Thursday, March 31, 2016
Stefanya soared above Talbot’s Peak on gyrfalcon wings. At first she told herself she flew with purpose. To prove it, she made a point of performing aerial recon over their targets’ strongholds, even though the Seven had already gathered such intel. Updating, she justified it. When all along she knew she was only marking time.
She took the farthest first, the spreading cattle ranch owned by Brandon Fledermaus. His vast herds covered the even vaster plains, fattening themselves on rich grass with no cowboys in sight. That was because the guards were in the trees, and in the air. She’d barely crossed into Flying F territory when a flock of bats darted up to meet her, shifters by their size. Among the browns and flying foxes she spotted the snub-nosed vampires Alec had warned them about. Brand’s enforcers. If they ID’d her as anything other than a normal bird, she’d be deep in trouble indeed. She dipped her wings and slid away, back to neutral ground. The bats did not pursue, returning instead to their hidden roosts to await other possible threats.
No such aggressive security met her at Hancock’s mountain fortress. The Hancock pack had ruled this territory for decades. They considered themselves invincible. A single bird lay beneath their notice. Stefanya circled the Peak unchallenged and studied them at her leisure, noting numbers, guards, schedules. This was information she already had. Busywork. She left the mountain for the lower forests, and Zhere Ghan’s palatial manor.
Like the wolves, the tigers patrolling the grounds in both forms paid no attention to her. All but the one on the roof. He watched her steadily from beneath the brim of his broad black hat. Of course he recognized her. At one time they’d been as close as father and daughter, when she was younger and far more naïve. Stefanya was neither now. She wondered if Sergei had ever been.
She dropped, though not low enough to rouse suspicion in the other tigers. She fluttered her wings in their old code. He nodded once, then left the roof. Stefanya returned to Talbot’s Peak, and considered the lies she must now tell Yuri about where she’d be going tonight and why he could not come with her. The first lies of many, she feared.
# # #
After dark Stefanya returned to the compound, with only the moon to see. The white tiger waited for her in the forest just beyond the walls. She came to earth as falcon, but landed in her human form.
Sergei also shifted. “Little diver,” he greeted her. The old endearment. She tried not to flinch, but he noticed. He noticed everything. His habitual grave expression grew darker. “This is not friendly visit, yes?”
"Teacher." Stefanya bowed her head briefly. She had loved him as a father, and respected him still. “We’ve received our orders,” she told him without preamble. “Zhere Ghan is one of the targets.”
She waited for a reaction. His face remained impassive. “It will mean death for him,” she added. “When we strike, we never fail.”
Sergei shrugged. “Zhere Ghan has too many enemies to count. Get in line, as Americans say.” He narrowed his icy eyes. “Why tell me this? Does this not ruin attack? You know far better, Stefanya.”
“You’re not a target. This isn’t your fight. There’s no reason for you to die for his sake. I—” She clamped her lips shut against Don’t want to see you hurt.
Her former teacher didn’t answer. Perhaps he read her unspoken words in her face. Yes, of course he did.
“I’ve already told him the Seven are here,” he said finally. “I will tell him this also. You know I must.”
“Why?” she burst out. “He’s evil. He’s proved that repeatedly. You’ve never served evil. Why serve him?”
He looked away, towards the surrounding treetops. “Is old debt. The kind not easily repaid. Honor, blood and death bind us. If threat comes, I must defend him.” He lowered his gaze to meet hers. “Even from you.”
“That won’t be so easy. I know you, teacher. Your favorite moves. The way you think.”
“Opposite is true,” he reminded her. “I didn’t teach you everything I know.”
“I’ve learned new things since.” She flexed her fingers like talons. “Walk away. Remove yourself from the fight. Ghan has enough guards. He won’t even notice your absence.”
To her surprise, he chuckled. “You are not first woman to tell me this.”
“You should listen to that woman. She’s wiser than either of us.”
“Da. She is.” He regarded her somberly. “I won’t ask you to abandon your mission. It would be futile, yes?”
She couldn’t meet his eyes any longer. She wanted to look toward the sky, her second home, but knew she’d find no consolation there. “Yes,” she echoed.
“Then do what your honor demands. And so will I.” She heard a swish of leaves. When she looked up at last, Sergei was gone.
I tried, she told herself. It’s business now. The mission. She hurriedly shifted and shot toward the sky. Besides her wings, her falcon form had the advantage of being unable to cry.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Greetings and happy Wednesday. Sorry about missing last week's post. Denver got hit with a blizzard and I had no power for 36 hours, which meant no internet access for my laptop and no way to transfer the story to my phone, which did have power.
Still no title for the story yet, though I'm kind of leaning toward just calling it "Jarod Black". That's not too cheesy, is it? Anywho, here's this week's story chunk. Enjoy!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Still no title for the story yet, though I'm kind of leaning toward just calling it "Jarod Black". That's not too cheesy, is it? Anywho, here's this week's story chunk. Enjoy!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Pain was an interesting thing, Jarod thought. It could manifest in many ways, sometimes all at once. While bound in ropes with his hands tied behind him, the pain in his shoulder had been cold and jagged, like ice crystals. When they spread him and tied him to the bed, the pain of having his arm pulled out and up away from his body became a tearing burn. With that tearing burn, though, had come icy jagged ice crystals in his ribs and left hip, the same side as his damaged shoulder. He guessed that meant he had other damage there, too, which explained why the healer had looked so worried.
All of that was forgotten when the sensuously beautiful healer disrobed and climbed atop him, straddling his waist. Her delicate frame was child sized atop him, her long wavy golden hair tickling his hips when she arched back. Her luscious breasts were anything but childlike. They were large for her frame and tipped with pouty pink nipples. He was so entranced by them, thrust out like an offering to the Goddess, that he didn't notice the dagger plunging down until that pain ripped him apart.
He had only vague impressions for a long time after that. The stab had started off like any stab wound, with a sick flicker of pain. Then liquid fire poured through the wound like scalding blood escaping in rather than out. The burn spread through his veins, pumped along by his racing heart. Finally, it reached his brain and he passed out.
The next time he became aware of anything, it was the smell of something so delicious that he could feel his stomach cramping in anticipation. His mouth was watering as he wondered what something that smelled that good would taste like. He felt something cool and moist touch his lips and he snapped for it. The flavor filled his mouth, even richer than the scent had promised. Ah, it was heaven! He wanted more! He sensed that another piece of food was close to his mouth and snapped again, snatching the offering up. He felt a sharp blow land across his nose. He opened his eyes, startled.
Beside him sat the man. He felt like he should know this man but he couldn't think past his hunger. He growled and the man tapped his nose again.
"Behave or you'll not get anymore," the man said. It was a struggle for him to understand the words. But as he watched, the man reached over to a platter and picked up a long strip of red, bloody meat. The scent of the meat was like a hit of ambrosia! There, he thought as he struggled. That was the source of the heavenly scent and amazing flavor!
He growled again, his teeth bared in a snarl. Another tap on his nose startled him into silence.
"I said," the man began, "behave or you'll not get anymore."
He stared at the food, refusing to meet the man's gaze. He understood now. The man was trying to assert dominance over him. The man wasn't going to give him that tasty meat until he submitted. He didn't want to submit but he did want more food.
The man began waving the food slowly back and forth, filling the air with its succulent smell. As his stomach cramped with hunger, he tried to remember that being dominated by the man was bad. Or was it? He wasn't sure if it was bad or not. He didn't want to submit but he didn't think it was wrong to do so.
The meat strip crept closer to his mouth. He fought the urge to snap at it, suspecting the man would pull it back if he did. He waited until it was almost to his lips and then met the man's gaze reluctantly before slowly drawing the food into his mouth with his tongue. The man smiled warmly.
"Very good, Black," the man crooned as he picked up another strip of meat. "You have the instincts of a beast now, but you are still a man."
Beast? Yes, that sounded right. He was a beast now but also a man. The thought drifted through his mind as the man—master—fed him another strip of meat.
His master put a cover over the platter, cutting off the smell of fresh meat. He growled, not satisfied with how little food he'd been given. Master tapped his nose again, so he chuffed his annoyance instead.
Then Master did something unexpected. He touched his cheek softly and caressed him. It felt so good that he lifted his chin, begging for more. Master smiled and lightly scratched his chin. Ah! That was wonderful! He closed his eyes and setting in to enjoy the sensation.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
I'm pleased and proud to be working with Siren Publishing again. TOGETHER AGAIN is the first book in the Pacific Cay Trilogy. I signed the contract earlier this week. I'm busy working on the cover questionnaire and writing blurbs. Please see the information below for taste of Tim and Susan's story.
Until Next Week,
TOGETHER AGAIN: (Erotic Contemporary Romance: Sirenbookstrand Publishing-Publication Date May 2016)
Giving first loves a second chance requires letting go of the past and embracing what today offers.
Tim Smith wants a second chance with his first love, Susan Nealson. He’s recently figured out he’s been in love with Susan for some time. Convincing and showing Susan he’s worth a second chance isn’t going to be easy. Given his on-again-off-again ex-boyfriend past with Susan, he isn’t sure how to act on his attraction. When Susan agrees to be a mutual friend’s maid of honor, Tim might have the incentive he’s looking for.
Susan isn’t anticipating being paired up with the dateless best man, Tim--her ex-boyfriend. She wouldn’t turn down a chance to revisit their past sexual heat. Beyond that, she’s unsure taking a risk on Tim is in her best interest. When their chemistry explodes more than sex, Susan’s feelings and heart ignite too. Seeing past their bungled past and embracing their now is something, they have to do to claim their second chance at love and a future together.
Thursday, March 24, 2016
Far from Talbot’s Peak …
The man behind the antique mahogany desk carefully considered the reports his agents, the Seven, had sent him. Things had gone quiet of late in the hidden shapeshifter town. The inhabitants scurried to and fro in pursuit of their wretched little dreams. Meanwhile, those who mattered sat back and kept wary eyes on one another, but did nothing other than grow fat.
That would not do. That would not do at all. Peace, even a tenuous peace, did not suit his plans.
He reached for his phone. Time to shake things up a bit.
# # #
The Seven gathered in a corner of the dining room at the inn where Alec had found lodging. The room was practically empty, and the food was indeed as delicious as he’d promised. If only I could enjoy it, Stefanya thought, or anything right now. But they weren’t in Talbot’s Peak on holiday. All enjoyments would have to wait until after their assignment was complete.
She greeted the members of her team and let them engage in a bit of small talk before she got down to business. “I’ve received communication from our employer,” she said.
“About bloody time,” Cloyd the assassin muttered. He stabbed his fork into his salad and decapitated a slice of tomato. “When do we start killing?”
“Not just yet,” she said icily. She knew she should put her emotions on hold, but the sheep just ruffled her feathers. The sheep ruffled everyone’s feathers. She resolved to find a replacement, once their current mission was done. “Our employer gave specific instructions. No deaths yet. Terrorism first. He wants to play a bit.”
Cloyd flashed a smile with little sanity in it. Somehow Stefanya repressed her shudder. “That’s better. My kind of guy.”
“Targets?” Yuri asked. His strong, low voice brought them back on track. She squeezed her lover’s hand beneath the table. Yuri squeezed hers back.
“Three,” she said. “The rancher, Brandon Fledermaus. The real estate mogul, Damien Hancock. The businessman, Zhere Ghan.”
“Don’t you mean the crime boss?” Castor said. “Oh, wait. That could be Hancock.”
“The money men,” Irwin mused, chewing thoughtfully on his lettuce. Stefanya watched in wonder. The Australian botanist had been with the team for three years, and she still wasn’t quite used to the concept of a vegetarian crocodile. “The big boomers. Security out the arse. Getting to them won’t be easy.”
“Which is why I’ve called you together,” Stefanya said. “You’ve had time enough to study the town and its people. What can you tell me of these three?”
“Got it covered,” Castor said. He flipped his placemat over, bummed a pen from his partner Pollux, and swiftly sketched a crude map, with a tall triangle in the center to represent the Peak. “Hancock holdings,” he continued, drawing an irregular circle around the triangle. Most of the town of Talbot’s Peak fell within its radius. “He also owns properties down at the exit. This little wedge here is a dude ranch, right between his western boundary and the start of the Fledermaus spread, which is here.” He drew another circle.
“And here,” Pollux finished, outlining a third circle with the tip of her finger, “is the Ghan compound. Rumor has it he bought the land from Hancock through a proxy, so the wolves didn’t know they’d sold to a cat until the ink was dry. Word is the Big Kahancock isn’t happy about it.”
Castor stared at her. Clearly this was news to him. “Says who?”
Pollux tossed her red-fox hair and grinned at him. “Says every Hancock employee who bought me a drink while you were out marking territories. They’re wolves. A girl just has to shake her tail and they’ll tell her anything.”
Stefanya smiled thinly. Her spies had done well. “Our employer wants us to strike at them in the heart of their own territories. Where they feel the most secure. Which would be … ?”
“Stately Fledermaus Manor is here,” Castor said, marking an X within the one circle. “If you want to call a ranch house stately. He likes the simple life. That’s just the surface, though. Bet he’s got an underground sanctum. Most bat shifters do.”
“If that’s true, he won’t be easy to get at,” Alec said. “I’ve already done a flyover. No outside alarm systems I could see. Inside, no idea. He runs regular patrols, to protect the cattle, I guess. Some of his employees are vampires.”
“Real, or bat shifters?”
“Shifters.” He shivered beneath his pullover sweater. “Fast. And very suspicious.”
“I can get in,” Castor said. “I’ve been there enough in my coyote form. They know I’m not a Hancock wolf, so I get a pass.” He draped his arm over Pollux’s shoulders. “Bet Pol could get in too, if she shook her tail.” She growled at him and shoved his arm away.
Stefanya nodded. “Hancock?”
“He’ll be tougher. His stronghold’s here.” Castor put an X halfway up the side of the triangle. “You and the owl are fine, but those of us without wings are SOL.”
“Not necessarily,” Yuri spoke up. “These American Rockies are no challenge to someone who’s scaled the Himalayas.”
“There’s an elevator inside the mountain,” Alec added, “but yeah, you’d be better off outside. He has next to no electronic surveillance. Mostly relies on his bodyguards. Alpha wolf, y’know. Arrogant.”
“But still a wolf,” Stefanya said, with a worried look at Yuri. “And you’re a cat. If they see you—”
He shook his head with a gentle smile. “They won’t.”
She relaxed. He had a point. Leopards, especially snow leopards, could disappear like ghosts when they wanted to.
Which left their final target, the one that concerned her most, for reasons she would not voice aloud before Yuri. She made sure her voice was steady before she spoke. “Zhere Ghan?”
“Here.” A final X appeared beneath the tip of Castor’s pen. “High walls, armed guards, and tigers out the ass. Good luck getting a closer look.”
“No worries,” Irwin said. “While the rest of you were sitting on your tails, or shaking them around …” He beamed at Pollux, who shot him the finger. “I got a job. Part-time with that greenhouse at the edge of town. They supply plants to offices and other businesses. And to the Ghan place. It’s like a bloody jungle in his office. Tigers do like their greenery. I can draw you a floorplan of the whole flippin’ house.”
“What about a security system?” Alec asked.
“That I don’t know. But tell you what. I’m scheduled to make a delivery at his place three days from now. Come along with me. I’ll distract any prying eyes while you have a go at his systems.” His crocodile grin got wider. “This spying bit is fun. Cas, can I team with you and Pol on our next job?”
The coyote/wolf grinned back. “If you think you can keep up.”
“All right,” Stefanya said. “We narrow our focus to our targets and wait for further instructions. Any questions?”
“Can we kill now?” Cloyd asked.
“Not until we’re told to. Anyone else?”
“I got one,” Irwin said. “Who are we working for? Bloke’s got money, that’s a given, or he couldn’t afford us. But who gives a good bite about a bunch of shifters off in the woods in Montana? I don’t see where bogging up their lives makes a bloody difference to anybody.”
“Clearly it makes a difference to our employer,” Stefanya said, “which is all any of us needs to know. Any other questions? No? Then let’s enjoy our meals. After this we go to work in earnest.”
# # #
Following their meal the team moved on—Castor and Pollux, Irwin with Alec, Cloyd as always alone—until only Stefanya and Yuri remained at the table. She lingered over her coffee, avoiding Yuri’s eyes.
“You’re troubled,” he said. “You don’t care for this assignment any more than Irwin does.”
“Irwin doesn’t like the climate. He can’t stand any place too far from the equator.”
Yuri huffed. “Who are we working for?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted. “He never gave a name. I have no way to contact him. It may not even be a him. He alters his voice electronically and uses an untraceable phone. Alec already tried,” she answered before he could ask the obvious.
But the deposit to her account had been quite real, and quite substantial, if also untraceable. As had the subsequent payments. Normally she would not have questioned so closely. However …
This was Talbot’s Peak. And he was here.
“I don’t know,” she repeated. Except … there’d been something in that altered voice that had seeped through even the masking technology, something that put up her guard. Their employer had an axe to grind with one if not all of their targets. An axe he fully intended to see buried in somebody’s skull before this job was over.
She got up. “I need to fly,” she said. “I’ll be back before dark.” She bent to kiss Yuri. “I promise.”
He nodded, and let her go. He trusted her implicitly. That hurt her most of all, because this time that trust was misplaced. She hurried from the dining room, and barely made it to the inn’s front door before her clothing fell away from her falcon form. She soared into the blessed purity of the open sky, to begin her hunt.
Monday, March 21, 2016
I was going to start the serial story here, but the weekend got away from me so I wrote this instead. This grew out of a discussion Rebecca and I had in one of the Comments sections. Sometimes the mind goes to weird places when the blood sugar runs low. The serial story will begin on Thursday, after I go back to eating properly.
# # #
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …
Princess Leia crouched in the ruins of the jungle hut, her blaster clutched in her hands. Its charge was almost exhausted. If they caught her now, she was dead. Or worse.
Han had been right. She should have brought a squadron. But who would have guessed the virus would spread so fast?
She could hear them lurching through the jungle. Every couple of minutes there was a wet, meaty thunk and a confused, ragged grunt when one stumbled into a tree. She risked a peek through a hole in the hut’s shattered wall.
There were six in this group. More like five and a half: one was missing an arm, part of his torso and a chunk out of his thigh. The others were in relatively better shape, with only bits of body parts blasted or fallen away. Their fur, where they still had it, was brittle and dry. Leia tried not to look at their faces. The sight of missing teeth, the sunken or missing eyes, the unhinged, gaping jaws all tore at her heart.
The zombie virus had hit the Wookiees’ world with no warning, and the population had had no defense. The infection swept over their planet like a tornado.
The lead Wookiee garbled a howl, most of it lost as a wheeze through the hole in his throat. They shambled down the slope, toward the city. Leia held her breath until they were gone.
“Dear gods,” she whispered. “It’s the Wooking Dead … ”
Saturday, March 19, 2016
Mick slid his hand along Trina’s waist. Her hand rested lightly on his shoulder. He moved closer to her until they were approximately three feet apart. She smiled, shaking her head.
“What’s funny?” Mick asked, looking down. He placed his foot between Trina’s. His size ten and half shoe stuck out between her smaller ones.
“Us. This reminds me of the dancing lessons I took in junior high school. Most of the guys could shake their bootie and move around the dance floor like their pants were on fire.” Trina glanced down.
Mick snorted. “Seems that started the phase of trying to teach us etiquette and some form of courting.”
Trina’s laughter warmed his cheek. He winked and moved tighter to her. “Now shall we practice those steps and moves our parents spent money on?”
Trina arched her neck, looking up into Mick’s eyes. They reminded her of the blue sky over the lake during summer. The time of year, she could laugh and run free all over the campgrounds her parents owned. Summer camp allowed her and her siblings time to let their animal counterpart out. No harried admonishments either about hiding or keeping her furry side under tight control.
She licked her lips and nodded. “Sure. I can waltz; do a mean two-step, the occasional foxtrot, and a slow sultry dance that permits conversation. You have a preference?”
“Slow dance and conversation. Sultry is a little much for the kids.” Nick winked, stepping back wards as the music began.
“Yes, we chaperones need to keep an eye on the youngsters.” She chuckled moving in sync with Mick as he guided her out across the dance floor toward the middle of the gym.
“Ten questions each? A little getting acquainted info?” Mick swirled her in a circle creating more space between them.
“Okay. You pulling away?” Trina looked down and back up meeting Mick’s gaze.
“No, just allowing some room so we can talk easier. “ Mick grinned. “First question. Favorite color.”
“Mauve. Same for you.”
“Turquoise. Reminds me of the ocean.” Nick nodded. Vernon and Miss Ellie danced by them.
“Nice song choice, Mick.” Vernon twirled Miss Ellie, pulled her back into his arms and titled her back over one arm. “Allows a little swing and sway.”
Before Mick could answer, Vernon and Miss Ellie danced away. Mick glanced back at her. He stopped and started swaying back and forth in place. “Vernon’s right.”
Trina burst out laughing. “What about the other songs?”
“Fifties music and a few early sixties tunes. The rest are ones the kids requested. I don’t know if there’s much to dance to in their choices.” Mick started moving them around the dance floor again. “Why mauve?”
“The color of my grandma’s kitchen. She loved to cook and bake. That was the one place all ten grandkids could gather and all have grandma at once.” Trina shook her head as Mick opened his mouth again. “You’ve asked two questions. My turn.”
Mick nodded. “Go ahead.”
“Where’d you grow up?” Trina closed some of the space between them as another song started.
“All over. My dad joined the military right out of high school. He wanted to see how the other half lived. Human half.” Mick paused near the bleachers as the music picked up beat. “Continue dancing?”
“Please. Makes our conversation less conspicuous.” Trina glanced over her shoulder. “Second question. Why turquoise?”
“San Diego, California. The one place we stayed more than two years. Mom decided that moving wasn’t a good idea with changing schools constantly.”
“A place you call home?” Trina started nodding her head in time to the music. “Almost a latin rhythm to it.”
“Yes. Maybe we can two-step our way across the gym. And that was your third question.” Mick picked up pace and changed steps to match the beat of the music.
“So answer it. Then your turn.”
“It’s a place where I found me. My parents bought a house and Mom put down roots. All five of us graduated from high school and college there.” Mick leaned closer to her. “My third question is why Talbot’s Peak?’”
Trina swallowed hard. She’d kept so much of her past hidden. The pain and hurt dulled after a while. Could she talk about leaving home and knowing she couldn’t go back? The unofficial ‘get out’ her father ordered when he found out she wasn’t his daughter stung for a long time. Many didn’t take her mixed heritage well. Would Mick?
HAPPY WEEKEND GANG!
Sorry I missed last week. Day job making departmental changes which took more concentration than anticipated. Pris and I got home last Friday night overly tired. Bed and sleep called.
Looks like Mick and Trina are slowly getting acquainted. Why is Trina scared? What does she fear? Stay tuned. Pris hasn't said what's next for our couple. I'm looking forward to finding out.
Spring arrives and with a dreaded four letter word. SNOW! One last huzzah I guess from winter as the passing of the seasonal crown moves on to the next. Keep a few good books handy to read and share with your loves and spice. I'm looking forward to sharing a few with mine.
Until next week,
Friday, March 18, 2016
Thursday, March 17, 2016
I was going to begin the serial story proper today, having wrapped up the Prologue posts last week, when I looked at today's date and realized--St. Patrick's Day. Can't let that pass unacknowledged. So here's my St. Paddy's post from 2014. It actually fits right in with the Prologue, because we get to see Tasman, a player in the story, and get a reference to Lex, the Egyptian potion-brewer, who plays a small but vital role later on. And it has Sanjay and Guri. What's not to like?
If I can get in gear over the weekend, I might post the first story episode on Monday or Tuesday. My hangover should be dried up by then.
# # #
Tasman Ghan kept a large calendar on his bedroom wall, and each morning he consulted it. Every American holiday had been circled in red, even the silly ones like Arbor Day. Thus forewarned, Tasman could steel himself against whatever madness his youngest brother Guri might choose to inflict on the family in the name of foreign traditions.
And still, each year, Guri somehow managed to surprise him.
This year’s surprise came in the form of a hearty, “Happy St. Patrick’s Day, faith and begamma!” and a frosty mug thrust into Tasman’s hand. He had not yet even had his morning tea. Tasman eyed the green, foamy liquid sloshing over the rim of the mug with healthy suspicion. “Is this … beer?” he hazarded. “Is it supposed to be green?”
“It’s St. Patrick’s Day,” Guri said. “Everything is supposed to be green.”
“Ah. That explains your hair, then. Isn’t it a bit early in the day for beer?”
“Early?” Guri peered out the window. “Look at that. It’s daylight. It was dark when we started.”
“Let me guess,” Tasman said. “You and Sanjay.”
“Holidays never last long enough. We wanted to get an early start.”
“I’m sure.” Tasman carefully set his mug on the kitchen counter. “I will have green tea. Will that suffice?”
“As long as it’s green. Faith and begamma! Erin go broke!”
“I … ” Tasman stopped, at a loss.
“It’s what the Irish say,” Guri explained. “I assume the one phrase refers to gamma radiation. That’s what turned the Hulk green.”
“And Erin went broke buying the green beer?”
“Yes, exactly!” Guri took a swig from his mug. “As much as I miss Ravi, I’m glad we deal with you directly now. You understand American holidays so well.”
Tasman enjoyed a brief moment of envy for Ravi, currently home in India and safe from this country’s odd customs. Then Sanjay burst into the kitchen. He also sported a cap of green hair. “It worked! The potion worked!”
The words “potion” and “worked” spoken together never boded well for anyone. Tasman reached for the mug, just in case. “I know I shouldn’t ask … ”
“The potion wasn’t for us. We bought it from that Egyptian cat at the coffee shop. Come look!”
Now I know why Ravi fled for home, Tasman thought. He took a bracing gulp of beer. It was actually quite good. Fortified, he followed his brothers out the front door.
Not even green beer had prepared him for Guri’s latest insanity. Three horses from the family stables were tethered in the front yard. Their saddles and bridles were adorned with clover chains. Their coats had been brushed to a shine. An emerald shine.
All three horses looked hugely embarrassed.
“I hope you did not use gamma radiation on the horses,” Tasman said.
“Of course not!” Sanjay came by his outrage naturally. He loved every horse in the stable, even flatulent Faisool. “The Egyptian assured us the potion wouldn’t hurt them. The color will fade in a week.”
“It had better. Do I want to know what you intend to do with green horses?”
“Rescue maidens, of course,” said Guri. “We will ride into town and sweep the maidens up onto our saddles to save them from the snakes, just as St. Patrick did.”
“I thought Patrick only drove the snakes out of Ireland. I don’t remember any talk of maidens.”
“Legends alter over time,” Sanjay said. “I’m sure there were maidens.”
Or were about to be, Tasman thought. “Then you should go, and rescue as many as you can.” It would get them both out of his hair for many hours.
Guri grabbed him and beerily kissed his cheek. “You’re the best older brother ever. Come with us. Save a maiden. We dyed you a horse.”
“That’s quite all right. I—”
“Then we’ll bring you one. Hurry, Sanjay! Before the snakes get them!” Guri sprang into the saddle, somehow without spilling a drop of his beer. He could be quite agile when it mattered.
Sanjay drained his own mug before mounting up. “Erin go broke!” he cried, and galloped away in the direction of Talbot’s Peak, with Guri close behind.
“And so the world is saved,” a woman’s amused voice said from the doorway.
Tasman turned. His exasperation over his brothers melted away at the sight of his personal assistant. Poised and polished as always, Leila had dressed for the day in a smart gray suit. Her sole concessions to holiday observance were a green ribbon in her white-gold hair and a discrete shamrock pin in her lapel. She nodded at the mug in his hand. “That isn’t tea.”
“No, it isn’t.” He poured the frothy green liquid onto the lawn. The grass did not shrivel up and turn brown, as he’d expected. “I don’t know why I indulge them.”
“Indulgence is good sometimes. It helps one relax.”
“Indeed.” Tasman indulged himself in a leisurely study of her curves. Her eyes glistened like emeralds, in dare and invitation. “Do you require rescue, maiden?”
“I suppose there must be a snake around somewhere.”
“All right, then.” Tasman swept her into his arms and lifted her into the saddle. He leaped aboard. The horse grunted at the double load. At the cluck of the reins it set off for the forest at a sedate trot. Tasman’s heels could not urge it into a faster pace. “It seems we’re not to have a gallop,” he said.
Leila snuggled comfortably into his arms. Her body fit to his perfectly, as always. “This is quite sufficient, sir. If I may? Faith and begamma.”
Tasman bared his teeth in a wide smile. He nuzzled her smooth neck. Anything more would have to wait until they reached the privacy of the deep woods. He prodded the horse again. It trotted a little faster. “No wonder the Americans celebrate so many holidays,” he said. “Erin go broke.”
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Sorry about missing last week's post. They cruelly released new books for two of my favorite authors on Tuesday, March 8th, so I got nothing done all last week. Anyway, here's the rest of Chapter 1 of Jarod Black's story. I still don't have a good name for it. If anyone has a suggestion for a title, let me know in the comments!
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Megan jumped at her patient’s raspy voice. She was nervous. Nervous about being in the same room as Morgan. Nervous about treating the large, sexy man lying naked beneath her hands. She would never have slipped up and mention that she knew that spell otherwise. Then it registered that her patient, his lordship's new pet, had sounded very ill, much more than he should have, and he hadn't outright refused.
"Would that be a good idea?" Morgan drawled somewhere behind her. It sounded like he'd stood up and walked closer. She refused to look at him. He had the same ability to tie her in knots now that he'd had when she was a girl and she refused to give in to the temptation of him. A temptation made all the worse because she knew, absolutely knew, she could have a taste of him. But she didn't want a taste. Didn't want to be just one more warm body to fall in a hormonal heap at his arrogant feet.
She cleared her throat and started checking her patient for any other injuries. She found nothing more than scrapes and bruises, but she couldn’t be absolutely sure. His declining health might be due to shock, but it might also be due to internal injuries.
"Meg, is that wise?" Morgan said again, from much closer. "Black is pure fae. If he's not weak enough—"
"I understand the side effects, milord," she snapped over her shoulder. She closed her eyes and silently counted to five. When she opened them, she found that her wayward fingers had been playing with the thick steel rings in her patient's nipples. She blushed and pretended she had been inspecting them rather than fondling him.
"These are plain steel with no silver. They won't interfere should he choose the change," she said hurriedly.
"Is he injured enough?" Morgan asked again, sounding a bit hostile. Megan sighed in disgust.
"It's not about injury, milord. With you fea, shock is much more important. Your new pet—"
"His name is Jarod Black," Morgan interrupted.
"Jarod Black, then," Megan repeated impatiently. "As I was saying, shock is the deciding factor, not level of injury. What warrior would lay so still like this?" She chanced a look back over her shoulder and found Morgan only inches away. He wasn't looking at her, though. His attention was fixed on the large, naked man who was shivering and sweating and breathing shallowly through his open mouth.
"He's in deep shock. The virus will take because his body simply cannot fight it off at the moment."
"What animal would I be?" Jarod asked again, sounding a bit worse.
"I don't know," Megan said with a shrug. "With a new manifestation, the virus chooses the form best suited to the host. It's only with secondary infection that the parent shifter's breed determines the breed of the child."
"Just so long as I don't manifest as a gerbil," Jarod said, clearly joking. She saw a warm note enter Morgan's gaze and felt a knot of longing form in her own belly. There was a time she would have given much for the lord's son to look at her like that. Whatever the initial reason Morgan took this man for his pet, there was the beginning of true affection there.
"Are you agreeing to the treatment?" she asked. Jarod nodded weakly. A look of concern crossed Morgan's strong, beautiful features.
"Can he be saved without it?"
"Yes, he should pull through on his own now that he's warm and dry," Megan replied. She knew why he was concerned. Infection by the lycos virus could be fatal if the conditions weren't just right. The risk was worse for pure-blood fae. They were a deeply magical race. The virus had to take over the body before any injury could kill the host and before the fae's magical defenses could muster a response. That battle of magic could kill the host as easily as an infected wound.
But this was different. Jarod Black was in shock, which meant his magic was completely off-line at the moment. Fae magic came from their own life force and he was not putting any out right now.
"My choice," Jarod croaked before coughing weakly. Morgan looked troubled but he nodded once.
"Your choice, then. Perform the ritual, Meg," he said, swinging his penitrating black gaze to her. Megan gulped nervously but nodded.
"The spell is deceptively simple," she said as her gaze darted around the room. She frowned.
"What?" Morgan asked.
"Last night was the full moon. New-turns are especially sensitive to the full moon and also the day before and the day after," she replied distractedly.
"Does that mean you can't do it?" Jarod asked, his voice cracking a bit. She looked at him very closely and noted that his shock was still progressing. She smiled comfortingly at him, but his eyes weren't open to see it.
"No, it merely means we need to take a few precautions," she reassured.
"Such as?" Morgan asked archly. Him, she shot a dirty look at.
"He needs to be tied down. Ideally, a new-turn is locked away in a cell during the three nights of the full moon, but with his injuries—"
"It's just his shoulder," Morgan cut in. "I would think the virus should be able to heal it by moonrise since its still early morning now." She glared at him until he shut up and then for a few moments after just to make sure he understood that while he was the lord, she was the healer.
"It's not just his shoulder," she said coldly. "He has other injuries, internal ones. I could waste time healing them first, but frankly, they and the shock they brought on have pushed him into a condition which is ideal for a successful infection of the lycos virus. He needs to be tied down, preferably spread eagle, so I can safely monitor his change and healing. I may need to do some healing to help him be fit before the moon fully grabs him."
Morgan looked at her for a long moment, clearly trying to impress upon her that yes, she was the healer, but lord did still trump her. Then he nodded once and said, "You'll have to do it on my bed, then."
"Your bed?" she squeaked, blushing as inappropriate visions of Morgan in his big bed ran through her flustered mind.
"It's there or I call the footmen back to move him to the dungeons. Other than them, this room is the only one set up for someone being completely immobilized."
"But this bed—" she began, nodding at Jarod's sumptuous pallet, but Morgan interrupted again.
"It's only fitted with one wall loop to secure a neck chain. My father had the master's bed built specifically for restraining people who were struggling against bonds. If memory serves, he actually chained down a giantess on it once."
Megan said nothing to that. All knew that the previous lord of Castle Blanche had been very quirky in his bedroom play, more than most darklings, as the more perverse types of fae were called. Morgan's whole bloodline was known for it, which was why she had never responded to any of his overtures. She wanted him, but was scared to let him close. What if his sexual appetite was as strange as his father's had been? What if he wanted to do things to her that she would find distasteful? Or painful?
She shrugged and nodded, setting those uncomfortable thoughts aside. Her fears and desires were a distant second to helping her patient. Together, they got Jarod over to the master's bed and bound spread eagle. When Morgan went to draw the covers over the shivering man, Megan stopped him.
"I need to see what I'm doing," she said. "Besides, once the ritual is complete and the fight between the virus and his natural immune system begins, he'll be burning up with fever."
"What else do you need?" Morgan asked. "Any special tools or ingredients for a potion?"
Megan shook her head."All I need is room to work and my dagger." She began stripping off her clothes, fighting to act normally when she felt Morgan's eyes zero in on her bare flesh. She didn't want to send him away because her patient was too big for her to control by herself if he broke free. Besides, she was part darkling, too. Her father may have been an elf, but the rest of her blood came from good, solid dark fae gentry. She liked a little kink now and then and making a sexy man sweat with need while not being able to touch was definitely her kind of kink.
She climbed up on the bed—Morgan's bed, where he slept every night—and then climbed up on top of the panting Jarod. He wasn't panting in need but rather in pain, his breath shallow because of shock. The healer in her was worried but she knew his condition was perfect. She set her small dagger in both of her hands point down and hovering over Jarod's heart. She closed her eyes and gathered her magic. And with one sharp stab, she sent both the spell and her blade into his body.