Blogophilia 17.10: Cyprus Part 3

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the cool blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their blog. We get points for those (and for guessing who suggested them), and though I am not in the number one slot, I’m beating Jonathan, so I’m good with that!

This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 17.10 Topic: “Never Say Never”
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts): Include a broken promise
Easy (1 pt): Include the name of a cowboy

And now for our story. Cyprus and Sadihra work together in Munich – she’s the German equivalent of an Executioner and he’s a guard, who accompanies Executioners on missions. Did I mention he’s in love with her?

This is the conclusion, by the way, as it ties in from here into the novel Heart of the Raven where you find out how things went in Italy. I was originally going to write it, but since it’s in the books it seemed superfluous to the series.

***

Sadihra swung out of the vehicle and glanced at Cyprus. “Meet me for a drink,” she murmured, and then marched away as if she’d never spoken.

Lance arched an eyebrow. “Did I just hear what I think I heard?”

Cyprus closed the car up. “That depends what you thought you heard.”

“I thought I heard her invite you for a drink?”

Cyprus shrugged and tried to hide his smile. Perhaps it was working. Perhaps tonight she’d finally give in. It could be the moment that he looked back on later and said “It was the best night of my life.”

Or the worst. She might tell you to go to hell.

Anything was possible.

Never say Never, he told himself.

With a quick nod to Lance, he left the parking garage for the building. He tried not to walk too fast, but by the time he was past the guards’ room he was in the corridor he was moving at a good clip. No matter how many times he tried to quash his rising excitement, it would bubble up again.

Calm down, he told himself. It’s not like we haven’t had dinner together before. For that matter they’d gone to movies before, and done other friendly social activities. That’s how he’d fallen in love with her. He still remembered the moment he realized it. They were in The Garden, a café-style gathering  place stuffed with plants. They were seated at a corner table. Sadihra had shone against the backdrop of curly green vines and delicate pink flowers. She’d been laughing at something, her blue eyes shining like sapphires, and it had suddenly hit him like falling tree; I love her. Just like that, he knew he’d do anything to make her eyes shine like that again, to see her smile, to make her laugh.

And that’s when I blew it.

Energized by the realization, he’d blurted it out like a child. Her sparkling eyes went wide. All the joy died, leaving pale shock. A nervous smile returned, but it looked fake. “I love you, too Cyprus. You remind me of Etherin.”

Etherin. Her older brother who’d run away when she was a child.

His smile had turned as fake as hers. They’d finished their glasses of blood, and Sadihra had suddenly remembered some paperwork she needed to do. Cyprus knew it was a lie, but he hadn’t argued, just smiled that false smile and headed back to his room, berating himself the whole way. That morning, as he closed his eyes, he’d promised himself to let the infatuation go, to just stay away from her.

He’d broken that promise by the end of the week.

It was an assignment. He and four other guards accompanied Sadihra and Hethin to Spain’s version of the Sodalitas. More social function than official business, within two days he’d found himself alone with her on a balcony overlooking a grotto. Artificial lights glinted off a small waterfall and shiny stones.  He’d stuffed his hands in his pockets and stared at that water as though memorizing it; the way it flowed from small tier to small tier, to finally fall gurgling in a pool floating with lily pads.

It was Sadihra who’d broke the silence. “It’s lovely.”

Not as lovely as you. He shrugged. “It’s relaxing.”

“It is. The stronghold is too medieval to have such things. They prefer heavy gilt and imposing columns, to make themselves seem more terrifying, I suppose.”

“As the self-imposed leaders of all vampires they need to instill terror.”

She turned to him. “Do you really think fear is the best way to rule?”

“It’s the easiest.”

“But doesn’t love garner more loyalty?”

Love. The word left him looking away again, a reminder of their conversation in The Garden. “It’s harder to maintain. You can kill love, but fear…it’s harder to destroy that.”

“I suppose.” He chanced a peek to see her gazing at the grotto. “Can you really kill love, though? True love, I mean, not infatuation. That comes and goes like the wind, but real love…doesn’t that become a part of yourself? To kill it, wouldn’t a part of you need to die?”

He swallowed hard and closed his eyes, wishing the conversation away. “Real love is hard to find.”

“That’s true.” She leaned against the patinated railing. An uncomfortable moment passed, and she finally said, “About the other day…”

“There’s nothing to say.”

“No, there is. Cyprus, we’re friends, aren’t we? Good friends?” He made a noncommittal noise and she went on. “That means…that means we feel a mutual affection. I think…I think you’ve confused that affection for something more.”

His jaw tightened. “I’m not confused, Sadihra. I know how I feel. It doesn’t matter.”

He turned to go, but she caught his shoulder. “It does matter. I do care for you…like, like a brother. To have you fall out of my life, like this…I don’t want that.”

“But you don’t want me,” he snapped, hiding his discomfort behind his anger.

“I love Wolfe.”

What was he supposed to say to that? “Yeah, I know. If you’ll excuse me?”

He’d hurried away before her liquid eyes could pull him back, and swore that he’d avoid her for the rest of the assignment.

Of course that was impossible. They spent three days wrapped in treaty negotiations – negotiations the Sodalitas humored because the Kugsankal, the council that ruled all of vampiredom, had remained mute on the topic. At the conclusion of the third and final day, they were invited to a fancy fete. Cyprus and the other guards had worn their uniforms, but Hethin and Sadihra had gone in formal wear. The royal blue dress set off her eyes and complimented the flush in her creamy cheeks. More than once his eyes had strayed to the curve of her cleavage, and his thoughts had gone to dark blood scented places.

Still, he’d tried to avoid her.

When the gala was its height, she found him hiding in a corner. Strands of hair had fallen from her updo, and her face was creased with annoyance. “Will you accompany me?”

He tried to look everywhere but her. “Accompany you where?”

“Away from here. And from him.” She nodded to a vampire who was already coming towards them. “I’ve told him to get lost a dozen times already.”

Cyprus’ eyes narrowed and his jaw twitched. “Do you want me to kill him?”

“No, no,” she said quickly. “I could do that myself, but I’m pretty sure it would ruin our relationship with the Spaniards.”

“I doubt the Sodalitas is too worried about our relationship. If Spain won’t capitulate we’ll send in an army.”

“True enough, but it’s more hassle than it’s worth for one jack ass.” She grabbed Cyprus’ arm and dragged him towards the exit.

He didn’t argue, didn’t try to stop her, only glared behind her at the vampire shadowing her footsteps. The man drew to a stop, and at Cyprus’ warning snarl finally turned to melt back into the crowd.

Sadihra continued to pull Cyprus out the door and then down the corridor. It wasn’t until they reached a grand staircase that she stopped, still clutching his arm. “I’m sorry. You can go back to the party now. I don’t want to ruin it for you.”

“It’s not very interesting,” he murmured, eyes on the faraway door as if expecting the vampire to still follow.

“I think he got the message. It’s ridiculous that it takes a fellow man to get the point across. A woman’s ‘No,’ should be enough.”

“They assume you don’t mean it, that it’s a tease,” he muttered. “Too many women do that, or have done it. Not that it’s a good excuse. They should take the no, then, if it is a tease, the woman will pursue it herself.”

“It would be easier if women were allowed to do all the pursuing and men were demure. Then no one would be confused.”

“Of course they would. Romance is confusing.” He met her eyes and his chest tightened.  The warmth of her fingers seeped through his uniform sleeve. He imagined her hand moving up his arm, trailing over his shoulder, moving down-

He pulled away. He should go back to the boring party, go back to his corner, or better yet find a willing vampiress to distract him. He should, but… “Do you want me to walk you to your room, in case he follows?”

Sadihra bit her lip delicately, and he imagined tasting it. “Yes. Perhaps that’s a good idea. I could handle him if I needed to, but…”

“But war,” he finished.

“Yes.”

He’d avoided taking her arm again, but followed her up the stairs. They took plush elevators to their floor, and wound down  corridor past potted plants and other vampires, until they reached her door. She stood uncertainly in front of it, nervous hands working against one another. “Well, thank you.”

“Of course. What are friends for?” The final sentence sounded sarcastic. He opened his mouth to soften it, then left it.

She sighed. “Cyprus, I…” She took his hand in hers, enveloping his fingers in her smooth, soft warmth. “You are my friend. There have been times where you and Jilsenna have been the only ones who understand me. I-I don’t want to lose that.” She looked into his face and her gaze softened. Though he wasn’t a mind reader, he felt the pull of her hesitation, that moment standing on a precipice.

The decision flashed across her face a moment before she leaned up and pressed a kiss to his cheek. She pulled away and let go to say only, “Good night,” before she hurried into her room.

He’d stood in the hallway, fingertips brushing where her lips had been. What did that mean? In one breath she said no, and then…

Except she’d never said no. She’d said, “I love Wolfe,” not “I don’t love you.”

He floated back to his room, his mind churning. It was there that he’d thrown himself in the shower, leaned back and closed his eyes, concentrating all of his demon eye ability on Sadihra and himself, as he’d done before. There were some familiar clips, things he knew would likely come to pass because he saw them so often, but then, there was something new. Her naked shoulder, her back, painted by low light and shadows the wrapped around to fill the valley between her naked breasts. Her soft lips opened in a moan, a name.

“Cyprus.”

And he knew. If he just hung on, if he just waited, he would win in the end. “I love Wolfe” only meant so much. So long as she never told him no.

And she still hadn’t.

He pulled back to the present. In his room, he stripped his uniform and changed his clothes. He ripped the unfinished poem from the notebook and scribbled:

I wait only your word, a single yes to fall from lips

As perfect as the petals of a rose, and twice as soft

Sweet angel shine your light into this lonely darkness,

Return to me my freedom, the soul that I have lost.

 

It wasn’t the best he’d ever written, but it would do.  He folded it up and stuck it in his pocket, then checked his reflection in the mirror. Coppery red hair was long around his shoulders, and brown eyes held the hope that this would be the night, the fulfillment of the vision he’d seen so many times.

The night she finally makes up her mind.

He calmed his pounding heart and strode from the room and to the elevators. The Garden had closed two years ago, but a small place with checkered tablecloths and violin music had taken its place. It wasn’t as picturesque, but it was still more intimate than the main restaurant with its large open rooms.

When he reached the doorway to the café he stopped. His hand dove in his pocket to touch the folded offering. The texture of the paper soothed him, and he straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin, marching inside like John Wayne.

He found her seated in the back, looking over a list of additives. She smiled over the menu, but it didn’t seem as warm as usual. Had something happened?

He took his seat, but before he could ask her a waiter appeared. They placed their order, and when they were finally alone he tugged the paper out and held it out. “It’s not finished.”

She looked at it, looked at him, and the dropped her eyes. “Cyprus. I…”

His heart hammered and he closed his eyes, blocking out the now for visions of the future. No. It was still there. Her naked skin, the brush of her breath, the soft call of his name.  It would still happen.

Or could still happen. The future was always in flux, as his master had warned him again and again.

He came back to the now to find her looking at him expectantly. When he didn’t respond she made an aggravated noise. “Were you listening to me?” his guilt was on his face and she repeated, “Cyprus, you need to stop this, for your own good.”

“For my good?” he asked, the poem still held out to her.

With a soft sound of irritation she took it, though she didn’t open it. “Yes. People are laughing at you behind your back. Soon it will be to your face. Wolfe-”

“Thinks it’s a joke,” he finished for her. “Let him. Let all of them. I’m not as worried about others’ opinions as you are.”

“I’m not worried about their opinions,” she snapped. “Just…”

“Just their approval. You feel you need it, because deep down you don’t think you’re good enough. But you are.” He caught her hand and she though she gave a half tug it wasn’t a quarter of the resistance she could have offered. Still, he relaxed, giving her a chance to pull away. As he’d hoped, she didn’t.

“You’re perfect just the way you are, Sadihra. You’re strong and beautiful and smart. You don’t need Wolfe’s approval, or Hethin’s approval, or even your sister’s. It’s your life. Live it the way you want.”

She tugged loose to drop her hands in her lap, her gaze following. “What if I don’t know what I want?”

And there it was. That ever widening crack in her thin façade of resistance. He lowered his voice and leaned closer, elbows on the checkered tablecloth. “Then take your time and decide.”

He watched her, trying to penetrate through her skull to her swirling thoughts. What he wouldn’t give to be a mind reader right then, to know what she was thinking, feeling.

No. Better to be a demon eye, to know the surety of the future. To know that she would be his. Without that, he’d have never pursued her, never tried.

She gave a shaking breath and looked up. “There’s talk of something in Italy; something bad. They may have to send Executioners. Wolfe’s requested we go.”

“You and him?”

She nodded. “I have a bad feeling about it, Cyprus. If you could…If you could see if you sense anything?”

He closed his eyes and let the café slip away, picturing her face, Italy, an assignment. He saw her and her sister. Saw dark shadows, smelled deep earth, and then she lay naked on the floor, her body painted in shadows, her hand reaching for him.

“Cyprus.”

It would happen in Italy.

“It looks fine,” he said, suppressing his raging thoughts. “I don’t see anything bad. Everything will be fine.”

She nodded, biting her lip uncertainly, but Cyprus barely noticed. His mind was already churning, making plans; plans that hinged on one place, one event.

I just have to make sure I go to Italy. Even if I have to bribe someone.

****

Which incidentally he DOES bribe someone. Oh, and Wolfe doesn’t go. Just saying.

And now for guesses:

Topic: Tyler

Bonus: Stormy & Diana

Picture: Barbara

  1. Love. 2. two hearts. 3. intertwined. 4. in the sky. 5. what do you see? 6. it’s written in the clouds. 7. summer love 8. it’s all blue skies. 9. romance 10. together. 11. strong against the storm. 12. entangled 13. two hearts as one 14. cloudy relationship 15. together despite the clouds 16. on the breeze. 17. breezy love 18. soon to be blown apart 19. drifting 20. fleeting love.

 

Blech…But I’m still Thankful

Today I am thankful for being able to get into the clinic. By the time I went to bed last night the nodes all around my ears were swollen, and also like a crown around my head, so I decided the clinic was in order today. Called at one, got in at two, quite a cry from southern MO when it took weeks… BUT unlike southern MO it’s not a doctor, but a nurse practitioner, and it’s a limited small town clinic, not a real doctor office. Like they’d have probably never caught that I have Sjogrens, they can’t do any kind of x-rays etc. But for rashes and colds and flu it’s wonderful. Which is what I have this time. Apparently.

That weird rash that was on my arm last night? Well, it’s spread. It’s now on my face and neck, and apparently it is all over my scalp, which may be why it is itchy.

02

*sigh* Anyway, so I got in today.

I didn’t have to wait very long. Maybe six minutes. Anyway, they think the swollen glands  and fever are a response to that. She said I must have a good immune system. It’s like, yeah, it’s so good it attacks me all the time! (autoimmune and all). Ha ha! But I’m now on prescriptions.

I felt pretty bleh today, so though I started packing up stuff to mail I didn’t get it done. I didn’t get much done, really. I did get attacked by the cat:

05.jpg

Ha ha! Not really. I mean, it was the cat, but she was just trying to climb up my leg, not attacking me. My upper legs are covered in scratches from her doing that. But it’s not a big deal. It doesn’t even hurt. I didn’t even know it had bled until hubby came home and was concerned. (What a good hubby).

There’s something else I am grateful for. Hubby, I mean. I know how lucky I am to have a husband who genuinely loves me and worries about me and spoils me, though he doesn’t think I appreciate that, I do. And it doesn’t mean we both didn’t put in our time, because we did. There were a few times when things were so…tumultuous that I thought we might divorce (okay several) but luckily we’re both stubborn and realized that you have to stick it out to get to this point. Especially as argumentative, pig headed, bossy, and, well, stubborn as we both are. And it doesn’t mean we don’t argue or snip and snap still, because we do, but there’s no one I’d rather argue with 😉

(Now we’ll see if he really reads my blogs.)

Not much else. We drove past Glenwood yesterday, or near Glenwood, where the tornado hit Friday.

The RV park was even worse, but I couldn’t get decent shots of it without turning around, and we were running late for WWE, ha ha!

I have pics I could post but, eh. Later.

Have a non-itchy day,

Jo :/

 

AR Fun & Old Dunnigan Park Photos

Today I was thankful for the heating bags from my aunt and Juli, one on each side of my head helped a lot! (More later on that.)

Since Pokemon had the equinox event going this weekend, hubby and I went to Omaha and pokemoned for a little over an hour, then made a Walmart stop (where I continued to pokemon, ha ha!)

 

 

We also watched Money in the Bank tonight, but my head hurts too much to review it. I have a hard, pea sized lump behind my left ear, and the glands along the bottom of my neck are swollen and hurt. I noticed the lump and swelling last night (it didn’t hurt much then, but hurts now). Also my scalp is itchy (kinda weird). Hubby said to give it a couple days then go to the doctor (or I should say Nurse Practitioner because we don’t actually get doctors around here – I even went to ER in Red Oak once and could not get a real doctor…). I guess it will be a chance to meet the new one. I did google the symptoms and am happy to say that it doesn’t fit lymphoma (no night sweats, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, or painless lumps – this friggin’ hurts!- I worry because cancer runs in my family – my uncle had lymphoma in fact – and with Sjogrens my chances are increased), but it does fit an embedded tick, an infected bug bite, or an infected gland. So, we’ll see how it goes.

Not much else to say that I can think of, so gonna end this with some old photos I finally got edited. These are from the Dunnigan Park in Bolivar, from March of 2012.

 

And now I’m going back to editing the photos of Fort Madison because my head hurts too much to do anything else.

Have an Equinox extra pokemon event kinda day!

Jo :/

Takeover Thankfulness

celebration thing

I promised to come back but didn’t. Isn’t that just like me?

Anyway, yesterday I was thankful for the success of the takeover in Once Upon a Page. I admit, it wasn’t as busy as some of my others have been (I had about 17 participants, not counting my fellow authors who were also hosting), but I appreciate that people came and hung out with us and played games and what not. I always worry that there will be zero, so 17 is waaaaaay better than that.

Thought I’d share a few of the takeover graphics with you and then I am gonna go do some photo editing I think.

Have a takeover kinda day!

Jo 🙂

Last of the Rose Photos

And for your enjoyment, here are the last of the rose garden photos from Lauritzen Gardens!

 

I’m still really happy with how these came out. Those overlays really made a difference from bad lighting to magical sunset sparkle, LOL!

Okay, probably be back later for my daily thankfulness post.

Util then/if not have a sunset roses kinda day!

Jo 🙂

Lightning

The last couple of nights we’ve had some pretty interesting storms with a LOT of lightning. Both nights the brother and I headed out of town to get some lightning shots. I don’t want to say we’re both fraidy-cats, but we do get spooked. The first night we had an okay time at our first spot – wasn’t creepy or anything, but the storm moved away, so we had to relocate. In the second location, we were on a hill, in the pitch black, on a gravel road in BFE, surrounded by the lowing of either cows or bullfrogs (really, it was bizarre sound that was sort of a mixture of the two and unlike any frogs or cows I ever heard), when there was a scuttling, scraping sound, kind of like I imagine The Luggage in Discworld novels makes, or the sound of some kind of very large crab. It scuttled/dragged itself across the gravel and into the weeds along the side of the road. By the time we got the light up and on it (I did mention it was pitch back out as the storm – and lightning -were in the distance, right?), the thing was concealed in the tall grass and the deep ditch. Needless to say, we decided it must be an alien facehugger. So, we left rather hurriedly. (laugh if you want, but I’m still alive.)

Last night we returned to the first spot (not stupid enough to go back to face hugger territory) but it kept pouring rain off and on (it’s hard to adjust a camera, hold a light, and an umbrella all with only two hands.)  Finally I set the tripod up in the backseat and rolled the window down just enough to take pictures out of it, ala FBI. I got some good ones, but then that weird frog/cow noise started, the wind picked up, and the rain really hit like a monsoon and we decided we were done. (I’ve left out the story of the radio coming on blaring music that nearly gave us both a heart attack, but it was exciting.)

So, today I am thankful to still be alive after adventures with the brother :p

As for those storm photos, here are some for you!

Tomorrow is the big Facbook party BTW. I’m giving away summer fun prizes. You don’t need to be a reader of my books to come join and play games, so there’s no excuse not to come!

Have a “not killed by a face hugger” kinda day!

Jo 😉

Blogophilia 16.10: Cyprus Part 2

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in thier wekly blogs. This week’s prompts are:

 

And we’re continuing the Cyprus story. I had hoped to finish it, but I haven’t decided where to go. Initially I was planning to go on and push through to the next big incident (which is discussed in the novel series as having happened in the past) but now I am thinking of just wrapping this little incident up instead and doing a long conversation scene between the two of them that set s things up for what happens between this story and the novels.

Anyway, the group got called to investigate an attack on a nearby coven. They have basically just arrived, and while Sadihra – who Cyprus is in love with – talks to the vampiress that called in the incident, her sister, Jilsenna, has pulled Cyprus off with her to look around:

****

They circled the den; a charming little house that looked as normal as any other. When they reached the backside, Jilsenna came to a stop, hands on her hips, eyes moving over the lack of damage. “Sadihra loves Wolfe.”

Cyprus could only blink at the sudden pronouncement.

“I know you plan to wear her down eventually, and you may. You are pretty enough to look at and your poetry is better than any he could attempt.”

Cyprus pressed his lips together and looked away. That Sadihra would share it…but of course she would. Jilsenna was her sister. What was a sister for if not that? Still…

“You are sweet and exciting and different, and as I said, you might turn her head for a moment, but I know my sister and it will only be for a moment. The quick heat and passion will disappear as quickly as it appeared, and she will go back to Wolfe, if he will have her, and you will be left with nothing, assuming you even still want her once you’ve had her.”

“Of course I would,” he bit out, then caught himself.

Jilsenna pressed back a smile. “Maybe. Or maybe you will find that the quest is more alluring than actually possessing. But who can say.” She stepped away from him, and her friendly air slipped away, like changing out one shirt for another. “You’d do well to consider my advice and let this go before it goes too far. In the meantime, I think we’re done with this investigation.”

Cyprus didn’t reply as he followed her back to the others. Sadihra flashed her sister a look seemed to say, “Did you talk to him?” and Cyprus’ spirits sank lower. Had she really set up that conversation as well as shared his letters to her?

Maybe Jilsenna knew more than she’d said.

Though the vampiress – Trina, so Sadihra called her – tried to distract them, the Scharfrichterinnen moved the investigation inside. Cyprus could smell a male vampire somewhere. Maybe upstairs? He assumed the Scharfrichterinnen would call him down for questioning soon enough. Had it been just Sadihra he’d have asked, but Jilsenna was the kind who’d rebuke him for speaking out of turn.

They moved quickly through small, neat rooms, to a back sitting room. There, chairs were overturned and blood was splattered up the wall. Among the carnage lay a ruined magazine, a broken lamp, and in the far corner a red shoe.

“This is where it happened?” Sadihra asked.

Trina twisted her hands. “Yes. Yes. Carmella was here, reading, when they barged in.”

“How did they get in again?” Jilsenna asked.

“Through the door.” Trina pointed. “We leave it unlatched except during our day slumber.”

“And there was only you and Carmella here?” Sadihra pressed.

“Yes, yes.” Trina nodded urgently, but her eyes strayed to the attic.

“And there’s no one else here now?” Sadihra asked sharply.

The vampiress shook her head and Cyprus frowned. He sniffed again. There was definitely a male upstairs.

“Then you won’t mind if we check?” Jilsenna said sarcastically.

Trina gave a small yelp as the Scharfrichterin climbed the ladder the attic access, but made no move to stop her.

Sadihra moved behind her. Their eyes met, and Jilsenna slipped around to the back of the ladder, on hand hanging on and the other ready to push the attic door open. Cyprus stepped closer, body tensed in expectation.

Sadihra nodded and Jilsenna pushed the door open. Sadihra reached up and grabbed something. She pulled with a snarl and flung a body to the floor. The male struggled to stand, but Cyprus tackled him before he could, dodging swinging limbs.

Jilsenna bent and pried something from their attacker’s hand. It was a red high heeled shoe; the match to the one in the living room.

“You should have let me just clean it up!” he bellowed.

“Clean up the mess from your murder, you mean?” Jilsenna turned the shoe over in her hand. “Obviously she wanted you to pay for your crime.”

“My crime?” he cried. “She killed her, and then wanted to blame Paulie’s coven-”

“Elke!” Trina cried. “How can you tell such lies?”

He stopped struggling to laugh. “Are you joking? You don’t expect them to believe…I wasn’t even here when it happened!”

Cypurs watched Sadihra as she looked from his prisoner to the vampiress, and back again. A decision seemed to settle on her brow and, with a nod, she motioned Cyprus to stand down.

He shook his head and tried to point out the folly of releasing their suspect – a suspect who’d already attacked Jilsenna – but Sadihra’s expression only grew harder. With nothing else to do, he reluctantly stood, glaring a warning at his prisoner. If the vampire so much as stepped near Sadihra he’d snap his neck.

Elke stood. He brushed himself off, then glared at Trina. With a squeal, the vampiress ducked behind Milkavich. “It was him!” she cried. “He made me lie. He threatened me!”

“Are you serious?” Elke demanded.

Sadihra motioned them both to silence. “First, who are you? Second, if you’re innocent, why were you hiding?”

“I’m Elke, fledgling of Paulie. And I was hiding because Trina stuffed me in the attic and told me to be quiet so I didn’t ruin her plan.”

“Liar!” Trina cried. “Look! He had one of my sister’s shoes!”

“Because you tossed it into the attic after me!” he cried.

Not a mind reader, Cyprus couldn’t tell who was lying, but his demon eye powers could do something more; he could see into the future- or to a possible future. He closed his eyes and concentrated on Trina; pictured her tightly curled hair, and her overzealous eyeshadow. He saw her standing in the court, heard her squeal her innocence, and then he saw a hazy shape lead her away, her hands bound.

She would be found guilty.

He opened his eyes to find Sadihra looking at him. With a nod, he motioned to Trina. Sadihra gave him the smallest of smiles, and clamped her hand around the vampiress’ wrist. “You are under arrest. You will come with us to the Stronghold.”

Trina tried to pull away. “But I haven’t done anything! He-” She faltered. Her face hardened as she realized that wouldn’t work. “There are no laws against killing your coven mates!”

“No, but there are laws against filing false complaints and trying to frame another coven for the deed,” Jilsenna said.

Jilsenna took the prisoner out to the van, flanked by Lance and Milkavich. Cyprus hesitated to follow. He still didn’t trust Elke.

Sadihra apparently felt the same. “You said you are a member of Pauli’s coven, correct?”

“No,” he replied. “Paulie was my master, but I split with the coven. I was born a follower of Zoroastrianism and though I gave in to evil thinking, I decided it was time to correct my balance, and return to the right path.”

Cyprus recognized the name of the religion, though he didn’t know much about it. “That doesn’t explain what you’re doing here.”

Sadihra gave him a sharp look for cutting in, but pressed, “Why are you here, Elke?”

“Trina and I…we have a relationship. When I came to see her, she’d already killed her sister and told me that she’d called the Sodalitas and planned to blame Paulie’s coven. When I left Paulie, it wasn’t under pleasant terms, so I was willing to go along. I know it was wrong – knew it was wrong when I agreed – but…” He trailed off and shrugged.

“Why were you hiding?” Sadihra asked sharply.

“Trina was afraid that my presence would complicate things. She said you’d ask for my identity and once you found out I was from Paulie’s coven, it would make it look suspicious.”

“She could have worked it to her advantage,” Sadihra said. “You left under bad circumstances and came here. They could have attacked to get revenge on you.”

“The bad circumstances were one sided,” Elke muttered. “They wouldn’t bother over me.”

“I see. And why did she want to blame them? Was it revenge that they’d wronged you?”

He scoffed. “She wants the hunting ground. She and Carmella fought often over whether to go to war for it.”

“I assume Carmella didn’t want to?” Sadihra stopped him from answering to ask, “Where is your den?”

“About thirty-two kilometers from here.”

“Good. Return to it, and stay there. Someone will summon you to testify. If they don’t find you, you’ll be hunted down and arrested as an accomplice.”

Elke nodded his understanding and Sadihra turned to Cyprus. “Come.”

With a final warning glare at Elke, he followed her out of the house. Sadihra stopped just outside the door and turned back, lips parted as if to speak, when Lance came around the corner. He stopped, snapped a salute and asked, “Are we ready to leave, Scharfrichterin?”

Whatever she’d have said disappeared and she barked a quick, “Yes,” then motioned them to the vehicle.

They stuffed the prisoner in the back, between Cyprus and Milkavich. The vampiress’ trembling, distraught persona was gone, replaced by a cold, angry woman. During the ten minute trip, she stared straight ahead, her lips pressed together.  When they arrived at the Stronghold, Milkavich led her inside, Jilsenna on his heels.

Sadihra swung out of the vehicle and glanced at Cyprus. “Meet me for a drink,” she murmured, and then marched away as if she’d never spoken.

Lance arched an eyebrow. “Did I just hear what I think I heard?”

Cyprus closed the car up. “That depends what you thought you heard.”

“I thought I heard her invite you for a drink?”

Cyprus shrugged and tried to hide his smile. Perhaps it was working. Perhaps tonight she’d finally give in. It could be the moment that he looked back on later and said “It was the best night of my life.”

Or the worst. She might tell you to go to hell.

Anything was possible.

*****

Part 3 next week then

And now for guesses:

Topic: Doris 

Bonus: Dave Coon, & Jay Sole

Picture: Christopher Mitchell

1. Peeping Tom 2. Just a peek 3. hello in there 4. Do you have any Gray Poupon? 5.”let me see!” 6. Taking a peek 7. peep show 8. “how did they get a piano in there?” 9. They should get some curtains 10. looking in 11. come for a visit 12. just visiting 13. Tastes like brick 14. Anybody home? 15.This is not a tree 16. I see you. 17. You can’t hide from us. 18. Where are you? 19. Have any cookies? 20. Would you like to buy some cookies?

 

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