”

“Don’t let them hurt me.”

There had always been people who wanted Olivia dead, who told Jonathan he should have killed her at birth because of her wizardry and odd ways.”

He held his daughter tight and told her he loved her more than anything in the world. He made her swear she’d never use her magic again. He promised her that he would do everything in his power to keep her safe. Olivia sobbed on not caring if she ever saw Alaric again.

“I’ve shown you too much,” Olivia said, still tightly holding his hands in hers. He could hear the sadness in her voice. Without letting him answer she continued her story. “My father was afraid to let me near wizards, even good wizards. He told forbade me ever to mention Doran Nightlander again or any other members of the Nightlander family. He watched me like a hawk around boys and men of any age.”

“Was he so afraid you’d become the woman Doran had promised you’d become.”

“He was afraid I’d kill again. That’s why the wizard community watches me. They don’t think I know, but they can’t fool me. I can feel them trying to get at me through their minds and their spies. It drives them crazy that they can’t will a heart to stop. I’m the only one who can do that. I’m the only one who can kill without leaving a trace.”

“You could kill me now?”

“No. It only works when I’m protecting someone else. I take no pride in killing. I did what I had to do to save Alaric and so many more. Doran was a monster. I had to stop him. Do you understand?”

“I understand what you had to do. You were brave. Most grown men wouldn’t have been so brave.” They sat in silence for a minute.

Alexander thought about how badly the young Alaric has treated Olivia. He’d bossed her around, called her strange and ugly then expect her to put out for him. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Doran had seduced her, but then she turned on him because she recognized his evil.

“You said Alaric saved your life later on,” Alexander said, knowing she’d been attacked right before she move to the Northwest Kingdom. Now he wanted to hear what really happened from Olivia.

“What?” She gave him a blank look.

“Earlier you said that Alaric saved your life. That was the bond that kept you connected.”

“It was a lot later. I won’t show you that.”

“Nothing could be worse than what I just saw.”

She gave a low mirthless laugh to herself “Sure it can. Twelve years ago, I was kidnapped and raped by a man. Someone I knew from my past.” She paused and looked away. “When I told my kidnapper I’d never love him, he went into a fury and almost killed me. I don’t want to share that memory with you or anyone else.”

“Olivia, I’m sorry.” Alexander reached for her hands but she quickly folded her arms preventing him from touching her.

“After I went missing, Alaric headed up the search to find me. I would have bled to death if he’d not been so relentless in his efforts. Six weeks later Simon met me at the border and I left the Crystal Mountains for good.” She was tired of his skirting what he did and didn’t know about her. “It’s no secret. You already knew about it before you even asked, didn’t you Alexander?”

“I knew there had been an attempt on your life by a former lover. I didn’t know the details. I’m sorry. I promise I won’t ask about it again.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. Alexander was almost numb at hearing her story, just as Tom had told him in Allegory. It changed every thought and emotion he’d had about her. He had a million questions he knew she’d never willingly answer. She looked at his concerned gaze. “I’m fine now, really. Don’t tell me you won’t ask about it again because I know you will.” she said.

“Where is he now, the man who hurt you?”

“Somewhere in the wild lands north of the Crystal Mountains, but I don’t know for sure. That’s why I keep in touch with scouts, in case he shows up at the borders, I know to watch out.” she sighed.

“Are you safe with him out there?”

“I’m safe enough. Don’t worry about me.” She took a deep breath and looked down at her hands, rubbing the scar on her right palm. Looking up at Alexander, Olivia smiled.

“I never imagined I’d be living anywhere so peaceful, sitting on a porch drinking wine with a handsome prince, telling him about the nightmares I’ve lived. Let’s stop this ugly conversation. We should be talking about wine and what books we’re reading and gossiping about our mutual friends.” she paused and took a sip of wine.

“You’re very brave,” he said taking her hand again.

“Aside from my father, you’re the only one who knows the full story of my encounter with Doran Nightlander so I’d appreciate it if you kept it to yourself.”

“Nobody else?”

“Not even my brother.” She paused and took a deep breath. “There is one other person. During his interrogation, Detective Crow, damn him, dug part of it out of my memories.” She thought of when Darious kissed her and suddenly felt almost naked in front of Alexander.

“Why tell me all of this after all these years of silence?”

Olivia stammered, “I wanted you to hear it from me, and not from Crow. But that isn’t it, not really, Alexander, I shared my secrets with you because I feel safe in your presence. You have the background and understanding in these matters not to judge me for things I had to do. That’s what you wanted after all isn’t it, for me to trust you?”

“That’s not the real reason. Come on Olivia, after what happened in Allegory, you don’t trust me as far as you can spit.”

“I thought you’d understand…” she paused and took a deep breath, almost a sigh, then continued. “Oh screw it. I hear the respect and awe in your voice when you speak of Alaric. Doran was right in what he said about Alaric. He treated me like dirt, all the while knowing that I’d risked my life to save him. Alaric knows I’d never share our secret. He knows he could live the lie forever and get away with it. I know I’ll sound shallow and self serving for saying this, but it makes me sick every time I think of women practically waiting in line to jump into Alaric’s bed because he’s a hero. He uses it to has advantage whenever he gets a chance, whether it’s for diplomatic or romantic reasons and there isn’t a fucking thing I can do about it.”

“I’m glad you shared that with me, as bad as it is.”

“That isn’t the worst of it. Alaric’s plan was to come here for a few years then bring me home as a trophy. He’d tame the wild and rebellious Olivia Snowhawk and bring her back to the Crystal Mountains once and for all. It didn’t matter if he cheated on me and treated me like I owed him something. A hero should get whatever he wants, no matter if that wish is for me to become his personal property. Everyone I knew back in the Crystal Mountains thought I was crazy not to vow my love to him. He played into it too, acting like the broken hearted hero and enjoying their sympathies while living in The Capitol having more than his share of women. Damn him all to hell.”

“Do you plan on telling anyone else about this?”

“Not anytime soon. Like you, my dear prince, I don’t air my dirty laundry in public.”

“Unfortunately almost everything in my laundry basket eventually goes public whether I like it or not. ”

“No you’re wrong. What about Viola’s betrayal to you? Viola kept you out of her bed because she loved another man. She wanted your title and she wanted your name for her children but she didn’t want you. And in return you protected her and hid her actions from the public. You made it look like the break-up was your fault.”

“I still wonder why I protected Viola. I could have ruined her reputation. I could have prevented her from ever seeing her new lover again.”

“Because you chose to take the high road and be a better person than she was.”

“You took the high road with Alaric as well. Did you feel as bad as I did?”

“It was worse for you. You loved Viola with all of your heart. I wanted to love Alaric but now I know it was just wishing I could love him the way Simon loves Ellie.”

“We’ll love again, both of us. I’m sure of that.”

“You’re too sweet. Go back to being your usual rude self so I won’t have to feel so awful.”

She closed her eyes for a second. Alexander wondered if she was going to cry.

“Olivia, you didn’t do anything wrong. Not in killing Doran and his men. Not when you broke it off with Alaric. “

“Don’t tell anyone what I’ve said or what I’ve shown you tonight.”

“I gave you my word, as your friend and as your prince.”

She mouthed the words thank you, got up out of her chair and stretched.

“Where are you going?”

“For a walk. Come with me.” She reached out her hand for Alexander’s then dropped it on the sound of feet coming down the deck.

 

Michael and the boys came bounding down the steps to join them. Tom was in the house talking with Bob and Roy.

They walked down the patch and looked at the stars. She knew all the constellations and planets. She knew myths of many cultures. He told her that he’d take her to the observatory south of the capitol when they returned home.

Michael gave her a knowing grin. She swore he could read her mind as well as Detective Crow. Michael reminded her of her younger brother. It made her guilty thinking that she had missed so much of her younger siblings lives.

She didn’t know why she’d opened up to Alexander and shared her secrets.   She almost took his arm but decided against it. She noticed he was cold and suggested they go back. This was a temperate land where it rarely snowed in the capitol.

 

Five days before she had met Alexander. Less than a week. But then again she had met men at parties and fell for them the first night. But this wasn’t a party. It was business. He was unavailable and she might as well have been. She found herself telling him things she never had told anyone before. She felt herself feeling things she hadn’t felt in years.

 

What was it about him? He made her angry with his constant questions.

 

The physical attraction was clear. It almost took her breath away.

 

It was the easy way they talked. It was the odd little things like the ferns embossed on his portfolio and saddle. It was the way he was relaxed in the kitchen and how well he took the joke with Roy. She enjoyed watching the banter between Alex and Tom.

 

Alexander took her hands and kissed her cheek. She held her breath and closed her eyes for a moment. He lingered, his cheek against hers. It could have lead to more, but he let go of her hands.

“There’s something I wanted to ask you about the Crystal Mountain courting rituals.”

“We don’t get married in the way you do. Is that it?”

“No, it’s not that. Most of the really bad cases of enchantments, unbreakable enchantments of the heart, come from wizards of The Crystal Mountains. It seems to me to be almost a romantic ritual in some cases, connected perhaps to vows of love.

“An enchantment of the heart isn’t a romantic ritual and has nothing to do with vows of love, it’s a serious violent crime.”

“What do you know about enchantments?”

“I know it is extremely rare and dangerous. In most cases the enchantment is never broken. In most cases the burden of the enchantment is like a disease, eventually killing the victim by wearing him or her out both physically and emotionally.”

“Do you know anyone who is enchanted?”

“It isn’t something those who are enchanted readily share with others. Ask Detective Crow if you want population statistics. He’s the expert.”

He looked at her and smiled. “I think you and Dare would be good together.”

“Darious Crow is too much like Alaric Shadowford.”

“You’re wrong. Get to know him better.”

“No thank you.”

“Don’t give up on love Olivia.”

“Good night Alexander. I’ll see you when the sun comes up.”

 

 

Olivia went to the kitchen to fix some tea before she went to her room for the night. Michael was in the adjoining room looking at some maps. She thought about Crow for a second. The memory of his kisses still made her feel hot and nervous. Then her mind went to Alexander. She’d shared with him something she’d never shared with anyone. She had given him a bit of her heart and soul that she’d she’d never be able to take back. It was like being with a friend she would have forever.

What a manipulating charmer Alexander was, she thought to herself. Suddenly she was wracked with pain. She fell on her knees. Her head was being crushed in a vice. It was though a spear had been driven into her back. Her chest felt crushed. Michael came to her side. He knew what it was, she had never told him, but he knew. He had seen the prince kiss her cheek. He saw the way she looked at him. He put on some hot water, then he put a cold rag on her forehead. He had been through this before. Annie and Simon knew as well. Before he had left Simon told him what to do if she had a bad attack.

 

Change the subject he thought as he stroked her hair. He talked about going to the book dealer at Lockwood. That would get her attention. There was going to be a poetry reading. There were some new landscapes showing at the gallery, ocean scenes. He reminded her that she loved being near the ocean. They had to take a break. She gave him a weak smile for his efforts, then staggered to the sink and threw up. He held her hair back out of her face with one hand and rubbed her back with the other. He put his arm around her waist and got her back into the chair before she sank to the floor. She put her head on the table. He brought her a wet cloth to wipe her face. Blue light he thought.

“Olivia, can you light the lantern? Light the lantern.” He put a small lantern he’d found on the counter in front of her. “Try to light it,” he said gently.

She managed to sit up and hold her hands over it. A flood of pain came over her again. She held her head in her hands. Closing her eyes she grasped the small lantern. A small blue flame started to grow. She took a deep breath and pushed it aside. She started to shake. He put his arms around her and held her until she was still. “I’m alright now,” she said with a raspy voice. She cleared her throat “I’m fine”.

He wanted to yell at her and tell her that she wasn’t fine at all. She was going to let this thing kill her if she continued to close herself off. They shared a pot of tea.

 

“Thank you Michael” she said her eyes brimming over with rare tears.

“You have to do something about this.”

“There is nothing to be done.”

“I’m going to talk to Ellie.”

“She can’t help. Nobody can help. Just let me be Michael. ”

Tom came in. He could see her shaking and the sweat on her forehead and above her lip.

“She’s had one of her attacks,” said Michael

She glanced at Tom and staggered off to the sink again.

Tom went to her as she sank to the floor and whispered, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Especially not Alexander.”

Tom carried her over to the couch. He held her hand “Be strong.”

“I am strong,” she gasped then she closed her eyes tight as the pain shot through her body again. Out of Michaels hearing range she whispered again to Tom “Michael knows I get sick like this, but he doesn’t know why. You don’t need to tell him.”

Then she took a deep breath again, pulled herself to her feet and started for the stairs. “It’s over. I’ll be fine.”

“Where are you going?” asked Michael

“To bed darling, to sleep.”

 

After she had gone Michael turned to Tom. “She’s enchanted, isn’t she?”

 

Tom shook his head. “Go to bed Michael.”

Michael stood his ground. “I figured it out a long time ago. Every time she looks at Alexander she gets a headache. That romantic walk they went on tonight just about killed her. I’ve seen this before, but never this bad. We have to talk about it. We can’t continue on our journey like this.”

Michael wanted to talk but Tom shook his head no. “She’ll be fine. Just accept it.”

Michael knew he couldn’t accept that.

 

~ to be continued

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

Goin’ Extinct: Tales From the Edge of Oblivion

From my good friend The Masked Mujer:

Goin’ Extinct: Tales From the Edge of Oblivion

A group of writers, poets, and deviants joined together to bring to you some amazing post-apocalypse poetry and short stories.

The stories are exciting, creative and imaginative. I’m very proud to be included with these great authors and creators of worlds.

I write my short stories under my real name, Diana Garcia.

Here are some funny memes fellow author of, “Skeet Beechams’s Confessions from the End of the World,” (in anthology) and dear friend, J. Harrison Kemp, made which really cracked me up: As usual, this charity anthology benefits MS charities. Please help by buying these anthologies. Your support is greatly appreciated! ENJOY!Click Image below for Amazon Kindle LinkFor paperback:

https://www.createspace.com/4913135***

REVIEWS ARE GREATLY APPRECIATED TOO! THANK YOU!***

 

.Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LT240EA

Smashwords:https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457898

Paperback edition coming soon!Learn more about WPaD’s charity anthologies at: http://wpad.weebly.comView original

via Goin’ Extinct: Tales From the Edge of Oblivion.

This also features work from Marla Todd and Juliette Kings (writer and editor of West Coast Review and Vampiremaman.com)