Snippet Saturday

Part 1Part 2, Part 3

After his meeting with Morgan, Sebastian headed to a local bar called Superstitions. It was the most popular bar that catered to the supernatural sect, which made it a great place to network and meet contacts. Humans “in the know” mingled with demons, vampires, and other creatures of the night, and Sebastian often met clients there during the course of a job.

It wasn’t crowded when Sebastian arrived. He went to the bar, took an empty stool, and ordered his usual, a Scotch, neat.  He had to feed later in order to break it down.

He’d only been there a few minutes before Rob, the owner, appeared.

“Hey, Seb, how ya doing?”  He leaned against the bar next to Sebastian.

Sebastian swallowed the sip he’d taken. “Good. In the market.”

“Ancient weapons? Books? Talismans?” He blinked his red-orange eyes, slitted pupils elongating, showing his interest.

“A book. The Magic of Music. It’s supposedly very old and rare.”

“Who’s the client?”

“His name is Tristan Clearwater. He says he overheard his father talking about it when he was younger and is interested in finding it.”

Rob pursed his lips and leaned against the bar. He scratched a horn nearly hidden by bleached blond hair. “I know an elf that deals with magic books. His name’s Uni. Reclusive, though, doesn’t like new people.”

“How does he stay in business, then?”

 Rob shook his head. “He barely scrapes by.”

“Can you pass on my information?” Sebastian asked.

“Sure. You could also try Raquel. She’s mostly talismans, but it wouldn’t hurt to check her out.”

Sebastian nodded. “I thought about her. And Abrax. He got me a book once a few years ago. I was going to call him tomorrow.”

Rob raised an eyebrow. “And, of course, there’s always Jezbeth. They’re pricey, but…”

He made a face. “No. I’m not entirely comfortable with their practices. The last time I worked with them, they stole my client and got them addicted to demon blood. Client eventually died. Only got half my fee, too.”

“Spreading lies about my company again?” a new voice said.

Sebastian sighed and turned.

Ash Hartley was standing there, his usual smirk in place.

“It’s not a lie if it happened,” Sebastian said.

“It is when your information is wrong. Alex got addicted to dragon scales, not demon blood. And it was hardly our fault.”

“You took Alex to the party!”

“And they chose to try the dragon scales!”

“With your partner’s encouragement.”

“It was still their choice.” Ash shrugged. “My partner told Alex how addictive it was, but they wanted to try anyway. Not our fault.”

Sebastian lifted his drink to his mouth. “Still stole my client.”

Ash came to the bar, body close. Closer than necessary, in Sebastian’s opinion. The human smelled like soap and expensive cologne. It made Sebastian’s stomach tighten. While Ash wasn’t as breathtakingly beautiful as Tristan Clearwater, he was still unfairly handsome with big green eyes, long dark lashes, and sandy blond hair that had a slight curl. He was an itch that Sebastian refused to scratch, and the little bastard knew it. Hence the standing just a bit closer than he needed to.

“Well,” Ash said, “that’s just business. What are you looking for now.”

“Like I’d tell you.” Even if he wasn’t afraid of his client being stolen, he felt reluctant to expose Tristan to Jezbeth Incorporated. If Tristan was as powerful as he seemed to be, the company would find a way to exploit it. Exploit him. Sebastian didn’t want that on his conscience.”

“Ah, come on.” Ash smiled innocently. Well, as innocently as someone like him could. “You seal in blood now. We can’t steal your client.”

“You’d find a way, I’m sure.”

He flashed his dimples. “Your confidence in me is flattering.”

Sebastian snorted darkly. 

“Fine. But I bet I could find what you’re looking for. I’ve got an extensive network and resources you could only dream of. You have no idea how vast our network is.”

“I have some.” He downed his Scotch and turned to Rob. “Please pass my name to Uni. And if you hear anything…”

“I’ll let you know.” Rob nodded.“Thanks. See you.” He tossed his money on the bar and left.

Reading & Writing Goals for 2020

Hi all! What a week! I’ll go into it more during my weekly wrap-up, but it’s been something of a roller coaster that I’ve just wanted to desperately get off. And this weekend is continuing it at bit. I just need a day to relax and breath, you know?

Today, I’m posting about my reading and writing goals for 2020. I’ve seen people do it on various blog, and thought I’d give it a go.

Last year, I read 120 books. My goal had been 100, but I admittedly low balled is because I think I had ended up reading 116 in 2018. So, I knew I’d probably read more than 100.

This year, I’ve set my goal at 120 which shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. If I just do what I did last year, I’ll meet it, right? Of course, last year, I read 20 books in one month, and I don’t know if I’ll do that again this year. So, maybe it will be harder for me to hit that goal. I am already 1 book behind.

In addition, I have a goal to read or listen to one non-fiction book a month. This will probably fall into the realm of self-improvement, since I get really excited by those kinds of books. One of the books will definitely be the RBG book I’ve been meaning to read since October. Since I’ve already listened to once non-fiction book this year, am almost done with a second, and am in the middle of a third, I think I’ll hit this goal.

I don’t really have any goals for genres. I think I read a pretty wide variety as it is. Plus, I’m happy with what I read. I guess I could try to read more classics, but I don’t know if that’ll actually happen. Scratch that; I do want to get back to reading Agatha Christie books. I’d read a few some years ago, really liked them, then just stopped. So, I’ll try to read at least… five this year.

Writing Goals

My writing goals are as follows:

  1. Finish my NaNoWriMo novel. I got sort of intimidated by what I needed to do to get to the ending and just stopped writing as much. Plus, the holidays and getting back to school interfered. I did managed to get through the major fight scene and am now in the down stretch, so it should only be another few thousand words or so. This is a doable goal.
  2. Start revising my other novel, which is, sadly, under the working title “Sorcerer’s and Vampires” because I have no idea what to call it. I’ve been taking it to my critique group and getting lots of feedback on it, but because I wanted to finish the other novel, I haven’t been revising it yet.
  3. Write a synopsis for the novel I’m revising.
  4. Come up with a fantastic query letter for that novel.
  5. Start querying by the end of the year.

I think that’s doable. I just need to get some things in order and start writing again. I love writing, but I’ve been so overwhelmed recently, it’s been hard to find the motivation to write.

Photo by Josh Gordon on Unsplash

Personal

Even though this is a reading/writing goal list, I’ll throw a few personal goals in as well.

  1. Ideally, I want to run one 5K a month. However, I don’t think that’s feasible from a number of standpoints, so my goal is to do at least 5.
  2. I want to get tone and lean and stick to my workout regiment.
  3. I want to track my spending and finances more closely and really understand what I’m doing with my money.
  4. And, even though I have no control over this at this point, I want to be chosen as one of the teachers to go on a three week trip around the country to interview inspiring educators through RoadTrip Nation. I’ve applied, and now it’s out of my hands, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Those are my goals for this year. What are some of yours? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Snippet Saturday

Previously Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6 , Part 7 , Part 8

Kali limped slowly after him.  There was fear written across her face as they approached the door to the room.  “I thought you weren’t going to rape me.”

The one thing she had no need to fear was the one she was preoccupied with.  “I told you once, Kali, your virtue is safe with me.  I will not violate you in such a manner.  However, we need rest, and you need medical attention.”  He unlocked the door and pushed her ahead of him.

“So, take me to the hospital.”  She collapsed almost as soon as she crossed the threshold.

Garrison left her on the floor as he locked and bolted the door behind him.  “I think not.”  He hesitated a moment before he bent over and picked her up.

She made a small noise of protest as he adjusted her body against his but did not struggle. In fact, she relaxed against him as he carried her across the room.  Her eyes slid shut and she allowed her face to rest against his chest, and a small sigh, the puff of air caressing his neck.

It should have been strange. It should have been unexpected, this display of something so much like trust.  And yet, so little had changed.  This Kali was so much like the one he had known all those years ago. She even smelled the same underneath the vomit: that powdered musk combined with an earthy, clean scent that reminded him of the night.  Holding her, like this, was familiar, too.  Something he had done years ago.

Perhaps, in some distant way, explainable only by magic, she remembered his embrace as well.  Or, more likely, she was just exhausted.

“Where did your shoes go?” he asked as he set her on the closed toilet lid.

She rubbed her nose, dried flakes of blood falling off her skin.  “I took them off at the bar so I could get my pants off.  G-Gabriel took me out of there without giving me the chance to put them back on.  Because.  Because you started killing people.”

He winced and started the bathwater.  Thus far, he hadn’t actually killed anyone, although the guilt still ate him.  He was an excellent shot and had practiced for years so he could complete this mission with as few deaths as possible.

Not that this care would matter once the public saw what he would do to Kali.  If the police captured him, Garrison had no doubt he would be put to death.  The horrors he would have to visit upon her would ensure the death penalty no matter how careful he was with the lives of others.

Of course, he doubted he would ever be tried in a court of law.  The Faithful would get to him first.  They would show him no mercy.

Behind him, Kali sniffed.  He glanced over his shoulder to find her staring at the ceiling, her jaw clenched.  A tear slid from her eye, and she flicked it away with a sharp movement.

“You killed him,” she said.  Her voice was painful to hear, rough from her screaming and choked from tears she tried to hold back.  “That boy.  Gabriel.”

Gabriel had been seventeen when he’d been turned, hardly older than she.  That had happened over two thousand years ago.  Theoretically, a girl as young as she should see him as well older than herself, simply due to the wisdom and maturity he’d gained through the years.  However, Gabriel simply refused to lose any of the innocent purity that was characteristic of him and made him seem so young, no matter how many years went by.

“Gabriel is not dead,” he said after a moment. 

“Right,” she said with a snort.  “Because when you smash someone with your car, pump them full of bullets, and pummel them with a crowbar, all they need is a nap and some chicken soup.  He’ll be fine.” 

“Nothing about Gabriel is natural.  He might spend an hour or two recovering, but he’ll be fine.  That is what vampires do.”

She snorted again.  “Vampires.  Right.  I forgot.”  She chewed on her lower lip before she asked, “So, how do you kill a vampire?”

“Not with bullets, cars, or crowbars.”

“You need a cross and wooden stake, right?”

Any thoughts? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Snippet Saturday – Dark Goddess

It’s Saturday again, so here’s another part of my novel, Dark Goddess.

Previously Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6 , Part 7

Kali fit quite nicely into the trunk of Gabriel’s car with room to spare so she wouldn’t be too cramped.  Not, Garrison hastened to assure himself, that he cared at all for her comfort, even the slight comfort that breathing room in a tight space might lend her.  Human though the girl may be, she was still an abomination that must be dealt with ruthlessly.  She was not an innocent child to be pitied.

Except, in some ways, she was.  This girl, this incarnation, had no memory of whom she had once been.  No real idea of why she must forfeit her life for the greater good and to pay for past crimes.

The demon, Azazel, had obviously failed in some way when he’d taught the vampire of the past how to preserve her memories and history into the eternal unconsciousness.  Once they were safely tucked into the ether, she’d explained to Garrison so long ago, they would never be lost.  And, if she were ever to die—as she so obviously had—and return—as she had—her new incarnation would remember the life she had once lived through the memories, which would come to her in dreams.

Except, they weren’t.  Or, rather, maybe they were, only Kali didn’t see them as anything but strange nighttime imaginings.

It was hard, Garrison knew, to accept something like this.  Magic.  Vampires.  Reincarnation.  He’d had difficulty believing it himself, and he came from a time when magic and spells had been just as commonplace as computers and aeroplanes were today. And yet, he’d never quite been able to bring himself to believe.

Well.  That wasn’t exactly true.  Garrison had always believed in her.  From the moment she’d first told him what she was, he’d believed.  It was everything else he had failed to grasp.

Nowadays, the average person was much too skeptical to believe in demons and magic.  Those who did believe, or thought they did, often were so enchanted with their own fantasies, they failed to see the world that was right in front of them.

Kali, thankfully, was not one of those horrible children who dressed in black and cried over pain that did not exist in their lives.  For a young woman whose life had been filled with so much pain and frustration, she was remarkably practical and intelligent, just as she’d been when they first met.  She had no time for nonsense such as vampires.  Of course she did not believe him.

Garrison drove up the I-5 until he came to a small tourist town nestled at the base of the Grapevine.  He could save that hurtle until tomorrow when he was rested, the tank was full, and Kali could sit in the car proper, not the trunk.

Of course, it was obvious threats and pain would not keep her docile.  She was, as she used to be, a warrior, ready to defend her freedom no matter the cost to her life.

He’d have to drug her into submission.  He hadn’t wanted to, although he had prepared for this contingency.  Drugs were easy enough to obtain, and there had been many times in the past he’d needed prescription sleep-aids to send him into the land of Nod.  After what he’d seen in his life, it wasn’t a surprise.  The challenge would be keeping her sufficiently subdued without overdosing her.  His plan was contingent on her surviving four more days.

There were other supplies he needed, so he stopped at a store that was one of those miraculous marvels of modern convenience that sold everything from clothing to hunting supplies.  Inside, he purchased first aid accoutrements, food, clothing, undergarments, toiletries, and a book or two to keep the girl occupied on the long drive ahead.  He also refreshed his supply of duct tape.  He’d prefer handcuffs, since they were harder to get out of, but even this store didn’t sell them.

Motels were plentiful in this area, and Garrison was able to find one that was relatively vacant.  It was run down and could be rented by the hour.  Kali had to be worn out by now, and he was going to get the drugs in her as soon as possible.  However, if she did give him any trouble, he wanted to be isolated as possible.  This den of sin would do nicely.

After depositing his purchases in the room, Garrison went to the car and opened the trunk.

Kali opened her eyes right away but didn’t say anything.  Nor did she struggle as Garrison took her by the wrists and hauled her into a sitting position.  She merely sat there and looked at him from world weary eyes.

He hesitated only a moment before he released her wrists.  He wrapped his arms around her waist and gently—probably too gently–lifted her from the trunk and set her on the ground. Tiny thing that she was, she weighed next to nothing.  When she didn’t fight him, she really was quite easy to move.

“Where are we?” she asked, shivering.

Garrison wrinkled his nose as the stench clinging to her hit him.  She stank of vomit, blood, and dried sweat.  Her curls were matted, and she had blood caked across her face, arms and clothing.  Miraculously, her nose didn’t appear to be broken from when he’d planted it against his car, although her eyes were bruised.  She looked as if she’d been fighting for her life, though.  He needed to clean her up before anything else.  He didn’t want anyone to see her like this.

“Home, for the night,” he said in response to her question.  He shut the trunk and took her by the wrists once more.

I’ve heard it’s better to post small chunks than entire chapters, so I’m trying not to overwhelm. Let me know what you think. I’d love some constructive comments.

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.