Snippet Saturday

Part 1, Part 2

Sebastian followed Morgan’s human assistant, Anne, to Morgan’s study a mere ten minutes after he’d arrived. He’d honestly expected to be told to make an appointment and come back another time. One didn’t just drop in on the de-facto leader of the Faithful. Or, one wasn’t supposed to. Sebastian did when he needed to see her. She’d only turned him away a few times.

Sebastian was on uncertain terms with the Faithful. He’d been made by one over a hundred years ago and had followed their rules for many years. Honestly, he still did, for the most part. He didn’t kill humans when he fed, unless they were bad–murderers, rapists, pedophiles–or they really pissed him off.

But, the Faithful… They were just so sanctimonious. And boring. They were in a sort of perpetual mourning state for their creator who’d been killed a few years before Sebastian was made. Before she’d died, she’d proclaimed she’d return, and so the Faithful were just waiting for her to come back. If she ever did.

The Faithful were all about rules and rituals and worship and Sebastian had never believed in God as a human. And while he was grateful to Kali for miracuously rising from death as a vampire and starting a new race, he wasn’t going to start worshiping her memory.

Anne stopped in front of Morgan’s study and turned. “I don’t know how long she’ll be able to talk with you,” she said with an easy smile. “She’s not super busy tonight, but things always can come up.”

“I understand. Thanks for letting me see her at all.”

She laughed. “I run her schedule, but this was all her. I think she was intrigued that LA’s most famous neutral came her see her.” She pushed the door open and waved him in.

He rolled his eyes at the description as he walked by her. There were plenty of neutral vampires in LA. He was hardly famous.

Morgan was sitting at her desk, typing. When he came in, she looked up and smiled. “Sebastian.” She rose and walked around the desk. “So nice to see you,” she said, holding out a hand.

He took it and shook it gently. Despite himself, he always felt a little tongue-tied around Morgan at first. It wasn’t her looks, although she was beautiful with long dark hair, big brown eyes, and long lashes. If she hadn’t been the second vampire ever created, he might have tried to take her to bed. But she was the second vampire ever and that sort of intimidated him. Kali was an abstract concept; Morgan was reality.

“Morgan. Thanks for seeing me.”

She smiled and gestured at a couple chair set up in front of the desk. He took one and she sat across from him, tucking one ankle behind the other. “What can I do for you?”

“I have a couple things. First, do you know anything about Michael Clearwater? He’s a member of the Society.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Not much. For awhile, he was trying to gain power and made some traction. Then, it all fella part for him, and now he’s a fairly obscure member.”

“Any idea why?”

“Not really.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I don’t generally worry about the Society. Why?”

“His son came to me and asked me to find something for him. It occured to me that it could be a trap.”

“His son?”

“Tristan Clearwater. He’s looking for a book called The Magic of Music. Which is the other thing I wanted to ask you about.”


She tapped her fingers against her chin, eyes distant. After a moment, she shook her head. “I don’t know that I’ve heard of it. I doubt it’s in our collection, but I’ll ask Anne. She’s got a better idea of what we have, at least in the house. Is it urgent?”

Sebastian shrugged. “I get the sense it is, but Tristan isn’t exactly being forthcoming on why. He says he only wants to understand the theory, but it’s obvious he’s lying about something. And, he’s powerful.”

“Really? How powerful?”

“I’m not sure exactly, but I could taste the power in his blood.” Sebastian swallowed, thinking of the tingling he’d experienced. “It’s nothing I’ve ever tasted before. It made my mouth tingle. That ever happen to you?”

She shook her head. “No. I could taste some power in Anne, but nothing that made my mouth tingle. Are you sure it wasn’t something else? Lust? Compatibility?”

“Now, it was power. He wants it to seem like his interest is purely academic, although he admitted he was interested in gaining some control. It’s more than that, though. I’m sure of it.”

Morgan frowned. “What control does he need? Does he want to become more powerful or less?”

Sebastian pursed his lips, thinking. That was something he hadn’t considered. What if Tristan was lying not because he didn’t want Sebastian to think he wanted more power, but because he had the power and wanted less? What if he was as powerful as Sebastian sensed and it was overwhelming him?

“If it’s the latter, it’d be better to get the book into his hands sooner than later,” Sebastian said. “The last thing we need is for him to accidentally blow up Los Angeles because he can’t control what he has.”

Morgan moved her head from side to side. “That kind of innate power is very rare. But, you’re right. Do you know where he works? I can send Anne to meet him. See how powerful he really is.”

Sebastian gave her the address of Tristan’s workplace. “And you’ll check around for the book?”

“Yes. If we really have a violate warlock…”

“He says he’s not a warlock. He’s got magic, but says he can only do a few things.”

Morgan leaned forward. “Yes, but musical magic isn’t based on spells. It taps into a deeper power and teaches the magic user to channel his energy. For it to work, the user must have a connection with that magic already. The magic is a tool to draw it out.” She tapped her fingers on her knee. “Actually, if he uses magic as a focus, he might not even be a warlock.”

“What might he be?”

“I’m not sure,” she said. “But warlocks usually need spells. Music is different.”

“Anne’s a witch, isn’t she?”

“Yes, but she’s still studying. Her magic is spell based. If his isn’t, if it’s something else, we can’t let him run around untrained. We need to know.”

Sebastian shifted. “You think his father sent him?”

“Perhaps,” she answered, sitting back. “It could be Michael Clearwater is hoping to climb the ranks once more by disrupting our society in America. But, it’s equally likely that Tristan left on his own and came here to distance himself from his father.”

“Why?

She shook her head. “I don’t know. Generally, while the Society is against the supernatural, they aren’t technically averse to using and training warlocks. If Tristan is powerful, he’d be coveted, not spurned. So, without knowing Tristan and his story, I couldn’t say.” She leaned forward. “Proceed with caution, Sebastian. You are dealing with the child of a vampire-hate group. Try to find the book, but be careful.”

“I’m not planning on becoming his best friend. He’s just a client.”

“One whose blood you’ve drunk. And whose blood is infused with power. That can be addictive.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’ll be careful.” Sebastian stood. “Thank you for your time, Morgan.”

“I’ll be in touch.”

Snippet Saturday

I’m changing it up for Snippet Saturday. This comes from my current WIP which is untitled (I just call it Vampires and Sorcerers right now). It’s set before the novel I was posting, Dark Goddess, which means I have to overhaul that one to include more characters from this one so they fit together better. Anyway, it’s a gay paranormal romance set in modern times. Enjoy!

Chapter One

Tristan Clearwater was a beautiful man. Dark brown hair set against pale skin, gray-blue eyes that almost looked silver when they caught the light, a lush mouth with a full bottom lip. Really, it was ridiculous how beautiful he was, and, sitting behind his desk, twirling a pen between his fingers, Sebastian was so distracted by Tristan’s beauty, he almost missed what Tristan said.

No. Not almost. He had missed what was said, a fact he only realized when the silence became pronounced and a look of uncertainty came into Tristan’s eyes.

Sebastian cleared his throat and dropped the pen on the desk with a muted clatter. He shifted in his seat and sat up straighter. “I’m sorry, what?”

“It’s a book,” Tristan said. He seemed to glow in the dim light of Sebastian’s shabby office, which was filled with old books and dusty statues and talismans that were waiting to be picked up by clients. Normally, Sebastian thought his office cozy; Tristan made the faded edges obvious.

“What’s it called?” Sebastian picked up the pen again and sat, poised to take notes.

The Magic of Music. It’s about…”

“The magical powers of music?” Sebastian said dryly.

Tristan nodded. “The convergence of the two, the theory behind it, and some rudimentary lessons. It’s very rare, you see. Only a few copies left in existence.”

“Do you know who wrote it?”

His face fell. “No.” He shook his head. “I only ever heard of it. Overheard, really. My father and teachers discussed it a few times, in hushed tones, in the other room.”

Sebastian lifted his eyebrow. “Your father?”

“Yes. I studied magical music theory as a child. My interest has been… piqued again recently.” He smiled, but it was forced and wan.

Sebastian scribbled a few lines on the paper, and then said, “Let me guess. You’re interested in increasing your fortune. Or seeking fame.”

Tristan shook his head.

“Trying to get a girl?” At Tristan’s wry look, he amended, “A guy?”

A smile curled the edges of Tristan’s lips, and he looked down at his hands, then up almost coyly. “Nothing like that.” Then, the coyness dropped away and he straightened his shoulders. “I can do magic. A little. Music helps me control it.”

“You’re a warlock?”

His eyes widened in almost a panic. “No, nothing like that. Nothing that formal. I don’t want to overstate my abilities. Merely… lighting a candle, conjuring an object. Nothing grand.”

Sebastian nodded and made another line on his notepad. “So, you’re looking to become stronger.”

“No!” He swallowed and took a breath. “No. I seek only to understand the theory and gain a modicum of control. That’s all.”

Bullshit. But Sebastian didn’t say it out loud. Even if he couldn’t smell the acrid tang of deceit, Tristan’s body language screamed it. However, Sebastian didn’t really care. A job was a job and magic was hard to master without a teacher. Besides, if the man ever did become a threat, Sebastian would just kill him.

He reached into his desk and pulled out a contract. “This is my flat fee, plus I charge for expenses. Depending on how hard it is to find, and what I have to do, I can invoke this clause, which increases my fee.”

Tristan paled, but nodded. “Very well.”

“I also seal in blood. You or I can  still back out at any time, but it means you can’t stiff me on what’s owed.”

He smiled faintly. “I understand.”

Sebastian slid his pen across the desk.

Tristan ran his eyes over the text swiftly before picking up the pen to sign. “What now.”

Sebastian rose and went around the desk. “Your wrist.”

He hesitated, then held out his arm.

Sebastian looked into Tristan’s eyes and let his fangs extend. Taking the offered arm, he bit Tristan’s write and retracted his fangs.

A rush of blood flooded his mouth. And a shock went through Sebastian.

Power. There was an electric current of power that made his mouth tingle. He’d never tasted anything like it. Sweet and tangy. Delicious.

A bit more roughly than he’d intended, he pulled Tristan’s wrist from his mouth. He brought it down and pressed it against the contract.

The paper flared gold. Sebastian felt a shudder go through him as the bond was sealed.

“It’s done.” He turned Tristan’s wrist over again. “Would you like me to heal you, or would you like to heal on your own.”

Tristan pursed his lips. “Heal me, thank you.”

Sebastian scraped his thumb over his fang to draw blood. Vampire blood acted as a coagulant, but it wasn’t considered polite to do it without permission. Vampires also tended not to heal any wounds that they hadn’t made, unless they were either very close to the person or the situation was extreme.

Carefully, he swiped the blood over the holes in Tristan’s wrist. He may have rubbed his thumb over Tristan’s write a few more times than strictly necessary, but who was to know?

Tristan swallowed hard and looked up at Sebastian.

Sebastian gave him a small smile. “I’ll keep you updated on my progress.”

“Thank you.”

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.