This wasn’t the first morning I had to collect my brother from the river with only minutes to spare before work, but I swore under my breath in frustration anyway. Racing down the steep stairs to the bathroom we shared with our grandparents, I literally jumped into the cool shower water and ran the soap over as much of me as I could cover in split seconds. I left my hair in a dry bun since there wasn’t any time to wash it. Barely taking the time to dry off, I brushed my teeth and I threw on my clean cut-off jean shorts and white tank top. Sighing, I unwound my hair from the knot and dragged a brush through the snarls. It was hopeless.
On my way through the kitchen, I grabbed an apple and slung my backpack, which contained a change of shorts, my favorite purple espadrilles, and my birth control pills, over my shoulder and swore again as I glanced at the wall clock. This time Grammie heard and starting yelling, but I was out the old, slamming screen door before she could finish her half-hearted rant.
It was only seven in the morning and already the humidity assaulted my body, creating a sheen over my skin sufficient to plaster my dark hair to my neck. August was always warm in Maine, but this year had been a blockbuster so far, reaching beyond ninety-degrees and eighty percent humidity, and the month was only a few days old. I knew better than to complain about the heat—we would be plunged into a tundra wonderland in no time at all—but hiking down the hill to the town landing to retrieve my brother before I went to work in such heat was enough to kill me. My mood didn’t improve as I slogged, in slow motion, daydreaming that I was just about anywhere but where I was.
The air hung pregnant over the pavement, making me wish for a car, or a fan, or a normal brother. I intentionally directed my eyes away from Thibodeau’s Variety, the small corner store where I now worked full-time, since I had graduated high school. It was embarrassing enough to get to work late again; I didn’t need to see my coworkers watching me as I puddled in the heat. Many people passed through our end of town on their way to jobs and shopping, but no one stopped here for more than coffee, lunch, or snacks. Our neighborhood was a stop on the way to somewhere, anywhere, else.
Looking at my watch with the thin, black strap, I saw I had only five minutes, and picked up my pace. When I reached River Road, I looked for traffic and then bolted to the river side of the street. I peered between the long warehouses built in the fifties, but now abandoned to river rats and skateboarders, and saw the swollen river. It was high tide. I would have been able to see that from my home if it weren’t for the confounded old warehouses, which now served only to obscure the local residents’ view of the river.
The entrance to the landing on River Road was across the street from Thibodeau’s Variety and marked with a small wooden sign set into the craggy grass near the street. Nature grew up and took over every unpaved place in Maine. And in summer, nature transformed the typically barren winter landscape into a flourishing forest filled with critters, Maple and evergreen trees, and more bugs than one might imagine, or be able to tolerate. At the landing, nature hid the small dirt parking lot from the road. I was grateful.
I trudged down the dirt road to the two-foot long boardwalk off which the dilapidated boat ramp launched into the moody river. The proper Gardiner landing was in town three miles down the road, but we lived over the proverbial tracks and had our own pathetic excuse for a boat landing. Gardiner claimed literal railroad tracks, too. The tracks ran along the river through all the towns up the coast, but an actual train hadn’t come up this far in over twenty years; it had no reason to. The landing was almost as pitiful as our bathroom-sized post office, complete with grumpy postmaster and separate zip code. Most towns needed two zip codes because they were too big for just one. Not Gardiner. Gardiner didn’t want to claim this side of town as part of its own.
At the end of the landing, I found my brother, Cai, floating in the murky edge-water, arms outstretched next to him, his eyes staring up at the sky, and a huge smile on his face, oblivious to the rest of the normal world. There was no wind and the river was a glassy, muddy green. The surface mirrored the woods along the opposite bank.
I sighed heavily. “Cai, what are you doing?” I didn’t really need to ask. I knew what my little brother was doing, but it still annoyed me. He didn’t hear me. “Cai!” I had to yell and splash water on his face to get his attention. I put my hand on my hip and struck the older sister pose.
Cai glanced at me and recognition fluttered into his unnaturally wise, pale blue eyes, as if he had been lost in a different world and the very sight of me had brought him home. I knew that was entirely possible. His light eyes against his silky, caramel skin were haunting and magnetic. My eyes were just boring old hazel, really just brown. Cai struggled to right himself in the water and then shuffled onto the muddy riverbank.
“What are you doing?” I snapped.
“Sinkeliminicky.” Cai spoke his own language. For a split second, I saw red. I took a deep breath. Cai had been using this indecipherable gibberish since he first opened his mouth to speak. My grandmother hadn’t tried to correct him, only God knows why, and he had developed an entire language. Don’t get me wrong; he spoke English too, but sometimes he spoke only gibberish.
“Speak English,” I demanded. My patience with Cai wasn’t stellar on a good day and I was hot as hell and in no mood for his capriciousness, as Grammie called it. It was my opinion that she thought that word meant something different. She thought Cai was just a dreamer. My thoughts were something else entirely. I knew his problems weren’t of his own making though, so I tried to be as kind as I could muster. Today I could muster precious little.
Cai regarded me with confusion and then he smiled his sweet Cai-smile at me and repeated himself, only in English this time. “I was talking to the seals, Callie!”
He was too excited about something that was so ridiculous. The Kennebec River was tidal at Gardiner, so technically a seal could have made its way up the river, but there was no way I was going to encourage him to think that he could hear the seals out in the open ocean twenty miles away. “No you weren’t.”
Cai looked at me expectantly.
I struggled to soften my attitude toward him. “Well, the giant sturgeons are going to eat you up one of these days.” The river was home to an ancient fish who had roamed the waterways of earth since the time of the dinosaurs. Cai loved the fish. I had never seen one.
The thick brush behind us rustled, distracting me. I looked over my shoulder and caught a glimpse of a black jacket and jeans disappearing into the trees and shrubs. I figured it was Jack. He was the only other person I ever saw down by the landing. Jack was an adult and odd in that way that makes you not quite look away, but also never fully engage. He scared most folks, but he seemed harmless to me. Besides, his mother was my boss and the nicest person I knew, so I figured he was all right, even if he did watch me from the woods a little too often for my comfort.
“Yes,” Cai assured me. “I was talking to the seals. They told me that my father is looking for me. He is going to come and visit. And besides, Callie,” Cai corrected me, “those fishes like me; they let me stay.” Cai curled his chilly, bony fingers into my hand.
I glanced down at him as we headed back toward home. “Are you cold?” Even though it was a million degrees out, the river water was always cool, especially when one simply floated in it.
“Nope,” Cai skipped along next to me.
“You need to stop running off in the morning. It makes a pain out of you.”
“Smitiwentelobelow,” Cai answered me.
I rolled my eyes. “What?”
“English!” I hollered and Cai flinched.
“I like listening to the river and the fishes, Callie.” The corner of his lip trembled and I cursed myself.
I stopped in my tracks and grabbed Cai by the shoulders, squatting in front of him. “Listen to me,” I pleaded, “you have to go easier on Grammie. She needs to know that you’re okay and when you take off first thing in the stinking morning like this, it scares her. Okay?” I studied his wide eyes.
“’Kay, Callie. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize. Just don’t run off anymore.” I stood up, grabbed his hand again, and picked up the pace. I only had seconds. I couldn’t be late for work again.
“Similanckulane,” Cai assured me.
I sighed. “Okay, Cai. Okay.” Cai’s gibberish always started with an “s” sound. The last time I had asked him about it, he had grown solemn. He couldn’t explain why to me, so I just stopped asking. My grandmother never questioned him, and my grandfather mostly just wrinkled his nose at Cai, or ignored him completely. I mostly found Cai’s weirdness humiliating.
Cai’s full name was Cairo, as in Egypt. Our flake of a mother swore up and down (for the three days she stuck around after Cai’s birth) that she conceived Cai in the great pyramid of Giza. I knew damned well that Patty had never set foot in Egypt or in any other country, for that matter. I was pretty sure she wouldn’t even be eligible for a passport, if she knew enough to apply for one.
But, Cai was half black. I was as white as a baby’s butt. I think claiming that he was conceived in some exotic locale, like Egypt, was my mother’s ignorant way of explaining her repeat and ever increasingly scandalous, reproductive oops.
Cai’s private language and his darker skin color weren’t my eleven-year-old brother’s most noteworthy characteristics, regardless of Maine’s notorious lack of diversity. Not only did Cai charm and persuade everyone like a pint-sized incubus, but he also knew things he shouldn’t. He knew things about people he couldn’t truly know, and he told them about it at inappropriate and sometimes unfortunate times. And to make matters worse, he was usually right as rain. None of us really liked to talk about it, but Cai sometimes knew the future, and could often tell you what was in your heart before you could.
I secretly liked that part of my odd little brother. My heart had stopped speaking to me before I knew enough to be upset by that fact. Cai would sometimes remind me that my heart was out there, trying to get my attention, even if I didn’t, or wouldn’t, hear it. It was a sad state of affairs to recognize, at almost eighteen, that your little brother was more perceptive than you were, but that’s where I was at for the moment.
Cai knew more about people than anyone I had ever encountered, even the scary gypsy woman at the Fryeburg Fair, who had astutely noted my lack of paternal involvement and my teen angst involving a late period and jerk boyfriend, two years ago. Hence, the birth control pills. I’m a quick study…and my mother’s daughter. Cai was just as uncanny as that gypsy woman, only sweeter. Much sweeter.
Cai always paid attention to every single minute detail around him and never took anything at face value. For example, he didn’t hate our mother. In fact, he loved her. We never saw Patty, but he always talked about her as is if he spoke to her on some regular basis. He was always saying things like, “Mommy wants to come for Christmas, but she’s stuck with the car…” or, “Did I tell you that Mommy bought a new dress?”
The truth was, Patty called occasionally, and she was even sober during some of the calls, but I couldn’t actually recall the last time she called to see how Cai was doing. She called for money or in tears because she had no one else to call. I didn’t even expect her to remember I existed, but I needed her to check on Cai. Patty remembering Cai mattered more to me than if she ever thought of me. Worrying after Cai made more sense than her wondering about me at this point.
Patty had me at sixteen. She was one of those girls who managed to hide it from the whole world until the day she needed to go to the hospital. I don’t know what my life was like when I was an infant, but when I was about two, Grammie filed with child services to have me forcibly removed from Patty’s care. It had to have been pretty bad, because Patty still had custody of Cai, and I’ve seen the crap she’s pulled with him over the years. God only knows what Patty was, or wasn’t, doing with me to force Grammie to take me away from her.
My full name is Calendar. That’s right, Callie’s short for Calendar. At sweet sixteen, all Patty could do for nine months was watch that damned calendar, waiting until her burden of proof was out of her. I guess, she thought it was funny to name me Calendar. I think it says a lot about a person, how they name their children. You name someone Nick, for example, and you set him up to be strong, masculine, maybe a cop or a football player. If you name a baby girl Sarah, she might be feminine, pretty, and grow up to be a self-possessed, successful woman. But, name a child Calendar because you are so self-absorbed that all you can think of is your own misery, and she will grow up to be…well, me. The fact that she named me Calendar was one of the main reasons I hated her. There were many, many other reasons.
Should I be thankful she didn’t just get rid of me when she found out she was pregnant? Maybe, maybe not. I’ve often wondered why she bothered to keep me, once her sentence was over. From what I knew of her, all Patty wanted to do was to get back to being a kid. That never truly happened though; Patty was never a kid again.
Neither Cai, nor I, had a clue who sired us. I was so disappointed with Patty that I held no delusion that my father had been anything other than a misguided teenager, and was now as award winning in the human department as Patty. Cai, on the other hand, spoke about his father, almost as familiarly as he spoke of Patty. On the days he said he was off communicating with the seals about his father’s impending visit, I wondered what Patty had been smoking when she was pregnant with Cai.
The moment Cai came out of her, Patty looked into his odd eyes and swore she would be sober from that moment on. There was something about Cai that made everyone want to be better. Patty brought him back to Grammie when he was only three months old. Patty developed a habit of coming and going, sometimes taking Cai with her, bringing him back weeks or months later. Those times when she planned to leave without Cai, she would hold him and cry for hours. Cai was a beautiful, unexpected enigma who always smiled, never fussed, and had the power to make everyone, even the likes of our wasted mother, believe in miracles.
Cai and I reached the end of Cannard Street, the dead-end road that led to Snow Street, off of which we lived in our deteriorating 1800s farmhouse. Every side street in our neighborhood was a dead-end street, up a great steep hill. It made a lot of sense that we lived there, actually—nothing was easy in this town, in life. Message received.
I nervously eyed my watch. “Can you get home on your own, Cai? I’m going to be late for work if I don’t get going.”
Cai pulled me down to kiss my cheek and then sprinted up the street. I watched Cai’s wiry body race up the hill toward our house, then I turned and broke into a run to make it to work on time.
“Just by the hair of your chinny-chin-chin,” Miss Thib called as I slammed through the door of her convenience store, rattling the welcome bell over the door. “You’re almost late.”
I had worked for Miss Thib for two years stocking shelves, slicing deli meat, and making pizzas for all the other people who lived on this end of town, and for those who traveled through. I scanned the store. There wasn’t a soul in the small, impeccably clean variety store-slash-deli. At that time of day, there should have been half a dozen regulars milling around, self-serving coffee, and ordering egg and cheese sandwiches on English muffins.
“Seems like announcing my tardiness is moot, if I am truly not late, Miss Thib,” I playfully pointed out as I ran behind the register counter to stow my backpack. I raced to the backroom and punched the clock, looking at my time card. “Thirty seconds to spare,” I declared. “Note my use of the SAT word. Where is everyone?”
“It’s the damned heat. No one wants to eat when it’s this hot. How’s your brother?” Miss Thib didn’t miss a thing. She had probably seen me walking by the store on our way home.
“Fine,” I answered, lowering my gaze and returning to the front of the store to begin my morning routine of stocking candy and gum on the shelves that decorated the front of the register counter. Miss Thib knew how weird Cai was, but she seemed to enjoy his oddity rather than turn her nose up at it. Regardless, it still wasn’t something I felt like talking about.
No one called Miss Thib by her full surname. I didn’t even know what her first name was, however I certainly didn’t call her Miss Thibodeau. I couldn’t tell you how old she was, but a lot of our male customers hit on her, which she seemed to sidestep with relative levity. Her flaming red hair, graying as if she were born with blazes on her head that were now just turning to embers, her stylish-but-messy look, and trim figure did make a striking appearance. I looked at her, wondering how Jack had gotten his dark features from her lighter traits.
“I saw Jack just now, down by the river,” I offered. I always tried to tell her when I saw him, just in case he was supposed to be somewhere else.
Miss Thib paused without looking at me and then went back to work. “Oh?”
“Good.” She failed at her attempt to hide her concern.
I let her think otherwise, and picked up the to-do list that she always left for us by the register. She employed mostly teens, and while most of us were responsible enough to keep busy, I liked to know what my boss’s expectations were.]]>
Devil’s Bath Hot Springs, Uintah Mountain Range, Utah
Four years ago
The deep ruts from early spring runoff and the roots of stubby evergreen trees reached up from the ground, plaguing her path with ankle twisting obstacles, as the young woman sprinted down the rugged mountain trail. She slowed her pace after she nearly fell, slipping when her heel skidded on loose scale dropped from the higher elevations. The developing fog made for slick travel. The woman panted into the rapidly chilling air and glanced nervously behind her, still not seeing anything to justify her panic. The dim light filtering through the gloom of the cloudy day told her it was late afternoon. She knew she had plenty of time to make it back to her car before sunset.
Clutching her Swiss Army knife to her chest, the woman continued down the trail at a fast pace, adeptly jumping over large rocks, fallen branches, and mud puddles. The knife was more of a security blanket than a potential weapon. Her husband had given it to her on their first Christmas together, and she always brought it hiking. The woman was especially grateful she had it with her as she scrambled anxiously down the trail. It was a short hike, only two hours from the parking lot to the hot springs, but being alone on this hike was making her jumpy.
She had taken her time drying off after her hour-long soak in the sulfuric, hot springs. She knew that she had plenty of flexibility in her unusually empty day and as she patted her cool skin dry, she relished the break away from her responsibilities of wife and mother. She intensely loved her family, but it had felt great to get away and relax for the day.
At first, the feeling of eyes on her as she dressed, only slowly enveloped her consciousness. Then, with the sharp sting of realization that she was being watched, she took off at a run, no longer laxidasical. She felt that something was after her—something predatory.
Now, halfway down the path, the frightened young woman tried to slow herself to a calm, collected walk, but could not. Just beyond her normal senses of hearing, sight, and logic there was a place in which she knew something was chasing her down. It was irrational, she knew that, but she felt it nonetheless. She hopped with panic-addled awkwardness over another obstacle in the trail. Being married to a cop had taught her to trust her instincts, and at that moment, her instincts screamed, “Escape!”
Since she had been running instead of hiking, she couldn’t tell how much farther down the trail her car was parked. Whether it was from her urgent fear or simple inattention caused by running so blindly, the path, once so familiar to her, suddenly seemed too narrow, too cluttered with overgrowth. She slowed again, disoriented, and came to a stop to make sure that she knew where she was. The woman turned to face the direction she had come from, but couldn’t see anything through the burgeoning fog.
The fog meant that it was going to rain soon, and at this altitude, this time of year, it could very well be snow. She strained to hear any sign of the danger she sensed, but there was no noise behind her—no footsteps or sounds of sticks breaking, nothing to say she was being hunted. She turned and ran anyway.
The woman lost all track of time as she fled, and in doing so panicked, thinking that she had strayed from the trail again. Then saw the Bureau of Land Management sign indicating the parking area was only two tenths of a mile away.
“Thank god,” she panted, and slowed her pace. She felt foolish for her haste, now that safety was only a few feet away, and decided to cool down with a slow walk for the remainder of the hike. She even chuckled to herself, knowing she would have a great time telling her husband the story of how she had frightened herself.
“What’s so funny?”
The woman jumped when she heard someone speak, and then froze. A tall, incredibly handsome young man, dressed in black stood just off the side of the trail ahead of her, leaning against a tree. She wouldn’t have even noticed him until she was standing right next to him, if he hadn’t spoken. There was something off about him and instinct again shouted at her to turn and run, but she felt hesitant, wondering if the young man might need help. “Besides,” she inwardly chastised herself, “hikers are always so friendly.”
She waved and gave the man a small smile as she slowly approached him. She slipped her knife up her sleeve; she didn’t want to insult the young man.
“Hi,” she greeted him. At the closer range, she saw that he was even younger than she had first thought; maybe even still a teenager, and she realized what was off about him. The young man was dressed for a dance club, not a hike. His long leather jacket reminded her of the garb from a futuristic cowboy movie, and his boots looked like motorcycle boots, not at all good for hiking. Her heart fluttered nervously.
The boy emanated the distinct swagger of overconfidence that she saw in the addicts she often treated in the emergency room where she worked as a nurse. He possessed the extreme confidence of someone with a false sense of immortality, someone hyped up on a good trip.
The woman’s innate desire to help people switched on. Even though instinct kept trying to push her back, away from what she should have known was danger, she couldn’t help herself from reaching out to someone who may be in need. The young man, if indeed high on a hard drug, may be lost or injured, and she had to help him.
“I said, ‘what’s so funny,’” the boy repeated. He sounded sweet, coy even, but there was an edge to his tone that sent an involuntary ripple of fear through the woman.
The woman stopped walking, and tried to pretend that she didn’t hear the menace resting beneath his words. “Do you need help?” The woman paused and added, “You aren’t dressed for hiking, and the trail is quite long.”
“I’m not hiking,” the boy explained and pushed away from the tree. “I was waiting for you, actually.” He advanced on the woman.
“Me?” The woman chuckled nervously. “Why were you waiting for me?” Her eyes flickered around her for an escape route. She knew she had to run, but she couldn’t turn away from the boy; she couldn’t make her feet take her away from him. New fear suddenly sliced through her mind, rooting her to where she stood, as if the boy had her entranced with fright.
“You have something I want. Something I need,” he crooned, a mere foot from her now.
“I do? What do you need from me?”
The boy stopped moving. A terrifying grin that never reached his icy black eyes, twisted his handsome face. “I need your life,” he said, too quietly.
The woman set her feet free and whirled around, running full speed back up the trail, feet beating the loose ground, heart pounding against her ribcage. To her horror, the boy materialized before her in the path, and she collided with him before she could slow herself down. The impact knocked her to the ground as if she had slammed into a brick wall.
Lying on the cold, damp ground dazed, but conscious, the woman saw the boy lean over her, his beautiful face too close to hers. Her warm, brown eyes frantically searched for a way to escape the terror she knew was planned for her. The boy’s lips were moving but she couldn’t understand him; she wondered if she had a concussion. She shook her head, scrambling to try to get back on her feet, knowing she had to run. She had to get away from this evil boy. Sound crept back into her ears just in time to hear his frightening question.
“What’s your greatest fear?” he asked as he pinned her to the ground with strong hands, thwarting any attempt to flee.
“This,” she thought, “this is my greatest fear.”
It was not, as it turned out, her greatest fear. Again, a leaded sense of immobility overtook her.
An uncomfortable buzzing filled her ears, as the boy’s awful, inky black eyes bore into her, captivating her. The sound overwhelmed every other sense, paralyzing her with a crippling pain in the front of her brain. To her horror, she found that she was incapable of looking away from him, as the mountain trail and cold fog disappeared around her. Then she found herself immersed in the actual nightmare that she feared most.
The woman was suddenly walking to the front door of her home. Utter dread filled her soul as she put her hand out to open the door, knowing what waited for her. Her pounding heart seared as adrenaline poured into her chest, creating a strong need to run from the truth that waited on the other side of the door. She no longer remembered that she was lying on the damp ground in the mountains, but completely believed that she was home, in the middle of the night, answering the knock that every police spouse fears with their entire being.
When her shaking hand finally succeeded in opening her front door, two police officers stood before her with sympathetic, but strong, expressions on their grim faces. She whimpered; she knew what was coming next. This was her greatest fear.
The woman had dreamed this nightmare a thousand desolate nighttimes. She shook with the awful knowledge before the police officer even said the dreaded words, and she collapsed in a heap at their feet. In this, her greatest and most private fear, she learned that her beloved husband was killed in the line of duty, leaving her alone, lost in inconsolable grief.
She witnessed her worse fear come to life. She screamed and screamed and screamed, until her lungs emptied of air and life.
When the young woman he had pinned to the ground, stopped thrashing under his palms, the boy smiled greedily, lost in the reverie of killing, and sated by the life force he had stolen from her. As the blissful haze cleared, he looked into her lifeless eyes, and grimaced. The familiar, but always fleeting, sense of regret in his damaged conscience flared, then rapidly abated. As he stood up, he wondered, as he always did, what exactly her greatest fear had been. What terror had his Song brought forth from her mind to horrify her as she gave her life?
He spotted a blue Swiss Army knife lying next to the woman’s body and snapped it up with inhuman speed. It was an expensive model worth keeping. He turned it over and saw an engraved message: “To My Maria, so you will always be safe. All My Love, Manny”
“Isn’t that sweet,” he sneered, as he slipped the knife into his pocket. Then the handsome, young man vanished into the air.
The result is SOUL SICK. More action, more mystery, more interesting characters and a very satisfied Lia.
This is my synopsis, as I imagine it on the back cover. What do you think?
What if vampires, werewolves, and the boogeyman were mere child’s play compared to the actual fiend responsible for our nightmares? Celeste Daily knows the truth. She spent her youth ensconced in Dark Harbor, a tiny island in the churning sea off the coast of Maine, shrouded in perpetual fog, and laden with secrets and monsters—literally. Ten years ago, upon exile from the island, Celeste sought refuge in the New Mexico desert, where she is now battling a mysterious fatal illness that has her doctors baffled. Celeste’s only desire before she dies is to hunt down the man who murdered her mother two decades ago. Does Celeste have the courage to summon Arc, her estranged lover with unusual abilities, to help her infiltrate the island they both grew up on and find her mother’s killer?
As Celeste races to unravel the clues to find the killer, her situation quickly spirals into a complicated web of mysteries when an arresting stranger entrusts Celeste with a seemingly magical book that sings to her; and a disarming visage of a frightening stranger haunts her wherever she goes. Celeste’s life has always been rife with the paranormal, so these events shouldn’t surprise her, but they do manage to distract her from her vengeance.
To make things more confusing, Arc is treating Celeste with contempt; but he agrees to help her if she assists him in overthrowing his tyrannical father, once they return to Dark Harbor. Celeste’s homecoming offers shocking revelations about her past that set a war into motion—a war that Celeste will surely not witness, if Arc honors her dying request to take her life.]]>
It has been a long time since I have posted anything. I have been in the throes of revision amidst the depression of editorial criticism. It’s been creatively positive, however, and I write on. This song keeps running through my noggin as I contemplate the new directions and nuances of my characters and plot. To be honest, I am not even sure why yet. It works. It inspires me. Enjoy!]]>
“Celeste?” The wooden door subdued Arc’s resonant voice. She smiled.
“Yeah, come on in.” She shut the water off, grabbed a towel and then opened the curtain as she was wrapping the towel around her wet body. Arc merely watched her, leaning on the door jam, the look of a hungry jackal on his face. She tried to ignore that.
“You’re packed, I see. I checked the Jeep and saw your bag. When do you want to leave?” Celeste went about her drying and primping routine while Arc was still in the room. He didn’t avert his eyes as she unwound the towel, feeling ever so slightly self-conscious, but hoping to make an impression. She thought of it as enticement.
“I’ll be ready in a few minutes. Sound good to you?” He didn’t answer her so she turned to look at him and saw that he was watching her differently now and she tried to slip discreetly into his mind and see what was going on.
Arc was remembering the day on the beach when he had almost killed Celeste. He wasn’t remembering the killing part though; he was remembering their nearly joined and very naked bodies entwined and happy. He cringed when realized she was trespassing on his thoughts, but he didn’t kick her out.
“I hadn’t thought of you like that in a few years. I had done a pretty good job of turning you into an enemy instead of a lover.” He paused waiting for her to challenge him. When she didn’t, he continued.
“It kept you alive though, hating you. It certainly wasn’t fun. I would have preferred more nights on the beach.” He moved closer to her, Celeste’s body shivered in anticipation and then Arc stopped and backed away. A wry smile spread across his beautiful face, distorting it into a sarcastic mask.
“What is it?” Celeste was growing cold and started to dress in the clothes she had draped on her bench seat by the bathroom window. The day’s events were wearing on her and she needed to get something to eat.
“We should go if you still want to.”
“Of course I do.” Celeste looked up in surprise at Arc, wondering what he was getting at. “What do you mean?”
“Nothing, just want to make sure. That’s a long drive for me and I don’t want to do it, if you are uncertain of your desires. That’s all.” They went around shutting down her computer, unplugging large appliances and making sure the windows and doors were locked.
When they were done, Celeste stood in the door and looked back at her home. She was sad to be leaving, of course, but somehow she felt like she was moving towards her true home. She looked at Arc, already by the Jeep, and wondered if it was more that he would be joining her there—this strange and enigmatic man who had captured her heart and never truly given it back.]]>
Here is another excerpt: (Thanks for reading these and for all of the great feedback!)
In what she considered a potentially very stupid move, Celeste looked over her shoulder to see the man making great long strides with a fierce hunter’s look on his face. She actually sobbed out loud. This was so not good.
“Arc, please. Come and find me!” She said it out loud with tears forming in her eyes. She was about to break out in an actual run when a hand clamped down over her shoulder and her mouth at the same time, preventing that well planned scream for help. She still had the pepper spray in her hand and she twisted around with so much force that she loosened his grip enough to bite his hand. This surprised him and she twisted away far enough to get out a burst of pepper spray in his general direction. The stream of spray didn’t hit his nose or eyes directly, so there wasn’t much stopping power with the defense. And unfortunately, he seemed even more interested now, the thrill of her fighting back wetting his appetites. Bile rose in Celeste’s throat and her headache threatened to send her to the ground. She felt like the world was tilting and rotating around her. Why isn’t there anyone else on the street to help me?
He grabbed her again and pushed her with so much force that she flew into the alley they were walking by and she stumbled to the ground. This time she got a good long scream out which elicited a hard, backhanded slap from her assailant. She saw nothing but bright light for a split second and then when she could see again she looked up at him and saw, for the first time, his large, shiny knife.
Then it seemed like the whole world exploded around her as her eyes were blinded by a white light accompanied by the most intensely crippling pain her brain had ever endured. Celeste was sure she was dying, that the murderer had sliced her throat or stabbed her in the face with his horrible knife. She couldn’t imagine ever surviving pain of this magnitude. The headache that had plagued her since she got to New Mexico was going to be the disabling factor that lead to her death. Unable to defend herself, she was certain that this was the end. Miraculously, the light faded to reveal that she was seemingly alone and she looked around her. What is that humming noise? Celeste lifted her hand to her head. The pain had been replaced by a drone of noises that she couldn’t place.
Unbelievably, her attacker wasn’t there anymore, threatening to kill her. Could she dare to hope that he was gone? Celeste shook her head feeling dazed but no longer in such horrid pain. She was panting and still lying on the street, but she wasn’t cut or bleeding. It was after a quick assessment of her condition that she warily looked around to get her bearings and twenty feet away she saw the strangest thing she had ever seen. The taxi driver was lying on his back, his panicked, flailing limbs held out in an “X” pattern and Arc was kneeling on his chest, head thrust back, mouth open and a serene look on his beautiful face.]]>
The bar was packed for a Wednesday night, making it hard for Celeste to get the scary looking bartender’s attention amidst the throng of bodies crushed against the smoky bar. Celeste adjusted the comfortable, yet frilly, tank top that she was sporting this evening. It was dusty rose, form fitting and had a built in bra that her, larger than average, chest kept wanting to mutiny from. Her jeans were a little too big and long for her, even though she was five feet, eight inches tall, but she tended to couple one tight piece of clothing with one baggy piece. She liked the juxtaposition—imagined that it was sexy. Her multicolored, patched handbag was slung casually over her right shoulder and laid on her left hip but it contained nothing other than a four-year-old cell phone that her mother had made her take, a simple hair tie that she would pull her long dirty blonde locks into at some point this evening and a wallet full of nothing much other than her ID and a few small bills. She was good at hiding valuables. Being a world traveler at the age of twenty-three made you astute and congenially suspicious of your fellow man.
Everyone was clamoring for each other’s attention and laughing, pushing forward trying to buy bottles of beer and glasses of cheap well drinks. As she folded her twenty dollar bill lengthways and stuck it out to make her alcohol buying intentions better known, she glanced back at Padma and Joshua, her new friends from the Albuquerque City Youth Hostel, where they were all staying, a few blocks from the bar. The cramped dance floor forced the two of them to stand very close to each and they were cutely awkward about it. Celeste smiled. She liked these two and she could tell, in that way of hers, that they liked each other too but were too shy to do anything about it. It was decided—she would have to make the first move for them. Of course, it would be clandestine enough to make it seem like their idea. Happily, they seemed inexperienced enough to probably not notice her meddling…
…Padma’s open beauty transcended age and her kind manner made her even that much more likable. Her attire tonight was much the same as every other time Celeste had spent time with her; flowing skirts, lots of chunky jewelry and finely polished hair and nails. She was eccentric, yet stunning. And she had the natural kindness that could win over the most hardened cynic and Josh, in his plaid shirts and combat boots, had come across as a cynic right from the start… But Padma was totally the opposite and once she understood Celeste’s needs, she had said that the three should combine all of their ingredients to make one big family meal. Upon hearing that suggestion Josh looked like he was about to burst a capillary or run away screaming but by the last drop of after dinner cardamom and cinnamon tea, compliments of Padma, he was laughing and acting like they were all old friends. After that night together there had been a new and completely different look in his eye every time he was around Padma.
The bartender shouted at her and she turned to lean over the wooden bar and yell her order at him over the loud music and raucously lively bar sounds. With not so much as a smile, the efficient seeming bartender was off to fill her order. Celeste could only assume it was the demands of a busy day that created his unfriendly attitude since he took two more orders as he quickly moved around the inside of the large bar. She watched him reaching into the cooler, grabbing bottles and throwing the handle of the keg to fill a glass and decided that he was just no non-sense, hard working and possibly the only bartender working tonight, so she decided to give him a good tip.
While she waited for her drinks, Celeste let her gaze sweep around the bar, imagining what all of these moving bodies really wanted out of this place. She just wanted to get to know her friends a little better and have an experience worthy of recording in her daily travel journal when she got back to her room. She spotted a mysteriously handsome man leaning on the far wall near the back entrance and did a double take. He was that hot, albeit weird, guy from the train. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized that his gaze was fixed directly on her. That couldn’t be a coincidence.
This guy was seriously good looking, like Hollywood gorgeous. Most of the guys that liked her were nice, smart college-bound type guys. Attractive, but not really the kind of guy you liked for his overt sexuality or heart throb exterior. Celeste knew she was considered pretty, if you liked that sort of thing, but she wasn’t the kind of physical beauty that solicited deep soul crushing stares like the one this guy was throwing her way. In all honesty, it was more odd than it was flattering. Despite this illicit attention from such a stud, she was distractingly aware of a weird sensation starting in her head, sort of behind her forehead. She touched it absently wondering if she was developing a migraine.
The bartender thumped three heavy Newcastle’s on the bar in front her and she jumped, startled into turning her attention to the beer delivery. She handed him the twenty and held up her hand to show that she didn’t want any change back. He broke a quick smile of gratitude and then stalked off to fill more drink orders. Celeste had waited tables for about five seconds in college and she knew what it was like to work in this sort of environment. Poor guy probably wouldn’t get a break for another five hours. As she grabbed the beer bottles by the neck, she dared another look in the direction of the hot guy. “Yep, still watching me. Damn this is weird.”]]>
He absolutely despised the fact that she had found her way back into his brain. For years he had built the wall, brick by brick, kill by kill and the wall had never been breached, until tonight. Rage festered and oozed within him. She no longer belonged in his life, in his world. It had been a long, long time since he had known her and he wasn’t ever letting her in again. Never. He would never allow it.
And then, as if he had no choice, there she was…in his mind whispering his name with her beautiful, angelic, human voice. He swore aloud. He couldn’t remember how to keep her out once she was there, but he could put an end to her life. That would do the trick. He smiled a crazy, ferocious smile as he scratched the space between his eyes and let out a low, animal snarl. Finally, he would find the will to finish what he could never finish before.
And then there were just the two bodies, the smoking fire and a cool Rocky Mountain breeze. The ghost of his snarl lifted up and away on the tendrils of smoke.]]>
I just love how music inspires me, and so often while I am driving. I can write a whole scene in my mind as I am driving to or from work. This particular song is edgy and creates a mood of redemption and possibility and is helping me to write the last few chapters.
I can’t wait until I have the book done, so I can print it off and start editing it on paper and in real time, rather than back and forth as I write out of sequence. It is interesting to me how the story unfolds for me, the writer. Sometimes I feel like I am the reader and I don’t know what is going to happen next and then, suddenly, there it is appearing on my computer screen.
I must post another excerpt soon!]]>