War: Chapter 2

“So how was the luncheon?”  Michaels smirked at his partner.  Gabriel just narrowed his eyes.  The mayor’s wife patted his ass.  “I told you to spill coffee on the chief’s desk, but you didn’t listen.”

“I do not miss political functions.”  Stephan shook his head and looked up at Gabriel.

“You had to go to a lot of them?”  Michaels glanced at him.

“Only black guy on the force.”  Stephan shrugged.  “I got dragged along to all of them.”  He looked over his shoulder.  “Magda had to go to, until they hired…”  He frowned.  “What was her name?  Pretty blond girl with the…”  He gestured in front of his chest.

“Violet.”  Ash supplied the name.  Stephan smirked at him, and Ash rolled eyes.  “They were very noticeable.”

“Yeah she was…”  Stephan chuckled.  “Almost out of uniform a few times.  Good cop.  She’d bat her eyes, bend a little forward, and next thing anyone knew the suspect had babbled every bit of information they had.”

“I seem to recall a certain someone walking into a pole the time she wore a mini-dress for a sting.”  Magda grinned.  She caught Gabriel’s arm as he tried to go past into the house.  “Where are you going?”

“To change.”  Gabriel glanced down at her.

“Sorry partner.”  Michaels patted his arm.  “They took a vote when they learned you were in dress uniform.  You’re not allowed to do that.”  He looked over at where Matthias and Ted were coming up the stairs.  “Erilon voted on your behalves.”

“So, it was one to…”  Gabriel turned to count heads.

“Nah, it was unanimous.”  Michaels grinned.  “I like picking on you.”  He put his hand on Gabriel’s shoulder.  “Remember, our job is to serve and protect for the forces of justice and democracy.”  He turned back to the grill and started putting burgers onto plates for Matthias and Ted.

Gabriel started toward the door again, and Magda stepped into his path to block him.  Daniel and Laura came up the stairs, and Daniel started snickering.  Gabriel exhaled and looked up at the sky.  “She showed him the photo?”

“She showed him the photo,” Michaels confirmed.

“What photo?”  Matthias raised an eyebrow.

“Oh for…”  Gabriel took a deep breath, then he shrugged.

Michaels nearly dropped the plate he was holding when Gabriel simply started unbuttoning the jacket of the uniform.  “Uh, partner?”  He blinked.  “What are you doing?”

“Stripping.”  Gabriel continued unbuttoning the jacket.

“You’re…”

“Is anyone…”  Gabriel looked around.  “Going to stop me?”

“Hell no.”  Matthias grinned, then put an elbow on Ted’s shoulder.  Ted was running a hand down the front of his face.

Continue reading War: Chapter 2

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War: Chapter 1

He shuffled a few papers together in a pile on his desk and then set them aside before grabbing a different stack.  Rather than invest Mr. Ishi’s money directly into the center, he’d set up an investment fund.  From that, he funded several types of scholarships and grants.  Security deposits for kids getting their first apartments, emergency car repairs, clothes for seeking employment, and other needs.  It was rapidly becoming one of his favorite parts of the job.

Actually deciphering the applications, however…  Ted rubbed his eyes and winced.  Maybe he should have listened to Monica about having them be only online, but not all the kids had access to computers.  He’d set up a small computer lab there at the center, but perhaps he should consider expanding it.  Ted exhaled, then set the applications in a folder.  Magda and her crew would be arriving sometime today.  Perhaps he could convince Daniel and Ash to help.

There was a light rapping at the door.  “Come in.”  Ted looked up, expecting to see Margaret.  Then his face broke into a wide smile.  “Rebecca.  I wasn’t expecting you until next week.”  He stood up.

His ex-wife returned the smile.  “Plans changed at the last minute.  I hope you don’t mind me just dropping in.”  She shrugged, then looked around.  “Last time I saw this building it looked like setting it on fire would be doing it a favor.”

“We’ve put a lot of work in over the past couple years.”  He walked around the desk.  “Let me show you around.”

“Just show me to whatever room is emitting that heavenly smell.”  She nodded as they stepped into the hallway.

Ted laughed.  “Sister Margaret teaches a cooking class.  I believe this week is brownies.”  He gestured for her to follow him.  “And since she is a nun I suppose heavenly is accurate enough.”

Rebecca smiled warmly as he introduced her to the class.  He referred to her as an old friend rather than explaining to everyone that she was his ex-wife.  And it was true enough.  They’d been friends once, and after putting their disaster of a marriage behind them they’d managed to become friends again.  The kids let her taste the brownies, and she praised them all.

After the kids filed out, he turned toward her.  “So what does bring you to town?”

“I realized I’m still paying rent on that storage unit on Fifteenth.  Since I don’t recall what is in it, I thought I should check with you before heading over.”  Rebecca shrugged.

“I remember it being a lot of boxes that we never unpacked after we moved from Oregon, but beyond…”  He frowned, then waved a hand.  “That might be where all those linens are.”

“Oh, the ones we collected in Europe?”  She started nodding.  “I think you’re right.”  She gave him a hesitant look.  “Dibs?”

“All but the French ones?”  He raised an eyebrow.  Magda was going to be staying with them, after all.

“Deal.”

Continue reading War: Chapter 1

Patreon – The Island

Mark was perfect.  Or nearly, anyway.  He had luscious black hair that contrasted beautifully with his deep blue eyes.  Several years of wrestling, surfing, and rock climbing had given him a wonderful musculature beneath skin that remained pale no matter how much time he spent outdoors.  It was the Irish in him.

He was even a decent guy.  Even though Reggie rarely said yes, Mark generally made an effort to invite him along when going to a concert or other event.  And when Reggie did go, Mark shut down his friends when they tried giving Reggie shit.  Sometimes he’d even take Reggie out, just the two of them, playing the big brother.  The man really only had two glaring flaws.  The first is that he was straight.

Reggie glanced at the door to his room before turning his attention back to the screen.  Mark was in the shower, water dripping from his body as he shook his head under the stream of water.  Mark was straight, and it really wasn’t wise to have a giant crush on his stepbrother.  If the hidden cameras in Mark’s room were found, he’d have a lot of unpleasant explaining to do.

Fortunately, Mark didn’t have a lot of interest in tech.  He supported Reggie’s interest, even showing up to cheer him on at the robot wars.  Reggie turned the feed off as soon as Mark was dressed.  A few minutes later, Mark knocked on the door before sticking his head in.  “Hey, Reggie, I’m heading downtown.  Want to come?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind.”  Reggie reached for his laptop case.  “Could use some out of the house time.”

Continue reading Patreon – The Island

Truth and Shadows

She took a deep breath, then checked her tape recorder again and did another mic check.  Everything was still in working order.  And just in case it wasn’t, she still had her notebook.  Though the guards had insisted she use a felt tipped pin instead of anything that could be used as a weapon.  That made her even more nervous.  What the hell was she doing here?

The job advertisement was something she would have passed by, had she not still been flying a little high from her little adventure under the pier.  She’d almost called him up when she realized she’d forgotten to give him back his handcuffs.  They’d been sitting on her desk when she’d fired off the resume.

Diana Valerio, intrepid girl reporter.  Ace reporter.  Oh god, there were footsteps coming down the hall.  She set the pen back down and pasted a friendly smile on her face.  Somehow, she managed to keep it on as the guards set about securing the prisoner to the other chair.  Unlike hers, it had been bolted to the floor.  The man they were shackling to it looked every inch the stereotype of a scary black man.  He was well over six feet in height, with pounds of prison muscle packed onto this frame.  A scar ran down the left side of his face, from hairline to jaw, and she was surprised to see he still had the eye.  She could see tattoos visible on his neck as well as on his clean-shaven head, and from the looks of things his nose had been broken several times.

His hands were secured behind his back with heavy duty manacles, and his ankles were also fastened to the chair.  The guards didn’t stop there.  They also put leather straps on his legs and chest to keep him firmly fastened in place.  She found herself hoping he didn’t get an itchy nose.  Then she found herself hoping the restraints weren’t actually necessary.

As soon as the guards left the room, she took a deep breath.  “Mr. Viteri, thank you for agreeing to my request for an interview.”

“Ma’am.”  He inclined his head in her direction.  He shrugged.  “Guy in the cell next to me owes me ten cigarettes.”  His voice was surprisingly soft and pleasant, with a bit of a drawl.

“Um…”  She tilted her head.  “May I ask why?”

“Told him I was going to be talking to a woman named Diana today.  He bet me you’d be more Amanda Waller than Wonder Woman.”

“I hope he pays up.”  She smiled.  “Is that why you agreed to an interview?”  Her new boss hadn’t expected her to actually get the interview.  The man before her had turned away dozens already.  Given the man’s predilections, she was fairly confident her looks weren’t why he

“Forty requests this month.  But yours started with a please and ended with a thank you.”  He shrugged again.  “I am a southern boy, ma’am.  Good manners go a long way.”

“I will keep that in mind.”  She nodded.

“You also pointed out that you hadn’t read the books already written about my case.  Just the trial notes.  Said you wanted to get my side of the story without risking their influencing your views.”  He smiled.  “That’s the part that got you the interview, ma’am.  Reporters should have an open mind.”

“Thank you, Mr. Viteri.”  She took a deep breath.  “Would you like to start?”

“I’ve got some time.”  He winked at her.

“Alright then…”  This time the smile was genuinely friendly.  She’d been worried he was going to be hostile or confrontational.  This might go well.  “Shall we start in high school?”

“Rather not.”  He shook his head.  “High school set the scene, but it isn’t really where things got started.”

“Your lawyer cited bullying…”

“Ma’am, I think the fact that I’m in here kinda suggests he wasn’t a great lawyer.”

“Fair point.  So set the scene for me.”  The tape recorder was running, but she picked up the pen anyway.

“I was bullied in high school.  Skinny, broke, nerdy, black, and gay.”  He nodded.  “Pretty much the absolute lowest you could get in Bailey.  I skipped a few grades on account of the nerdy, or things might have been different.”  He glanced down at himself.  “I was kind of a late bloomer.”

“I see.”

“Thing is, that’s a common story.  You can walk down the street and run into a dozen people with the same one.  High school had good parts and…”  He looked up at her.  “It bother you if I cuss?”

“I want your words, Mr. Viteri.”

“High school had good parts and shit parts, and on the whole, it didn’t bother me too much.  But like I said, it sets the scene.  I got bullied particularly hard by a bunch at the top.  You know the names.”

She looked down at her notes.  “Timothy Bradford, Elliot Mercer, Arlo Velin…”  She looked back up at him.  “Paden and Tobias Grady.”  She didn’t miss the slight flicker across his eyes at the last name.

“High school is the time in your life when you’re still figuring out who and what you are.  Where you start making your first real decisions.  But it doesn’t define you.  That part comes a little bit later.  So, uh…”  He chuckled a little.

“Mr Viteri?”  She raised an eyebrow.

“Sorry, it’s just…”  He took a deep breath.  “You asked where my story starts and uh…”  He shrugged, making the shackles rattle a little.  “Hope you’ll forgive me for not being able to resist, but uh…”  He smiled.  “It really did begin on a dark and stormy night…”

Continue reading Truth and Shadows

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 19 – The End

Yalathanil lay back on the bed, Greg half atop him.  The dark brown locks of Greg’s hair tickled Yalathanil’s chest, and he smiled at the sensation.  “Are you asleep?”

“Yes.”  Greg’s voice answered him.

“I want to defy the rules.  To stay.”  Yalathanil took a deep breath.

“That would leave your people ruled by Saelethil, and uh…”  Greg rolled to lay next to him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.  “Pretty sure that won’t work out well for humans in general.”

“I know.”  Yalathanil sighed.  “I wish I could show you my kingdom.  The world beneath the waves, shielded from…”  He rested his cheek on Greg’s head.  “To show you the beauty of my world as you showed me the beauty of yours.”

“Twix bars and farmer’s markets.”  Greg ran a hand over his chest.  “I hadn’t even begun showing you the marvels of the surface.”  He gave a small laugh.  “I haven’t even gotten you drunk yet.”  The laughter died on his lips.  “I won’t forget you, Yala.”

“Perhaps…”  Yalathanil closed his eyes.  “There will come a time when my people can reach up to yours.  When that happens…”  He held Greg close.  “I will remember you.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 19 – The End

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 18

Greg smiled when he saw Adele standing behind her father.  “They are alright.”

“She told you they were.”  Yala sat down next to him, and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Seeing is a bit different.”  Greg exhaled, then shifted to put an arm around Yala.  He glanced at the door to the other room.  “I mean, I believed her, I just…”  He took a deep breath.  “It’s been a long day.”

“Tell me again what Jim said.”  Yala brushed Greg’s hair off his shoulder.

“That you have to claim your throne no matter the cost.”  He couldn’t quite look at Yala when he said the words.  Yala claiming a throne would mean an end to something that had started to become very precious to him.  “That if you don’t…”

“If I do not…”  Yala lifted his head.  “Saelethil will.”  His fists clenched.  “Jim just left you there.”  He stood.  “Just…”  He growled.  “Left you in Xue’s hands.  With men willing to torture you and watch you die.”

“He said he didn’t have a choice.”  Greg started to stand.

Yala grabbed him, pulled him into an embrace, and kissed him.  Greg moved his hand to the back of Yala’s neck as he returned the kiss, savoring it.  He doubted they were going to have much more time together, and from the tension in Yala’s grip he knew it too.  Yala’s fingers went through his hair, and he made another soft growling sound.  “I won’t abandon you.”

“You have to go back, Yala.”  He touched his forehead to Yala’s.

“Not until I know you are safe.”  Yala caressed his cheek.  “And it will not be forever.  You have a boat, you said.”  He swallowed.  “We can visit.”

“That would break the laws of your people.”  They turned to see Mbaba standing there, holding a tray of food.  Her voice was gentle, and her eyes sympathetic.  She gave a small shake of her head.  “I know what you feel for him, Yalathanil.  I have felt it before.  It is how your father came to exist.”  She glanced at Greg, and gave him the smallest of nods before looking back at Yalathanil.  “He is human.  You are not.”

“It doesn’t…”  Yalathanil started shaking his head.

“Greg…”  Her eyes went to him again.  “Ask him how old he is.”

“Why is that…”  He trailed off as he stared at her, then he turned toward Yala.  “I —”

“I don’t know.”  Yala exhaled, his eyes half-closed.  “I do not understand how you mark the passing of time.”

“Yalathanil was born over four hundred years ago.”  Mbaba set the tray down.  “It will be nearly two thousand more before he needs to fear the passage of time.”  She took a deep breath.  “Despite such longevity, his people are few.  They withdrew from the surface because the alternative was their utter destruction, as befell the other shepherds.”  She leaned on the table, then give a small shake of her head.  Her eyes closed for a moment, then reopened.  “Treasure the next few days.”  She smiled, then reached up to brush a little of Greg’s hair back from his face.  “And then say your farewells.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 18

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 17

He could hear the groan of the metal through the water as the cage was ripped nearly in half.  Silt swirled up around them, making it impossible to see what was at the cage.  Greg felt Yala’s arms around him tighten, then he felt the other man shift into his fully aquatic form.  A kick of the powerful tail, and they were rocketing through the water away from the cage.  He wrapped his arms around Yala and hung on for dear life.

They came up together some distance from shore, with Yala shifting into the amphibious form as he surfaced.  “What…”  Greg glanced at him, and saw Yala giving a huge smile.  Xue’s ship was being dragged out in the other direction at a rapid speed.  “Yala?”

“She came.”  Yala laughed.  “She came.”

“She…”

“Are you alright, Greg?”  Yala touched his cheek.

“I’m freezing, but yeah.”  Greg nodded.

“Yes.”  Yala frowned.  “Humans should be warmer than you are now.”  He shifted his grip on Greg and then began pulling him back toward the shore.

“How about you?”  Greg adjusted his position so he could kick with his own legs, as much to get his blood flowing again as to help Yala propel them.  “Are you alright?”

“I am tired.”  Yala nodded.  “I need to sleep, but then…”  He glanced at Greg.  “I will be fine.”

“Right.”  Greg exhaled.  “Let’s find a safe place to hole up and contact the girls.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 17

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 16

He managed to get a deep breath before the cage took them beneath the water.  The heavy metal sank quickly, and to his dismay the area they were in was proving to be rather deep.  Yala was still in his amphibious form, and he gave Greg a worried look before trying to bend the bars.  They gave, maybe a half centimeter.  Greg swam over, trying to put what strength he had into helping Yala.  Yala struck the bars in frustration before trying again.

The pressure was starting to make him lightheaded.  The cage hit the bottom, then slid to go just a bit deeper.  He felt his vision starting to go gray as he struggled to hold his breath just a little longer.  Then he felt Yala grab him and pull him close.  The merman’s mouth came down on his, sealing their lips together.  Then he felt Yala force air into his lungs.  Greg nodded when Yala pulled away, then went back to trying to bend the bars.  They managed another couple centimeters, but it was clear that Yala was still weakened from healing him.

Greg caught Yala’s arm, then felt Yala’s mouth on his again, giving precious air.  He tried to push Yala away, but the other man held him tightly.  As long as Yala was focusing his efforts on keeping Greg alive, he wasn’t going to recover enough strength to get free before Xue’s men hauled the cage up.  Greg tried shaking his head, only for Yala to simply grab a handful of his hair and hold him in place almost effortlessly.  The mouth on his became a kiss before going back to providing air.

His own arms went around Yala.  They’d just have to hope the girls could distract them long enough for Yala to recover.

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 16

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 10

Adele stood under the shower.  Stood.  No shower chair.  She could hear the kitten batting around the wrapper from the soap.  They did need to get an early start, or she’d have suggested they all spend some time at the hotel’s pool.  Then again, Yala and a pool might not be a good idea.  He could inadvertently switch forms, and they had no idea how he’d react to various pool chemicals.  Did he switch when he got wet?  Assuming Greg reminded him to shower, they’d know soon enough.

Reluctantly, she got out of the shower and pulled her clothes on.  Natalya was still sprawled on the bed, and Octopus climbed up and made herself comfortable on Natalya’s back.  Adele shook her head and headed out to grab them all some breakfast.

Halfway down the corridor she noted a familiar face.  One of the handlers was talking to the desk clerk.  Immediately she turned around and headed back.  “Nat?”  She rushed over and shook her friend awake.  “Nat, they are here.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 10

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 9

“Try this one.”  Natalya pushed another of the foods toward him.

He picked it up.  The scent was sweet, and a little warm and rich.  Tentatively, he took a small taste.  Then his eyes went wide, and he took another.  It had just a bit of crunch in the center, like small bones, and there was some gooey brown stuff as well.  The thing’s blood?  “I like this.”

“That…”  Natalya grinned.  “Is called a Twix.  My favorite candy bar.”  She leaned in.  “Okay, the crunchy bit is cookie, the light brown is caramel, and the coating is chocolate.”

Yalathanil took another bite, savoring the flavor.  “Are these creatures hard to hunt?  Is that why you don’t eat them all the time?”

“It’s uh…”  She blinked.

After a closer look at the inner parts, he raised an eyebrow at her.  “What manner of creature is it?  I see no organs.”

“It’s not…”  She shook her head.  “It’s not a creature or a plant.  It’s a concoction.  Like…”  She lowered her hands.  “I have absolutely no idea how to explain it.  It’s a mix of other things made into this thing and…”  She straightened up.  “And wow your biology is utterly fascinating.  Based on your teeth in your natural form you are clearly a carnivore, yet your body isn’t rejecting anything else you’ve tried so you must be omnivorous on some level.  Or are you mimicking humans on the inside as well as the outside?”

“I…”  He blinked.  “I do not know.  I never took this form before.  I knew I could, but there was never before a reason.”

“But there are different of your kind.  I mean, there must be.”  She sat back, looking over at him curiously.  “How do your lungs even work?  I mean, most can’t go from air to fresh water to salt…”  She exhaled.  “I’m sorry.  I just find you fascinating and want to know how you work, and I know, it’s rude.  I shouldn’t think of you like a specimen.”

“You are helping me learn of you, Natalya.”  He inclined his head.  “I am happy to help you learn of me.”  He shrugged, then blinked as the kitten came over to him, climbed into his lap, and lay down before moving her paws on his leg in a kneading motion.  He stared at it.  “What is she doing?”

“She likes you.”

“I…”  He stared at the creature, then gently stroked it with a finger like Adele had done.  The kitten immediately started vibrating.  “Did I break it?”

“No, they make that noise when they are happy.”  She went quiet.

For a few minutes, he just stared at the tiny being, occasionally stroking it with a finger again.  The kitten responded to the gesture by grabbing his finger in its paws and happily starting to chew on it.  “Natalya…”  He hesitated.  “You said one of my kind took your brother.”

“It wasn’t exactly like you.  I mean…”  She folded her arms.  “You look kind of like a lionfish.  It looked like a squid or an octopus.  It had all these tentacles and moved fast, making this horrific screaming noise.”  She shuddered a little.  “It was on an island.  There was this door with marks on it.  I should have left it alone.”  Tears started falling from her eyes, and she started weeping silently.

Awkwardly, he put his arm around her, as he’d seen Greg do to both girls when they needed comfort.  “Rusalkas.”  When she blinked at him.  “They are rare.  They tend toward…”  He shrugged.  “They are like Xue.”

“Bad guys.”  She leaned into him a little.

“Yes.  Bad.  But not guys.  All Rusalkas are females.  They liked to steal others, and made others mad.  Made war between us and the other…”  He searched for the word.  “Protectors.  Some were sealed away, but too much hurting was done.  When the severing was done, we went deep.”

“Yala…?”

“Yes, Natalya?”

“After we get you to the ocean, you’ll come visit us, right?”  She straightened, and smiled at him.  “I need to either learn your language or better teach you mine because now I have so many more questions and…”  She took a deep breath.  “I think they will drive me insane.”

“Yes, Natalya.”  He nodded, then touched a finger to her forehead, then smiled.  “I will visit.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 9

Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 9

“Try this one.”  Natalya pushed another of the foods toward him.

He picked it up.  The scent was sweet, and a little warm and rich.  Tentatively, he took a small taste.  Then his eyes went wide, and he took another.  It had just a bit of crunch in the center, like small bones, and there was some gooey brown stuff as well.  The thing’s blood?  “I like this.”

“That…”  Natalya grinned.  “Is called a Twix.  My favorite candy bar.”  She leaned in.  “Okay, the crunchy bit is cookie, the light brown is caramel, and the coating is chocolate.”

Yalathanil took another bite, savoring the flavor.  “Are these creatures hard to hunt?  Is that why you don’t eat them all the time?”

“It’s uh…”  She blinked.

After a closer look at the inner parts, he raised an eyebrow at her.  “What manner of creature is it?  I see no organs.”

“It’s not…”  She shook her head.  “It’s not a creature or a plant.  It’s a concoction.  Like…”  She lowered her hands.  “I have absolutely no idea how to explain it.  It’s a mix of other things made into this thing and…”  She straightened up.  “And wow your biology is utterly fascinating.  Based on your teeth in your natural form you are clearly a carnivore, yet your body isn’t rejecting anything else you’ve tried so you must be omnivorous on some level.  Or are you mimicking humans on the inside as well as the outside?”

“I…”  He blinked.  “I do not know.  I never took this form before.  I knew I could, but there was never before a reason.”

“But there are different of your kind.  I mean, there must be.”  She sat back, looking over at him curiously.  “How do your lungs even work?  I mean, most can’t go from air to fresh water to salt…”  She exhaled.  “I’m sorry.  I just find you fascinating and want to know how you work, and I know, it’s rude.  I shouldn’t think of you like a specimen.”

“You are helping me learn of you, Natalya.”  He inclined his head.  “I am happy to help you learn of me.”  He shrugged, then blinked as the kitten came over to him, climbed into his lap, and lay down before moving her paws on his leg in a kneading motion.  He stared at it.  “What is she doing?”

“She likes you.”

“I…”  He stared at the creature, then gently stroked it with a finger like Adele had done.  The kitten immediately started vibrating.  “Did I break it?”

“No, they make that noise when they are happy.”  She went quiet.

For a few minutes, he just stared at the tiny being, occasionally stroking it with a finger again.  The kitten responded to the gesture by grabbing his finger in its paws and happily starting to chew on it.  “Natalya…”  He hesitated.  “You said one of my kind took your brother.”

“It wasn’t exactly like you.  I mean…”  She folded her arms.  “You look kind of like a lionfish.  It looked like a squid or an octopus.  It had all these tentacles and moved fast, making this horrific screaming noise.”  She shuddered a little.  “It was on an island.  There was this door with marks on it.  I should have left it alone.”  Tears started falling from her eyes, and she started weeping silently.

Awkwardly, he put his arm around her, as he’d seen Greg do to both girls when they needed comfort.  “Rusalkas.”  When she blinked at him.  “They are rare.  They tend toward…”  He shrugged.  “They are like Xue.”

“Bad guys.”  She leaned into him a little.

“Yes.  Bad.  But not guys.  All Rusalkas are females.  They liked to steal others, and made others mad.  Made war between us and the other…”  He searched for the word.  “Protectors.  Some were sealed away, but too much hurting was done.  When the severing was done, we went deep.”

“Yala…?”

“Yes, Natalya?”

“After we get you to the ocean, you’ll come visit us, right?”  She straightened, and smiled at him.  “I need to either learn your language or better teach you mine because now I have so many more questions and…”  She took a deep breath.  “I think they will drive me insane.”

“Yes, Natalya.”  He nodded, then touched a finger to her forehead, then smiled.  “I will visit.”

Continue reading Storm’s Mercy: Chapter 9

Primitive: Chapter 17 – The End

“I punched the harbinger of the apocalypse in the face.”  Christophe sat on the edge of the bed, staring at the wall.

“Ragnarok.”  Lykos shrugged.

“I punched the harbinger of the Ragnarok in the face.”  Christophe kept staring at the wall.

“Not the Ragnarok.  Just Ragnarok.”

“I punched Jörmungandr in the face.”

“Was good punch too.”  Lykos grinned at him.

“I punched a dragon, in the face.”

“You know, if was going to punch a dragon, he was right choice.”  Lykos patted his shoulder.  When Christophe slowly turned to look at him, Lykos shrugged.  “He think it funny, respect your guts.  Other dragons?  They just set you on fire.  Or bit off head.”

“Your grandfather is the World Serpent.”  He exhaled.

Lykos shifted to sit next to him, and put an arm around his shoulder before pulling Christophe in.  “You should sleep.  Was big day.  Nearly got brain fried, nearly nuked, punched dragon, rode off on back of dragon…”

“He flew from Colorado to Holland in less than six minutes.  I can’t even…”  Christophe shook his head.  “We should not have been able to survive the G-forces involved with going that fast.”

“You ride dragon, and you worry about g-strings?”  Lykos tilted his head.

“G—”  He turned to stare at Lykos.  “There you go.  Thinking you’re funny.”  He smiled a little.

“I…”  Lykos put a hand on his chest.  “Am hilarious.”

“Yeah…”  Christophe shook his head.  “Like the plague.”

“Bah.”  Lykos lay back on the bed, pulling Christophe down with him.  Christophe shifted so he was laying in Lykos’s arms, his head resting on Lykos’s chest.  Lykos stroked his hair gently.  “Are you okay, my Christophe?”

“Yeah.”  Christophe nodded.  “Strange as…”  He swallowed.  “I am.”

Continue reading Primitive: Chapter 17 – The End

Primitive: Chapter 14

“You’re just messing with me, aren’t you?”  Christophe narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

“You doubt me?”  Lykos gave him a wide-eyed look of shock, but the corners of his mouth twitched just a little.

“There is no such thing as a were-beagle.”  Christophe folded his arms.

“Just the one.”  When Christophe raised an eyebrow, Lykos shrugged.  “Never gamble with pixie.  Always with the thinking they are funny.”  He looked around the camp.  “Few days, jerky will be dry.”

“Yeah.”  Christophe nodded.  “Any chance we could get some pepper or —”

“We leave in five days.”  Lykos turned back toward Christophe.

Christophe blinked.  “What?”  He stared at Lykos for a moment, then his eyes widened.  “You mean…”

“Go Canada.  Find little town.  Cabin.  Get you television.”  He put a hand on Christophe’s shoulder.  “Maybe violin.”

“I, uh…”  He gave Lykos a hesitant smile.  “I would like to learn to play again.”  It took him several minutes to realize that travel would give him the opportunity for escape.  He could…

“Christophe?”  It took him a moment to realize Lykos was speaking to him again.  “Your eyes went away.”

“I was…”  Christophe exhaled, then touched the collar.  “A few nights ago, you forgot to lock my chain.”

“Did not forget.”  Lykos met his eyes calmly.

“You…”  He stared.  “You were testing me.  You…”  He took a deep breath, then stepped forward and shoved Lykos hard enough the man actually took a step back.  “You think taunting me with freedom is fucking funny?  In case you forgot, you fucking kidnapped me.  You…”  He felt the anger start to fade, and that pissed him off again.  “Son of a bitch.”

“Hey.”  Lykos poked him in the chest.  “I not insult your mother.”

“I…”

“You can write.  Drop letter in mail on way.  What you tell her is your choice.”  Lykos squeezed his shoulder.  “I will not read letter.  If…”  Lykos hesitated a moment.  “If when time to go, you want to go a different way…”  He met Christophe’s eyes again.  “I will take off chains.”

“You…”  He swallowed.  “You’d let me go?”

“Yes, Christophe.  If you want to go…”  Lykos sighed.  “I will let you go.”

“I…”  It was Christophe’s turn to hesitate.  “But then you’ll go after my father again.  You won’t…”  He looked away.  “You’ll kill people.”

“Is possible.  Is also possible they will leave me alone and I will not have need kill people.”

“Let me think about it.”  Christophe couldn’t believe he’d just said that.  Lykos was offering to…  He gave a small shake of his head.  “Let me think about it.”

“Take all time need.”  Lykos patted his shoulder before heading into the cave.

Continue reading Primitive: Chapter 14

Primitive: Chapter 13

Christophe followed Lykos down the small hill to the stream.  There was a source of water in the caves, but it didn’t have fish.  Lykos kept the leash short, only a few feet, but there was an additional coil of chain in his hand.  His wrist and ankle cuffs, however, weren’t secured together, allowing in freedom of movement otherwise.  Lykos rarely bothered with those chains anymore, but he never removed the leash.  It was no longer even fastened to the collar by a lock.  Lykos had used his power to seal the links to create a ten-foot length of unbroken chain permanently attached to the collar, though longer lengths were often attached.

He sat on a rock, enjoying the sun as Lykos gave the stream one of his critical looks.  “Overhunting.  Fish too small.”  Lykos glared at the water, then sniffed it and wrinkled his nose.  “Fertilizer run off.  Shameful.”

“They’ve been trying to pass laws about the runoff problems, but the corn industry has a powerful lobby.”  Christophe lay back on the rock.  Lykos had secured the leash, giving him about a twenty-foot radius to move around in.  But with living half naked in a cool cave most of the time, the sun felt good and he saw no need to move from where he currently was.  Off in the distance he saw a helicopter heading west.

“Lobbyists.  Should all be drawn and quartered.”  Lykos shook his head as he waded into the river.

“Can’t really argue with that.”  He lifted himself up to rest a hand on his head.  Watching Lykos catch fish with his bare hands remained fascinating.  The man had attempted to teach him and Christophe had even managed it once, but Lykos made it look far easier than it actually was.  Within a few minutes, several fish were on the bank.

Cleaning the fish and game, however, remained his task.  He was getting better at it.  Lykos had caned his feet twice before he’d gotten the hang of properly butchering a deer.  He’d wondered at why the man had brought back so much before realizing that the leaves were falling.  Lykos was stocking up for winter.  “You like chickens?”

It took him a moment to realize Lykos had asked him a question.  “I like chicken.”

“Not chicken.  Chickens.”  Lykos gestured for him to grab the fish.  “I think I steal some.  Eggs.  Meat.  Build little coop.”  He shook his head.  “Cow too big.  Goats better.”

“You…”  He picked up the fish.  “You talk like you intend to stay in the caves forever.”

“Good place.  Secure.”  Lykos nodded.  He frowned when he looked at Christophe, and a couple expressions crossed his face.  “You don’t want to live in cave forever.”

I want you to let me go.  He didn’t say the words aloud.  “I kind of miss television sometimes.  And uh…”  He rubbed the back of his neck.

“Lonely.”  Lykos gave him a look that was surprisingly sympathetic.

“A little.”  He watched Lykos unfasten his leash from the tree for the trip back.

“Perhaps…”  Lykos hesitated before he started back toward the cave.  “We can go north.  Canada.  Find small town where no one will look for us.”

“That uh…”  Christophe nodded.  “Yeah.”

Continue reading Primitive: Chapter 13

Primitive: Chapter 12

His fingers found the marks on the collar.  Lykos had added a rune, ensuring the collar did not merely mark Christophe as a possession, but Lykos’s possession.  He slid his fingers a bit further and found the seam, then took his hand away when he heard Lykos stir.  Lykos gave him a slight frown.  “You wake early.”

“I…”  He hesitated.  “I was thinking about my mother.  By now she probably knows I’m…”  He exhaled.

Then he felt Lykos’s hand on his shoulder.  “Can get phone, go where there is signal.  You call, tell her you are alive.”

He smiled.  “You’d let me?”

“I have no grudge against your mother.”  Lykos nodded.

Continue reading Primitive: Chapter 12