Beldren on Smashwords!

BELDREN smallTales of the Executioners: Beldren is now available as a free read on Smashwords, with Barnes & noble, Apple, and Kobo to follow as soon as Smashwords ships it out to them.

The year is 1687 in the fourth Tale of the Executioners. Beldren, a former indentured servant, suffers the same fate as many others of his kind – the promised land and money never materialized, despite having done their time. When Matthias suggest they take their due, Beldren is skeptical, but what else does he have to do? It’s a choice he may live to regret.

This one is about twice the length of the usual shorts because Beldren had a lot to say, but when the price is set to FREE who can complain?

Get your copy today!

signature for white

Pre-Orders and Verchiel

VERCHIELIf you missed the last Ink Slingers’ Anthology (Strange Portals), the included installment of the Tales of the Executioners – Verchiel – is now available as a standalone! Get your free copy from:

Verchiel wakes up in an unfamiliar room with a busty woman standing over him. He can’t recall who she is – or even who he is – let alone how he’s become an immortal blood drinker. As he tries to discover the answers, he must also learn to control his blood lust or fight an entire village of panicked people.

On a side note, the newest Tale is Beldren, which you’ll be able to get in the newest anthology, whose release date is October first.

FRONT COVERAnd speaking of release dates in the future, Book 8, Masque of the Vampire,(publication date April 1st) is now up for pre-order at most sites (Amazon only allows a 30 day pre-order, so it won’t be there until March 2016). So pre-order your copy today so you won’t have to worry about it in March!

I will say that a better description, and maybe some cover tweaks are coming, but it needed both *now* in order to set up the pre-order.

When the Lights Go Out: The Ink Slingers Halloween Anthology

WHEN THE LIGHTS GO OUTYesterday was the official release of the spooky, sometimes scary, sometimes funny, but always entertaining anthology from the Ink Slingers’ League: When the Lights Go Out.

When the Lights go Out is a collection of twenty-five short stories just in time for Halloween. Enjoy thrills, chills, and mysteries. Meet ghosts, demons, vampires, and monsters everywhere from dark city streets to the English countryside. Scares lurk in the most unexpected places and, when the lights go out, no where is safe and no one will be spared.

Get your copy at:

Smashwords  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo  |  Apple iBooks  |  Amazon*

And read great stories like:

  • Midnight Summons by Tricia Drammeh 

Karen has been a medium for a long time and she’s seen it all. Until now. A late night phone call summons her to a stranger’s house to help with what she thinks will be a routine haunting, but Karen is unprepared for what awaits. A young man’s life hangs in the balance as Karen faces the toughest—and possibly final—case of her career.

  •  An Arm and a Leg by Adan Ramie

Della and Rosie want desperately to be a part of the most exclusive club in their school. When their invitation finally comes, will they be able to meet the demands of the Society for the Preservation of Old Souls?

  • Loving Reflections by LC Cooper 

Soon after Damon moved into his house, a beautiful woman began appearing in his dreams. Unbeknownst to his fiancee, Damon and the woman carried on a year-long affair. Halloween night was to be their joyous and climactic reunion, but their celebration will far exceed Damon’s expectations.

  • The Blue Die by Bonnie Mutchler

Hitchhiking can be a 50/50 thing. Maybe you’ll make it home safe or maybe you’ll be chopped up in a bathtub somewhere, but Matlyn has little choice. Her date has dumped her by the roadside in the dark and cold, so when the limo pulls up next to her with a handsome man in a business suit, what can she do but climb in?

  • Unforgotten by Joleene Naylor 

It’s time for Marjorie and Gordon’s annual holiday, but it’s complicated this year by a missing wife and a ghost who wants her body found.

  • The Midnight Ritual by Carolyn Cason

David is wakened by the sound of strangers in his home; but who he finds are not strangers, and what they want from him could be the biggest threat he’s ever faced.

  • Behind the Door by CG Coppola 

All Louise wants is to get off the ship. But when she’s finally selected to pass through the mysterious ‘door,’ everything she’s ever known changes.

  • The Midnight Zone by Anne Franklin

A city dweller is disturbed by creepy goings on in her small apartment.

  • Legends and Lies by Jason Gilbert

 Cassie Crane has been hunting the Headless Horseman for years, and finally gets her chance at him. But her family secrets may scar her for life!

  • The Return of the Crusader by Barbara Tarn

Kaylyn is a widow on All Saints’ Eve, not easy for a young woman in twelfth century England torn by the struggle between King Stephen and Empress Mathilda. And then her husband comes back from the crusade at last. But things are never going to be the same again. Revenants and vampires might be more real than what we thought.

  • Short Cut by Roger Lawrence 

Martin didn’t care if it magically transported him back to his front room. No way was he going through any graveyard, but specifically not this graveyard and not on Halloween. maybe he should have.

  • Reapers by Nikki Hess 

Halloween proves to be a challenging night for a pair of reapers, Jack and his young partner Kristy, to do their jobs. And this undead duo’s work is truly a life or death matter…

  • Tigress Lizzy by Rami Ungar

The story revolves a young girl who gets revenge on the bullies in her life when she gains the power to transform into a tiger-like monster.

  • Through the Willow Tree by DM Yates 

Chad and Ginger have begun to hear strange murmurings from the Willow tree after Ginger’s father had an encounter with unusually large birds in his attic. They discover another world filled with dangers, but to get home they must solve the sphinx’s riddle and continue through the unusual underground world.

  • Halloween’s Perfect Storm by LC Cooper

What happens when all elements come together one fateful night to create Halloween’s “Perfect Storm?

  • Afterglow by Russ Towne 

A couple gets far more than they bargained for when they buy and move into a lonely old house near the edge of a cliff on a stormy night.

  • The Body by the Tree by Yawatta Hosby 

When Lisa is forced to visit the Haunted Fairgrounds instead of going trick-or-treating, she gets a frightening scare. Is the man really dead? Or a Halloween prop?

  • Becoming Celine by Maegan Provan  

Celine was just an ordinary high schooler before her world completely changed. The first Night Touched Harper saved tells the story of her final moments in the latest Becoming Night Touched Prequel story.

  • The Mirror by Carolyn Cason

 The story narrator inherits an old mirror when a friend dies under mysterious circumstances, and soon discovers the mirror’s hidden secrets.

  •  The Cat and the Coin by Sean Morain 

There’s more to the feline world than we ever guessed.

  • The Leprechaun’s Trick or Treat by Terry Compton 

Sometimes being fourteen sucks.  Cheyenne Wilson held a highly coveted invitation from the new boy in school in her hand, but the time and the circumstances would bring a big no-no from her Dad.  Then fate stepped in to hand her a much more exciting Halloween night – almost too exciting for her fourteen year old heart.

  •  Malediction by Roger Lawrence

When you have eternity you find it’s not the blessing everyone thinks it is.

  •  Beldren by Joleene Naylor

When Beldren and his friends, former indentured servants, set out to “take what they deserve” they get just that and more. (This is a Tales of the Executioners story)

  • Heart’s Lust by LC Cooper

Be careful what you wish for … you might get more than you ever imagined.

  •  Night of the Loving Kitty by Christopher Mitchell 

A couples pet kitten is more than he seems, and after a transformation they share a night they will ever forget .

So what are you waiting for? The collection is FREE* and just waiting to help you get in the Halloween mood! Come see what happens in the dark, When the Lights Go Out!

signature for white

* As of this publication, Amazon has yet to price match the anthology to FREE. Please check that they have done so before purchasing. If not, I recommend downloading the collection from Smashwords, choosing the .mobi option, and placing it on your kindle manually.

Interview with Kilig

This should have been posted on a weekend but the scheduling didn’t work, so here it is on a Thursday instead!

Hello! My name is Katelina, and welcome to Weekend Character Interviews. Using state of the art-mumbo-jumbo author magic, Jo has temporarily bent the laws of fictional space and time to allow various literary universes to converge long enough for me to ask different characters a few questions. Since I spend a lot of time in the Amaranthine series quizzing vampires on what they’re doing, where they’re going and why, Jo thought I would be the perfect interviewer. 

Today we have Kilig from the twisted (in a good way) mind of Barbara G. Tarn. Hello, Kilig, can you tell us a little about yourself?

KiligCindifel: Kilig by Cinzia Di Felice (official cover)

KiligCindifel: Kilig by Cinzia Di Felice (official cover)

Kilig: I’m a tall, dark-haired man like most southerners. I was born in Godwalkar, once upon a time capital of the Kingdom of Gajendra, now capital of the Genn territory. It has an Assassins’ Guild with very specific rules and I joined them at fifteen, first as apprentice, now – twenty-some years later – as full-fledged assassin. I am merciful death – and you don’t see me coming.

Ka: Wow. That sounds a little terrifying, though not necessarily in a bad way (I hang out with vampires, after all). How have you evolved through all of that, besides becoming deadly I mean?

Ki: I was a street-smart but naive young man madly in love with his acharya – or teacher – and became a lone wolf. Then I fell in love again… and that’s where trouble starts. I should have kept him at arm’s length. Assassin is a lone profession and you shouldn’t attach yourself to anyone.

Ka: So what’s you’re biggest challenge in the story? Fighting enemies, or falling in love?

Ki:It’s actually falling in love. I’d been a loner for fifteen years when that gorgeous young man, Saif’s son no less, was bestowed on me. I knew I shouldn’t have surrendered to his unconditional but kind of childish love.

KiligMarurenai: Kilig by Marurenai (cover of Saif & Kilig)

KiligMarurenai: Kilig by Marurenai (cover of Saif & Kilig)

Ka: Who is Saif, if you don’t mind my asking?

Ki: My first love, Acharya Saif dumped me when I was twenty and still madly in love with him. I thought I couldn’t survive without him. But I did, and became the man that I am today – independent, reliable and complete.

Ka: So now you’re in a relationship with his son?

Ki: Try resisting a handsome young man who stares back at you with his father’s green eyes… Of course Hakeem is different from Saif, he’s younger and rasher, but when he offers himself with his adoring stare… could you kick him out of your bed? Really? (on a side note, you being a woman, he wouldn’t really function with you, but that’s another story…)

Ka: I guess we could always just watch TV and eat popcorn. Um.. no, Jorick,  I didn’t mean anything by that *cough* Moving on quickly, do you have any particular enemies?

Ki: Not really. Saif, had one – his former apprentice, Abhaya the Fearless. I met the guy once. But twenty years later he killed Saif and was going to kill me too… So I had to defend myself.

Ka: I understand that! What is the one thing you want most in the world?

Ki: Live happily ever after, if there’s such a thing. Unfortunately things are changing around me – a guilds’ war, a pacific invasion – and there isn’t much I can do about it. Add to that that my young lover is a tiny bit (read: A LOT) jealous…

KiligMarurenai: Kilig by Marurenai (cover of Saif & Kilig)

KiligWendigo: Kilig&Hakeem by Elephant Wendigo (cover of Male Lovers of Silvery Earth)

Ka: Ha ha! Jealousy! Yes, it’s so annoying, isn’t it? Jorick is always… well, never mind. This is an interview about you, not me. If you could say one thing to your author, what would it be?

Ki: You could have helped Hakeem to change, you sadist!

Ka: Your author is a sadist too, huh? What is it with them? We’re running out of time, but if you could say something to your readers, what would it be?

Ki: If you’d like to hear about the love life of a supposedly cold assassin… please note that my relationship with Hakeem is for adults only. But me and Saif… sometimes I fear it was more father-and-son than lovers, sigh.

I’m Kilig the Sword and the “omnibus” will be out in January with a bonus story. In the meantime you can check:

Saif&Kilig is now out on Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, DriveThruFiction,  Apple and  Barnes&Noble!

Kilig&Hakeem is now live on Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, Apple, Barnes&Noble and DriveThruFiction.

and If you’d like to meet some of my friends, check the free story Guisarme (available also in Wyrd Worlds 2).

K: Thanks so much, Kilig, and you;ve saved me the time of my usual link sharing. If you want to know more about Kilig and his friends, check out the links above. And then grab the newest one at  Amazon, Kobo, Apple,Barnes&Noble, Smashwords and DriveThruFiction!

And a special thanks to Barbara Tarn for playing along!

If you’re an author and would like your character(s) to be interviewed by me, then check out this very cool page that has all the details:

https://joleenenaylor.wordpress.com/character-interviews/

Ark – Tales of the Executioners

executioner banner

This is the second of the Tales of the Executioners, which I’ll eventually release as freebie short reads and then bundle together in a collection, much like Vampire Morsels.

The Executioners are the vampire’s equivalent of special police. They go on “assignments” that The Guild (the vampire government) sends them on, and they don’t have a reputation for being very nice. It’s a reputation that is often well deserved.

ARK

This story takes place in April, 1972.

Rain streaked the windshield and Ark stared through it to the dark landscape beyond. The world was colored in night; shades of blue and purple. It had been so long since he’d seen the sun that he’d forgotten the other colors. Vague memories stirred, over bright and painted in green, blue, and yellow. They belonged to another place and another time. Just like she did.

A sign went past. “Welcome to California”. The painted letters filled his stomach with lead. Unwittingly, his eyes were drawn to the manila folder in the passenger seat. He knew the contents by heart. The neatly typed papers outlined the terrible crimes of a vampiress and passed sentence on her. He’d read hundreds like it in the last two hundred and sixty years since he’d joined the Executioners – the elite police force of the vampires. He’d seen hundreds of pictures and hundreds of sketches. He had learned to take them with the cold detachment of someone with a job to do. They had broken the law. They deserved to be punished. But this time, when he’d looked into the dark Xeroxed eyes of the photo, his insides had turned to ice.

It had been so long since he’d seen her, and in that time a thousand different emotions had come and gone, until he’d thought he was indifferent to her. He told himself for the thousandth time that he could do this. He could do his duty, keep his honor. Even if she begged he would not be swayed.

She isn’t who the woman you remember anymore.

It was three in the morning when he stopped for gas and directions. The man inside was courteous but wary, as he should be. Though Ark was careful not to show his fangs, or do anything that would send the cashier into a panic, the man could still sense the unnatural danger standing next to the candy bar display. Ark knew because he could smell the man’s fear and hear his thoughts. It was a trait he’d inherited when he’d been turned into a vampire and he’d spent the last three-hundred-plus years perfecting it.

The man’s directions were good, and Ark soon parked in front of a stucco house on the edge of town. Yucca plants swayed in the dark and palm trees rustled above his head. He checked the time and logged it in his book, then grabbed the dagger from the glove box. By habit he pulled it from the scabbard, just enough to see the cold gleam of the clean blade. He snapped it back with a clink of finality, and forced himself out of the car and up the stone walk.

This is just an assignment. Like any other. She broke the law.

He didn’t knock, only threw the door open and strode inside. A guard sat on the couch wearing the customary gray uniform of The Guild. He jumped to his feet, magazine in hand and surprise on his face. His fear melted into terror and he snapped a shaky salute. “S-Sir. You’re early.”

Ark shoved a folded piece of paper at him. “Take me to the prisoner.”

The guard quickly scanned the contents. Underneath the pronouncement was Malick’s signature, and seal; A knot of three interlocking rings. It was the same symbol Ark wore around his neck, the sign of the Executioners and their authority.

The guard gave a stiff nod and mumbled, “She’s, um, she’s this way. Downstairs.”

Ark followed through the house and down the cellar steps. The basement was a single windowless room with a dirt floor. A pair of coffins sat against one wall, the lids askew. Guards were scattered around. Three played cards, one fiddled with a transistor radio. Two more were lost in conversation. In the midst of them all sat Dovina, tied to a chair, arms behind her back. She wore a pair of faded jeans and a loose, patterned top. Her long golden hair fell around her shoulders, a casual braid intermingled amongst the strands. Her pale skin was as flawless as Ark remembered and her eyes…

Ark’s escort cleared his throat. The guards jerked to their feet, their pastimes forgotten, but Ark barely noticed them. All of his attention was riveted on Dovina. He sought desperately for the cold indifference that had settled over his memories of her but in her presence it was gone, replaced with crystal clear moments that played like movies behind his eyes. She stood in the courtyard, bathed in golden sunlight, a pail in one hand, and a rough dress draped over her frame. As if she sensed his attention she turned towards him, and when their eyes touched, fire erupted in his chest and left him breathless.

He tried to swallow away his emotions and find his usual calm. The tinkle of piano played in his head and in his mind he saw her as she was when she was his, dressed in silk, her fingers trailing languidly across the ivory keys, the same way that she touched him in the dark. The pretty smile was on her lips and, though the other men stared, the gleam in her eyes said she only saw him.

Just as he only saw her.

“Ark. I hoped it would be you.”

Her voice brought him back to the present, and he jerked the paper from the guard’s hands.  Two of them hurried forward to untie her and pull her to her feet. One stood at each arm, holding her up, waiting for Ark to announce the sentence and carry it out. He was an Executioner. He had other assignments. He didn’t have time to linger. He would want to do it quickly.

And I should, he thought. Before it’s too late.

But it was already too late.

The guards looked at Ark expectantly, and he motioned them to release her. “I can handle this myself. I suggest you get started on the paper work.”

“We’ve already-” the guard faltered and broke off at one look from Ark. “Yes, sir. Of course.” He snapped a quick salute and motioned the others to do the same. Though the pair that held Dovina’s arms exchanged quizzical looks, they relented and followed their fellows upstairs.

The cellar door closed and Dovina remained standing, her ocean colored eyes locked with his. Though he couldn’t feel it, he knew she was in his head, sorting through his thoughts. Just as he could read minds, so could she. The product of sharing the same master.

“You might as well read the sentence. I know what it says.”

He drew a deep breath and looked away. Masonry crumbled in the corner and it held his gaze, as if it was the most interesting thing in the world. “I did what I could. I asked Malick for leniency.”

And Malick’s answer had been to give Ark the assignment instead of Phillip. “Since it so concerns you,” he’d said, wearing his cold, benevolent smile. Ark could see beneath the fake kindness to the darkness underneath, but there was nothing he could do. He had sworn an oath to uphold the laws and, as the head of the Executioners, those laws were at Malick’s whim.

He put as much authority into his voice as he could manage. “You killed an entire coven, Dovina. Why?” She stepped towards him and he looked to her, then back to the corner again.

“They killed Eric, Ark. What was I supposed to do?”

Eric. His name was like the dagger that Ark stuffed in his pocket. “And what did Eric do to them?”

“Nothing.”

She came to a stop before him. For a moment he could see their entire history written on her face, hear the echo of past laughter in her voice, the shadow of forgotten tears in her eyes. The world was old even then, but they were young. Constance was his aunt, or so she called herself, and he worked diligently at every task she set for him. When she offered immortality to her “pretty nephew”, he took it, and when she offered him a gift of anything he desired, he asked only for Dovina, the servant girl down the street. The one whose golden hair shone like a halo in the sunlight.

Constance acquired her, and Dovina came to him readily enough. Together they tasted the darkness and all it had to offer. It wasn’t the dark gift that changed her, rather time itself. A new century crept close and they left Constance for the New World. In the wilderness they spent nights lost among the trees, slipping into what passed for civilization and out again, like ghosts. They made love in the wilds with only the birds as witness, and danced naked under the cloak of moonlight. But eventually the siren call of humanity was too strong. It was harder and harder to leave behind the fire lit cities, harder to give up the taste of human blood for that of the beast. They rented a room above a shop, and paid their bills with coins taken from their victims. Dovina wore gay frocks and slippers, and he had a ridiculous wig that was the envy of half the township. They thought themselves dashing after the fashion, but privately laughed at the ridiculousness of it all.

Then the vampire came. In a single night he slaughtered the inhabitants of one street and started on a second. When he reached their room Ark removed his head and with trembling hands cut out his still beating heart. The Executioners arrived the next night, surprised to see their work finished for them. There were only two of them then and they were recruiting. They could use the help, and it would be good for him to do something useful; something besides wear silly wigs and buy silk.

Dovina watched as he bowed before Malick and swore the oath. The job was easy enough at first; mostly rogue vampires who thought a new world meant they could slaughter at will with no regard for secrecy, but as time passed the assignments became bloodier and more frequent. The territories continued to expand, and his absences grew longer. He rode away one too many times in the middle of the night, his orders clutched in his hands, Dovina watching from the doorway. One evening he returned to find the eyes of a stranger looking back at him. Dovina’s words were soft, but the meaning behind them hurt. There was someone else, and though she hadn’t allowed him to openly court her, she was considering it. She loved Ark, but she needed time to think.

She left in the rain, wearing a long hooded cloak that dragged in the mud. Ark stood silent in the doorway and cursed under his breath as the carriage drove away. He wished he could drown himself in drink and forget the world, but even feeding on the blood of drunks only did so much. His vampire physiology metabolized it too quickly and left him sober through the decades that followed. When seventy years had passed and he couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer. He went looking and he found her.

The memory popped to the surface of his mind, sharp despite the eighty years since. Red roses climbed the side of the house, and laughter tinkled through the open windows. He couldn’t see them, but he could smell them: Dovina and her Eric-

She stiffened in surprise. “Why didn’t you tell me you were there?”

“What was the point? You’d obviously made your choice.”

Her eyes moved up and down his lean frame before she brushed his cheek with her fingers. His breath stuck in his throat and for a moment he couldn’t move.  “You made the choice for me. You were always gone.”

He caught her hand and pulled it away. “Then why didn’t you ask me to quit? One word from you and I’d have left it behind.” He searched the depths of her sea colored eyes, pushing past them into the thoughts beneath, looking for an explanation, but there were only mismatched memories. “Dovina?”

“You swore an oath to them, Ark. You wouldn’t break it lightly.”

“I swore one to you first, or did our wedding vows mean nothing to you?”

“They were the promises of youth, Ark. A vow you gave before you had a chance to contemplate the long fall of the years. When you pledged yourself to me did you imagine what a hundred years would really mean? Two hundred? Three hundred? The changes they would bring?”

“Is an oath any less valid because it lasts longer than you first imagined? Are feelings any less…” He trailed off and looked away.

She pulled her hand free. “It doesn’t matter. You can see the truth in me, just as I can see your orders in you. Can’t we part as friends this time?” He didn’t answer, and she pressed on. “Read the sentence.”

He knew he should, but he couldn’t force himself to do it. She gently pried the paper from his fingers and read aloud, “Dovina, fledgling of Constance, on this day, the twenty-first of April, 1972, based on testimony and evidence submitted to The Guild, you are found guilty of coven slaughter without just cause, and are hereby sentenced to death, to be carried out by Executioner at earliest availability.”

She handed the paper back to him. “See? That wasn’t so hard. Do you want me to sit over there, or should I just stand here or-”

He grabbed her up suddenly and captured her lips with his. She stiffened and then flowed against him. Her lips parted and soft sigh escaped as her tongue darted into his mouth. Though he clutched her as hard as he could, the kiss finally ended, and she lay her head on his chest. “Do you remember the party Monsieur Pelotte threw? Before you joined the Executioners?”

He thought of her again, leaning over the piano, toying with the keys, but his voice wouldn’t work.

“He had that violinist, from Boston. What was the song he played?” She started to hum, swaying to the tune. “Dance with me Ark. One more time.”

She slipped her arms around his neck and he reflexively wrapped his arms around her as she continued to move to the music in her head. “It’s been a long time, Ark. But if you close your eyes, doesn’t it almost feel like nothing has changed? As if all the things in between never happened.”

He buried his face against her neck and inhaled deeply.  Beneath the scent of her shampoo she smelled the same as she had on that long ago night. Her body was as soft and yielding as it had been, and her hair as silky. But he knew better. Though she might appear the same on the outside, the blessing of immortality, on the inside she had changed. She was still the cold stranger he’d come in the night to find, and the sameness was an imitation, like a moment from his youth he was trying to recapture and live over and over. “Time won’t let me forget.”

“No, I suppose it won’t.” She released him reluctantly and stepped back.  Tears trailed silently down her cheeks, like the rain on the windshield. They both knew what had to happen; what was supposed to happen. He would jam the dagger through her heart, twist it once or twice for good measure, and then perhaps cut it out just to be sure she was dead. The guards would log the time of the execution, dispose of the body, and head back to the citadel in Iowa where they’d file the paperwork. Meanwhile he’d be somewhere else, killing someone else.

They broke the Laws.

The balm that usually soothed his conscience tasted like poison and he wanted to spit it out. His mind raced as he tried to find a solution, a way out, but there was none. Malick had passed judgment himself. There was no way to appeal. There was nothing to do except run until there was nowhere left to run to. And then – and then the other Executioners would come. They’d bring an army of guards and no matter how good Ark thought he was, he knew he would die. Maybe he’d get lucky and they’d strike him down first, or maybe he’d have to watch as they hacked Dovina to pieces.

“It’s not the ending I want.” She gave him a sad smile and he wiped away her tears. “This will be quick but that…they’ll make us both suffer, Ark.” She reached into his pocket and pulled out the dagger. “Just be done with it.”

He jerked the weapon from her hand and fell back.

“You don’t understand. You asked what Eric did to deserve death, and I told you nothing because it’s true. I’m to blame. I was the one who refused to leave. That other coven wanted our territory. First they asked, then they pushed, and finally Eric pushed back. He didn’t want to but I-I talked him into it. We were here first. We had a right to be here. They were the ones who should leave. So he went to their den and confronted them, and that’s when they killed him. Don’t you see, Ark? I as much killed him as they did. Had I left him alone we would have moved on and he’d still be alive but I had too much pride. This was our house. Our land. Our hunting ground. Our-” She broke off and gave a mirthless laugh. “They screamed, Ark. They screamed when I killed them. They were young and cocky, but when the moment came they were all cowards.” Her spine snapped straight and she met his eyes. “I’m not a coward. I accept the punishment, so do it and be done.”

The dagger was like a lead weight in his hand, too heavy to draw and lift. And yet…

“You can hear their thoughts, too,” she whispered. “Those guards. One is on the phone right now, reporting to The Guild that you’ve dismissed them, that they don’t think you’ll go through with it. You know they have orders to kill you if you don’t.”

“Let them try. I’ll-”

She laid a finger to his lips. “In the end you’ll die, too, like Eric, a second casualty to my pride. How many should lose their lives because I was here first? Think of it as just another assignment, like all the others.” She met his eyes.  “You swore an oath to uphold the laws. I broke them. I was found guilty. Keep your honor.”

Honor. It was a cruel word for her to use, and she knew it. He wanted to rage at her, demand to know where her belief in his honor had been when she left in the rain, but there was no point. They could talk in circles, still the end would be the same. Just as the past could not be unwritten, neither could he future they’d created.

He unsheathed the dagger and held it up like a macabre offering. Light glinted from the cold steel with a finality that cut through him. Somewhere deep inside a voice screamed that there had to be another way, that Malick would make an exception, even though he knew he wouldn’t.

Not for me.

He closed his eyes as the dagger stabbed into her. The force of the blow knocked her backwards and he looked to see her stumble and fall. She landed on the floor. Her golden hair fanned out around her head like a medieval halo. The dagger protruded from her chest, and crimson surged up and around it to soak the thin material of her blouse.

She choked a mouthful of blood, then met his eyes for a final time. “I…always loved…you, Ark.”

He dove to pull the dagger free, to stop it before it was too late, but she grabbed the hilt and rammed it the rest of the way. Her body seized and shuddered, then fell still. He landed on his knees and cradled her against him. Her blood gushed warm and wet against him and he buried his face against her neck. Even now she still smelled just the same; just the same as she always had.

His mind flashed back to that night. He climbed off his horse and strode to the house to find her holding a letter in her hand. “The messenger brought you orders,” she whispered. “But you’ve just come back.”

He took the paper from her hands and pushed back a weary sigh. “I swore an oath, Dovina. I must see it through.”

He turned to go, and she made a small noise in her throat. “Ark, there’s…There’s a man. A vampire. His name is Eric. He’s asked to court me.”

“But you’re already married!”

“Am I?” He stared at her incredulously and she spoke again, her voice trembling, “I need some time.”

Anger rose sharp and bitter. “It seems you’ve already had enough, haven’t you? Constance warned me time would change you, but I didn’t believe her.”

The memory faded and he stared into Dovina’s glassy ocean colored eyes and for the first time he realized that it wasn’t Dovina who had turned into a stranger and deserted him. He was the one who’d gone from a gentle lovesick fool to a pitiless killer with a job to do. He was the one that had abandoned her in everything but word. He was the one who had changed.

And there was no going back.

************

This version’s better than the one on my other blog, though it might still need a polish. I don’t know, maybe not.

Just a reminder, Legacy of Ghosts is still up for vote in the cover wars, so if you have a moment please stop in and cast your ballot. Thanks so much to everyone who’s done so already. you guys are awesome!

signature for white

Interview with Pio

Hello! My name is Katelina, and welcome to Weekend Character Interviews. Using state of the art-mumbo-jumbo author magic, Jo has temporarily bent the laws of fictional space and time to allow various literary universes to converge long enough for me to ask different characters a few questions. Since I spend a lot of time in the Amaranthine series quizzing vampires on what they’re doing, where they’re going and why, Jo thought I would be the perfect interviewer. 

Today we are interviewing Pio from Jan Marie’s angelic romance novella Angelic Confessions.

Katelina: Welcome Pio! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Pio: I have never thought about myself much. I am an angel and my service, my existence is to my Lord. Also to Aye.

K: Since you’re an angel you’re beautiful. Can you describe yourself for the folks reading this?

P: I have dark black hair and deep blue eyes.

K: That’s not very detailed, but as you said you don’t think much of yourself, but let’s try one more personal question, how do you evolve during the story?

P: You could say I go from the obedient servant to a bit of a rebel by falling in love with my boss’s daughter, but there is a secret in that.

K: Oh! A romance!

P: Yes I am with Aye.

K: What is it that attracted you to her?

P: I would have to say her stubbornness. I have fun breaking through her walls she puts up at times.

K: Do you have any enemies in the story?

P: That would be my love’s twin brother. We are enemies in that we both have interest in Aye.

K: I see. So is your biggest challenge dealing with him or something else?

P: Protecting a girl that can get into more trouble without trying. Her innocence makes her prime target to be taken advantage of.

K: I see. What event do you think has had the most impact on your life?

P: Falling in love with Aye.

K: I kind of expected that. You’re a bit of a sarcastic character aren’t you?

P: Yes, yes I am.

K: I got that general impression. But then I spend a lot of time with sarcastic characters. Sometimes I’d like a vacation. What about you? If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?

P: To become human and be with Aye.

K: Now that’s sweet! It looks like we’re running out of time. Real quick, if you could say anything to your readers, what would it be?

P: Angels are nothing like you think.

K: And do you have a message for your author?

P: Thank you for telling our story.

K: And with that we’re out of time! Thanks to Pio for coming in. You can find Angelic Confessions at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Angelic-Confessions-Book-Jan-Marie/dp/1492207772

Special thanks to Jan Marie for playing along.

If you’re an author and would like your character(s) to be interviewed by me, then check out this very cool page that has all the details:

https://joleenenaylor.wordpress.com/character-interviews/

Tales from the Island #7: Chapter One of Children of Shadows

Katelina finally gets her beach vacation, but it’s not everything she dreamed. How could it be with the companions she’s got?

WARNING: Contains adult content

ebook front cover

Day 7:

Katelina leaned back in the beach chair. She could hear waves lapping the beach and the cry of some far off bird. Above her the moon hung in a thin crescent and uncountable stars twinkled. Farther down the beach a bonfire glowed throbbing orange. She could make out the silhouettes of the revelers around it, but it wasn’t worthy of a vacation snapshot. That was why she’d left the disposable camera in her room.

To her left Jorick reclined in a chair, his long dark hair pulled up in a sloppy bun. Even on the beach he wore his usual black pullover and slacks. Like a cartoon character, he refused to try different clothes. He swore that after centuries he’d settled on the perfect ensemble.

“Enjoying yourself?” Amusement glittered in his dark eyes.

She forced a smile. “Of course.”

His reply was the fanged grin of a vampire. “I’m glad. You’ve wanted to come to the beach for months.”

She made a noncommittal sound. Though her boyfriend and his associates were vampires, she had still imagined her beach vacation dappled in sunlight. Three a.m. on a nearly deserted island wasn’t what she’d had in mind. Where was the sunscreen? Where were the cabana boys? Where was the beach fun?

Jorick chuckled. “You chose the wrong traveling companions for that.”

Mind reading – one of his vampire abilities. “Remember when you respected me enough not to do that?”

“It’s not a matter of respect, it’s just easier sometimes. Besides, you think loudly.”

“So you say. You used to worry I’d get mad.”

“Yes.” He grinned. “I think we’re past that now. Isn’t it more important to save time?”

Her only reply was a sigh.

A figure abandoned the fire and headed toward them. Katelina scowled at his ridiculous crayon colored red hair and the expanse of pale, naked flesh. His speedo trunks left little to the imagination—not that she wanted to imagine it.

“Of course you do!” Verchiel chirped as he stopped next to her chair, a reply to her thoughts. As if she needed another mind reader. “Are you gloomy gusses going to sit here, or come join the fun?”

Katelina snorted. “Why? It’s only you, Micah, and Loren hanging around the bonfire acting macho.”

“You forgot Torina,” Jorick said with amusement.

“Of course, the reason they’re acting like macho idiots.” Her eyes strayed toward the fire and the silhouette of a curvaceous vampiress. Her long red hair fell around her shoulders in salon perfect waves and her emerald bikini looked like it was made for her. Torina was enough to make a supermodel feel inadequate. How could Katelina, an average human with an average figure, compare?

Jorick caught her hand and squeezed it. “It isn’t a competition.”

“We could have one,” Verchiel suggested with a broad grin. “We could start with the two of you in bikinis, add some pudding, and see who comes out on top.”

Katelina tried to smack him, but the redhead seemed to evaporate and reappeared a few feet away. Super speed; another of his abilities. “Aw, come on. It could be fun! No? All right, but don’t say we didn’t offer.” Then he disappeared and reappeared near the fire a moment later.

She turned to Jorick, expecting a customary burst of outrage, but he grinned. “He might be on to something. I imagine you’d look fetching in nothing but pudding.”

Before Katelina could express her opinion, another vampire drew near, dressed in a button up shirt, jeans, and boots. It wasn’t just his tawny hair and amber eyes that made Katelina think of a lion. There was something in the way he moved, a sort of fluid, feline gait that said he was waiting to spring. It was Jorick’s fledgling.

“Oren!” Jorick called. “Come to join us?”

“Hardly.” He cast an unhappy look over them. “Is this necessary?”

“You don’t approve of a vacation?” Jorick asked.

Oren drew a tight breath. “I’m not saying one doesn’t deserve a rest, but is now the time?”

“Why not?” Jorick’s eyes skipped to the dark ocean. “Both your war and exile are over.”

Oren gave a contemptuous snort. “Have you forgotten I attacked The Guild’s citadel?”

“They already doled out the punishment in your absence.” During the battle, Jorick had incapacitated his fledgling and hidden him in a supply closet, leaving Oren’s brother-in-law to be executed in his place. “If you ask me, it isn’t a bad thing to be rid of Fabian.”

Oren opened his mouth, then closed it, as if he couldn’t argue. Fabian had been an annoying, bitter vampire. Since The Guild had put him to death for leading a war against them, Oren’s lust for battle had grown cold, as though it had been Fabian pushing all along. And it probably was. Even Torina, Oren’s hot blooded sister, had seen the pointlessness of attacking the American vampires’ capitol.

“Fine,” Oren said. “What about Malick?”

Katelina cringed at the name and Jorick said, “He’s the True Council’s problem.”

It was the answer she’d expected. Malick was Jorick’s master; the vampire who’d given him immortality, and then manipulated him for years after. Jorick would always have a strange mixture of loyalty and well-deserved hatred for him.

“What about Samael?” Oren asked impatiently.

Jorick waved the question away, like smoke that threatened to obscure his vision of peace, but Katelina didn’t feel so casual. Behind her eyes she could still picture Samael, naked except for his flowing hair. They’d expected to find Lilith, the supposed mother of all vampires, asleep in the mountain temple, instead they’d gotten him.

“Will the True Council take care of him?” Oren asked sarcastically. “We woke him, Jorick.”

Jorick’s good humor slipped from his face. “No we didn’t. I know the idea was to wake Lilith and use her to destroy Malick, but it obviously doesn’t work that way. Sorino woke Samael, and couldn’t control him. It seems the legends were wrong.”

“Maybe,” Katelina muttered, then spoke louder. “There were things written on the wall in the temple. Sorino said ‘We will do as the inscriptions say’, so they must have told the truth.” The scene in the dark room came back to her. She could hear the screams of the battle raging upstairs; Jorick and the others fighting Malick’s henchmen. She could see Sorino’s satisfied smile as he forced her to take out the legendary Heart of the Raven.

Without thought she murmured, “He said, ‘It’s the heart of Naamah, one of Samael’s wives, and it is necessary to the resurrection’” She shook the memories away. “Obviously that was written on the wall, because until then he thought it was Lilith’s.”

“Only he can read the inscription,” Jorick said gently. “Sorino ‘s gone, but if he wasn’t, do you think he’d tell the truth?”

No, she didn’t believe Sorino would tell them, unless it benefited him. Though they’d parted politely, there was an understanding that they weren’t friends.

Jorick smiled and some of his lost amusement returned. “It doesn’t matter, little one. Things will sort themselves out. In the meantime, you’ve finally got your beach vacation, so enjoy it.”

She absently rubbed her wrist. Samael had bitten her and left it a gaping, bleeding mess. Though she had no memory of it, she knew he’d healed her with his blood before he disappeared. But why? Was it like Jorick and Verchiel had suggested? Had Samael ‘tinkered’ with her mind? Verchiel had called it a kill switch. The thought left her shivering.

Jorick’s attention was still on Oren. “—we have to go to Munich and then—”

She jolted at the implications. “You’re taking Oren to the vampire capitol of the world?”

“As I said, the guilds have bigger things to worry about than a vampire who, if you’ll pardon me, is relatively new and powerless in their estimation.”

Oren’s jaw tightened. He stiffly excused himself and trekked back across the beach.

“You hurt his feelings,” Katelina said.

Jorick shrugged. “It’s true. The Kugsankal—The True Council—is thousands of years old. Malick is nearly three and they’re older than he is. To them Oren and his attempted uprising would be a trifle eclipsed by Malick and Samael. I doubt they’ll even notice he’s there.”

“I hope you’re right.”

The night was growing late when Katelina and Jorick headed back to the beach house. The two-story building and its partner were like Bugs Bunny island huts on steroids, made of what appeared to be unfinished wood and roofed in something that looked like grass. She expected to see dark skinned natives in grass skirts and the odd cannibal hiding in the jungle. Instead there were manicured lawns and a handful of English speaking staff. So much for cartoon reality.

Katelina stopped in the kitchen where a friendly woman made her a fizzy pink drink, then she joined Jorick in the living room. Between the futons and scattered tables, an antique map hung on the wall. Islands were scattered across the face of the ocean like freckles and labeled in foreign characters.

“Which one are we on?”

He shrugged. “It’s hard to tell if it’s accurate, or just decor.” He held out a piece of paper. “This was on the table.”

The note scrawled inside said simply:

We must leave tomorrow.

Wolfe.

 

She scowled. “He’s ordering us around like he captured us.”

“Only in his imagination. Nevertheless, he’s right.”

Katelina wasn’t ready to say goodbye to the island paradise. Leaving meant returning to cold places and even colder attitudes. “Do we have to?”

“Yes. We need to go to Munich and report so we can go home.”

Home. It was a shadowy word that conjured different places: a lonely house in Maine, a neon green monstrosity where her mother lived, and a small apartment buried deep underground in the vampires’ American Citadel. She suspected the last option was the home he referred to.

He slipped an arm around her and pulled her to him. “Cheer up, little one. We still have tonight.”

“In that case, I need another drink.”

Jorick led her up the winding wooden stairs and down the hall to their bedroom. A large cotton clothed bed stood in the middle with a headboard of driftwood and gauzy curtains that mimicked mosquito nets. A bench below the picture window held their suitcases and a selection of puffy throw pillows. The view beyond was magnificent, though to Katelina’s mortal eyes most of the details were lost in darkness.

Jorick pulled her back against him. His lips tickled her ear as he whispered, “Should I describe it for you?”

Goosebumps raced up and down her back and she giggled. The fruity drinks had left the world wobbly. “It’s a lot of palm trees and some creepy bugs hiding in the leaves.”

“That hardly does it justice.” He kissed the lobe of her ear and then moved lower to nuzzle her neck. “Yes, there are palm trees, majestic palm trees whose trunks stand proud and tall, gently curving—” he broke off to lift her hair and kiss his way up the back of her neck. “—up to the magnificent cluster of emerald green fronds—” He ran his fingers through her golden tresses, letting the strands fall back around her shoulders. “—that dance in the breeze.” He tightened his arms around her and swayed as if they, too, were dancing.

“What about the bugs?” She laughed and tipped her head back until she could see his eyes, so dark they were almost black. She let herself drown in the heady warmth, wrapped in a sensual softness that left her breathless.

“Bugs?” He slipped the straps of her bathing suit over her shoulders and peeled the garment down until she was naked. Then he brought her hand to his lips, tracing kisses over her fingers. “The graceful palms shelter many things.” He trailed his lips over her wrist and down to her elbow, and then across the back of her arm to her naked shoulder.

She gave a soft murmur of pleasure that ended in another giggle. “Such as?”

“Oh, there are insects, of course, diamond eyed creatures—” He kissed his way across her back to her other shoulder and then moved slowly down her arm. “—whose wings sparkle incandescent in the light and shine with colors like mother of pearl. Barely more than gauze, they’re delicately stretched over a fragile framework that lets them glide—” He paused to spin her around so that she faced him. His eyes ran over her nakedness and then he moved in closer and kissed her forehead and her cheeks. “—glide from the uppermost reaches of those palms, down—” He moved to her neck and then to her shoulders. “—down until they reach—” He cupped her breasts and kissed their rosy peaks. “—the smooth stones.”

She threw back her head and laughed. “Stones? Really?”

He laughed with her, and then squeezed the fleshy mounds, gently massaging and teasing her hard nipples with his thumbs. “You underestimate their importance.”

She murmured her enjoyment and managed to say, “But stones aren’t pretty.”

“Says who? Each one is unique, shaped by the hand of Mother Nature herself, kissed by the rain—” He rained kisses over them. “—rounded and smoothed by the elements and the pounding surf. With delicate colors and subtle highlights; shades of white and pink and blue.” He broke off to take first one and then the other in his mouth. She moaned softly and he released them. “But we can’t stay among the peaks and valleys forever, we must glide down—” he paused to kiss his way over her ribs and down her stomach, until he was on his knees before her. “—down to the mossy—” He stopped to tease the thatch of golden curls before he opened her legs enough to allow his lips past. “—moist ground below.”

She let out a long, low moan and clutched his head, opening herself and pressing him deeper into the soft folds of her flesh. Her fingers tangled in his long, midnight hair and she floated on a bubble of intoxication and pleasure as his hot tongue stroked her delicate center.

Her legs trembled as he moved his kisses to her inner thighs. His tongue teased her soft skin and then, he bit.

She gave a cry of surprise and pain, but it faded away and left her in the red-tinted, pleasure-soaked world of the vampire bite. It was a connection that could to take their prey to hell or to heaven. And heaven was where he took her. He was inside and outside her; everywhere at once, pulsing, touching, stroking, caressing. She could feel both his desire and his satisfaction coursing through her veins, igniting her passion. As the sensations became more intense, things flashed behind her eyelids; pictures too fast for her to see and words too soft for her to understand. As always she felt the desire to catch them, to see, to know, as if some ancient secret was buried in them. She groaned loudly, urging him on, her instincts screaming for more; more contact, more pleasure, more blood.

Without conscious thought she pulled away from him and he let her go. She stumbled back, dizzy with euphoria and alcohol, and fell to her knees. He moved to her quickly and caught her in his arms, concern burning beneath the lust in his eyes. “Are you all right?”

She gripped the collar of his pullover. Her voice sounded husky and foreign in her ears. “I will be.”

She tore his shirt, pinned him to the floor, and bit into his chest. He gave a cry of surprise, and no doubt pain as her dull teeth pierced the skin. His hot, spicy blood filled her mouth, but it didn’t satisfy her thirst, only intensified it.

He rolled with her, so that he was on top. She struggled briefly as he shifted to remove his pants and slide himself between her thighs. Her legs opened readily for him, and she thrust with her hips, encouraging him, even as her open mouth sought the bleeding wound. He thrust into her at the same moment that she clamped on, and her body arched with a cry of delight. Lost in a crimson tinted world, she didn’t even notice when he bit into her shoulder.

Moments crashed over one another in a carnal cascade of ecstasy. The sounds and images returned, closer than before and, just as it seemed she might understand, her body rocked with the climax of release and she cried out, severing the connection.

The world slowly came into focus; the ceiling with exposed rafters, the bench, the soft white rug under her back. Next to her lay Jorick with his shirt torn open, panting and rubbing at a smear of crimson on his chest.

She licked her lips and tasted blood. She’d bitten him. Again. She was momentarily horrified and wiped her mouth, as if it could hide what she’d done.

“I’ve told you it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“You say that but…” she turned away and stared at the curtained bed. “When that happens it’s like I’m someone else, and then I come back to myself and have to deal with the consequences.”

He pulled her to him. She resisted for a moment, but his soothing hands coaxed her surrender and she relaxed against him. “Isn’t all lust that way?” he asked teasingly. “Is it really that you become someone else, or that you’re finally free enough to be yourself?”

Her cheeks flushed and she sucked her bottom lip. It still tasted like him. “You’re saying I’m blood thirsty?”

He nuzzled her neck, and licked the bite he’d made, as if sweeping away the last of the crimson evidence. “More like a wanton pleasure seeker.” He laughed and held up the shirt she’d torn as proof. “There’s nothing wrong with that, given the right circumstances.”

She met his gaze and teased him back, “What would the wrong circumstances be?”

His dark eyes grew darker, and his voice lost its humor. “If it’s with the wrong vampire.”

She looked away as a memory popped to the surface. A starving creature skulked in the corner of the prison cell, little more than skin and bones and matted red hair. It stared at her with hungry eyes, and then it struck. She fought at first, and then… and then the world fell away and she’d come crashing back with blood on her lips to find Jorick snarling and trying to murder Verchiel.

“It wasn’t like that,” she said sharply, as if Jorick had forced the memory on her. “Malick—”

“Yes. I know. Malick manipulated you and then sicked the poor, starving clown on you and you bit him back in self-defense or—” he broke off. “It doesn’t matter.”

She rubbed absently at the scar Verchiel had left. “It obviously does. To you. He apologized a long time ago and already said he was starving and didn’t realize who I was.”

“I’m sure,” Jorick muttered darkly.

She pushed on, “Malick only arranged it to punish you for not following orders.”

Malick. The master hung over them like a dark shadow that tainted everything.

Jorick sighed deeply and pulled her closer. “Nothing is tainted, not you or me or this.” He motioned with a hand to indicate the two of them. “I love you.”

She buried the side of her face against his chest and inhaled his deep, musky scent. “I love you, too.”

He pressed a kiss to the top of her head and then swept to his feet. “Come, little one. I may be used to sleeping in strange places, but even I won’t forsake a bed for the floor.”

It was an hour later when Katelina slipped from the bed and tiptoed out of the bedroom in search of a bathroom. It wouldn’t be long before the sun was up. The sky outside already had a thin, colorless quality along the horizon. Soon all the protective plates would be over the windows to block the burning sunlight and shield the house’s occupants. She could already see some of the island’s employees struggling to put them in place.

When she was finished, she slipped through another door to a broad balcony. The last of the night breezes blew her long hair back from her face and tried to tell her stories of others who’d stood on the sandy beaches and bathed in the surf.

She surveyed the lush lawn below and traced the line of palm trees that marched down to the beach. The whole place was almost too perfect.

“That’s why it’s expensive,” a voice volunteered from the shadows. Katelina turned to see Verchiel step out onto the balcony wearing a pair of flannel pajama pants that sagged too low for her comfort. His ridiculous red hair was wet and the faint smell of soap wafted from him. She looked away quickly from his naked chest, something she’d seen far too much of on the beach in the last week.

After the earlier conversation, he was the last vampire she wanted to see, as if his presence made Jorick’s complaint more credible. Regardless, Verchiel leaned on the railing next to her. He scanned the beach scene and something strange passed across his face. What could ruffle his affable veneer?

“What?”

“It seems… I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been here before.” He shrugged and stepped back, his usual smile on his face. He nodded toward the humans hurriedly fastening up the last of the metal plates. “The sun will be up soon. Since I don’t fancy a third degree sunburn I’ll leave you to it.”

He started for the door and Katelina asked absently, “Don’t you miss the sunrise?”

“Nah. I’ve already told you I don’t remember anything from before Kateesha turned me, including the sun. Besides, I have a snazzy tropical sunrise calendar in my apartment at the Citadel, so I can see one every day if I want.” He gave her a wink. “Speaking of pictures, you might catch the sunrise for your photo collection, but don’t stay out too late or Jorick will worry.”

And then he disappeared.

Get your copy of Children of Shadows today from these fine retailers:   Barnes & Noble , Apple iTunes, Smashwords, Create Space (paperback), Amazon, Kobo

ebook front cover

Tales from the Island #6: Verchiel

Katelina finally gets her beach vacation, but it’s not everything she dreamed. How could it be with the companions she’s got? Strap in for a collection of six short stories about surf, sun, and… um… I mean surf, moonlight and vampires.

VERCHIEL

Day 6:

Verchiel leaned back in the hot tub and peered over his sunglasses. The accessories were pointless at night, but he was determined to embrace everything about the island getaway. Just because he was a vampire didn’t mean he should have to miss out.

A broad shouldered vampire with long, black hair strolled past, a blonde human female on his arm. Verchiel grinned and waved. “Hey, Jorick! Kately! Check it out!”

Jorick turned and gave Verchiel a cold once over, and Katelina said, “It’s a hot tub. We’ve seen it the last five days we were here.”

“Yeah, but you haven’t been in it!” He reached for the control panel and turned on the jets. “Look at this!” he shouted over the noise. “I’m almost floating away!”

“We could only hope,” Jorick  said.

Verchiel switched the jets off. “That’s not very nice. Here I am, inviting you to join me for some relaxing socializing, and I get rude comments. I don’t know.”

“You’re not inviting us to be nice,” Katelina said with a roll of her eyes. “You’re just doing it to be aggravating.”

He clutched his chest. “I’m hurt at your harsh words! You wound me! That you would take my good intentions and twist them so…” he trailed off and then grinned. “Ah, come on. It’s not like you’re doing anything else.”

“Jorick isn’t dressed for it,” Katelina said, pointing to the vampire’s dark slacks and long sleeved black pullover. Verchiel thought he detected a hint of aggravation. Though the human wore a floppy shirt, underneath was a swimsuit. At least she was ready for the beach.

“He can sit on the sidelines,” Verchiel suggested innocently. “Three of us in here would be crowded anyway. I know! Even better! He could jog back to the house and wallow in his gloom and emo outfits, and you and I could have some much needed alone time.”

Jorick gave a long, low growl and started forward, but Katelina pulled him back. “We’re supposed to be on vacation. That means vacation from trying to kill idiots.”

Jorick snorted and then led her away, casting a threatening look back. Verchiel waved in reply, and then settled down into the warm water. At least he’d tried.

He adjusted his sunglasses and tried to slide down until he could kick his feet up on the edge. He was too short, and ended up with his head under the water. His sunglasses floated away and he lay there for a moment, looking through the liquid veil at the night sky. He could see the edge of one of the island mansions, hulking and crowned in dry palm leaves, like a transformed island hut.

Minutes ticked by and he finally got bored and popped to the surface, his bright red hair streaming. He wiped water from his eyes and peered at the expanse of swaying palms to his right. He could sense someone, though he couldn’t smell them. He leaned over the edge of the tub and inhaled deeply. The scent of grass and leaves, damp earth, fungus, sand, and sea mixed together in an overwhelming cacophony. Underneath it, he found the thread of a fragrance. Immortal and tinted with fresh blood and expensive perfume. It was Torina.

Verchiel snatched his sunglasses and propped them on his head, then plastered a casual smile across his face as she stepped out of the vegetation. Her long red hair fell around her shoulders, and an emerald green bikini clung to her curvy body. Her naked skin gleamed creamy and porcelain in the yard lights.

She paused and flicked her green eyes over him. Verchiel nodded, and pressed on the edges of her mind. He could see the bald crest of the hill and a human male. He didn’t need to go any further to figure the rest out.

“Well hello there,” he said cheerfully. “And where have you been?”

She crossed her arms over her ample breasts. “Walking. I can guess where you’ve been.”

“Right here,” he answered. “Best seat on the island.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “It looks lonely.”

“Why don’t you join me and change that?” He flashed her a fanged grin.

She rolled her eyes. “Sorry, I got trapped by Loren and Micah earlier. I’ve had my quota of moron for the day.”

“Then isn’t it lucky I’m not a moron?”

She gave him a condescending look. “If you say so.” She started towards the beach and then turned back. “I don’t suppose you know where my brother is?”

“He’s on the patio, I think.” Verchiel jerked his thumb towards the backside of the second island house. “He’s spending some quality time with his human.”

Torina drew herself up. “She is not his human! She’s just a mortal leech who’s attached herself to him. He’ll scrape her off soon.”

“I wouldn’t count on that. They both seem pretty comfortable with the arrangement.”

“No he isn’t.”

Verchiel made a point to yawn. “Then why hasn’t he sent her packing yet? I don’t know about Oren, but I wouldn’t voluntarily spend my first vacation in three centuries being harassed by a human I couldn’t stand. I think he likes her company.”

“No, he doesn’t,” Torina said icily.

“Why? What’s not to like? She doesn’t chatter, doesn’t ask questions, and doesn’t make demands. She sits quietly, and when he wants anything she runs and fetches it. She’s like an admiring personal servant.”

“She’s annoying,” Torina snapped. “At least Jorick’s stupid human doesn’t worship the ground he walks on. If he ever gets around to making her a vampire she might not be too bad. That Japanese woman that hangs on Oren…” she trailed off and shook her head. “She’s worse than a dishcloth.”

“Then maybe you should befriend her and teach her to be independent?”

Torina scoffed. “I don’t need any friends.”

“Everyone needs friends. Why don’t you start with me? I’m feeling particularly friendly today.” He waggled his eyebrows.

“Oh grow up.” She turned away and then paused again. “I imagine you know where Jorick and his pet are?”

“On the beach, I think. Micah and Loren are down there, too, and Wolfe and Sadihra snuck off for some private time. I’m afraid I rather ruined it the last time they tried.”

“You have a way of doing that,” Torina said, and headed towards the beach.

“So much abuse!” he called after her. “I know you only use the cold words to mask your true feelings!” He could feel it for a moment; a flutter in her mind as she contemplated coming back to tell him off, but then the impulse disappeared and she moved out of range.

“That was fun, wasn’t it?” he said to no one. The chirping bugs were his only reply, and he dropped his sunglasses down again. “It’s a shame we didn’t go to Hawaii. At least there are hula girls there.”

He held up his hands and wiggled his wrinkly fingers. That was something that vampirism didn’t cure, though he wasn’t sure why. If he’d had a laptop or his phone handy he’d have looked it up, but it wasn’t worth a lot of effort for a casual curiosity. Besides, he doubted there was much of a cell signal.

He climbed out and toweled off, then wandered into the house for a snack. A polite Asian lady poured him a glass of blood and bowed a lot. He gave her a good come hither look, which she ignored, and with a shrug he wandered outside to the patio.

Just as he’d thought, Oren sat in a chair, his nose stuck in a book. Etsuko was behind him, working furiously on her needlework. Verchiel tilted his head this way and that, admiring the subtle pattern.

“What are you making?”

Oren looked up sharply, as if he’d been unaware of Verchiel’s presence, but Etsuko calmly replied, “I had thought to make a kimono for Oren-sama, if he does not object.”

The blonde vampire cleared his throat uncomfortably, and looked quickly back to his book.

“I think that’s a great idea,” Verchiel said. “I bet he’ll look great in it.”

Etsuko nodded, but Verchiel noticed the blush that stole over her cheeks. The woman had it bad.

Oren shifted uncomfortably, and though he stared at the pages, Verchiel didn’t think he was reading anymore.

“You should make him a whole fleet of them,” the redhead suggested with a grin. “He could have one for every day of the week.”

“Does Verchiel-sama not think that would be excessive?” Etsuko asked with genuine concern, and Verchiel bit back a laugh.

“He’s only teasing you,” Oren muttered.

“Oh!” Etsuko blinked uncertainly, then recovered. “I see.”

“You should relax,” Verchiel told her and dropped into the nearest empty chair. “You and gloomy Gus both.”

“Excuse me?” Oren snapped.

“Oh come on! We’re in a tropical paradise and you’re sitting by the house, reading a book, wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt. You even have boots on! Boots! This is the kind of place where you chill and let it all hang out.” He motioned to his own speedo.

Oren’s voice and expression were cold. “Hardly. You’d do well to wear more. None of us want to look at you without clothes.”

“I have clothes! I’m wearing just as much as your sister.”

Oren’s frown deepened. “Yes, I know. As if it would hurt her to wear something.”

“It’s the beach!” Verchiel reminded him. “Bikinis should be mandatory for all the ladies.” He gave Etsuko a wink that turned her cheeks pinker.

Oren looked horrified and his eyes skipped away. Verchiel saw the shimmer of a thought in his head; a vision of Etsuko in a tiny red two piece. He snickered to himself. At least Oren wasn’t as dead as he liked to appear.

“I think everyone could do with more clothing,” Oren snapped. “And I could do with more silence. Don’t you have someone else to annoy?”

Verchiel kicked back in the chair, hands behind his head, and feigned innocence. “I had thought about checking up on Kately and grumpy boots, but he seemed so hostile the last time I saw him.”

“Do you blame him?” Oren asked. “He knows what you’re up to.”

“I’m not up to anything. “ He mimed hurt. “Why do all of you have such a low opinion of me?”

“Because you give us such cause to.”

He didn’t bother to ask how, only sighed dramatically. “It’s sad. I try so hard and yet I’m still rejected.”

“Rejected?” Oren blinked. “What are you blathering about?”

“I try to be your friend. I try to come and say, ‘hey, how’s it going? Let’s hang out,’ and all I get is told to go away.”

“Then perhaps you should try to be less annoying?”

Verchiel threw a hand to his head. “I try. Oh, I try. But it seems no matter what I do, no matter how acquiescing I am, someone is offended. Someone is mad. Someone is impatient.”

Oren cleared his throat and drew away from the display. “Yes, well, try harder then.”

“You say to try, but how? How am I to try? How am I to please everyone?”

Oren choked. “I-I don’t…” A sudden idea seemed to strike him. “You could leave Jorick’s human alone for starters.”

Verchiel sat up straight, grinning. “You mean Kately? Ah, I wouldn’t want to abandon my buddy, now, would I?  Can I help it if Jorick’s over sensitive and thinks I’m trying to steal her away? I mean I could, if I wanted to. Who could resist this?” He motioned to his lithe, toned physique.

“I imagine any number of women could,” Oren said dryly. “And perhaps Jorick wouldn’t be oversensitive if you weren’t always trying to get her alone.”

“Is that what it looks like? How interesting.” Verchiel tapped his chin thoughtfully.

“Of course it does. Are you completely stupid? On top of that you drank from her.”

“I was starving,” Verchiel interjected.

“Of course you were. And you had no control.” Oren’s tone was sarcasm. “We’ve all been starving before.”

“Then you should be sympathetic.”

“That wasn’t my point.” Oren’s eyes flashed and he met Verchiel’s gaze and held it. “Vampires caught in a bloodlust may feed on anything they can get their hands on, but that doesn’t mean that they enjoy it as much as you did.”

“I have no idea what you’re implying.” He smiled sweetly. “Perhaps you could elaborate?”

Oren growled. “We both know you-” he broke off, as if he just remembered Etsuko was there. “You know,” he finished stiffly. “Enough. I have better things to do.” He made a point of turning his angry attention to his book.

“Is the story really that interesting?” Oren didn’t answer and Verchiel sighed. “I think it’s lovely that you defend Jorick and Kately. It shows real loyalty, especially since you hate her so.”

“I never said I hated her,” Oren snapped. “I’m starting to feel that way about you, though.”

Verchiel ignored the slight. “Really? She thinks you hate her, and given the way you’re always talking down to her, or complaining about ‘the human’ being in the way, I don’t blame her. I’d start to think that too.”

“I don’t complain about her being in the way! Except when she is. Which happens quite frequently.” He broke off, frustrated. “Jorick would be easier to handle if she wasn’t in the middle of things.”

“You mean easier to talk into things, like joining wars?” Verchiel suggested. “You’re done with those now, though.”

“Whether I am or not has nothing to do with this conversation!” He growled and then looked back to the book. “Never mind. I’m finished speaking to you.”

Verchiel shrugged and stood. “Suit yourself. I’m just saying that you might try being nicer is all.”

Oren snarled, and Verchiel waved to Etsuko and then wandered down to the beach. He made to put his hands in his pockets, but without pockets the gesture fell to nothing.

“Maybe he’s right about the clothes. Or else they should just put pockets on these.”

The second idea was better, and he contemplated how hard it would be to add them. He supposed he’d have to find some spandex – that was what they were made out of, wasn’t it? Though spandex was probably hard to sew, and his skills were basic. Maybe he could get Etsuko to do it for him?

“Speedos with pockets. We could make a mint.”

“Who the hell are you talking to?”

Verchiel looked up to see Micah, a bald vampire with a goatee and lots of tattoos. Near him was Loren, a raven haired teen, clutching a pile of seashells to him with one arm.

“Well hello there! And what are you two up to.” He nodded to the teen’s  treasures. “That’s a lot of shells!”

“Yeah,” Loren said hesitantly. Enthusiasm slowly crept over his face. “There’s some really good ones in here. I found most of them in the ocean, but a few of them were on the beach. Micah even found a couple.”

“You managed to get the big lug out of a beach chair?” Verchiel asked.

Loren laughed. “I know, right?”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Micah eyed the redhead. “You tryin’ to start somethin’?”

“Oh, lighten up.” Loren rolled his eyes. “He’s right, you’ve hardly done anything but sit in that chair and smoke.”

“So what’s wrong with that? This is supposed to be a goddamn vacation. We’re supposed to be relaxing, not fucking running around all the damn time. When you’re on a vacation you’re supposed to do shit that you like, and that’s what I like.” He rounded on Verchiel. “You got a problem with that, Executioner?”

“Hey, hey, I’m not judging. What you want to do in your personal time is your business. I’m just surprised that your buddy there doesn’t mind spending so much time swimming by himself.”

“He likes swimming by himself. Don’t you?”

“Uh,” Loren tightened his hold on the shells. “I dunno. It might be kind of nice if you’d give it just a tiny try.”

“Are you fucking serious? Look, that ocean it’s… it’s fucking…” He broke off and Verchiel felt his fear, like a dark pulse. “It’s fucking deep.”

“Of course it’s deep! It’s the ocean!” Loren rolled his eyes. “You could just go wading at the edge if you’re too scared to go in all the way.”

“I’m not scared!”

“Really?” Verchiel asked. “That’s not the impression I got, since you won’t even go near it. But of course, you probably have another reason for your behavior, right?”

“What fucking behavior?” Micah roared. “I just don’t fucking like water, a’ight? You got a problem with that?”

“No, no. Nothing wrong with being afraid. It’s a brave man who admits to it.”

Loren snickered and Micah snarled. “What the fuck? I’m not – fuck this. Come on pipsqueak. We’ll ditch those damn things in the house and have some lunch.”

Loren nodded and they moved around Verchiel and up the slope towards the house. Their voices floated back to him and he could hear the bald vampire muttering, “I’ll show that Executioner dog that I’m not fucking scared. You wait, after lunch.”

“I can show you how to swim,” Loren said enthusiastically.

“Hey, hold your fucking horses. I said I’d stick my feet in it, I didn’t say I was gonna get submerged.”

Loren nodded, then glanced back to Verchiel. He might have waved had he had a second hand to do it with. It was a shame that he’d lost his left arm during the fight at The Guild, but he should be glad he hadn’t lost more than that.

Verchiel shrugged it off and continued to the beach. Jorick and Katelina were nowhere to be seen, but he noted that Wolfe and Sadihra were seated on a rock, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder. He thought about interrupting them, but a quick scan left him with the impression that they’d worked things out for now.

With nothing else to do, he headed down to the water and waded in until he was deep enough to swim. After a few strokes he rolled over on his back, hands behind his head, and floated. Voices came to him, and he looked to see Jorick and Katelina locked in an argument.

With a grin he started for the shore. As Micah had said, a vacation was for doing what you thought was fun, and what could be more fun than interfering with everyone? They were all the better for it when he was finished, so they should be grateful. Maybe he should start charging them, like Dr. Phil or whatever the new psychiatric flavor of the week was.

As screwed up as they all were, he could make a mint.

This is the last Tales from the Island, next week look for Day 7, otherwise known as chapter one of book 6: Children of Shadows.  You can still pre-order it at Barnes & Noble & Apple iTunes, and be sure to join the release party fun on facebook!

advert

Tales from the Island #5: Loren

Katelina finally gets her beach vacation, but it’s not everything she dreamed. How could it be with the companions she’s got? Strap in for a collection of six short stories about surf, sun, and… um… I mean surf, moonlight and vampires.

LOREN

Day 5:

Loren scaled the beach, a giant shell in his hand. It was one of a dozen treasures he’d dredged up from the bottom of the cove in the last hour. Like a hopeful puppy, he slid to a stop at the foot of Micah’s beach chair and thrust the shell in the bald vampire’s face. “Look at this.”

Micah flinched back and wiped droplets of sea water off his nose. “Yeah, I see it.” Loren waited a second and he added, “Nice one.”

Loren deposited it in the chair next to him, with his other treasures. “Are you sure you don’t want to try it? I can show you how to swim, but even if you don’t catch on it’s okay. We can’t drown.”

“Yeah, sure we can’t,” Micah grumbled.

The conversation felt like something from a sitcom. The vampire looked like a thug. Muscles bulged from his white tank top and ink decorated his arms and his face. At a glance Loren would have guessed he was the kind of guy who’d done time. Heck, for all Loren knew he had. And yet the guy was scared of the water.

Loren mopped his dark curly bangs out of his face. Turned when he was sixteen, he was stuck behind the mask of a cheerful kid for eternity. He had no choice but to take it in stride, just like he took his missing arm.

At the thought his brown eyes slid sideways to the stump. Thanks to his vampire blood there were no scars, no horrible deformities, just a perfect arm, wrapped in smooth porcelain skin, that ended at the elbow. No matter how neat it looked, it still sent a shiver up his spine. But, at least he could look at it now.

“Come on,” he tried again. “You don’t have to go all the way in.”

“I said no.” Micah tugged out a cigarette and lit it, as if that ended their conversation. His next words came in a cloud of smoke. “Go hassle someone else, huh?”

Loren rolled his eyes and headed back down the beach. Of his companions he seemed to be the only one who really understood what the words “beach vacation” meant. Maybe that was because he’d grown up on the beach. Maine was cold for half of the year, but the other half he’d lived barefoot and crusted with sand.

He splashed into the water and waded until it was deep enough to swim. Long, one armed strokes took him out into the cove, and he dropped down beneath the dark waves. He spun on his back and looked up to see the night sky through the water; the stars rippled and smeared with the waves and the crescent moon bobbed.

He turned and dived deeper. The watery world got darker, but his vampire eyes picked through the gloom to the rocks and plants below. He scanned for something worth hauling up. Something that would interest his bald, crabby friend.

He sensed her presence before he saw her. Torina swam next to him, wearing her scanty emerald green bikini. His eyes were drawn to her breasts, which threatened to spill out, and his mind went straight to the gutter.

She gave him an appreciative smile and a wink, as if she’d seen his thoughts. Then she swam towards the surface. Loren hesitated for a moment before he followed her.

He broke out through the top and wiped water from his eyes. She bobbed next to him, her long red hair wet against her head and her usual makeup missing. Without it, she looked a little less glamorous, and that much more approachable.

“Nice to see someone else swimming.” His eyes moved against his will to her heavy cleavage.

She cocked her head to one side and studied him. “I’m surprised to see you out here since you lost your…” she trailed off, and her green eyes touched on what was left of his arm. “I didn’t think anyone could swim with only one.”

Though he cringed inside, he forced a smile. “It took some getting used to, but it’s really not that different.”

“If you say so.” She moved closer and dropped her voice, as if sharing a secret. “If that had happened to me…I don’t know what I’d do.”

He shrugged. “You’d figure it out pretty quick.”

She looked thoughtful and then shook her head. “I don’t know if I would. We’re not all as resilient.”

“Ah, it’s not being resilient. There’s just no other choice except to curl up and die, and who wants to do that?”

“I guess it would depend on how bad living with it was.” She turned back for the beach. “Are you coming?”

A crude reply popped in his head, but e settled for shaking his head no.

“Suit yourself.” She swam off, and he watched her go with a silent sigh. She might seem more approachable, but he knew she was way out of his league. Of all the vampires on the island the only one who might have a chance with her was Jorick, and he was too busy with his human girlfriend to consider it.

Jorick was the vampires’ vampire. The kind that all the chicks wanted and the men respected. Tall with broad shoulders and long dark hair, he had a commanding presence and enough dark, emo brooding to make women want to save him. And even the men who hated him had to grudgingly admit that he was kick ass. Hell, even Micah had had to admit it.

Loren sighed. It was enough to make anyone feel inadequate.

He dove again and came back up with another, larger shell. He tucked it under the stump of his left arm and swam back to land. Micah was still in the chair, smoking, and he showed him his newest find. It garnered less enthusiasm than the last one had, and Loren deposited it with the others.

Jorick and Katelina suddenly stepped out from the palm trees. The human woman squinted and then let go of Jorick’s arm to draw closer. She pointed to the pile in the chair. “What’s all that?”

“Stuff I found,” Loren answered proudly. “There’s some cool stuff.”

“No gold,” Micah huffed.

She rolled her eyes. “Are you expecting pirate treasure?”

“Yeah why not?” Micah tugged out his cigarettes and Katelina snatched one from his fingers before he could light it. “What the fuck, Lunch? Tell your boyfriend to support your habit.”

“It’s not a habit. I just like one now and then. And quit calling me that.” She took a long puff and perched on the edge of the chair. “So what are you doing?”

“You’re lookin’ at it, Princess,” Micah answered and held his arms out.

“Looks boring.” She took another puff. “Torina’s up on the hill.”

“What’s she doing there?” Loren asked.

“Probably looking for someone to sleep with.” Katelina scowled and took another angry drag. “If she latches onto Jorick one more time…”

Micah chortled. “Worried your man has a wondering eye? You could keep him looking at you if you wore something better.” He nodded towards the one piece swimsuit and the floppy shirt she’d pulled over it.

“You mean run around naked like she does?”

“Whoa! Who’s naked?’ Loren asked and then laughed. “Ah, she and Jorick are old news.”

“So they say.” Katelina took another puff. “But she’s always hanging off of him.”

“She hangs off of everyone,” Loren said. He glanced down the beach to where Jorick had taken a seat. The vampire didn’t look directly at them, but Loren had a sense that he was still watching.

“She can come hang off of parts of me, anytime.” Micah gave a crude, throaty laugh and Katelina rolled her eyes.

“You’re all disgusting.”

Loren held up his hand. “Hey, I didn’t say anything.”

“But you were thinking it.” She inhaled and sighed. “I don’t think we’re ever going to get rid of her.”

“Torina?” Micah asked. “Probably not. But what’s the rush. We need some fucking eye candy around here.”

Katelina made a disgusted noise and stomped out the cigarette butt.  “As if she’d give either of you two the time of day.” Before they could reply she flounced off towards her boyfriend.

“Someone’s touchy.” Micah snickered. “So is Jorick ever gonna turn her or what?”

“I dunno, I guess so.” Loren took the seat she’d abandoned. “Though it’s kind of handy having her as a human.”

“Sometimes. Maybe.” Micah watched the couple for a moment then turned back to the teen. “I heard him and Oren talking last night. Apparently he’s worried about something.”

“What?” Loren asked with interest.

“How the fuck should I know? It has something to do with Lunch and that vampire in the temple.”

“Samael?”

“Yeah, whatever the fuck his name is.”

When no more came Loren pressed, “And?”

“And I don’t know! Fuck, they quit talking as soon as they realized I was there. Not like the executioner ass hole is gonna tell me anything. But, ask me, he should worry more about that red haired freak than some mysterious guy.”

Loren groaned. “You’re not back on Verchiel again? I told you, I think Jorick’s over reacting. Verchiel ‘s just aggravating them.”

“Sure he is. I tell you, if that was my girlfriend he was hitting on I’d punch his face in.”

“He’s not hitting on her. He’s just teasing her.”

“Whatever you say, pipsqueak. Just keep in mind I have a few years’ experience on you, huh?”

Loren snickered. “You have a lot of years’ experience, grandpa.”

Micah raised a fist. “You better watch that grandpa crap, kid.”

Loren jumped up and grinned. “You’d have to catch me first.” Then he took off, running through the palm trees and up the hill. He heard Micah swear and then the sound of his pursuit. At least the lug was out of his beach chair for five seconds.

He dashed out of the trees and into the bald crown of the hill. Torina sat on a bench, her legs crossed and a book in her lap. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Who did you expect?” he asked.  Before she could answer, Micah popped out of the jungle growth and tackled him to the ground.

“Grandpa, am I?” he ground his knuckles into the teen’s head.

“Hey! No noogies!” Loren shrieked, laughing.

Torina stood and surveyed them. “What are you doing?”

“I’m teaching this kid a lesson. Say Uncle!”

“Why uncle? Why not Grandpa?” He broke into laughing shrieks again as Micah ground harder. “All right! All right! Uncle!”

Micah stood and dusted his clothes off. “Damn kids these days have no respect.”

“Can you really expect them to when you behave like that?” Torina asked.

“What the fuck’s wrong with how I behave?”

“Oh, nothing, for a five year old.” Torina resumed her seat and flipped her book open.

Micah leaned on the back of the bench, no doubt leaning over just enough to see straight down her top. “So who you waiting for sugar cakes?”

“Not more of those horrible attempts at a pet name.”

“Nothing wrong with that one, was there?” Micah looked to Loren for support, but the teen just shrugged. He couldn’t really imagine calling a girl that, or any of the other names Micah came up with.

“If you say so.” Torina all but stifled a yawn. “Why don’t you run along now?”

“Why? You in a hurry to get rid of us?” Micah made a show of taking a seat next to her. “Me and pipsqueak got as much right to be up here as you do.”

Torina didn’t bother to answer, but Loren could see her annoyance on her face. They were never going to find out what was going on by hanging around. “Hey, Micah, this is boring. Let’s go.”

“What?” Loren gave him a just-shut-up look, and he grumbled. “Yeah, yeah, fine. Guess we’ll see you later.”

“Better later than sooner,” Torina called as they disappeared into the trees again.

When they were out of ear shot Micah demanded, “What the hell was that?”

The teen shushed him. “She’s not gonna tell us, and whoever she’s meeting won’t show up while we’re there.”

“So?” Micah seemed to suddenly catch on. “You mean we wait here and then follow whoever up?”

“Something like that.” It was doubtful her secret rendezvous would walk right under their noses, but stranger things had happened. “Who do you think it is?”

“Well it ain’t her brother, that’s for sure, and it ain’t us. That leaves Jorick, that ass hole Wolfe, or that red headed Executioner. If I had to bet, I’d go for him.”

“Verchiel? I thought you said he was after Katelina.”

Micah rolled his eyes. “He ain’t after Lunch like that. He just wants a piece coz he ain’t supposed to have it. You know, sticking your finger in someone else’s pie kind of thing. I bet he’d do Torina, too.”

“Who wouldn’t?” Loren asked and then snickered.

They fell silent, and the minutes dragged past. Loren didn’t have a watch, but if he did he’d have checked it obsessively. He had just decided that they should sneak up the hill and see if Verchiel had sneaked up the other side, when he heard someone crashing noisily though the foliage.

He opened his mouth, but Micah motioned him to silence. They both squinted through the dark, and sniffed. As the perpetrator drew closer, his scent met them and Loren’s eyes went wide.

“It’s a human,” he whispered. He sniffed again and thought he recognized him as one of the island staff.

Micah shushed him and they stood motionless and tense as the man hurried past them, almost close enough to touch had they wanted to. They waited until the sounds died down before Micah motioned Loren to follow and started up after him.

They crept silently up the hillside and crouched at the edge of the vegetation. Loren peered between the giant leaves of some tropical plant. The man stood in front of Torina, eyes locked with hers and his expression one of helpless devotion.

The redhead cocked a hip and then motioned him closer. He walked without looking at his feet, and only stopped when she touched him. She traced her finger from his shoulder, up his neck and to his chin. She smiled, slow and seductive, and then drew him towards the bench.

How much of this should we watch?

Loren shifted uncomfortably and glanced at Micah, but the bald vampire seemed oblivious. Loren looked back to the hilltop and his eyes went wide as Torina straddled the man and with a final whisper in his ear, bit into his neck.

Half sex, half feeding, the scene was out of some bizarre porno, and though Loren knew they shouldn’t watch, he couldn’t stop. It was only when the vampiress made a high, moaning sound of climax that he managed to tear his eyes away and slink back into the plants.

Micah met him a moment later and wordlessly they hurried down the slope. When they reached the  clearing around the houses Loren broke the silence. “Holy shit!”

Micah laughed and slapped him on the back. “Ah kid, I’ve seen better.” He sobered. “Though what the fuck is with that guy? She could have her choice and she picks him?”

“Maybe she likes humans?” Loren suggested.  The images were still bright and clear in his mind and left his face red.

“You mean like Jorick seems to?” Micah snickered.

“Jorick seems to what?”

They looked up guiltily to see Katelina and Jorick. “Oh, uh, hi.” The teen’s face turned redder as the participants in his mental scene suddenly changed to the newcomers.

Katelina gave him an odd look. “Are you all right?”

Jorick narrowed his eyes and Loren knew he’d seen it, but there was nothing he could do. “Yeah, um. Fine. Just gonna go swimming.”

“Then maybe you should go?” Jorick suggested.

“Right, Good idea.” He grabbed Micah’s arm and dragged him away.

“What the fuck, pipsqueak? I didn’t have time to irritate Lunch yet.”

“What do you want to do that for?”

“Because it’s fun to watch her get all worked up. And Jorick gets all pissed and starts threatening shit that you know he ain’t gonna do.” He pulled loose, and grinned. “You gotta love that.”

“I dunno. I always worry he’ll make good on his threats.”

“Nah. And even if he tries, I say let him. I’ll show him a thing or two, huh?” They stopped next to the beach chairs and Micah dropped into the one he’d abandoned. “You know what we need, kid? Some chicks in bikinis.”

Loren managed to nod, but after the scene with Torina he wasn’t so sure. One was bad enough. What would he do if they had an island full of that?

The idea was enough to keep his imagination busy the rest of the night.

Look for #6, the last Tales from the Island, next week, and don’t forget that book 6: Children of Shadows will be available March 15, 2014. You can pre-order it at Barnes & Noble & Apple iTunes

advert

Tales from the Island #4: Sadihra

Katelina finally gets her beach vacation, but it’s not everything she dreamed. How could it be with the companions she’s got? Strap in for a collection of six short stories about surf, sun, and… um… I mean surf, moonlight and vampires.

SADIHRA

Day 4:

Sadihra rolled over and smiled at the vampire lying next to her. Wolfe’s dark auburn hair was fanned out around his head and his deep gray eyes met hers. She traced her finger over his muscular shoulder and down his arm, leaving a little trail of golden sand. When she’d completed the circuit, he pulled her to him and captured her lips in a deep kiss. She opened her mouth to allow his hot tongue inside, and let him explore the inner recesses of her mouth. His hands moved down her naked back, stopping at the curve of her hips, and her tongue sprang to life, parrying with his, twisting, contorting, entwining.

He broke the kiss and trailed his lips down her chin, over her shoulder and finally to her ear. His breath sent delightful goose bumps shivering over her body and she clutched him tighter and breathed his name like a sigh.

His warm tongue traced the cup of her ear, teasing the tiny ridges, and then he murmured, “Haven’t you had enough?”

She pulled back with a laugh to meet his eyes. “You know I can never have enough of you.”

“You say that…” He trailed off as doubt shadowed his features, but she quickly kissed it away.

“It’s true.” Now was not the time to let past mistakes ruin the brightness of their vacation. “But you have already had your fill of me,” she added teasingly.

He arched an eyebrow and suddenly pinned her to the sand. She struggled, if only to show she was dominant, but surrendered when his fangs brushed her shoulder. She licked her lips expectantly and tasted the residue of his blood.

“Whoopsie!”

They both jerked up, hands reflexively reaching for weapons that weren’t there, to find a red haired vampire dressed in a pair of speedos. It was Verchiel, an American Executioner. Despite his high office, Sadihra hadn’t made her mind up about him. This incident did little to help him in her eyes, though he wore an exaggerated look of remorse, hands clutched comically to his mouth.

Sadihra grabbed her shirt from the ground and quickly held it over her naked body.  Verchiel batted his eyes innocently. “No need to do that on my account. I think people wear too many clothes.”

Wolfe snarled at him in German, and the redhead backed away towards the rolling surf, hands up in surrender. “Sorry, sorry. How was I supposed to know you two were here? You should put some sort of warning up next time. This is a public beach, you know.”

Wolfe charged him, one hand ready to strike, and the other holding his swim trunks over his nudity. It would have been funny if Sadihra hadn’t been so irritated.

She motioned with her hand and a wave of ocean water reared up and threw itself over Verchiel. Wolfe pulled back in time to avoid getting soaked, and Verchiel held his arms out in surprise. “I suppose I deserved that?” He broke into a wide grin and shook his head like a dog, flinging water everywhere.

Wolfe swore, and backed away as the redhead laughed. “Okay then, I guess you’re busy so I’ll see you later.” And then Verchiel seemed to evaporate; a wind walker who moved so fast she couldn’t see all of his movements.

“Idiot,” Wolfe muttered and stormed towards his scattered clothes. “He’s so annoying even the Höher Rat refused to keep him!”

The mention of the Sodalitas’ High Council crushed Sadihra’s amusement. As if Wolfe sensed her reaction, he paused and turned back to her. “It will be all right.”

“I don’t know.” She shook the sand from her bathing suit before she pulled it on. “They’re going to be angry and I don’t blame them. I defied orders.”

Wolfe’s expression was torn between comforting her and being stern. It was a touchy subject, and she wasn’t surprised when he went with the later. “Yes, you did. I was supposed to accompany Jorick and the others, and if I had they would have gone to the United States and wouldn’t have woken Samael.”

“No, Malick would have. Would that be better?” she snapped.

“The Kugsankal will deal with Malick when they’re ready,” Wolfe said dismissively. “Perhaps they’d have been ready sooner had they felt he was in danger of controlling Samael?”

“You speak for them now?”

Wolfe finished dressing. “When ordered to.” He met her eyes. “If you want to remain a Scharfrichterin so badly, then that’s something you need to learn.”

She buttoned her shirt over the clingy bathing suit and perched on a nearby rock. “Are you going to stop trying to get me dismissed?” He didn’t answer and she repeated the question with more venom.

“Fine! And when you die-” He broke off and looked towards the ocean, as if something in the distance had absorbed all of his attention. “We’re immortal, Sadihra, but not invincible. Jilsenna’s death should have taught you that, as it did me.”

Her chest tightened when he mentioned her sister. She could still see the labyrinth, smell the blood, and hear the screams. In her memory, Jilsenna dodged forward and then her body went stiff as the dark skinned wind walker slammed his fist through her chest. He’d looked up and met Sadihra’s eyes, and for a split second she’d seen the promise of her death written in them.

And if Cyprus hadn’t dragged her out of there, the promise would have been fulfilled.

“But what good is life if we have to spend it cringing in the shadows, afraid? You say you learned that we’re not invincible, but you go out on assignments without a thought. You battle, and you fight. You could be killed as easily as I.”

He opened his mouth to argue, then wisely closed it. “Because it’s my job, Sadihra. But it doesn’t have to be yours.”

“We’ve had this argument. I won’t stay home like a good wife while you’re in the field. I’m not weak.”

“I never said you were,” he snapped, exasperated. “Is it so wrong to want to protect you?”

“Yes and no. It isn’t wrong to want to look after someone you love, but it is wrong to constantly insist that they can’t take care of themselves. Wolfe, if this is going to work, you have to treat me as an equal, not as something weaker that needs your protection. Though I understand that old habits are hard to break, it is a new world now. The antiquated notion of what it means to be a female is just that; antiquated.”

“And how long will those attitudes last?” Wolfe asked skeptically. “You would base our relationship on a human social movement still in its infancy?”

“It goes beyond that! You know I’m capable. You know I can hold my own in a battle. I was allowed into the Scharfrichter for a reason. I deserve respect, no matter what social conventions humans or vampires embrace.”

“I never said that I don’t respect you, Sadihra. Yes, you are capable. Yes, your abilities are well developed, and yes, you can hold your own against most foes. But what happens when you find that one enemy you can’t defeat? What do you expect me to do when they bring me your medallion and say -” He choked off and shook his head.

She slid off the rock and moved to stand behind him. She hesitated and then laid a hand on his bare shoulder. “I understand, but you can’t hold me back because you’re afraid. It isn’t fair.” She paused, then added, “It’s selfish.”

He spun to face her. “Maybe I am selfish, but I know what it’s like to lose someone, and I don’t want to do it again.”

She held his gray eyes. “Neither do I. Does that mean you should quit the Scharfrichter? I already lost my sister on a mission.”

Wolfe growled in his throat and looked away. Sadihra’s cheeks flushed with success. Though he might not admit defeat, he’d lost.

“Fine.” He looked back to her. “Assuming the Höher Rat doesn’t relieve you of duty, then I won’t argue with you anymore under one condition. Marry me.”

She drew back unconsciously. “Wolfe…”

His expression turned grim. “I know how you feel about it. That it’s a trap designed to force women into the home, but you can’t win everything. You expect me to concede, then I will, but you have to, too. I believe it’s called a compromise.”

She ground her teeth, her sense of triumph gone. “When?”

“As soon as we get back to Munich and our schedules allow it. I imagine there will be some follow up to this assignment. I foresee one of us being sent to look into Malick, if not into Samael. Once that is settled we’ll have the wedding.”

She cringed backwards another step. She recalled her childhood and her own father.  An angry drunk who let his wife raise the children and support the family while he administered punishment for imagined infractions. Sadihra could still remember his tirade after all the long years, “You should thank the heavens I married you, whore. How many other men would take you with a bastard child in your belly?” Then her mother would scrape and nod, and give him anything he wanted, as if he was some kind of god who’d saved her from destruction rather than a monster who had thrust her into a life of misery.

Sadihra’s hands tightened into fists at her sides. If only she’d been the oldest child, the one who couldn’t claim to share that monster’s blood. But that was her older brother Etherin. He’d run away on his sixteenth birthday, and Sadihra had memorized the parting words he’d whispered to her and Jilsenna, “When a man proposes anything to you, remember our mother before you agree.”

Wolfe crossed his arms impatiently. “Do you agree?”

His words brought her back to the present and she snapped, “It isn’t fair.”

“Is it fairer for you to have your way on everything? You say you want to be treated as an equal, but really you want to be my better. Everything is your way and I should nod and take it. I’m willing to compromise, Sadihra. Let me know when you are.”

He turned on his heel and strode up the beach, in the direction of the vacation houses. Sadihra started to call his name, then stopped. There was no point in talking to him when he was in one of his moods.

She walked in the opposite direction, splashing through the ankle deep water as the waves came in and out. Wolfe knew how she felt! He knew-

“Well hello!”

Sadihra jumped and spun to find Verchiel leaning against a palm tree. The speedos covered far too little of his wiry frame and she rolled her eyes. “You might as well be naked.”

“I can be, if you prefer.” He made is if to grab his waistband, then grinned. “You can shimmy out of that suit, and we could go skinny dipping.”

“You’re an idiot.”

Sadihra walked past him, but he was suddenly beside her. “That’s not very nice, especially since I came to see how you were after your fight with old crabby-britches.”

She jerked to a stop and glared at him. “Were you spying on us?”

“Ha ha! You did have a fight! I only guessed from your sour expression. So what’s it about?”

“None of your business.”

“I could just read your mind, you know?”

She stopped, hands on her hips and eyes narrowed. “Fine, then do it.”

He blinked. “What?”

“You heard me. If you’re such an amazing mind reader then do it.” A moment passed and Sadihra snorted. “I’m not as easy to fool as that little human. More than half of your ability is just guessing.”

“That isn’t true.”

“Of course it is.”

He turned suddenly serious and leaned close to whisper, “Why do you object to getting married?”

Sadihra jerked back angrily. “None of your business!”

“It wouldn’t hurt you to tie the knot with crabby-britches. You’re planning to stay with him forever, anyway, and if you change your mind you can always get divorced nowadays. Or kill him and be a widow. Whichever.”

She stormed away without replying. To her relief he didn’t follow, though his words stayed with her, and she tried to deny the logic in them. He was right that she planned to stay with Wolfe forever. Even during their time apart there had been no one else. She’d had offers, but she’d turned them down. He was the only one she wanted, and yet…

And yet, it’s a trap.

She walked the circumference of the island. Jorick and his human were snuggled down together under the palm trees, and she pretended not to see them. She wasn’t in the mood for a happy couple. Though she found it odd that the human was still, well, human. Why hadn’t Jorick turned her into a vampire? He seemed to be in love with her, but then perhaps he wasn’t as committed as he appeared.

Or perhaps she isn’t.

When Sadihra had made a complete circuit, she turned for the houses. They were two storied twins, made of drift wood and roofed in thatch to give them an island vibe. She expected Wolfe to be in the living room, but he wasn’t. She wasted a few minutes studying the map that hung on the wall and tried to find which of the many islands they were on. It was a hopeless task, so she abandoned it and resumed her search.

After checking the kitchen, dining room, patio, and bathing room, she finally found Wolfe in their bedroom. He sat on the bed, looking at something in his hand. When she stepped through the doorway he looked up quickly and stuffed the object on his pocket.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“Nothing you’re interested in,” he said coldly.

He stood to leave but she blocked his path and dipped her hand in his pocket. She came back with a piece of cloth, like a handkerchief. Wrapped inside was a photograph of the two of them.  Most of the colors had faded to red, but she recognized the moment. “Bernard’s promotion party.”

He jerked the photo from her hand and quickly rewrapped it.  When he didn’t’ say anything she demanded, “What do you want from me?”

His eyes flashed. “I want you to bend once in a while, Sadihra. Everything must always be your way or no way. You don’t have to spend eternity proving your dominance. I’m not your father.” She made to slap him and he grabbed her wrist.

“How dare you bring him up!”

“Why? That’s what this is over. That what it’s always over. Do you think because you marry me that I’ll magically change? I’m not your father, and you’re not your mother, and, as you so often point out, the world isn’t that way anymore. You want my attitudes to change with the times, then so should yours!”

“-if you change your mind you can always get divorced nowadays.”

“I’d rather kill you,” she snapped.

“What?”

“I’d rather kill you than divorce you and leave you to find someone else and flaunt her under my nose.”

Wolfe let go of her wrist and stepped back uncertainly. “Why would I? Did I flaunt anyone in front of you in the last ten years?”

“I don’t know,” she lied. “I wasn’t paying attention.” But of course she was. She watched everything he did and tried to guess what she was missing.

“Of course I didn’t,” he said dryly. “And why do you think that was, Sadihra?” She didn’t answer and he went on, “Because there was no point. At best they would be a poor imitation of the woman I really want.” He met her eyes and drew closer. “Whether you want to admit it or not, Sadihra, you are mine and will be mine until the world dies.” He cupped her cheek. “And I am yours.”

She caught her breath and gazed into his eyes. She could see his words mirrored there; see everything she’d ever wanted. He was right. Verchiel was right. She wanted him forever, so why did it matter?

“Yes,” she said softly.

Wolfe studied her and finally asked, “Yes, what? Yes you’re mine? I don’t-”

“Yes, I’ll marry you. Idiot.” As she said the words a weight lifted from her shoulders, as if the burden of the decision was so much heavier than any commitment could ever be. “But I won’t be chained to a kitchen.”

He cocked an incredulous eyebrow. “I don’t have a kitchen, only a single burner stove top, and I don’t think it would hold you.”

She had a sudden urge to smack him.

Look for #5 next week, and don’t forget that book 6: Children of Shadows will be available March 15, 2014. You can pre-order it at Barnes & Noble & Apple iTunes

advert

  • Tales of the Executioners

    Short stories from the world of Amaranthine; a universe of blood and darkness where vampires don't sparkle and night is eternal. Each is about a member of the Executioners squad; the special vampire "police" force. Members both past and present share stories of assignments, origins, and more.

    Dark, light, love, laughter, death...you never know what you'll find in the shadows.

    Get your copy today!

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 4,566 other followers

  • Coming Events!

    June 29 – 30 – Indie Author Book Expo, Des Moines, Iowa

  • Find me on Facebook

  • Blog Categories

  • get featured

  • Want your ebook autographed?

    Check out Authorgraph.com to get your digital ebooks autographed!

    Get a free Authorgraph from Joleene Naylor

  • Find me on Barnes & Noble

  • I’m on Goodreads

    Joleene Naylor's books on Goodreads
    Shades of Gray Shades of Gray (Amaranthine, #1)
    reviews: 13
    ratings: 49 (avg rating 4.00)

    Legacy of Ghosts Legacy of Ghosts (Amaranthine, #2)
    reviews: 9
    ratings: 27 (avg rating 4.37)

    See More at Good Reads
  • Authors db

  • Joleene Naylor

    Joleene Naylor

    An independent author, freelance artist, and photographer for fun who loves anime, music, and writing. Check out my vampire series Amaranthine at http://JoleeneNaylor.com or drop me a line at Joleene@JoleeneNaylor.com

    Personal Links

    Verified Services

    View Full Profile →

  • Editing services

    devilinthedetailsediting
  • The Ink Slingers Guild
  • Awesome Review Blog

    I Smell Sheep
  • My pet hamster!

%d bloggers like this: