Snippet Saturday – Dark Goddess

Previously Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5, Part 6

“I’m a vampire.”

She laughed.  The laugh was as weak as she felt.

“I need to sit.”  She stumbled back and sat hard on the toilet.  “Vampires don’t exist.  It’s not real.  There are people who… What are you doing?”

Gabriel had her hand in his and was peeling a bandage away.  “The modern world is so strange.”  His pale fingers rubbed at one of the scrapes, drawing blood from it.  “You are religious and believe in miracles, or you say you do, but you have ceased to truly believe in anything else.”

“I believe in the devil.”

He snorted.  “Not really.  Even I don’t believe in the Catholic Satan anymore.  I’ve seen too much evil without him, but never him.”  He raised Kali’s arm and fastened his mouth around the bleeding wound.

She shrieked and pulled her arm from him. “What the hell are you…. Holy shit.”

The scrape had healed over leaving smooth, unblemished skin behind.

Gabriel smiled at her.  On anyone else, it would have been a smug smile.  On him, it was beatific.  “One of the gifts of the goddess.”

“Oh my God.”  She reached with a shaking hand to his mouth and scraped her finger on his pointy-sharp incisor.

It retracted under her touch.

“It moved.”

“They do that.”  He opened his mouth.  His eye-teeth extended almost to his lower lip.  “Easier to eat when they’re long,” he lisped.  “Not so easy to talk.”

A gunshot went off downstairs.

“What was that?”  She leapt to her feet and rushed past Gabriel, the pain in her head and knee forgotten.

“Tell me where she is!” she heard as she opened the door.

Garrison.

Gabriel was behind her.  “He found you.  We have to go.”  He took her by the wrist.  “Come on.”

“Wait!” She struggled against him as he dragged her away from the door.

The gun went off again.  People screamed.

Both Gabriel and Kali froze.

Feet pounded on the stairs.

“He’s coming.”  She broke away from Gabriel and slammed the door.  “Help me move the desk!”  She ran over to it and pulled.

It didn’t budge.

“There’s no time.”  Gabriel pulled her away and swept her into his arms.  Then, he leapt out the window.

Kali screamed as glass shattered around them.  Shards sliced into her face.  She pressed he face against Gabriel’s neck.

They hit the ground with a jarring thud.  Gabriel set her on her feet.  “Come on.  My car is close.”  

The ground was hard against her socked feet.  She took a few stumbling steps, but her legs protested.  She fell.

“Gabriel!” Garrison shouted.

She looked up.  He was leaning out the open window, shotgun in his hand.

“You can’t save her!  Give her up now.”

“I won’t let you take her again, Father Pike!” Gabriel picked Kali up again and ran.

“Where are we going?” she gasped.

“The parking structure!”  He rounded a corner and pointed.  Even running and carrying her, he didn’t sound winded.

“Here.”  He stopped in front of the parking structure, looking up.  “I’m on the fourth level.”

“Stairs.”  She pointed to the end of the building.

He looked at her and smiled.  “I don’t need stairs.  Hold on.”

“What?”

He put her down and turned to present his back.  “Hold on.”  He took her hands and wrapped them around his neck.  Then he leapt halfway up the side of the building.

“God!” Kali squeaked.

He was gripping the concrete with his nails as he climbed up the sides like he was a cat.  They scrambled to an opening on the fourth level, where Gabriel heaved himself over the ledge and planted his feet on solid ground once more.

Kali let go of him and took a few shaky steps away.  “How did you do that?”  Her legs threatened to give out.  She leaned against a car and took a few deep breaths.

“I’m a vampire.  We can do that.”

Of course.  He could heal cuts, he had retracting teeth, why couldn’t he climb up walls?  “How did Garrison find me?”

“He used magic.  Probably a tracing spell using your blood.”

“My blood?”

He nodded.  “I just don’t understand how he got past your guards.  He broke through all the protections we had around you, which should have been impossible.  But…”

“What guards?”

“You’re our queen,” he said, looking at her with simple and complete adoration.  “Our creator.  Our goddess.  Even though you’re human, we do what we can to protect you.”

She snorted and thought of the myriad of foster homes and relatives’ houses she’d been in and out of her whole life.  She thought of hungry nights and days, and the times when she was too cold or too hot or too tired because the adults around her couldn’t take care of her properly.  Thought of the abuse and the fear and the all too few moments of peace.

“Yeah, well, you’ve done a bang-up job.”

His face reflected guilt and anxiety.  With a hesitance that made her want to cry, he stepped forward and took her hand.  “I’m sorry,” he whispered.  His hand was so cold.  “I always thought we should do more but was voted down.  I have a history of making a mess of things.  Morgan thought it best we allow you to live a normal life without us interfering.”  He kissed the palm of her hand, eyes falling shut.  “We kept our kind from hurting you, kept Garrison from taking you.  We tried to protect you, but obviously something happened.”  He opened his eyes again.  “Forgive us?”

“Gabriel, I don’t know anything about you.  I don’t know if I can even trust you.  Aren’t vampires evil?”

He never got to answer.  Just as he opened his mouth to speak, a van tore around the corner.

“Run!” He shoved her away from him.

Kali flew across the structure.  She landed hard on the concrete floor.

“Take my car!” Gabriel threw the keys at her.

The van rammed him.  Tires squealed.  Gabriel was plowed into another car with the horrific sound of crunching metal.

“Oh no.  No, no, no.”

Smoke rose from the van’s hood.  Everything was silent.  Gabriel lay still, trapped between the cars, skin completely white.

            hen, the van door opened.  Garrison climbed out.

Kali moved.  She scrambled for the keys that had landed inches from her.  Hit the alarm the moment she had them.

A blue BMW down the row started wailing.

She ran to it.

She never saw Garrison move.  One minute, she was running, the next, she was on the ground, black dots flying at her face.

“Stay.” Garrison bent down and took the keys from her numb fingers.

“Garrison,” Gabriel moaned.  Metal screeched against metal.  He groaned.

“Gabriel, don’t move.”  Garrison sounded almost… fond.  “You can’t save her.  You will only cause yourself pain if you try.  Let her go.”

“No.”

Kali struggled to sit up.  Her head pounded.  Holy God in heaven, she probably had the worst concussion by now.  She’d be lucky if she survived without brain damage.

Garrison went to Gabriel.  There was a crowbar in one hand, gun in the other.

Gabriel pushed the van off him and stumbled forward.  There was a determined look on his too-young face.  His eyes were impossibly blue against his marble white skin.

“Gabriel…”

“No!  Don’t you understand?  She’s returned, just like she said she would.  Just as she promised.  Kali is stronger than you and the church and…”

Garrison fired.  The gunshot echoed loudly in the cavernous structure.

Kali screamed.

Gabriel took a step back.

“I won’t…” he said through clenched teeth.

Garrison fired again and again until the gun clicked, out of bullets.  Gabriel fell to his knees, still conscious.  His chest rose and fell with a strange sucking sound.  Blood bubbled at his lips.

“Please,” he exhaled.  More blood trickled from his mouth when he spoke.

Garrison dropped the empty clip on the ground.  He knelt in front of Gabriel and touched his cheek.  “I’m sorry, my son.  If not for her, you might have been saved.  But she never gave your soul a chance.”

“Don’t.”

Garrison stood.  He swung the crowbar at Gabriel’s face.

Kali’s hand flew to her eyes.  She couldn’t watch.  But she had to.  She opened her fingers and peeked through them.

Gabriel was unconscious.  His chest wasn’t moving anymore.  Even the blood had stopped flowing.

Garrison hit him again.

Gabriel’s beautiful nose broke, marring his perfect face.

“Stop it!”  Kali leapt to her feet and stumbled to Garrison.  “Stop it!”  She grabbed his arm and yanked Garrison away from the man who would have been her savior.  “He’s dead!  Leave him alone!”

Garrison rounded on her, face a mask of fury.  “That boy has survived hundreds of years past his time because I cannot bring myself to kill him.  And even now…” He stopped abruptly and gave a sharp shake of his head.  Grabbing Kali by the arm, he pulled her to Gabriel’s car.  “Come.  We need to go.”

“No!”  She fought him, kicking and clawing, trying to get away.

“Kali…”  His grip loosened.

“Let me go!”

“Damn it!”  He grabbed her arm and swung her.

Kali tried to brace herself, to stop her movement, but she had no control.  The last thing she saw before blackness took her was the back of Garrison’s van rushing towards her.

Snippet Saturday

Hey everyone, I’m back! My shoulder is still a little sore, but it’s out of the sling and doing much better. Even though I’ve got a million and a half things to do plus NaNoWriMo, I should be back to my usual posting schedule. Yay!

I’m here today to bring you another bit of my novel, Dark Goddess.

Previously Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, Part 5

For hours or seconds, she ran.  Her feet led her away, away from the freeway.  Away from Garrison.  Away from death.

She didn’t know what she ran towards.  Home.  Safety.  The police, if she were lucky enough to stumble across a station.  She was lost in a city she didn’t know.  Away was all she had.

So, she ran.  Ran as her lungs burned.  Ran as her legs ached, then screamed, then turned to jelly.  Ran until sweat obscured her vision and she couldn’t catch her breath and her legs refused to move.

Then, she fell.

She pushed herself up to all fours.  Stayed there, panting for air.  A breeze wafted over her, making her shiver.  Sweat ran down her face, under her shirt, between her breasts.  It plastered her hair to her neck and face.  Irritated, she sat back on her feet and pulled her hair into a ponytail, trying to get some air against her skin.

“Hey.  You okay?”

She jumped to her feet, ready to run.

A man stood a few feet away from her.  He had a cigarette in hand and was leaning against the outside of a bar.  When she looked at him, his eyes went wide.

“What happened to you?” He dropped the cigarette and came to her, reaching out a hand

She flinched away.  “I was kidnapped.  He tied me up.  I… I jumped out of his car.  I’m hurt, I… I need the police.  Please.”  Tears spilled out of her eyes.

“Yeah, of course.”  He reached for her again but put his hands up at his chest when she flinched again.  “Sorry.  Come on in.  You’ll be safe here.  We’ll call the police.”  He moved backwards to the building and opened the door.  “I’m Adam.  I own the bar.  What’s your name?”

“Kali.”  Her teeth chattered as she began to shiver.  “Kali Johnson.”

“Come in, Kali.  I promise, you’ll be fine.”

She nodded and followed him inside.  She was too young and too young-looking to have any experience with bars, but this one seemed decent.  It was dimly lit, but clean.  There were two rooms she could see, the main one she was in and one in the back with a pool table, juke box, and a dart board.  The main room had what looked to be a dance floor off to one side, some scattered tables, and a long wooden bar with stools.

It wasn’t crowded.  There were maybe about twenty people inside milling about.  A man stood directly across from the front door, leaning against the partition that separated the two rooms.  He was blond and very pale.  His eyes were half closed, but even from across the room, Kali could see the glint of blue underneath long golden lashes.She stopped moving and looked at him.  She knew him.  Somehow, she’d seen him before.  Not just seen him.  She knew him.

He opened his eyes.  Shock washed over his face when he saw her.

“Hey, Joe, call the cops!” Adam said.  “This girl needs help.”  He touched Kali’s arm with the back of his hand.  “My office is upstairs.  This way.”

She tore her gaze from the blond man and followed Adam.  She could still feel his eyes on her.

“Oh, fuck,” she swore as she took the first two stairs.  In the short time since she’d stopped running, her muscles had turned to stone.  It hurt to even breathe.

“You okay?”  He took her by the elbow.

“Fine.  Just sore,” she gritted out, teeth clenched.  She took another step; it was somewhat easier than the last.

It took forever, but they finally made it to the top of the stairs.  Adam opened the door to the office and led her inside. 

“Is there a bathroom?” she asked.  Her stomach twisted, head pounded.

“Yeah.  Right through that door.”

Kali rushed to it.  She barely made it before she threw up.  Her head exploded into hot-white pain.  Tears flooded her eyes.

She heaved again.  One of her hands held her hair in a bunch from her face, the other gripped the side of the toilet.  She felt like she was going to die.

“You okay?”  She heard tentative steps on the tiled floor.  Then, the man’s thumbs brushed against her neck as he held her hair back for her, managing to get every curl in the bunch.

Kali sat back on her heels.  She squeezed her eyes shut until she’d flushed the toilet.  “Yeah,” she said after a moment.  She wiped her hand over her sweat-slicked face.  “Everything hurts.”

“It looks like everything hurts.”  He helped her stand.  “He really did a number on you.”

“Yeah well, I didn’t go with him easily.”  She rubbed her eyes.  “Can I be alone?”

“Sure.  I’ll wait for the cops downstairs.  And maybe see if there’s anything to help settle your stomach.”

“Thank you.  I really appreciate it.”

“It’s no problem.”  He turned and left, closing the door behind him.

Her hands trembled as she turned on the faucet and stuck her hands under the water.  She washed her hands and face, turning the water red with her blood.  Her arms were scraped from where she fell, pieces of dirt and asphalt ground in.  Her legs were the same, the right knee of her pants torn open exposing the skin beneath.       

She looked around for a medicine cabinet and finally found some bandages and alcohol under the sink.  She cleaned off the scrapes on her arms before bandaging the worst.  Then, she sat on the closed toilet, toed off her shoes and pulled off her pants.  Her legs were a mess.  Her ankle and knee had sickly, purple-green bruises around them.  Angry red scrapes hid behind ground-in dirt and pieces of glass.

She gritted her teeth and began working on cleaning them.

Someone knocked on the bathroom door.

She swallowed back a startled scream.  “Hang on!” She pulled her pants back on.  They felt stiff and dirty and rubbed against her injuries uncomfortably.

There was another knock.  Harder this time.

“I’m coming.  Give me a second.”  She limped to the sink and rinsed out her mouth.  When she opened the door, she expected to see the police or Adam on the other side.

It was the blond man from downstairs.

“Um, hi,” she said warily.

His eyes lit up.  He looked over her slowly, delight on his face.  “It is you,” he whispered.  “I thought… I knew it had to be.  I felt you when you walked in, all over.  I just… I came back to life, like it used to be.  And I saw you, and… I knew you looked exactly the same. I’ve seen you, pictures at least, but, my God.  It’s a miracle.

She stepped back and tightened her grip on the door.  “Who are you?”

“I am Gabriel, my lady.”  He bowed.  When he lifted his head again, the force of his gaze made her heart stutter.

Gabriel.  She’d gone to school with a kid named Gabriel when she was seven.  But he’d been from Mexico.  And there’d been a Gabe in one of the group homes, but he’d had bright red hair and a face full of freckles.

“You’re the senator’s slave,” whispered a memory.  “Gabriel.”

She shook her head.  “Do you work here?”

“No.  I don’t.”

“Then you should probably be downstairs.  This is a private office.”  She licked her lips nervously.  “Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but I want to be alone.  You need to leave.”

He looked over her, a crease wrinkling the skin between his eyes.  “I can’t leave you, Kali.  You’ll be safe with me.   But we need to go.”

Goosebumps broke out over her skin.  “I’m not going anywhere with you.  Go away.”  She stepped back and tried to slam the door.

He caught it.  Wood splintered under his grip.  “Humans can’t protect you, my lady,” he said urgently.  “Garrison won’t stop until you’re dead.”

“Garrison?  You know Garrison?  How?”

Gabriel seemed at a loss for words.  “He was… He was my teacher, my lady.  Father Pike.  Don’t you… Do you remember me?”

The senator’s slave.  Gabriel.  Gabriel.  My Gabriel.

“I just met you!” she cried.  When he wouldn’t let go of the door, she kicked him.

Her toes cracked against the hard bone of his shin.  Kali gasped and swore under her breath.

He dropped to his knees in front of her.  “I mean you no harm, Lady Kali, I swear.”  He looked up at her through his lashes and tentatively took her hands in his.  “I could never hurt you.  You are my creator.”  He rested his forehead against the back of her hands.

Her stomach dropped.  He had to be working with Garrison.  They had to be playing with her, screwing with her head.

She pulled her hands away.  “I’ve never created anyone in my life.  So just… just go downstairs and leave before the police come.  Got it?”

He stayed where he was but lifted his head.  With that simple movement, her perception suddenly changed.  For a brief instant, Gabriel’s image was replaced by another.  No.  No, it was still him, only… different.  Different clothes, different expressions, different… just different.

“I,” she found herself saying.  “Maybe I… You are familiar.”

“You knew me once.  Before Garrison killed you.  The first time, I mean.”  He stood, keeping one of her hands in his.  “If we stay, he’ll kill you again.”

“Because he thinks I’m a vampire.”

“Because he knows you used to be a vampire.”

She shook her head.  “How do you know this?”

“I know you, Kali.  I’ve known you since I was fifteen-years-old, a slave to a powerful Roman senator.  You rescued me from him and took me in.  When I grew ill, you cared for me.  When I was dying, you made me yours forever.”

She put her hand to her head.  “This is insane,” she said.  “I couldn’t have… You can’t mean…”

“I’m a vampire.”

Snippet Saturday – Dark Goddess

Previously: Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4

She stopped.  “Goddess?”

“That’s what you called yourself.”

“You’re crazy.”

“Do you ever dream, Kali?”

This guy was nuts.  “Doesn’t everyone?”

He inclined his head as if in acknowledgement.  “Your dreams should be more intricate.  More real.  They should be so real that they feel less like dreams and more like memories.  They are, in fact.  Memories of your past life.”

She let out a short, barking laugh.  “You mean when I was Cleopatra, right?  I remember that, sure.”

“You were much greater than a mere queen, Kali.  You were a goddess.  You should have memories.  You told me you saved them.  Your people, your rituals.  Things you did.  Places you’ve seen.  Being worshiped by hundreds like you.”

His voice was soft.  Seductive.  Her head spun, and her eyes grew heavy.

“You were thousands of years old.  As old as civilization itself.  And you drew people, young and old.  The strong and the weak, all of them were drawn to you.  To your power, your beauty.”

Her vision darkened. The miles of cars stretched out before them were suddenly replaced by a circle of people, all bowing, their pale skin glowing, reflecting the fire they were gathered around.  She stood above them on a platform, wearing a long heavy dress.  When she raised her hands, the people raised their faces, showing their fangs.

She blinked the image from her eyes.  Rubbed them against her hands, trying to clear it away.

“You must have dreams of yourself in the past,” Garrison was saying.  “Dreams of yourself in the desert.  In England. France.  Russia.  Persia.  You were so well traveled.”  The van picked up a little speed.  “But they’re not just dreams.  They’re memories of your past life.  You were a vampire.  The first.”

She tried to laugh, but it stuck in her throat.  Something tingled in the back of her mind.  Something like a half-buried memory or story she had forgotten.

“A vampire.”  It was crazy.  And yet…

Dreams she’d had rose in her mind’s eye.  She’d always had dreams, strange, vivid dreams where she was a queen or speaking to queens and famous people from history.  Dreams of strange ceremonies.  Of fields covered with dead, dirt stained with blood.  Of ripping out people’s throats with her teeth.  Tearing out their hearts with her hands.  Dreams of saving a beautiful slave from his Roman master.  Of pleading with a man in a garden to run away with her.  Dreams of pleasure and pain, dreams that filled her journals and kept her friends enthralled with the retelling.  Friends enthralled and psychologists worried.   For her, they were normal, part of every night’s less than restful sleep.

Then, she remembered one dream with startling clarity: Garrison.  Garrison, his pale, thin face rising over the backwards collar of a priest.  Garrison, standing in front of a church.  Him handing her a communion wafer.  Blessing her as she drank from the communion goblet.  His eyes burning fire as they gazed into hers.

That dream was chased away by the other dream.  The horrible dream.  The one she could never recall clearly, but there he was.  He was in it.  He stood over her, holding a knife, tears and blood streaking his face as he glared at her.  

Kali gasped, pain erupting all over her body.  It wasn’t the pain from where he’d hit her, but the other pain.  The phantom pain that had plagued her all her life.  Pains in the palms of her hands, her ankles, her stomach and shoulders.

Her heart.

Kali doubled over.  Her hands clenched her keychain, squeezing as she rode out the pain.

“I had to kill you,” Garrison said in a low, almost desperate, voice.  “I had to.  Your mind forgot and your body is new, but your soul remembers.”

Kill her.  He was going to kill her.

Kali forced her eyes open.  She’d managed to make a tiny tear in the duct tape with her keychain.  She grabbed at it with her teeth.  Tugged.

The tape came apart, ripping under the pressure.  She yanked her wrists apart and stabbed at the tape on her ankles with her keychain.  Broke it and pulled it off.

“Well, you’re not going to kill me this time.”

Garrison whirled, looking over his shoulder. “Kali, no!”  He reached out, grabbing for her.

The van smashed into the car in front of them.  She was thrown forwards and then backwards again.  The airbag hit Garrison in the face.

Shaking the dizziness off, Kali grabbed the handle of the door and pulled it open.  She tumbled out of the van onto the asphalt, elbows skidding over it, skin tearing off.

“What the hell, lady!” someone shouted.  A car honked.  Tires rolled frighteningly close to her head.

Garrison coughed behind her.  Wheezed out, “Kali!”

She jumped to her feet and ran.  Every car on the freeway seemed to erupt in a storm of horns.  People stuck their heads out of their windows.  They shouted at her.  Waved fingers. 

She kept running.

Garrison shouted again behind her.  She didn’t look back.  Instead, she found an opening in the traffic and darted into the lane.

A car slammed on its brakes.  It stopped so close to her, Kali could feel the heat from its engine through her clothes.  She stumbled and fell against it bracing her hands on its too-hot-hood.

“Christ, you okay?” the driver shouted.

Kali shook her head and pushed herself up.  She finished crossing the lane and began to run along the shoulder.  Her feet pounded the pavement. Her ankle throbbed in pain. Lungs burned. Ahead, cars lined up on the exit ramp. She ran alongside them until she hit the street.

Kali had no idea where she was.  Los Angeles wasn’t her city. She’d been there before, but never to this area.  She was completely lost, bleeding, scared, and alone.

She kept running.

Snippet Saturday: Dark Goddess

Previously: Part 1Part 2, Part 3

A garden drenched in moonlight.  There were flowers growing up columns, along the walkways, on the trees.  The air was heavy with the fragrance of thyme and mint and basil, but Kali could only smell the memory of them.  It was distant and half-remembered.

A rustle came from the nearby bushes.  She smiled.

“You can come out,” she said without looking at the bush.  “I know you are there.”

This time, the rustle was louder.  More violent as the boy extracted himself from the foliage.

He knelt before Kali, his golden head bowed.  “I didn’t mean to disturb you,” he said, voice little more than a whisper.

She reached for him.  Lifted his chin so she could gaze into his bright blue eyes.  “You’re the senator’s slave.  Gabriel.”

He nodded.

“Why are you here?”

His cheeks flushed an appealing shade of red.  Golden eyelashes lowered.  “I wanted to see you again.  My master had no need of me, and I…”  His blush deepened.

She cupped his cheek and leaned closer.

A jolt sent her tumbling from the bench.  Her head pounded, a sharp pain shooting through it.  The left side of her face burned, dagger digging into her brain.  Her stomach did a somersault.

The boy opened his mouth.  He let out a loud honk, like a goose.  It blared once.  Twice.  Longer and longer and…

Kali opened her eyes, the dream fading away.  She was stretched out on a scratchy carpet, miles of beige filling her vision.  Her eyes were heavy and blurry, lashes sticky, like she’d been crying.  Her mouth tasted rancid.  Her head was a hot mass of pain.

“God,” she whispered, trying to remember where she was.  She couldn’t focus through the pain, but she knew something bad had happened.  Something…

“A crash on the northbound 5 is slowing up traffic,” a voice said.

She lifted her head, biting her tongue when the world swam around her.  After closing her eyes and counting to ten, she pushed herself up to sitting.

“What?” she gasped when she raised her hand to her face.  Her wrists were bound together with duct tape.  Her ankles were taped together, too.

“There’s also some debris on the road slowing up the interchange to the 101.”

“Wonderful,” a new voice muttered.  “Of course there’s traffic.  Why wouldn’t there be?  I’m only racing the damn sun.”

That wasn’t the radio.

Kali tried to look over her shoulder but couldn’t get a good view.  She had to maneuver herself around, rolling to see the driver.

Brown hair.  Goatee.  Black clothing.

Movie.  Man.  Kidnapped.

“There was a shooting today at a shopping center in the city of Orange,” the radio said.

He’d threatened her with a gun.  Shot the guard.  And then… then things got fuzzy.

“Police say the witnesses on the scene were unable to give a clear account to exactly what occurred.   Some are speculating drugs may have been involved.  Several people have been treated for injuries and released from the hospital.  Investigation is still ongoing.”

“Why can’t they remember?” Kali asked.

The driver glanced at her.  “You’re awake.”

Kali nodded, her stomach roiling at the movement.  She leaned against the passenger seat in front of her, panting.  She glanced out the front windshield.

“Look out!” she shouted, seeing the car in front of them had stopped.

He turned and slammed on the brakes.  The van jerked to a stop, throwing Kali against the seat.  She hadn’t thought she could be in more pain, and yet…

She groaned.  Saliva flooded her mouth.

“You all right?” he asked

“I’m going to throw up,” she croaked.

“There’s a bag next to you,” he said.  Eyes still on the road, he reached back and fumbled for it.

She was barely able to yank it open before she threw up.  Half-digested popcorn and soda mixed with stomach acid landed in the black plastic bag.  Some dribbled down her chin.

The van lurched forward.  She vomited again, not making it all into the bag this time.  It splashed onto her pants, causing her to heave again.  She hacked and spat into the bag before finally pulling away.

“Done?”

“Yeah.”

He reached back and twisted the bag closed.  “If you feel sick, there are more bags back there.”

“You planning on putting my body parts in them?” she asked.

“Here.”  He handed back a bottle of water, the cap already twisted off.

Water spilled out of the top as she lifted it to her mouth, spilling down her chin and shirt.  The water washed the worst of the taste away and helped clear her head.

“Who are you?” she asked before taking another sip.

“Garrison Pike.”

The name wasn’t familiar.  “Why did you kidnap me?”

He didn’t say anything.

            If you’re looking for ransom, you have the wrong girl.  My mom’s been gone since I was a kid, so that’s a dead end.  All her relatives are dead broke.  I haven’t any clue who my dad is, so there’s no money there.  So, um…”  Belatedly, she realized that maybe telling a kidnapper she was worthless might not be the best strategy.  The chances he’d keep her alive might be lessened by prematurely devaluing herself.

He shook his head, a smile playing over his mouth.  “I’m not after a ransom.”

So, he was either a killer or a rapist.  Or both.  “So, what?  You going to, um.  Rape me?” Not that she wanted to give him ideas.

“I’m not going to rape you, Kali.” He met her eyes in the mirror, expression soft, almost like he was trying to reassure her.

Except, he knew her name.  This wasn’t a random snatching.  And… “Are you going to kill me?” she whispered.

He looked away from her.  “Yes.”

“Why?”  Escape.  She needed to escape.  Get out of the tape.  Get out of the van.  Run.

She tried to twist her wrists, but the tape held them too tightly.  She cast her gaze about on the floor, looking to see if there was anything she could use to cut through.

A shiver of realization went through her.  Her keys.  She could feel them in her pocket, pressing against her hip.  She had a keychain. A phoenix, with a long sharp beak and metal wings.

The beak and wings that might be strong enough to cut through the tape.

She shifted so her legs were in front of her.  The world outside was bathed in the orangey glow of sunset that reflected off the cars around them, all stuck traffic and hardly moving.  If she could cut through the tape, she might be able to run through the cars and get to an exit.  Traffic was slow enough.  She’d be able to avoid getting hit.

Garrison was still looking at the road.  Slowly, so as not to draw attention to herself, she moved her hands to her right pocket.

“You wouldn’t believe me,” he said.

She froze.  “I wouldn’t… wouldn’t believe why you’re trying to kill me?” 

He shook his head.

“You’d be amazed what a concussed girl will believe.”

“You wouldn’t be concussed had you done as I’d asked in the first place.”

Unbelievable.  “Sorry if I messed up your kidnapping plans.  I’m not exactly used to being a helpless victim.”

“No,” he murmured.  “You never have been.”

She bit her lip and winced as she tasted blood.  Sucking on her bottom lip, she started trying to maneuver her body so she could reach into her pocket.  A glance out the window showed her that traffic was still creeping along quietly.  They were one lane over from the slow lane.  One lane from freedom.  All she had to do was jump out of the van, avoid one lane of cars, and get to an exit.

And then… And then it didn’t matter.  She would be gone, swallowed into the crowd of the city before Garrison could make his way over.  She could get to the police, let them hide her. 

The image of Garrison calmly shooting the security guard flashed through her mind.  Kali shuddered.  He had killed so easily.  Garrison hadn’t even paused before he’d shot him.  Would he do any differently with the police?

But the guard had been only one person.  Plus, Garrison had known exactly where to find her.  If Kali ran away, he wouldn’t know where she’d gone, not once she was out of his sight.  Even if he did find her, there was no way Garrison would take on an entire police station.

He stepped on the gas.  The van rolled forward over a bump.  Kali, who was on her knees, leaning backward, toppled to the floor. Her keys slid out of her pocket with a loud clunk.

“What was that?” Garrison demanded.  He looked back.

She forced herself to stay calm.  “Just me. Trying to get comfortable.”  She slid her legs around in front of her. Groaned as she did a sit up to get back upright. Time start working out, she guessed.

“What are you doing?” He glanced back at her suspiciously.

“Nothing. Just… it’s hard to find a good way to sit.  You never answered me.  Why do you want to kill me?”

He looked at her a moment longer, eyes narrowed.  Kali did her best to look innocent.

Finally, he turned away.

“I’m not special,” she said, fishing around for the keys. Her hand closed around them. She scooted back, pulling her knees to her chest, shielding her hand.  “Is it a race thing?  You want to kill me because I’m not white?”  She’d faced her share of racism.  Her mother was white.  Her father was a man that Mom had met at a party, slept with, and left without getting his name, much less country of origin.  When pressed, she’d said, “I don’t know.  Indian or Mexican or Chinese or something,” which was absolutely no help. 

Garrison shook his head.  “It has nothing to do with your whore of a mother or bastard of a father.  Nothing to do with your race.  In fact, is has nothing to do with you in this life at all.”

This life?  “What?”

He looked at her in the mirror.  “Do you really not remember, or are you just being coy?”

“Remember what?”  Her wrists ached from twisting them around so she could slide the beak of her phoenix under the tape. 

“Who you were,” he said.  “Who you are.”

“I’m Kali Johnson.  I’m just… I mean, that’s all.”

“You’re more important than that. At least, to some you are.  Or, rather, you were and will be again if I don’t stop you.”

“By killing me?”  She got the beak under the tape.  Tried to lift it through.  “What are you stopping me from doing?”

“Dying and being reborn as the so-called goddess you once were.”

Thoughts? Critiques? Comments? Drop them below and let’s chat!

Snippet Saturday – Dark Goddess

Previously, on Dark Goddess:

Part 1, Part 2

Hands reached out, touched her.  Grabbed at her arms, at her clothes.  Her panic made thinking impossible, and every hand belonged to her captor.  She jerked away from them.

A body planted itself in front of her, white and blue, hands out, blocking.  She saw its mouth moving, heard words but didn’t understand them.

She tried to sidestep, but tripped.  She fell, landing on her elbow.

The body knelt in front of her.  “Miss, calm down,” it said.  “You’re fine.  You’re safe.”

The security guard.  He was there, kneeling, looking at her through concerned eyes.

Kali pushed herself up.  “A man tried to kidnap me.  He had a gun.  At the movie.”

“Is he still here?”

“I don’t know.  I ran away.”  She swiped at her chin, her hand coming away streaked with blood. 

“He hurt you?”

“He twisted my arm.  Threw me on the ground.  He…” She broke off and inhaled.  Her lungs made an unfamiliar wheezing sound as she did.  The block in her throat made it impossible to get enough air.

“Have her put her head between her knees,” someone in the surrounding crowd said.

“No, she should lay down.  Put her feet up.”

“Anyone have a paper bag?”

“I have an inhaler!  Do you want to borrow it?”

The guard pressed the talk button on the walkie-talkie on his shoulder.  “Operator?”

“Operator here.”

“I have a fifteen-year-old…”

“Seventeen,” Kali corrected, still wheezing.

He raised an eyebrow, but said, “Seventeen-year-old female in respiratory distress.  She says she was forcibly taken at gunpoint from the movies.  Contact the police and call for an ambulance.”

“Ten-four.”

The guard placed his hand on her shoulder.  “Just close your eyes and try to relax.  Take deep breaths.  You’re going to be fine.”

Kali nodded.  Closed her eyes.  When she tried to breathe through her nose, she couldn’t get enough air.  At the end of each breath, she had to open her mouth and gasp.

“Miss, can you describe your assailant?  Hair color, clothing, and feat…”

He was cut off by a piercing scream.  Breaks squealed.  There was a loud crash. 

Kali turned.

A van barreled through the plaza.  It plowed benches and kiosks in its path, barely missing people as it bore down on Kali and the security guard.

Kali’s gaze was riveted on the man behind the wheel.  The cold grey eyes staring at her.  Determination in every line of his face as he glared at her. He didn’t look at the people who fled his path or the kiosks that dented and scratched his fender.  He didn’t notice the security guard next to her that had drawn his gun.  The man’s gaze was for Kali alone. 

“That’s him,” Kali whispered.  She stood.  The world around her moved in slow motion.  Screams dimmed.  Bodies faded.  The air went still.

Then, the guard planted himself in front of her.  “Stop!” His arms trembled as he took aim at the van racing toward them.

Tires screeched.  The van swerved to a stop.  The man climbed out, shotgun in hand.  He aimed at the guard.

“Get out of the way.”

“Put the gun down and get on the ground.”

Kali shook her head and covered her eyes.  She knew what would happen, and she didn’t want to see.

“I said, ‘get out of my way,’” her captor repeated.

Kali peeked through her fingers.

“Put it down!”

The man fired.

The sound echoed off the windows of the shops.  A silence fell, like all the air had been sucked off the earth.  Like time had frozen.

The guard collapsed.

Chaos.

Her captor was at her side before she dropped her hands from her eyes.  He took her wrist and pulled.  “No more fighting, Kali,” he said.

A cold, dark anger welled through her.  Fear fell away.  She tightened her jaw, tossed her hair back from her face, and met his eyes.  “Fuck you.” 

Too late, she saw the butt of the shotgun.  The world exploded in a red, hot light. 

Snippet Saturday – Dark Goddess

Here’s another 600 words of my novel, Dark Goddess. Previous part is here.

He was an older man, brown hair and goatee shot through with threads of silver.  Long brown eyelashes framed steely grey eyes.  He was taller than she, but everyone was.  He had no real distinguishing marks, no freckles or moles.  Except his neck.  There was a light splash of white scar tissue that showed over his collar when he turned his head, but she couldn’t be sure.  The shirt collar was blue, but all she could really see was the black trench coat he wore.

He was an older man, brown hair and goatee shot through with threads of silver.  Long brown eyelashes framed steely grey eyes.  He was taller than she, but everyone was.  He had no real distinguishing marks, no freckles or moles.  Except his neck.  There was a light splash of white scar tissue that showed over his collar when he turned his head, but she couldn’t be sure.  The shirt collar was blue, but all she could really see was the black trench coat he wore.

“Where are you taking me?” she asked.

He twisted her arm, not so it hurt, but as a warning.  “Don’t talk.”

A kid about nine or ten ran past, laughing, carrying a skateboard.  A couple of teenage girls came out of a shop, eyes intent on their cell phones. 

A security guard stood at the end of the row of shops.

Her breath must have caught, or she must have tensed, or maybe her captor just knew, because he twisted her arm again, harder this time. 

She let her eyes slide away from the guard.  Looked at the ground and held her breath as they walked past him.

Her captor turned the corner.  He began to walk faster as the parking lot came into view, forcing Kali to keep pace.

And then, they were in the parking lot, surrounded by cars, early afternoon heat rising off the black tar.  He moved even fast now, practically running, pushing her ahead of him until she was tripping over her feet. 

“Here.”  He stopped abruptly, wrenching her arm.

She let out a startled cry.

He released her arm.  Pushed her against a white van.  “Don’t move.”

She looked over her shoulder. 

He had the gun out of his coat now and was pointing it at her.  His other hand dug in his pocket.

“Where are you taking me?”

“Shut up.”  He tugged the keys at his pocket, but they didn’t come out.  The gun dipped.

Adrenaline surged through her as she saw her opening.  Her one chance now that his attention was divided.

She took a deep breath.  Dropped her right shoulder, letting the strap to her bag fall.  She caught it in her fist before it hit the ground.  Then, as he started to say something, she pivoted, swinging the bag.

She hit his arm, causing it to swing away from her.  The corner of a book must have hit something in his wrist, because he cried out and lost his grip on the gun.  It arced in the air, hit a car, then rattled to the ground.

Kali ran.

“Kali, stop!”

She ignored him, running as fast as she could.  Her arms pumped; her sneakers crunched on the asphalt.  Her heart pounded until she was sure it was going to burst, but she kept running.  Onto the sidewalk, back towards the shops.

He crashed into her from behind.  They fell, Kali belly flopping on the cement.  The air was forced from her lungs.  She jerked her head up to avoid hitting it, but her chin smashed on the sidewalk, and she bit her tongue.  Blood filled her mouth.

Her captor grabbed her wrists and hauled her back to her feet.  As soon as she was upright, Kali kicked at him.  She connected with his kneecap.

He shouted.  She kicked him again, harder, getting higher, twisting her wrists as she did. 

One hand popped free.  Kali turned, swinging, and caught his ear with the flat of her palm.

He lost his grip. She started running again.  The pink stucco of the theater walls disappeared into the tree-lined entrance of the shopping center.  Kali turned inside.  Startled faces of shoppers blurred together as she pushed through the crowd.  She darted around the bodies she could.  Shoved those she couldn’t.

“Help,” she screamed, or tried to.  It felt as if there were a block in her throat that ate the sound.  “Help me!”