Deadly Ever After

Archive for the tag “vampire books”

Welcome Back to Life, Dracula! MY LIFE BEYOND THE GRAVE by Kai Kiriyama

TODAY’S BREW: Godiva Pumpkin Spice like a fancy queen of things.

By Julie

Perfect timing for a juicy vampire book, our darling friend Kai Kiriyama has released an amazing novel into the wild and had this to say about it:

MY LIFE BEYOND THE GRAVE is a project dear to my heart, a pet project that combines my love of vampire mythology and my love of macabre history. Dracula has always held me in thrall, ever since I was first introduced to him when I was 10 or so. (And it was, I must admit, through Dracula Dead and Loving It that I really fell in love with him.) This book represents a love affair that I’ve had with Dracula ever since. I’ve taken history and given it a new life in this book. This is my coming of age Dracula story, a look at the history and an examination of a man who must forever live with the sins he committed as a human. I hope that this book will rekindle your love for Dracula, and for vampires. Thank you for checking me out.

And of course, a HUGE thank you to my lovely, gracious, wonderful hosts here. I couldn’t do this without your support. Thank you. xx

-Kai Kiriyama

MyLifeBeyondtheGrave

HERE, HAVE AN EXCERPT:

MORTAL DEATH

 

As with all men, even I had to die.

According to the history books, and yes, I am narcissistic enough that I went back and checked the facts to see what people have been led to believe about me, I was killed in a skirmish somewhere that no one is quite certain of, and that the exact date of my death is up for debate.

They also say that the men who killed me took my head back to Constantinople. Obviously that is a damn lie. Immortal though I am, removing my head will kill me permanently. That was one of the first things that I was taught when I awoke as a vampire for the first time. Furthermore, I didn’t die by the road in a skirmish when they say that I did. There’s a reason that the history books have no accurate date for my death. Did you ever think to question why?

The scholars believe in part that it was to keep morale up, that the men fighting with me during my short third reign didn’t want to admit that I was dead, and that they fought hard to keep my death a secret, and to keep my remains from being taken to Constantinople.

That was not true. Well, it was partly true, but my head was not removed from my body.

The person who was killed and thought to be me was one of my doubles. I had hired three men to pretend to be me. They were given explicit instructions and were made up to resemble me ever more closely than they already did.

My wife was not aware of this fact, however, and I made sure that she believed me to be dead when the reports reached her ears. As soon as that part of the ruse was completed, I never saw my wife again.

It pains me to this day that I was never able to live a life with her, and I don’t know if I was ever a father, or if she remarried. I chose to leave that part of me behind when I became the thing that I am now, and I have never even considered the thought of finding a woman to bring into this new life of mine. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone who I cared about. It isn’t as glamorous as the movies make it seem.

My death as a mortal happened at the end of October. It was when my contract was set to expire, and when my reign as Prince Dracul would end forever. I made the deal when I was in prison and feverish and I don’t remember what the terms were, I was convinced that I was talking to myself the whole time, but here I am.

The only regret that I have is that I was not given more time.

I suppose that, looking back on it, I would have been killed sooner than I would have liked had I not been given over to the unlife I live now.

I was just beginning to enjoy being Prince again. The old bloodlust returned, the fierce pride in my kingdom, the desire to make it better. I am, after all, my father’s son.

I was not ready to go, and two months into my final reign and I was forced to give it all up, instead of using my powers to rule as an immortal Prince and put and end to the fighting once and for all. Alas, I was unwelcome in my homeland once the deed was completed.

So I allowed my death to be exaggerated and my doubles were killed in different skirmishes. My “head” was brought to Constantinople when my third and final double was killed and it solidified the end of Vlad Dracul.

I was, however, already dead by the time this was happening. I died on the night of October 31 and was reborn in the early hours of November 1 in the year of 1476.

My mortal death was one that was not greeted by a funeral. Neither deaths that I suffered through were particularly peaceful or celebrated in the way that you would want it to be. The men who were my doubles were treated poorly, hastily buried when it was realized that they were not truly me, and spit upon and cursed for their treachery and lies. My first two doubles were left in shallow, unmarked graves where they fell. My men in both skirmishes were beaten back as the Ottoman forces grew more determined to take the body of Vlad Dracul back to their leaders.

When it was discovered that I had tricked them, the Ottoman forces were in such a rage that stories of their anger spread across the country like wildfire. I had tricked them, twice, and sent them into a howling fit. I had made them a laughingstock across the country and word of their stupidity passed the lips of everyone who had once feared them. This would be the quiet legacy of mine that would colour the stories of my brutality. Vlad Tepes was as clever as he was brutal, and not even the Turks were safe from my trickery.

I watched these things happen from a distance, unable to help, unable to interfere lest I truly be caught and killed. I was already living on borrowed time, and I had so much to do to set my affairs in order before I was to be whisked away from my mortal life and taken into the clutches of the dark of night as a vampire.

I certainly did not get everything done that I had wanted to and the creature who had offered me immortality came to collect his due right on schedule.

I fought against him for a week.

“Mortal one, it is time,” he said the first night he found me. I was going over military strategies for the next leg of the fighting that I was about to lead.

“I cannot come with you right now,” I argued. “We are winning for the first time in weeks, and I am desperate to take this next leg of the journey. What is one more night without me when there are hundreds of men, my own and Ottoman alike, upon whom you may feed?”

“You drive a hard bargain, little Mortal, but I will allow it.”

I argued with him this way for a week. Always one last thing to do. One last leg of the battle, one last conquest, one last woman. One more night, master, please, I beg you.

I was taken in the night, without warning. I had no time to argue with him when he had made up his mind that I had to be stopped. At this time, my “head” was just arriving in Constantinople, and I hadn’t seen my men that day. As far as they knew, I had been killed on the battlefield, when really I had been in a small hovel, hiding and trying not to let my men know that I had not been killed. My master came upon me that night as soon as there was no one around. I was reading by candlelight, waiting for my men to arrive with reports. I had two men I trusted with the plan of my doubles, and they had been keeping me abreast of all the happenings of the war in my absence. My master arrived and startled me.

“You are not who I was expecting,” I told him, brusquely.

“Your men believe you dead.”

“Not all,” I snapped. “I have men who know the truth.”

“And I have stepped in and bent their minds. They now know you are dead, there is no more time to stall.”

Whatever he did to me, I could not argue. He was upon me in a flash. I could not scream, I could not fight back, I had lost control of my body and my mind and I fell into stunned silence as he fell upon me with the swiftness of a wolf. I sat there, reeling from the wounds inflicted upon me that would grant me my immortality; I felt that I had not accomplished enough. I was forty-five years old when I died. I was alone, in a hovel, left to die as my blood seeped out from two delicate holes in my neck. I was left to suffer through the slowing of my heart; with nothing to keep me company except the memories of life only half lived. I hoped that I would see my brothers soon, that I would join them in death to be welcomed into their embrace in the afterlife, but that was not true. I forgot that, as my life drained away and my breathing became shallow and laboured, that I would not be joining them. Not yet.

I still had a contract that needed to be fulfilled.

Read another excerpt on Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/story/25029410-my-life-beyond-the-grave-the-untold-story-of-vlad

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

kai

Kai Kiriyama is a Canadian Asgardian geek with an affinity for Pokemon and Shakespeare.  Accomplished at divination through crystals, pendulum, tea leaf reading and palmistry, Kai oftentimes frightens herself (and her clients!) with the accuracy of what she predicts. Convinced that both her to-read and to-write piles will never be completed, Kai tries not to worry too much about it. Oftentimes, you can find her hanging around on twitter and dispensing dubious advice through her blog.

WEBSITE: http://www.theraggedyauthor.com

TWITTER: http://www.twitter.com/raggedyauthor

TUMBLR: http://www.theraggedyauthor.tumblr.com

YOUTUBE: http://www.youtube.com/thekiriyamaheir

ADD ON GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23303143-my-life-beyond-the-grave

Buy on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/483291

Buy for Kindle on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OC2X93M

Buy on kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/my-life-beyond-the-grave-the-untold-story-of-vlad-dracula

 

 

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The Undead Duo Do Smart Things Sometimes

TODAY’S BREW: Tim got this Godiva pumpkin coffee and it’s almost gone and I might eat the bag.

By Julie

Holy hell, it’s Monday. Hey you guys know what’s available now?

Running Away Final Cover

THIS IS. IT’S THIS. THIS IS AVAILABLE.

That thing came OUT. Oh, you’d like to read it, you say? HERE, PLEASE DO. Amazon:

http://t.co/nDVwNx3b9z

OR OVER HERE.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/running-away-julie-hutchings/1120408618?ean=2940046196108

I couldn’t be more excited at how well it’s been received, but I’m even more excited about how soooooo many people I respect and love came rushing to my aid to spread the word. (My Million Page Thank You Post will be coming soon when I can do it without crying.) This release was so much different from releasing RUNNING HOME, and I can barely type this without crying SO NOT RIGHT NOW. HERE IS A FUNNY THING SO I WON’T GET TOO EMOTIONAL.

Finally. Someone writes my biography.

Another important piece of literature, my biography.

I’ve had one of those dreamlike weeks that make me so stupidly happy I’m intolerable at best. The most recent of my HOLY JESUS, THIS HAPPENED moments was that I, Julie Hutchings, the person who sat on the edge of a bouncy house bumper last month, sunk to the floor on it and rolled onto the ground, me, I was on Chuck Wendig’s blog. If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you may not know that I command an army of raccoons in Chuck’s driveway and live in his trash cans. He’s my HERO. And he, (quote, unquote) “hands me the keys to Terrible Minds” this one day. If you want to know how surreal that is, go look. Go ahead: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/10/02/julie-hutchings-do-the-thing-that-makes-you-bleed/

I feel like I’ll be riding the high of putting out a second book for a while, but that’s not what I want to yap about right now.

I want to yap about this gal:

IT'S KRISTEN, YOU KNEW THAT.

IT’S KRISTEN, YOU KNEW THAT.

This broad is publishing, by herself, her first contemporary romance, vampire-free. Not that she had a problem or anyth– well, it was a manageable situation with vampires, but there were a LOT of vampire books. So this is a huge change for the other half of the Undead Duo. The book is about people, and it’s close to home in a lot of ways, and it is very close to her heart. I’m wildly proud of her for putting books out period, let alone THIS book, and at a time when she’s working so hard at her other job that she can barely see to feed her bird. Not to mention that both of our lives have been so FULL lately that we scarcely see one another, and to not have that physical, in person support from the other makes publishing a difficult thing. I’m not even doing it alone and it’s hard for me. I don’t know how she does it.

Sometimes we text each other this when asked “whatcha doin’?”

Questioning all my life choices. You?

This is not one of those times. There’s no doubt in my mind that this book is going to be the one that turns a whole different set of heads. God, that sounded weird.

SECOND HAND HEART is going to be a stunner. It’s bringing something totally different to the world of New Adult, and I expect no less from Kristen. She never gives you something you’ve seen before. And I’m overjoyed to be a part of her blazing trails again.

I love you, heterosexual life partner. We did this thing, and we’re doing it still.

Hear And See Kristen This Week!

Today’s Brew: Blueberry. All is back to being right with the world.

by Kristen

Once I start working on a book, I’m always dying to talk about it. I spend so much time with the characters they are real to me, and like I’d want to share the juicy exploits of my real life friends, I want to do the same for my fictional ones.

Most of the time that involves talking Julie’s ear off while she tries to get something done in the relative peace (ha) and quiet (snort) of my home.  Now we can add Intern Sara into that mix.  This week, I get to share with the world. And it’s awesome.

  •  On Wednesday, I chatted with Brian LeTendre about vampire books and hair bands for the May 7 podcast of See Brian Write.  We had so much to talk about, he invited me back just so we could talk music.  Tonight, I’ll be talking to Ariel Burnz from  Ilovevampirenovels.comUpdate: you’ll be able to hear it May 26! Tune in for a giveaway! 
  • SATURDAY!!  I’m signing books!!  Please come say hi! If you have a copy of BECAUSE THE NIGHT or NIGHT MOVES, I’d be happy to sign them. If you want one, I’ll have to available for purchase. I’ll be at the NECRWA Book Fair at the Burlington Marriott in Burlington, MA from 4-5:30 PM.  It’s free to the public. Bella Andre, Meg Maguire,  Madeline Hunter, and over 20 other romance writers will also be signing.  I’d love to see your beautiful faces if you’re in the area!
  • BECAUSE THE NIGHT will be available on Audible on May 13!  I’m so excited about this.  It’s going to be surreal for Callie to have a voice that’s not in my head. Jessica Almasy will be narrating. She’s read the audio versions of many of Gena Showalter’s books, so I know she’s done an excellent job.

BECAUSE THE NIGHT and NEWS for the rest of THE NIGHT SONGS COLLECTION!

Today’s brew: Blueberry awesomesauce

by Kristen

It’s been a great week for The Undead Duo! Julie finished RUNNING AWAY, and RUNNING HOME  is finding new fans with it’s 99 cent sale.

I’ve been waiting about as long as it look Julie to write Running Away for BECAUSE THE NIGHT paperbacks to be available.

You know, about this long.

And on Thursday, they came to be!!  You have several options. You can order your very own copy on Amazon. Or, if you fill out the form below, I will send you an autographed copy. Same deal for Julie. $15 each including shipping, US only. I love you outside the US people, but dude, it’s like pay my rent or pay shipping.

BTNweb

But wait! There’s more!  Julie and I tend to start and end things at the same time, and I typed THE END on the latest installment of The Night Songs Collection, a little ditty called SILENT NIGHT. It’s sort of a Christmas Story. It’s new vampires in the same world that you all know and love from Because the Night. I’m billing it as Pretty Woman meets Dracula at Midnight Mass. It’s still far away from seeing the light of day, but as we all know, you can’t edit nothing.

And even more!!  NIGHT MOVES, the next book in The Night Songs Collection, is coming SOON!  I don’t have the exact release date yet, but SOON!  The cover reveal is March 11, and if you’d like to participate in the party, click here to sign up.

Phew! I’m tired just telling you about all of this! I’m taking a sort of break before I start the next project, which is something totally new for me. And I have a gigantic pile of edits patiently waiting for me. Oh, who am I kidding. You all know I never take a break.

RUNNING HOME and RUNNING AWAY News!

TODAY’S BREW: Mint chocolate coffee and  BOOZE.

By Julie

I started writing the sequel to RUNNING HOME around this time:

AND NOW. IT IS COMPLETE. Like my organs and brain development. I’ve come a long way since the above photo.

Now I shall embark upon the journey of editing and wondering if this thing is worth a goddamn or not, but I think it is. I do. But I’ll still wonder if the last 6 months were really just a lot of ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY.

Me, maybe.

While you wait for the this sequel that features a boiling hot Irish rebel, a defiled saint, a god of creation, my friend Chynna Blue Scott, and all of our old friends that are now experiencing the dark night of the soul,

YOU CAN GET RUNNING HOME FOR ONLY  99 CENTS!

That’s right! For the price of a cup of coffee, and not even Dunkin Donuts coffee, but that sub-par Cumberland Farms gas station coffee, you can own the fruits of my first labor! (Sidenote: I quite enjoy Cumberland Farms coffee & all of its glorious creamer options.)  (Second Sidenote: “The fruits of my first labor” refers to my book, not my child.)

 

https://deadlyeverafter.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/857a2-runninghome-cover.jpg

BUY ME, LOOK AT HOW PRETTY I AM. http://t.co/QOJxBFmimo

“Running Home has a dark beauty which entwines the mundane and the magical.”
~ J.C. Michael, author of Discoredia

“I can’t remember a time I’ve enjoyed a vampire novel so much. The blend of self-aware characters and unique, fresh mythology made for an engaging, addictive read. I believe I have found my new favorite urban vampire story.”
~ Frances Button, Opening Line Literary ‘Zine

IF YOU ALREADY OWN A COPY OF RUNNING HOME, THANK YOU!!!! Thank you for buying it, reading it, hopefully leaving a review on it (hint hint), and for believing in me. Writing is the thing that makes me me. You make it worthwhile for me. You help me show my kids and other writers that there’s value in this storytelling thing. You make it true that the greatest investment you can make is in yourself.

Now, I have some celebrating to do. Thank you all! Happy reading!

(P.S. If you want a signed copy of RUNNING HOME, leave me a comment, tweet me or email me.)

 

 

Flash Fiction Friday: SURPRISE! EXCERPT FROM RUNNING AWAY

TODAY’S BREW: Autumn Roast. Okay, it’s snowing, but AUTUMN ROAST.

By Julie

SURPRISE! I’M EXCERPTING YOU! BOOM!

For today’s Flash Fiction Friday, and because of last week’s Virtual Book Signing Party (http://wp.me/p2x7oj-DX) for RUNNING HOME, and my incessant babble about the sequel, RUNNING AWAY, I thought I would surprise you all with an excerpt! YOU’RE WELCOME.

I have one week to finish this first draft, and my excitement to get it out to all of you who’ve been so supportive of Eliza and crew is making me insane. I hope this little bit leaves you wanting more.

spring snow

Where vampires are made. Japan, naturally.

EXCERPT FROM RUNNING AWAY

By Julie Hutchings

It was dark, and I had no idea where I was.

“Nicholas? Nicholas?!”

I heard noises, and worse, I felt something. I felt it again, death, lurking around me, as invasive and comforting as always.

My limbs shook when I threw off the blankets and threw my legs over the side of the bed, only to discover the bed was on the floor. The noise of my feet hitting the floor made me gasp.

When my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw thankfully, nothing in the room but for the bed I’d been in and a few very small pieces of furniture. Shadows flitted across the walls from outside, the trees swaying in the winter night.

Japan, I’m in Japan, and in my own room. Nicholas isn’t here.

I steadied my breathing, knowing I was alone, and knowing anything could be waiting for me. The vampires had kept themselves hidden during the day, and now they were out, looking for blood.

No. These are Shinigami. They’re not that.

I needed light of some kind. Something. But there was nothing.

“Perfect time for some crap karate test, Nicholas, for the love of—“

A branch snapped. I could hear it as plain as day, the rice paper walls concealing nothing. Two walls of paper lead outside, and there was enough snow on the ground that a branch would have to be stepped on to snap.

Death was all around me. It was the only familiar thing I had here.

The silhouette of a man appeared on the other side of the door, inches from my face, and I screamed, stumbled backwards, and fell onto the bed.

He didn’t move. Didn’t try to run or come after me. He waited. Like death itself.

Death always knew I couldn’t resist. It owned me.

I stood, and walked to the door, never doubting if I should open it. When I slid the door open, the figure made no movement, and didn’t even blink. The full moon illuminated him.

He was breathtaking in his darkness.

The night made him brighter somehow. A full head taller than me, bare chested with only thin white karate pants the same crispness as the snow. Perfectly chiseled, smooth, strength in every pore. Beautiful and fearsome. He looked down at me with onyx eyes, shining black hair falling around his cheeks and chest, the front held up in a traditional knot.

He smelled like red wine and roses.

Rich, heady and slightly nauseating. The scent of looking into something beyond.

The smell slapped me with memory, one I hadn’t touched since it occurred. I knelt at my mother’s casket, eyes on my father’s next to her. My grandmother leaned over me, wine heavy on her breath, the scent of failing roses succumbing to it from the wreaths and bouquets all around us.

There’s shadows all around you,” she said into my ear. I hadn’t budged.

My mouth was opening and closing, no sound coming out as I stared at him.

He was Shinigami. And he was looking at me with as much wonder as I was him, all in his eyes. The rest of him was rigor mortis still.

A crack resounded, one I knew all too well, and the man was gone.

I think I scared him away.

Snow was drifting in over my bare feet. I shut the doors and turned to run back to the bed, only to smack into Nicholas, making me scream.

“You’re late,” I muttered, and breathed in his cinnamon plum scent. A mix of New Hampshire and my new home, Japan.

“Who was that?” he asked, like I’d answered the door to girl scouts, not a vampire.

“I don’t know. But he was the same vampire from earlier, in the shadows.”

Nicholas flashed to the doorway, and looked out but we both knew nobody was there.

I collapsed back onto the bed, still drained. I could have slept for a month. I didn’t know what day it was, or what time it was. But I knew that Nicholas was in the room with me, and that I wanted him to stay.

Dragging myself to sitting, I pushed away the nothingness I’d been feeling, reminded myself that what had happened all around me was not my fault, and wasn’t his. I tried to make it a fact in my head before I spoke to him.

“Nicholas,” I said to his back. He didn’t move. “I know I’ve been—missing pieces—lately. And I wish it hadn’t been you I saw every time I thought of Kat being dead. But I’m trying really hard to fix it, Nicholas, I promise you.”

His shoulders relaxed some, or they sagged. I couldn’t tell which. I didn’t see him turn around or come to me, but he was there, kneeling at the edge of my bed.

“I’m not a man who needs apologies for everything to be all right.”

“Good. Apologizing is awful.”

“But necessary. I’ve nearly killed myself for you, Eliza Morgan, and you resent me for it. Feelings don’t die any faster than I do, and it’s agonizing trying to kill them.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m dying, and you’re spending the time we have hating me for something I had no control over.”

I stopped breathing.

“What is it, Eliza? All the times you said to me no, it’s not your fault, this is my fate you didn’t mean it? You seemed so sincere.”

“Your sarcasm isn’t making this easier.”

“Nothing is easy! Nothing!”

I was terrified that he was calling my bluff. I was terrified that I’d pushed him too far.

But I was pissed that he was treating me this way, knowing what I’d seen, what I’d been through, and what I was leaving; my life.

“I lost my best friend,” I said.

“And so did I. I spent my immortal life with Roman. Until you. Do I hold it against you? No. Because it’s not your goddamn fault. And for the number of times you’ve said to me through gritted teeth that it’s not my fault, it’s yours, maybe I started to believe you. You and I both know we need this to be somebody’s fault.”

The wind was knocked out of me. It felt like I was losing him, and of course, I was. He was melting into nothing because Roman took Kat’s life and he hadn’t. All this death for nothing, and no explanation except that there was no choice.

“I think we both need to remember what it feels like to be alone,” he said, and in a sickening flash, he was gone.

The only scent that lingered was red wine and roses.

 

Flash Fiction Friday: Excerpt from RUNNING AWAY, the RUNNING HOME sequel

TODAY’S BREW: Egg nog coffee! For all the best things in life.

By Julie

I’m trying to breathe here, but it isn’t really working.

I promised you all an excerpt from the Bethlem Royal Hospital scene in the sequel to RUNNING HOME, and here she is! I didn’t give you alllll of it, but hopefully enough to whet your appetite and not feel spoiled. You very briefly meet a new character who I’m inappropriately obsessed with, and see something monumental for Eliza, right when she needs it. I hope you all feel it like I do. Thanks so much for reading.

Excerpt from RUNNING AWAY

*work in progress*

“You’re a Stephen King book waiting to be written, woman,” he said out of the corner of his mouth, nodding at a matronly nurse who looked like she could use a little mental help herself. “But I have to say, I’m impressed with how you’re holding yourself together.”

I tore my eyes away from the doors at the end of the hall, suddenly curious about him. “What was it like for you the first time you fed?”

The scent of old smoke from him. I wondered if it was consuming him or giving him strength.

“Angry. Sad. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to, of course. And the man I killed wasn’t ready. He didn’t want to die.” He was quiet, but the fire in him blazed so much I thought it might singe me next to him. I couldn’t believe the expressionless people around us didn’t feel it.

We went through the set of double doors at the end of the hallway, and I saw the sign for the kitchen. It was all I could do not to run there, leaving every questioning staff member and Kieran behind. I wanted her more than anything in the world.

“You knew the man,” I said before I realized I’d said it. I was transfixed on the kitchen doors, my fangs impossible to retract.

“I did. But how did you know that?” Kieran said from next to me.

“I don’t know. I’m sorry you had to do that to your friend. It should never happen that way.”

The kitchen loomed ever closer.

“You’re creeping me out, Eliza Morgan,” he said, but I couldn’t look at him to see how much he was kidding.

We’d arrived at the kitchen doors. They were as foreboding as all the others we’d passed with droning buzz that opened them.

“Do you want me to go in there with you?” he whispered.

Clara was whistling from the other side of the dingy white doors. I put my hand on the door, and wanted to cry.

“Yes, please.”

I pushed open the door, Kieran at my side.

The hospital kitchen was a jail cell in itself. Water-stained walls brought shadows of metal pipes to life, industrial puppets clanking and banging from within. Cracks littered every ceramic tile on the walls over the sink and stove, discolored and rusty like the slop basins and trash barrels around them. The cabinets would never be white again, the window never quite clear. One wall was cement, blackened in spots with age and damage. Every corner underneath the rusty metal work surfaces was brown with leakage and dirt that could never be hidden. Nobody may be looking there, but the grunge seeped onto the floor, as old as the horror that lived here. It was vacant of scent, not like any kitchen should be; there was no soup boiling, or cooking meat wafting through the air, or even cleaning fluid. Empty. The huge window over the sink housed a sadly spinning fan at the top, high enough that an inmate couldn’t reach it to escape.

And under that streaked window that looked out to nowhere, a gleaming thing in the yellowing disease of this place. Clara stood with her back to us, humming sweetly as her body gently shook with the scrubbing of dishes. Stacks more waited for the same. Stacks had already been done. And still, she hummed, despite the relentless filth here.

“Clara,” I said, not with a whisper. There was nothing to hide from her.

She spun on us, the whites of her eyes the brightest thing I’d seen in London.

“Oh,” she said, her fear spreading to a welcoming smile. She dried her hands as she walked towards us, her shapeless skirt swishing around her, and wiped a tendril of orange-ish frizz out of her eye. “I wasn’t expecting any visitors.” She positively glowed with simple happiness that was too good for the hospital, and yet so desperately necessary.

I hated what I was going to do, and wanted it even still.

“We aren’t really here to visit, Clara,” I said, looking as hard into her eyes as I could while her heart still beat.

Her eyes slid between me and Kieran. Panic set in, making her back away. God only knew the kind of danger she’d found herself in this place. But I would be the last danger she faced.

“What do you want? I don’t have anything,” she pleaded. Kieran was shuffling his feet in my peripheral vision, rubbing his fingers together, wishing he had a cigarette I was sure.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said, not knowing what else to say. She laughed at him. She may be sweet, but she wasn’t stupid.

But within a beat of her heart, her shoulders relaxed, and she stopped backing away. She looked at me, confused, but becoming less afraid, until there was no fear there at all. I made to walk slowly to her, but realized that was a human thing to do, a human thing that would frighten her again, make her think I was trying to diffuse the situation.

So I pictured myself next to her, and I was. She gasped, but her eyes remained unafraid as she met mine.

“That smell—“ she muttered.

“What do you smell?” I said. So, this was my first thrall. Designed especially for my victim.

She breathed in deep. “Peonies.”

I went cold at the mention of Kat’s favorite scent, the one she wore no matter what the season or event. Clara reminded me of her; the decided obliviousness to the cruelties around them. That light in them that created happiness wherever they went. Tears sprung to my eyes, and I touched Clara’s hair, remembering Kat’s red locks, and thought Clara’s might be that beautiful if she had the mind to bother with it.

“Clara, I’m so sorry for what I’m about to do.”

Her eyes welled with tears, and something in me responded.

“My mother had peony perfume,” she said quietly. It was hard to say who was more mesmerized, her or me. She gasped suddenly, a tiny noise. “And when she smelled just like that,” she said, pointing her finger at me, “a mix of lemon pie and peonies, I knew she had something bad to tell me. It didn’t happen often, but when it did, she put on a squirt of her perfume, and made me a lemon pie. She hated that pie, said it wasn’t sweet enough. I told her I had all the sweet I needed when I smelled her perfume and saw her smile. We were alone, you see. Always alone, and she was so sick. I loved her more than anything. Even when she had to tell me bad things.”

My throat was thick with tears I couldn’t bear to shed for her. I wanted to hold her, and kill her.

“You have bad things to tell me right now, don’t you?” she asked, entranced.

I closed my eyes ever so briefly, and hoped she had wonderful love in life. I hoped she wouldn’t remember how awful I was in her last breath. I wished it wasn’t all my fault. Kat, I wish it wasn’t all my fault.

“I forgive you,” she said.

And with a roar that deafened only me, I plunged my fangs into her neck.

 

TRUE TERROR: Live Giveaways on Radio Shows

TODAY’S BREW: A bunch of coffee and champagne!

By Julie

I got to do a radio interview today! On WATD FM! It was COOOOOOL. WATD has all these old record players and a ton of awards all over their reception area. There’s posters and a big statue of Elvis, and records and while waiting there I heard myself be announced over the loudspeaker!

“WE’LL BE TALKING WITH LOCAL AUTHOR, JULIE HUTCHINGS ABOUT HER FIRST NOVEL, RUNNING HOME, A VAMPIRE STORY…..”

And then I passed out, so I don’t know if they said anything else. No, not really, but so cool. My husband came along, and that was a real treat for me, actually.

The last time I was in a radio booth was in college many years ago, and I was drunk, visiting a friend. That was cool, too. Dave ran a radio show in the middle of the night, and me and my friend Karen got to dig through all the old records. A ton of ska and punk. But that’s beside the point. THIS time, I was a grownup, and sober, and talking about making my dream come true.

I’ve told the story a lot about how Running Home came to life, and why, but for some reason, doing it on a radio show, with my husband there, holding the book in my hand, made it feel so much more real.

How’s this for scary? “We have two signed copies of Julie’s book right here to give away to callers  6 and 8 right now!” The hosts, Lisa Azizan and Rob Hakkila just put it out there, like that.

OH SHIT, WE’RE DOING IT NOW? ON THE AIR? LIKE WHEN YOU WAIT FOR THE BITCHY LITTLE SPOILED KID AT A BIRTHDAY PARTY TO OPEN YOUR HUMBLE PRESENT AND SAY IT SUCKS??? LIKE THAT? FUCK, NO! NO, NO, NO, TAKE THAT SHIT SOMEWHERE ELSE.

Waiting for that radio silence was HORRIFYING, for about 4 secons. Then people called! And the lovely Lisa  had to answer all the calls, and people who didn’t win were disappointed! Yay, sadness! I REVELED IN THEIR SADNESS AND WANTED TO GIVE THEM ALL BOOKS! A lovely gentleman named Stephen and another young lady named Veronica won signed books. It was the first time I’d signed a book for someone I didn’t know, and it was amazing. The thought that this thing I made up was good enough to have a press want it, that it got made into a real thing, that it was just an idea I had, and now here I was, giving it to people that WANTED it. And that there was that poor caller 7 who didn’t win, and she said “OOOOHH!” And that there was a caller afterward who missed the boat. The boat was full! There was a full boat of people who wanted to read my book!

Because no matter what, no matter how hard I work on my writing, no matter how good people say it is, no matter how proud I am, or how cool I am, or funny, one feeling will never go away:

IT’S STILL JUST ME.

It’s just me, Julie who once asked a blind kid what his friend looked like. Me who got caught chasing a wild pig in my pajamas by the CEO of Victoria’s Secret. Me, who loves office supplies more than shoes, who still wants Dunkin Donuts more than Starbucks. Me, who still feels weird about my face in pictures and bites my cuticles. Me, who came home to a raccoon on my porch with Grandpa thinking he should feed it, and me who’s wearing a fire hat and eating yogurt.  It’s just me, but I’m good enough to be that person, too. I did it. I’m that person and this person, still.

It’s terrifying to chase your dreams when you have to give up your reality to do it. But not giving up anything is scarier. Wondering if I should have taken the risk is a fear I wasn’t willing to live with. Even more so, I didn’t want to raise kids who were too afraid of failing not to try. Every day I’m thankful to be afraid, because it means I’m trying, and that the world sees it. And I’ll never stop.

Lindsay Cummings Makes Me Giddy: A Review of RUNNING HOME

TODAY’S BREW: Tea. I need to calm down from all of my ridiculous giddiness.

By Julie

I adore Lindsay E. Cummings, formerly known as Lindsay Pate, and really admire her writing abilities. Go read the short story series. THE MECHANICAL HEART she wrote with Corey Seeley, and see what I mean: http://lpate85.blogspot.com/2013/01/mechanical-heart-part-1-by-corey-seeley.html?spref=tw
So when she gushed like THIS over my book, I was jumping for joy. Thank you, Lindsay. I couldn’t be prouder to have you in my corner.

The Splendor of “Running Home”

By: Lindsay Cummings

I will begin this entry by apologizing for my ridiculously long departure from my blog and everything social media. My excuse is my wedding. It had to be planned and perfected, requiring much attention and love. Now I am back and so is my voracious appetite for reading and writing.

Recently the ever amazing and brilliant Julie Hutchings released her debut novel, “Running Home”. I promptly downloaded it. Being a fan of hers and genuinely liking her as a person, it was a no-brainer for me to read her book. Low and behold the same day I downloaded her novel, another book I had pre-ordered revealed itself on my Kindle. Normally this would not deter me; however, I had been all but salivating over its arrival.

I ogled both titles, knowing I had a decision to make. The pre-ordered novel glistened and coaxed me to read it first. I regretfully put Julie’s novel aside…Just for one more week.

I read the pre-ordered book in a matter of two days. I was completely let down. An author, that will remain nameless, had released a new Paranormal Romance novel. Though this genre differed from her usual Contemporary Romance books, I had extremely high hopes. As I finished the last few words in the novel, I was utterly disenchanted.

I bitched and moaned to my husband that after all of my waiting and patience, the book was rushed and underdeveloped. A crime if you ask me.

Hoping to cheer up my despondent heart, I picked up Julie’s book. Not really knowing what to expect, my eyes immediately latched on to her words and did not let go. She had me hooked from page one until the end.

Honestly, I am a lover of all genres. I do believe that Paranormal Romance is probably one of the hardest to perfect and make distinctive. Julie achieved this and then some. She found a flow that crossed between Horror and Paranormal Romance. It provoked thoughts and feelings, while sending shivers down my spine. The novel kept me guessing at mostly every turn, and was so beautifully created that I sighed in relief.

Running_Home

This novel was what I had been looking for. Running Home is everything I had wanted to feel from the other book and then some. I was so proud of my dazzling friend for writing one of the most unique and well written books I have read all year. Her ideas were exceptional and so were her exquisitely developed characters. Just enough fear, lust and wonder to keep me hanging on every word.

The furtive Nicholas French and the distraught Eliza Morgan find themselves drawn together in a sea of inexplicable awareness and adoration for one another. The blending of modern day vampirism and ancient Japanese culture is imaginative and vivid.

*This may not be a traditional review, as I am not by any means a book reviewer. But as a reader and a writer, I had to give credit where credit is due. Thank you Mrs. Hutchings for renewing my faith in Vampires everywhere.

Please click the link to purchase Running Home on Amazon…NOW! : http://t.co/wXBPE87nMX

The End of it All by Richard Ankers

TODAY’S BREW: A lot.

By Julie

I was so excited when Richard Ankers told me he was working on a vampire novel, I screamed at him through the Twitterverse to send me what he had written. See, this guy wrote this book called The Snow Lily, an amazing piece of literature that astounds me is unpublished. You can find out more about it here. http://t.co/Fp7MLhTUBz and follow Richard @Richard_Ankers.

A wonderful man and a wonderful writer, he sent me this, the first chapter of his latest work, and I fell in love. IN LOVE. This is classical vampire writing done well. This is absolutely stunning. Enjoy.

 

I took her cold, dead hand in mine and led her out onto the balcony. A slight breeze stirred the silks of her gowns and tousled her flowing, raven locks. Geranium bushes emitted the faintest of pomades into the night circulating in the air currents and mixing exquisitely with Chantelle’s own luxurious scents. She was everything a man could desire, perfection personified. I pulled her to me and felt her hidden curves press against my flesh. If I could have remembered what it felt like to be happy, I imagined this would be it.

I gazed at the blood that flowed where once turbulent waters rushed, as it made serene passage down the Danube. The river looped around the end of the grounds and formed a natural barrier to uninvited guests. This was exactly the job it had been designed to do. I watched its unctuous form as it trundled past.

My mind was pulled away from the river by the reinvigorated orchestra who started to play anew. There was only one kind of music for such an occasion: Strauss. We waltzed in circles to the ironic notes of the blue Danube. I didn’t think the composer would have been able to generate the same response to his creation if the title had been changed to red. The moonlight shone down upon us like a searchlight as we twirled across the polished, ebony floor. Could there have been anything better? I very much doubted it! Just because you were dead did not mean you couldn’t appreciate the finer things in life.

I had been experiencing the best of life for the last five-hundred or so years and unlike some, I’d enjoyed every second of it. What was there not to have liked? To have wined and dined with those of undeniably good breeding, shared tailors with kings and queens, walked along gothic promenades without fear, this was the life, or death, I had dreamed of. I had never missed the sunlight it was terribly overrated. The sun gave such a false sense of wellbeing to the living. Only in the crystal clarity of the sparkling moon did the reality of an object truly show. The snake was not a slithering, ugly beast, but a sensual, seductive, coil of a creature. The bat far outshone the bird for it required none of the adulation that the avians so craved. And the wolf, ah, the wolf, what was there to say? To see one of the ancient grey wolves of old, backlit by a hunter’s moon, was a thing of surreal majesty. I envied them their freedom the one thing I did not possess.

“Shall we remain out here under the stars, Monsieur?” The beautiful french accent of my partner snapped me out of my musings and I smiled down at her from my greater height.

“What is your wish?”

“To be with you.”

“You can be with me anytime, but only in this moment once.” She tilted her head to one side as if it helped her think. When in truth, all it did was reveal her elegant porcelain neck. It was a momentary thing, quite beyond my control, as I plunged long fangs into her neck and sucked; and savoured; and drank. I did not know how long of her I sated, but it was too long. By the time I had finished, the metallic tang of her blood saturated my tongue, and she was gone. I had taken her past the point of no return where vampire lust and immortality merged.

I had killed Princess Chantelle of the New European Alliance and for the first time in an age, panicked!

I was usually quite unflappable. After all, what was there to get in a flap about when you were already dead? But this certainly qualified. I kept on dancing, holding my partner to me, and edged my way past the double doors we had exited from and to the edge of the balcony. Twisting our conjoined forms around, I surveyed the merriment within the ballroom and once sure of my being not watched leapt over the rails with my burden. It was a drop of about thirty feet, nothing to such as I, and I quickly made my way into the trees that lined the riverbank. Holding Chantelle close to me, as a lover might, I again made very sure of my solitude. We were quite alone. Where my vampire eyes could not see my senses, scent, and hearing, took charge. They all confirmed there was nobody around but me and my corpse. Accordingly, I flung her departed form far into the black liquid and watched her sink slowly below the surface. I would like to say I was sorry to see her go, but to be quite honest I was at best indifferent.

Retracing my steps to below the balcony, I had a sudden epiphany. I could not go back the way I had left for people were bound to have seen me step onto the balcony with the princess. No, I had to think of something else! Not wishing to be found outside I found some sturdy looking climbing ivy and in a reversal of parasitic behaviour, hastily scaled it all the way up the side of the palace. I felt no lack of energy as I hauled myself up and over a particularly hideous gargoyle and onto the palace roof, the princess’ blood had reinvigorated me, if nothing else. Always being one for a spectacular view I took a moment to savour my surroundings. It really was incredible! Class told, and that most opulent of pleasure domes dripped in it. Positioned with a full view of both mountains and river, the Comte de Burgundy, a clever play on colour as he was certainly of no royal heritage, could keep his vampiric eye on all and sundry. I envied him this place. If he had had it built for him, I could neither remember nor recall witnessing, but it certainly showed him in a finer light than he deserved. I could not stand the little runt, otherwise.

I meandered across the inclining roof looking for somewhere to gain access to the main halls when I realised I had been revealed.

“Good evening, Jean” came the whining voice of Sir Walter Merryweather.

“Good evening,” I responded, as casually as possible.

“Taking a stroll?”

“No, I am in fact lost. I was looking for the latrine and somehow found myself in front of the wrong kind of pot.”

“Tee-hee, yes quite.”

“And you?”

“Boredom, as always.”

“You could get into quite a lot of trouble for saying something like that.”

“I could! But I won’t.” He gave me a wink and touched the side of his nose with a velvet gloved finger.

“Incredible view, isn’t it?”

“Always. The Danube is a most impressive little stream. I never tire of watching it pulse across the land like some bulging virgin’s jugular vein. Ah, those were the days,” he added, with a stifled yawn. “Ditched Charlotte, have you?”

“Chantelle,” I corrected. “And I would rather say I have eluded her cloying over eagerness, for at least a short while, anyway.” I watched Walter closely, but he did not react and I suspected my secret to be still my own. “Do you wish to return to the ball?” I asked.

“Not really. I deplore all that showy bravado. My fangs are bigger than your fangs, etcetera, etcetera. Have we really become so melodramatic?”

“Well, this is the end of the world, or so they say. May as well go out with a flourish.”

“May as well,” he agreed. “I’d still prefer to be ripping out some human throat and sucking out their soul though.”

“Wouldn’t we all?” I concurred, as he stood brushing the moss from his green velvet outfit.

“Right then, lets be off, rejoin the tedium and all that.”

“After you,” I said, gesturing with my hand. Always smooth under pressure. I smiled to myself and followed him off the roof through a door I hadn’t noticed back to the strains of more Strauss. I didn’t think I’d feel the same way about him again. I’d sooner have Wagner any day of the week.

Merryweather led me through a labyrinthine set of passages, the purpose of which quite eluded me, before we eventually reappeared in one of the royal boxes that looked down upon the twirling throng.

“Makes you sick doesn’t it Jean?”

“What does?”

“All of this.” He spread his arms out wide, encompassing all of the massive hall, without any apparent care for who might see him.

“It provides some entertainment,” I said, whilst wiping a long dark lock from my eyes.

“Bah! Entertainment indeed. We have machines that can move mountains, the ability to create near endless resources, yet this is the sum of our achievements, to frolic.” Merryweather slammed one velvet gloved hand down upon the balustrade. I was sure for effect rather than real anger.

Already bored of the fop despite his sudden leanings to rebellion, I decided to make my leave. “I really should be finding the princess before some other dashing vampire sweeps her away before dawn.”

Merryweather regarded me with something akin to suspicion before doffing an imaginary hat to me. I was dismissed. I didn’t need telling twice either. After a quick check below I jumped over the parapet and dropped the rather long distance to the floor, landing conveniently at the feet of the Marquise de Rhineland. It was a pompous title for a pompous woman, but she did have quite exquisite legs.

“Ooh, Jean, you’re looking particularly delicious tonight.” Her ice-blue eyes shimmered in the light of a dozen chandeliers.

“As do you, Marquise.”

“Oh, Jean, you know to call me Portia.”

“Sorry, Portia, I forget myself at times.”

“Are you not with the princess?”

“I was, but I think I may have upset her and she is punishing me by her absence.”

“Is it really such a punishment?”

I leaned in closer, or as close as I could to someone dressed as a trifle and whispered, “Not really.”

“Ooh, Jean, you are a very naughty vampire lord.”

“I could be!”The glint in her eyes matched the licking of her lips: wanton.

“Would you like to leave this most boring of balls?”

The marquise looked about, as though searching for somebody, before grabbing my hand in her gloved own and languidly leading me from the ballroom. Nobody spared us a second glance, all far to advanced in their merrymaking. Out through the gold laden double doors, and into a corridor of polished ivory we strolled. It gave me chance to pretend to admire some of the more dramatic murals that covered every spare inch of the place: a sure sign of overkill and bad taste. Then, out through the crystal front doors of the palace and onto the grand staircase. Taking a dramatic stance, the Marquise beckoned a footman who had her carriage brought forth post-haste. What drew the carriage, I had no idea, unless it was of horses who’s colouring perfectly matched that of the night? With no acknowledgement to any of the scurrying servants she climbed the inlaid tortoiseshell steps into her mobile boudoir and sat with her back to the coachman. I followed her in, doing my best to avoid standing on her gowns and took a white leathered seat opposite.

“It seems a very long time since I last had you alone like this,” she purred.

“It must be the better part of a century, I should imagine,” I replied, combing back my hair from my face.

“I see you refuse to submit to the whims of others, ever the rebel.” The Marquise lifted her chin to my jet black attire.

“You know me. Old habits die hard.”

“I know exactly what you mean.” If the Marquise was about to further enlighten me of her thoughts the juddering start to our drive prevented her from doing it. She never did not like to be anything other than in full control of a situation. In a moment of fang baring, the Marquise bashed twice upon the frame of the carriage and shouted to the coachmen to not jolt her again. The crack in the side panel where fist met wood made me realise just what a facade of decorum she was perpetrating. As always, I found it disgusting.

Turning back to me with the face an angel would die for, again in control of herself, she continued. “Have you missed me, Jean.”

“I’ve seen you on many occasions. This formulated world is too small to miss someone for too long.”

“You know what I mean,” she giggled.

“Not really,” I answered honestly.

“Hm, playing tough won’t work with me. I see through your veneer of disdain.” The moonlight shone through the carriage window and gave a strange look of madness to her eyes, as she lent closer to me.

“There is no veneer with me. My feelings to this life have not changed for centuries.”

Sitting back in her seat again, I can see the Marquise pondering my words with the look of a child completely unable to comprehend a question. “Do you really hate it so?” She eventually asked.

“Yes.”

“But, why? We have everything our hearts desire and even when we don’t we simply create it.”

“That is exactly why.” I gaze out of the window and watch the dramatic scenery sweep past.

“You are a most mysterious man,” she chuckled as she eased her way into the seat beside me. “Beautiful, isn’t it,” she purred into my ear.

“Perhaps, if you like amalgamations of your Alps and Himalayas. It just so happens I prefer the originals.” If the Marquise heard me I do not know, as her mouth closed about my neck. I squirmed a little in my seat at the twin pressure she applied but not enough to break the skin.

“Now, tell me that you still haven’t missed me,” words of honeyed silk poured from her mouth.

“I still haven’t missed you,” I breezed, as our mouths met and, for a time at least, I submitted to her as the toy I once was.

Time and motion blurred together and I suspected the Marquise of having manipulated at least one or the other to her benefit. I wasn’t complaining. Her attentions were a surprising relief from what had occurred at the palace. I was of course used to women throwing themselves at me for one reason or another. However having two quite so powerful ones do so in the same night was a new experience for me. The first new experience in longer than I cared to remember.

I had barely buttoned my trousers back up when the carriage came to a shuddering stop. I was flung head first into the Marquise corsets, for a second time, and was most disgruntled to be found in such a position by the coachman who efficiently opened the carriage door in double quick time. If he thought it odd he didn’t show it, as the Marquise let out a most undignified growl from the back of her throat.

I uncoupled myself and languidly strolled from the carriage offering my hand to the Marquise before viewing where we were. “Very impressive, Marquise,” I said, looking the fairytale castle up and down. “White marble?”

“If you call me Marquise once more, Jean, I shall rip out your tongue,” she hissed. “And no, it is actually polished ivory.”

“That’s an awful lot of elephants that have perished for your pleasure.”

“Always the joker! Anyway, I’m a little sick of the site of it, in truth. I may have it remade on jade. I think that should look sufficiently different to the norm.”

“Is there such a thing these days?” I replied.

She just smiled and led me onto a moving stairs, rather like an elevator, that somewhat distracted from the overall effect of the place. Hidden servants appeared as if from nowhere and removed the Marquise of her excess outerwear then bade a hasty retreat.

“I see you still rule your home with an iron fist, Mar…Portia.”

“There is no other way, Jean. I work on the principle that if I treat everybody with the same lack of respect those that deserve it will get the message whilst those that don’t will at best complain.” The accompanying fanged smile did nothing to encourage my acknowledgement of her methods. Not that it was asked for.

“May I ask where we are headed at this time of oncoming daylight?” I enquired, with as much disinterest as I could muster.

“Why, the view of course. You didn’t think I had this castle built especially for the sentimental value.”

“I was under the impression your husband was the one who’d had it built.”

“He thinks so! But we all know men have no real ideas of their own, don’t we?”

I had a sudden desire to strike her head from her arrogant, elegant shoulders. I even think the Marquise shuddered a little as the thought showed fractionally in the flash of my eyes. As her birthright decreed, she soon recovered, and continued her gliding passage through the brilliant white halls of her home. I walked slightly behind and to the right of her. This was mostly so that I didn’t have to look at her face, I was already quite bored of her, and secondly so that she was dawn side of me. I much preferred the Marquise to experience the sun on her face before I if it did indeed appear during the course of her showing off.

After a seemingly endless walk of which I even started to whistle to communicate my boredom, the Marquise stood before a pair of the longest, red velvet curtains I’d ever seen which she threw aside with a flourish. The reflex to pull back from what I thought would be my doom was hard to resist but I thought even as big an imbecile as the Marquise would neglect to kill herself off so readily and stood my ground. I think she was quite impressed to turn and see me there when others would, and probably had, previously fled.

“So?”

“So what?” I replied, not wishing to add to her grandeur.

“Is it not the most beautiful of sights,” she pointed across a valley of staggering depth to something in the distance.

I stepped closer, trying desperately to remain nonchalant, but couldn’t help not let my inquisitive side marvel at what she pointed to. It was a palace of some sorts, difficult to be completely certain of, but something ancient and rather spectacular. Of that fact I was quite sure.

“It is Shangri-La, Jean. I have had it moved here. I knew you’d appreciate the grandeur of it.”

I shook my head in disgust, turned my back to the pompous fool, and made my way up to the bed chambers. It would be a long day before I could be rid of the woman.

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