Labno & Carter – Episode 4

HOUSE OF HORRORS

Rather than suffer Dan’s bear with a sore head routine, and because it was on the way, I detoured back home. I knew he’d have at least two sets of threads to choose from, so I left him to gear up and went ahead to Sahara’s property.

When I arrived, the narrow street was eerily quiet. On alert, I climbed from the car to survey the area, catching the twitch of curtains to my left. That wasn’t the attention I was worried about, though. Some of the creatures we now share space with can go full-on invisible man. Well, not in the sense of shades and bandages, and the phenomenon isn’t gender-specific, but they can cloak themselves from view. I digress.

When I was satisfied there were no immediate threats, I continued towards my destination. I pride myself on my instincts, but I have to admit, it helps to have cool tech. The RDU has some of the best toys, too. If there had been a presence in my immediate vicinity, my watch would have lit up like a neon sign. The thing is pretty handy, but it’s not infallible. Had it been a god hiding their presence, I would have gotten zilch from the device, and I’d like to say gods have better things to do than follow me around but Eris would probably take pleasure in tormenting me.

Not that I needed a reminder, the tattoo on my wrist was a near constant itch and the closer I got to my deadline, the greater the sting. Just another of Eris’s little amusements.

All thoughts of the tournament vanished when I reached Sahara’s driveway and spotted DC Glynn. Her riotous mane was tamed into a complicated knot, which immediately gave me hair envy, but that wasn’t what I honed in on. No, that would be the steaming cup of java in her hand.

I moved so fast towards the good stuff, the young constable blinked in surprise. “How did you-“

I raised a hand as I took a sip, savouring the first hit. Then, allowing the caffeine to work its way through my system, I met the detective’s gaze. “The very fact you’re my welcoming committee, and you came bearing gifts was a pretty good giveaway.”

She frowned at that, clearly not following my logic, but not disagreeing with my assessment either.

With a grin, I stepped past her and moved into the house.

I didn’t need to be told where to go. I followed the buzz of sound. I’d also inspected the site more than once.

Finding the room – or what was left of it, since Sahara had taken a hammer to her side fo the wall, I didn’t know which unnerved me more; the detritus left over from whatever had been housed in the cavity between, or the pale sickly pallor of the officers attempting to remove the evidence.

“Thanks for the coffee,” I said, honing in on Rahim, who looked surprisingly relaxed considering his wings took up most of the space.

He didn’t question how I knew. We’ve worked together enough to establish our own kind of rhythm. One of his first instincts would have been to protect DC Glynn from the horrors being uncovered, so giving her an important task – and supplying me with caffeine could be described as a vital one – meant she would be spared some of the burden.

“You’re welcome. I spared the team from-“

“Okay, I get the point. I’m a grouch. I’m also working towards hangry, so if you add frazzled to the mix, you’ve pretty much saved the day.”

One of Rahim’s brows shot up, arching above his shades in a comical fashion. “Coffee is not food.” He threw a bar in my direction, so fast I almost fumbled with it, worse, I almost dropped my cup.

Tearing into the wrapper with my teeth, I took a huge bite and washed it down with another hit of caffeine. “Much better,” I said, grinning.

That done, I turned to the techs working on the wall. “Show me what we’re dealing with.” My voice was sober, but not unkind. This kind of processing was new to the job description and they both looked green around the gills.

Working seamlessly, and clearly, they were a familiar team, they set up the imaging unit. It probably has a fancy name I’ve never bothered to learn, but this too is an impressive piece of kit. Basically, it records every detail of a crime scene and projects a series of holographic images to examine.

They knew exactly what I was asking because less than a minute later I was looking at the wall as it had been discovered. The majority of the plasterboard was still intact, but the gruesome image was still enough to turn my stomach.

Stepping forward I focused on the closest cocoon. The person inside, or the image captured of them, certainly appeared human. The man was naked, his frame positioned upright, arms by his side and bent at the elbow with his palms outstretched and touching the membrane as though trying to push his way out.

But it was his eyes that added the macabre factor. They were wide open and held a sheen so close to death it sent a shiver running through my entire body.

If that wasn’t bad enough, an officer stationed next door shoved his head through the gap in the wall, effectively pushing through the hologram right where the man’s stomach was, like a scene from Alien.

“DI Labno, you need to see this,” his head swivelled, making my stomach roll. “Where’s-“

“Right here,” Dan said, striding into the room.

In a smooth motion, he took my cup, handed it to one of the techs and replaced it with an industrial-sized travel mug before I had the chance to protest.

“Great,” the officer said, trying to hide his smirk. “We found something.”

Taking a large gulp from my new mug – more to fortify myself than anything else – I moved forward and prepared to step through the opening. “You heard the man,” I said to Dan. “Let’s go.”

Rahim’s chuckle and my partner’s ‘you’re welcome’ followed close behind me as I stepped inside the house of horrors.

Labno and Carter – Episode 2

PHANTOM GAMES

Bending to snatch up the feather, I felt the subtle shift of air and knew who I would find before I rose.

“Your timing sucks!” I muttered.

Rahim shrugged, drawing attention to his wings. The feather didn’t belong to him. Rahim’s primaries were the colour of autumn leaves. Pretty close to the shade of my own locks, so I make a point never to stand too close.

Great, now I’m making redhead jokes!

The feather was a baton of sorts. It was my turn to enter the gauntlet.

“How long?” I asked, squinting up at him. Rahim was wearing his signature wraparound shades. He wore them day or night, and he didn’t apologise for it. Not that anyone would challenge him. Warrior angles were highly skilled in combat; they were natural-born soldiers, created to protect the heavens. They were also the only angels with wings.

“Twenty-four hours,” he said, the deep timbre of his voice holding a hint of amusement like he knew I was running on empty with no break on the horizon.

“Shit!”

“Your timing sucks, my man,” Dan pretty much repeated my own words as he stepped out, pulling the door closed.

“You need your own material,” Rahim said, the humour now pulling at his mouth in his version of a smile. “None of us have time for Eris’s games, but here we are.”

Ignoring the jibe, Dan passed me a travel mug. I knew better than to hope he’d filled it with the remnants of my glass. He simply knew I needed to fuel up on the way across town. A little shake confirmed the mug was empty. For now.

When I felt the burn in my other hand, the one holding the feather, I looked down. The stark white was already beginning to fade as the thing morphed into an inky substance that ran down across my palm to my wrist. It settled like a brand into my skin, the feather now a temporary tattoo to remind me of my obligation.

“I hate that part.” Talk about an understatement. The first time Eris’s baton of choice had burned itself into my wrist I’d scrubbed off a layer of skin trying to free myself of the mark. But that’s what happens when you cut a deal with a god who enjoys wreaking havoc. 

I mean, everyone knows you should never make a pact with the devil, but in my experience, gods are the ones you need to steer clear of. To stop a killer, I’d agreed to participate in seven tournaments within the Phantom Games.

On the plus side, I managed to bag myself some cool gadgets, most of which I’ve used on security. People have a tendency to underestimate me, and my bullshit meter is fine-tuned.

“I take it since you’re passing the baton, you won your latest round?” When his brows winged up above the shades, I had my answer. Rahim probably cursed the day he’d joined my team. The delights of interagency working. Had he lost the tournament, he’d owe Eris a marker. Not exactly the deadliest of consequences, unless you accounted for the fact you owed a favour to a god.

“If you’d been in the crowd, you would have witnessed my victory.” There was arrogance in his tone, definitely, but there was also disappointment. We had an informal agreement to attend each other’s games, and I had let him down.

“I’m sorry, Sunny-G, but we’re juggling some pretty big cases right now. I’ll be at the next one, I promise. I’ll even bring pom-poms.”

Rahim looked perplexed, even with shades covering his eyes I knew they would be swimming in confusion.

“She’s saying she’ll be there to cheer you on.” Dan said, losing patience. “And as much as I’d like to stand around celebrating your victory, the clock is ticking and we have somewhere to be.”

“I know. I’ve been assigned to clean up crew, given what was discovered!”

I turned to glare at Dan. “You said she found bodies!”

“Now look what you’ve done, you’ve ruined the surprise!” Dan said to Rahim, who just grinned as he spread his large, beautiful wings, the orange tone shimmering like a flame as he rose into the air. Then Dan turned to me with a cajoling look “I never said what kind of bodies, and I knew you’d want in on the action.”

“Don’t take too long,” Rahim said. “Or I might just steal all the fun. I deserve it after the last five hours.”

In response I turned my back and felt the powerful draft caused by his retreat, the laugh carried close on its heels.

“Change of plans,” I told Dan, slapping my palm on the biometric pad so I could duck inside for the keys. “We’re talking my car.” 

Dan looked towards the lean-to attached to the house and groaned.

My car was like everything else on the property, it had been fitted with security features and didn’t much resemble its original shape. It was an Audi – on steroids.

I didn’t pause for discussion when I stepped back outside. I simply pinned him with a glare. “Start talking.”

“Admit it, if I’d told you the RDU were invited to the party you wouldn’t have been so quick to jump in and it’s our case.”

The Realm Defense Network or RDU were brought in at the beginning of the war, now they were a specialist team.

“It is our case and they’re duty-bound to keep us informed, but you might have let me have a little shut-eye first.”

“No time for that, we have twenty-four hours!”

“Oh, we have twenty-four hours. I didn’t realise you were taking part in the tournament with me.”

I missed his comeback, no doubt a good one, when I climbed into the driver’s seat and contemplated setting off one of my booby traps. Then I watched Dan trying to squeeze his large frame into my passenger seat and decided it was punishment enough.

While I waited, I looked out across the land and tried to find the calm it usually instilled in me. The place had been a steal, a two-storey bungalow sitting squarely in the middle of three acres. People tended to stick to cities, especially after the war, but the small village of Friendly suited me just fine, and I’ve created some pretty inventive ways to keep out the vermin.

A call came through a second after I started the engine so the navigation console lit up to display Gibson, another member of the team, and he didn’t look happy. 

“We’ve lost Mrs Miller,” he said, without preamble.

“How the hell can you lose her?” Dan growled beside me, so pissed the energy in the car turned dangerous.

“We were escorting her to a safe house, and we were ambushed.” As he spoke, his camera panned out so we could see the wreckage behind him. He was lucky to be alive.

“Send me you current location,” I said, shoving the car into drive before turning to Dan. “Do you think you might have missed a few things out. like what the fuck is going on?”

“Stop the car,” Dan ordered, still growling.

I knew what that meant. My partner was done with being confined inside a box, and because I could literally feel his energy pushing against me, I hit the brake.

“Can this day get any worse?” I said, stupidly tempting fate, and watched Dan explode from the car.

__________

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,

Mel

Labno and Carter – Episode 1

The idea for this series formed as I was dining with my fellow students on a supervision course I started earlier in the year. One student, Kate, mentioned her childhood dream of working for the police force and I could picture her character instantly. Of course, detective Kate Labno is in my world, and things are a little different here! Enjoy episode 1!

NO REST FOR THE WICKED!

After taking a moment to admire the deep red liquid filling my glass, I quit messing around and took a swig. Okay, so I took a few, but I had plenty, it was more fishbowl than wine glass. 

The buzz it gave me drowned out the annoying sound of my phone, which was currently dancing across the kitchen counter since I’d clearly switched it to vibrate instead of silent. 

“Kate?” 

I ignored that too, and the knock preceding it. It took all my energy, depleted though it was after a twenty-four hour shift, but I succeeded in finding my zone. If I’d had a goddamn second to myself, I would have added a do not disturb sign to the door, though it could be argued if someone made it through all the deterrents they deserved my attention. 

“I know you’re in there. Let me in, Kate, it’s important.” 

Taking another swig, my swallows the starting count of finding my calm, I walked towards the front door. It didn’t help. By the time I reached it I was seeing red, and it had nothing to do with wine. 

“Do you know the last time I had any sleep?” I snapped by way of greeting. “Sunday. Do you know what day it is today? Wednesday. I deserve a break, Danny, so unless-” 

“Cool it, Labno and take a deep breath. Aren’t you supposed to know how to meditate or something,” my partner, Dan Carter muttered, pushing into the house without waiting for an invitation. “And pour me one of those,” he said, indicating the glass. “I deserve it after navigating the minefield to your door.” 

I couldn’t stop the smirk at the thought of Dan trying to figure out where the new booby traps were. I hadn’t planted a literal minefield, but the path to my door was dangerous to certain trespassers. The kind who’d stepped right out of a nightmare and declared war. 

“I’m not the one who needs to share. Tell me why you’re here.” I said this on the move, still amused I’d put my partner through his paces. He was right. He deserved a little fortification for the return trip. A small glass, at least. 

“It’s about the Miller case, and you may want to sit down.” 

More like lie in a cool, dark room. 

To give myself time to prepare for whatever crap my partner wanted to fill my brain with, I poured him a glass of wine. 

It’s not that I dislike my job, becoming a detective was a childhood dream, but the landscape looks a hell of a lot different since the world turned to hell, or more accurately, hell tried to take over the world. 

I remember watching horror movies as a kid, comforted, even though my fear, that the monsters on the screen were merely a figment of somebody’s imagination. Bringing those monsters to life was a matter of effects and creative genius. They weren’t real. They didn’t live next door, hiding out until it was time to show their true face. 

Yet now I work within a police force with a culture so diverse it includes officers, not only from different species but different worlds. 

Handing the glass to Dan, I shrugged my shoulders and squared my stance, like a boxer waiting to kick ass. “Hit me with it!” 

He didn’t delay. “Mrs. Miller took matters into her own hands and she found more than she bargained for.” 

An image of Sahara Miller popped into my brain, a tall willowy woman with white hair she wore long and loose. The moment I saw her I knew she was important. Just a glance, that’s all it had taken. On the heels of interest came irritation. This time it was aimed at the baffoon, also known as my co-worker Lundy. I saw clearly he had missed the significance of Sahara’s presence. He was interviewing her, but he wasn’t taking the report seriously. 

It took a second to work it out. Lundy was too focused on the surface. Perhaps it began with her appearance; the long black dress, the stark fascinator with black lace that covered part of her left eye and made her appear like a woman in mourning. It could have been the velvet glove she had clutched in her hand like a transitional object. Whatever had triggered his unconscious bias, it meant he missed the important stuff. The details that really mattered. 

I hadn’t missed it. I’d followed my gut and taken Sahara Miller’s story seriously. Luckily, Dan had too. We had opened a case, investigated her concerns about her neighbour’s activities, and were in the process of getting a search warrant.  

Of course, the system has changed a great deal. It tends to do that after war, and even though the bad guys lost – thanks to some pretty hefty players on our side – the judiciary system took a hit. Obviously, Sahara was tired of waiting. 

“Please tell me we won’t be visiting the morgue.” If Sahara’s neighbour was as rotten as she suspected, the danger was real. 

“Don’t underestimate her. She might be a gargoyle and genetically opposed to violence but she can protect herself,” Dan said, swirling the wine in his glass. “Besides, she didn’t confront her neighbours, she knocked a giant hole in her bedroom wall and she didn’t find cannabis.” 

This time, the image of a gargoyle, sitting atop a gothic-looking structure with short stubby wings and a spliff hanging from thin, grey lips popped into my brain. Okay, fine, so now my unconscious bias was showing, but I’d had a day. 

The jibe about cannabis was directed at me. Sahara’s concerns began with a suspicious aroma which began in her hallway and ended in the bedroom. All the hot spots had one thing in common, they were part of the adjoining wall. It permeated the air, such a distinct odour I’d mistaken it for weed.  

“She found bodies.” 

I turned back in at those words, my feet moving before my mouth engaged. I reached for the glass Dan was tipping towards his mouth and snatched it from his hand. “You can drive. Let’s hit the road.” 

He scowled. “What happened to needing a break?” 

“I’ll catch some sleep on the way,” I said, grabbing my jacket and keys. 

Dan tried to hide his knowing smile. He wasn’t fooling anybody. He’d planned this, and it meant only one thing – he was destined to set off at least one of my traps on the way to his car.  

This cheered me up so much, I was grinning as I opened the door. The smile died on my lips when I spotted the white feather on my doorstep. “Goddamn it!” 

I knew I should have ignored the door. So close. I’d been so close.  

Wishing I’d filled a travel mug with the remainder of the wine, I stepped forward and prepared to face the music.

_______________________

Special thanks to Theresa and Rosanna for the objects I was able to incorporate.

Until next time

Mel  

Challenge 2.6 Update: 30/4/2020

I’ve had a few rough days where the words trickled instead of flowed and my characters were decidedly taciturn! It’s only been four days so there’s no need to panic, but it’s at times like these I wish I was a planner! The circumstances don’t help, the sense of not knowing when the restrictions will ease up, it’s a weird kind of suspended animation. I must admit I’ve struggled with motivation in general, even P.E. with Joe hasn’t helped as it usually does.

But showing our appreciation for the NHS this evening, and celebrating Captain (now Colonel) Tom’s birthday with the nation was a nice pick me up. It’s always good to be reminded that love wins and together we can achieve extraordinary things.

Here’s a snippet (206 words to follow the theme) of my progress.

Maddison didn’t bother with fancy tricks or going the traditional route of flipping a light switch, she welcomed the dark as she might an old friend. Okay, so she’d pushed out with her senses a little, but the last thing she wanted to do was land on her ass.

Stopping by the bed, she climbed onto the mattress and made herself comfortable. There was a surprising amount of room considering the other occupant.

Silence settled around them, a regular companion of the dark. Maddison tried to wait her friend out, to let him acknowledge her presence, but she didn’t last more than fifty-eight seconds. Points for almost making it to a minute, though.

“You don’t call, you don’t talk incessantly in my head.” In fairness Donovan had never done that. He wasn’t exactly a talker.

“You’re confusing me with Tobias,” he said, the words hard to decipher given that he was lying on his stomach with his head in the pillow.

She wasn’t going there. Not right now. The Hympe King was a different topic entirely and she was more interested in her friend’s radio silence.

“What’s going on D? I haven’t heard from you in a month.”

“I’m not the one who accepted an extended assignment.”

As always, thanks for stopping by

Mel

Day 1 – A Novel Idea (Sort of!)

collective logo smallDay one of seventy-nine went as well as it could. There was a little family drama but other than that, I managed to stay focused. I still don’t have a title, but I’ve decided to go with the flow. I do have some names to announce. I gave readers the opportunity to name a character, a place/building and a virus. Here are details of the winners:-

Character name: Ruby Nettle or Vicious Ruby suggested by Lily Dodds McConnachie.

Place/building name: Veridiem (Truth Day) suggested by author M.J. Moores.

Virus: Fatuinia Agotismus suggested by Chris Heptonstall.

Keeping with the whole 26 theme (2.6 Challenge), below I’ve shared the first 206 words. I’ll edit the hell out of them another time, I’m just glad there are actual words!

Maddison had been away from Merc Hall for so long, she barely recognised the place. It hadn’t always had a kick-ass moniker – honouring the hunters who had taken up residence – but it had always held a certain appeal.

Once a prominent part of the community, its large imposing presence was still a beacon of hope for those making shit happen. Namely the hunter cell who had claimed the space and made it their own.

Now there was a darkness to it, a sense of neglect she found grated along her already frayed nerves. The large windows were like gaping mouths – especially given the gothic architecture – the spires making it appear more beast than haven.

She was tired of preparing for a war that would turn out to be the same crap with a different name. The mortal realm had barely recovered from the last one and everyone could use a damn break.

After returning home from an extended mission, she had been looking forward to shooting the breeze with her buddies. What she hadn’t expected was to find a moping, sorry excuse for a welcoming committee. Make that a party of one, and that one didn’t count since it was a soldier… (she didn’t recognise, who happened to be taking a smoking break.)

I aim to post updates on a weekly basis. Today, that’s about it! I’d better get back to Maddy…there’s still time to play before the night is up!

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

To title or not to title!

There are just two days to go until I begin my challenge. I’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo, so writing a novel in 79 days shouldn’t be that difficult, except this time it’s for charity and I’m starting to feel the pressure. 

I don’t have a title for a start, and that’s the issue. Do I start without one? I’ve done that with short stories and the title has come to me at the end, but I’ve usually had a rough idea what the title will be for my novels. It would help to reference the work, too. When I’m giving up dates, the novel that is yet to be named will start to get old!

I did make it a little easier for myself by using familiar characters. I haven’t worked with Maddy for a while, but I’m sure I can immerse myself in her world and achieve my daily word challenge in order to finish on time.

I’m also giving readers an opportunity to take part by naming a character and a place/building. All suggestions will go into a hat and the winners announced Sunday, the day it all starts!

If you would like to get involved, drop your suggestions in the comments and I’ll add those to the hat!

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

2.6 Challenge

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I wrote a blog post. It’s like I blinked and a year went by! That’s definitely how it feels at the moment, working from home and following social distancing rules – the days all blend together.

I’m aware, in the current climate, that things are tough for many people. It’s why I decided to take part in the Marie Curie 2.6 Challenge to help charities who are finding it difficult to raise money.

This Sunday I will begin the challenge of writing a novel in 2.6 months, which equates to 79 days.

I aim to post updates on my website to let people know how I’m doing, and to finally catch up with the online community because I really miss you guys!

Thanks, as always, for stopping by

Mel

Reflections

At the end of October I went to Paris, and though I took hundreds of photographs, the following is one of my favourite shots and the inspiration for the short story I wrote to capture the romance of the great city.

 

Reflections

Harry blinked against the glare of lights, dropping his gaze to catch the reflection in the surface of the fountain. But he didn’t notice their glow, or the building they caressed with their ambiance, he only saw the woman at his side.

The first glimpse of her took his breath away, a reaction he knew would never wane. She was like the pretty lights dancing around her reflection in the water. Her beauty was a beacon, illuminating his way on the darkest of nights and the brightest of days.

He felt his heart race as her gaze found his in the mirrored surface and he had to blink several times against a wave of emotion. It was hard to fathom that one so lovely could belong to him, but she did, the light shining back at him was proof of their connection.

Pausing in his tracks, he applied gentle pressure to her hand and she turned instantly, her pretty eyes alight with mischief, something he’d missed in the reflection, a poor facsimile of the power they held over him.

Bringing their joined hands to her lips, Lucy brushed a kiss against his skin, making him shiver. “What’s on your mind, mon chou? You’ve been stuck in your head for a while.”

“I…” He shook his head, trying to formulate the words circling his brain. “Marry me.”

Her smile was resplendent, the sight of it made him giddy. “I think I answered that well enough forty years ago.” She held up her left hand, wiggling her fingers so her rings glinted in the light. “Smartest thing I ever did, saying yes.”

He knew she felt that way, but it soothed his nerves, nevertheless. “Again. Marry me again. I want to celebrate the last forty years. I want to stand before witnesses and share the wonderful life we’ve had, while pledging the rest of eternity by your side.”

“This is why you brought me back to Paris,” she whispered, her eyes overflowing with tears. “This is almost the exact spot you proposed.”

Harry turned his head, following her gaze. As he did, he saw a young couple silhouetted in the spray of water and the years fell away. “God, I was so nervous! I had a whole speech prepared and I couldn’t remember a damn word of it.”

“I didn’t need to hear the words because I saw everything you wanted to say. I always have.”

He turned back to her, leaning down to steal a kiss as he had then. “I’m sorry I didn’t bring you back sooner.” They had travelled the world together, had returned to France many times, but never Paris.

She shook her head. “I’m not. This is perfect. Like everything else in our lives. It’s all about the timing.”

That made him laugh. God, but he loved her. Had loved her since the day she’d bounded into his life at eighteen, full of fire and female indignation as she declared her sister wasn’t going anywhere in his ugly, four-wheeled monstrosity. Harry had been so lost in her mesmerising beauty, that her words didn’t even register until her brother elbowed her aside and told her to stop embarrassing him. At witnessing that, Harry had felt a wave of anger so strong his hand had reached for the door handle before he registered that he wanted to pound on his friend. Not that Lucy needed him to rescue her. She’d simply wacked her brother at the back of the head and told him he did a good enough job of it without her help. Then she’d bounced back up the drive and disappeared around the side of the house.

“You’re thinking about the day I made a fool out of myself, aren’t you?” she said, her light laugh ending on a groan as she covered her face with her free hand.

“That’s not how I remember it.” It was the day he’d fallen completely under her spell. “I thought you were the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen.” He gripped her wrist and pulled her hand away from her face. “I still do.” Nobody compared to his Lucy.

She closed her eyes briefly, cherishing his words. “And I was crushed when I thought you were there to pick up Stella, because despite that contraption you rolled up in, I knew there was something special about you.”

“You love that contraption as much as I do,” he said, grinning.

Her eyes twinkled, hundreds of memories playing out for him to see. Harry had kissed her for the first time in that car. Had driven hundreds of miles to visit her at university. It formed part of their beginning and was the reason he lovingly maintained it.

She squeezed her thumb and index finger together, laughing lightly when he pulled on her hand and brought her flush against his body. “You still haven’t answered my question,” he said, enjoying the way her eyes had dilated.

“My answer hasn’t changed. I want nothing more than to spend an eternity with you.” She laid her head against his chest, right over his heart. “Yes. It will always be yes.” When she shifted again to meet his eyes, the mischief he loved so much was back. “As we’re taking a trip down memory lane, does that mean we’ll be celebrating in the same way we did-”

Stepping back, he took hold of her hand and resumed their walk across the square. Only this time he wasn’t thinking about anything but showing his wife exactly how he felt about spending the rest of his life with her. And like the first time, he planned to do that thoroughly.

The sound of her musical laughter was a perfect backdrop to the lights and magic of the city, and the love in his heart.


Thanks for stop by

Mel

The Right Path – A short story

I’ve talked about writing tools before, and the fun I have with prompts. When I’m struggling to focus on a work in progress, I often find ways to flex those writing muscles. A good sentence starter is a great way to do that. This time, the sentence was provided to me by a friend (thanks, Mike), and there were a few hiccups along the way, like losing my work (no, Jacqui, I didn’t do a backup!) Hopefully it all turned out okay in the end! I hope you enjoy.

“So, look, I know this is going to sound cliche, but all the best stories start off this way, right?”

Veronica glanced my way, her brows pinched into a deep frown. “If the story involves losing the main player in the first act.” Her beady eyes squinted her disapproval. “But this isn’t a story, and this poor young man may very well lose his life. Clearly, my presence has been required for quite some time.”

I rolled my eyes at the self-righteous tone that matched her prissy attitude. “You’ve got to lighten up, V. ” Glancing down at Tristan, I stroked a hand across the top of his head as I’d done when he was a babe, only there was slightly less hair, emphasis on the slightly (the boy was born needing a haircut). “This isn’t the first bump in the road, and I’ve been with him every step of his journey. You get to see a snapshot, the closing chapter in this part of his life.” I scooted further back to make room for the paramedics, but I didn’t lose our connection. “If things go according to plan, this is a great place for you to start.”

“You can’t interfere,” Veronica snapped, hovering over me with a clipboard that matched her disapproving frown – it was big and foreboding. “That’s why you warranted an assessment in the first place. You take far too many risks.”

With one final caress across Tristan’s brow, I rose to my feet and watched as a police officer approached our little scene. “This whole job is about risks, my friend.” I grinned across at her. “Perhaps you’ll learn something while you’re here. The big guy knows you could use a sense of humour. It’s why they sent you to me.”

I didn’t give her time to respond, I barely gave her time to process the wink I threw in her direction before I vanished from sight. Unfortunately, Veronica was right on my heels and, given the nausea I’ve never been able to shake when transporting from one place to another, by the time I caught my breath she was back in her superior position.

Not that it mattered at that point. I was too busy taking in the new scene. Sarah-Ann was sitting alone at the centre of a busy restaurant, and she did not look happy. I spared a moment to get a read on her emotions before I glanced to the giant behind her chair. Not a literal giant, but Alexander made for an imposing figure wherever he went, with his dark skin and whiskey coloured eyes.

“You’d better dust off those pixie wings because it looks like you lost the bet,” he said, though his deep voice belied his concern.

A shudder ran through me at the thought of playing pixie. Not my choice, though it has to be said, I’d rock the character; a big, kick-ass gothic looking pixie with an axe to grind. “It isn’t over yet. How’s our girl doing? And more to the point, why doesn’t she already have her phone in her hand?”

“I don’t know how you can joke about this. There’s a lot on the line if your little scheme doesn’t work.” Veronica, ever the buzzkill reminded us.

“Joking about it is the only thing that keeps us sane,” I told her, shrugging because I wouldn’t apologise for it. “They’re ours. We’re with them during their highs and lows, we celebrate their victories and we feel every ounce of their pain.”

Being a Guide could be hell on a spirit. Having Alexander to torment was a perk I couldn’t live without. There were times I wanted to rub myself all over that smooth skin (it’s not difficult to guess my other form), and indeed I scratched that itch any chance I got.

“She’s dialled his number three times. I’m running out of arguments here.” Alexander’s grin was all kinds of wicked, but then he liked getting me into trouble. “Why don’t you give it a go?”

Why indeed? It could have something to do with the fact I was under review, and my actions often fell into the grey as far as my superiors were concerned. Then again, I’d never let it stop me before, so considering Tristan’s current plight, the big gorgeous idiot eyeing me with amusement knew exactly how I’d respond to the challenge.

“I’m going to get fired for this shit,” I mumbled as I sidled up to a nearby table and snatched a phone. It was merely a prop and the device would be back before the human making moon eyes at his date even noticed it was missing.

Revealing myself in a public place was never a good idea, so I was relying on the fact everyone was too busy filling their faces to pay too close attention to the fact I kind of appeared out of nowhere.

I strode past Sarah-Ann’s table, phone to my ear, and praying the impromptu plan worked. “No! That’s terrible. A hit and run? That poor man.” I let the silence hang a moment as I stopped to clutch the back of an empty chair. Probably overdoing it, but I was desperate. “I wonder who he is? If someone is right now waiting for him? They’d have no idea what happened.”

The spark of relief when I noticed Sarah-Ann pick up her phone got me moving again. I walked until I reached a corner and then disappeared, returning to Tristan just in time to watch as the police officer answered his phone.

“Are you trying to lose your job?” Veronica asked from behind me, though I did notice some of the indignation had left her voice.

“No, V. I’m trying to guide two extraordinary people in the right direction.” I turned to look at her. “You can’t imagine what it feels like, knowing they’re meant to be together and having to watch as every opportunity pulls them further apart. What it was like to feel that link snap into place when they were five years old and see them floundering without it.” Reaching out a hand, I placed it on hers and let the experiences flow from my mind to hers; the emotions buzzing along my skin. “When I left that page for Tristan to find on his computer, I wasn’t cheating, he didn’t have to choose to contact her, no more than she had to accept his invitation to dinner. And right now, Sarah-Ann is hearing that there’s a reason he didn’t make it. She’s feeling that bond they share, and if we’re lucky, if they finally find the path that leads to one another, she’ll be by his side as he recovers from an accident that I would have prevented if I could. So, don’t come down here and tell me I’m not doing my job. If I was as reckless as you seem to think, I would have jumped in front of the car.”

“And what of your inappropriate relationship with Alexander?” she asked, her eyes gleaming from all I had shown her.

“Where does it say in the handbook that we have to do this alone. That we have to watch as day in and day out good souls suffer?”

Her face softened. “They don’t suffer alone. That’s why you’re here. They’re never alone.”

I couldn’t help the grin that spread across my face. “Yeah, well neither am I, not if I can help it. Come on, V. Can you blame me? I saw you drooling in that restaurant!”

Shaking her head, V stepped back. “Let’s finish up the evaluation so you get to see how the story ends.” I knew I had her when the edges of her mouth twitched.

By the time I returned to Tristan’s side, I’d even managed to make her laugh, which made it a really good day considering I arrived to witness Sarah-Ann leaning against the hospital bed, both her hands wrapped around one of Tristan’s.

Alexander, who was lounging against the door frame, was just icing on the cake. “It looks like we both won,” I said, enjoying the way his eyes lit up. “Do you want to change first, or shall I?”

I let the sweet energy from across the room wrap around me, coated with the sound of Alexander’s laughter as I carried through on my part of the bet. The pixie and the gladiator, an interesting choice, and a story for another time.


It’s a little longer than I wanted, though I did crop it as much as I could! And there is way too much ‘telling’. Still, it was fun and we learn every time we create something new.

Maybe you want to play along, or have examples of writing techniques you use. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by

Mel

Reality Check – A short story

I ignored the persistent sound of my doorbell and buried further into my pit of despair, complete with a dozen pillows, my favourite throw and a large enough duvet to drown my sorrows. A comfortable pit that allowed me to feed my misery and keep it alive; an incubator for the sad and lonely.
The buzzing progressed to a pounding, which was much harder to ignore. To begin with my neighbour was an ogre (not a real one but he made a pretty good impersonation when his sleep was interrupted) and more importantly, I felt the resonating sound like a hammer to my skull.

Dragging myself from bed, I shuffled to the door. Since I’d spent the past two days wallowing I didn’t have the energy to pick up the pace, so the boom, boom, boom echoed through my feet and provided a percussion to the beat in my head.

I paused momentarily when I caught sight of the creature in the hallway mirror. It kind of resembled me, if you looked past the matted hair, wrinkled t-shirt and the bags that could have carried the shopping I had yet to do.

“If you don’t open this door right now, I’m going to break it down!” The booming voice was followed by an irate punctuation of knuckles against wood.

Luckily, I’d reached the door so flipped the lock and yanked it open before it was pulverized by my bear of a brother and his trusty sidekick. They were like two peas in a pod, if the peas had been left in the fertiliser too long.

Both were glaring at me with identical expressions, which had its usual effect. I was torn between slamming the door and telling them to butt out and embracing the comfort they so readily offered.

Adam took the choice away when he pushed past my brother and stepped into the flat. He stopped when we were toe to toe, his big body way to deep into my personal space. “We’ve been trying to reach you for days. Would it kill you to pick up your phone?”

Stepping back, I turned to look over my shoulder and spied the debris where I’d left it on the floor. “Be my guest, but I don’t think it works anymore.”

It would take a miracle. My phone was in pieces against the skirting board. With some distance I could be impressed by my show of strength. Clearly, I’d had more energy at the time.

“Jesus Christ, Sammy, look at the mess.”

I frowned, about to tell my brother it wasn’t that bad, until I realised he was talking about the room. I’d done a number of that, too.

“Whatever. I’m alive, you have proof, now kindly leave me in peace.” I met Ky’s worried brown eyes and my irritation vanished. “I’m okay.”

“When was the last time you ate?” He shot back, ignoring me. Something he excelled at.

“I eat plenty,” I said, thinking of the empty bag of Doritos and the remnants of fiery hot flavouring which was probably staining my sheets.

“Crisps don’t count.” He shook his head and turned to head to the kitchen. “Buddy. It’s over to you.”

“Wha-?”

Adam clamped a big hand around my wrist and began to pull me in the direction of the bathroom.

“Get your hands off me, you big oaf,” I shouted, twisting to try and catch my brother’s attention. “Call off your guard dog, Ky or I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

The sound that came from Adam was somewhere between a curse and a growl. He picked me up and threw me over his shoulder. I was so shocked I couldn’t speak again until he was dumping me on my feet in the bathroom and moving to turn on the shower.

“You did not just do that.” Not very original, but I still hadn’t recovered from Adam’s caveman routine.

“I did, and I’d do it again.” He slid the shower door shut and turned back to me. “You can’t spend any more time wallowing over that piece of shit, Sam. I gave you time after news of the engagement, but I’m through doing that. I’m through with a lot of things. He was never good enough.”

My mind blanked at his words. I couldn’t find my anger, couldn’t drum up any fiery indignation at being treated like a child, because it hit me just how much he’d been hiding. That and the fact he hadn’t included Ky, like it was personal.

When my brain kicked back into gear I felt my body sag and the rest of my energy wane. “It hurts,” I whispered, not even trying to stop the tears.

The next thing I knew I was pressed against Adam’s chest and one of his arms hooked me in tight. The other began to make soothing motions down my back. A dozen thoughts vied for supremacy; the fact I was in nothing more than a long shirt and my underwear, that I hadn’t bathed in days and Adam smelled so good, and that, for the first time in weeks, I felt something other than empty.

But the thoughts that won out were actually a kaleidoscope of memories from the past couple of months. The times Adam had called to ask about my day, or dropped by to check in, and each time he’d been alone. I’d gotten so used to thinking of him and my brother as a double act, I didn’t stop to consider what it meant that he was offering me a piece of himself.

“I’d take away the hurt if I could,” he whispered, bringing me back to the present.

You do. “I know.” I didn’t share that he’d been doing that all along and I was too blind to see it. Instead, I leaned back so I could look at him. “You’d better rescue Ky before he burns down my kitchen. I’ll shower and be out in a few minutes.”

He leaned in to press a kiss against my temple and then let me go. “That was a ruse to give us a moment. We both know there’s nothing in your cupboards to cook.”

I thought I’d understood what I’d missed by being foolish, but I had no idea. Since I also had no clue what to do with all that, I shut down the flurry of emotion and rolled my eyes to cover the onslaught. “Well then, you’d better let me get to it.”

He grinned and walked to the door but stopped just in the entryway to look back. “Do you understand what I meant about being through?”

Nodding, I cleared my throat. “Yes.”

“Good. Because there’s no going back. I’m not your brother’s best friend, not to you.”

Oh yes, he’d been hiding a lot. “I’m beginning to see that.”

At my words something flashed across his face, something good. “Finally.”

He left before I could respond, and it took me quite a while to remember that the shower was still running, and I had a job to do.

Fifteen minutes later when I entered the living room showered and dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt, my long hair combed through and hanging free, I was greeted by a dose of all the goodness yet to come.

It wasn’t the fact that Adam and Ky had tidied up my living space and the room looked good as new. No. It was the look on Adam’s face. He was no longer holding anything back. What he felt was right there for me to see and I discovered I liked it very much.

“Now tell me how glad you are that we dragged your sorry ass out of that pity pit there’s no way I’m touching,” Ky said, and I heard the smile in his voice.

I didn’t take my attention away from Adam. “Totally worth confronting an ogre and the price of a new door.”

Adam grinned. “What does it mean that I completely understood that?”

“It means I’ve been an idiot.”

“I could have told you that!”

This time I did turn to my brother, and then, giant or not, I set about making him eat his words.


Thanks for stopping by

Mel