Wednesday, November 25, 2015

WIP Wednesday – Netherworld IV: Animal Attraction

Gerald looked at me helplessly and I shrugged. I remembered now that the last time I saw Ashley, it had been three months ago. She’d been sitting in a park crying. Whatever had gone wrong then was apparently getting no better.

I called to her in the gentlest voice I could manage. “Mrs. Warner. Mrs. Warner? Ashley?”

My sister visibly fought for control. She pulled a tissue from her jeans pocket and dabbed at her eyes. She looked at me and reddened. “I am so sorry, Ms. Keith. Sir.”

Gerald smiled a little at the ‘sir’. “Just Gerald, ma’am.”

“What’s happened to get you so upset? What can I do to help?” I asked.

Ashley swallowed. “This past year has been awful. First my sister died. We’d been estranged. I can’t express the guilt I felt over that. And then – and then my husband contracted the Zoo Flu.”

My mouth dropped open. Ashley’s perfect parent-approved husband had been infected? Holy smokes.

I was in too much shock to react right away. It was Gerald who dropped to one knee next to my twin. “He survived?”

She nodded. “Ryan is a werebear now.”

Gerald patted her arm. “I’m very sorry. It’s a big blow when someone you love turns into one of us.”

Ashley’s head raised and her shoulders went back. In a firm tone she told us, “He’s alive, and that’s all that matters. I refused to divorce him, although everyone said I should. He’s a good man and a wonderful father.”

Whoa. The surprises just kept coming in faster and faster. I could well imagine my status-conscious parents being the ones to demand Ashley leave her husband. In fact, I could guarantee they had. And Miss Perfect and Obedient had refused them? Wow and wow again.

No release date set.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

WIP Wednesday – Netherworld IV: Animal Attraction

Gerald’s ears swiveled in that cat way. He moved away from my desk and looked out into the hallway. His ears perked with interest. I love watching him do that. 

His tone was careful. “I think you have a visitor. You might want to make yourself as presentable as possible, Patricia.”

Now my ears were perking. Two sets of footsteps in the hall, both making the telltale sounds of women’s heels. Giving Gerald a quizzical look, I put away my emptied bottle of BP. It clinked against two other bottles in the trash can that hid behind my desk. With Gerald’s warning use of my predecessor’s name, I made sure I was steady to keep glamour in place.

Wendy breezed in, her attitude all professional except for her slightly wider than usual eyes. She was followed in by another woman. “Um, Ms. Keith, this lady wishes to speak to you. I know she doesn’t have an appointment, but, well—” 

I knew my eyes were wide as well as I slowly rose to my feet. I clung to my glamour like a life preserver as I looked the visitor over. For a moment I came close to diving behind the desk. The first thing my stunned mind jabbered was, not like this, she can’t see me like this, not as a vampire.

Except for eyes of blue, the face looking back at me might have appeared in my mirror while I was alive. It was my twin sister Ashley. 

After a split second that felt like it lasted a lifetime, I remembered she’d never recognize me in a million years. I was in Patricia Keith’s body. As far as Ashley knew, I was eight months dead, long gone to wherever it was that most of the dearly departed end up. She had no idea I’d been earthbound as a ghost. She most certainly didn’t know that I occupied a vampire’s body.

No release date set.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

WIP Wednesday – Netherworld IV: Animal Attraction

Maybe I looked as scared as I felt. Or maybe, just maybe, Tristan’s regret was an honest thing. At any rate, his set expression softened to one that I don’t think I’ve ever seen on a vampire’s face, especially one as strong as Tristan. That compelling but cold visage took on the mood of a man who felt lost. Pained yearning creased the area between his eyebrows. It was the look of a man who had held all he’d ever wanted for a brief moment only to see it shatter in his hands.

His usually smooth and unruffled voice sounded husky. “I’ve not handled us well.”

For a wonder, I didn’t sound hurt, just accepting. “No. But I suppose no one should expect you to. Patricia meant more to you than anyone else, didn’t she? Even me.”

I saw an apology in the slight smile that twitched the corners of his lips. “I was her older brother. I took care of her because she was so sickly in life. Then I was a father of sorts since I brought her over. As a vampire, her body was at last as strong as her will and her vision for what we could accomplish.” He laughed a little, a tight sound. “My sister, my child, my equal. How can that be replaced?”

“It can’t.” That was the truth of it. I was a poor copy, a meaningless substitute. I knew it and accepted it. With all that had been between them, no love Tristan had ever entertained for me could have held a candle to Patricia.

Can a broken heart keep shattering? It must be possible, because I know I heard Tristan’s doing so all over again. He said, “There is such a hole in my life now. The lamia didn’t take just Patricia’s soul – it took half of mine as well.”

I would have traded places with his sister in an instant to erase that devastated look from his pale face. “I’m sorry, Tristan. I could have saved her if I hadn’t panicked.”

He shook his head. “And then so many more would have died. No, Patricia would have been fine sacrificing herself so that others could be saved. She was that kind of person.”

As if he’d talked himself out of mourning, Tristan straightened, pulling his shoulders back manfully, as a gentleman from his time would have been taught to do. My brief access to his grief was over. Now I got to see him pull himself up by his own bootstraps. It was so very Tristan of him.

His voice steady again, Tristan spoke with force. “You have nothing to apologize for, Brandilynn. Not one damned thing. You’ve handled what happened with grace while I’ve left you out in the cold. It stops now, though.”

Yeah right. He’d made that false start once before. I hate to be cynical, especially given who Tristan lost, but I wasn’t setting myself up to be hurt all over again. “You can’t pretend the sight of me in this body doesn’t tear your heart apart.”

No release date set.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

WIP Wednesday – Netherworld IV: Animal Attraction

I’m not sure what got my hackles up. I never saw the presence who was suddenly there. Never heard it. But I sensed it all at once and I went on alert in an instant. My upper lip wrinkled back from fangs that I knew appeared as alarm took away my control.

I pushed Lana behind me, getting between her and the dark shadowy figure just behind the heavy curtain at the back of the stage. I inhaled, getting copious amounts of Lana’s perfume. There was something else as well. Something sulfurous and burnt.

The shape moved forward, slow and sinuous, almost serpentine. It came into the light and solidified. I blinked. He was just a man, not some hell creature that I’d half-expected. In fact, I not seen a less presuming man before, but for the strange white-blue eyes he aimed at me. They were like the eyes of a Siberian husky, except human. Utterly human, like the rest of him.

Lana rushed to introduce this stranger, her tone fairly gushing. “This is Arthur Dragwald from Britain. He’s a friend of Augustus’. Arthur, this is Brandilynn Payson.”

Arthur bowed, as courtly and refined a gentleman as ever was born. I judged him to be in his forties from his slightly lined thin face. A bedraggled mustache and goatee, brown like his coarse hair that lay to the bottom of his neck, made his face appear longer, almost horse-like.

Wondering what had gotten into me a moment ago ... there wasn’t even a trace of that sulfur smell, if it had ever existed ... I nodded to the man. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Dragwald.”

He smiled a long, crooked toothed smile at me. Yup, horselike. However his British accent was impeccable. “Ms. Payson. A delight and an honor. Augustus has told me much about you.”

I stared at him to hear the name that was more dishonored than my own these days. When I realized my silence might be construed as rude, I recovered myself. “It looks like your timing is a little off for a visit. I suppose you’ve been told Augustus has gone off to Greece.”

Dragwald nodded. “I came at his request. He thought your little group might be able to use my talents in his absence.”

“Talents?” Despite the gorgeous accent and fine manners, Dragwald didn’t look to possess much of note. His clothes, though clean, looked nearly as threadbare and bygone as he.

Lana spoke up in tones that shouted ‘lovestruck teenager’. “Arthur is a pyrokinetic.”

“As in setting fires?” If he hadn’t held my undivided attention before, he had it now.

Perhaps discerning my sudden unease, Dragwald chuckled. “Do not worry, lovely lady. I am well aware of the great flammability of the body you are ensconced in. I will be judicious should I be required to – how do you Americans put it? ‘Light someone up’.”

No wonder my hackles had gone up when I first saw him. Somehow I’d sensed the danger the man posed despite the unassuming personality. Vampires are basically kindling. When the heat of a sunbeam can set your body smoldering, you learn to keep away from flames.

Dragwald’s horsey smile, while not pretty, was pleasant. I wasn’t sure what to make of him. He seemed almost, I don’t know, alien. He looked human, more human than Tristan or Gerald or me. Or perhaps it was a sense of a person lost in time. 

That had to be it. I was thrown by those charming Old World manners. I’d heard that despite our shared language, Americans and Brits were worlds apart in some respects. Besides, if he was a friend of Augustus, it had to be okay. I glanced around, and no one else was giving Dragwald a second look.

I extended my hand for an oh-so American shake. “Welcome to Fulton Falls, Mr. Dragwald. I hope you enjoy your time here.”

No release date set.