Monday, October 29, 2012
Fionnuala is such a daughter: a part-human, part-seal Deaf woman who falls in love with Neela, a Hearing woman in India. While growing up with Neela’s family in Tamil Nadu, she struggles with her distant parents living apart in Ireland and Indonesia. Eventually her father brings her to Venice where she becomes a mime artist. What binds them all together is the unstoppable undercurrent of ache running through the sea of their lives.
I was fourteen when the darkness started. It was a year after the night my arms became splattered with blisters from the ants. The night when Neela first touched me and I could feel my entire body singing to her, wanting to sign, move, speak.
Finally, it said.
* * *
Neela and I sneaked away together often. Our bedroom became our own private temple in homage to our favourite stories and each other’s bodies. We kept a picture of Lakshmi besides our picture of Ganesh on the wall. We conversed in sign and wrote in Tamil. Sometimes we just stared and let the words flow back and forth beneath our eyelids.
Neela’s skin was almost black, like many South Indians. She had a round face and thin eyebrows. Her hair flowed down to her waist in soft waves. Her eyes were dark, but when the sunlight shone in them, I was able to see tiny flecks of gold around her pupils. We liked to compare our lips in the mirror because they were so different from each other. My lips were narrow and pointy. Pale against paler skin. Neela’s lips didn’t have the same two points on top that mine did. Hers were rounded and full. The kind of lips you can’t stop thinking about kissing. The kind of lips you want to feel on your skin. I was self-conscious of my freckles, but Neela said they were beautiful. She licked them sometimes.
Father hadn’t written in months. He was somewhere in Indonesia. I pictured him diving with sharks, examining the corals shining with shades of red, orange, and yellow, rivaling the brightness of the saris around me.
* * *
The day the darkness began was a day like any other. It was a sweltering afternoon. Neela and I went home from school early. We wanted to do something bad. Our newfound womanhood leaned us towards experimentation. The canyons called to us—promises of daytime nudity, swimming in our favourite pool, making love in the sunlight. I was thinking of the curve of Neela’s wet hip against the canyon rocks as she pulled her body up onto the ledge. The way I would try to brush the red dirt flecks off her skin, but they would only stick to my fingers until we jumped back into the water. The way her dark hands tangled in the auburn waves of my hair as she braided wet flowers into it.
I didn’t notice Neela’s Amma standing near the shops as we passed. Her eyes met Neela’s, and I could feel the ground shaking below us. She was furious to see us so far from school and why?! I read the Tamil on her lips without needing anything written down. Normally that would have made me feel proud, but I was terrified.
Neela pretended to cry, and Amma said something terrible to her. I didn’t know what it was. I pinched Neela’s arm on our way back to school repeatedly, but she would not tell me.
After school, we were sent to our room without dinner. On our shared bed on the floor, Neela finally signed, A demon will come here tonight.
I laughed. I brought her under our blue elephant sheets, and told her we were safe there. I signed, Remember G-a-n-e-s-h? He will protect us!
She shook her head. Not now.
How can I do anything if I don’t know what’s going on?
She sat for a moment. Tears made salt rivers upon her face, prominent against the dark of her skin. Her eyes were full of fear. She never showed fear without courage lurking behind it. Her ego was strong like a snake—but it wasn’t strong now. She began slowly.
I’m going to write the name down, then you burn paper and I’ll tell the story. Ok?
NILI, she wrote.
I burned the paper and waited. My stomach grumbled. My eyes were tired, although the sky was still violet. We both sat cross-legged beneath the blue sheet. The grey and white batik elephants froze in their procession to watch the story told by the moving hands below.
Her story went like this:
In a small hut by the river, there lived a man and his wife. She was by far the most beautiful woman of the entire village and the man felt lucky to have her. She became pregnant and throughout the pregnancy, she was very sick. They were both afraid for the child, but the woman was strong. She held on through her contractions until she was finally able to squeeze the baby out of her. Once the little boy was in her husband’s arms, she died.
The father wept as he washed his healthy son and cut the cord linking him to his mother.
The ghost of the man’s dead wife materialised out of the far shadow in the corner. The man was overjoyed to see his wife’s soul come to bless her baby and kiss him goodbye. But as she glided closer, he saw a deep blackness in her eyes. The man bolted out of his home and ran with his child, still damp in his arms, up to the hut of a saint. He felt her breath upon the back of his neck. She whispered into his ears, “Let me kill the child.”
The baby wailed.
When they reached the hut, the door was already open for him. Saints knew such things before they happened. As the man entered, the door slammed behind him. Strange herbs were hanging on small strings from the ceiling of the hut. The saint sat cross-legged by a glowing fire. He wore only a white lungi and clear crystal beads hanging from his neck. His hair was long and tied back with a string. His eyebrows were thick. His deep brown eyes radiated peace.
The saint spoke in a whisper. “Your wife’s sorrow at her own death and separation from her child has caused her to become a demon. She will try to kill you and the child until she has succeeded.” He took a gleaming silver blade from beneath his skirt and handed it to the man. “This knife will protect you both from her as long as you hold it. Lose it, and you will not escape your death again.”
The man understood. He replied over and over, “Nandre nandre nandre.”
He crept back out into the dark.
His wife was waiting, but when she saw the knife she vanished into the night. With the knife in his hands, he walked back home and slept until dawn. As the sun rose, the light comforted him. He began to prepare his wife’s body for burial. First, however, he had to carry the child down to the river for a bath and gather water for washing the body. As the husband made his way to the river, the demon took on solid form in the sunlight and went before the leader of their village. She cried before him: “My husband has gone mad and stolen my child and he has a knife he will use to kill me with if I get near them! Please help me!”
The village leader responded: “Where is your husband, so that I may demand his knife from him and give you back your child?”
“The river, the river.” She moaned and followed him with an invisible smile upon her perfect lips.
When the leader saw the husband with the blade in his hands, he yelled: “Set down your knife and give your child to his mother! You must not abuse her like this!”
The husband cried: “You don’t understand! My wife is dead! That woman behind you is a demon!”
“I will hear nothing of that! She has been weeping and weeping over your madness! Drop that knife! End this now!”
The man looked to the heavens. He looked towards the saint’s hut at the top of the hill. Neither the saint nor the god Shiva seemed to be near enough to help him. Giving in to his fate, he kissed his child, and replied: “Let it be finished then!”
The man let his sacred knife slide through his hands as the demon flew towards him. She grabbed her child and ate him. As the remaining chunks of his tiny body fell from her hands and his blood poured into the river, she seized her husband with her long nails and tore into his flesh, too. And she disappeared.
The story was terrifying, but I didn’t know how it related to what Amma had told her. Seeing the question in my eyes, she signed, Wait, I’ll finish.
I waited as she rested her hands on her skirt. I let my own hands press against her knees for comfort and found that she was still shaking. She continued. Mothers here tell this story to their children. If we pretend to cry, they say we are Nili?? crying and once the sun goes down, she will come and get us.
My hands couldn’t move to reply. We clasped against each other in the terror Neela had shared. Between us, the terror grew so large it filled the room. There were moments when we felt Nili’s hands scratching at our sheet that we kept covering our heads—a mystical barrier. We didn’t notice the sweat dripping down the sides of our faces, down our necks, between our breasts. We didn’t lie down for the fear that she would crush us beneath her. The night passed from one gasp to another.
In a subtitled YouTube clip, the publisher discusses why he chose to publish Makara –click http://youtu.be/PkclltSFGCw
To purchase, click http://www.handtype.com/books/makara
Monday, October 22, 2012
“Val” – For years, Brad has been obsessed with the memory of his dead lover, Val. His obsession takes over his life when he meets another Val, a hustler who looks exactly like the first.
“Slasher” – A man is found in a cubicle at a gay bathhouse with his throat slit. Then another victim turns up. Only Lou’s lover, Jamie, can identify the most likely suspect.
“The Matador” – Soledad de Riquer feels certain that her brother, the celebrated matador El Valiente, has his eye on her young boyfriend, Adulio.
Volume I: Dark Horror
Silver Publishing (October, 2012)
Excerpt from “Val”:
[Situation: Brad knows that his much younger lover, Val, is a hustler – it’s how they met. But he has seen Val in the company of another older man, and the two seem to know each other too well for it to be a strictly business relationship.]
On the third night Brad waited outside his office building to see if Val and the tall stranger would hook up there again. They did, and he followed them at a distance. When they stepped into a bar he hid in a shop entrance to see when they would come out. He didn't have to wait too long. They came out as soon as the night had turned very dark and continued on their way.
He did not understand the irresistible urge he felt to follow them. Jealousy? Curiosity? The risk of discovery? It was not hard trailing them inconspicuously. There were still plenty of people in the streets.
He rushed to catch up with them when they suddenly turned into an alley. Afraid they might see him, he sidled up against the building and peered around the corner. The alley was empty; they were not there.
Cautiously, he walked down it. He'd gone only a few steps when everything fell silent, the noise of the street behind him blotted out. It was very dark. The alley opened into another street, a lonely street, also dark and quiet. Empty, too, or so he thought at first, but hidden in the shadows against the walls dozens of young men stood lined up, on the prowl for sex. In this light they all looked like Val.
He walked slowly down one sidewalk, then the other, checking each one out as he passed. No, they were not Val, but they could have been. They had the same long, straight, black hair, the same piercing blue eyes, the same pallid skin; the height and build were right, the tight denim outfits, too. Except for their hustler's come-on stare, at once veiled and brazen, a look which any of them would have shed had he brought him home, they reminded him of the dress-up Vals he used to create; not quite right, but right enough. In fact, he thought he recognized one or two among them as his male-for-hire Galateas, but they had all blurred together over the years, and his new Val, the true Val, had effaced their features even more. There was no telling, and there was no denying they were all beautiful.
He approached one of them, bold yet apprehensive, like a cat with lives to spare. He raised a finger to his cheek, and gently stroked it. "Val?" he whispered.
"Whatever," the man said. "We're all nameless here." And he placed his hands on Brad's shoulders and forced him to his knees. "Undo my belt."
Brad resisted. The hustler held him firmly by the back of the head and pulled his face into his crotch. The sexual scent of his groin and the bloated cylinder stirring like a living thing beneath the denim was all the invitation Brad needed. He reached up and opened the man's jeans, admired, and tentatively mouthed, smooth as satin and startlingly cold, what he would have willed himself not to desire if he had the strength to do so. Snarling abuse at him, breathy and guttural, the Val thrust into his mouth and humped his throat relentlessly.
The other Vals homed in on them, stroking their bulges. Through the corner of his eye, he saw hands unzipping flies, pants lowered over hips, cocks pulled out and jerked, and he heard obscenities muttered as encouragement by leering lips. He felt the man swell in his throat, then his head was pushed back and the hot spurt splashed onto his face and shirt. Though he hadn't noticed any pleasurable sensations in his own penis, Brad felt a sticky wetness in his underwear.
Almost immediately, another pair of hands grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head to the side. "Suck me!" The man pulled him with such violence that Brad banged his face on the hanging belt buckle and cut his lip. Another large cock, cold and silky, slid over his tongue and plunged into his gullet. He gagged, and tears welled in his eyes to blind him. He was dimly aware of other couples forming around them, grinding together, beating off, sucking. He struggled a little, but ineffectively.
He lost count of how many forced themselves on him. He had no idea how long it went on. He lay doubled up on the pavement and listened to their receding footsteps. When he opened his eyes, the street was deserted.
Bruised, disheveled, his nose running, his clothes crumpled and stained, he rode the subway home. The car was nearly empty, but he felt that the few people in it were staring at him. Was he that much of a sight? Did he look roughed up? Or did the stench of anonymous sex cling to him yet like a wax mask?
He stumbled up the stairs and saw Val sitting forlorn beside his door, resting his head in his arms folded in front of him. He'd forgotten Val had no key to the apartment. He looked weak, helpless, exhausted, as the first Val had been when he found him in the gutter and took him home many years ago. He didn't feel much better than that himself.
Val sat directly under the hall light; Brad stopped short of the end of the flight, back in the shadow of the stairwell. Hearing the footsteps stop at that floor, Val looked up. "Where were you?"
There was nothing weak about his voice. He sounded angry. Brad ignored the question. "I saw you with someone tonight. A client?"
"Maybe. What did he look like?"
"Tall, thin, dark hair. Greying, I think. He held you by the elbow." He did not say he had followed them.
"Oh, that was Derek, my agent," he said, getting up as Brad stepped forward into the light. "God Almighty! What happened to you? Were you mugged?"
"It's nothing. I fell, that's all."
"Fell, my ass. You've been punched."
Brad put his tongue on his upper lip. There was still a trickle of fresh blood. Val came up to him and licked it.
"What on earth are you doing, Val?"
"Dogs lick their wounds."
"When human beings lick their wounds they admit defeat."
"Only when they lick their own."
To purchase, click https://spsilverpublishing.com/product_book_info/coming-soon-c-2/products_id/1216/
In Anel Viz’s Lite Horror anthology, the vampires, stalkers, aliens, and shape-shifters in these stories prove less threatening than the main characters feared.
“A Layover at Atatürk International” – When their plane is delayed in Istanbul, Chase looks forward to sharing a hotel room with fellow passenger Viet Bloedrank.
“Coffee and Aftershave” – Skyler discovers that the creepy individual who followed him home from the subway is also stalking the men he dates.
“Bryce Olson is Pregnant” – Hoping for benefits, Russell decides to play along when Bryce Olson gets it into his head that his ex-boyfriend is an alien.
“The Stray” – John thought it just coincidence that his housemate and the big grey dog that came by for handouts never crossed paths. How long would it take him to catch on?
Volume II: Horror Lite
Silver Publishing (October, 2012)
Excerpt from “A Layover at Atatürk International”
[Situation: Chase went to bed while his assigned roommate stayed up to read. When Chase wakes up in the middle of the night, Viet is gone. He assumes the man has left to drop in on the Frenchwomen he flirted with earlier that evening.]
The door opened and the light came on in the tiny entrance vestibule. Chase pretended to be asleep and watched under half-closed eyelids Viet undress before coming into the room, as if afraid he might wake his roommate. Chase thought he looked different. Although he moved cautiously and on tiptoe, his actions radiated greater energy despite their slowness and a rosy glow suffused his pale skin. He slipped naked into bed behind Chase and—delight of delights!—pressed close to him, passed his arm around him, placed a hand on his chest, and drew him toward him. His palm felt as dry as when they had shaken hands, but now it was warm, and the rest of his body was, too.
"Am I dreaming?" Chase murmured.
"Yes," Viet whispered in his ear. "Is it a pleasant one?"
"It's a dream come true. Does it go on?"
"It goes on."
"How does it end?"
"The way you dreamed it would."
Chase tried to turn his body face to face with dream lover, but Viet tightened his grip and wouldn't let him. "Lie still," he cooed. "Let me fulfill your dream. And I will. Trust me. Viet Bloedrank knows how to give pleasure, exquisite pleasure."
"I want to see you. I want to touch you, too."
"You'll have that chance. We won't be leaving tomorrow. For now, leave everything to me." His voice descended in pitch and took on a mesmerizing quality like a low rumble. "I'm in charge now," he intoned. "Yield yourself. Prepare to be transported to another world, a world of wonderful sensations."
Chase's heart fluttered in anticipation and his body went limp, while Viet's incantation flowed from his lips like a slow-moving river, uninterrupted. "Sensations like those you love so well, but more intense, keener, more all consuming, and unbearably pleasurable."
"Unbearably pleasurable," Chase repeated breathlessly.
Viet put his mouth on Chase's shoulder, opened it wide, and, sucking like a greedy infant, passed his tongue over the sentient, imploring skin. He pinched his nipples and slid his hand down his chest, over his abdomen, ever lower, tantalizing, and brought it to rest on Chase's hardening penis. Chase parted his thighs in invitation. Viet cupped his hand over his balls and traced circles with his thumb on his cock head, slicking it with Chase's own precum.
"Yes," Chase whimpered. The pleasure was more thrilling than any he could remember, and Viet had done little more than touch him.
Chase felt a sudden but painless stab as Viet bit down hard on his shoulder. His eyes opened wide and his muscles tensed. It felt as if he had been injected with a drug that at once sedated him and made his body more responsive. His senses grew more acute and his awareness heightened. So alert was every nerve, the skin on his buttocks and the back of his thighs seemed able to visualize every feature of the body pressed against them, a body that grew harder as his own relaxed, more passive than when he had first yielded to the spell of Viet's seduction. He had never felt more vulnerable, and his now pounding heart rejoiced in his submission. He pushed backward and clenched his buttocks around the thick, heavy shaft nestled between them.
Chase felt the tip of an oily finger probing and greasing his hole. Then a larger hardness slowly eased into him, deeper, deeper, until Viet's pelvis lay flush against him and he was filled. It swelled even more inside him as Viet pumped more blood into it. Then he withdrew half way and plunged back in to the hilt.
Chase stiffened and his body tensed. When had Viet had time to put on a condom?
As if he understood what frightened him, Viet lifted his face from Chase's shoulder and said, "Don't be alarmed. You're perfectly safe."
How could he be sure of that?
"Hush," Viet murmured, "hush and enjoy. I won't hurt you. I never gorge myself, and I drank at least a pint before I came back for you. I'm very environment oriented and not one to deplete what sustains me. I'll be able to feed on you again tomorrow night, and the night after if we're still here, and you'll be none the weaker for it, I promise. My seed will replenish your strength. I decided when you first approached me I would save it all for you, and I have. Our French acquaintances, on the other hand, will feel wan in the morning. They'll need a hearty breakfast. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"
"Good. Now, is there something you want to say to me?"
"Yes. Fuck me."
"Do you mind if I drink a little more while I do it?"
"Drink as much as want. Drain me dry. Just fuck me. Please… I want it."
"Tsk tsk. Viet Bloedrank isn't a glutton. It would appear, however, that his dear friend Chase is. No, just a little blood in exchange for one huge fuck."
Then he rolled Chase onto his stomach, climbed on top of him, positioned his mouth below his ear and his hips above his bottom, sank in fangs deep into the one and his dick deeper into the other, and pounded. Chase was in seventh heaven.
To purchase, click https://spsilverpublishing.com/product_book_info/coming-soon-c-2/products_id/1218/
Monday, October 15, 2012
Angelita is the hurricane that brings down a plane carrying a team of star-quality swimmers, groomed from childhood to compete at the international level. Babe Delgado is a young Cuban-American woman, presumed dead, who is rescued from the crash. Fifty-one hours in the Atlantic have left her scarred in body and spirit, afraid to compete again. Brenna Allen is a tough, driven swim coach at a small university, grieving for a lover lost to cancer. She finds solace in building her own winning team, driving her overworked captain, Ellie Marks, ever harder. Ellie is a child of holocaust survivors, struggling to own herself and her sexuality as hard as she's working to win. Brenna recruits Babe, promising to help her rebuild her damaged body, strength, and will.
The Sea of Light is a story of wins, losses, and passions in a world where destiny and magic interfere with victory, where families are forced to reconcile with private hurts and false dreams, and where a redemptive, healing love between women - erotic and overwhelmingly intimate - stands in stark contrast to the expectations of the world. A sensitive, powerful tale of self-discovery, sexual identity, and violent emotions unleashed by sudden disaster, this novel is sure to command attention and acclaim.
Dinner stays half-cooked. We talk about a lot of things.
Kay, the house, Boz. Her job. This new kid on the team, who will help them win big meets—some girl with a Spanish-sounding name I won’t remember. She asks about me, too: Do I still love my work? Have I been seeing anyone since Marianne? I tell her, Yes. And: No one important.
Mostly, though, it’s good to feel comfortable in her presence again. Even though she’s a wreck, and I feel the dim jangling danger of unexplored emotions sloshing around in the bucket of myself, at least we’re both finally, fully here—at a kitchen table, on a living room sofa, holding hands like friends, reaching to touch a cheek or shoulder.
Boz whines to go out and we walk him together, bundled in sweaters against the breeze from river and bay. Ambling between streetlights, fire hydrants. The dog seems happier, jumps against my thighs in some sort of supplication and gives a canine version of a smile, I think. I rub his chest. Taking a shine to the idea of him, of keeping him, despite myself. Watching us, Bren laughs. A full laugh, prematurely ended—she’s cut it off intentionally like an unwanted digit. Walking back against the wind, she takes my arm. Whistles some tune. The good mood begins to make me nervous. It’s like being on the edge of something—her grief the true reality to take into account, the more permanent underlying condition she is likely to relapse into at any second—and, instinct tells me, I ought to maintain a certain detachment. But I let her take my arm; because we’re friends, because she has done it so many times before. I let her press the arm with her fingers; because, I tell myself, sixteen years means something, and it’s okay to trust.
Keys in the door. A burst of comfort and warmth. Boz off the leash, light dimmers turned, sweaters off. We broil dinner, throwing everything together: too-dry fish, stale rice, fatigued vegetables. Bren eats with surprising appetite. Watching, I feel good. And I eat too. The danger signals fade away. Between bites she is matter-of-fact.
“Ever cremate anyone?”
“No. When my mom died they had a wake—the whole traditional thing. Billy got drunk again, it made Dad furious. They went into the basement and yelled at each other. Marianne showed up late, she and I had our last big blowout fight, in front of everyone. Pat’s kids started crying. So did his wife. The whole thing was a mess. Still—it was good in a way. It was a time and a place to get it all out, you know? All the grief, all the mess.”
“Well, when you cremate someone—”
“—They make you pick out an urn. I chose one—just any old one—it didn’t seem to matter. Later, though, I had second thoughts, that maybe Kay would have wanted something special. Like a vase in the shape of an old whaling ship.”
She laughs. So do I. She scrapes her plate clean, drops fork and knife across it with a sudden clatter.
“Anyway, they give you the remains in a plastic bag. It looks like dusty chips of gravel—not ashes at all, really. The bag is sealed. And you put it in the urn, you take it away.” She glances up at me, her face uncertain. “I’ve been fighting with the bunch of them long-distance, the whole Goldstein clan. They told me the cremation was some sort of defilement, they wanted a regular burial—a coffin, gravestone, all of that. And some rabbi to bless her. As if it would wipe out everything about her life that they didn’t care to see. Me, for instance. But she hated that stuff, you know. ‘Keep me out of the ground, Bren!’ she said. ‘Keep me out of the ground, and away from those men in their little black hats!’”
It sounds just like Kay. I can feel myself smile.
We clean the table, wash dishes, wrap food up and stash it in the fridge. Bren dries utensils, places them neatly in rows in the cupboard drawers. She hums softly, seems happy again.
Now it’s late. Boz is sacked out on the pseudo-Oriental rug. I scratch his ears for good-night, give Bren a forehead kiss and tell her to sleep well, ask one last time if she needs another blanket. No, she says, not a blanket.
In the bathroom I wash up, brush teeth, glare at the mirror and mentally slap myself around. I am putting on a little weight. Short-featured Irish face hovering at the borderline of early middle age, wrinkles etched around eyes and mouth. Always too serious to be cute; now, too old as well.
Instinct blinks some danger signal again, warning me to think a while, figure out what is going on. Bren. Food. The dog. The ashes.
Phrases well up in me—from prayers, I think, from long ago. Our light, our sweetness, and our hope. Banished children of Eve.
And I tell myself: Stop it, Caroline. Give yourself a break. These dynamics are exhausting. Grief’s dynamics always are. But the day is over, and so is the pain. Just go to bed. Just go to sleep.
My bedroom light’s on. In the hallway, she stops me.
“Chick. Come here.”
I am here, I say. Then my face is between her hands and she’s kissing me.
“Bren, no. Just wait.”
I don’t want to, she says. But there’s a kind of terror on her lips, in her voice. I pull back, see the struggle—between the terror and her mastery of it. Part of the mastery, though, is a masking that doesn’t work. The failure makes her sullen.
“Bren, listen to me. We need to talk this one through.”
“Oh no. Talk, talk, talk.”
“It feels like a land mine.”
The mask falls into place and grins. “Don’t worry, okay? I’ll make it feel better.”
“For God’s sake, Bren—that is hardly the issue.”
Then she says it, out loud, for the second time in sixteen years:
Shut up, Chick. You talk too much.
She says it softly, though, and for a second the mask falls away, the tears refusing to spill are real, raw need mingling with fear on her fingertips touching me. Please, she says, please. And I know it’s wrong, but what I know offers no alternative. Something else seizes power. Tosses me up in the rift between body and mind. Mercy. Desire. With nothing to betray but a vase full of ashes. She rocks against me, I rock back, and I just can’t help it. I love her so.
Untreed Reads Publishing
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Monday, October 8, 2012
Untreed Reads Publishing (June 14, 2010)
She hated having to pretend, to fake something she didn't feel, but she knew how he was—he'd just go on and on and on, till she wanted to scream, really, and not from any orgasm, either. So far as she could say, he was utterly tireless. Sometime, maybe, she'd wait him out, see how long he really could keep it up. All night wouldn't surprise her. A month wouldn't surprise her, actually.
She began to grunt and to groan, softly at first, and as if it were his cue, he picked up his tempo, driving harder and faster now. Usually, she would drag it out a little, she knew it made him happy when it lasted, but tonight she was tired and her back ached from stocking shelves at the Seven Eleven. She thrashed her legs and moaned, louder, and tightened her grip on his shoulders, and, finally, stiffened her body like an ironing board.
It worked. It always did. She didn't know how he did it, holding himself at the ready the way he did, and then able to let go just like that. She thought there were probably a lot of men who would envy him. She knew he was proud of it. Probably, if you were a man, it was something to be proud of. Maybe there were women who would appreciate it more than she did. Her sister was proud of the way her Schnauzer would roll over or stand up on his hind legs when she told him to. It was just a matter of training, wasn't it?
Maybe you're just a bitch, she told herself, and did not have to fake a sigh of relief when he rolled himself off of her.
After a minute, he got up and went to the bathroom. He left the door open. He always did. Before they had fucked you, men closed the door. After, they always left it open. Why was that? She'd always wondered, and couldn't think who to ask. Once, she'd almost asked the minister, and had to stifle a giggle at the thought of his reaction. But, really, how were you supposed to find these things out? They sure didn't mention that in Ladies Home Journal.
She listened to him pee noisily, and couldn't help noticing that he didn't wash his hands before he came back to bed, slipping in beside her, bending down to give her a quick kiss.
"How was that?" he asked.
"It was great," she said, as enthusiastic as she could make it. Which wasn't very, but he never noticed. The question was rhetorical. He thought it was great. That was all that mattered. He lay back beside her and gave her thigh a pat.
"Have to keep my baby happy," he said.
"You sure know how to do that, Ray," she said. Once, she had made the mistake of telling him she hadn't had an orgasm. Not like she was complaining, or anything, it was just, he asked, and she had said, no, but it was okay, it didn't have to be every single time for a woman.
"It has to be for my woman," he said, half pouting, and he went and got himself a beer, and drank it lying in bed, not saying anything, and then, just about the time she was drifting off to sleep, he rolled her on her back and climbed on, and started all over again.
That was the night she started faking it. A year and a half ago. Almost two years, actually. A long time without, she supposed. She didn't miss it as much as you would think she would. Sometimes, but mostly not.
Once, she'd run across one of his girlie magazines. Stuffed at the back of his sock drawer. Curious, she'd looked through it, wondered how the women could do that, let their pictures be taken that way. She hated those times, luckily not often, when he decided he wanted to do it with the lights on.
"I like to see what I'm getting," he said, but even he could not fail to notice that it made her uncomfortable, and he had given that up.
She had looked at the ads, though, some of them she wasn't sure she even understood, but it was fairly easy to understand the vibrators. She'd looked long and hard at a full page ad of them, and wondered what it would be like, if she could give herself an orgasm with one of them—but he would never go along with that, and she couldn't have one without his knowing about it. It was hard to keep secrets in a small trailer. Anyway—maybe if it didn't look like something attached to a man. She'd had her fill of man things, thank you very much, and no pun intended.
"I saw the lezzie," he said, startling her out of her thoughts.
"Amy?" she said without thinking.
"That her name?" He sounded surprised. "Say, you two ain't getting all chummy, are you?"
"Just neighbors," she said. "You know, she's right next door, we see one another coming in and out, you have to say hi."
"Maybe she's comin' on to you," he said.
"Don't be silly." She knew Amy wasn't. Knew, because Amy had told her that. She'd asked Linda if she wanted to come in for some coffee, and Linda had acted like some stupid schoolgirl, all flustered and blushing, and Amy had said, "Hey, don't get excited, I wasn't coming on to you. Just being a neighbor."
"I'm just teasing you," Ray said. He gave her thigh another pat. She held her breath, hoping this wasn't going to be one of those nights. "Hell, no reason for you to want a woman, when you got a man to take care of you. Reckon I do that, all right."
"That's for sure," she said into the darkness, thinking about that time Amy had asked her in, wishing—not for the first time—that she had gone. Not for that. Just for, well, she didn't know what exactly, something. Something maybe a woman could get from another woman, something she thought certain was unknown and unknowable to a man.
"That's probably all she needs, too," he said. "Maybe I ought to stop over and see her some night."
"Ray," she said, like she was shocked. Frightened was more like it, though, frightened of the way Amy would look at her differently if he did something like that, of the difference it would make in the way she smiled at her, like she really wanted to be friends. Well, you couldn't be after that, could you, after a man had brought man stuff into it.
"Maybe we ought to have her over here," he said. "Let her have a taste of what I get regular, and then show her what I can do. Give her the old double whammy. What do you think?"
"I think you're letting your imagination run away with you," she said, She rolled on her side, turning her back to him. After a minute, he rolled on his side, too, away from her.
"Might be kind of fun, though," he said, chuckling softly.
She waited until he was asleep, snoring noisily. When she was sure he wouldn't wake up, she got out of bed, found her bathrobe on the doorknob, and walked barefoot out to the kitchen. She left the lights out. Even with the door closed, the light still spilled into the bedroom, and anyway, the door squeaked and she might wake him up closing it.
She got herself a Bud from the fridge, opening the door just enough to reach it out, twisted off the cap, and took a sip. It helped rinse the taste from her mouth that she didn't know where it came from.
She went to stand by the sink and look out the window. Amy's trailer was right there, not even eight feet away. Her blinds were only half closed. She could see Amy moving around inside, doing something, it looked like stretches of some sort. She had her music on, the same girl singer she mostly listened to, black, Linda thought, sweet voiced and vinegary all at the same time. "Embrace me…"
Amy wore this oversized tee shirt, so big it was almost a dress. It was what she usually wore when she was home alone, Linda knew that from other nights, standing at the window, watching, and when she bent over, you could catch just a glimpse of jockeys—not panties, but jockeys, like a man wore. Linda thought it was cute. She wondered what Ray would say if she tried wearing a pair. Probably he'd say she had turned lezzie on him. Or maybe it would turn him on. That thought discouraged her. Whatever that man needed, it wasn't anything to whet his sexual appetites.
Amy finished her stretches, walked to the kitchen area of her trailer, did something at the sink. They were only a few feet apart, facing one another. If Linda's lights were on, they could wave, maybe open their windows and talk. Only, not with Ray there. He'd think it was sex. He thought everything was sex. What Linda wanted was something different, something she didn't have any words for, and she knew he wouldn't understand them if she found them. Amy would, though. Somehow, she felt sure of that. Which was silly. How could you know something like that about somebody you didn't even know? She thought it was true, though.
She supposed she oughtn't to complain, really. Compared to a lot of women, she had it pretty good. Carol Sue's husband knocked her around. Carol Sue denied it, but they all knew it was true, and Bobbie's man jumped on anything that stood still for more than forty seconds, probably including the Schnauzer when he wasn't rolling over, and Sandra's spent all their money on Jack and smack, half the time Sandra and the kids didn't have enough to eat.
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Monday, October 1, 2012
An unwilling princess caught between feuding clans
A ruthless queen's deadly web
Forbidden love in a world built on magic and murder
Struggling artist Eva Milaras resents getting stuffed into a magic limo by a wizard who calls her names like “Serenissima” and “Highness,” even if he is heart-stopping handsome. Never mind he’d just saved her life in the bomb blast at Budget Foods. Even though Talak claimed she would be safer in his world of magic, it looked like staying alive was going to be a challenge.
Prisoner of an aristocratic destiny she didn’t know about and doesn't want, Eva must survive the deadly ambitions of her new-found relatives—as well as all their enemies—as they maneuver to gain power in a murderous royal court.
Talak knows the rules—Eva must marry a man from the royal bloodline regardless of his love for her. Together they battle intrigue and betrayal, but finally must choose between letting go of each other…or certain death for treason. That’s a choice Eva refuses to make…
Wayfarer Press (September 16, 2012)
Instead of the large, perfect fruit shown in the flyer, the Granny Smiths at Budget Foods were small and beaten up—another disappointing win for reality over promise. Eva Milaras gazed at the poor things as she tore off the coupon and stuffed the rest of the pages back into her bag. I guess we’re all bruised in one way or another, she thought.
Still, she was sure she could find half a dozen decent ones in the stack. She’d get some yams and put them together in a casserole—a tasty and inexpensive declaration that she was now back in charge of her life in spite of being broke.
She’d tough this out with what little cash she had in her purse until the gallery could figure out what the mysterious delay in her payment was. They owed her for two large paintings, and that money would be more than enough to get her back on her feet again. It was just a matter of time. She yanked a plastic bag from the dispenser and began picking through the apples.
She flashed on her little studio. It had great light, decent ventilation, and was within walking distance of most everything she needed. So what if she had to maneuver around her bed to get to the tiny kitchen? With Derek gone, it was all the room she needed for her easel and canvases. She’d love to keep it if she could, but the rent was due in two weeks and…well, she’d go to the gallery this afternoon, see what Leslie had to say.
She found two more unbruised apples, and took them as a sign of better times coming. She really would take charge of her life—simplify, concentrate on her work, and avoid complications like an unemployed boyfriend.
“Pardon, Serenissima,” a strong, warm voice from behind pulled her from her reverie.
She turned to see a man, early thirties probably, tall and well-built, dressed completely in black. Who wears such an expensive silk shirt and slacks to Budget Foods on a Saturday morning? They had to be club clothes, but he didn’t look like he’d been out partying all night. And what a great face to paint! A delicious olive tone to his skin, deep eyes, strong angular face-planes, so… compelling, framed by black hair that fell unbound, thick and dangerously sexy, past his shoulders. Great shoulders. Lean waist. Yes, he’d make a terrific model. She found herself smiling at him, realizing too late that it probably wasn’t a good idea. He was already standing uncomfortably close.
“Are you talking to me?” She backed away and tilted her head at the apples. “I’m afraid I’ve picked through these already. Good luck finding more decent ones.”
“Forgive my abruptness,” the man said, reaching toward her, “but you must leave this place with me immediately. You are in gravest danger. Please—we must leave this instant to avoid disaster.”
Suspicion chilled the spark of interest she’d felt. “Look, I came here just for apples.” She slid one hand into her purse, locating her pepper spray. “Leave me alone, please, or I’ll call store security.”
She hoped this guy didn’t know that Howard—the entire security staff of Budget Foods currently on duty—was in his seventies and would never be able to stand up to someone like this man, who carried himself with the smooth precision of a dancer or a martial artist. At least Howard had a radio.
The man dipped his head and upper body in an odd, twisting bow. “My Lady,” he said, his voice tight and urgent. “Please, I beg you. Your life is in very real danger. You must trust me in this. I will explain later, but first we must flee.”
Flee? Eva looked around at the worn ordinariness of Budget Foods, with shoppers inching their carts along the aisles. There was nothing here to flee from but boredom.
Her finger found the directional notch on the tiny canister in her bag. “Look, I don’t know you, what you’re on, or what your deal is, but you’re scaring me.” She pulled out the spray and held it up. “This is nasty stuff and I’ll use it on you if you don’t back off—right now.” She backed away from him again and bumped into the stacked apples. Several of them tumbled to the floor—even more bruises, she thought, as if they didn’t have enough already. She held her eyes on the stranger, wincing as the apples thumped and rolled on the scarred wooden floor.
In a single fluid motion the man flicked the can out of her hands and wrapped his arms around her, pushing her to the floor, covering her with his body. Before she could scream for help an explosion ripped the storefront window open, and she heard the screams of others.
In a strange, time-suspended clarity on the way to the floor Eva could feel the muscles of his torso flex and twist, pushing hot against her in a symphony of coordinated power. How the heck did he know this was going to happen? She hit the floor and her breath whooshed out in a grunt.
She looked up into his face. His eyes stared into hers, fierce as a looming storm. Blue gray, she thought. No, slate. He was heavier than he looked and she needed to breathe. But he had great eyes.
“Get off me!” She pushed against him, and he rolled away without protest.
She sat up. Her ears hurt. The store—or what was left of it—was a mess. She could see two, no, three shoppers on the floor, not moving. In fact, nothing moved, and the stillness was horrible.
A soft groan floated through the smoke from somewhere. Still in its pink sweatshirt sleeve, an arm without an owner lay on the floor. And blood. Lots of it. This was so wrong. Oh, my god. She swallowed several times against a wave of nausea. What on earth had happened?
Then there was movement. All around her, shards of glass began to twitch and shift, becoming dark red scorpions scuttling toward them—dozens of them, different sizes, all the same. Glass shouldn’t do that, she was sure of it.
“Do not move, Serenissima,” the stranger commanded, his voice icy. He turned his back to her, putting himself between her and the scorpions. She stared at his back. He’d been hit by several pieces of glass; two of them stuck partway out of his flesh. All of those would have hit her if he hadn’t thrown himself over her. What the hell is going on?
His hands glowed, and pale fire flowed from his fingers in dancing streams—first carving a circle around them, then striking out at each scorpion. As his fire hit each one it sparked into smoke and dropped, again becoming an inert piece of glass.
What did he just do? Eva looked around, trying to locate her pepper spray, but couldn’t see where it had rolled. She needed to get out of here. But her body was too heavy, too far away to respond.
“I don’t know how,” the man growled, “but your enemies have discovered who you are, my Lady. Now you will have no peace until you reach your Ceremony or they have destroyed us both, for I swear I will not outlive you.”
He stood, bending down. His hair tumbled forward, as if reaching to touch her. “I apologize, Highness,” he said, “but I have no choice but to carry you to safety. With or without your permission.”
Why is he calling me these strange names? As he reached for her, Eva saw another shard of glass sticking out of his arm. Blood had drenched his shirt down to the cuff. His hand was dripping red, but he seemed oblivious of it. Still dazed, she felt him reach under her shoulders and knees and pick her up as if she weighed nothing.
“Stop!” she screamed. “Put me down! Help!” She twisted against his iron-hard grip and grabbed a coconut from an end display as they passed. Eva pounded it against his chest and face but he didn’t even look at her as he strode through the carnage to the rear of the store, kicked open the warehouse doors, and jumped off the loading dock to the ground. On the other side of the alley sat a sleek limousine with darkened windows. As they approached, a passenger door swung open. The man deposited her inside, wrested the coconut from her, and tossed it away. He climbed in opposite her and pulled the door shut, wincing at the reach. The limo began to roll.
Panic tackled her—she was trapped in a stranger’s car. “You can’t do this!” This was not good.
She forced herself to deepen her breathing, get grounded in her body again. She needed to get out of this car, and looked around for anything she could use as a weapon. There was nothing but smooth luxury.
Eva rubbed her arms as she scanned the compartment, grateful for the comfort of her own touch. Her hands were ice-cold against her skin, but still reassuring. Maybe he left the door unlocked!
She lunged for the door and pushed it open, prepared to leap. But Roanoke was hundreds of feet below them. Inexplicably, they were airborne. The river was a sparkling blue ribbon wandering past the rail yards. This is really wrong.
The man scowled at her and gestured at the door. It swung shut against all the resistance she could muster.
“You can’t fly in this thing, there’ll be radar—” Eva realized she had no idea of what she was talking about. “Or something. Homeland Security… You’ll be tracked down.” Maybe she could bargain with him. “Take me back now and I promise not to file a complaint.”
The man grunted, his face a pain-filled grimace as he unbuttoned his bloody shirt. “No one saw us on the ground, or since, my Lady. We are enshrouded in magic that makes us invisible to others.”
What the hell does that mean, enshrouded in magic? This wasn’t supposed to happen when someone walked two blocks over to Budget Foods to buy apples. But it had. She wanted this to be a dream but knew it wasn’t. She’d left butter on the counter at home. In this heat it would be a puddle by the time she got back. If she got back.
The man smiled at her—or maybe it was a wince—as he used his uninjured arm to peel his sodden shirt from his back. He obviously worked out. A lot.
So this is what cognitive dissonance feels like. “You know how serious a crime kidnapping is, don’t you? Besides, I’m broke. I have nothing for you to demand in ransom. I’m not the one you want. You’ve made a mistake.”
The man’s smile was grim as he shook his head, saying nothing as he dropped his bloody shirt on the seat beside him. It made a heavy wet plop against the leather.
“Answer me!” she shouted. “What the hell is going on here, and where are you taking me?”
“I take you to safety, Serenissima,” the man said with an apologetic dip of his head. “I ask for your forgiveness, but a longer explanation, which you most certainly deserve, must wait while I attend to my injuries. They require my most urgent concentration.”
Eva watched as he arched his back and reached behind him. He’s flexible enough to hold a difficult pose, she thought, and then laughed aloud at herself in disbelief. This man had probably saved her life, kidnapped her, shoved her into an invisible flying limousine going god knows where, and now sat half-naked across from her, bleeding all over the cream leather, and all she could think about was how good a model he might be. Still, he really would make a terrific model.
But then there was the whole scorpions-from-glass thing. Maybe she’d been drugged and was hallucinating. Maybe. That would be the best answer possible, but this felt horribly real.
The man let out a sharp grunt. When she could see his hand again it held a red-stained shard of glass, which he tossed into a corner on the limousine floor.
He blew onto the tips of his bloody fingers and murmured words she didn’t understand. His fingertips glowed again, just like in the store. This time the air filled with the scent of lilacs, or maybe honeycomb—yes, honeycomb. He reached behind him again, and there was a sharp hiss.
He took a deep breath, arched, and reached behind him again. He scowled, and this time his hand returned empty.
“Forgive me, my Lady, but would you be willing to draw a piece of glass from my back? I would be most grateful.” He lifted his shirt to his mouth, bit down on the torn sleeve and ripped a small strip from it. He offered it to her. “If you grasp the glass with this, you can get a safer grip.”
“You want me to help you? Oh, right!” She glowered at him. “There’s nothing to stop me from pushing it in the rest of the way, is there?”
“Nothing at all.” The man smiled, affable and grim. “And I might die. But whether I live or die, this car’s course is already set, and it will take you to its destination. Without me to protect you when you arrive, you most certainly would die as soon as your presence was discovered. Quite unpleasantly.”
He dipped his head, as if apologizing. “So, as distasteful as it may be to you, I represent your very best chance of survival.” Again he proffered the scrap of cloth.
She was in a flying car and had no idea where she was or where she was going. So not in control of her life, just when she’d sworn to take charge and never give it up again. Hallucinating or not, survival sounded good to Eva.
“Damn.” She took the scrap from him. It was the thickest, richest silk she had ever felt. “I have to tell you I don’t do well with blood.”
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