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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.

 

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?

 

Blogophilia 15.10 – Cyprus Part 1

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives users prompts to use in their weekly blogs. This weeks prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 15.10 Topic: Country Roads
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts): Use a line from a Gwen Stefani or No Doubt song
Easy (1 pt): Include the word “serendipity”

Last week we wrapped up the honeymoon story in a looooong post. This week I’m starting Tales from the Executioners: Cyprus. I had hoped to do the whole thing on one swoop, but I spent too much time working on new covers for older stories, so I didn’t get it done. Oh well. Shorter blog for the three people who read it.

****

 

Cyprus looked over the note; chocolate eyes rereading his own slanted handwriting. The introduction was short, followed by a poem:

My lady of light, in darkness I dwell without you,
Black shadows paint the walls of my prison,
From this hell I want to get away, to our sweet escape,

And it ended there. He tapped the pencil against his lip and tried to think of a rhyme. Fizzen? Bizzen? Risen? It was a good line, and he hated to cut it. Maybe if he moved it around… A few quick erases and:

Black shadows paint the walls of my prison,
My lady of light, in darkness I dwell without you,
From this hell, I want to get away; our sweet escape,
To fly to your arms and there forever dwell.

“That has potential,” he mused to the empty room. But would she appreciate it? She’d glanced at the last with barley a comment before turning and running away.

True, but she didn’t hand it back, did she? And you saw the way her eyes warmed, like two pools of summer sky, and the way her cheeks tinted soft pink.

He leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. He was down to talking to himself about Sadihra because no one else wanted to listen.

Some friends I have.

As if summoned by his thoughts, a knock came on the door, followed by Lance’s voice, “It’s me.”

Cyprus dropped the pencil to the desk and pushed back. “It’s unlocked.”

Lance let himself inside. He closed the door and brushed invisible lint from his crimson uniform. “We have an assignment.” He stopped when he noticed the notebook open on the desk. “Please tell me that’s not another soppy love poem.”

“It’s not another soppy love poem,” Cyprus snapped as he quickly flipped it over and stood. “What assignment?”

Lance groaned. “Cyprus, she is with another man. She belongs to another man. Do you understand that? And the captain of the Scharfrichter, no less. Do you think she’s going to trade him in for a lowly guard? Face it. At almost two hundred years younger than him, and lower ranked, you have no chance.”

“So you keep saying.” Cyprus turned cold eyes on his friend.  Despite the tidy uniform and polished boots, his dark wiry hair stood at odd angles, as though he’d recently run his hands through it. “What is the assignment.”

“Assignment? Oh! Right. We’ve been assigned to check out a complaint.”

“What else?” Cyprus asked sarcastically. “When do we leave? And who are they sending with us?”

Lance hesitated, and then admitted reluctantly, “Scharfrichterin Sadihra.”

Cyprus stiffen, then melted into a smile. That was serendipity.

“But you need to remain professional,” Lance warned. “If she complains about you…”

“She hasn’t yet,” Cyprus replied. “When do we leave?”

“Now. Get dressed, and make sure your boots are shined. Scharfrichter Wolfe is in charge of inspecting us before we leave. Since you’re trying to steal his woman, I’m sure he’s looking for any excuse to reprimand you.”

Not trying, Cyprus thought as he headed for the closet. I am stealing her. It just takes time.

**

Dressed, he followed Lance to the Scharfrichter office. Just as he’d warned, Wolfe was there, dark brown hair down to his shoulders and gray eyes like brittle flint waiting to spark a fire. Milkavich was already in place, standing at attention. Lance fell in next to him, and Cyprus took the spot on the end.

Wolfe flipped through a sheaf of paperwork. “There’s been a complaint filed, a local matter. You’ll accompany Scharfrichterinnen Sadihra and Jilsenna. I don’t expect any trouble. You should be back to the stronghold by bed time.” He dropped the stack of papers on the nearby desk and looked them over. “You.” He pointed to Milkavich, a smile playing at the corner of his mouth. “Your boots need shined.”

His mirth turned to something else when a woman walked through the door. Golden hair was pulled back in an intricate braid. A black sweater and dark trousers hugged her curvy figure, while red painted lips lit that fire in Wolfe’s flinty eyes.

Cyprus’ stomach tightened when he met Sadihra’s eyes. Manners said to drop his gaze, but he refused, even as Wolfe moved to put his arms around her and press a kiss to her cheek.

Wolfe noticed her distracted gaze and turned to find the object of her attention. He gave a Cyprus an amused once over, then turned back to Sadihra. “You’re sure you prefer to take your sister on this assignment?”

She tore her gaze from Cyprus and smiled at her boyfriend. “It’s nothing.  The time away will do us good. We’d planned a woman’s day before this came up.”

“Yes. I can see you started on the makeup portion already.” He touched under her made up lips. “Red suits you.”

She flushed and stepped back, tugging at her clothes. “Jilsenna went ahead to requisition the vehicle.” She looked at the line of guards and away as quickly. “We should be back soon.”

“I know.” Wolfe caught her hand and pressed a kiss to the back of it. “I’ll see you when you return. Safe travels, mein engel.”

Sadihra murmured a suitable reply and hurried out. Lance saluted, elbowing Cyprus with his free arm. He did the same, then the three marched out after the Scharfrichterin.

Milkavich made a point of walking next to Cyprus so he could whisper, “You’re welcome.” When Cyprus only cocked an eyebrow he mouthed, “I got you this assignment.”

Lance rolled his eyes and whispered, “He doesn’t need any more encouragement.”

“I know. But if you and I went with the Scharfrichterin without him…imagine his agony, not to mention the constant wringing us for details of her every word and move.”

Cyprus gave a grunt of disgust and walked faster, leaving them behind. Sometimes their ribbing felt good natured and he could laugh it off, but today it annoyed him.

He fell into step just behind Sadihra. Though she didn’t turn around, he saw the quick half turn of her head, the furtive glance back to see who her shadow was.

“If you don’t mind my asking, what exactly is the complaint? No one’s bothered to tell me.”

“A coven in the country,” Sadihra said, attention still focused straight ahead. “They claim they were attacked. We are to assess the damage and see if their story checks out.”

“Attacked by other vampires?’ Cyprus asked. “If it’s such a simple assignment why are they sending two Scharfrichterinnen and three guards?”

“My sister asked to go along, as no doubt you did.”

Though blunt, the words held no rebuke, so he didn’t bother to correct her.

**

Sadihra’s sister Jilsenna waited in the garage with the black SUV. Though younger when she’d been turned, they both looked in their mid-twenties. Identical blonde hair was worn in a bun, and blue eyes, darker than Sadihra’s, flicked over them with amusement.

“I see your personal guard is here.”

Sadihra flushed and gave her sister a gentle shove. “Enough, Mausi.”

Jilsenna laughed, then her face turned serious as she addressed the guards. “The driver is ready. I assume Scharfrichter Wolfe explained our orders?”

After a round of nods, they climbed into the vehicle. Lance sat in the front with the driver, while Sadihra and Jilsenna took the middle seats, leaving Cyprus and Milkavich to jam into the back. He settled in as the SUV purred to life, his eyes boring a hoe into the back of Sadihra’s intricately woven hair. Had she done that herself? Had her sister? She’d mentioned a woman’s day. Did that mean playing with hair and makeup? Shopping? All those things women liked to do that men wanted out of? Or that most men wanted out of. If given the chance, he’d happily go shopping with her every day.

With a silent sigh, he watched out the window as Munich gave way to farmland. As Wolfe said, the den they were summoned to was barely ten minutes down country roads. A vampiress met them at the gate, wringing her hands and wailing. She detailed the previous night’s attack and insisted she had no idea who would want to harm them, or why.

Jilsenna nodded and finally broke away to “look around,” leaving Sadihra to deal with the vampiress’ distress.

“You,” Jilsenna motioned to Cyprus. “You can help me.”

Though he’d rather stay with Sadihra, he knew better than to say that, and followed her.

****

And that’s all she wrote for now. I’ll hopefully finish this next week.

Have a new cover kinda day!

Jo 🙂

Guesses:

Topic: Barbara Kausteklis  

Bonus: Michael Todd  & Poppy Ruth Silver  

Picture: Tyler Myrth  

Guesses: 1 – So tired. 2 – I can’t make it. 3 – If only my legs weren’t broken. 4 – rolling in the hay. 5 – afternoon nap 6 – taking a rest 7 – in the distance 8 – someone needs to mow 9 – Christina’s world 10- Crawling 11- Who left me out here? 

Blogophilia 14.10 – Honeymoon Part 5

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

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 14.10 Topic: “ So Many Road Blocks”
**BONUSES:
Hard (2 pts): Quote Emily Dickinson
Easy (1 pt): Mention a “tin can”
I’ve been posting a short story about my Amaranthine character’s honeymoon. Though I planned to break this final part into two or three blogs, the prompts worked themselves in so far apart that I can’t.  Oh well. I guess it gets it finished.
*****
(Verchiel has appeared at Jorick’s with a vampiress named Sharon, who is being hunted by her master. Jorick, and Maeko and co, who are visiting, are roped into helping.)

Sharon stayed in the basement for the rest of the evening. Verchiel returned with his bright orange sports car, restored after his previous adventures. Though Jorick hinted the redhead should go, he insisted on bedding down there. “Easier if we’re all together, isn’t it?”

Katelina changed into her nightgown and slid into bed next to Jorick. His body was stiff, and his eyes hard. She sighed and ran a soothing hand over his naked chest. “It’s not that bad, is it?”

He caught her hand and kissed it before he said, “Yes. It is. Katelina, is this how you want to spend eternity?”

She faltered. “What do you mean? With you? Of course.”

“No, not me.” He released her hand to roll toward her. “This.” He motioned to indicate the house and its occupants. “Surprise guests. Endless conflicts that have nothing to do with us.” He scowled. “That idiot always popping up to interfere.”

“You’re not going to get rid of Verchiel, easily.”

“I’ve noticed.” His voice turned to a low growl. “I thought marrying you would be enough claim to free us of him. I can see I was wrong.”

“Oh Jorick, don’t start that again.” She slipped her arms around him. “It’s not like that. Didn’t you hear what Sharon said? He considers you his friend.”

“In that case, he’s stupider than I thought. I humor him to suit you. But one day, Katelina, when he finally crosses the line…”

“He won’t,” she promised with a kiss. “Now I’m tired, and we have that meeting tomorrow.”

Jorick muttered a response that she ignored as she snuggled close to him. “Goodnight. I love you.”

He relented and tightened his hold on her. “I love you too, little one.”

 

Katelina woke the next evening and dressed. Maeko and the others were waking as she headed past their room and upstairs. She could feel the last of the sun disappearing outdoors, and hesitated at the basement door until it was gone. The last thing she needed was to get burned.

By the time she headed into the house, Maeko had joined her, lugging a doll dressed in an identical outfit to her own. As they waited for the men in the living room, the diminutive vampiress studied her, and finally said, “Kate-san is a good person.”

Katelina jolted. “What do you mean?”

“Kate-san does not wish to be involved, yet she is, and she convinces Jorick-ue to join as well, because she cannot stand by and refuse to offer help.” Maeko broke into a grin. “Just as Jorick-ue can never refrain, though he desires to. It is a good match.”

Before she could push any further, Verchiel joined them, dusting his coat off. “That guest coffin in the basement needs aired out. I see why no one else used it.”

“I wondered where you were going to sleep,” Katelina said without interest.

Jorick and Maeko’s boys were there a moment later, Sharon trailing behind, looking dejected. They headed out in a group, but split up to hunt. Verchiel clamped a hand on Sharon’s arm and said with too much cheer, “We’ll go together, shall we?”

As they headed off, Jorick murmured, “She was planning to run.”

“From who? From us?” Katelina asked. “I thought she wanted our help?”

“I believe Sharon-san’s idea of help was for one of us to murder her master,” Hikaru observed.

Maeko nodded. “Verchiel-san’s idea may be the better way, though death is an option if we need it. Come. I thirst.” She motioned to her men and headed off.

“The best way would have been to leave her in the citadel,” Jorick muttered, but the look in his eyes didn’t match his words.

 

 

Katelina wasn’t sure about that, but she followed along, through the trees and down the beach, until the small house came into view. A lumpy tarp in the driveway covered the motorcycle Micah had been working on. A squashed tin can rusted in a dead flowerbed, and a lump of fur on the air conditioner turned into a cranky cat that hissed and ran when Verchiel rattled the door.

“Micah and Loren still aren’t back?” Katelina asked with a frown. They’d last seen the pair at the citadel on the night of the wedding.

“Apparently not.” Verchiel gave a satisfied nod, and Jorick crooked an inquisitive eyebrow.

Ignoring them, Katelina pressed, “Where are they?”

Jorick shrugged. “I’m not Loren’s keeper. He can do what he wants.”

Katelina shoved her hands in her pockets. “Are we meeting them inside?”

“No, no,” Verchiel said. “I was just making sure no one was here. Never trust vampires not to hide back up somewhere.”

Like we’re doing with Maeko, she thought.

They followed Verchiel around to the beach side of the house.  The redhead checked the time on his phone. “They should be here soon.”

Jorick sniffed the air. “I smell them already.”

Katelina tried to imitate him, but the cacophony of smells was almost too much. She concentrated, weeding out the ocean, the house, the cat, the dead plants, the fallen leaves, and a thousand and one other scents, until she came to some she didn’t recognize. She could sense the immortality in them. As she focused, she thought she could feel gender; three males and a female, but she couldn’t explain how she knew that.

“It’s just vampiric senses,” Verchiel said. “Don’t question it too much or you’ll end up like people who become aware of their tongues.”

“What?” Jorick demanded.

“You know. You can’t feel your tongue, heck, you don’t even notice it’s there most of the time, and then suddenly you think, ‘gee, if my tongue is so sensitive, why don’t I feel it all the time?’ and then you do. Feel it, I mean, and you’re suddenly aware of the fact that it barely fits in your mouth, and that it brushes against your teeth, and the whole thing becomes terribly uncomfortable until something distracts you from it.” He looked at their blank faces. “You’ve never done that before? It’s just me?”

Jorick rolled his eyes, and Sharon huddled in on herself. “Is this really necessary?”

Verchiel sighed. “You could run, but what’s the point? Anger as soon fed is dead. Let Eli have his moment, let him posture and shout, and get his fill. Starve him out, and he’ll only get madder and madder. He’ll come after you. Maybe you can to hide for a while, but eventually he’ll find you, and the longer it takes, the angrier he’ll be. Then what?”

Her voice shook with terror, “I could worry about that when the time comes.”

Verchiel turned to her, all trace of joviality gone. “When you’re alone, with no one to help you? Think about that for a minute.”

“But if I’m alone, maybe he won’t mind. That’s what caused the trouble this time. Maybe-”

“You’re planning to be alone forever?” Jorick scoffed. “A fine sentiment, but one that rarely works. You’ll get lonely, or you’ll meet someone and what then?”

The approaching vampires came into view and Sharon whimpered. As Katelina’s bizarre senses had told her, there were three men and a woman.

“The tall one with the dark hair and cold eyes is Eli,” Verchiel whispered. “He’s only about two hundred years old, give or take a decade. The shorter one with the blue coat is Robin. As for the other two…”

“The good looking guy must be Zeke,” Katelina said, squinting at his square jaw and perfect hair. “And the woman must be Dilana.”

Jorick made a low noise, and she realized what she’d said. “He’s not as good looking as you, of course.”

“No,” Verchiel agreed. “Your hair is much better.”

Jorick’s growl turned ominous, but Katelina ignored it to concentrate on the newcomers. As Verchiel said, Eli had dark hair and eyes like ice crystals. Tall with broad shoulders, he walked with the assured gate of someone who was rarely challenged. Robin’s blue coat hung to midcalf, and blonde hair fell in his narrow, pointed face. He pushed it back to reveal a sneer as chilly as Eli’s eyes.

Of the other two, Zeke’s model perfect face was unreadable, while Dilana’s annoyance was telegraphed in her short choppy movements, and the curl of her lip. Dark hair was pulled back in a French braid, and heavy makeup made her eyelids shimmer.

“Oh, God,” Sharon moaned and cowered behind Verchiel. “Please. Please let me just run.”

Verchiel squinted towards the vampires. “She’d only catch you. She’s a wind walker, isn’t she?”

“Yes,” Sharon sobbed. “And a tracker. Like Eli.”

“Then you don’t have a chance,” Jorick muttered.

The vampires came to a stop a few feet away. Katelina could almost feel their calculations as they sized them up. Eli and Dilana had open hostility on their faces, while Robin looked more smugly amused; a child who’d brought daddy to yell at the principal. Zeke, however, stood in the back, his eyes cast down. Dalina glanced back to him, snarled, and grabbed his shirt in a quick shake that was obviously meant as some kind of reminder.

If only I could read minds I’d know!

Eli stepped forward. “There you are Sharon. You’ve been a naughty girl.”

The woman whimpered and practically crouched behind Verchiel.

Eli held out his hand. “Come now, and we’ll go home.”

Verchiel squared his shoulders, though his tone was good natured. “I understood that you had released her.”

“And as I told you last night, I didn’t,” Eli snapped. “She still owes a blood debt.”

“Are you sure?” Jorick crossed his arms and bored his eyes into Eli’s skull, no doubt picking through his memories.

Eli snarled. “Dream stealer. Search my memories if you like. You won’t find what you’re looking for.”

“I could,” Jorick assured him. “However, I already have it from him.” He nodded to Zeke. “You released her. Whether you meant it or not is your problem.”

Katelina shot Jorick a questioning look, and he added, “He was being sarcastic, and she knew it. But he uttered the words, ‘Your blood debt is paid’. The intent is irrelevant.”

Eli stepped closer. “The intent is everything. You said yourself she knew it wasn’t real.”

Katelina frowned. That wasn’t quite the story Sharon had told them last night, was it? Though, the more she thought about it, the more she realized Sharon had barely explained anything.

Jorick shook his head, his focus on Eli. “As long as the words were spoken, she’s free. Now go, and don’t return.”

Jorick turned his back, as if to walk away. With a snarl, Dilana seemed to disappear, and reappeared behind Verchiel, grasping at the space Sharon had been a nanosecond earlier. Verchiel knocked the surprised vampiress aside, and looked to Sharon, who lay sprawled where he’d pushed her. “Sorry.”

Dilana swept to her feet, dusting sand from her clothing. “Stay out of this.”

“I’m afraid I can’t,” Verchiel said.

“Why? Are you her new lover?” Dilana sneered at Zeke. “See how quickly you’re replaced?”

The vampire looked up for a second, and then down again, so quickly that Katelina couldn’t catch what it was that flashed behind his eyes.

Jorick grabbed Dilana by the arm and flung her towards her friends. She hit the sand and rolled, pulling up to her feet with a roar.

“I told you once to go,” Jorick said. “Consider this your final warning.”

Eli motioned Dilana to wait and strolled towards them. “Or what? I know for a fact that Sharon is useless, which means there are three of you and four of us. And though you might be old,” he jabbed a finger at Jorick, then at Katelina. “She isn’t.”

Eli’s tone turned false friendly. “But come, do we need to fight? Is it worth it for one you have no attachments to?”

Verchiel helped Sharon to her feet. “It’s less about attachments and more about keeping my word.”

“Then you should have gotten the full story before you gave it,” Eli said.

“Oh, I have the full story.” Verchiel tugged his sword from inside his coat. “You turned her about thirty years ago, kept her as a slave, the same as Dilana has done with Zeke. But when Sharon and Zeke fell in love, Dilana got angry.”

The vampiress hissed. “Sharon lies.”

Verchiel studied his blade. “She didn’t tell me.” He met Zeke’s eyes for a moment before the handsome vampire looked away. “You punished Zeke. Sharon went to Eli, begged him to intervene. In the ensuing conversation he sarcastically told her that they were both released from their blood debts. Sharon grabbed it and decided to run. Zeke refused, because he knew this would happen and was afraid of more punishment – worse punishment. Sharon left without him, and fled to the citadel. After a few weeks there she started to relax, even made some friends, and why not? Eli doesn’t like The Guild. Since his disagreement with them a few years ago, he’d rather cut off his own foot than travel there. But Sharon didn’t take Robin into consideration.”

The vampire in the blue coat crossed his arms and looked ready to comment, but Verchiel went on.

“When Eli couldn’t find her, he guessed she was hiding at the citadel, so he sent his friend Robin – a friend who had no connection to the previous Guild unpleasantness. Robin found her, as they thought he would, and now we’re here. Have I left anything out?”

Katelina gave Sharon a sideways glance. It certainly wasn’t the story she’d implied to them last night. Or had she? Verchiel had done a lot of the talking. Had he known the truth before now? If so, why didn’t he mention it? Was he afraid they wouldn’t help if they knew she really was a runaway?

Dilana stepped forward. “You forgot to mention what a spoiled, ungrateful bitch she is.”

“You’re just jealous,” Verchiel said. “Eli doesn’t pretend to keep his fledgling as a true lover, only a body of convenience, but you like to pretend that Zeke is more. Pity he doesn’t really feel that way.”

A cloud of sand swirled. Dilana was suddenly in front of Verchiel, clutching him by the front of his shirt, the point of his sword pressed against her throat.

“I wonder which of us is faster,” Verchiel commented. “You’d better call her off, Eli. I’d hate to have to kill her.”

“As if you could.” Despite her words, Dilana let go and jumped back.

“No one needs to die.” Eli’s reasonable tone didn’t match the calculating cold of his eyes. “Come, Sharon. You’ve caused enough trouble. Do you want blood spilled over your childish tantrum?”

She looked from his face to his outstretched hand and shuddered. Katelina felt her revulsion, and the sticky sick feeling that settled in the pit of her stomach. Verchiel had said Eli used Sharon as a “body of convenience”. Katelina suddenly understood what that meant. It was no wonder Sharon was terrified to go back.

Three figures appeared behind Eli and his allies; one shorter than the other two. Katelina recognized Maeko, Takeshi, and Hikaru.

Robin and Dilana spun toward the newcomers. Eli stiffened, his eyes throbbing with icy anger. “I see.”

“You’re outnumbered,” Verchiel said. “And I should warn you, another Executioner id on his way as well. He might believe you’ve threatened to attack Jorick and his mate, or something like that, so there’s a chance he’s bringing back up of his own. He’s likely to attack first and ask questions later. Oddly, Jamie has a soft spot for his old commander.”

Jorick made a low, derisive noise, and Eli snarled. “I could go to The Guild.”

“You could,” Verchiel agreed. “But we both know you won’t.”

Eli jabbed a furious finger towards Sharon. “She belongs to me!”

“I must argue with that assessment,” Maeko said as she and the boys closed in behind them. Katelina noticed that Maeko had her pink handgun drawn, while Hikaru held a slender piece of wood like a bo staff. “Sharon-san is the fledgling of Eli-san, but not his property, and now he is going to release her officially.”

“Like hell!” Eli shouted.

Verchiel’s phone chimed a catchy synth-pop tune, and the redhead answered it. “We’re on the beach near Loren’s den. We have the guy and his accomplices cornered…What?…Hey, we can always use an army. Bring them on down.”

Verchiel hung up and broke into a grin. “That was Jamie. I was right, he brought a few friends. Now, where were we?”

Eli roared. “This isn’t the end of this. I will have her back!”

Jorick stepped forward. “Release her officially.” Eli snarled, and Maeko and the others closed in. Dilana tensed, ready to spring at the diminutive vampiress.

“You might fight them, you might even take us,” Verchiel said gleefully. “But you won’t be able to roll over Jamie and the others. Do you really want killed – or arrested – to bring back Eli’s slave? Aren’t you happier now that she’s gone and you have Zeke all to yourself?”

Dilana growled, but straightened and stepped away. “He’s right. Sharon isn’t worth fighting The Executioners.”

“She’s mine!” Eli bellowed. “You will fight them!” He grabbed Zeke and flung him towards Hikaru. “Kill him!” he screamed.

Dilana was suddenly there, between the startled vampires. “Zeke is mine to command, Eli! Not yours!”

“You’re all mine!” Eli roared.

Robin stepped away from the conflict, eyes narrowed. “I may be your friend, Eli, but I’m not in your coven. I came along for a little fun, not to face Executioners. She’s not worth that much effort.”

“This has nothing to do with her!” Eli shouted.

“No,” Jorick cut in. “It’s a matter of principle now. He can’t stand to lose, but either you walk away now or suffer the consequences.”

Dilana tugged Zeke away from Hikaru. “We’re leaving.”

Eli’s fury mottled his face red. One minute he was there, and the next he had Dilana around the throat. He lifted her while she clawed at his hand, kicking wildly.

“You will go where I tell you to go!” He flung her away hard enough that she bounded and rolled down the sloping shore, finally coming to a splashing stop in ocean.

Eli pulled a barbed dagger from his lunged at Zeke. Sharon screamed, but Verchiel held her back as Eli struck.

Zeke dropped to his knees, the blade buried in his back. Eli ripped it free and made to attack again when Dilana tackled him. They rolled, kicking and biting. Eli tried to grab her, but wet, her slick leather clothes slipped right out of his grasp.

Maeko knelt to tend to Zeke. She checked the wound over then nodded to Jorick, as if to say the vampire would recover.

Sharon sagged and Verchiel patted her. He checked the time on his phone. “It should be over any second.”

Katelina looked back and forth between the fight and the horizon, searching for Jamie and his army. No doubt Verchiel meant they’d be there any second. A cry rested her attention back to the combatants. Eli was sprawled in the sand, arms stretched out, head lolled to one side. Dilana rose from him, wiping wet hair from her eyes with one hand, and gripping the bloody dagger with the other.

Sharon covered her mouth, eyes wide. “Is he…”

Dilana spit on the prone body, then snarled, “This is your fault, Sharon. Don’t think I’m going to forget it.” She wiped the blade on her pants, and stuck the weapon in her belt. “Come, Zeke. Robin.” She broke off when she realized both were already gone. “What-”

Maeko was also missing, but Hikaru and Takeshi remained. Hikaru readied his staff. “Your friend has gone. As Jorick-ue said before, you had best do the same.”

She tugged the dagger free, but after running her eyes over the assemblage, she stuck it back and raised her hands. “Where is your wind walker?”

Katelina realized that Verchiel was also missing, though he’d left Sharon behind.

“Verchiel-san has gone to bring our allies,” Hikaru said.

Dilana swore and stepped away, hands still raised. “And I suppose Zeke is with Robin?” No one answered and she sneered. “I can guess your game. Eli released him, but he was never Eli’s to free. You can keep him for the time being. I’ll claim him later.”

And then she was gone, leaving her master’s dead body bleeding in the sand.

Jorick shook his head, then turned to Katelina. “Come, little one. Verchiel can clean up the mess.”

“But where is he?” she asked, her eyes on the dead body.

Jorick made an impatient sound. “He took Zeke somewhere. Probably our house. It isn’t as if it’s a private residence.”

Katelina felt a flutter of passive terror and looked to see Sharon pale and trembling. “Are you all right?”

“I- Eli, he’s…he’s dead?” Katelina nodded, and Sharon’s knees gave out. Jorick caught her with a grunt of annoyance and tried to set her on her feet, but her rubbery appendages refused to hold her.

Verchiel popped up in a cloud of sand. “I’ll carry her.” He scooped the woman up, then zipped away with her.

The rest of them trooped back up the beach, leaving the dead vampire lay. After they rounded Loren’s house, Katelina asked, “So where did Robin go?”

Jorick shrugged and Hikaru said, “Robin-san is not the kind to fight, but to throw threats and run away. We will not see him again.”

“Just her,” Katelina muttered.

“I doubt that,” Jorick said. “Sharon and Zeke may have to deal with her in the future, but she’s nothing to do with us.”

Neither is Sharon, Katelina thought. But we were just involved in that.

Maeko’s words came back to her, “Just as Jorick-ue can never refrain, though he desires to.”

Right. He can never stay out of anything.

 

Back at the house, Zeke was seated in the living room. Maeko stood to one side, her hands clasped, grinning, and Verchiel stood near the couple, typing on his phone.

Sharon knelt in front of Zeke. Her hand trembled as she lifted it to his face and brushed his cheek with her fingertips. When he caught her hand in his, she burst into tears and threw herself into his arms, burying her face in his chest.

“Why didn’t you come with me?” she wailed.

“I’m sorry.” He pulled her closer and nuzzled his face in her hair. “If I went, I knew Dilana would hunt us down. I thought if I stayed that she might refuse to help Eli bring you back.”

Verchiel patted her on the back. “There, there. It’s all right now. I don’t think you’ll have any more trouble with Dilana. I’ve got a warrant for her.”

“For what?” Jorick asked in surprise.

“Impeding an Executioner,” the redhead said gleefully. “Some days I love this job.”

Zeke looked over the top of Sharon’s head. “Unless they put her to death, I don’t see what difference that will make. Even if she’s imprisoned for a year, she’ll be back when she’s free.”

“Unless she trades you for her freedom in the first place, and so never goes to trial. I have a good feeling she will.” Verchiel winked. “No one wants to spend time in The Guild’s prison, I promise you that.” He stepped back and rubbed his hands together. “It seems my work here is done, kiddies. Unless you want me to stay?”

“No!” Jorick snapped. “And before you leave-”

“Yeah, yeah. Body on the beach. I know.”

“What about the other Executioners?’ Sharon sniffled back tears. “You said there was an army coming.”

Verchiel shrugged. “I lied. Jamie’s in Alabama.”

Zeke caught his breath.  “You’re lucky Eli didn’t call your bluff.”

“Technically, you’re the one who’s lucky. And now…” He broke off to give a flowery bow. “I believe I must be gone.” He straightened and mussed Katelina’s hair. “Enjoy your honeymoon. It’ll be good practice for ours in a few years, after you’ve gotten tired of Gloomy Boots.”

Jorick snarled and lunged, but Verchiel was already gone.

Katelina caught Jorick’s fist and forced it loose. “He was just trying to irritate you.”

“Then he shouldn’t be surprised it worked.”

Maeko giggled and bobbed her head. “I regret to say that tomorrow we must also take our leave. If Sharon-san and Zeke-san wish, they may come with us. Should Verchiel-san’s plan not work, it is doubtful Dilana-san would track them to Japan.”

“And even if she did, Makoe has an in with the government,” Katelina added.

“Something like that,” Maeko agreed with a giggle.

Sharon nodded her thanks, and unwound herself from Zeke to sit next to him on the couch. She dabbed at her wet cheeks. “There’s one thing I still don’t understand. If he lied about the other Executioners, who was he talking to on the phone?”

“Ryuu-chan, of course,” Maeko answered. “It is fortunate that we were here to help.”

Katelina bit her lip to keep from saying she bet Jorick didn’t think so.

 

At bedtime, they dragged one of the air mattresses out into the basement for Sharon and Zeke to share. Katelina wondered which of Maeko’s vampires would end up on the floor, then decided she didn’t want to think about it. She might really be a mature woman stuck in that child-like body, but Katelina wasn’t ready to let go of appearances quite yet.

Maybe in a few years.

She changed into her nightgown and slid into bed next to Jorick. “At least everything worked out for the best.”

“Did it?” Jorick asked. “Eli is dead.”

“He deserved it,” Katelina said bitterly. “After what he did to Sharon.”

Jorick didn’t meet her eyes. “Many masters do that, or worse. Why do you think I was so concerned when Micah turned you? I told you at the time that he could do anything he wanted to you. Didn’t you grasp the implications?”

She sighed. “No, I guess I didn’t. Not really. I feel sorry for her, and for Zeke.  They’ve had to face so many roadblocks, and all because they’re owned by someone. That doesn’t seem right.”

Jorick shrugged. “It is what it is.”

“And that passive attitude is precisely why it continues. If you were to stand up-”

He fixed her with a questioning stare. “Are you going to?”

“What?”

“Are you going to stand up against the Laws? Picket, perhaps? Or protest? Or will you just storm The Guild the way Oren tried?”

She blinked. “Well, I…”

He relented and pulled her to him. “If history has taught us anything, it is that it will work itself out. Newer vampires join the ranks everyday, with newer ideals. The ancients die, and with them their way of doing things. Look at how the turning has already changed? There’s no longer any ritual to it, no careful planning. In a hundred, or two hundred years the term master will come to mean considerably less than it does now. It’s already lesser than it was when I was turned. Then it was a term that could fill a fledgling with fear. Now it more often than not just means the person who turned you and brings no terror with it.”

“You act like that’s a bad thing?”

“Not bad, just different. Those who cannot embrace change should never be immortal, Katelina. The branch that won’t bend with time will snap. But enough talk. I’m tired, and tomorrow we will finally get to be alone.” His tone turned teasing. “I’d like to be rested for that.”

She poked him in the ribs, but settled in and closed her eyes. She was almost asleep when his voice came, nearly inaudible, “Would you really have preferred to go somewhere exotic and romantic for our honeymoon?”

It took her a moment to place the worry. Right. Verchiel had said that, hadn’t he? But he was wrong.

“No. I don’t want to go anywhere. I’ve had enough traveling to last me a life time. This is the only place I want to be.”

With you.

****

And now I need to get that edited up and send it to Newsletter subscribers and Street Teamers. Fun times!

Have a finished story kinda day!

Jo 🙂

Guesses:

topic: Doris Emmet

bonus: Jeff Ledbetter, Michael Todd

picture: Jonathan Harvey

 

1 – Do you have any gray poupon? 2- Ask jeeves  3 – street art  4 -what a mustache 5 – mild Manners 6 – the butler did it 7 – the better to hear you with 8 – what big ears you have 9 – hercule poirot 10- I see you 11 – excuse me 12 – Stop and smell the flowers 13 – did you call? 14- yes, sir? 15 – you rang? 

Blogophilia 12.10 – Honeymoon Part 3

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

 

I’m continuing the Honeymoon story from the last two weeks 🙂 In June I am going to have to get with it and start on Executioner stories again.

The bushes parted and a redheaded vampire stepped out. His hair was wild, and his new coat torn. He fixed them with violet eyes and said, “Eli’s coming.”

“Who?” Jorick demanded.

The bushes rustled and a second figure stepped out. Curly brown hair fell around her shoulders, and an uncertain smile played on her lips. “He’s…well…”

“Who is this?” Jorick cried, but Katelina recognized her.

“You were at the wedding.”

She nodded emphatically, and Verchiel said quickly, “This is Sharon. Sharon, that’s Jorick and Katelina. As I was saying, Eli’s coming, so I wondered if I could leave her with you for a few days?”

Jorick roared, but Katelina hushed him. “Who is Eli, and why does she need to stay with us?”

Verchiel’s expression turned tragic. “It’s a terrible story, full of jealousy, cruelty, and a rather long blood debt. But it’s a story better told later. I did mention-”

“Eli’s coming,” Katelina and Jorick said in unison.

He nodded and took Sharon’s arm to tug her towards them. “Here.” He handed her off to Katelina, who wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to distract him.”

Verchiel disappeared in a streak of red and black, almost too fast to see.

“Sorry about this,” Sharon said. “It was his idea.”

“I’m sure it was.” Jorick turned back for the house, his shoulders stiff and his hands wadded at his sides. Katelina could feel his anger and annoyance, but what was there to do? They couldn’t leave the woman out here with some mysterious Eli on his way.

She motioned Sharon after her, and followed Jorick to the house through the balmy air of night.  As they drew close, she saw a small group gathered on the porch. A Japanese girl, dressed in a puffy pink dress, looked no more than thirteen. Three males clustered around her. The tallest had long black hair, while a redhead leaned on a cane, his right trouser leg tied off above where his ankle had once been. The third was still human and no more than seventeen, if he was that old.

It was their guests.

“Jorick-ue!” Maeko hurried towards them. “You have brought a new friend!”

“I don’t know who she is,” he said flatly, stopping before the diminutive vampiress. “Verchiel dumped her on us.”

Sharon cringed into herself. Katelina felt the prickle of her humiliation and sighed. It wasn’t her fault . “There’s someone after her.”

Maeko bowed and introduced herself, then took Sharon’s hand and led her onto the porch. “I am sure Jorick-ue means to welcome you. Let’s go inside and discuss your circumstances.”

Jorick made a noise that said she was wrong, but they followed the pair into the living room. Maeko sated Sharon on the couch, then perched next to her, motioning Katelina to take the other side.

Sharon wrung her hands uncomfortably. “I met Verchiel at the citadel, where we went to the wedding.”

Maeko nodded encouragingly. “I thought Sharon-san looked familiar.”

Sharon shifted uncomfortably. “Yesterday Eli showed up. He’s-he’s my master. Was my master. I suppose he still is, but my blood debt is paid. Or he said it was.” Jorick coughed, and she cringed farther into herself. “After he released me, I left right away. He was fine with it, until Robin saw me at the citadel with Verchiel. I know he called Eli, and that’s when he came running. He claimed he hadn’t released me; that I ran away, and that I owed him another twenty years. But I don’t. It’s been thirty already! It’s ridiculous.”

“Blood debts can last centuries with an unscrupulous master,” Jorick muttered.

“Who’s Robin?” Katelina asked.

“A friend of Eli’s. He’s a sniveling snake. I knew as soon as I saw him that trouble was coming. I warned Verchiel about it.”

“Are Sharon-san and Verchiel-san a couple?” Maeko asked delightedly.

Sharon flushed and shook her head. “Unfortunately no. He’s fun, but I don’t think he looks at me as anything serious. I thought he might, when he first volunteered to get me out of the citadel, but I don’t think so anymore.”

“It’s hard to tell with him,” Katelina said quickly. “I’m curious where the jealousy and abuse come in.”

Sharon looked away. “He…he wasn’t a particularly kind master. He never loved me, not a real, normal love, but as I said, as soon as he found out I might be with someone else…”

She trailed off and Katelina decided to let it go – for now. “So this Eli followed the two of you from the citadel?”

Sharon nodded.

Jorick made a low noise. “I’d like to know why Verchiel chose to come here in the first place.”

Sharon shrugged. “He said he had a friend here who’d be willing to help. Isn’t that you?”

Katelina hurried to answer before Jorick could correct her. “Of course we’ll help you. I’m just not sure what we’re supposed to do.”

“I don’t know what his plan is, either,” Sharon admitted. “I thought we’d discuss it on the way, but he had music going the whole time. His taste is bizarre. Everything from American Pie to ACDC.”

Maeko patted Sharon’s knee. “It seems the best thing to do is wait for Verchiel-san to arrive and tell us what he has planned.”

“Assuming he’s thought that far ahead,” Katelina muttered.

*****

I may add some more next week.

And now for my guesses:

Topic: Irene

Bonus: Rebecca, and Dave Coon

Picture: Jessica Brooke Miller

Secret Phrase: Light in the dark, In the shadows, In the basement, Light left burning, Who left the light on?, Can’t believe the power is still on, Abandoned house, alone in the dark, Left in a hurry, That was some party

Blogophilia 11.10 – Honeymoon Part 2

It’s time for blogophilia, the fun blog group where Martien gives participants prompts to use in their blogs.

This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 11.10 Topic: Any Way the Wind Blows

**BONUSES: Hard (2 pts): Incorporate a Laura Nyro lyric

Easy (1 pt): Have gold in your blog

 

Continuing the honeymoon story from last week:

 

It was some time later when Katelina headed up the basement stairs. She wound through the small house to the living room. A couch and two winged back chairs sat waiting before a cold fireplace, but there were no vampires.

Jorick stepped into the room behind her. He paused to press a kiss to her neck, then murmured, “It looks like they’re out. We didn’t need to hurry, after all.”

“They’ll be back.” Katelina stepped away from him reluctantly. “In the meantime we should go feed.”

They headed outside into the deepening October evening. Autumn leaves crackled under foot and rattled in the trees. A dark sky spread overhead, strewn with windblown stars.

Any way the wind blows, they still sparkle.

They made their way across the yard and through a stand of trees. On the other side, the grass fell away into sand, the end of the world, as Katelina thought of it.

Jorick took her hand and tugged her gently down the beach. She glanced down at their fingers intertwined and noted the glint of her golden ring – her wedding ring. Something she swore she’d never wear, yet there it was, riding on her finger as though it had always been there.

And will always be there.

They followed the edge of the ocean, careful to avoid the tide slipping in and out, down past Loren’s empty house and on to a winding path. They followed it away from the moonlit beach and up into a thick group of trees. There, Jorick enchanted a raccoon and a pair of squirrels.

When they’d finished feeding, they made their way back to the house. Though Katelina knew they should hurry – they had guests – she couldn’t make herself want to. The moonlight shimmering on the dying grass, the smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves crashing; it was invigorating.

Jorick evidently felt the same, because he turned away from the small house and headed farther down the beach. They’d nearly reached an abandoned house when a loud crash sounded in the greenery. Jorick dropped Katelina’s hand and spun, fangs bared. She dropped into a fighting stance, when a familiar scent caught her nose.

Jorick growled, but relaxed a little. “What are you doing?”

The bushes parted and a redheaded vampire stepped out. His hair was wild, and his new coat torn. He fixed them with violet eyes and said, “Eli’s coming.”

To be continued

And again this week I’ll try guessing:

Topic: Barbara Kausteklis 

Bonuses: Stormy Gail Dormire  & Gerard Villegas

Picture:  Rebecca Grusendorf 

Phrase: into the light, staring into the sun, looking out, sun through the clouds, on the ledge, out the window, heavenly, golden light, ready to jump, ready to fly, off in the clouds, daydreaming, sunlit, golden clouds

Blogophilia Week 10.10: Honeymoon part 1

It’s time again for Blogophilia, the fun blog group where martien gives participants prompts to use in their blogs.

This week’s prompts are:

Ecrits Blogophilia Week 10.10 Topic: Sunday Morning Sunshine

**BONUSES:

Hard (2 pts): Quote Mark Twain

Easy (1 pt): Mention Voting

I’m taking advantage of Blogophilia time this week (Yes, I have scheduled it) to start working on a special short story that takes place after the end of Goddess of Night (the book I just published). I’m planning to finish it , edit it, and offer it as an incentive to people for finding typos in the books.

If you’ve never read my books, you don’t need to know anything except that they’re vampires.

******

Katelina opened her eyes and blinked at the twilight bedroom.  The four poster bed, hung with heavy red curtains, felt medieval. The carved wardrobe and cement walls added to the look, and for a minute she imagined she was in a castle. Outside would be royal gardens, dripping with Sunday morning sunshine.

Except, if there was, I’d be burned to a crisp.

She rolled over to look at the man sleeping next to her. Jorick’s dark hair fanned out on the pillow. Long lashes rested on his porcelain cheeks. She might not have the castle, but at least she had her prince.

She glanced at the golden ring on her finger. Not only did she have her prince, but she had him forever.

As though woken by her scrutiny, his eyes opened, followed by a gasp for air; someone who didn’t need air suddenly deciding they did.

He saw her and smiled. “Good morning, little one.”

“Good evening,” she corrected.

He pulled her to him. “It’s our morning,” he murmured before he claimed her lips. She melted against him and it was only the memory of their guests that pulled her away.

“We’d better get up and see to Maeko and the others.”

“I vote that we let them see to themselves. They’re adults.”

Though technically true, Maeko didn’t look like and adult, but like a thirteen year old girl. Her boys, as Katelina thought of her three-some entourage, were older, but still looked barely college aged.

“She’s older than you,” Jorick reminded her gently. “And she can take care of herself for a day. It’s our honeymoon.”

“Then you shouldn’t have told them they could stay with us,” Katelina pulled away from his grasping arms and reached for her clothes.

“I didn’t. You did. You said there was no sense in them traveling all the way from Japan just for the wedding and that they should stay with us a few days after to visit. It’s been a few days.”

“It’s been two,” she corrected. “Now I need to get dressed.”

“The finest clothing made is a person’s own skin.” He caught her around the middle and pulled her back to him. “And yours is perfect.”

She flushed at the compliment, and the feel of him against her back, his hands on her. “I think Maeko would disagree.”

The warm brush of his lips on her shoulder sent goosebumps down her spine and left her hesitating for a moment. That moment was all he needed to roll her over and press her down into the mattress, a wicked gleam in his eyes.  “Then she’d be wrong.”

His hot kiss silenced her objections.

To be Continued (maybe here, maybe not…)

Have a good one!

Jo 🙂

PS – I’m going to try guessing this week.

Topic: Colleen

Picture: Kim Herndon

  1. Good ol’ Days. 2. That Coffee is Cheap! 3. Read all about it. 4. Quiet street corner. 5.Cigar Shop 6. Stare down. 7. Original social media 8. What are you looking at? 9.Malted Milk and cigars – yum. 10. down the sidewalk 11. Step on a crack and you’ll break your mother’s back  12. litter free zone 13. early morning 14. Off to the office. 15. early Bird gets the newspaper 16. No traffic. 17. Breakfast Special. 18. All dressed up. 19. I need to raise my prices  20. downtown.
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