Saturday, March 31, 2012

Unholy Union Chapters 1 and 2

Unholy Union is a book I'm very proud of.  The Romance Reviews has heaped a lot of praise on it, nominating it in 2011 for Best Paranormal Romance and 2011 Best Book.  It was selected as a Top Pick.  If you like a little horror spicing up your naughty, you'll enjoy this one.

Chapter 1
            Elaine Curtis got out of her car and wrinkled her nose.  Without thought, she whipped out a notebook and pen from her blazer pocket and wrote, Eau de cow dung tinged with a hint of skunk wafts through the warm, early autumn air.  Underlying this delicate bouquet, one detects the subtle notes of old motor oil and rotting compost. Welcome to Constable, New York.
            She lifted her head from its inch-close proximity to the notebook, her writing faint in the dying glow of the setting sun.  She patted her pocket to reassure herself her audio recorder was there, though she wouldn’t use it until absolutely necessary as she looked over the weathered farm.
            Flanking the hard-packed dirt yard were two barns, one obviously newer and sporting nearly unblemished white paint.  Cows lowed from its dark interior, no doubt the chief producers of the sweetish rancid stench that layered the air.  The other barn was much older, its paint long worn away to expose wooden boards gone silvery with age.  The emerald green nose of a tractor peeked out of the gloom of its shadowed door.  A window in the loft weeping tufts of straw looked over the tire-marked space between the two structures.
            The farmhouse sat several yards back beyond the barns, a tired-looking but sturdy two-story structure peeling white paint.  It was situated in such a way as to make equidistant points between the three buildings.  The Bermu-dung Triangle, Elaine wrote and snickered to herself.
            Two pickup trucks sat before the farmhouse, one an old Ford rusting quietly in the yard sitting on cement blocks and a newer F-350.  They were perfect complements to the barns.  “Past and Present Still-Life,” Elaine muttered, squinting to read her own writing as her pen scratched letters onto the paper.
            The low hums of two vehicles pulling into the yard distracted her from her writing.  A white utility van with the large letters NCP emblazoned on its side and a silver Explorer parked next to her Cavalier.
            Carol got out of the Explorer, her red hair eternally frizzy despite the lack of humidity in the air.  “That’s Carol Boudette, not Burnett,” she’d said the moment she and Elaine had met.  “Make sure you get it right.  I’ve had enough stupid jokes about my name and people tugging my earlobe to last me a lifetime.”
            Except for the red hair, Carol bore no resemblance to the famous comedienne.  She had model-perfect features that irritatingly required no makeup.  She had once been married to a professional hockey player.  Elaine could understand the woman’s frustration, especially since Carol rarely displayed any of her famous near-namesake’s sense of the funny.
            There was certainly no humor present in her demeanor when she was on a case.  “No perfume, right?” she asked, looking critically at Elaine’s outfit of tan slacks and sleeveless silk blouse over which her navy velvet-trimmed jacket hung.  Elaine didn’t own jeans and T-shirts, and she refused to wear her workout clothes when in a professional situation.  If the clothes got ruined, so be it.  At least she had worn sneakers for tonight’s investigation.
            She spread her arms wide as if submitting to a frisk.  “Unscented deodorant only.  The only phantom smells you might encounter from me are the remnants of the burrito I had for dinner.” 
            Carol turned away without even a quirk of a smile.  She watched as the rest of her team tumbled out of the utility van.
            Dark-haired Jeremy Cason came from the driver’s side, his spare frame clad in jeans and a yellow T-shirt with the slogan, “If Going Bump in the Night, Bump With Me”.  Despite the silliness of his wardrobe, he was just as serious about his hobby as Carol.
            He stood next to Sami Jacobsen, the yellow of his shirt a relief to her black-and-white goth drama.  Short and pudgy, the 23-year old looked eternally ready for Halloween.  Jet black hair.  Black eye makeup.  Black lipstick.  Black nail polish.  Black clothes, tonight a ruffled blouse and jeans.  An ocean of black set against the backdrop of her fish-belly white skin.
            Despite wearing a look she should have left behind at least five years ago, Sami was easier to take seriously than the fourth member of the team, Byron Macaffey.  Overzealous to the point of ridiculousness, Elaine found him hard to stomach.  His hairy belly peeked out from under his polo shirt, bulging out over too-small jeans.  He was already fidgeting with excitement as he looked over the farm.  “This is going to be great,” he said, a little boy’s grin lighting his scruffy face.
            Carol wasted no time.  “Start unpacking the equipment, guys.  I’ll talk to the owner while you set up.”  The squeaking slam of a screen door brought their attention to a man stepping out onto the farmhouse’s porch. 
            “There’s Vernon,” Carol said, hurrying towards the man.  “Come on, Elaine.”
Elaine trotted to catch up to her, pulling the audio recorder from her pocket and clicking the Record button.
            “What was his full name again?” she asked.
            “Vernon Slaughter.”
            Slaughter.  Nice name for a paranormal investigation.
            He met them a few feet from the house, his face long and lined not so much from age as from a life of hard work.  He wasn’t a bad-looking man, but certainly not Elaine’s taste.  Too skinny and spare.   A young version of the farmer in that painting “American Gothic” she scribbled in her notebook.  It wasn’t easy to write while also holding the recorder; she wondered if she’d be able to read her own handwriting later.
            Carol offered him a manicured hand, which he shook.  “Hi Mr. Slaughter.  I’m Carol Boudette with North Country Paranormal.  This is Elaine Curtis.  She’s writing a book about my organization’s work.”
            Vernon waited with quiet patience while Elaine juggled her notepad, pen and recorder to free a hand to shake.  “Nice to meet you both, ladies.  Please come in.”
            Carol smiled, professionally polite.  “Thanks.  That would be great.”
            Elaine followed her into the house, with Vernon bringing up the rear.

* * * *
            When she entered Vernon’s living room, it was all Elaine could do not to yell, “Yee haw, partner!”
            A brown cowhide rug anchored the matching overstuffed couch and loveseat.  Elaine’s pen scratched across her notebook before she settled on the comfortable leather of the loveseat.
            This closeted cowboy comes out in the safety of his home.  The framed print of John Wayne and bookshelf full of Louis L’Amour paperbacks scream, ‘ride the range’.  One wonders if he’s made the pilgrimage to the Alamo yet.
            Carol sat next to her while Vernon took up residence in a battered recliner.  He looked tired, and Elaine regretted her snarky remarks in her notebook. 
            Why am I such a bitch tonight?  But she knew why, and it wasn’t Vernon Slaughter’s fault.  It wasn’t Carol’s fault either.
            “Sorry the place doesn’t look good,” the farmer said, looking around the room.  A light coating of dust fuzzed the oak tables.  “I can’t keep a cleaning service, and running a farm doesn’t leave me time to do it myself.”
            “Is the trouble with maid service a result of the paranormal activity you’ve experienced?” Carol asked.
            “I haven’t experienced anything myself.  Every time a woman comes over, she gets uncomfortable.”
            “It’s just women who report strange things happening?”
            Elaine scribbled in her notebook again.  Why is it men can be janitors but not work for a home cleaning service?  Put those aprons on, boys!
            “I’ve given up on having lady friends,” Vernon was saying.  “One in particular ran out of here screaming.  She said this big black shape cornered her in the bathroom.”
            Carol leaned forward.  “What other rooms have there been activity in?”
            “Every room in the house and the barn where I keep the tractor.”
            “Will you take us to the barn?”
            They all rose, Elaine taking up the rear as she wrote furiously.  Ooh, a haunted barn where the ghosts say Moo instead of Boo!
            She winced.  God, she really was a bitch tonight.
* * * *
            Footsteps.  Voices. 
            Female voices.
            Excitement swept over the entity in the loft, and he moved to the edge for a better look.  They entered the barn, the young but weathered farmer and two women.  The entity mentally licked nonexistent lips, especially when he looked over the younger of the two females.
            Her honey blond hair was pulled back in a casual ponytail, leaving her face bare for examination.  Blue eyes scanned the length of the barn, flicking up toward the loft from where he observed.  Her gaze slid over him, and she tilted her head down to study something in her hand.
            Not study.  Her hand flew over the square of white that shimmered in the growing darkness.  Writing.
            The man spoke.  “I had to build the other barn ‘cause the cows are spooked in this one.  One night they went crazy bellering, and I had to let them out into the pen.  They flat out refused to come back in here after that.”
            The redhead, who’d probably been gorgeous ten years ago and was lovely still, stood with her hands on her hips, her legs spread in an assertive stance.  Interesting woman, but a little too forceful for the entity’s tastes.  Certainly not as alluring as the quiet strength of the blonde. 
Redhead spoke.  “Did the problem with the cows start up at the same time as the occurrences in the house?”
            The farmer considered.  “Around the same time, I think.  About six months ago.”
            “Has anything else odd happened in here?”
            “Not that I know of.”  His attention turned to the blonde.  “Are you gonna use my name in your book?”
            The entity’s attention sharpened.  Book.  How interesting.
            The woman’s voice was husky, sexily low-pitched.  “I don’t have to.  That’s entirely up to you.”
            “I appreciate that.  My friends and family would never let me live it down if they heard I was worried about ghosts.”
            The redhead:  “We’ll use the utmost discretion in regard to your case, Vernon.”
            She walked out with the farmer, leaving the lovely blonde alone in the barn to scribble notes.  The entity drifted down to look over her shoulder.
            ...and I’m left wondering what kind of ghost hangs out in a barn in upstate New York scaring cows.  A spirit with low self-esteem?  Someone who was lactose-intolerant in life?
            Silent laughter.  He really should get away from her.  She had potential to be what he liked, and that wasn’t good.  Yes, he needed to turn around and go back to the loft.  Not spare the pretty little writer another glance.
Instead he moved around her to get a better look.

            Her scoop-necked blouse revealed the recently departed summer’s tan still bronzed her goosefleshed skin.  She shivered at his nearness, the chilling air the only hint of his presence.  Her nipples grew noticeably hard at the peaks of her taut breasts. 
A slender belly.  Gently rounded buttocks.  Lithe, definite muscle tone.  She took good care of herself.  Not one iota of excess fat.  Definitely a woman to stay far away from.
Close up, he could see fine lines creasing the corners of her eyes and the corners of her mouth.  She was no young girl.  She was a full-on woman, beautified and sculpted by at least 30 years of life experience.  Comfortable in her own skin, perfectly ripe and seasoned.
            He had to touch her.  The old compulsion, as comfortable as a well-worn pair of slippers, slipped over him.  The consequences of such an action faded to the back of his mind, and he obeyed the irresistible urge.
            He surrounded her with his invisible presence, hypnotizing the intangible essence that was her being.  She went under immediately.  Her arms dropped senseless to her sides.  The audio recorder she held hit the dirt floor with an audible thump!  The pen landed soundlessly, and the notebook fluttered down like an injured seagull, white pages flapping.  Her eyes stared blankly into space, and her lips hung slightly parted as if waiting for a kiss.
            He explored her, reveling in the softness of the skin covering her lean muscles.  She shivered as he touched her breasts, sampling the pebbled hardness of her nipples.  Her clothes were no barrier to him; he was as insubstantial as air.  There was no doubt she felt him in the suspension of the trance.  When he slipped between the soft petals of her sex, she responded with a whisper of a groan, and warm honey seeped from her flesh.
            He concentrated his attack there, delighted when the flow of her sweet cream thickened.  He slid inside her core, and her hips bucked as if to take him in deeper.  He obliged her, filling her womb with as much of himself as he could concentrate into.
            Hot.  Wet.  Eager.
            He used her gently, knowing the outcome of such intimacy but unable to stop himself.  His self-imposed exile had failed, and there was nothing to do but enjoy the ride for as long as it lasted.
            Her breath came faster.  He massaged her clitoris even as he plunged in and out of her body, no difficult matter for a discorporate entity.  He entered her mouth and anus, finding the most sensitive spots to rush her to ecstasy.
            Her lower body flexed, and she moaned with the rhythm of the light convulsions.  As gentle orgasm swept through her, the energy poured into him, feeding him.  Had he possessed vocal cords, he’d have screamed in bliss.  It had been weeks since he’d truly fed, a mere blink of an eye for a creature billions of years old but an eternity for one who whose hungers were never fully sated.

            Her spasms passed, and he sipped the last of the energy before disengaging from her body.  She shuddered and blinked, coming out of the stupor quickly.  She staggered for an instant, weakness nearly sending her to her knees.
            She looked around in confusion before stooping down to reclaim her audio recorder, pen and notebook.  She shivered violently.  “Damn drafty barn,” she whispered before hurrying out of the building.
            He watched her leave.  Now that her end had been set in motion, he had decisions to make.  Keep her while he could, or set her loose to face the inevitable on her own?  The next few hours would determine how she would meet her fate. 

Chapter 2

            At one in the morning, Elaine sat in Vernon Slaughter’s living room with Jeremy and Byron.  She’d been surprised to learn how much sitting and standing around was involved in stalking ghosts.  The popular shows on television didn’t show that, thanks to the magic of editing.  Ghosthunting was boring work.
            Elaine kept her eyes lowered while Byron took pictures in the darkened room.  The flash was like lightning, leaving her blinded if she looked up.  Occasionally, Byron showed Jeremy the view screen.
            “Look at this orb.”
            In the glow of the LED display, Jeremy offered a cursory glance.  “Dust.”
            “But it’s so bright.”
            “It’s reflecting the flash.  Orbs are almost always dust or bugs.”
            Byron huffed and lumbered over to Elaine on the love seat.  “What do you think Elaine?”
            Elaine looked at the round ball of light and tried to be diplomatic.  “I have to defer to you experts.  I can’t tell what that is.”
            Momentarily deflated, Byron sat in the recliner.  He switched the camera off, and darkness descended on the room.  They sat quietly, waiting for their eyes to adjust to the soft moonlight coming through the windows.
            A soft creak sounded from upstairs, and Elaine sensed Byron sit up in the chair.  “Did you hear that?”
            “House settling.”  Jeremy sounded bored.
            Poor Byron, Elaine thought.  He was so eager, believed so mightily in the paranormal that everything was proof of a ghost.  She gave the more analytical Jeremy credit for patiently putting up with his enthusiasm.
            A draft wafted over her, chilling her with a sudden icy breath.  She shivered violently.  “Where is that draft coming from?”
            Jeremy’s voice finally had a note of interest.  “Do you have a cold spot?”
            “Cold spot, hell.  I’m freezing all over suddenly.”
            A glow appeared; it was Byron with an atmospheric thermometer.  He approached Elaine and waved the black rectangular instrument over her, around her.  “There’s a fifteen degree difference all around her.”
            Jeremy got up from the sofa to join them.  “Where’s it coming from?”
            Byron moved around, moving the thermometer in a complicated dance.  “Nowhere.  It’s concentrated around Elaine.”
            Elaine rubbed her bare upper arms, trembling in the chill.  “It’s official.  I’m a frigid bitch.  Can I put on my jacket?”
            Jeremy grabbed it from the back of the loveseat, draping it over her shoulders.  The paranormal investigator then returned to the sofa, grabbing his audio recorder.  “Let’s do an EVP session, Byron.”
            Elaine checked her own audio recorder to make sure it was still running.  “EVP.  Electronic Voice Phenomenon, right?  Voices captured on audio that can’t be heard with the human ear?”
            “You got it.”
            “Cool,” Byron said, still waving the thermometer around Elaine’s head.  “Is there anyone here who’d like to speak to us tonight?”
            Several seconds went by, allowing time for an unseen entity to answer.  Elaine huddled in her blazer, wishing she could warm up.  She should have known better than to trust the balmy temperatures they’d enjoyed these last few days.  They were in the North Country in early autumn after all.  Colder temperatures were overdue.
            Byron continued his inquiry.  “You’ve got a reputation for scaring women.  That’s not cool, you know.”
            The chill suddenly dissipated, and at once both Elaine and Byron said, “The cold is gone.” 
            Elaine let the coat slip from her shoulders, and just like that, it was comfortably warm again.  In the glow of the thermometer’s readout, Byron grinned at her.  “That was awesome.”
            Jeremy said, “Are you still here?  We mean you no harm.  We just want to talk.”
            Byron walked back to the recliner.  It groaned as it accepted his weight.  He and Jeremy looked around the room.  Elaine watched them, amused at the excitement over a little draft.
            Both men suddenly riveted their attention on one corner of the room.  “Did you see that?” Byron whispered.
            “Something moved in that corner,” Jeremy confirmed.  He switched on his flashlight, beaming it in that direction.
            Elaine glanced over her shoulder, seeing nothing but shelves of paperback westerns.  She looked up at the framed print of John Wayne, tipping him a wink.  What do you think, Duke?  Should we circle the wagons against the cold and the shadows, pilgrim?
            Byron called out, “Don’t be chicken.  I guess you’re not so tough when men are around.”
            A mutter answered him, and Elaine looked toward Jeremy.  “What did you say?
            His eyes wide with excitement, Jeremy shook his head.  “That wasn’t me.  Could you make out that whisper, Byron?”
            “No, but it was definitely a man’s voice.”
            “Elaine, it has a thing for women.  See if you can get it to talk again.”
            Elaine considered for a moment before making an attempt.  “Whoever you are, I’m not afraid of you.  I’m a tough old bitch.  You don’t scare me.”
             Soft masculine laughter answered her, and she gasped.  She’d been looking at Byron and Jeremy, and the sound didn’t come from them.
            Byron peered around the room, his flashlight sweeping in an arc.  “Holy crap, did that sound like a laugh to you?”
            “Yeah,” Jeremy answered.  “It sounded like a man laughing.”
            Elaine grinned, excited with her success.  She didn’t really consider herself a believer, but something had just happened.  “So you think I’m funny?  I think you’re funny too.  You’re just a big joke to me.”
            “Nice provoke, Elaine,” Byron said.  He jiggled with delight.
            After a few seconds of silence, Jeremy asked, “Are you still there?”
            More time passed with nothing more happening.  Elaine found herself a little disappointed.  She’d let herself get caught up in the fun, but just like that it was over.
            “You must have scared it away, Elaine.”
            “I tend to have that effect on guys.”
            The men chuckled.

* * * *
            “Three a.m.  The barn.”
            Elaine followed up the notation on her audio recorder with a yawn.  She was usually in bed asleep by 1:30 on Friday nights.  Having worked all day, she was dragging badly now.
            She stood with Carol just inside the interior.  The night had turned much cooler, and Elaine was glad to have her coat.  “What was the problem Mr. Slaughter had in here?”
            “The cows were spooked.”
            “Oh yeah.”
            “Chances are there was a skunk or some animal that freaked the moo-moos out.  Too many variables in a building like this to expect much, but we have to cover everything.”
            Moo-moos?  Elaine suppressed a giggle.
            They advanced into the dark interior, Carol sweeping ahead with her flashlight.  All was the same as when they’d visited the building earlier.  Elaine yawned again.
            Thunk.  A board squeaked.  Thunk.  Thunk.  Thunk.
            Elaine and Carol halted simultaneously.  “Where did those footsteps come from?”  Elaine asked.
            Carol trained her flashlight at the loft.  Tufts of straw drifted lazily down.  “I think they came from up there.”  She raised her voice.  “Hello?  Is someone in here?”
            No answer.
            Carol trained her beam on the cracked rungs leading up to the loft.  She walked over to the ladder, and Elaine followed.  Carol handed over the flashlight and started to climb.  The boards creaked ominously beneath her weight.
            “You’re kidding, right?”  Elaine’s voice pitched high with terror.  Carol was already halfway up, and Elaine knew one of the boards would give at any moment, cracking explosively before sending Carol plunging to disaster.
            “No guts, no gory…I mean, glory.”  Carol had made a joke.  Hell was apparently freezing over right now.
            Elaine couldn’t laugh.  She had stopped breathing and didn’t resume until Carol made it to the top.  The paranormal investigator’s grin was huge in the flashlight’s beam as she peered down at Elaine.  “Your turn.”
            “I don’t think so.”
            “You have to.  You’ve got the flashlight.  Come on, Elaine, you weigh at least 15 pounds less than I do.”
            “You bitch.  You gave me the flashlight just to get me up there!”
            “You bet.  Stop being such a girl.”
            “If I get killed, I’m haunting your ass.”
            “Awesome.  Investigations right in my home.  Can’t wait.”
            Bitch.  But no one was going to call Elaine Curtis a sissy.  Clenching the flashlight between her teeth, she mounted the ladder.  The rungs groaned not quite a loudly as they had for Carol, but their complaints were still louder than sat well with Elaine.  She flinched with every step and had to restrain an urge to kiss the loft floor once she reached it.
            Elaine pulled the flashlight out of her mouth and wiped the spit on her coat before sweeping the beam around the space.  The hay-strewn loft was empty except for one lone, rusting hoe propped against the wall.  The slivered moon and a few stars winked at her from the open window at the far end.
            “I can’t believe you got me up here,” she told Carol.  “Do you smell smoke?”
            “It smells like something burned in here at one time.  I’ll have to ask Vernon if the barn ever caught on fire.”
            They walked towards the window, Elaine keeping the flashlight beamed a few steps ahead of their progress.  It wouldn’t do to trip over a pitchfork or shovel up here, she thought.  Her stomach rolled at the idea of one of them injured badly enough that the other would have to carry her down the ladder’s rotting steps.
            “I smell something else.  Something rank,” she said.
            “Me too.  There’s probably a dead rat or two up here.  Maybe even a cat.”
            “You really know how to show a girl a fun Friday night.”
            They were nearly to the window when Carol stopped.  “Shine the flashlight over here.  There’s something half buried in the straw.”
            Elaine pointed the beam to disclose a lump of matted black fur.  “You were right.  Gross.”
            “Too big to be a cat.”  Carol prodded the carcass with the toe of her hiking boot.  “It’s stuck to the floorboards.”
            Elaine’s toe connected with something small, sending it rustling over the straw.  “What’s this?” she said, kneeling to examine the lumpy blob.  “A black candle stub.  I think we’ve located the source of all our various stinks up here.”
            “Black candle?”
            “Yeah.”  Elaine saw something rust colored peeking out from beneath the straw, and brushed aside the dried strands for a better look.  “It looks like something’s painted on the floor.”  She swept her hand in a wide arc, clearing a swath of floorboards.
            “Oh shit.  Oh shit.”  Carol knelt beside her and frantically cleared more space, knocking aside remains of burnt out candles.
            Elaine wondered at the investigator’s wide-eyed expression.  “What is it?”  She looked at the image Carol’s hasty work uncovered.  “Somebody painted a star on the floor.”
            Carol stood, her chest heaving with exertion.  “It’s a pentagram painted in blood.  Someone’s been holding Satanic rituals up here.”  She grabbed Elaine’s arm and pulled her away.  “We’ve got to go now.”
            “This is no run-of-the-mill haunting, Elaine.  This is evidence of Satan worship, and it probably attracted an inhuman entity, possibly even a demon.  We’ve got to get out of here!”
            As if on cue, a high-pitched scream cut through the night.  The women froze for an instant.
            “Now what?” Elaine huffed.
            Carol let go of her arm, running to the ladder and clambering down at a decidedly unsafe speed.  “Come on, Elaine, get out of there!” she screamed as she hit the floor.
            Shaking her head, Elaine shoved the end of the flashlight in her mouth once more and descended at a sane pace while Carol ran towards the voices shouting her name outside.
            She joined the huddled group of paranormal investigators near the van.  Sami sobbed, her black mascara smearing down her white cheeks in a grotesque harlequin mask effect.  Byron held her close as she shivered violently.
            “Something grabbed Sami,” Byron said, his voice gone squeaky with excitement.  “No shit, Carol, this black mass had her backed into a corner.”
            Sami heaved a loud hiccup before adding to the story.  “It was all over me.  It was so cold.”
            Carol stroked the young woman’s lank black hair like a mother soothing a child.  “Are you all right?”
            “I guess so, but I don’t think I can go back in.”
            Vernon Slaughter banged out of the house.  Elaine wondered where he had been holed up during the investigation.  He joined them, blinking owlishly at Sami as she continued to weep.  “What happened?”
            Carol grabbed his arm. “Vernon, are you Catholic or Episcopalian by any chance?”
            “Good.  You need to get a priest in here.  This isn’t a simple haunting.  There’s a nonhuman entity here, possibly demonic.”
            Jeremy gaped at her.  “Are you sure, Carol?”
            She nodded, licking her lips.  “There’s evidence of Satanic rituals being carried out in the loft up there.”  She darted a glance at the barn.
            Vernon’s brows drew together.  “Satan worshippers?  In my barn?”
            Carol went into command mode.  “We’re done here, team.  Sami, sit in the van and warm up.  The rest of us will pack up the equipment.”
            “What about me?” Vernon wanted to know.
            “Stay with friends or at a motel until your priest blesses your house and barn.  I’m sorry, but we can’t help you.  I’m not opening up my people to more attacks.”  She marched off toward the house with Jeremy and Byron, apparently intent on collecting their equipment.  Sami crawled into the van and cranked the motor.
            Vernon called after her.  “But my priest is as old as God Himself.  I don’t know if he can do it.”
            Elaine pulled out her notebook and scribbled on a blank page.  “Mr. Slaughter, I know a priest who might help you.  Father Thomas of St. George’s Church in Malone.”
            Her stomach warmed at the thought of the priest with his dark, brooding good looks, wide shoulders and chest that strained against his shirt.  Such a shame the man was sworn to celibacy.  She could certainly scream a few Hail Mary’s riding that fine piece of…
What the hell?  Elaine, stop ravishing Father Thomas in your head!
Grateful for the darkness that hid her flushed face, Elaine tore out the page out of her notebook and handed it to the confused farmer. “Here’s his number at the rectory.  I’ll talk to him tomorrow and vouch for you.”
            “Thanks.”  Vernon squinted in the darkness as if the phone number might hold the answers to the strangeness of the situation.  Shaking his head, he trudged to his house.
            Elaine looked after him without really seeing him.  Instead, she thought of Father Thomas, her parish priest for the last five years and counselor during her divorce two years prior.  She wasn’t a terribly observant Catholic these days, usually attending Mass only on Christmas and Easter with her parents.  But she saw Father Thomas at least twice a week at the gym they both frequented.  That’s how she knew how incredibly yummy he was.
            She kept her distance from the priest, partly because of embarrassment at her lax church attendance.  The other reason was her raging schoolgirl crush on the clergyman.  Too long around the handsome and muscular Father Thomas and her natural tendency to flirt would take over and no doubt humiliate her.

            Still, he sought her out from time to time, his face lighting up whenever he saw her at the gym.  She basked in his attention for as long as she could without engaging in teasing, then she found some excuse to escape.  He was too delicious to not have carnal thoughts about.
            Cool air wafted over her, and a ticklish sensation erupted in her lower belly.  Good heavens, she was getting aroused just thinking about Father Thomas. 
            I really need to get laid.  I’ve been as celibate as him since the divorce.
            She tried to distract herself by checking her audio recorder.  The battery was dead, but as the cold around her intensified, bringing her nipples to hard nubs, another stab of desire shot through her.  She clutched her coat around her body.
            “Don’t be afraid.”
            Elaine twisted around at the sound of the whisper in her ear.  No one was anywhere near her in the farmyard.
            I’m getting as weird as this bunch of ghostbusters.  Next thing you know, I’ll be consulting tarot cards.
            She tucked the audio recorder in her coat pocket and searched the garment for her pen as she found a fresh sheet of paper in her notebook.  She needed to interview Sami about her encounter for the book.  She climbed into the van with the still shivering investigator, enjoying the blast from the heater that chased the chill away.  At least the dashboard lights would give her enough illumination to write by.
            She turned down the radio, which was blaring an Evanescence song.  “Sami, I need to ask you a few questions.”

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Create a Couple of Kalquorians – Lifechanging Childhood Event

Every person has some childhood event that shapes them for the rest of their life.  Whether it's the loss of a loved one, divorce, illness, or some other game changer, we've all experienced something that colored our world from then on.  It’s time to decide what those events were for Erybet and Sletran.  You’ll remember Conyod’s event was the disappearance of a sibling who was never found.  

Our last poll chose hobbies for our Dramok and Nobek.  Erybet is a talented artist whose work spurs Conyod to display his artwork.  Sletran volunteers to train young Imdikos the art of self-defense.