TAG!! You’re it!

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I was tagged in a blog post by a fellow author, Frantiska Oliver. The challenge is to answer the following questions and then tag other authors. This is how authors play tag and, since I don’t run unless it is life threatening, this is my favorite version of Tag! You’re it!   

What are you working on right now?

At the moment I’m working on three different projects. The first, rewrites for the fourth book in the Serenity Series, Consequences. Since the release for the third book, Tribulations is right around the corner I want to continue Leah and Raine’s journey ASAP. Their story gets more and more interesting as time goes on. The second project happens to be a tie into the Serenity Series if only in part. Bittersweet revolves around a creature previously unknown to the supernatural world and will make it’s debut within the pages of book four. The third has turned into so much more than I thought it could when I started work on it. Heaven On Earth will be the first in a chronicle of angels who have been tasked with death. The Afterlife Chronicles will follow a corp of Reapers, Hunters, Seekers and Sentries as they ferry souls to face their fates.   

 

How do your stories differ from others in its genre?

I try to ground my characters in reality as much as I can. Even my vampires and werewolves have one foot in the human world and one in the supernatural. I want each one of them to appeal to the readers, maybe remind them of someone they know or even see certain qualities in themselves. Being able to touch (for lack of a better word) the heart of the characters is a gift. I love it when authors make me care about the characters they create. I can only hope I’m able to do the same for those who pick up my work.

Why do I write what I do?

Paranormal has always appealed to me. I love being able to play with myths and legends regarding different creatures and bend them into the characters I’ve always imagined them to be. There’s a certain amount of mystery surrounding them. Picking through the mystery and creating beings who have heart beats, feelings, agendas (be they good or bad) has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve done so far. Being published is awesome, don’t get me wrong, but without those amazing characters my stories are nothing.

How does the writing process work?

Most of the time it starts at night. I do my best writing when darkness falls and the house is quiet. No kids, no phone calls to field. No interruptions. I gather a cold can of Coke, my BIC Atlantis mechanical pencil, paper and my laptop and get to work.  

 

Now it’s my turn and I get tag three (there are more, but they have already been tagged) talented authors I highly respect respect and look up to. Jason McIntyre, Rebecca Hamilton, John Hardy Bell and guess what? “Tag you’re it!” 

Water Lily

Water Lily

By Dawn Kirby

white_lady_by_reem_u-d34wyry

“Sanna is yours,” Henry said happily. He’d been waiting for this all week and now that the young Duke had finally asked he was elated. His wealth as well as his name was about to grow exponentially, but first he had to part with a piece of his own estate. He slapped his future son-in-law on the shoulder and led him to the table. “Let’s discuss the dowry with a little wine, shall we?”

“That will not be necessary,” Aidan said quickly. He’d spent weeks getting to know Sanna and now that she was his, he wanted nothing more than to take her and return home.

“The wine or the discussion?” Henry asked.

“Either.” Aidan looked past Henry and into the garden where Sanna sat waiting to hear her father’s answer. “I wish only to be the one to tell her you have handed her over to me.”

“Granted,” he chuckled. “And the wedding?”

“Not here.” Aidan watched as the air left Henry’s body. Only when color returned to his face did he continue. “I meant no disrespect. I have been away from home for so long I wish to return as soon as possible. My hope is that Sanna will return with me.”

“Who am I to say no?” Henry said, shrugging his shoulders. “I myself have been weeks on end away from home. It is most unpleasant regardless of the comforts one’s host may provide.”

“Aye. You have been more than gracious. My family will of course take on all financial responsibilities of the ceremony upon our return. You and your wife are welcome to travel with us.”

“Nonsense!” Henry almost shouted. Arriving with the newly engaged couple may well force him to part with a handsome sum of money. “Just send word. We shall make the journey then. I am sure your parents would like the opportunity to speak with her for a time without the interference of her own loved ones.”

“They may,” Aidan said, bowing his head respectfully. His gaze moved to the blond haired beauty, who now sat absently picking the petals off one of her stepmother’s favorite white rose bushes. “There are many layers I have yet to unfold.”

Henry saw the look in the young man’s eye and smiled. He himself had once loved like that. Sanna’s mother was the only woman he’d ever loved. After she passed he’d taken on the role of both mother and father until the day he realized his little girl was blooming into a woman. Several women came and went over the years. None could compare to the love he lost. Over the years he stopped looking for love and settled. Now he was content to have his needs met and his house in order.

“Go,” he said waving the young man toward the garden. “She’s waiting. I am afraid my wife may not have many blooms left if we draw this out any longer.”

Aidan bowed his head respectfully as his future father in law left the room. As soon as the man’s heavy footsteps faded, he hurried to the garden, kneeling in front of Sanna with a huge smile on his handsome face. She smiled back, dismissing her maid with a nod.

“It seems you are now spoken for,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.

“And who pray tell has asked for my hand?” she teased, batting her sapphire blue eyes innocently. She brushed a lock of black hair from his forehead, revealing a pair of intense green eyes.

“Though many men have made the request during these past few weeks, your father has accepted mine.”

“I can think of no other man I would want.”

“Then it is a good thing I asked! I would not want such a beautiful young woman to be unhappy.” He stood up and looked around the garden for the woman Sanna had dismissed moments ago. He’d had an uneasy feeling when he’d met her for the first time. As he and Sanna grew closer, so did the uneasiness. “Your father has granted my request to return home as well as allowing us to host the ceremony at my parent’s estate. Will you still leave with me?”

“Of course,” Sanna answered, standing to look at him. “I understand your desire to return home. I’ll not request that you stay here a minute longer than you wish to.”

“Thank you,” he said kissing her delicate fingers. “I would like to leave within the hour. Can you say your goodbyes within that time?”

She smiled warmly. “If you so command it, I shall.”

“Good. I’ll go ready my men and my horses. You go ready yourself.”

As he watched her disappear into the house a sense of relief washed over him. He’d been here long enough to see the lust that burned in the eyes of the men who looked at her. He’d also seen the jealousy in the woman who lusted after those men. Sanna was so naïve, so trusting she didn’t notice the looks of contempt they shot her when they thought no one was looking.

Once Aidan had announced his plans to ask for her hand one of his men had taken to following her while she rode into the village with her stepmother. When asked why he simply said he couldn’t ignore the warning signs. The signs being the catty whispers he’d overheard regarding Sanna’s expected life span. As soon as Aidan got word, he thanked the man, promoted him and assigned him solely to her, though Sanna still didn’t know.

“You’re leaving?!” her maid asked. “Now? Right now?”

“Right now,” Sanna answered happily.”Aidan’s ready to go home. He misses it so.”

“But that leaves you no time,” she complained. “There are so many things you need to gather.”

“Don’t be silly, Crete,” Sanna coaxed. “My trunk will hold my clothes. There’s no need to take much more than that. You’ve seen his tents. They’re more than suitable. Everything else will be provided once we arrive.”

“And the wedding?” Crete asked curiously. Would there be time to try to come between them?

“It will be held there.” She began folding her belongings into her trunk. Since most of what she owned consisted of clothes and a few pieces of her mother’s jewelry packing didn’t take long. “There now, all set. Would you please see that this gets where it should be. I need to go find my father and tell him goodbye.”

No sooner than she’d turned to leave the room than she felt a warm sensation spread across the back of her head. Something heavy fell to the ground behind her. Then came pain. Her head felt as though it had been split in two. She tried to roll over on her back, but she couldn’t move. Blood seeped onto the ground, surrounding her. She saw Crete’s small feet run past her and into the hallway.

“Good,” she thought. “She’ll get help.”

Minutes later four more sets of feet including Crete’s rushed back into the room.

“I can’t believe you did it,” one of the women said. Sanna thought she recognized the voice as Crete’s sister, but her head was now so fuzzy she couldn’t be sure. “How? Why did-”

“Don’t sound so surprised, Bea. What would you have done?” Crete asked coolly. “She was about to leave here forever with the man I love.”

“Don’t be silly,” Bea snorted. “He’s in love with her. Everybody sees it.”

“He just needs time to see all he feels for her is lust. Maybe with her head split open like it is, he won’t even feel that.”

“Maybe that’s all any of them need,” Another woman scoffed. The rough tone gave away her identity as her stepmother’s maid, Sally. “We should parade her out the gates and see if they still treat her like a queen.”

“Those men are dogs,” the fourth woman said. Her sweet voice belonged to Alex, Sanna’s new maid. “All they’d do is cover her head with a dirty old sheet and use her body. That’s all they want anyway.”

“Perhaps we should let them,” Crete squealed. “The tavern outside the village would be the perfect place for that!”

Mortified by what she was hearing, she forced herself onto her side. The four maids she’d come to trust more than anyone were standing over her with disgusted smiles on their faces; glad to see the pain, fear and confusion in her eyes. Where had all this hate come from? Why hadn’t she ever seen it before?

“Why?” was all she could get out.

Crete knelt down beside her and smiled. “Why? You act as though you can’t see the fire burning in their eyes when they look at you. You act as though it makes no difference to you that you have been promised to a man meant for me. Aidan may not know it yet, but he was destined for more than you. His future lies with me!”

“What fire?” Sanna cried. Her father had always told her NOT to look in the eyes of his men, of the people who inhabited the village. Regardless of how she felt, he believed they were beneath them and should be treated accordingly. “Crete, I don’t understand. What are you-”

Her question was cut short when Crete grabbed her by the wrists. Sally and Bea lifted her feet off the floor and motioned for Alex to open the door. As they dragged her from the bedroom something popped at the base of her neck. The warm sensation grew as well as the pain. It was so intense now she didn’t want to feel the left side of her face anymore. Sharp, tingly sensations, much like hot needles, coursed throughout her body. It felt as though fire was consuming her from the inside. Unexpectedly numbness took hold of part of her head as well as her throat, rendering her voice useless. Though it terrified her, none of the other women seemed to give the bright trail of blood the gash on her head left a second thought.

Sanna’s father’s voice rang through the air as they passed the dining hall. She tried desperately to call out, but no sound would come. Before she could try again Alex ripped a piece of cloth from their tunic and shoved it in her mouth. Soon they were headed out the back door. Sanna glanced around frantically looking for anyone who could help. No one was there. No doubt they were all in the stables making sure Aidan’s horses had everything they would need before they left.

The women dragged her further away from the house. She watched in disbelief as they passed through the back gates and onto the rough dirt road that led to the lake on the far side of her father’s property. She tried to will her body to fight back, but whatever Crete had hit her with had left her head swollen and her body unable to move. The pain however was ever present.

Crete wasn’t going to stop. Not now. The girl was alone and helpless for once in her life. Not to take full advantage of this amazing opportunity would be a sin. Who’d miss her besides her father anyway? Certainly not his wife. That woman hated Sanna from the moment she stepped foot into his house. None of the women she knew here or in the village would miss her either. In fact, they’d be happy to see her gone. The men would finally see them instead of comparing every female who crossed their path to the rich bitch she had incapacitated. There was Aidan of course, but given time and a little extra effort on her part he’d forget all about his beautiful intended.

Sanna’s upper body was dropped carelessly to the ground as Crete’s head turned right then left, scanning the area for any sign of prying eyes. The maids released Sanna’s feet to do a quick search of their own. When Crete turned to face her, a wicked smile gracing her thin lips, she knew there would be no one there to help. That’s when her doomed fate hit her in full. Tears sprang to her eyes. Her insides began to shake uncontrollably. She was at their mercy.

“Shall we?” Crete asked, placing a hard kick directly to Sanna’s temple.

For what felt like hours Sanna endured a horrific beating. Her eyes were so swollen she could no longer see. Crete had made sure of that. Blood had pooled in her ears so thickly thanks to the repeated hits to her face and head she could only hear the sound of her own gradually slowing heartbeat. Huge clumps of her long blond hair lay on the ground around her. Pieces of her dress were either stuck to her bloody body or left to blow into the field behind them.

She knew without a doubt the rock that had been dropped on her ankles so many times had broken bones. Before her hearing had been cut off she’d heard them crack. Her ribs were cracked, making what breath she could manage to draw feel painfully un-necessary. Short gasps were her norm now. Sally’s little knife had come in handy for them. Sanna had felt every cut they made across her torso and chest. Thankfully shock had taken over and the sensations of the blade sliding into flesh were merely a dull ache. She hadn’t even flinched when they tried to slit her throat.

Only when the women were satisfied their work was done did they drag her body into the water to die. They knew she was broken beyond repair. It may take hours for her to succumb to her intended tomb, but she would eventually give up. What did they care how it happened? Drowning, exhaustion, simply giving up.

Sanna watched them go, relief and regret filling every fiber of her being. This was her future? To die alongside a lake she and her father used to come to for peace? The same lake Aidan had let his love for her be known? This lake, where so many wonderful memories were made was to be her deathbed?

With her last breath she pleaded to return, begging the powers that be to let her stay, if only in spirit. Her body may not be of use to her now, but her soul could live on. They had had no qualms about killing her, what if they decided another woman was a threat? What would become of those poor souls? What would become of her father; of Aidan?

“You may stay,” a soft, melodic voice whispered. “But know this. Your home is the water. Your boundary the fields. You may never again set foot inside your father’s home. Your wish is to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Do so. Walk these shores whenever you like, but do not abuse the privilege my dear Water Lily. Revenge was not a part of your request.”

 

Originally posted @ www.paranormalutopia.com – May, 2011 http://paranormalutopia.com/2011/03/water-lily311/

Not Your Traditional Book Club

Guest post by David Lowry

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Have you ever been so busy that you don’t have time to attend every book club function you want? Do you love to read but haven’t in a while and don’t even know where to begin when looking for a new book? Do you like fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, erotica or anything in between? Do you want to find others that like the same types of books you do or discover new authors?

If so then Club Fantasci is the book club for you.  A little different from your average meet once a month at the coffee shop book club, Club Fantasci meets once a month on Google+ and we talk about the Book of the Month, Wine of the Month and the music that each host feels best relates to the book we are reviewing that month.

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In Club Fantasci we will discuss speculative fiction and it literary merits. The marketing of it, its effectiveness, and whether or not it shifts to much from it expected outcome from it genre. We wants to bring our members a deeper understanding of not just story telling, but what goes into the book itself on every level.

Our first Google+ hangout is August 31st at 7:00 pm CST. You can interact with us on our individual twitter accounts @lowryagency, @ciaraballintyne, @dionnelister and @ShannonMillion to discuss your views on the book or just to have fun with us live. The video feed will be live on the Club Fantasci website.

More about the club:

Club Fantasci is a book club taking the stigma out of speculative fiction. We want to expose you to the full gamut of the speculative fiction genre, including science fiction, hard SF, militaristic SF, high/epic fantasy, dark fantasy, dystopian, cyberpunk, steampunk, space opera, paranormal, urban fantasy, SFF romance and erotica, and everything in between.

We want to educate readers on good writing in speculative fiction, entertain with witty banter, and above all have a fantastic time. Fiction need not be literary to be well-written, and good writing need not be boring or mundane! We promise you we’ll do our best to bring you a good book every month, and if not, we’ll tell you why it’s not! For a bit of light fun, we’ll also be featuring a wine of the month and picking a song that best fits the book. So bring your book, keep that wineglass topped up, and don’t forget your i-pod!

Your hosts are David Lowry, Dionne Lister (author of Shadows of the Realm), entertainment personality and model Shannon Million, and Ciara Ballintyne – your resident fantasy writer/lawyer extraordinaire combo!

Club Fantasci is also featuring a ‘Wine of the Month’ – August’s pick is a 2011 ‘Suited Muscat’ from Sort This Out Cellars Winery in Solvang, CA. Club members are entitled to a discount – check out the club website for more information.

You can learn more about us by:

Joining our group on Goo dreads

Liking our Page on Facebook

Checking out our Website

 

***Thanks so much to David for allowing me to help spread the word!*** 

Meet Mariam!

About a year a ago I met an absolutely wonderful woman and fellow writer on Twitter. Her name? Mariam Kobras. At the time we were both working hard at achieving that dream of seeing our names on the cover of a book. As I got to know Mariam I found a true friend. She is truly inspiring and I’m proud to say she has had the opportunity to see that dream fulfilled.

And now, it is my extreme pleasure to introduce you all to her…

Mariam Kobras

Author of The Distant Shore

Mariam Kobras

 

Please tell us a little about yourself.

There’s precious little to tell. I’m a housewife and soccer mom. I’ve been married for 32 years (to the same guy). A long time ago, I studied American Literature. I have two (grown) sons and two cats. We live in Hamburg, Germany. It’s a nice place with a lot of water and not too far from the North Sea either!

You are without a doubt a fantastic writer. What prompted you to start putting words on paper? What inspires you?    

 I don’t know about the fantastic writer. A good writer, I hope.

Honestly, I can’t tell you what inspired me, or prompted me to start writing. In hindsight, I’d say it was always there, like.another limb, or a dormant organ. One that remained unused for most of my life and then, when the time was right, started its work. Now it’s pumping away healthily. It’s young and strong, and will keep me going for a long time I think.

Your characters, are they based on people in your life or do you think them up as you write?

There is something of me in Jon, and in Naomi. The others are all made up.

You see, Jon has this enormous drive to be creative. He works hard at his composing; he is a slave to it. He also has the need to tell the world about it, to take his music to the people. At one point he says that his songs would be useless if there was no audience. I have that drive too, and I believe every creative person knows what I mean. Getting the feedback of an audience, whether listeners or readers, is like getting vindication for your work.

Naomi, on the other hand, drops her writing on paper as if it means nothing, it comes to her easily. She does not value her gift. She is uncertain about it, and thinks it’s nothing special, while everyone else raves about it. She has a very hard time accepting herself as an author.

I’m both! There’s an enormous drive to be successful, to be a bestselling author, and yet, at the same time, I find it hard to believe anyone would want to read my book.

Do you ever find yourself falling into each role as your story progresses? How do you personally handle the life challenges they go through, i.e. births, deaths, marriages…etc?

I’ll tell you a little secret: I write best when I’m in a REALLY good mood. When I’m exuberant. That’s when I wrote the saddest scenes in my book. I wrote them and hummed along as the blood flowed over the pavement. I don’t fall into the roles. It’s more like sitting on the character’s shoulders, watching them very, very closely. I’m really good at observing and analyzing, I think.

Endings tend to be difficult. How do you decide when to pull the curtain, so to speak?

The Distant Shore

I don’t. The story does. It’s something like coming full circle, ending where you started, only with everything changed. I have no idea. It’s instinct. The story ends when it feels right.

Once your novel was complete how important were Beta readers to you? Did you have an editing partner? Are you a part of a critique group?

There are a few friends on twitter who read my books as I write them. But generally, I’m a lonely writer. Writing The Distant Shore was pretty much a guilty secret. I didn’t tell anyone until it was almost finished. No critique group, no readers, no editing partner.

Now, of course, everything is different. I’ve found the best editing partner I can imagine at my publisher’s. She’s MaryChris Bradley. I’m sometimes tempted to not even read through her editing because she “gets” me so well, I can hardly see where my writing ends and her editing starts. It’s miraculous. And it makes me feel very comfortable with my publisher.

You’ve found yourself in the very position every writer dreams of; aspiring writer to published author. If you wouldn’t mind, please tell us about your journey and what’s in store for you and your fans next.

First of all, I really hate that word “aspiring”. If you write, you’re a writer. End of story. You may not be an AUTHOR yet, because for that you have to be published, but you are definitely a writer. So please, everyone, kick that “aspiring”.

My story is pretty simple, and told in a few words: I wrote The Distant Shore during the long, boring hours I spent supervising the detention room at the high school where I was working. I’d met my publisher, Buddhapuss Ink, on twitter a while earlier, and when I posted page 99 of my book on my blog they requested a full manuscript. A few months later they signed me.

The Distant Shore was published in the US on January 17th. A week before that, Buddhapuss offered me a new two-book deal for book 2 and book 3 of the trilogy, which I signed, of course.

My next book, Under the Same Sun, has been announced for September. I’m hoping the third book, Song of the Storm, will release in Spring 2013.

Aside from your career as an author, being a mother and a wife, what is one thing you would like the public to know about you?

Ha, I don’t know. Maybe that I hate housecleaning? That I like to sleep, and usually sleep ten hours every night?

Oh, here’s one thing: I can’t wait to go on my next book tour! I ADORE doing book tours! Love talking to my readers, love meeting them! It’s fun!

Any advice for aspiring writers? 

ARGH!!! Again that “aspiring”!

My publisher has some good advice for writers: “Butt in chair. Write!”

And they are right, it’s really the only advice needed. Don’t talk about your writing, don’t spend too much time on drafting and plotting, WRITE. Like they say, “Just do it!”

This was the eighth stop on Mariam’s “Love is in the Air” Blog Hop & Giveaway. We hope you enjoyed this interview and will join us tomorrow on Like a Bump on a Blog for a review of The Distant Shore.

Buddhapuss Ink is giving away copies of Mariam’s book, along with some pretty terrific (and very romantic) gifts, as we count down to that most romantic day of the year—Valentine’s!

Want to enter the giveaway?

Leave a comment for this post for one entry. We also encourage you to “Like” this blog and follow it! Tweet a link to this blog including the hashtag #TDSBlogHop for another chance to win.

Want more chances to win? CLICK HERE for all the info!

Blessing Within Sin

“How does one put true excitement into words?”

For days now I’ve asked myself that question. My ultimate conclusion has led to this inevitable answer; it’s virtually impossible. No matter how many clever quotes I pull up, exclamation points, fancy words or all caps I use none will ever suffice to truly express my emotional state as it stands at this very moment.  

Why so excited?   Because I’ve been asked to be a part of something amazing.

What could that “something” be?    A multi-genre collaboration encompassing each of the Seven Deadly Sins. That’s right…No story will be the same. No intermingling characters will weave their way through each individual sin. Each story will be told in a Voice unlike the one that came before. Each Voice as unique as the writer behind the words. 

Who might these “Voices” belong to?    Six of the most gifted and talented writers I have had the pleasure of “meeting”. Though we’ve never met in person, their individual love for words shines through in every story they write. They embrace the art with a level of passion I can only hope to one day achieve. 

How did I get so lucky?   Lord only knows. 

When?   In the months to come…

I ask you now to take a few minutes out of your day to meet each of these Literary Wonders…. I could wow you with flashy words, but I assure you these six writers can, without a doubt, stand on their own.

Michelle Picarella…Sloth http://shellypicarella.wordpress.com @ShellyPicarella … South Carolina

 Stephen Penner…Anger/Wrath http://www.stephenpenner.com @StephenPenner …Washington      

Phlegyas, the Mind Juggler…Gluttony http://www.phlegyas.com @theMindjuggler … Athens/London

Vickie Adair…Pride http://www.vickieadair.com                      @Vickie_Adair …Texas

A.T. Russell…Greed http://www.atrussell.com             @ATRUSSELLWRITER …Illinois

TymothyLongoria…Envy http://tymothylongoria.wordpress.com @TymothyLongoria …Texas

And then there’s me…Lust …@SecretsWriter …Texas

Thank you Shelly for allowing me to be a part of this outstanding group of writers.

In Dreams – Part 2

In Dreams – Part 2

                Several long nights have passed since he slipped into her dreams for the first time. He hadn’t wanted to scare her, but given the circumstances he had no other choice. Going through her was the only way he could get the truth about his death to come to light. After seeing the fear in her eyes he’d decided to wait a few days before he entered her mind again. There was still so much she needed to see. So much she needed to know…

                Sage plugged in the fountain and slipped into bed. Book in hand; she pulled the covers over her body as she settled in for a quick ten minute journey to fantasy land before sleep took over. Smiling to herself, she glanced at desk thankful for such a peaceful way to fall asleep. Who knew one little fountain could make such a difference in her life?

                She’d had her doubts about it that first night. A nightmare wasn’t exactly what she expected a waterfall to induce. The dream had felt so real then. Every hit, every stab sliced through her subconscious mind as if she were the victim. The cruel man still haunted her thoughts, though he’s never made another appearance. Honestly, she hoped he never would.

                Shaking the memory off along with the desire to read she put the book on her nightstand and turned off the lamp. Once the room fell dark he stepped out of the shadows. The sound of running water would have her sleeping in no time. He was so eager to invade her again he was willing to risk being caught.

                 He listened to her breathing…calm, steady, rhythmic. Her breath turned into a thick vapor as the temperature around her dropped. Unlike the first time, she didn’t move. Satisfied the fountain had done its job; he placed his hand on her forehead and closed his eyes. He pulled up the memory that had sent his life on a crash course, forcing her to take it in.

                Warmth engulfed her body. She felt a hand slid around her waist and pull her closer. Gentle nibbles sent a shiver down her spine. She turned her head to look behind her and found herself staring into the most stunning set of blue eyes she’s ever seen. They looked back at her with love and admiration. Sage wanted to ask who he was, but when she opened her mouth the words that came out weren’t hers. Neither was the soft voice.

                “You know you’ll probably catch hell for missing curfew, don’t you?” the soft voice asked. She turned over, snuggling her naked body closer to his. It was the same man from her nightmare. His name came to her as she spoke again. “Roy told you that the last time.”

                “Do you really think I care?” Russ asked. He slid his hand down her thigh and smiled. His hand strayed behind her back, gently stroking up and down her spine.

                “Sure doesn’t feel like it,” she giggled caressing his face. She loved it when he didn’t shave for a day or two. The stubble made her rugged man look tougher. “We better make this worthwhile then. I don’t see you getting away from the house for a long while once you go back there. He’ll make sure he gives you plenty of work to keep you busy for a month.”

                “Let him try,” he said. His hand moved up her side. Goose bumps popped up beneath his calloused fingertips. Sage felt the heat rise in her body. “I’ll get all that and more done by the time he finishes breakfast.”

                “Don’t get cocky, Russ. You and I both know he can hurt you. All he has to do is lift his hand.”

                “What’d you go and do that for?” he asked, rolling on his back. Sage felt a pang of rejection shoot through her. She propped herself up on her elbow and put her hand on his chest. He stuck his hands behind his head and frowned. “You really know how to kill a mood, you know that?”

                “Sorry,” she said quietly. “I’m just worried about you.”

                “Don’t be, Julia. I can handle myself. Roy may be mean, but he hasn’t been as strong since he had that last heart attack.” He ran his hand through her hair and smiled. “What would you say if I told you I wanted to leave here?”

                “I’d say you were just thinking out loud,” she snorted. “You’re not going anywhere until you can talk your mom into going with you.”

                “She’s already gone,” he told her. Sage’s breath caught, though she didn’t know why. He smiled. “That’s right. She left him a couple of days ago. He tried to hit her again and she finally decided she’d had enough.”

                “Why are you still there?”

                “She needs somebody to make sure he doesn’t trash her things. The house may be his, but he doesn’t own everything in it.”

                “You’re not worried he’ll take her absence out on you? I mean he goes nuts when she’s five minutes late coming back from the store.”

                “Julia, I’ll be fine.”

He pressed his lips against hers, ending the depressing conversation. Her legs wrapped around his. Sage could feel her heart racing. His hands were everywhere and they felt good. He rolled her onto her back, cocking his eyebrow slightly. Sage smiled up at him, not knowing what to expect. Julia may be used to his ways, but this was new to her. He gripped both her hands in his and held them firmly over her head. She closed her eyes, tilting her neck while his free hand raked over her neck.

Cold replaced warmth. A thud echoed throughout the room. Her eyes shot open. Something darted in front of her. Russ! He pressed her firmly into the mattress, shielding her from something she couldn’t see yet. With her heart pounding, she looked around the room frantically trying to see the thing he already feared.    

                “Stay down,” Russ whispered.

                “What’s wrong?” she asked. Tears were falling and she didn’t know why.

                “Roy’s here.” Sage’s body stiffened. Fear took hold. “Whatever you do, don’t leave my side.”

                “Well, well. I knew I’d find you here,” the harsh voice from her nightmare said. She struggled to get a look, but the dark shielded him. Damn. “One of these days you’re gonna learn to mind. You’re supposed to respect your elders, not take advantage of them.”

                “Respect is earned,” Russ said quickly.

                “So I need to earn your respect? Is that what you’re saying?” His tone turned dangerous. Cold chills ran down her spine.

                “Don’t answer that!” Sage screamed.

Wait, did she? Her voice was in her head. All the words she’d spoken before had been Julia’s. Sage was only a bystander here.  She wanted to shake Russ, somehow get his attention, but she was trapped in Julia’s terrified body. Why couldn’t they hear her in this dream the way Roy had in the first?

                “That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Russ answered.

                “How do you propose I do that?” Roy asked. She thought she heard him walk around the bed, but Russ had her pinned down so tightly she couldn’t see anything.

                “How about you go wait in the living room and we’ll discuss it on the way home?”

                “Sounds agreeable. I’ll give you five minutes then I’m coming back to get ‘cha.” When he chuckled, his voice sounded further away. Russ’s body relaxed. “Better find your clothes quick.”

                “Not a problem,” Russ said reaching for the lamp. Sage looked towards the door. She wanted to know who Roy was.

                A loud pop rang out. Sage’s body, Julia’s body crumpled. Pain ripped through her chest. Russ dropped to his knees, grabbing the sheet. He pressed it against the wound, trying to stop the bleeding. Her vision started to fade.       

                “How’s that for respect?”

In Dreams

IN DREAMS

   Sage twisted over in her bed to face the window. Maybe looking at the stars would help. As she turned her eyes upward she was immediately disappointed. The moon was too bright for star gazing tonight. Sure there were stars out, but she knew from experience the bright light from the Full Moon never left her with enough of the tiny dots to really enjoy. Sighing heavily, she rolled over on her back and stared at the ceiling. Here we go again.  

   For years she’s dealt with the exhausting effects of re-occurring bouts of insomnia. Some nights she’ll toss and turn for hours trying to find that sweet spot with little success. When sleep finally does come, she wakes up five minutes later, realizing her eyes wouldn’t close again for another twenty four hours. Nights like these are becoming far to frequent for her taste. She couldn’t even remember the last time she’d had a dream.

   After lying there for what felt like an eternity, she turned her head to look at the fountain her dad had brought over earlier in the week. Her stepmother had an antiquing addiction and she nearly always wound up bringing over one piece of crap or another.  This time though, the so-called ‘crap’ came from her dad. He’d bought it hoping it would help her get some rest. He knew better than anybody how long she’s been fighting this particular battle.

   She propped up on her elbow, focused solely on object sitting on the desk. It was beautiful; she had to give him that. The fountain was about twelve inches tall and maybe as wide. Both the base and waterfall were made of sandstone. Six copper tiers were placed here and there to switch up the flow of the water. Each one was free to move either side to side; up or down. Though their movements either way was limited to centimeters.

   Sage threw the covers back and walked to the desk, resolving to finally give it a try. Seventy plus hours without sleep was too much. She looked at it for a second, unsure of where the reservoir was. With a shrug she jammed the plug into the socket. If nothing else she’d know where not to pour the water in. As she turned her back to go into the kitchen she heard the distinctive sound of trickling water.

   “Huh,” she said to herself, “problem solved.”

   She crawled back into bed and watched the water roll off the copper tiers. Listening to the gentle flow was the most calming sound she’d heard in a long while. Not long after she pulled the covers up she began to feel her body relax. The warm feeling started in her feet and gradually spread throughout her body. Holding her eyes open had never been hard before, but now it was next to impossible.

   Within thirty minutes she was asleep; sound asleep. A figure moved hesitantly from the shadows of the bedroom. As it approached her bed, the temperature in the room dropped considerably. Sage pulled the covers tighter. Every exhale was marked with a thick cloud of smoke. Despite the warmth the heavy down comforter provided goose bumps broke out all over her body.

   The shadow reached out, placing an oversized hand on Sage’s head. His head fell forward as his free hand pressed down against her chest. He traced the side of her face with his thumb…Did he really want to do this? Did he really have a choice?

   Sage’s body went rigid. There were hands wrapped around her neck. Big hands. Strong hands. No matter how hard she fought against them she couldn’t get loose. The more she squirmed, the tighter the hands gripped her throat. Her airway was closing fast. Panic ripped through her as she lost consciousness. No, not lost; nearly lost. Through the fog in her mind she could see a huge dark figure standing over her. She didn’t move. If he thought she was dead maybe he’d go away.

   For a second it seemed to work. But then he went for a rope and yanked her feet towards him. He hadn’t been fooled. She kicked furiously, clawing at the mattress underneath her. If he wanted to tie her up he was going to have to fight her. Not that he had to fight much. Once he put his fist to the side of her head it took all of ten seconds to secure both her hands and feet.

   “Didn’t think I’d find you, did you?” the man said. His tone was neither friendly nor reassuring. She tired to get a look at his face, but it was too dark. “Sure it took me months, but I here I am. You never should’ve run. A quick death is so much easier.”

   “What do you want with me?” Sage asked quickly. “Why do you want to kill me? I don’t even know you!”

   “Oh come on now, Russ,” the man chuckled. “Let’s not play these games. You know me as well as I know you. Well, you thought you knew me.” He pulled something shiny out of his boot, a satisfied smile settled on his face. Fear took hold when she realized the shiny object was a knife. “Now tell me son, what did you think you were going to gain by running from me?”

   “Running from you? I don’t even know you!” Tears rolled down her cheeks.

   She glanced frantically around the room looking for some way out. Some way to get help. Her search ended when she felt a blade slide deep into the lower portion of her calf. She screamed out as he sliced her leg open all the way up to her knee. She could feel the blood oozing down the side of her leg, pooling onto the sheets. Who knew blood smelled so bittersweet?

   “That’s for being hardheaded,” he said dryly, slapping the side of her head. “The stupid card isn’t going to work here, boy. You best tell me what I want to know and take your death like a man.”

   “Look at me!” she screamed. “How can I answer anything if I’m not who you think I am?”

   This time it was a fist to the gut that forced her quiet. Her stomach lurched into her throat. Her vision blurred. She instinctively pulled her body into the fetal position just in case he decided to strike again. The man standing inches away from her laughed, but didn’t raise his hand. He was too busy enjoying the pain he was inflicting.  

   “If this is the way you want to play it that’s fine by me.” He pushed the knife into her side just under her ribcage and twisted the blade.  The pain was so intense it blinded her. “Nobody knows I found you anyway. Your mom will go on thinking you ran away and after a while the cops will call off the search. Not that they’d find you anyway. I’ve got lots of good hiding places out there.” He yanked the knife out and tossed it on the floor beside him. He pulled a gun out of his waistband. She heard it cock as he took aim. “You really should have stayed out of that garage, Russ.”

   Sage sat straight up in bed as she heard the gun go off. She grabbed her chest and found her hands were free. She yanked back the covers. Her leg was fine. She ran her hand over both sides of her ribcage. Nothing. Besides the sweat coating every inch of her body there were no signs of the harrowing ordeal she’d just been through.   

   Shaking, she flipped on the lamp beside her. As she looked around the room she found it empty. No knife, no rope, no gun and more importantly, no man.