Friday, December 17, 2010

Nothing Is Forbidden, Everything Is Allowed

I’d been pretty apprehensive when my best friend Sasha had invited me to her favorite club. I was well aware that Sasha was far wilder than I was, as far as I knew there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t try at least once and that held true in every facet of her life. The particular facet she had coaxed me into sharing with her; however, was propelling me into uncharted territory and I couldn’t calm the butterflies in my stomach.

It wasn’t that I was sexually repressed or inexperienced, I simply hadn’t ventured too far outside the boundaries set by society at large. And now here I was, dressed in a dress chosen by Sasha and following her into the dark interior of the club.

The feel of the place wasn’t what I had expected. Basing my expectations on the few strip clubs I’d been in I found the dim lighting unsurprising, but that’s where the similarities ended. There was no stage, no visible DJ spinning loud bass heavy songs for the girls to dance to, and the air didn’t smell of unwashed bodies.

Small groupings of soft chairs and love seats surrounded low tables and filled the enormous room, lit warmly by candlelight that illuminated so many faces. Soothing music of the vocal jazz variety flowed from invisible speakers, filling the air like mist and I could almost feel it beading up on my eyelashes.

Sasha took me by the hand and led me to the far back corner of the club, motioning for me to sit as she settled herself into the burgundy chair across from me. The blueberry velvet of my own chair felt especially soft under my fingertips and I couldn’t resist petting it idly.

Our server appeared and I had to do a double take, again surprised by the unexpected. The scantily clad woman I’d anticipated was nothing at all like the tall, handsome man who smiled down at me after giving Sasha a kiss on the cheek, a gesture that looked to me like he’d done it before. How often did Sasha come here I wondered.

I barely noticed when Sasha ordered champagne for us, simply staring like a fool as the server walked away with a wink in my direction. “What is this place?” I asked Sasha, keeping my voice low. Her bark of laughter was in no way muted and I tried to shush her, to no avail.

“Oh my darling Jess,” she replied with a wide smile, patting my knee, “You have no idea the treats you are in for tonight.”

Finding myself both intrigued and alarmed by that statement I sat back and watched. I watched people talking quietly over drinks or h'ordeuvres. I watched as pairs and groups wandered off together and disappeared behind a heavy black curtain I hadn’t noticed before, and I couldn’t help but wonder what was back there.

When our server returned he popped the champagne and poured two glasses, holding one out to me while sinking down into the chair beside me with the other. I passed a confused look to Sasha who rose to her feet as our server sat, as though choreographed, and all I got from her was an encouraging wink as she walked away.

The clinking of his glass against mine brought my gaze back to his face and he beamed a brilliant smile at me. “What shall we drink to?” he asked. His voice was like mink; soft, silky and it should have been totally illegal.

“I’m sorry, this is my first time here and I’m not sure what the protocol is.” I replied honestly, feeling very out of my depth. “I mean, is this allowed?” I punctuated my question by gesturing at him sitting there with his glass of wine.

He laughed, rich and thick like chocolate that clings to your tongue, his blue eyes sparkling in the candlelight. “My dear, in this place nothing is forbidden, everything is permitted.”

As we raised our glasses to drink to that I knew this would be a night I would never forget.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Fleas Of A Thousand Camels

The low drone of dozens of voices speaking at once filled the room, the range of tone overlapping to create a strange kind of white noise that Chloe was usually oblivious to. Today it was like a hundred banshees wailing on a cliff as turbulent waves battered the stone face and she squeezed her eyes shut to fight off the urge to plug her ears.

Only 8 more hours until she would be getting on a plane and flying away; away from everyone who had expectations of her, had demands on her time and relied on her. For 14 glorious days she could focus solely on herself, she could swim and sleep and hike and breathe; she would have the time.

Glancing at the clock she sighed; 7 hours and 48 minutes to go.

The drive home was filled with so much sameness: the same songs on the radio, the same cars following the same route to the same home they always went to in order to do the same things they always did.

“How did I get here?” She asked herself, her voice incredulous in her own ears. There had been so much she had wanted to do and see and experience, and in her 39 years she’d barely scratched the surface of that great big world of wants.

Chloe walked through her front door and straight into her bedroom where her packed suitcase stood waiting, staring at her impatiently, and with a relieved smile she grabbed the handle and went out to wait for the taxi she’d pre-scheduled to take her to the airport.

Long flights, layovers and plane changes could do nothing to diminish Chloe’s excitement and with each mile of ocean that passed 35 thousand feet below her she felt more and more eager to be free of any routine. She wasn’t on the ground a full day before she was in the ocean, swimming slowly, letting the salt water seep into every pore, soaking up each new experience like a sponge.

Chloe spent her days hiking in the jungle, swimming and exploring the reefs that skirted the island, and trying every kind of new food she could find. Her spirit felt light and engaged and alive with each passing day and each experience. The unbridled joy and elation she felt flagged on the journey home, and with every mile of ocean that passed 35 thousand feet below her the memory of another responsibility came to her until it felt like the fleas of a thousand camels were biting at her brain.

When the plane landed in LA she rushed to the ticket counter and bought a ticket back to the island paradise from which she had just come; she couldn’t return to her old life without sacrificing her soul and that was a trade she wasn’t willing to make, she’d just send for her things and start a new routine.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

You Can Never Have Too Much Of A Good Thing

Everyone had something to say, but no one cared one whit what I wanted, and their incessant chatter buzzed in my ears like a swarm of mosquitoes until the pitch pushed me over the edge. I surged to my feet, the sudden motion silencing my potential father-in-law who was busy discussing what the privilege of marrying his son was worth.

“Zoe!” my mother’s tone was like ice, but I was oblivious to it, having had years to adapt. From my parents I’d only known disappointment, anger and distance, and as they sat in the very elegantly appointed study I could see my life slipping away before my eyes. Ever the proper young lady I had spent my youth in needlepoint, sitting silently in a corner during my mother’s Salons and being sharply corrected until I mastered proper etiquette and the very thought of one second more of it made me sick.

Lunging across the low table I slapped the tea cup from my mother’s hands, the hand- painted china sailing through the air leaving an arc of chamomile tea in its wake before shattering on the floor. “No Mother! No more will I pander for your approval by flawlessly regurgitating the day’s lesson. I will not sit silently while you harp at me about not being good enough so wed a leper; you do not determine my worth!”

I heard my father shift in his seat so I spun and pinned him with my furious gaze. Reaching out I snatched his cane from his hand, turning and smashing it against the edge of the marble mantle, not even flinching as splintered mahogany showered down on us like confetti. “And you, Father, you who were so disappointed that I was not a precious son that you couldn’t be bothered to notice me at all save for the beatings you meted out on a whim.” I pointed accusingly at the broken cane as I ranted; it’s highly polished beauty masking its sinister function.

Without a backward glance I picked up my skirts and ran from the room, my heart hammering in my chest; I’d been too well taught not to know that what I had just done ensured me the beating of my life. I also knew that I now wouldn’t be permitted to marry His Lordship Henry Paul Worthington III, son of the Duke of Sussex, and as I ran toward the barn my heart soared with that knowledge, hammering anew with anticipation in place of fear.

I rounded the corner of the smithy, the heat of the forge like a wall that made it hard to breathe for a moment and my eyes locked on the broad shoulders of Master Bruce’s apprentice, William. I hesitated for half a heartbeat, questioning my own sanity until he turned and his sapphire eyes found me, and then the world melted away. I ran to him and claimed his mouth, his surprise brief, then his arms snaked around me and he eagerly returned my kiss.

We tore at each other’s clothes with an urgent need to touch, skin to skin, exploring with brazen lips, fingers and tongues. We tasted and touched and fell together like the teenagers we were, stripping off title, class and wealth with each layer of fabric and rejoicing in the simple passion we shared, consequences be damned.

My heart and mind soared to new levels of euphoria under his touch, my body sang and I wrapped myself around him, holding him against me with slick arms and legs as he filled me. His breath was hot against my neck, and taking his face in my hands I claimed his mouth and his breath, arching against him as the new sensation of release surged through my every cell moments before he gave his essence to me.

We lay in a tangle of arms and legs, our skin slick and our breathing ragged as we stared into each other’s eyes from inches away. He smoothed my tousled hair away from my face, his calloused hands rough on my cheeks and I relished the texture.

“Make love to me again.” I said, unashamed of my boldness, or my newly awakened lust, and he smiled down at me with a look that told me he would be happy to oblige.

“You can never have too much of a good thing when that good thing is you,” he said. My heart swelled with the love I’d had for him since I was 12, and I writhed under him, lacing my fingers into his hair and reclaiming his mouth.


I blinked to clear my vision, shaking my head to lift the fog from my mind and I stared at the delicate teacup my mother was holding out to me. I glanced around the room, taking in the ever disappointed face of my father and the sour expressions of The Duke and his son as they discussed my dowry.

Looking out the window my brown eyes locked on the intense sapphire stare of Master Bruce’s apprentice William, and my heart floated and sank at the same time. Taking the proffered tea I quietly stared into its pale amber depths, ever the proper young lady.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Postcard From The Edge

Two weeks away and it felt like the whole world should have changed; my mind almost refusing to accept that everything had stayed the same. I sat in my small apartment and stared at what was familiar and yet altogether foreign: my mail was still piled up on the bar, my bed was still unmade from my mad dash out the door, and the comfortable scent of sandalwood incense hung faintly in the air, yet I smelled only the jungle.

I sat back on my green velvet sofa and closed my eyes, running my hands over the soft fabric and imagining it was soil, dark and rich and slipping through my fingers as though through an hourglass. The cars moving past my windows sounded like the rush and pull of distant waves as they kissed and caressed the shore, calm and peaceful.

I had planned the trip for the sole purpose of escaping from my family, my friends, my job and everything else familiar; what I hadn’t recognized was that I was actually trying to escape from myself. I was bored with everything and everyone; the food held no taste, the sunshine no warmth and the world no joy for me. I’d travelled halfway around the world, but nowhere was far enough to get away from my own jaded heart.

For the first three days I hiked into the jungle, losing myself within the humidity and dark coolness of an alien world I’d never before imagined. Each day I walked further than the last until on the fourth day I emerged from the trees and found myself standing at the edge of a monolithic cliff.

Vines crept from the jungle and cascaded down the cliff face, the rich green leaves contrasting beautifully with the dark, almost black, stone. The vista my eyes beheld staggered me, and before my knees gave out under me I lowered myself to carefully sit on the edge of the cliff, my muddy boots dangling thousands of feet in the air.

Before me was a vast sea of green, foliage swelling with the rise and fall of the hills under their feet, the turquoise of the ocean sparkling just beyond and the azure of the mid-day sky crowning what was at that moment, the whole world to me. I was only faintly aware of the tears that slipped down my cheeks, I was wholeheartedly focused on what was being shared with me, and my apathy began to slip away in the wake of such splendor.

A large rough tongue suddenly licked my tears away and I turned my head to stare into the green eyes of a jaguar, but I couldn’t find my fear, instead I cocked my head to one side and smiled.

“Hi there.” My voice sounded strange amidst the jungle sounds around me, as did my laugh when the huge cat sat down beside me and cocked his head to one side. After sizing me up for a moment he laid down beside me, resting his head in my lap and allowing me to pet his ears.

I stayed all day, not moving from the precipice of my newfound joy until the sun began to sink into the ocean. My feline companion stayed with me all day and whimpered when I explained that I had to go but would be back.

I spent the rest of my stay at the cliff’s edge sitting, reading, napping or simply gazing and always my companion was with me, often just staring at me. As the sun set on us for the final time I penned a brief note on the back of a Wish You Were Here postcard I’d picked up at the airport. All I had been gifted with was expressed in one simple statement: “You are responsible for your own joy.” I addressed it to myself, my postcard from the edge, and with a kiss tossed it into the air for the universe to send whenever it felt like it, watching with a wide smile as it disappeared into the chasm below me.

At dawn I was awoken by the weight of a gaze; heavy and green and staring at me from the olive skinned face of a stranger who was perched on the edge of my cot. I didn’t move despite the sudden hammering of my heart in my chest, remaining as still as I could and simply staring back.

His black hair was shot through with tawny gold and hung to his waist like a satin curtain, beautifully showcasing the width of his smooth shoulders and expanse of his sculpted chest. My eyes couldn’t help but wander and I admired the rest of his angles before lifting my gaze again to stare into his eyes, strangely familiar eyes.

Wordlessly he bent down and brushed his lips across mine, soft as a rose petal, and I was overwhelmed with the need to be filled and enflamed by him. Hours later I awoke, blissfully sore and softly languid, feeling like water and light had simply been poured into my skin. I didn’t need to open my eyes to know he was gone; I sensed his absence and with a sigh tried to push aside my disappointment.

The journey home was long and noisy: cars, airports, airplanes, people, crying babies and machinery assaulted my ears and was almost painful. When I reached my door I had rushed inside, seeking refuge from the city sounds I’d been so oblivious to not two weeks before, and even the muted sounds that filtered through my walls were almost unbearable.

The soft knock on my door dragged me from my memories of the ocean, the jungle and my unknown lover. The familiar musky scent of his skin greeted me before my eyes could even verify it was indeed him, and with tears in my eyes I stood paralyzed with joy in the doorway. He smiled at me, his green eyes shining as he held up my postcard, “If I am responsible for my own joy, why then can I not find it without you?”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When It Rains

The sound of footsteps on the floorboards above her head had Sasha’s nerves on the brink of a breakdown. She lay on her side on the dirt floor, curled into as tight a ball as she could manage, her eyes squeezed shut and flinching with each clomp of thick soled shoes.

It still wasn’t clear to her where she was or why she was there, the questions she’d been asked were confusing, and the pain her captors inflicted each time she said I don’t know in response had left her a bruised and bleeding wreck. How did she get from sipping a latte in her favorite corner coffee shop to a dark pit carved into the earth? The saying was, when it rains it pours, but this was a torrential downpour in her book.

Her captors were insisting she knew where the RFHC was, and they wouldn’t believe her when she denied knowing anything about it. From what she was able to glean based on their questions, it was some sort of prototype weapon and oh how she wished she did know where it was, not so she could give it to them, but so she could use it on them. Sasha had never had any violent tendencies in her life… until now.

Pale moonlight filtered down through the cracks between the boards, highlighting the dust that fell across Sasha’s battered body along with the silvery light. Tears leaked from her eyes and she wished there was a way to drown out the conversations above, the constant sound as brutal to her ears as the beatings were to the rest of her body.

Through the low din of the voices above Sasha’s ears picked up a patterned knocking: tap, taptap, tap. She sat up slowly, her muscles wincing in protest. Tap, taptap, tap. She looked around, trying to pinpoint the source of the noise, rising to her feet and walking stiffly from one side of her prison to the other, her head tilted toward the wooden planks overhead.

She followed the sound to its apparent origination point, peering up through the knothole and meeting the gaze of the man occupying the chair directly over her head. His hazel eyes were filled with an intense knowing look, and she watched as he again knocked his knuckles against the table: tap, taptap, tap.

With the fifth repetition of the pattern in her ears, a haze she hadn’t know was clouding her mind dissipated like coastal fog assaulted by sunlight, and a flood of memories poured forth, staggering her. Bracing herself against the dirt wall Sasha closed her eyes while her mind and body were filled. Knowledge, training and purpose poured into her every cell like a tidal pool fills with water; not gentle and easy, but with rushing swells, dangerous currents and swirling waves.

It was a full 20 minutes before Sasha felt like she could stand up again, her legs shaky and after a few deep breaths she again looked up through the knothole into now familiar hazel eyes: Kyle, her partner, mentor and lover. They had gone undercover together three years prior, him as a member of the terrorist splinter cell they were working to destroy, and her as a sleeper agent meant to confuse and frustrate them once captured. They were allowed to find small clues that led the them directly to her, but unbeknownst to them Sasha, when activated, was deadly and efficient.

With a fast and subtle movement Kyle bent over and dropped something through the floor, a rusted steel awl landing point down in the dirt. A slow smile spread across Sasha’s face as her muscle memory kicked in, her long fingers wrapping around the wooden handle just as Kyle suggested to Marco, the leader, that they interrogate the prisoner again.

Sasha sat down on the floor to wait, her back to the wall opposite where the trap door would open and the wooden stairs would be lowered, the awl hidden within her folded arms. The trap door opened and the watery light of dawn cascaded down the rickety steps that were lowered into the pit just before a pair of booted feet descended.

Dark eyes found her and without hesitation he made his way across the pit, grabbing her roughly by the arms and hauling her to her feet. In one swift motion Sasha drove the dull point of the awl into the corner of his eye and into his brain, dropping him wordlessly. Drawing the pistol from his holster she sat his body up and crouched behind it, waiting for someone to check on him.

His friends called to him and when no reply came, two of them ventured down the wooden stairs. Sasha didn’t understand what they were shouting in their foreign tongue when they took in the scene, she didn’t need to. Almost as if on auto pilot she used the dead body as a shield when the two men opened fire on her, shooting back until her borrowed gun clicked empty. Diving to the side she somersaulted and rolled to her feet, running at her captors and slitting one throat with the awl while redirecting the dying man’s gun and shooting his partner in the chest with it.

Both bodies dropped, wet gurgling sounds emanating from them as they tumbled down the stairs to bleed into the dirt. Creeping up the stairs Sasha’s blue eyes scanned the room, finding only bodies at Kyle’s feet, the long blade in his hand thick with blood.

Sasha reached up and took Kyle’s hand as he helped her from her prison, wrapping her arms around him and kissing him hard on the mouth; she felt their three years of waiting melt away, replaced by their immediate wanting of each other.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

One Bullet Left

I crouched down behind a fallen tree, letting the thick branches shield me from the view of the searching soldiers. My right shoulder burned from the wound I’d received during my escape, the kiss of a 45 caliber round gaping like a mouth and still bleeding steadily despite my makeshift bandage. On the bright side, at least I hadn’t been showered with the same kind of affection in a more vital area.

My fingers were sticky with blood, which would have made clutching the 9mm I had stolen easier if it weren’t for the numbness that kept me from feeling the gun’s weight. Peeking through the tree’s branches I watched as the line of fanned out soldiers made their way through the underbrush, spread ten yards apart and scanning slowly and carefully.

Slipping back into the gradually thickening forest I picked my way around boulders, fallen trees and gullies, careful to employ all the evasive techniques I’d learned over my years as an assassin. This particular job had become a worst-case-scenario in every sense; being captured and tortured, but I had managed to escape and that is what I focused on.

Happening upon a small stream I walked through it, hoping to mask my scent in case they decided to set dogs after me. My mind whirled as I moved, trying to puzzle out how I was discovered, it had happened so quickly that I couldn’t help but think they knew my plan and knew exactly where I would be; someone had given me up, there was no other explanation. Only one person came to mind when I thought about who wanted me dead, and who had the resources to know every detail of the job: Victor.

Victor had been hounding me since I joined The Agency, always making passes, innuendos and even grabbing at my ass once or twice, which inevitably resulted in his arm bring broken; he was now very clear about my intensions where he was concerned. He was also the Agency’s chief tactician, he was the one who planned this job and I was willing to bet he was the one who set me up.

Putting the woods behind me I spent the next four hours making my way back to The Agency, and the closer I got to my goal the more furious I became; astounded and appalled that someone would let a refused proposition move them to murder. As I approached the non-descript entrance I was met with gunfire and I dove for cover behind the nearest car.

Again my skills kicked in and I made my way toward the door one body at a time, dropping nearly a dozen operatives before reaching the entrance. Marching down the long hallway, my laser-like gaze found Victor and I zeroed in on him, annoyed that he didn’t look more afraid to see me.

“Why?” I asked as I approached him, my gun raised, and all activity in the Com Room stopped, dozens of pairs of eyes locking on Victor and me.

He had the audacity to look condescending, arching one eyebrow at me and folding his arms as he perched on the edge of a desk. “You seem to be under the impression that you are indispensible,” he said evenly, “And you also seem to be under the impression you have control over what you do and don’t do.”

“You are not the messiah of The Agency, and I will not allow you to put my life at risk because of your bruised ego!” I dug into my pocket and withdrew a disc, flashing the shiny silver plastic at him, “And in case you have any notion of denying that you set me up, here is a recording of your call to Black Curtain giving them every detail of my mission.”

He had the good grace to go pale, his light blue eyes shifting nervously to the disc before coming back to lock with my own angry green stare.

“You won’t kill me, you can’t, there are no more bullets left in that gun. A 9mm holds ten rounds and you dropped ten men to get in here.”

I smiled at him, a most unpleasant smile and he shrank back involuntarily. “You’ve been out of the field too long, Victor. This is a Glock G19, it holds 15 rounds, there is more than one bullet left here for you.” And without hesitating I shot two rounds; head and heart.

Friday, June 4, 2010

You Can Never Be Too Rich, Too Handsome Or Too Well Armed

Lolita sat idly twirling a thick lock of hair around her fingers, the silken black strands contrasting with the creamy white of her skin. Her long stocking clad legs were propped up on the desk top, crossed at the ankle with elegant black heels masking the bright red of her freshly pedicured toenails.

Her milky décolleté swelled dangerously above the black satin corset that was laced up the back with cherry red ribbon, mirroring the red lacing on the sides of the matching panties and the red of her lipstick.

Jonathan walked through the arched door way, loosening his tie and frowning to himself as he walked, his hard soled shoes clomping against the hardwood floor until being muted by the thick area rug. His low mutters of frustration came to an abrupt halt when he looked up and his sky blue eyes landed on the woman occupying his leather office chair, and he stopped in his tracks.

“Bad day at the office?” Lolita asked, her voice a sultry purr.

Jonathan felt paralyzed as he fought to change mental gears from the horrendous challenges of the day to the supple flesh of his wife. She was a feast for his senses, both soothing and enflaming him simultaneously, and as a slow smile spread across his face he made his way toward her.

Rounding the end of his desk Jonathan dropped his suit coat over the back of a side chair before slowly approaching her. He touched her ankles, wrapping his long fingers around them and lifting them off the desk as he sank to his knees in front of her. Setting her feet on the floor he slid his hands over the curve of her calves, across the backs of her knees and up her thighs before clutching her hips and pulling her against him.

Lolita wrapped her arms around Jonathan’s broad shoulders and pressed herself against him, locking her legs around his hips as she claimed his mouth. He smelled of vanilla and honey, and tasted of sunshine and rain, an intoxicating blend that never ceased to assault and overwhelm her, leaving her ready to do anything he asked.

Jonathan lifted her up, his arms locked around her and his mouth never stopping its ravenous journey along her neck, across her chest and over her shoulders as he carried her to the large rug before the marble fireplace. They both knelt on the thick carpet and Jonathan pulled at the corset laces that were preventing him from touching more of her skin, his fingers impatient.

Gunfire erupted from the hall and they both spun, diving for cover and Jonathan pulled his 9mm from his belt holster. Moving from cover to cover in a crouch, Jonathan made his way toward the doorway, his eyes scanning for the source of the disruption. Catching movement to his left he dove through the door and somersaulted across the hall, coming up behind a wide table that served as cover.

Lolita rose to her feet and walked across the room, stepping into the hallway and gaining the attention of the intruder. She sauntered toward him, her hips swaying enticingly and the man’s eyes were drawn down to the swell of her breasts, giving her the time she needed to get close to him.

With the speed of a snake she struck, the heel of her hand connecting with his chest with enough force to rupture his heart, and she stared wordlessly as she watched him drop to the floor, bleeding from the ears, nose and eyes.

Jonathan’s eyes watched her as he holstered his gun, watching warily as Lolita walked toward him like a predator.

“Any idea who that was?” she asked as he wrapped one arm around her waist and pulled her abruptly against his chest.

“Yeah, that’s the man who has been trying to take over the family business. He was pretty insistent I sell, threatened to kill you if I didn’t.”

Lolita smiled at him as she slowly began unbuttoning his shirt, dragging her nails across his skin. Jonathan captured her wrists and held her arms out to the sides, his gaze intensely admiring them, “You know the saying don’t you?” he asked, turning her and pressing her back to the wall with his own body weight, “You can never be too rich, too handsome or too well armed, and you my dear are a triple threat.”

He slipped his hands under the edge of her panties, touching her lightly and smiling when she gripped his hand and pressed it firmly against her heat. “Now,” he whispered, “Where were we?”

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pity is Tasty

In a million years I’d never have imagined myself having a conversation like this; it was so cliché. I had gone to the museum to sketch, like I did almost every Tuesday afternoon, my senses working together to transfer strangers to paper. In a setting like this I was forced to work fast, having no time to plan the image or nit pick the results, I didn’t have much time before the subject moved on, unaware.

Different things intrigued me about each person, and I tried to capture the facet that shined the brightest, letting my eyes convey them to my brain which then spoke to my hands and the image flowed out of the charcoal I held between my smudged fingers. Aged hands clutching a cane, the smiling face of a toddler, the gentle slope of an elegant neck or captivating eyes; all these things filled the pages of my sketchbook and I felt honored that I was able to take the best of these people home.

“Excuse me, Miss.”

The voice startled me and I jumped, my blue eyes wide as I looked up at the tall man standing beside my chair. He was not the kind of man I would have expected to talk to me: olive skin, high cheekbones, thick waves of dark hair and honeyed chocolate brown eyes; he was beautiful. I, on the other hand, was quite plain which is how I was able to sketch as I did, no one noticed me.

“Yes?” I replied, closing my sketchbook.

He stared into my face and laughed, a warm, rich sound like edible music, “No need to frown, I’m not a Hand That Rocks the Cradle psycho killer.”

“Isn’t that exactly what a psycho killer would say?” I asked, arching one eyebrow at him.

“Touché.” He smiled at me and pulled a chair up to face mine, lowering himself into it and leaning forward, elbows propped on his knees.

His expression grew very serious and he glanced around us before speaking softly, “I’ve seen you here every Tuesday, sketching in your book,” he reached out slowly as though he was afraid to frighten me away, taking my hand and uncurling my dirty fingers. “I watch you watching people and in your eyes I see longing. You see in others what you can’t see in yourself: unique beauty.”

I didn’t know how to react to him, to his touch, his words or his intense attention, and I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. “Are you mocking me?” I asked, reclaiming my hand. He smiled at me then; making me even more wary and I moved to stand up, wanting nothing more at that moment than to be as far from this man as possible.

His hands shot out, lightening quick, clutching my thighs and pushing down painfully, effectively pinning me to my seat. His face changed, the warmth in his eyes being smothered by something dark and sinister and my heart pounded painfully in my chest. He leaned forward, opening his mouth to speak but before he could utter a single word he was struck from behind with a baseball bat.

I gasped when his blood sprayed across my face, warm and smelling like a new penny, and I froze in place as he slumped to the floor. Screams broke out around me, one of them my own, as the assailant grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me abruptly to my feet. I stumbled after him, the fingers of my free hand trying to pry his away with no success; I could only follow as he led the way into the stairwell and down.

I finally found my voice and shouted over the echo of our feet on the steel stair treads. “Who the hell are you?!”

“Zeus,” he replied as we ran, and I’d have sworn I heard the sizzle of lightening in his voice. I tried to stop and yank my arm free, only succeeding in causing myself pain and he suddenly spun, pinning me to the wall, his hands gripping my shoulders painfully. “I am Zeus, and I am here to keep Perses from killing you.”

“What?” I was well versed in mythology, and knew that he was claiming to be the ruler of the Gods, claimed to be saving me from the God of Destruction.

“You are the incarnation of Eleos, Goddess of Pity and Compassion, and Perses would like nothing more than to rid the world of you, for without compassion mankind will destroy itself and that would feed his power. You yourself would be a particularly satisfying victory, he thinks pity is tasty.” He leaned in close, his breath warm on my face and his eyes sparking as he caressed his fingertips along my jaw, “Trust me; you must survive.”

Thursday, April 29, 2010


“So you want just the facts, Ma’am?”

I stared at my new partner with annoyed eyes, his obvious glee at making what I was sure he thought was a clever joke only annoying me all the more. Being a detective with a last name like Wednesday made the Dragnet jokes inevitable but no less tiresome and I didn’t even bother sighing.

“Yes, Jensen, that’s what I want.” I folded my arms across my chest, the straps of my shoulder holster crisscrossing between my shoulder blades pulling comfortingly. He stared at me, his expression suddenly confused and I arched one eyebrow at him, cocking my hips to one side, clearly waiting.

“Ma’am?” he said with a frown.

“Give me your facts,”

His police training finally kicked in and he slipped into the routine rundown of himself: age, height, weight, ranking in his class; I stopped him with one raised hand when he was about to launch into the list of his accolades. Using my full six foot two inches of height to my advantage I stepped toward him, my blue eyes piercing the chocolate brown of his and he actually backed up a step.

For a full minute I simply stared at him, unconcerned with the sudden hush that had fallen over the bull pen behind me and the press of dozens of gazes against my back. When I finally spoke I kept my voice a whisper, “I hate Dragnet.”

Laughter erupted from the bull pen and Jensen looked confused for a moment when I smirked at him, giving him a wink and a playful slap on the cheek. Turning on my heel I grabbed my coat and headed for the door, smiling as Jensen was ribbed and teased as he hurried after me.

I slipped behind the wheel of my red ’69 Camaro and brought the 396 cubic inch motor to life with a growl that never ceased to make me smile. Jensen paused in his stride and simply stared for a moment, looking the car over from bumper to bumper the way he might check out a leggy blond. Taking up his post in the passenger seat he gave me a sideways look, his question clear on his face.

With a shrug I said, “I can’t stand police cars, that’s why I went for Detective, I wanted to drive my own car.”

“Not very subtle,” he replied, buckling his seatbelt as I pulled out into traffic.

“I’m not a subtle woman.”

As we drew closer to our destination our conversation dwindled, both of us focusing on the crime scene we were about to see. The little bit of information that had been called into the station was enough to already bother me; the city’s resident serial killer had struck again.

The scenery didn’t surprise me as I drove down the access tunnel and emerged into the concrete valley of the nearly empty canal, slaloming my way between piles of junk and debris until I reached the line of yellow police tape.

“We’ll have to ford the canal,” Jensen said and I looked over at him.

“Ford? Who talks like that?” I asked rhetorically, killing the motor and climbing out, wading my way toward the scene both knowing and afraid of what I’d see.

“Detective Wednesday,” the men standing near the body said in unison with synchronized nods.

“Jones, Maddock,” I replied, nodding back at them both. “Anything different about this one?”

“Not that we can see, just more of the same.” Maddock replied, stuffing his hands into his pockets.

Jensen followed me silently as I approached the victim and once glance at his pale face told me he’d never seen a dead body before, terrific. “If you’re going to throw up do it down stream.” I said matter-of-factly as I crouched down and stared into lifeless blue eyes.

The woman was tall, at least six foot, red hair and wrapped in what always reminded me of a burlap toga. The slowly moving water eddied around her, spinning in little whirlpools before continuing on their way.

“She… she looks like… you,” Jensen’s voice was steady despite his peaked face and I glanced over my shoulder at him before turning my attention back to the dead woman.

“Yes she does, they all do.” Rising to my feet I scrubbed my hands over my face, impatiently pushing my hair out of my eyes. “His letters say they are impersonating a Goddess and must die for their blasphemy.”

“So he sees you as the Goddess?”

I couldn’t help but sigh; I wasn’t good at being the focus of adoration in the best of situations, but this was sick. There was always a letter on the body, neatly folded and tucked inside the chest cavity where the heart once was. With a deep breath I pulled gloves from my pocket and knelt beside the body as I pulled them on. Pushing the burlap aside I exposed the open wound between her breasts, dipping my fingers into her chest and extracting the neatly folded, plastic wrapped note.

Taking it from the baggie, I stared down at the now familiar handwriting: I see you.

The gunshot echoed off the concrete walls of the canal, the sound more painful to my ears than the bullet itself was to my shoulder. With practiced focus I detached myself from the burning heat of the wound and shifted my gaze, scanning the area. My eyes locked on the gunman, this was the first time he’d shown himself and without hesitation I drew my weapon and fired.

I felt nothing as I watched his body drop and roll down the sloped wall of the canal, an evil rag doll landing gracelessly with a splash in the filthy water; he should have realized I was a Goddess who could kill.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Herald Of The Zombie Prince

My eyes fluttered open but I found myself still covered in darkness. I blinked several times to clear my vision but not a single pin-prick of light found its way to my retinas, but of course for all I knew the beating I’d taken over the past few days could have caused some ocular damage.

The chair under me was bare steel, cold and hard, but still a welcome break from hanging from a chain by my wrists as I had since being brought to this place. My body ached from the myriad of tortures they had visited upon me in an attempt to get the information they wanted, yet I hadn’t broken and I attributed that to my years of training.

The skin across my stomach was red, blistered and burnt from electrocution, the tips of three fingers were crusted in blood where my nails had been, and the simple act of breathing made me acutely aware of at least two broken ribs. They wanted that information badly.

I heard a door open somewhere, the metal hinges grinding just before the sound of boots echoed through the air. Less than a minute later the door to my cell opened and the sudden flood of light stabbed at my eyes, making them water and giving me an instant headache.

Fluorescent lights flickered on around me, giving off their watery glow and casting deep shadows into the corners of the room. When opening my eyes seemed like something I could do without dying I lifted my lids, letting myself acclimate slowly before fully opening my eyes.

Before me stood the most unassuming man I’d ever seen. No taller than five foot eight, average build leaning toward plump and thinning, non-descript brown hair that was cut short but shaggy. His face held not a single remarkable feature, and I knew this is what made him efficient; five minutes after seeing him most people wouldn’t be able to recall what he looked like.

“Good morning, Simone.” His voice was just as forgettable as the rest of him, but I was surprised he knew who I was since I hadn’t even given up my name to my captors. He stepped toward me, his stride slow and deliberate, hands in his pockets, stopping when the tips of this polished shoes bumped my bare toes.

He spent a full minute staring at me, his brown eyes narrowing periodically as he cocked his head from one side to the other as though trying to puzzle something out. “Do you know who I am?” he asked, folding his arms across his chest.

“I don’t care if you’re the herald of the zombie prince Jesus.” My voice was raw from screaming, and having to speak made me want to whimper like a wet kitten.

His smile was humorless, bordering on sinister, and I actually had the wherewithal to be afraid. The lackeys who had beaten me over the last few days didn’t instill the kind of fear in me that this man did, and I knew that I either had to escape or he would kill me.

“I can’t quite figure you out, Simone,” he said, rocking from the balls of his feet to the heel and back again. “It’s almost as though you enjoy the pain when all you have to do is tell me what I want to know. Easy peasy, right?” I remained quiet, which brought a frown to his face. “Very well, have it your way.”

The next day and a half pit my will against his, and in the wake of a new level of pain there were many times I was hair’s breadth from telling him what he wanted to know just to bring the agony to an end. I slipped in and out of consciousness, welcoming the spells of utter blackness where I felt nothing, and wondering if this would be the one from which I wouldn’t wake.

When I woke it took me several moments to process the fact that I was no longer in that dark cell, no longer cold. I was still in pain, but it was muted, the edge dulled by medication that was being fed to me through a tube. I moved my head slowly, taking in the white walls, white sheets, white floor and white lights, slowly recognizing the sector medical facilities and feeling a sense of relief I hadn’t expected I would ever feel again.

Glancing to my right I stared at the sleeping form of my partner where he slouched in a chair at my bedside, his long legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle, arms folded over his chest. His sandy hair was unkempt, and his clothes looked like he’d been wearing them for a week; I would have smiled if I knew it wouldn’t hurt.

“Darren?” My voice was less than a whisper, but it was enough to snap him upright in his chair, his hazel eyes darting around the room before coming to rest on me. He scooted the chair closer and gently took my hand, being careful of the needles and tubes plugged into it.

“Simone.” He said my name like an answered prayer.

“How long….”

“Three days,” he answered, brushing my hair out of my eyes. “I thought I might lose you.”

“It’ll take… more than…. torture… “

Darren laughed, shushing me. We stared at each other for several minutes, and in my eyes he read my question. “We got the information we needed. Sheridon is still alive, but he’s being held only until you’re well, then he’s yours to do with as you please.”

I shook my head slowly and Darren frowned at me. “Kill him. I won’t…. be… like him.”

It was his turn to shake his head, smiling softly at me. “As you wish, I’ll gladly mete out his punishment, and he’ll pay for almost taking you from me.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Agitated Garden Gnome

I’d wandered through the forest in search of Wiley for three days. He had disappeared inexplicably and my baby sister had thrown a fit, waking the whole clan with her tantrum, and my mother begged me to look for him. So here I was, tromping through part of the woods I knew belonged to another clan, my feet cold and wet and my tummy growling for food.

With an exasperated sigh I sat down on a fallen log and pulled a strip of venison jerky from my pack, gnawing at it and savoring its savory flavor. Wiley had only ever been trouble from the moment he showed up, always getting into places he didn’t belong, eating things he shouldn’t be eating and causing enough mischief to give our leader a perpetual headache.

He had only been allowed to stay because my sister adored him, and from the time she was born we were all told she was fated to deliver our people from our forced nomad lifestyle so she got what she wanted. Unfortunately, all the doting had turned her into a spoiled brat, and I was counting the days until I turned 21 and was free to leave the clan.

I was tired of wandering, hoping the place we settled wasn’t owned by people who were afraid of us or felt threatened to the point of chasing us off at sword point. I wanted to live in a real house, eat at a real table and sleep in a real bed. I’d only been in a regular bed once, just over a year before with the daughter of a landowner who didn’t mind us camping on his property.

That single spontaneous night was spent entangled in Anne’s willowy limbs. The feel of her skin against mine, softer than the silk of her sheets, made me hate my own bed roll and it pained me to leave her when the sky blushed pink. She had laced her fingers into my hair and kissed me, hard and bruising, making me swear I would return; it was a promise I made willingly.

And now here I sat, more than a year later, searching for a mangy fox to pacify my spoiled sister when I wanted nothing more than to wrap myself in Anne’s warmth and passion. With a sigh I rose to my feet, brushing leaves and dirt from the seat of my breeches as I set out again, following the faint signs Wiley had left behind.

The sound of yelling floated through the air, a high pitched voice speaking so rapidly I couldn’t clearly make out any one word. Following the sound I emerged into a small clearing and stared wide-eyes at the small agitated garden gnome who was fending Wiley off with a stick.

“Hello?” I said, drawing the gnome’s attention as well as the fox’s. Wiley turned, and recognizing me he bounded through the grass to lay at my feet, rolling onto his back in the hopes of some tummy rubs. Bending down I scooped him up, looping a rope around his neck to ensure he wouldn’t get away again, all the while the gnome watched me with angry black eyes.

“Thatbeasttriedtoeatmyfaceoff!!!” he screeched, his rapid speech making a single word out of many, and I fought back the urge to laugh.

“My apologies, good sir,” I said, bending at the waist and bowing to the tiny man. “This creature belongs to Aurora, destined savior of the Wanderers. I’ve been hunting him three days now and I thank you for your help in capturing him.”

“Justgoanddon’tcomeback!” the little man shouted, turning on his heel and disappearing into the undergrowth, still cursing about Wiley all the while.

I made the trek home in a day, not having to take the time to look for signs, clues or trails to track the sly red fox, and I emerged into camp to a cacophony of noise. Greetings and cheers rose up around me as I walked past lean-tos and sleeping pallets, making my way to my family tent.

My mother and sister emerged and looked around, clearly trying to figure out what all the ruckus was, and spotting me my sister ran toward me and pulled the red fox from my arms. I didn’t get so much as a thank you from her or a welcome home from my mother, and the lack of such a simple nicety pushed me over the edge I hadn’t known I was at.

“Mother, I’m leaving, and I won’t be back.” My voice was very matter-of-fact and the look on her face told me she didn’t believe me; her look changed however when I turned and headed back out of camp.

No one tried to stop me, I suspected they all thought I was bluffing and would be back when I ran out of food or the weather got bad. What they didn’t know was that I was dead serious, only this time what I was tracking had long ebony hair, emerald eyes and slept on sheets of silk with arms open and waiting for me.

Fool's Journey

We are all of us fools, paupers and princes alike. I’d forgotten where I’d heard this, but with this phrase making endless circles through my mind I waited patiently for the airplane to touch down in Rome. I was the fool, more the fool for letting myself get lost in another person’s identity, thoroughly losing my own in the process.

Samuel was a force to be reckoned with, his personality so overpowering it was all but impossible not to feel like clover in the shadow of an oak, and I had allowed myself to cushion his feet for six years. Sometimes he stepped lightly, like butterfly kisses across my cheek. Sometimes he stepped hard, fists and stone words bruising me inside and out.

I had managed to toss a few things into a single suitcase after he’d left for work: clothes, toiletries, a handful of photos, everything else was left behind. I felt like a coward, slinking out of my own home as though I had no right to expect better treatment, and yet the moment the door had clicked shut behind me I felt like I could finally breathe.

I didn’t think Samuel would miss me, and I was fairly sure he would quickly find a replacement on which to inflict himself, but I couldn’t think about that poor woman’s fate; I couldn’t save them all. I was focused singularly on rediscovering who I was, so much so that I hadn’t even noticed our descent until the tires hit the tarmac.

To choose a destination I had quite literally spun the globe on my way out of the house, closed my eyes and jammed my finger against it, bringing the textured sphere to an abrupt halt. Under my finger was Italy, and without a second thought I made that my destination, determined to create a new life for myself.

It was hard at first; learning the language and learning the city, but learning to live was the hardest part. It was months before I stopped jumping at every raised male voice I heard, and even longer before I could bring myself to go on a date.

Italian men were much as the stereotype described: they talked with their hands, thought very highly of themselves and assumed that every woman wanted them. But, as with all stereotypes there were many things that outshined the small percentage of common perceptions, and I eventually found myself hopelessly in love with a passionate, kind and gentle man.

Mario’s hands talked all right, they talked to my body with feathery touches. He thought highly of himself, but wasn’t arrogant. He did think every woman wanted him, but that was fine with me because to him I was every woman. I was amazed on a daily basis that it was possible to be so happy.

The day I opened the door expecting the pizza delivery man and instead found myself staring into Samuel’s face instead was the day I experience real fear for the first time. In all the years I’d spent being abused, I’d never experienced true terror because it was only me that was in danger; now there was another target.

“Briana.” Samuel’s voice was absolutely even, no rise or fall in the tone, and I knew from experience that he was at his scariest and most dangerous when he used that voice.

“Samuel,” I replied, absolutely certain he could hear my heart hammering against my sternum. “What are you doing here?” I mustered every ounce of will I had and stayed in the doorway, blocking his entry as best as I could.

“Is that question even necessary?” he asked in the same even tone, his pale blue eyes boring into my brown ones.

“I thought you’d have just moved on,” I said, “Found someone else.”

Before he could reply Mario’s voice drifted from the back of the house, asking in Italian what was keeping me, and panic was plain on my face. Samuel moved as though to come inside and I stepped into his path, leaving one sweaty palm on the doorknob and laying the other on the doorframe.

“You need to go,” I said quietly, “There is nothing for you here now.”

Samuel’s blue eyes narrowed on me, and it felt like he was looking for a chink in my armor through which he could hurt me, and I lifted my chin a notch, hoping the apparent defiance would prove to be a successful bluff.

“What’s going on, love?” Mario asked, appearing behind me and laying his hands gently on my shoulders.

I could feel the press of him at my back and was both relieved to have him there, and terrified Samuel would hurt him. Before I could reply; however, Samuel spoke, a polite smile splitting his face.

“I seem to have the wrong house.” He shifted his eyes to lock with mine. “The person I was looking for isn’t here anymore.” With a small nod he turned on his heel and made his way down the walk, passing the pizza delivery man on his way.

Mario paid for our dinner and carried the box into the kitchen, pulling me along behind by the hand. As he busied himself with getting plates and pouring wine I stood and fought to keep from trembling, very aware how close this fool’s journey had come to ending.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Old Glory

I pulled into the parking lot of my old high school, nosing my car between painted lines and killing the motor. I sat in the quiet interior for several minutes without moving, just staring at the campus before me, and when I finally climbed out and my feet hit the asphalt a flood of memories washed over me. I paused and took several deep breaths before making my way up the main path.

The school was made up of separate hexagon shaped buildings, the cedar shingles black with age and I was overwhelmed at the vivid images that raced through my mind as I walked. There were the stairs where me and my one friend ate lunch every day, there was my senior locker, and there was the pay phone from which I’d call the office posing as my mom to excuse my sister when she ditched.

There wasn’t much that had changed in the 20 years since I’d graduated, and pausing by the office door I looked up at Old Glory flying overhead, feeling sorry that it was fated to be in high school forever. I walked the entirety of the campus, reliving so many memories both good and bad that by the time I climbed back into my car I was emotionally exhausted.

I drove back to my friend Wes’ house and flopped down onto the sofa with a sigh. Wordlessly he appeared and offered me a beer, taking his and sitting down beside me, an inquisitive yet knowing smile on his face.

“So, how was it?” he asked, taking a swig of Corona from the bottle.

I sighed and took a drink of my own beer, turning in my seat to face him, staring intently into his brown eyes. He was one of my wisest friends, and I relied on his insight and intuition to keep things in perspective lest my crazy imagination get the better of me.

“It was the same, and yet vastly different,” I finally answered. “Why did everything then seem so earth shattering when it was really unimportant? And why do the things we eventually recognize as stupid continue to impact us even all these years later?” It was an earnest question, I really wanted to know and my plea for an explanation was plain on my face.

He smiled slyly and shrugged one shoulder before taking another drink. “At that age there’s no perspective; few people have experienced at 17 what they have experienced at 40. It only continues to impact us if we let it, but it takes work to slough off those scars.”

I took another swallow of my beer and dropped my head back against the cushions, closing my eyes and trying to imagine what the evening would be like. It was my 20 year reunion and the idea of seeing people who had either ignored me, or who had been downright mean, was enough to tie my stomach into knots. Wes had agreed to go along as my date even though he graduated the year after me, but it was a small town and he knew everyone from my class.

“Come on, get up,” he said, rising to his feet and holding his hand out to me, “It’s time to start getting ready.”

I took his hand, letting him haul me to my feet and push me toward the bathroom to shower. As the water poured over me my mind wandered in every crazy paranoid direction it could find, refusing to see that we were all adults now and no one was going to throw gum in my hair again.

As I slipped into the new dress I’d bought just for the occasion I sipped at my beer in an attempt to calm my racing heart. Make-up applied, jewelry carefully selected and hair done I emerged with a deep breath. Wes was leaning against the wall, hands in his pockets with one foot crossed over the other, looking stunningly handsome in his tux. My movement caught his attention and he turned his attention to me, a smile spreading slowly across his face, and I felt like I was finally going to prom.

“You look very handsome,” I said, my heels clicking on the wood floor as I crossed the living room to throw my beer bottle away.

“As do you,” he replied, taking my hands and holding my arms out to the sides to boldly get a better look at me. “You ready?” he asked, pressing a kiss on the back of each hand.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I answered, taking a deep breath.

We walked out to his car and made our way to the Tanaya Lodge where my classmates were waiting, and as I climbed out of the car I braced myself in the face of learning if high school ever really ends.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Compass Rose

She was barely tall enough to see over the railing, having to stand on piles of coiled rope to get a glimpse of the sea. Her hair was bound at the base of her neck with a satin ribbon, the long strawberry blonde curls bouncing with each touch of wind, and the heavy layers of her pink dress billowed around her legs.

The sound of the Captain’s door opening drew her attention and she eagerly hopped to the deck, her hard soled shoes clip-clopping across the planks as she ran toward the bridge deck where Captain Harris unrolled his maps, gathering her skirts and trotting up the stairs. Captain Harris saw her coming and smiled, stepping to the side to make room for her, lifting her onto a box so she could see the maps.

Staring with wide blue eyes, she watched as Captain Harris pulled a small, round brass object from his pocket, opening its lid and peering at the bobbing needle within.

“What’s that?” she asked, excitement plain in her songbird voice.

“It’s a compass, Rose.” He answered, lowering it so she could see it more clearly. “That needle inside always points north, so no matter where we are we can always find our way home.” It had been strange at first having a child on the ship, let alone a female one, and it had taken some smooth talking to get the crew to accept her and not think of her as bad luck. But now, three weeks into their journey, he had become quite fond of the little girl.

Rose was betrothed to a foreign Duke who was at least twenty years her senior. The arrangement, while none of the Captain’s business, set his dander up. What kind of parent was so eager to be rid of their child as to send them off to be married before the blush of womanhood was upon her?

Captain Harris sat the compass on Rose’s small palm, watching her eyes light up as the needle bounced and danced under the crystal, and she looked excitedly from the compass to the Captain’s face and back again. He couldn’t help but smile at her unabashed enthusiasm.

Shouting erupted from the crow’s nest and everyone looked up to find the crewman posted pointing to port and shouting pirates. Chaos engulfed the ship, men running to and fro to prepare for a possible battle.

“Hold onto that, little one,” Captain Harris said, scooping Rose up and running down the stairs, ducking into his own cabin and depositing her behind his desk. “Stay here,” he said as he made his way toward the door, “And don’t come out no matter what you hear.”

Rose crawled under the desk and pulled her knees up, wrapping her arms around her legs and squeezing the compass tight. The sounds of yelling, gunfire and tromping boots overhead created a cacophony of noise that made her head hurt, but slowly the noise eased until only the creak of the hull filled the air.

Trepidatiously Rose crawled from beneath the desk, climbing to her feet and walking to the door. Grasping the brass handle she turned it and pulled the heavy wooden door open, letting out a startled scream when she was roughly grabbed and hauled onto the main deck before being dropped unceremoniously at the feet of a stranger. Opening her hands to break her fall, the compass hit the deck and rolled, stopping when it met the black leather of the stranger’s boots.

Rose looked up into the deeply lined face of who she could only assume was the pirate captain. He wore a red scarf on his head that matched the sash at his waist, gold embroidered breeches and tunic hung on his thin frame as though made for someone else, which they undoubtedly had been.

Reaching out to reclaim the compass, the pirate Captain bent down and snatched it away from her, laughing when she glared up at him. Climbing to her feet Rose seethed at him, oblivious to the sea of pirates surrounding her and the ship’s crew.

“Give that back,” Rose ordered, her tiny hands fisted at her sides. “That doesn’t belong to you.”

The Pirate Captain laughed, “You hear that boys, it doesn’t belong to me.” His mocking tone made Rose’s blood feel like fire in her veins. He bent down to be at eye level with her, his breath rank with whiskey and rot, “But that’s never mattered much to me.”

A smile spread across Rose’s face, slow and sinister, and it was enough to back the Pirate Captain up a step. The calm wind that had been steadily blowing picked up, but only on the deck where they stood, the ocean swells remained small and didn’t break. Rose slowly opened her arms wide, her little fingers flexed straight out and palms up, seeming to will the wind into action.

The Pirate Captain shouted an order to one of his crew, pointing at Rose as he spoke, his words lost to the wind. With a nod the crewman drew his sword and pushed his way through the wind, his menacing snarl paling in comparison to Rose’s and with one quick motion of her hand the blade of his sword curled up like burned parchment.

Captain Harris watched wide eyed as Rose fended off every armed man who tried to cut her down, their weapons twisting, torquing and melting at her command. It only took a few minutes before the men fled back to their own ship, and as their Captain stated to move Rose stopped him with a look, holding her small hand out to him.

As though approaching an unpredictable animal he stretched his arm out as long as it would go and gently sat the compass in her hand, backing away as Rose curled her fingers around it. The pirates scrambled away, severed the ropes that bound the two ships together and made a hasty departure.

As their ship made its way toward the horizon, Rose turned to Captain Harris and smiled sweetly, holding the compass out to him, “Now we can get home.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day If You're A Duck

The restaurant was dimly lit with ivory candles glowing warmly from within glass hurricane shades etched with twisting vines. Tables and chairs of dark glossy wood were generously spaced throughout the elegant room, thick navy blue carpet flowed underfoot and heavy burgundy drapes billowed around the wide windows like rich picture frames.

The food was divine; the wine, perfect. My macadamia nut crusted chicken had been paired with a mango passion-fruit jam that made the flavors sing. A sweet white wine complimented the taste and my palate had never been happier. The passion-fruit infused cream brulee was light and creamy and was my idea of heaven.

Across from me sat Alistair, his close cropped hair the color of honey and his laughing eyes like whiskey. His suit was clearly made just for him, tailored to his broad frame and the dark gray fabric was as soft as a baby’s cheek to the touch. When he had picked me up for dinner I had felt very aware of my off the rack dress, but he smoothly diverted my focus by brushing his lips across the backs of my fingers and telling me how beautiful I looked.

When we finished our meal we rose and made our way through the sea of quiet conversations and out through the heavy brass and glass doors. Standing under the dark green awning we stared at the rain that was drenching the city, a spring storm the weatherman didn’t see coming as of the six o'clock news.

“Shall we walk?” Alistair asked, a wide smile making his eyes sparkle with mischief. “My apartment isn’t far if you’d like a nightcap.”

“Walk? In this?” I asked, raising my brows at him.

“What, it’s a beautiful day.”

“Sure, it’s a beautiful day… if you’re a duck,” I replied with my own smile and he laughed, rich and warm.

Holding his arm out to me I slipped mine past his bent elbow, and together we struck out, stepping from beneath the shelter of the awning. We talked as we walked, nature’s wet kisses like pearls on our cheeks, warm and delightful and occasionally we would both spontaneously laugh up into the sky.

By the time we reached his door we were soaked to the bone and laughing almost uncontrollably. He fumbled with his keys, his fingers wet and the metal slipped from his grasp and fell to the floor with a jangle. He bent down to pick them up and his laughter suddenly ebbed as he stared at my legs, tentatively reaching out to caress the curve of one calf, and his touch slammed the brakes on my own laughter.

Alistair rose slowly, trailing his fingers up the outside of my leg, his gaze firmly focused on what he was doing. He lifted his eyes and stared at me, moving slowly as he stepped toward me, and the intensity of his gaze made my heart rate double. He gently pressed himself against me, pinning me to the door, his lips hovering only a whisper away from mine as he fumbled with his keys. He smelled of warm pears and vanilla, clean and edible, and the click of the deadbolt brought our lips together in a light exploratory kiss.

As the door swung away from my back his arms replaced it, wrapping around me before walking me slowly backward into the apartment and I pushed the door shut once we were inside. Our motions were slow, deliberate and focused, every moment a new discovery.

I pushed the heavy suit jacket off his broad shoulders, the expensive material hitting the hardwood floor with a wet splat. His white dress shirt clung to him, translucent where it touched his skin and I gave into the urge to descend on one nipple, the starched cotton rubbing between my tongue and his skin and a low moan escaped him.

He took his turn, unzipping my dress and peeling it away, revealing my bare breasts, and I stood unabashedly before him in nothing but my panties and heels. The rise and fall of his chest moved me back toward him, impatiently pulling his shirt out of the waist of his pants and pulling the shirt tails apart, sending buttons flying. My fingers attacked the button of his slacks, pushing them down to find him bare underneath, eager and waiting.

Alistair lifted me up and I wrapped my legs around him as he carried me to the bedroom, his mouth and tongue anything but idle on the way, tasting and exploring my neck, shoulders and breasts.

His bed was an ocean of silk sheets in which we got lost: drown, died and lived. He covered me with warm kisses, taking me to the moon and back, his caresses soft and delicate and I cried out for more until he slipped inside me. The patience and restraint he’d been exercising vanished once his body was buried deeply in mine, and his movements became frantic, hungry, and he ate at my mouth while pushing himself deeper.

I rose up to meet him, pacing him and driving him on with my own passion, flipping him onto his back and rearing up over him without breaking the rhythm he had set. His long elegant fingers gripped my hips, his head thrown back and eyes squeezed shut.

Bending forward I took his face in my hands, “Look at me,” I said before bestowing a bruising kiss on him. “Watch me.”

His gaze didn’t stray, his whiskey colored eyes locked with my hazel ones. His hands roamed, plucking at my nipples and teasing me where we joined as I drove us both to the edge of ecstasy. We hovered on the blissful edge of sexual tension for several spine arching moments before falling headlong into the raging sea of release in a tangle of limbs and pounding hearts.

Friday, March 5, 2010

If a Chicken and a Half

Isabelle stood over the stove stirring the bubbling brew with her favorite wooden spoon, the long handle worn smooth from her touch. The large cast iron pot radiated heat from all sides, warming her stomach through the soft cotton of her T-shirt.

With one long tapered finger she touched the words on the worn page, the paper dark and stained from years of use; some corners dog-eared to mark a favorite recipe. Isabelle had found the book in a used book store while on vacation in New Orleans, almost lost between Martha Stewart and Rachel Ray’s newest tomes.

The small leather bound book was no larger than the average paperback, and it felt good to the touch, almost warm and the moment Isabelle held it in her hands she knew she had to take it home. Some of the writing inside was smudged beyond legibility, verifying that it was handwritten and not a copy; someone had spent a great deal of time creating it.

Isabelle had brought the book home in her purse, not trusting it to her checked luggage, and was home only one day before she chose a recipe from it’s pages and headed to the grocery to get the ingredients. The resulting roast duck with caramelized carrots and onions in a sweet brandy sauce melted in her mouth and elicited blissful sighs from her with every bite.

It had been two weeks since she had tried that first recipe, savoring each meal in the quiet solitude of her small London flat, pairing it with a wine that complimented it perfectly and following it up with a sweet pastry from the corner café.

Today’s meal was stew with chicken, veggies and cream. The list of herbs for this recipe had been strange, asking for things she’d had to order on-line, and the cooking directions had been very, very specific on the order in which to add the ingredients.

Isabelle had followed the directions perfectly, adding a little extra chicken since she had it, and as she tossed in the last of the herbs, chopped honeysuckle blossoms, a column of blue light erupted from the pot. With a gasp she staggered backward until her hips hit the counter opposite the stove, her topaz colored eyes wide.

The blue light flickered like a strobe, silver smoke and red sparks joining in the visual fray, the brightness increasing in intensity until Isabelle finally had to shield her eyes. She could hear the light, hear it sizzling through the air like lightening, and the sound grew louder and louder until she thought her ear drums would rupture.

As unexpectedly as it began the light and sound stopped and Isabelle staggered from the sudden silence. Blinking into the normal white light of her kitchen she stared wide-eyed at the nude man curled up in the middle of the floor. He had olive skin, warm and brown as though kissed often by the sun, and waves of dark hair crowned his head, the long locks spilling across the gray linoleum like silk.

He groaned, and at the sound Isabelle scurried away, pressing her back against the refrigerator and holding her wooden spoon out to ward the man off as he slowly climbed to his feet. When he stood before her it was all she could do not to let her gaze wander, with such a feast for the senses it was nothing short of a miracle she managed to hold his green stare.

“Who are you?” Isabelle asked, a tremor in her voice.

He smiled at her; white teeth flashing as his rich laugh enveloped her. “You tell me, you made me.”

Isabelle frowned at him, confused, and with another laugh he pointed at the cookbook that lay open on the counter. Moving slowly toward the book she picked it up and scanned the page, stopping when she reached the small, blurry footnote at the bottom: “If a chicken and a half is used, the results will be extra delicious.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fusion Powered Hero

Ember woke slowly, stretching her long limbs out and wiggling her fingers and toes as she gave a mighty yawn. Sitting up in her bed she swung her legs over the side, pushing the cat-tail fluff filled comforter aside as she slid to the floor. With small shuffling steps she made her way to the window, pushing the shutters open and peering out across the vast field of green grass and wildflowers; it was spring in the forest.

With an arched back she unfurled her wings, stretching the bones and forcing the hibernation induced wrinkles and folds from the translucent membrane. Ember’s deep red hair was tousled and matted, the braids she had woven the locks into six months earlier were twisted and hung in fuzzy ropes over her shoulders.

A loud growl emanated from Ember’s stomach, and she pressed her hands against her tummy, scowling in her typical just-woke-up way. Flopping down into her favorite chair, the one she had made herself years before out of pliable twigs, she scooped up her hairbrush and set about the task of untangling her hair.

It was afternoon before she had managed to smooth out her hair, and with one final pass of the burr-bristle brush, she opened her door and stepped into the warm spring sunshine. The air was chaotic, filled with flitting fairies whose jewel-colored wings glowed like drops of magical light, and with the widest of smiles she jumped up and joined them.

After greeting friends and family, Ember darted off, leaving the circle of trees in which they lived in search of her favorite bathing spot, clutching clean clothes to her chest. She heard the river before she saw it, eagerly anticipating washing off the dust the inevitably collects on a person during hibernation.

Cresting the brow of a small hill, the river came into view and she immediately spotted the jutting rock that diverted some of the water into a small fall to splash into a round pool before finding its way back to the main vein of the river. Ember landed on the banks of the pool, draping her clothes over a nearby branch and then merrily stepping under the small falls.

The cold water gave her a sharp jolt! She let it course over her face, splash off her shoulders and run down the curves of her body, sighing blissfully as the dust was rinsed away, leaving her skin feeling clean and new. Climbing up to the top of the falls she perched on a tiny outcropping of rocks, turning her face up to the sun and opening her wings to dry.

Ember wasn’t sure at first that she had heard anything, the river making enough noise to drown out most of the other sounds the forest might be making. There it was again. She sat up straighter and looked around, raising her hand to shield her green eyes. Nothing. She wanted to turn back to the sun, to absorb its warmth and revel in the feel of the golden light, but something in the back of her mind pushed her to leave despite her wings not being dry.

Ember climbed back down, skirting the pool and heading toward where she left her clothes. With a startled scream she fell backward as the hawk, missing its mark, slammed into the ground. She scrambled backward on hands and feet in a very awkward crabwalk, trying to keep out of reach of the hooked bill that continued to snap at her.

Climbing to her feet Ember turned and ran, knowing that birds were cumbersome on land and hoping to find a log to hide in. The forest floor was littered with pine needles, sharp stones and large rocks, all of which proved to be an obstacle of one kind or another. She fought to climb over the rocks, slipped on the needles and cut her feet on the stones, and still she ran, her life depended on it.

The hawk hopped after her, its large black eyes zeroed in on her and the feeling of that focus pushed her forward. Another startled scream escaped her when she was scooped up from behind and lift off the ground, much to the dismay of the hawk which let out a frustrated cry as it took to the air.

Clinging to the arms that encircled her, Ember turned her head to see who was to thank for her timely rescue and her heart flipped in fear when she didn’t recognize the face. The stranger’s powerful wings beat an ebony blur through the air, out maneuvering the bird like her own fusion powered hero, and in only a few short minutes the hawk gave up the chase, rising up and passing beyond the canopy of trees.

The stranger landed on the banks of the small pool, setting Ember down gently on her feet and taking a step back. She stared at him, taking in the glossy black hair that hung over one shoulder, his honey colored eyes and the iridescent sheen that shimmered off the opaque black of his wings. Ember completely forgot she was naked, being completely transfixed by this strange man who had saved her life.

He walked toward her, his bare chest rising and falling as he worked to catch his breath, and she stood frozen to the spot. He reached past her and retrieved her clothes from the branch where she had hung them, handing them to her wordlessly and watching as she dressed slowly, her eyes never leaving his.

“Who are you?” Ember asked, laying one hand on his chest, feeling the steady beat of his heart under her fingers.

“Jasper,” he answered, his voice a whisper. “I’ve been looking for you.”

Friday, February 19, 2010

Four Score and Seven Years Ago

I was the newest doctor in the county psyche ward. Fresh out of school and low man on the totem pole, this is why I now found myself working with the homeless and nameless. To make my job even better, I was also given the graveyard shift, which guaranteed I wouldn’t have a social life.

I was making my rounds, my white shoes silent as I walked the halls, stopping at each door to peer through the windows at the sleeping patients. They weren’t all still in their sleep, many tossed and turned, talked and yelled or fought against their restraints and I sympathized with them as they fought their demons.

The janitor didn’t hear my approach; he was too busy making faces through one of the door windows at whoever was inside. “Hey coo coo bird,” he said, tucking his hands into his arm pits and flapping from side to side.

“Excuse me.” My voice sounded loud in the quiet hallway, and the janitor jumped and spun to face me. “What are you doing?”

He had the decency to look embarrassed, shifting his weight nervously from one foot to another. “Just talking to Abe here, doctor,” he replied, jabbing his thumb in the direction of the door.

I walked to the door and looked through the window at the man inside. He sat quietly on his bed, his back braced against the wall and his arms wrapped around his drawn up knees. His dark hair was shaggy and hung in his eyes, eyes that watched me sharply, unblinking.

“Abe?” I asked, shifting my attention back to the janitor.

“Yeah, that’s what they call him on account of his funny talking. He won’t give his real name, what else they gonna do?”

“Who are ‘they’ and what kind of funny talk?” I asked, folding my arms across my chest and cocking my hips to one side.

“They’s the other doctors,” the janitor explained, wringing his hands, “He talks like Abe Lincoln, like in his speech.”

I frowned at him, “Four score and seven years ago? That speech?”

“Yup, just like that.” The janitor nodded.

“You can carry on with your work now,” I said and he looked more than relieved to be dismissed. “And please don’t taunt the patients any more.”

“Yes ma’am. Never again ma’am.” He took the handle of his cart and hurriedly made his way down the hall.

I lingered at the window, watching as Abe rose from the bed and walked toward the door, his eyes locked on my face. In the brighter light from the hall I saw that his eyes were gold, like warm honey, and in them I saw no insanity, no instability; I saw only a man.

“Who are you?” I asked, despite not expecting an answer.

“Victor,” he answered, his voice vibrating through the mesh enforced glass and I blinked in surprise.

“How old are you?”

“Two and a half score.”

“30?” I was surprised I remembered what a ‘score’ was in terms of time, and Victor looked equally surprised, a tentative smile spreading across his face and I couldn’t help but smile back.

I laid my hand on the glass and he stared at it, clearly suspicious. “You don’t belong here, do you?” He replied by laying his hand against the glass to mirror mine. Without a word I moved away, turning away and heading back up the hall and I could feel the press of his gaze against my back like a hand.

Returning to the nurse’s station I was conveniently ignored by Susan, the tenured nurse who was there to supervise me, but instead went between watching bad late night TV and sleeping. At the moment she was engrossed in a re-run of the Jerry Springer show and was shouting loudly at the screen.

The door to the records room was open so I slipped inside, rifling through the file cabinets until I came up with Victor’s file, labeled ‘Abe, room 342.’ He had been picked up a year before for disturbing the peace. When he was arrested he had been wearing a fine suit and top hat, and the mug shot from the police looked like one of the old fashioned photos you can get at the fair.

When the police weren’t able to identify him they sent him here, claiming he was insane and not safe to be on the streets; he’d been scrutinized by doctor after doctor and all the notes said the same thing: ‘Amnesia and delusions of grandeur.’ I didn’t believe it, there was something in his eyes and I was inexplicably compelled to help him.

I tucked the file into the waist of my pants and pulled my shirt over it before slipping back out into the hallway, grateful there were still people fighting on TV to hold Susan’s attention. Pocketing the master key I quietly made my way back down the hall, glancing up and down its length to make sure no one was watching.

Stepping up to Victor’s window I saw him sitting again on his bed. Surprise flashed across his face and he stood, walking toward me and again laying his hand on the glass. I kept my eyes locked with his as I slipped the key into the lock and turned the bolt, pulling the door open.

“Trust me,” I said quietly, taking him by the hand and leading him down the hall.

Susan was snoring softly and we moved past her and out the doors easily. The butterflies in my stomach were making me sick, and I was hyperaware of every movement and every noise around us as we walked.

We made it out a side entrance of the hospital and into the dark streets without incident, and a block away I stopped, dropping his file into a nearby trash can. “This is all the help I have to offer,” I said, shrugging and feeling helpless. Had I let him out just so he could freeze to death on the streets?

Without a word he reclaimed my hand and walked with purpose, his bare feet navigating the dark city streets with ease. Rounding one final corner he stopped and stared at a blank brick wall, into which was set a single row of stones that formed an arch. I wouldn’t have thought it was anything more then an architectural detail, but Victor looked at it and clearly saw something very different.

“Come with me,” he said, and the confusion must have been clear on my face. He caressed his fingers across my cheek and smiled, “Trust me.” It didn’t occur to me to protest, I simply walked with him toward the wall, and only had a heartbeat to be afraid before I found myself in an elegant garden, a large stone wall at my back into which was set a brick arch.

I stared at the people milling around at what was clearly a party, but it must have been a costume party based on how they were dressed; it had to be, didn’t it? Clinging to Victor’s hand as he walked toward the crowd I whispered to him, “Where are we?”

He smiled at me, wrapping his arms around my shoulders as he replied, “1837.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I was in love with the way he made me feel, singularly beautiful. I adored the way he smiled, like sunshine bursting from behind clouds. I relished the way he smelled, that purely masculine scent that couldn’t be found in any bottle. I treasured the sound of his voice, the deep tone like a smoothly plucked E string.

As he maneuvered the car out of the city the acrid scent of pollution was replaced, mile by mile, with the almost foreign smell of the countryside. Wide swaths of tall green grass moved in the gentle breeze, swelling and undulating like a land locked emerald ocean. Patches of wildflowers screamed their colors out from the crests of the soft waves, schools of shocking orange poppy fish, deep purple lupine eels and bright scarlet rose coral.

He lowered the top of the car, the black canvas peeling back to expose us to the sun’s warm rays, and I lifted my face to them, letting them pour over me and soak into my skin. I could feel the press of the golden light against my closed eyelids, and I smiled when I felt the caress of his fingers across my cheek.

Turning my head I opened my eyes and watched him, his dark eyes intent on the curves of the road which he deftly negotiated as though he’d traveled this path enough to have it committed to memory.

“So where are we going?” I asked, not for the first time as I brushed a stray lock of my chestnut hair out of my eyes.

“I’m not at liberty to say,” he replied, not for the first time, a sly smile quirking his mouth.

I knew better than to press him for more information, he wasn’t going to tell me, so I just tilted my face back up to the sun and was content in the moment. I let myself doze under the coaxing warmth of the sun, letting the chill of the city streets seep from my core and a remarkable calm crept over me.

When I felt the car begin to slow I opened my eyes, my lids heavy with sleep, and as he brought the car to a stop and turned the motor off the sudden press of silence deafened me. A city is never completely quiet, and the sudden onslaught of quiet was unfamiliar and left me feeling almost anxious.

His laugh rose up through the air like a falcon riding a thermal, “Relax,” he said with a wide smile before getting out of the car, “The country won’t hurt you.”

“Uh huh,” I replied as I climbed from the car, my shoes silent on the soft grass. Holding out his hand as he rounded the nose of the car, I slipped my fingers across his palm and his touch calmed my groundless nervousness.

He led me away from the car, the knee high grass tickling my exposed calves and as we crested a low hill my gaze fell on a huge pride of mountain lions and I froze. I glanced sideways at him and spoke at a whisper, “What was it you were saying about the country not killing me?”

Again he laughed, he actually laughed, and it seemed an odd thing to do considering the situation so I looked at him more fully. He stepped in front of me, taking my other hand as a very serious expression replaced his smile.

“You know that saying about something coming out of left field?” he asked, and I could only nod in response, unsure why he wasn’t more concerned about the animals he’d just trusted his back to. “Well, you’re standing in left field now, and here is what’s coming,” he paused as though working up the nerve to continue. “This family you see behind me is my family. I am, in part, like they are.”

My face must have conveyed my confusion because he stepped closer and cupped my face gently in his hands, laying a soft kiss on my lips. “I love you, and I want you always at my side,” again he paused, “I need to show you my other self, the other side of my nature, and I can only hope for your acceptance. If you can accept me, and if you can love both aspects of what I am, know that I can make you like me, you have only to consent.”

I heart was hammering in my chest almost painfully, and the pounding echo through my ears was backed by the sound of my blood racing through my veins. He back away slowly and the pride parted, creating a backdrop of tawny fur and whiskey colored eyes that went between watching him and watching me.

He removed his clothing as he walked, warm sunlight replacing fabric until he stood nude before me, draped in golden light. His eyes never left my face as his body transformed, shifting and reshaping itself, fur flowing to cover his skin until he stood before me as a large cat.

I stared into his face, seeing the spirit of the man I loved in those foreign eyes and knowing in my heart that I never wanted to be without him. I moved toward him, my feet following the trail of clothes that tied one form to the other, shedding my own as I moved. The pride closed in around us, encircling us and bearing witness to my own transformation.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Innocence Ended At That Moment

I hadn’t wanted to go to the party; I’m just not a party going girl. The music was always too loud, the people too drunk and too obnoxious; but it was my sister’s 25th birthday party, what choice did I have?

I arrived late, hoping to stay for an hour or so and then slip right back out; Jules knew I hated parties so I figured she’d anticipate my early escape. I heard the music the moment I got out of my car half a block away, the bass notes moving through the air like ripples on a pond and with a sigh I forced myself to walk toward the noise.

Climbing the brick stairs I opened the heavy white door and almost staggered when the music flowed over me, cringing involuntarily. People were packed tightly into the space and they had to move just so I could get inside and close the door, many casting annoyed looks at me that I had interrupted the bouncing they called dancing.

I didn’t hear my sister over the thump of the music so I wasn’t expecting the hug I found myself in that was almost a flying tackle. I hugged her back and then smiled into her unabashedly enthusiastic face, her liquid brown eyes sparking. I expected her to fade back into the crowd as she usually did, but instead she took me by the hand and dragged me upstream, against the push of dancing bodies, and into the kitchen where it was only moderately quieter.

Jules pointed at the liquor bottles that covered the counter like a disorderly army, dropped a kiss on my cheek and then disappeared. I smiled to myself and shook my head, how could two people come from the same stock, be raised by the same parents and yet be so completely different?

Ignoring the few people who were milling around the kitchen, I made myself a Midori sour on the rocks and added a splash of black cherry vodka to the top. Holding the crystal class I turned and made my way to the back door, pushing my way through the crowd and continuing to walk until the body count thinned and the noise faded to a more bearable volume.

I stopped where the lawn ended and weathered planks leading to the beach began, kicking off my shoes and making my way to the sand, sighing when I sank into the soft grains. I walked quietly to my favorite spot among the dunes, sheltered from the wind, and sank down with a contented sigh.

The rhythmic sound of the waves lulled me as they advanced and receded, advanced and receded and I closed my eyes. I was so lost in the ocean’s song I didn’t hear the man approach; it was only when I felt the weight of his stare that I opened my eyes and found him sitting between me and the water.

The color of his eyes was lost in the faint moonlight, I could only tell that he had dark hair that hung in a shaggy fringe across his forehead, and the silver light caught only the high angles of his face. I wasn’t alarmed at his sudden appearance; I didn’t feel my usual sense of self consciousness as I usually did any time a man was within 20 feet of me, instead I felt completely at ease. It was an unexpected feeling.

“The ocean, she speaks to you,” he said, his voice silky and laced with something foreign, sending goose bumps down my arms.

“No,” I replied softly, amazed my voice hadn’t fled, “She sings to me.”

“Then shall we dance to her tune?” He rose to his feet and reached out his hands to me.

I set my glass aside and reached up, sliding my fingers across his palms. He gripped my hands and pulled me to my feet, not releasing his hold on me as he walked backward toward the water where the sand was firmer. When the ocean licked at our ankles he pulled me closer, his arms snaking around my waist and pulling me against the length of his body.

I wrapped my arms around his shoulders as we began to sway to the song of the sea that only we could hear, hearts hammering and breath quickening. In what was probably the bravest moment of my life I laced my fingers into his thick hair and pulled his mouth to mine, tentative at first until he eagerly responded.

We touched with anxious hands, tongues tasting and bodies yearning to be one. I learned as we went, savoring the feeling of euphoria that rose up in me, giving back to him all I could.

I’d never been with a man before, no one had ever been interested, but I followed his lead and found the dance easy to learn. In the thundering rise of our passion he filled me, holding me tight and sending us over the edge into a sea of pleasure; my innocence ended at that moment.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


The morning was calm; there wasn’t a single puff of wind to rustle the tall green blades of the overgrown grass. Mona sat quietly on the two-seater teak swing that hung from the porch roof, her long legs tucked up under her and cocooned inside a burgundy chenille blanket. Her elegant hands cradled a porcelain cup of tea, the deep red of the painted roses matched her hair and the painted leaves were the same bright green of her eyes, which blinked languidly from her alabaster face.

The burble of the creek that bisected her property filtered to her ears through the stand of elm trees that blocked it from view, but she could close her eyes and see the large boulder she’d always used to cross the creek, the stone forcing the water into a Y around it and creating small eddies when the two sides reconnected.

She had used that stone to cross the ribbon of water since she was five years old, her father’s work roughened hands ready to catch her should she fall while his deep voice encouraged her to do it on her own, confidant in her abilities. With his certainty as a net, she never fell.

Mona shifted her gaze up when a breeze finally moved across her cheeks, blinking into the blue sky, white clouds like cotton candy drifting slowly by. Unfolding herself she rose to her feet and made her way inside, leaving the blanket on the swing and sitting her teacup on the kitchen counter before traversing the stairs to her bedroom.

Dressing in tan linen slacks and a lightweight knit shirt, Mona slipped her feet into her deck shoes and trotted back down the stairs, leaving the house through the back door in the kitchen. She made her way down the well worn path to the private dock at the edge of the lake, her shoes making quiet noises on the wooden planks of the jetty that jutted out into the water.

Unwinding the rope that tethered her small sailboat, Mona stepped in and pushed off, little Coral drifting away from shore as her main sail was hoisted up the mast. The bright red canvas caught the rising wind and snapped taut and propelled the craft toward open water. Mona claimed her seat at the stern, tiller in hand, and smiled wide as Coral coursed through the water like a sleek eel.

The day moved by unnoticed, the sun crossing the sky the only proof that time was not standing still. Mona dropped sail and anchored Coral; there was no land in sight and no other boats broke the perfect line of the horizon. She laid back; lacing her fingers behind her head and turning her face up to the sun, letting the golden rays lull her to sleep as the lullaby of water lapping at Coral’s hull filled her ears.

Mona woke to wet kisses, fat raindrop falling widely, and she blinked herself awake, sitting up and looking into the quickly darkening sky. The fluffy white clouds had been chased away by dark ones heavy with rain, and she could almost see them swelling larger and larger against the ominous canvas of the gray sky.

With practiced speed Mona hauled anchor and raised her sail, the stiff wind catching it eagerly and Coral listed sharply to port. Mona squinted through the ever condensing raindrops to get her bearings, but nothing was visible. She pulled her compass from the small bag under her seat and pushed the tiller to turn Coral west, toward home.

With each passing moment the storm worsened, the sky grew darker, the clouds heavier and the wind stronger. The rain fell in sheets, plastering Mona’s clothes to her body and she fought to stay on course, the tiller slick in her hands. A fierce blast of wind attacked Coral, pushing her like a bully until she tipped, falling sideways into the turbulent water.

Mona swam away, her heart too busy hammering against her sternum to be sad at the loss of Coral, she could be sad later if she survived. She fought against the choppy waves, the muscles in her arms and legs burning with fatigue as she tried to stay afloat, each passing moment taking more and more energy.

Her strength began to give out, muscles refusing to work and making her feel leaden, her own weight pulling her under. When she could no longer fight her way to the surface she felt herself falling, falling weightlessly through the quiet press of the dark water, but there was no safety net of daddy’s confidence to catch her and soon unconsciousness enveloped her.

It felt as though no time had passed; one moment Mona was sinking through the storm tossed water and the next she was blinking up at a glossy wooden ceiling. Her body cried out when she tried to move, her muscles protesting any movement and it felt as though her limbs weighed ten tons.

With gritted teeth she pushed herself up, using her hands to move her legs over the side of the bed in which she’d found herself, the navy blue flannel sheets soft against her bare skin. Bare skin? Looking down at herself Mona frowned at the large black T-shirt she wore, Firefly emblazoned across the front.

The room rocked gently, and despite her tired legs Mona didn’t lose her balance to the familiar feel of the water. Slowly making her way up the steep stairs she opened the hatch door and emerged into the quiet night, stepping onto the deck with bare feet.

“Hey, you shouldn’t be up.” Came a deep voice from behind her and Mona spun in surprise, her weak legs tangling and again she was falling, but the stranger’s calloused hands caught her, lifting her and carrying her to a padded bench.

Sitting down beside her he read the questions in her expression and smiled, the bright starlight shining from the now cloudless sky glancing across the planes of his face. “I was angling for sturgeon and instead caught a Siren.” He said softly, reaching up to tuck a stray lock of red hair behind her ear. “I’m the luckiest fisherman in the world, I think.”