Categotry Archives: Uncategorized

by

New Release: The Wilds

No comments yet

Categories: Uncategorized

 

 

It’s finally out! Read the first two chapters below.
thewildsfull

 

 

Chapter One

Have you ever wanted to be someone else so desperately that you wished for it with everything you had? Closed your eyes at night and prayed you would wake up as someone else? Would sacrifice anything to just not be you for another day? That’s how I used to feel when I first came here, fourteen years ago a screaming child of four, crying as my parents walked out of this place without me.

I stayed like that for a long time, too, a black hole of emotion. I’d destroy any light that came too close. I cursed the world and everyone that dwelled upon it.

It was six years ago that I was lying in my private cell in The Holy Sanctuary for the Criminally Insane—or the Cement Giant as me and the other inmates called it—and had one of those moments, the kind where I could see beyond the confines I’d erected in my mind. The bars that had kept my mind in this dark place, as surely as the cement walls kept my body, weakened and rusted away.

I don’t know why it happened. Maybe it was simply age or maturity, but the anger that had been pouring out of me like a spigot on full blast started to slow. I realized that this was it, the only life I was going to get. I could either let myself rot here in misery or I could find a way out. I’d already gotten one second chance. I’d survived when so many others hadn’t. Was I really going to waste it here?

See the thing is, I’m a Plaguer, one who’s had the Bloody Death and lived. That’s not something many can say. When the Bloody Death hit the world a hundred and fifty years ago, it had a zero percent rate of survival. From what I’ve heard and read, one day no one had ever heard of the Bloody Death, and the next it ripped through the human population like a forest fire after a six-month drought. And just like a fire, it killed fast and painfully. People would be up walking around fine, only to fall bleeding on the street one moment, and gripped in agony and dead the next.

From the records left behind of that time, ninety-five percent of the population contracted the Bloody Death and all of them died during the initial outbreak. Not to mention that it didn’t spring up and then disappear. No, it’s been coming back every ten or twenty years. You don’t have to be a math genius to know those odds suck. I guess it’s a good thing there were so many humans to start with or we might have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

Everyone is fearful of when the next wave might hit. Maybe that outbreak will be the one to end us all. It’s not like anyone knew where the Bloody Death came from, or why it still mysteriously showed back up from time to time, which added to the fear. The unknown and all that? Some people have a real hang-up about not knowing things. I don’t understand that fear, but maybe it was because as a Plaguer, I’ve always known more than I wanted.

When rumors started creeping up about how a teeny tiny percent of the population, something like less than .001%, was surviving, most people thought it was a lie. Plaguers are so rare you can go your whole life never meeting one, but I’m living proof they exist.

The first couple of days after I’d survived the Bloody Death, I’d thought I was the luckiest girl to walk the Earth. I was young when it happened, only four and so full of childish delusions. Children can be like that before life teaches them better.

I still regard myself as lucky, but now I know survival comes at a cost. The Bloody Death changes you, makes you see things. They say these things aren’t true, but I know better. They say all Plaguers are psychotic, contaminated and ruined, need to be locked away to protect society from the evil they spew about monsters.

I say they’re blind. But maybe willfully so. I know what the Plaguers before me have said. I’ve seen the things they’ve seen. There’s a reason no one wanted to believe them. I understand why they hide us in places like this.

The people here, they tell me that this is the only safe place for me. That I would be killed if I’d been born somewhere else, like the Wilds, which encompasses the vast majority of what used to be the United States now except for the small slivers pieced out to form the few smaller countries that exist.

I’d prefer to take my chances. I didn’t survive the Bloody Death to only go on and live as if I were truly dead. If I was meant to be alive, I didn’t want to walk this Earth—I wanted to truly live it, dance and revel in everything it had to offer, feel every sensation and emotion open to the human psyche. I would. Even if it took me until I was a hundred and I only had one single day of freedom, I would not die here; I would die living.

The door to my cell opened and startled me. It wasn’t time for the daily release yet. I looked up from my bed, already dressed for the day in the simple white dresses we were given, to the guard.

“You’re getting a visitor.”

I let out a sigh. It was going to be one of those days.

 

 

Chapter Two

I sat on a metal folding chair in the bleak visiting room of painted cement, among a handful of other “patients” sitting with their parents or other family members who hadn’t given up on their kin yet. It was only a matter of time. They all threw in the towel eventually.

It was almost understandable. I had a pretty thick callous built up over my heart from hearing the crying and pleading all the time, and it still clawed at me. Seeing it once a month or so when you had that fresh heart meat all tender like? Brutal.

Plus, no one ever got out. Once you were here, there was no release. You died here. But not me. That wouldn’t be my end.

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of the woman across the room watching me. She was one of the nurses, or at least that’s what she pretended to be. Like the Plaguers before me, I knew better. A dark haze clung to her like a storm cloud she couldn’t shake or maybe didn’t want to. There was a name for them. Dark Walkers, the Plaguers had called them. Even before I’d come here, before I’d gotten sick, I remembered the tales spread by the Plaguers. I’d thought they were ghost stories. My mother had told me Dark Walkers didn’t exist. Of course I believed her. My parents had been my entire world—until they weren’t.

As the Dark Walker stared at me, I worried another knot in a head already full of red ones, never breaking from the act that helped keep me alive. Once upon a time, behaving as crazy as they said I was had been an act. I’d watched some of the other inhabitants of the Cement Giant and learned it all from them, the actions that would deem me mentally unstable. I’d embraced the facade because it was better to have your enemy think you were crazy and weak than having them know you were just waiting for your moment.

The nurse’s attention was fine-tuned on me worse than normal today, but I was always on their radar. The Dark Walkers knew, or at least suspected, that I could see them for what they were. They ran test after test, each more painful than the last, but I never gave them what they wanted. It was ironic that my hunters were the only ones that wanted the truth and the last ones I’d ever tell it to.

I switched gears from forming knots to chewing on the stub of a thumbnail worn down to almost nothing, while I wondered who was going to walk through that door, the one that led out of this place.

At exactly nine, my visitor made his entrance. He had to be here for me, as I was the only one left sitting alone across from an empty seat. But even though it had to be him, I doubted what my eyes were seeing. He looked nothing like the others the Dark Walkers had sent, trying to trick me in to divulging my secrets in the past.

He was late twenties or maybe a very well aged early thirties. Even dressed up in his suit, he didn’t look like a pencil pusher or a government worker. There was an edge to him that had nothing to do with his dark coloring or deep-set eyes. He scanned the room, like I did when I was sizing up which guards were on duty.

I’d thought I was going to sit here, spew the normal bullshit about how everything was just grand while the Dark Walker’s spy tried to find a way to trip me up. After the first ten or twenty of these visits, I’d gotten the role I was playing down to the point I could nap through it, but this visit had just become interesting.

He handed his badge over to a nurse of the normal human variety. She made a show of flipping it over like she had some clue, clearly not viewing him as the threat I saw him to be. Sometimes I found it shocking how easily people believed what they were told. I wanted to shake her and tell her to wake the hell up. I’d tried doing that in my younger years. It never worked. People believed what they wanted. Most of the time it’s the things they find most beneficial to their situation, and they do all sorts of mental gymnastics to make it fit neatly into their reality.

I never understood that. The truth was so much easier to deal with, no mental backflips or cartwheels required.

The Dark Walker in the room with us noticed, though. They didn’t miss much and didn’t seem to have the same aversion to reality that humans sometimes had. This one had been here for a few years and she was even savvier than most of the ones I’d met. I watched her watching him. She seemed to be at full alert, as if she was viewing him as a threat.

She didn’t wait long before she turned and left the room, probably to get reinforcements. This morning might turn out to be the most action I’d seen in years, or at least since Piggy Iggy, one of the other inmates, had gone nuclear all over the cafeteria after eating bad food out of the garbage.

The stupid human nurse handed him back his ID. She pulled out something for him to sign, but his attention had already settled on me.

I didn’t break eye contact. After all, I could only play meek so much, and I didn’t see a reason here for the charade. This wasn’t a Dark Walker or one of their spies that I needed to hide my true self from. I shot him my what the hell do you want stare. It was a particular favorite of mine and handled quite a versatile amount of situations with little effort. It was also something that flew under the radar if a guard wasn’t looking at your face at the time. It ranked even higher than my you’ve got to be fucking kidding me with this shit stare, which usually needed more information about what was happening before it could be used.

There was a subtle movement of his head that may or may not have been a nod, a picking up of the gauntlet—challenge accepted? I’d like to think I was right, but every so often I did wonder if perhaps I was as crazy as they said. How the hell would I know, anyway? It’s hard to be objective about one’s own sanity. What if the guy just had a crick in his neck?

He turned away to sign the paper and then the nurse pointed him in my direction, even though it was clear he knew exactly where to go. He wasn’t getting any credit for knowing. I was the only person sitting alone. He could have the IQ of a rock and have figured that out.

He walked over toward the table in a sluggish manner, completely at odds with the physique his ill-fitting suit tried to hide. He pulled out the chair and sat down across from me, again with the stilted movements of someone fifty years older and horribly out of shape. I couldn’t believe this act actually worked on some people.

There was something hard about his pale eyes but I wasn’t afraid of him. Most people probably were when he wasn’t playing dress-up. I should’ve been too, but it was difficult to dredge up fear for a human when you lived your life next to monsters.

Now that he was in range, generally within five feet of me, I waited for some of my “Plaguer Delusions” to hit. The information I got from people was never delivered in the same way but there were usually certain similarities. Sometimes the memories hit hard and fast and other times they leaked out in a small trickle.

I waited for something to come to me, a snippet of history so traumatic that it was burned into their mind, just waiting to be seen and heard, relived. Occasionally they didn’t come at all, which was looking like it would be the case with him as he bent over paperwork that I suspected was nothing more than a prop.

It wasn’t like I’d never drawn a blank before; it just wasn’t often. Figured it would be him who would leave a big fat blank. Most of the time, I didn’t want to see the things people shared. The flashes of a person’s history, the stuff from the darkest corners of their mind, no matter how short, told me a lot. It always seemed to be the bad stuff too, never the good, only experiences so bad they cut out their own niche in the human psyche.

With a Plaguer, it was almost impossible to put your best foot forward. A good first impression meant that you didn’t kill your brother last week or rape the neighbor’s daughter. Because the truth of it is, in times like these, there wasn’t anyone who was squeaky clean. I judged people on a sliding scale and a body count. I usually gave them the first murder for free and didn’t knock serious points off until the third.

Still, I didn’t need a red flag in my face to know this guy was on the hunt right now; maybe he always was. I hadn’t survived this long without learning how to identify the threats. But what would he want with me? I had nothing to take.

“Your name is Dahlia Franks?” he asked, finally looking up from his notepad.

I didn’t bother answering, just continued to sit and play the crazy part. This was one of the perks of being nuts. No one expected you to behave in accordance to the general population’s playbook, and I enjoyed being a nonconformist.

He already knew who I was anyway. It made me wonder why people asked unnecessary questions.

He continued on, not missing a beat. “I’m here on behalf of our government of Newco. My name is Samuel Right. I’m doing randomized interviews to assess the living conditions in the Newco’s various government-run facilities. Quality control, you could say.”

I nodded as I swapped my thumbnail out for the pinky. It was my least favorite nail and, as such, had a decent stub left on it. In the last fourteen years I’d been here, not once had I ever heard of quality control interviews. No, this guy was a spy of some sort, but for who? For what? Not the Dark Walkers.

The Dark Walkers had sent in plenty of spies over the years, trying to trick me into telling them I knew they were different. They always posed as visiting experts that might be able to help me. They’d even sent in a supposed aunt I didn’t know of, who could take me home with her if I just told her the truth. That one had almost gotten me snagged. It had mentally fucked me for weeks, too. But I never did tell, and I had a feeling that was why I was the only Plaguer left standing in this compound.

I didn’t know how, even then at the young age of four, I knew instinctively to hide my knowledge of them, but I had. Just shows self-preservation is hard-wired into us. After all, I’d never seen a mouse sit back and wait for the cat to eat it, no matter how tiny and young it was.

“May I ask you some questions?” he asked, and I thought I caught a glimpse of something in those light eyes before they shuttered closed. It wasn’t from fear. No, this guy didn’t seem timid, and he certainly wasn’t worried about me. He was hiding something, and if I had to guess, he’d heard enough about Plaguers to know something about what we could do but not enough to be accurate or to know how much.

He was playing a part but not well enough, and yet I still didn’t think he was working for the Dark Walkers. That didn’t mean he could be trusted.

“Just to get some background, you were brought here at age four after you killed your teacher. Is that correct?”

I leaned back in my chair and dropped the nervous nail-chewing act. I set my gaze on him, barely blinking. I said, “That is what the records say.”

One of the things I hated most was thinking of the past, in particular that time after I’d gotten sick. My parents had told me I’d never had the Bloody Death. I’d just had a bad flu.

They sent me to school like nothing had changed, warning me to say nothing of any sickness. It might have worked if there hadn’t been monsters there, just like they were here. This Dark Walker had been pretending to be a teacher.

I’d told my parents but they’d said monsters didn’t exist. That I shouldn’t speak of such things and that I was bad.

I’d gone back to school the next day and I saw the monster watching my friend. He was going to do something to him. I just knew it. Even then, I’d known that just because the people around me were stupid, didn’t mean they should die.

So I lay in wait at recess. While the monster was eating his sandwich, I snuck up behind him and stabbed the monster in the neck repeatedly with my pencil until there was nothing but gurgling noises. The monster was defeated. They should’ve thanked me. They didn’t.

There was a lot of chaos after that. They talked to my parents. I don’t know what was said but I’d like to think they’d fought for me, that they hadn’t had a choice. The next day I’d thought we were going to the beach. They drove me here instead.

That was when I’d become the hunted. There were monsters here as well but I never got the opportunity to kill another. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t in the future.

As if he sensed my agitation with the subject, he switched gears. “Do you like your accommodations here?” he asked, pencil poised over paper.

Now this was the perfect opportunity to use my you’ve got to be fucking kidding me with this shit stare.

No reaction from him. He shot off more questions. “And the food? Would you say the meals are acceptable?”

It was hard not to laugh in his face. I was a walking stick figure of almost comical proportions. We were all thin here, but not like me. My friends called me Olive Oyl after some cartoon they’d found a while back.

The powers that be said I needed to be on a restricted diet, that the plague would return if I were at full strength. I couldn’t say whether they were right or wrong. It wasn’t my choice and I hadn’t been given the opportunity to test the theory. I’d like to think that there were easier ways to kill me if that was what they were after. “I eat like a queen,” I replied. “Can’t you tell?”

I waited to see how he’d take that answer. He didn’t even blink. “You are a Plaguer? Is that correct?”

I fisted my right hand where it was resting on my lap underneath the table. “Isn’t that in your records, too?”

I watched his expression close enough that I could see his pupils dilate against the light background of his irises. Why would this be good news to him when most were disgusted by this fact and almost all were frightened that contact with me was lethal?

I wondered what any of this had to do with quality control. Did he not realize he’d gone way off script, or did he not care?

“And you’re prone to delusions?” he asked.

Why was he asking this? It was common knowledge that Plaguers had them. We were insane. We spread lies and talked of monsters. Everyone knew it.

“Delusions?” I asked, pretending to have no idea what he was saying. Maybe he was with the Dark Walkers. This was more in line with what they would send people out to ask. Normal humans didn’t like to hear what Plaguers said, let alone give it any merit. There was a reason lines like don’t shoot the messenger came about. People didn’t like to hear bad things. If they could deny them, more than nine out of ten people would. I know, the math is a little funny there because what’s more than nine out of ten? Yeah, you got it. Pretty much everybody.

He leaned across the expanse of metal table. “Yes. Do you see things like most Plaguers?”

“I don’t know any other Plaguers—anymore. I can’t answer what most see,” I said. My calm was starting to be rattled. I wanted to know who this guy was. Government worker? That was total bull. Spy for the Dark Walkers? No, I still didn’t think so.

His eyes were still dead set on me. “Do you see delusions?”

For some reason I thought he wanted me to say yes. Like it meant a great deal to him. That this was what he had been hunting down. Part of me wanted to speak the truth to him that I denied so often. It wasn’t about making him happy or not. I was tired of pretending. Eighteen years old but I felt like I was a hundred.

We openly stared at each other, sizing the other up. He finally broke the standoff by the slightest softening of his tone as he said, “You want to answer this.”

It felt like something was left hanging off the end of that sentence. I didn’t know what I saw in him, why I felt like he wanted this or why his slight softening undid me, but for some reason, I spoke and gave him what I knew he wanted. “Yes. I see things.”

He leaned back in his chair, and for the first time since he’d walked in the door, he openly showed me a tiny glimpse of who he really was as he smiled like he’d just had a bloody meal of raw meat. There was someone brutal hiding behind this act. Whoever he really was, he was happy that I was a Plaguer who “had delusions.” Who the hell was this?

I wouldn’t get to find out, though. The door to the visiting room opened and I knew who it was immediately. Not only did the Dark Walkers have a cloud that clung to them, but they also had a smell. It was like a sickly sweet perfume that repelled instead of attracted. The woman who just walked in was the worst and also the one in charge.

Ms. Edith, as we were told to address her, walked over to our table. Black suit, white shirt and hair pulled back without a single stray in sight. She was one of them, the dark haze clinging to her. I forced myself to sit still even though my body tensed. I hated being near them, couldn’t breathe through the smell. Luckily there weren’t too many that I came in close contact with. There were others here, but only her and the other nurse came within a few feet of me.

“How are things going over here, Mr. Right? We hadn’t expected a visit,” she said, looking at him and then me. My fingers started knotting into my hair, reflexively going into the crazy act. I hadn’t even thought of the action until Mr. Right’s eyes flickered to my hand in my hair and then back to her.

“Last minute. Sorry for the abrupt arrival.”

Her smell was stronger than normal, and I’d been around her enough times to know it happened when she was irritated. So he wasn’t working for them? I looked up through lowered lashes to watch the interaction now that I knew for sure she hadn’t been aware of this visit. His eyes darted to me a few times and I had the strangest feeling he sensed how much I hated to be around her.

He stood and smiled. “We’re just finishing up.”

“And how did things go?” she asked, her normally shrill voice sweetened unnaturally.

“Splendid. I’ll send this report back to headquarters and I’m sure everyone will be very pleased.”

Boy, this guy was just oozing with lies today. He looked down at his notebook and then back to her and that was when the fun really started. He softened his smile, leaned in closer to her and then offered up his arm to her. He was dialing up the sex appeal until even my inexperienced little heart was doing flip-flops, and I wasn’t even the target. Nothing of the raw brutality I sensed was showing through now, or the earlier awkward act. Seemed my visitor was quite the chameleon.

“If I could get a quick tour, I’ll be out of your hair.”

Whatever Dark Walkers were, which I’d bet my ass wasn’t human, they apparently still liked human men. She smiled back and locked her hand down on him in a way that made me imagine claws hidden under that flesh. “I have a free moment. I can show you around.”

They walked off and he didn’t even glance back at me. I wasn’t sure where I’d gotten the crazy feeling that being truthful with him was going to set something in motion, but I had. Watching him disappear with one of the monsters made me feel a little heavier in my chair, and the adrenaline that had coursed through my veins while I’d been squaring off with him was now receding.

This was turning into one really strange day.

 

Buy on Amazon    Buy on iBooks

by

Coming Soon! The Wilds Cover Reveal and Blurb

24 comments

Categories: Uncategorized

Coming early next week! The first book in a new fantasy series that I’m having a great time writing. It’s going to be either 3-4 books, possibly longer depending on how the details lay out.

As much as I loved writing Karma, and I did (I’ll miss the Jinxes forever) I’m pretty excited to start a new storyline. One of my favorite aspects in a book is following a character’s growth. When I wrote The Keepers, Jo had a lot of growing to do and I caught some slack for it. I think that criticism sort of stuck with me. So when I wrote Karma, I made Camilla/Karma a bit mature out of the gate and robbed myself of some of the fun in the process. With this story, I’m starting with a character who really has room to grow and I’m loving it. I hope you will too!

thewildsfull

by

Dead Ink Release!

No comments yet

Categories: Uncategorized

coverDead Ink is now live for Kindle, iBooks, Nook and Google!

 

Within the walls of his tattoo shop, Dead Ink, Lars hides in plain sight from the past he walked away from. But he still battles every day with the dark urges that drove him from his position as the Grim Reaper. Then Faith Dover appears, seeking his aid, and Lars discovers that he isn’t as hardened as he thought.

On the run from her kidnapper, Faith stumbles into Dead Ink, towing in enough secrets and baggage to weigh down the dead. But Lars isn’t the savior she hopes him to be. Dark and seductive, he might be more dangerous than the people she’s running from.

When he discovers her suspicious ties to a crew of murderers, will he help her or cast her out to the craziness that has overtaken the world? Can Faith win the heart of a soul incapable of trust?

A note from the author: This is a companion romance novel that takes place in the Karma urban fantasy world. It runs parallel to Fated’s timeline. It can be read alone or in addition to the series as the final book. 

Genre: Paranormal Romance 

Length: 67,000 words

 

Dead Ink Excerpt

 

Chapter One

 

 

Lars’ hand was steadier than humanly capable as he guided the tattoo gun. It wasn’t a big surprise. After all, he wasn’t human.

He swiped a rag across his client’s skin and then leaned back in his chair as he looked at his masterpiece. The tattoo started between the guy’s shoulder blades and ran down his back, ending above his waist. The intertwining serpents were his creation, and a piece that was inspired by his former occupation as Death, also known as the Grim Reaper.

“How’s it look?” the client asked.

“Shut up.” Lars preferred either complete silence or blaring music while he worked, but never idle chitchat. The constant drone of a human’s voice was akin to a fly buzzing in his ear. He didn’t understand why the majority of humans constantly needed to vocalize every thought that popped into their brains.

It was only he and the client in his shop, since the two other tattoo artists he employed were off today. If you weren’t getting a tattoo, you weren’t allowed in the shop while he was working because, like he’d mentioned, humans never shut the fuck up. If they weren’t talking to themselves they were getting all into his space, oohing and ahhing. He didn’t care what some random asshole off the street thought of his work. Even if it was a chick he was considering having sex with later, and he got plenty of those in here too, he didn’t want to talk while he worked.

“How long do you—”

“I told you. Shut. Up. Speak again and I won’t finish.” Lars knew that wasn’t a problem. The guy would either shut up or he’d knock him upside the head and shut him up.

“Hey, I won’t pay you if—”

“Shut up!” Lars said as he jammed the tattoo gun over a sensitive area of his client’s already battered skin. “I don’t give a shit about the money.”

The guy didn’t say another word. Lars hadn’t been lying either. He didn’t do this for the money. He did it because, for some reason, he felt compelled to.

When he’d first retired, in an unorthodox manner, from the agency that ran the Universe, he thought a tattoo shop would be a good cover for him. There were always fringe sorts hanging around these types of establishments, the kind of people who weren’t looking to blend in with society but to break the norms and live as they wanted. He’d always respected that, and it seemed to be a perfect environment for him to hide in plain sight.

In the beginning, he’d hired some artists to do the work. One day, a hot chick he considered banging wanted him to give her a tattoo. Out of pure boredom, he agreed. He started dabbling, on and off. A year later, he looked up and realized he’d been doing it every day and that when he was tattooing was the only time he felt completely at peace.

When the door opened and disturbed his peace, that early evening, he didn’t bother looking up; he just shouted, “Get out.” He dipped the gun in some more ink and started working on the details of one of the serpent’s scales.

“Are you Lars?” a female asked.

Her voice was high pitched and screamed of estrogen, just the way he liked a woman’s voice to be. He knew exactly what that voice would sound like if he decided to take her to bed, but he was working so he didn’t bother looking up. He’d had too many women to get excited about just one, at least not while he was in the middle of a piece.

“I told you to get out.” She did have a nice voice. He knew she was cute without even looking. “Come back in a couple of hours,” he added as an afterthought, still not bothering to look at her. Even if she wasn’t attractive, he’d bang her from behind. There was usually at least one acceptable angle to be found.

“I can’t.” The sweet voice was edged with determination.

Lars sighed loudly and placed the tattoo gun down on the table by his side, accepting the fact that he’d have to stop working if he wanted to get her out of his hair. He should’ve dead-bolted the door before he started, but he’d been distracted lately.

He stood up, cursing himself for not hiring a shop helper, and refusing to schedule one of the other artists today, so he could delegate this nuisance. He turned, an aggravated sigh escaping as he did, and looked at the unwanted visitor.

He froze. She looked like a wood nymph. Her blonde hair, too thick for her head, was wild and unkempt. Large turquoise eyes peeked out from a dirty face. None of that was why he nearly knocked into the table next to him. Whoever she was, she wasn’t human.

“Get out,” he said, this time to the guy he’d been working on. When his client didn’t move, he nudged him with his knee. “I told you to get out.”

“Huh?” The guy jerked his head up. “Me?”

“Yes,” Lars said, never losing eye contact with the woman standing just a couple of feet inside his shop.

“But my tattoo?”

He hated when grown men whined. “I’ll call you. Now get out.”

The client scrambled to his feet and Lars shoved the guy’s shirt at his chest, nearly bulldozing him out the door and causing his unwanted visitor to jump out of their way.

He slammed the door shut and clicked the deadbolt into place.

 

***

 

Faith wrapped her arms around herself as she watched Lars move about the room, lowering the shades and securing the place until they were truly alone. No one passing by the shop for an evening stroll would know anyone was in here.

Or come to her aid if things went badly.

He turned back to her and her feet started shuffling away. She thought about the list of threats she’d taken from Malokin’s desk. Lars and Dead Ink had been the first name on the list and the easiest to get to. When you didn’t have a car, or a dime to your name, location trumped all. But now, standing here, looking at who Lars was, she wondered if she should’ve taken another few minutes to assess her options.

He was a large man, and even though the grey t-shirt he wore wasn’t skin tight, as he moved about the room she could make out the heavily corded muscles beneath. If he decided to turn his strength on her it would be a knockout in round one.

But it wasn’t just his size, his long black hair or the tattoos running up his arms that peeked out above the neck of the t-shirt that made her eyes shoot to the now locked door. It was what she couldn’t see that frightened her most. She felt an energy about him, with his nearly-black eyes locked on her, and she fought back a shiver.

There was a hunger about him. She didn’t know what he craved but she could sense it, as if he weren’t complete. The way his gaze was appraising her, like he was now, made her wonder if it was something he thought she could satiate.

She wasn’t exactly sure what she’d expected Lars to be like. Just because he was an enemy of Malokin’s, one of the crazy psychopaths who’d abducted her, didn’t mean he would be an ally of hers or that he’d be the opposite, a sweet and kind man. But she’d hardly been thinking logically in the last week, let alone in the five minutes she’d had to make her decision before she’d dashed out of that hotel room the first opportunity she’d had.

He stopped moving and settled into a spot several feet in front of her, between her and the front door. Feet spread, arms loose at his sides, he looked as if she’d need a bulldozer to move him out of her way. She turned her head, looking to see if there was a back exit if need be.

“You came to me. You aren’t leaving without telling me who you are,” he said, in response to her darting eyes, taking another step closer.

She didn’t move again. If she ran now, she feared she’d be tackled on the way to a door she’d never make it out of there.

“I’ll leave whenever I’m ready to,” she said.

“Sure,” he mocked. A short exhale of breath with a slight noise that might have been the beginning of laughter showed he didn’t believe that was possible.

She let it go, knowing her mouth had run ahead of her brain like it occasionally did. It would be idiotic to push this situation into an unnecessary conflict. She needed his help. She had to keep that paramount in her mind and be nice, even if it killed her.

“Who are you?” he asked again, impatience leaking into his tone and transforming his posture into something slightly more threatening.

She’d made a choice to come here. Time to hope it was the right one, because she didn’t think there’d be any do overs.

“I don’t know,” Faith answered and realized as bizarre as it sounded, it was true. She’d known who she was a week ago but not anymore. If she looked up her full name, Faith Dover, on the web, she was fairly certain she’d find an obituary for someone who bore no resemblance to the person she looked like now.

“You better come up with something better than that. Usually when I meet people who aren’t human, and I don’t know them, I kill them. Take the opportunity I’m giving you to explain before I get tired of waiting.”

He took another step forward until he was only a foot away, and a tremor ran through her that she hoped he didn’t notice. He was definitely impatient. She had a feeling he wasn’t the type to naturally run long on that attribute anyway. She’d never been easily intimidated but dying seemed to have unsettled her composure a bit.

Maybe she should’ve gone to the second name on the list, someone named Fate, but this place had been closer. She had to believe that the five miles between this location and the next address didn’t mean the difference between life and… Could you even kill a dead girl?

She watched as he stood in front of her and realized that, good or bad, the choice was out of her hands, for now anyway. She was here, and her second and third choices were no longer available. Might as well lay it all out on the table. And come to think of it, she had already died once this week and come out of that intact. If he did kill her, maybe she’d just keep coming back?

“I really don’t know anymore. I can tell you who I used to be.” She watched his face, waiting to see what reaction he would have. There was none.

“Keep talking.” He didn’t retreat or continue forward, the only movement was to cross his arms, showing off the striated muscles of his forearms. The gesture worked against physics and somehow made him look larger.

She thought of how to explain all that had happened, not sure how to tell him the chaotic events that had occurred. He was going to think she was insane. What if she told him and he called someone from the loony bin to come and get her?

She did a mental shake of her head as she appraised him. No. Chain her up in a basement? Maybe. Call the cops or an ambulance? She’d bet no on that one.

“Talk.” He leaned forward as he said it. If she didn’t start giving him what he wanted, he’d be on top of her soon.

The buildup of frayed nerves took over and she decided to run with the situation as she started babbling it all out, without a thought to what was being said. “I was running an art show in my gallery in Seattle, and I went outside to go get my phone. It was dead, and I wanted to charge it, but I didn’t have a cord in my office because I lent it to a friend the day before, and so I only had a car charger and I hate not having a phone and there was no—”

“I get it. You went outside.” He made a rolling motion with his hand so close to her it caused a few strands of blonde hair to sway. His eyebrows rose slightly. “Then what?”

And here came the ugly part she didn’t like to think of, let alone have to explain to someone. “There was a sharp pain. Someone stabbing me, I think, but I’m not sure because I couldn’t find any wounds and I still can’t, and then I was somewhere else entirely and it wasn’t Seattle anymore, and I didn’t look like me. There was this guy who said I was dead and I had to work for him, and I think I’m having a psychotic break because none of this makes any sense, but he had your name on a list of threats and I made a run for it—”

“What was his name?” His words cut through hers, startling her out of her rambling.

“Who?” Faith didn’t care that he kept cutting her off. She wasn’t sure anything coming out of her mouth was making sense anyway. It didn’t sound plausible to her and she’d just lived through every horrifying second of it. Maybe she should’ve gone to the cops, but if it were true…if she was dead, and all the things that had happened to her were accurate, what would the cops do?

She didn’t look like herself anymore; she had no proof that she was who she said. She’d definitely end up in a psych ward for sure, locked up like a sitting duck for that psycho to come and pluck her up, pretending to be a relative or something. No; Lars, as intimidating as he looked, was still the better choice.

She looked at him with that thought in mind. Boy, she might really be fucked if he was it, though. She had a feeling the odds were really low on him having a Good Samaritan plaque hanging in the back somewhere.

“The one who wanted you to work for him?” His voice was calm as he reminded her that he was still waiting for an answer, and somehow she heard the weight of the question he’d just put to her. She had a feeling he was already suspecting the name she was about to give but she wasn’t sure if it would be a good or bad thing.

She looked around, as if just uttering his name would somehow make it possible for him to find her here, and then decided she’d probably read too many Harry Potter novels. She cleared her throat, trying to get rid of the hitch she knew would be there, and forced the name out anyway. If Harry could do it, so could she! “Malokin.”

She flinched as he suddenly went from almost perfectly still to a movement so fast it blurred. His arms unlocked and his fist slammed into the nearest counter, splitting the wood and dislodging everything upon it in the process and she was glad she hadn’t mentioned the other one who’d wanted her.

Faith nearly tripped in her effort to move farther away from him. He didn’t seem to notice as he let out a string of curses. She backed up until the wall was at her back and prayed to a god she was fairly certain had forsaken her that she hadn’t made a huge mistake. Then she remembered that she was an atheist. Oh yeah, she was screwed for sure.

 

Chapter Two

 

 

First his friend Fate dragged him into this mess with Malokin, and now the shit storm was literally spreading into his shop, Dead Ink. Up until this point, even with the gangs on the street and the way the riots were kicking up, he’d managed to maintain some semblance of normality. The world might be going to hell but in his small corner, there was still normal civilization. It might only be a block long but it was enough for him.

His attention swung back to the girl who’d brought the mess inside his shop with her.

She’d marched right in here and dragged Malokin, the most likely cause for this upheaval, right along with her. Malokin was a sadistic bastard who lived for pain and anger and had been eluding him and the guys for years. The only thing they knew about him was that he was somehow the psychical manifestation of anger and had appeared with increasing regularity, right along with the increase of riots and the gangs in the streets.

And now he appeared to be sending care packages to Lars, all wrapped up in the shape of a helpless female with a sweet voice. And how did she get past his wards? Anyone wishing ill upon him or his property shouldn’t have been able to make it beyond the sidewalk. Unless he’d left a loophole? Did he say people wishing him harm or just men? He’d have to redo them now.

Still, she didn’t look like trouble, and you didn’t hang around as long as he did and get lied to easily. Problem was, the read he was getting off of her contradicted everything he knew about Malokin’s tactics so far. He didn’t recruit the innocent types to work for him. She could be here setting a trap.

But she was here so what did he do with her now?

“What’s your name?”

“Faith Dover,” she said and then her eyes drifted off toward the door again. “Or it used to be.”

Her fingers hadn’t stopped toying with a rip in the dirty shirt she was wearing, and she looked like she hadn’t slept in a week. Her pants appeared to have been rolled around in a dirt pile while she was still wearing them, and he thought that might have been a fragment of a dead leaf stuck in her hair. He would’ve thought Malokin would’ve sent her out packaged up a little better. She was definitely attractive but she looked like filet mignon served up on a moldy hamburger bun. Malokin might be a sadistic psychopath but he was a sophisticated and polished one. Nothing about this made any sense.

“Why did you decide to come here?” He took a few steps closer to her, closing the distance that had been created when he’d lost his temper, but stopped when he saw her chest rise and fall more rapidly. He didn’t want her terrified to the point she’d hyperventilate. He wanted answers now, not in a half an hour after he’d gone to the trouble of reviving her from a spell of nerves.

“Because I didn’t want to work for him or be near that man and I didn’t know where else to go. You were the closest name on the list I knew I could get to.”

“Closest to where? Where is he?” Lars asked, thinking maybe they’d finally found a lead on the slippery eel’s location. They’d tracked Malokin down many times to always get there just as the dust was settling from his departure.

He could see her struggling to remember and then a thought triggering an action. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out a piece of paper and looked at it quickly. “The Breakwaters,” she said as she handed it to him, the name and address of the hotel stamped on top, his shop’s address and his name scribbled in messy handwriting below, as if she’d been in a hurry.

He pocketed the piece of paper. “You’re lying. He hasn’t been at that location for a week.” Lars knew that for certain. He and the guys had busted into the room he’d used four days ago. It was the closest they’d gotten to him thus far.

She looked down at the floor as if she were trying to figure something out. “I guess it was a week ago.” Her eyes glanced over at one of the mirrors hanging on the tattoo shop’s wall that was framed by pictures of people’s tattoos. She raised her hand up and tried to smooth down her disheveled hair some. She certainly looked like she could’ve been roaming around for a week and he started having doubts again.

“What were you doing if you left him a week ago?” he asked. He looked at her as his mind bounced between the possibilities, not feeling comfortable with either verdict.

“I was traveling through the woods to avoid being seen and then I got sick.”

“You weren’t sick. You’re dead. You can’t get sick now, only hurt. When he recruited you, didn’t he bother explaining any of this?” he asked, the contempt leaking out in his voice. Not only was he getting Malokin’s mess but now he had to school her, too?

She stopped fidgeting and straightened. “He might have if I’d stayed longer. And I assure you, I was sick.”

Looked like she had a temper lurking under the nervous act.

“You weren’t sick,” he repeated sternly. “You were transitioning.” And if she was telling the truth, sick was an understatement. He’d seen humans transition. The process looked closer to torture than a case of the flu. It wasn’t pretty, and to have to do it by yourself, all alone out in the elements? He thought back to the wet weather they’d been having but then shook off the feelings of pity. It was probably a bullshit story anyway. Although her appearance made a little more sense if she’d gone through it by herself out there.

“Transitioning?” she asked.

“From mortal to what you are now, one of us.”

“One of you?” she asked.

She looked like she really had no clue. “Don’t change the subject. If he recruited you, why’d you leave?”

“I couldn’t stay there with him. He was doing…” She started shaking her head as if she wanted to mentally rid herself of whatever she’d seen.

“What? He was doing what?”

“He had people, and he was doing horrible things to them. There was nothing I could do for them.”

Her face told him everything he needed. Torture. Nothing surprising there. He’d get more information on that later but let it drop for now. She was a scattered mess as it was. He could get the details after he got the more important information. “How did you get away?”

She looked surprised at the question. “I just left. I guess he figured I wouldn’t.”

He leaned a hand on the counter beside him. “So, you’re telling me you just walked out?”

“Yes.”

He turned and took a couple of steps away from her as he digested the whole story. It was so unbelievable that it almost became plausible again. If Malokin had coached her, given her a story to tell him, this one was idiotic or brilliant, because he had no idea what to think anymore.

But he knew she was scared. He could smell it on her, hear it in the fluttering of her rapid heartbeat. At least that part was something he could be confident of. You can’t fake scared. Pheromones didn’t lie. Still, the idea of Malokin going to the bother of recruiting someone and then simply letting them have enough freedom to get up and walk out that easily made his suspicions rise up and stay there.

“Go over there and sit.” He pointed to the free chair he used when he tattooed. She hesitated. He had to give it to her; she had some guts.

He barked out, “Sit,” again, but with a bit more force, and it got her moving. He was scaring her more but a certain amount of fear would be beneficial to his cause now that he had some answers. He’d get cooperation easier.

She sat in the chair he’d told her to but was pretty sure it was because he’d shocked her into action. He barked out, “Don’t move,” in a deeper tone. The last thing he felt like doing today was chasing her through the parking lot.

He dug out his cell phone from his pocket as he kept an eye on her. He walked to the farthest part of the room he could and still keep her in his line of vision. He dialed Fate, the reason he was knee deep involved in any of this shit to begin with.

“Here,” Fate said as he answered the phone.

“I got an unexpected visitor you will be interested in meeting,” Lars said and then continued on to tell him everything he’d found out so far. “I need you and the guys to get over here and figure out what to do with her, because this is not going to be my problem. I want this mess out of my shop by tonight.”

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 10
Follow
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Yippee!!
Powered By WPFruits.com