Friday, December 19, 2014

Half Blood: Chapter Two

TWO






One week earlier…

Indi knew he’d be trouble the first moment she laid eyes on him. Men in suits were always a problem for her. She felt like she’d had the words “harass me asshole” tattooed onto her forehead from birth. And, of course, he was sitting in her section. Her anger prickled over her skin ever so softly, but she ignored it. Instead, she sucked in a deep breath and began walking over to his table.
“Do you want me to take him for you?”
Indi stopped mid-step and turned to look at the only other male friend she had besides her brother. Rhett had only been working at Jerry’s for a few months, but she felt as if she’d known him her entire life. Rhett’s mismatched eyes were soft and cautious as he waited for her answer. One eye was a light sky-blue and the other a pale pistachio-green.
He nudged the six-foot-four mark, his broad shoulders tapering down to a narrow waist and muscular legs. He didn’t look like much with his clothes on, but Indi had accidentally walked in on him when he was changing out of his uniform one evening after the cafe had closed, and he was packing some serious muscle under his Hanes.
Indi smiled, shaking her head at him. “Nah, I’m good.” She rubbed the back of her neck, working some kinks out as she prepared herself to talk to the customer in her section. Plastering a fake smile on her lips, she made her way over to him. The guy’s dark eyes watched her the entire way with all the eagerness of a hungry predator.
Her skin practically crawled with anger. She wanted nothing more than to physically, and painfully, stop him looking at her like something delectable. Shaking off the murderous impulse, Indi pressed her omnipresent anger farther down into her belly.
“Hi. What can I get you?” she asked, keeping her voice light and easy.
The guy’s top lip curled up a little in the corner. “Hi,” he replied smoothly. 
She stared into his eyes, realizing they weren’t dark brown as she’d originally thought, but black––as black as clouds that threatened a tempest.
“So…what can I get you?” Indi tapped the long end of her notepad against her thigh to stop herself from being tempted to reach for the hunting knife she always kept in her boot.
He licked his bottom lip slowly. “How about your phone number?”
She curled her free hand into a fist at her side and let out a deep lung-full of air. “Sorry, we’re not serving that today.”
His dark gaze lingered on her breasts. When he met her eyes again, Indi was glaring back down at him, her fingers twitching spasmodically, desperate to reach for her weapon to let it do the talking for her.
“Look, I can come back once you’ve decided,” she said, turning around to leave, but his warm hand on her forearm stopped her. She turned back, visually tearing strips of his skin from his body.
“I’ll have an espresso,” he said, not taking his hand back.
“Fine,” she replied through gritted teeth. “Do you mind moving that?” She nodded down at her arm.
“I will when you tell me your name.”
Indi silently thanked Jerry for not insisting on the staff wearing nametags. “Nancy,” she replied curtly.
He squeezed her forearm gently. “Nancy,” he repeated in a drawl. “That wasn’t so hard now, was it?” His voice was rich like dark coffee and she could see the appeal. “Nancy, you have the most extraordinary eyes.”
“They’re contacts,” she snapped before faking another smile and stalking off.
Her whole body shook with the effort of not turning around and slugging the guy in the mouth. When she got to the front counter, her boss Jerry was standing behind the coffee machine working on an order.
“An espresso, Jer. Please.”
“Are you okay?” he asked without looking up from his work.
She smiled at him. “Are you worried about me?”
His dark blue eyes found her face. “I’m worried about what that guy said to you.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”
He gave her his serious eyes. “Are you sure? Because I can get Rhett to take his order over there.”
“Jer, it’s fine. He’s in my section. I can handle him.”
“All right,” he said softly. Indi watched his expression relax as he went back to work on her order. She lived alone now, but she and Jerry had lived together since she was fifteen and he was eighteen. As far as she was concerned he was her brother and the closest she had ever come to having a real family.
Jerry finished up the order, placing it onto a saucer on the counter. Indi looked up to find him staring down at her with his usual concern.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” he asked while placing a warm hand on hers.
Mustering up a small smile, she replied, “Peachy.” Indi picked up the saucer carefully and walked back over to table number three.
“So when do you get off, Nancy?” the guy asked as she put his coffee down. She ignored his double entendre. “Cat got your tongue?” he added when all she did was stare back at him.
“Late,” she replied sourly.
“How late?”
She watched him turn the coffee cup on the saucer and leveled her gaze on him once more. “Won’t your wife wonder where you are?” she asked in a quiet snarl.
His eyes darted down to the tan mark left from his wedding band. “We’ve come to an agreement, me and her. She only does vanilla sex and I…don’t.” He smiled, his lip curling up in the corner again. “So, what time?” he asked, running his index finger over her hand. Indi flinched away from his touch, folding her arms under her breasts, her hands curling into fists.
“Touch me again and I swear to you I’ll remove your hand with my knife,” she said in a low, threatening voice. “And I’ve never made a promise I haven’t kept.”
He never even batted an eyelid. “I’ve got an apartment over in Waterside we can use. I’m a very successful businessman,” he preened.
“You disgust me,” she spat.
He gave her a sly smile, but the heat in his eyes didn’t match. He was hungry for something more than just flirting. “I like wildcats.” He grabbed her wrist, wrapping his fingers tighter and tighter until she felt her circulation cut.
“Let go of me,” she hissed. He maneuvered her around the front of his body, blocking what they were doing from the rest of the cafe. 
“Or what, hmm? Are you going to attack me? Are you going to scream for me to let you go? I’d like that, you know.” He jerked her a little closer until they were sharing a breath. “Fight back,” he suggested.
Her arm moved faster than he was able to track because she’d pulled the knife from her right boot with her left hand and held it against his skin. “Let. Me. Go,” she breathed.
He released her wrist, laughing at her—a gentle, rolling rumble of a sound—and pressed his neck into the tip of the blade until a small bead of blood rose from his skin. God, she was tempted to just run the blade across the front of his throat, to let his life force spill out of his body from a five-inch wound. She would have done it, too, if she hadn’t felt Rhett come to stand behind her. With a warm hand on her upper arm, he let her feel the strength he possessed.
“Indi? Drop the knife. Now isn’t the time for this.” He spoke the words calmly and softly into her ear until she loosened her grip on the handle. She stared into the asshole’s dark eyes as Rhett talked her down. She wanted to hurt the guy, but she also knew she couldn’t shed any blood in her brother’s cafe after he was good enough to give her a job. “That’s it. Give me the knife.” Rhett’s huge hand curled around hers and tugged to get her to let go of the handle, but she resisted. She wouldn’t be left unarmed.
With a jerking motion, she pulled the knife from his neck and held it against her thigh. She turned to look at Rhett and shock made her take a step away from him.
“What?” he asked softly, dropping his gaze to the floor. She could have sworn that his eyes were two totally different shades of green and blue for half a second.
“Nothing,” she replied when she could talk. Indi fixed her gaze back on the man.
“I’ll see you later, Kitten,” he said in a low voice only meant for her ears. The threat ignited Indi’s rage. Her movements were fast, her hand curling into a fist and slamming into his neck, just under his ear. Most people didn’t know about the bundle of nerves there. The asshole’s eyes rolled back in his skull before he passed out, his face colliding with his coffee and the table top with a loud, fleshy slap.

* * *

Jerry launched himself over the counter and ran to the back of the cafe where Indi’s customer had just slumped over in his chair. Dark coffee dribbled down from the top of the table and onto the carpet beneath.
“Indi? What the hell?” he demanded. His eyes darted to the knife she was holding against her leg to Rhett standing behind her, his expression just as unreadable as Indi’s. Fixing his gaze back on Indi, he asked, “Well?”
“It was my fault, Jerry,” Rhett said calmly, turning to face him fully. “I accidentally elbowed him in the face as I was trying to get her to step away.”
Over Rhett’s shoulder, Jerry could see Indi’s shock at hearing his words. Rhett had just lied for her, but why? With Indi still fixed in his gaze, Jerry asked, “Is that true?”
Her haunting eyes glowed slightly and she nodded. “I was resisting him. I tried to elbow him and he elbowed the customer. Sorry,” she replied just as calmly.
A low moan escaped from behind them. They all turned to see the customer coming to. Jerry pushed them both aside and went to the man. He had to get him out the back and cleaned up as quickly as possible. Jerry slid the man’s arm around his neck, lifting him up, and started moving towards the storeroom. The customer’s head lolled about as he shuffled them both towards the door. Looking at his profile, Jerry took stock of his injuries, noting the swelling already building around his eyes and the cut to the bridge of his nose. Blood trickled out of one nostril, one bright, red drop threatening to take a nose dive from his chin and onto his ridiculously expensive suit.
 Jerry shoved the door closed behind them with his hip, placing the guy down onto an upturned milk crate. As he leaned him against the wall, the bastard suddenly came back to life again, pushing Jerry away and pitching wildly to his feet. Jerry took a few steps back with his hands outspread before him until his butt hit the edge of the sink.
“I’d sit down if I were you,” Jerry told the man in a flat voice.
The guy’s charcoal eyes fixed on his, and there was nothing friendly in them. He now had a death grip on his nose, trying to stop any more blood from ruining his Tom Ford suit and silk tie.
“Sit down,” Jerry repeated, giving him his back to look for the first aid kit that was supposed to be under the sink. When Jerry turned around again, the bastard had sat down, but didn’t look at all happy about it.
The guy had his head tipped back now, trying to stem the faster flowing tide of blood from his nose. “You should fire that girl,” he growled, the sound coming out with a nasal cadence.
“Thanks for the suggestion,” Jerry replied indignantly, pulling on a pair of surgical gloves and cutting the top of the saline tube off with a pair of scissors from the kit. With a clean square of gauze, he squirted the solution onto it and held it out for the man to take. He doubted the guy would let Jerry anywhere near him right now. “Dab this against the cut on the bridge of your nose.”
After an unfriendly look, the man took it and held it to his face. 
“Has your nose stopped bleeding yet?” Jerry asked after a long minute of absolutely stifling silence. The man released his index finger and thumb from his nose carefully and breathed in deeply, his eyes starting to water with the effort.
“You should go to the hospital. I think it’s broken,” Jerry said stiffly.
“What are you, a doctor?” the bastard snapped, gently prodding his broken nose with a finger.
“No, but I’ve done first aid. The angle of your nose is wrong.”
“I’ll sue that bitch for the medical bills,” he mumbled under his breath. Jerry felt a small peak of anger welling inside him. He was normally a pacifist, but he wouldn’t stand for any man threatening Indi in any way. Abruptly he crouched down in front of the man.
“What happened between you two?” he demanded in a hard voice.
His dark eyes settled on Jerry, and he fought the shiver that seemed to be crawling up his skin under his gaze. “That’s none of your business,” he snarled, baring his teeth.
Jerry shrugged his broad shoulders at him. “Fine,” he bristled. “But if you sue her, or press charges against her—if you threaten her in any way—I’ll deny any wrong doing on her behalf. My other waiter will do the same.” After all, Rhett owed him after he lied to his face like that.
The man gave him a hard look. “You fucking her? Is that it?”
In that moment all Jerry wanted to do was add to the bastard’s list of injuries. He stood up from his crouch. “I think it’s time for you to go.”
The man narrowed his eyes at Jerry then got up. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a business card and handed it to Jerry. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer soon. This is my card.”
Jerry stared down at it, then back at him. He knew he was bluffing. He wouldn’t press charges or sue Indi. His ego was bent out of shape––that was all. But he took the card and read the embossed lettering carefully. Mr. Wright was in development. Jerry knew he was big, too. Wright Constructions had actually built his new apartment block at Waterside.
“Let me walk you out,” Jerry said. He opened up the door, gesturing to Mr. Wright to leave first. After he closed the door to the storeroom, Jerry glanced over in Indi’s direction, finding her cleaning up the mess she’d made with Rhett. Jerry followed Mr. Wright to the front of the cafe, stepping outside for a little more privacy in case he had some more opinions on Indi.
Mr. Wright wheeled around and looked Jerry squarely in the eyes. “Some advice between businessmen: Don’t shit where you eat. If you’re banging that girl, she’ll fuck you over in more ways than one. I’ve seen it done before.” And with that, he turned on his heel and stalked off.
Jerry turned back to the cafe determined to find out what had really happened between the two of them. Indi was wiping down the coffee machine when he came in. He stalked over to her, took her by the upper arm and dragged her out to the storeroom.
Rhett was suddenly there, standing in front of him, blocking the way. “Jerry. It wasn’t her fault. It was mine,” he said. The words he said were benign, but the way he said them, the way he positioned himself, carried an unspoken threat.
“This is between my sister and I, Rhett. I’ll be speaking to you afterwards.” Jerry tightened his grip on Indi’s arm and pushed through the storeroom doorway. Slamming it shut behind him, Jerry crossed his arms across his broad chest, feeling the seams strain across the fabric on the sleeves.
Indi began swallowing convulsively just as Jerry realized what he was doing. He was scaring her. She was the victim of rape. She was so messed up about it that just being confined in a room with a man set her on edge. If they didn’t have the relationship they did, Indi would have drawn her blade as soon as the door had been slammed shut. She would have fought her way out of the room before anything else could happen to her.
Jerry took in a giant breath, released it, uncrossed his arms and moved away from the door. Indi noticeably relaxed, sagging against the set of metal shelves the coffee beans were stacked on. She wrapped one arm around herself after a moment, leaving her right hand free to go for her blade. He didn’t think that she’d ever shake that habit.
“Indigo,” he started. She frowned. “Indi,” he tried again, searching her face, wondering whether she would answer the questions he was about to ask her.
“Save your breath, Jer. I––”
Jerry stuck his hand up to stop her from talking. He didn’t want it to be this way. He didn’t want to push her away from him. She glared at him, grinding her molars together like she sometimes did when she was really upset with herself.
“Indi, I don’t know what he did to you out there. He wouldn’t tell me. But there is one thing I do know.”
“What’s that?” she snapped.
“That you wouldn’t fly off the handle like that if it wasn’t something serious.”
“Nothing happened. Rhett accidentally elbowed him when I tried to jerk out of his hand. You know I don’t like strange men touching me.”
He did know that. But he also knew that Rhett seemed to be the exception to that rule, so he knew she was lying. As soon as she’d met Rhett, she looked comfortable around him, like some part of her subconscious knew that he could be trusted. He blew out a frustrated breath. “I know that’s a lie,” he said softly, looking into her eyes. “I know it’s a lie because you said you tried to elbow Rhett, not just get out of his grip before. I also know that it was a lie because your face gave you away when Rhett told me his version of events.”
“Fuck,” she muttered under her breath, looking down at her feet.
“So are you going to tell me what really happened?”
“Probably not,” she replied, still looking down at the thick black laces threaded into her military boots.
“Look, Indi, I know that you need this job. But you do have that money sitting there still. You can have it whenever you want. You know that, don’t you? If you’re finding the job too stressful, you can live off that for a little while.”
“I’ll never take that money,” she snapped, her hand flexing around her upper arm.
“I know it’s your pride that’s stopping you.” Jerry sighed and folded his six-foot frame onto the floor opposite to where she was standing. “Mr. Wright said he would press charges.” She shrugged. “Do you want to tell me what happened?” he asked again.
Indi met his steady gaze and lifted her chin in defiance. “There’s nothing to tell.”
“You know you can tell me anything, right? Did he say something inappropriate to you?”
She shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. Jerry’s eyes swept the floor in thought. When the idea struck him, it made him feel sick to the stomach. “Did he…did he touch you?” his voice dropped to a hard whisper. Indi tightened her arms across her chest. “That was it, wasn’t it?” Jerry couldn’t believe he’d allowed that to happen to her in his cafe. He’d be the one pressing charges if she confirmed his suspicions. “Indi?”
She shrugged again, refusing to look into his eyes. He’d seen this body language before. She wasn’t going to talk, and there was not a damn thing he could say or do that was going to change her mind.
“Well, if you decide you do want to tell me about it, you know where I am.” He stood up, opened the door and called Rhett over. If Indi wouldn’t talk then he’d get his information from somewhere else. “Indi, can you give us a minute, please?”
“Sure,” she replied. As she went through the door, Indi and Rhett exchanged a strange look, but Jerry ignored it; he was more concerned with getting to the bottom of what had happened.
Rhett’s bulk took up more space in the small room than Jerry thought was possible. He took a step back from him and began pacing. Rhett patiently watched Jerry and his pissed-off attitude wearing a hole in the Linoleum under his feet.
“I want to know what the hell happened out there. I don’t want the edited version. I want to hear it all. I know that you lied to me before. If you don’t tell me what I need to know right now, I get to fire your ass. You got me?” Jerry’s voice ended up in a growl.
Rhett swallowed and nodded. “All right. I’d been keeping an eye on them after I noticed how she reacted to him the first time. When I saw him grab her wrist, I started making my way over to them. She had her knife on his throat when I got there.”
“My God,” he breathed.
“I managed to get her to back down, but just as she was about to leave, the guy mouthed off and she cold-cocked him.”
Jerry’s thoughts were a tangled snarl. It had happened to her again and under his watch, too. He felt physically sick. “Did you see him touch her again at all?” he eventually asked.
Rhett shook his head. “No, but judging by her reaction to him, I’d say that he had.”
Jerry swallowed thickly. “Why did you lie about what happened then?”
“Indi can’t afford to lose her job.”
“But you were willing to risk your own job to protect her.” Statement—not question.
He shrugged. “She needs this more than I do.”
Jerry asked, “Do you care about her that much? You hardly know her.” He was speaking from experience. Indi hadn’t truly opened up to him until she’d lived in the same house as him for two years, and even when she did talk about herself, Jerry could tell she was holding back.
He shrugged his broad shoulders again. “I know her enough. Besides, I can’t stand by and let a woman get manhandled. I did what any man would have done in my situation.”
As far as Jerry was concerned, that earned Rhett some big brownie points in his book. He put his hand out to the guy. “Thanks,” he said. They clapped palms and did the manly chest-to-shoulder hug. “I mean it, Rhett. Thanks. I feel so much better knowing that someone else is looking out for her. I had no idea that was what was going on. I took my eyes off her for a second, just a second.”
He shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.”
Jerry and Rhett left the storeroom in time to start the final clean up. Indi was just closing up the cafe, flipping the sign on the door to “closed”. Jerry studied her face, finding that she had shut down her emotions. She was retreating in on herself so much that Jerry couldn’t tell what she was thinking anymore.
“I’m ready to go when you are, Jer,” Indi said to him
softly fifteen minutes later.
“Okay,” he replied before his phone beeped. He pulled it out and looked at the reminder flashing on the screen.
“Dammit,” he said, putting his phone back in his pocket.
Indi asked, “What is it?”
“I forgot that I had to meet someone over at the apartment in fifteen minutes.” He stared at Indi’s doleful expression. “I’ll call him and tell him that I can’t get there for another half an hour.”
“Wait. Don’t do that. Was this a date?”
Jerry laughed. “No. He’s my squash partner. We had to reschedule a match to tonight.”
“You should go. I can get home by myself for once,” Indi said, shrugging. Jerry shook his head. He had started walking Indi home of an evening ever since a maniac rapist had started terrorising women in Buxton. And there was no way in hell that he’d let her walk home alone tonight.
“Would you like me to walk her home?” Rhett asked Jerry softly.
“Are you sure?”
“It’s no problem at all,” Rhett replied.
Jerry gave him a sharp nod. “Thanks. I owe you.” 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Half Blood: Chapter One

One






Detective Vaile Wolfe stuck his pen into the little pile of ashes he was crouched over and stirred. The burned remains, picked up by the slight breeze from the mouth of the alleyway, got stuck in his nostrils, forcing a low growl out from between his lips.           
What a goddamn fucking mess. The wolf that shared his body shifted uneasily, the scent of the blood awakening his baser instincts. He could feel his lupine form move under his skin—under his ribs—stirring to life restlessly. He’d denied the Change for nearly two weeks, sending the flashing red light of warning off in his head. He was putting the cops he worked with in danger with every day that passed. He muttered a few words under his breath to calm the beast and stood up, unable to avoid looking at the huge puddles of blood at his feet. He’d be seeing red for a fucking week.
“Did you find anything?” he asked the officer that had been assigned to him just that morning. He’d chewed through a dozen rookies in the last six months and he had a feeling that this guy wasn’t going to make it much past sundown. Vaile had a rep for being a sonofabitch to work with and that was just the way he liked it.
This new kid was all WASP. His pale eyes were wide as he took in the carnage around him. Vaile had caught him puking in the dumpster next to the crime scene. As soon as he’d seen the blood, he’d gone as white as a sheet and ran. He could still smell the stuff on his breath.
“No, sir. Nothing yet,” he replied perfunctorily. Vaile’s lips flexed into a parody of a smile. At least this kid knew who was Top Dog, not like the last cocky bastard he’d had working for him. “We’re just waiting for forensics to show up, sir.” The kid turned back to look at the puddles. “Sir, where’s the body?”
“There ain’t no body, kid. It’s obvious that this was the kill site. The body’s been dumped someplace else.” What the WASP didn’t know was that two members of his pack had taken the stiff a few hours before they’d even got the call from a sanitation worker reporting a lot of blood down an alleyway that morning. The cops weren’t ever going to find the body either because by now it would be nothing but ash. The other thing they didn’t know was that a vampire had been given its Final Death in that alleyway, but they would never recognize the signs. Humans only saw what they wanted to see. To them, the ashes that littered the ground in that goddamned frozen, filthy alleyway were the remnants from a hobo barrel fire, not the last resting place of a blood-sucking parasite.
The kid swallowed convulsively, his throat working over a lump, his skin turning a pale shade of green. “You going to puke again?” Vaile barked.
“No, sir,” he replied in a shaky breath. His fear was coming off his body in waves, causing a sneer to pull at Vaile’s top lip. Vaile got up in his face, taking him by the collar of his shirt and pulling the guy in close to his massive body. Intimidation factor? He would have said around a ten.
“Because if you are, you’re not working with me. You can just go back to the station now and get desk-raped,” he growled.
Vaile hadn’t thought it was possible, but the kid swallowed the green and blanched out even further than his already pasty skin. “I’m fine,” he replied with a quavering voice.
What a fucking lightweight. Vaile gave him a hard look and pushed him away, causing him to stumble into the dumpster. Vaile walked back to a beat cop waiting just inside the yellow police tape. Beyond him—at the mouth of the alleyway—were rubberneckers wanting to see a glimpse of the carnage. Although another officer was placed there, arms outstretched and desperately trying to stop the click-click of camera phones, they still managed to get an uninterrupted view. Sometimes Vaile thought humans were more bloodthirsty than the wolf that shared his body. Looking away from them in disgust, he asked, “What did you see when you got here last night, Mack?”
Mack was a shifter, too. Werewolves made good cops. It was as simple as that. His pale green eyes flecked with brown met Vaile’s for a split second before dropping down to look at Vaile’s chin. “A human male drained of blood. That was all.”
Vaile grunted. “Were you told anything else other than to get your ass down here?”
“Just that there was a body. But judging by the smell, and—” he kicked his toe into the ashes at his feet, “I’d say a vampire got four-twentied here, too.”
Vaile grunted again. He didn’t know who had given the vamp the cure for life, but he was goddamn elated that they had. He was a damn good cop and an even better detective, but the stench of the vampire was cancelling out the scent of any humans that may have been involved at the scene of the crime. To his sensitive nose, all he could smell was burning, rotten garbage topped off with a healthy dollop of cow shit.
“So who was the guy we picked up last night?” Vaile turned and spat on the ground; the nasty taste of the blood-sucker had coated the back of his tongue. After he wiped the back of his hand over his mouth, Vaile turned back to Mack. He didn’t need to worry about the police cataloguing the sample because the whole damn report was going to mysteriously disappear in the very near future.
Mack shrugged. “No wallet on the body, but he was dressed too nice, which is unusual for this area. Maybe he was a Renfield and the vamp lured him here. Maybe he was just unlucky.”
Renfields. Weren’t they a treat? They were humans who believed vampires were real, and who regularly donated their blood to other humans pretending to be vampires. Ignorant fuckers. And they wondered why HIV was spreading through the human population like wildfire.
Vaile drew in a deep breath and coughed. “Goddamn vampires. I hate their fucking stench.”
“Tell me about it,” Mack replied in a drawl. 
Just then, the forensic crew arrived in their signature white van, parking outside the alleyway’s only entrance and exit. The Uniformed began pushing people out of the way again, trying to make room for them to get out of the van. Time to get the fuck out of there.
“Hey kid!” Vaile called out to his “partner”. When he couldn’t see his blond hair, Vaile marched over to the closest dumpster and peered over the other side. The kid had curled himself up into a ball in a pool of his own vomit. “Ah, fuck.” He looked over at the other shifter. “Mack? Come give me a hand, will ya?”
Vaile drove him and the WASP back to the station after he and Mack had got him into the back of his unmarked. Sure, Vaile could have lifted the kid no problem, but hauling a grown man around on your shoulder like he weighed nothing drew too much unwanted attention.
There was a groan as the car humped into the car park behind the station. Vaile looked into his rear view mirror to see the rookie coming around. The smell of vomit had permeated the interior thanks to the kid, and no amount of Febreeze was going to get that shit out.
“Get out and get reassigned,” Vaile barked, slamming his car door behind him. He navigated his way to the back of the building without a backwards glance to see if the kid had gotten out or not. When he reached the solid metal door, Vaile heard the distinct sound of a car opening and closing.
And another one bites the dust.
Hauling open the heavy steel, Vaile walked into central command.
People were everywhere. Vaile passed through the security check point, disarming himself and producing his badge. When he was finally through, he slipped his holster back on again as he walked up the stairs. At the top, he hung a left.
His office had about twenty people in there, each sitting behind a computer with three soft walls. It was partition heaven. Parking it behind his desk, he turned on his computer and clicked into his emails. He’d been working the Buxton rapist case, and the latest medical report was front and center. He opened up the email and scrolled through the three-page report, skimming it for anything that was useful. So far nothing viable had been collected from the women or the scenes. The sick fucker was getting more violent with them, too. He’d started just by threatening the girls, but now he was following through on the threat. The last girl had a broken jaw and a fractured cheek bone thanks to the bastard.
Kicking out of his chair, he went to the kitchenette they had in the back corner of the office to make himself a cup of instant. It tasted terrible, but at least it got rid of the taste of vampire that was still sticking to the back of his tongue. He took another sip and from over the lip of his coffee cup, he saw his boss walking towards him.
“Wolfe. My office. Now.”
“You got it,” he replied, walking casually back to the desk to dump his still-full coffee cup.
“Sit down,” his boss said as soon as Vaile had shut the door to his office behind him. His boss’s name was D’Angelo. His dark hair had started going gray around the sides, but his dark eyes were still sharp. “I’ve just spoken to Hauptmann. He says he wants off your service.”
“Really?”
“Don’t give me that fucking tone Wolfe. Jesus!” He ran a hand through the gray. “You only had him for…fuck, like two hours.”
“He’s not cut out for the work. He’s a beat cop at best. And besides, I’ve already told you I prefer working alone.”
D’Angelo’s blood pressure went up a few clicks. “You know what? If you weren’t my best detective, I would get your ass transferred someplace else where I don’t have to see you every single damn day.”
“But I am your best detective,” Vaile reminded him. “And I’m sure you’d miss me.”
D’Angelo opened his mouth to argue again, but a knock on the door saved him. “Come in!” he yelled. The door pushed open and the scent of roses wafted in. Vaile’s head swiveled around to see a female officer standing in the doorway. He’d never seen her around the station before, but then again he’d never really looked at human women. What was the point? Love couldn’t transcend species. Lust? Fuck yeah, but love? Not a chance.
“You wanted to see me, sir?” she asked, breaking Vaile’s fixation on her. He turned back around in his seat, uncomfortably aware of her.
“Grey, come in.”
She shut the door behind her and sat in the chair next to Vaile. The scent of roses grew stronger, but it wasn’t her perfume. It was something else. Maybe it was her soap or shampoo or some shit. “You expressed interest in working with Detective Wolfe. Does your interest still stand?” his boss said.
Vaile looked over at her and wondered why in the hell she would volunteer to spend time with him.
“Yes, sir.”
D’Angelo nodded perfunctorily. “Congratulations. You’ve been reassigned. Now get your asses over to Buxton Gen. There’s another girl been brought in overnight—rape suspect. Get a statement. See if we can’t finally nail this guy’s ass to the wall.”
Vaile stood up, Grey shadowing him. “You got it.”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Guest post: "Magical Russia" by Sophie Masson

One of the biggest inspirations for me in creating the world of the Trinity series is the fact that Russia is the absolutely perfect urban fantasy setting—you hardly even have to make anything up! My two visits there, in 2010 and 2012, complemented the very wide reading that I did on the subject of Russian magic.  From the Parliament trying to regulate witchcraft to the businesses who employ kolduns, or wizards; from the many ordinary people who visit zhanarkas, witches, for spells and advice, to the scientists studying DNA for evidence of psychic talents, this is a place where the supernatural and paranormal are taken for granted by many, many people. And yet it’s also totally modern, with very high literacy and education levels. 

Magic has been around in Russia for ever. And it's always been practised by both sexes, including in Siberia, where traditional shamans may be of either sex. Interestingly, in European Russia, and in contrast to the West, the female practitioners, zhanarkas, generally had a better reputation than the male kolduns , who were feared, and often accused of unholy practices. However there was little organized persecution of magic-workers, whether male or female, though that did not mean individuals didn’t sometimes suffer. Part of the reason for the absence of witch-hunts in Russia is that belief in magic was so widespread that people in all classes of society knew and used a few spells themselves. And the Orthodox Church has always had an uneasy relationship to magic, with some clergy dead against it and many others much more ambiguous, with respect for ‘white’ or sympathetic magic still very common amongst believers, and ‘black’ or malefic magic much feared still.


On occasion however there have been attempts by the State to suppress magic. For example, in Soviet days, you could be sent to the gulag for practising traditional magic or the newer occult practices. These days, the Russian government attempts sporadically to regulate both traditional and ‘newer’ magic, but does not try to ban it. After all, millions of Russians use magical services frequently, with the booming ‘occult industry’ estimated as being worth at least 30 billion dollars. One lawmaker complained recently that the ‘pro-occult lobby’ was so powerful that it was very difficult to get any laws on the matter passed at all!

But while the Soviets might have banned traditional magic and New Age style practices, they were very keen on psychic research, examining talents such as remote vision, telekinesis and telepathy. The work of people like Semyon Kirlian, who invented Kirlian photography popular now with aura-readers, led to new semi-magical tools to be used, and psychics like Nina Kulagina were feted by the intelligence services for their abilities–in Kulagina’s case, she was shown as being able to not only being able to move objects about by sheer mind power(telekinesis) but apparently stopping, and starting, a frog’s heart! (You can see this on You Tube!)


Today, that research into psychic matters continues, with Russian researchers studying such things as whether psychic abilities are encoded in DNA, as well as how to develop workable ‘psychotronic’ weapons. These would supposedly use laser, sound or microwaves or even simple electrical impulses to send ‘messages’ directly into people’s minds. Though the Parliament banned the use of ‘psychotronic’ weapons a few years ago, in  recent times the Russian Defence Minister has hinted that research into them is ongoing–but in Russia, it is wise not to take such things at face value!



Meanwhile, traditional magic continues to flourish, as well as more 'New Age' practices. The number of practitioners in the various branches of the occult today has been estimated as high as 100,000 people–more than the total number of doctors, making the practice of magic more popular than that of medicine!

All kinds of new beliefs have sprung up, such as stories of the listless legions of ‘energy vampires’ who suck vitality and initiative out of you(cure involves not only traditional garlic, but a good shower–a rather contradictory cure!). These new pests join traditional Russian supernatural beings such as rusalki and vodyanoi(murderous water-spirits), domovoi(capricious house spirits) and leshii(dangerous forest spirits) in the teeming world of the magical imagination. Meanwhile, the ‘guessers’ and soothsayers of the past have morphed into ekstrasens (literally 'extra-sensers' or psychics), astrologers, aura-readers, Tarot-readers and numerologists. Witches and wizards of the ‘white’ sort advertize openly in the daily columns of newspapers and take part in TV shows, while ‘the dark side’ is also reputed to be very active, though much more secretive, producing curses and jinxes for their customers. And ekstrasens and kolduns and the others are regularly consulted by all classes of society, from housewives to businessmen, TV producers to politicians, students to farmers, men and women, young and old, rich and poor. In a country like Russia, where huge historical forces have swept and continue to sweep people into enormous turmoil over the centuries, it's not a question of anything might happen—everything already has happened, and people are prepared to use whatever protection they can, magical or otherwise.

So you can see why I thought it was the perfect setting!

Sophie has a great giveaway going on for "Trinity". Click the Goodreads picture for your chance to enter...
https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/117516-the-koldun-code

 About the author...

Born in Indonesia of French parents, and brought up in Australia and France, Sophie Masson is the award-winning author of more than 60 novels for readers of all ages, published in Australia and many other countries. Her adult novels include the popular historical fantasy trilogy, Forest of Dreams (Random House Australia). Sophie has always had a great interest in Russian myth and history, an interest reflected in several of her books for younger readers. Her new adult novel, Trinity: Koldun Code (Momentum), is the first in an exciting urban fantasy series set in modern Russia.




Author website: ww.sophiemasson.org
 Buy it here







Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Half Blood: Prologue



  LAUREN DAWES

 

HALF BLOOD


A Helheim wolf pack tale


Copyright © 2012 by Lauren Dawes
First Edition, 2012

Printed by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

The right of Lauren Dawes to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her under the Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000

ISBN: 978-1-48103-554-5

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Cover image © 2012 Dreamstime stock images.
Wolf © 2013 by ITSDura: itsdura.deviantart.com
Cover design by Lauren Dawes


Prologue

James Vincent’s earliest memory of his mother was ripply, distorted—like looking through warped glass. He could see her standing above him, looking at him—not with love in her eyes like a mother should—but rather with malice. Her viperous anger towards him was as palpable as the hand on his chest holding his small body down. His arms and legs were flailing around aimlessly, looking for purchase, but finding none. 

He was suddenly able to breathe again. When the water cleared from his eyes, he found his father’s arms wrapped around his mother’s torso, holding her back. They were screaming at each other, but he couldn’t make out the words. His father’s strong arms were suddenly around him, lifting him out of the cold water and holding him close to his warm chest. 

He was sat on the bed with blankets around him, watching his father pack a big suitcase for himself and a small one for James filled with his toys. James didn’t understand what was happening at the time, but he understood his mother’s look of smug triumph when his father carried him out the door that same night. 

When James was ten, his father died in a car accident leaving him no choice but to go back to his mother. By that time though, his mother was no longer the secretary for a failing tire store, but a hooker turning tricks to make ends meet. 

The shame of selling her body broke his mother. Her desperation to cleanse her soul and her body came in the form of a whiskey bottle. After she doused the fire of regret from her body, she took to beating James; cracking multiple ribs at a time, opening up new cuts that spilled crimson tears down his cheeks, or breaking his fingers during her many alcohol-fuelled rages. 

When James was twelve, his mother dragged him to the seediest bar in the next town over to sell her body to anyone willing. She’d brought James along with her because he’d started running away from her whenever she left the house. The evening was slow. She’d only managed a few blow jobs in the bathroom, but she had earned enough cash for a cheap bottle of whiskey. When she’d finished that bottle, she needed another. Desperation drove her to sell James to a childless waiter for another hit.

A few days later, the police found James wandering the streets, looking through garbage bins for scraps of food. He was returned to his mother, not telling them the real reason he was out on the streets. His mother punished him for “running away” from her in the only way that she knew. This was the first time that she sexually abused him; tying him to the bed, forcing him into arousal then telling him he was a disgusting boy for enjoying it. 

For years, the vicious cycle was perpetuated by liquor and self-loathing until he was old enough to fight her off and defend himself. At the age of seventeen, James came home to find his mother passed out on the couch in front of the TV with a pool of vomit on the floor next to her. She’d spent the entire day drinking again. He went to his bedroom wishing he could have unseen what he’d seen, but he couldn’t. There was always that pull to still help her when she drank herself into a stupor.

When he went back through to the kitchen, he heard gagging coming from the living room. He stood in the doorway and watched his mother choke on her own vomit; her eyes bulging and desperate—her air supply running out quickly. The low, desperate noises she was making down in the back of her throat called to him. Against everything that roared through his body to just leave her there, he stepped into the room. Her wide eyes darted to him, begging him to help her. James felt himself being torn in two; like the very fabric he’d been cut from was ripping in half violently. With a shudder, he refocused on his mother. He took a step forward; one part of him wanting to help her—she was his mother after all. But then there was another part of him—this darker, hidden part that wanted her to suffer every cruelty she had ever inflicted on him. 

His mother died on their sofa, surrounded in cooling vomit––her son watching on with a cruel smile twisted on his lips....