HEARTACHE

 

TRIGGER WARNINGS:

This excerpt contains implied and actual child abuse. Drug abuse. PTSD. NC-17

 

 

 

 

Richard blinked. Water-Bearer flashed its shit-eating grin.

“Go,” it said. “Use your ‘knack’ and go quickly. There’s a tunnel on the east wall. It runs further into the Catacombs. Carry the girl, and go. I’ll catch up when I can.”

“But – “

“Hurry!” Water-Bearer’s grin became even less pleasant. “You’re wasting a brilliant and fleeting gift, mortal: Miach One-Eye’s goodwill.”

“Richard!” Aine reached a hand from the niche, tugged on his torn sleeve. “Please.”

Richard shook his head, because he thought it wouldn’t work, but he knew not trying would be just another unforgivable thing, so he took a long breath and made the universe think he was never born.

 

Richard first managed his knack when he was five, on a lovely spring Saturday afternoon when it seemed like most of the world was happy, but Bobby Lorimer was never like most of the world, and Richard was scared.

Most of East Riverside was celebrating the warmer weather by sharing front stoops and Coors Light and over-cooked German bratwurst. The old lady in 2275 had Billy Joel on a CD-player faced out the window, ‘Captain Jack’ set on repeat. Nobody complained, because the song was a classic in anybody’s books, and also because the old lady’s son was a cop, so everybody, even Bobby, tried to stay on her good side.

Richard could hear ‘Captain Jack’ all the way in the backyard of 2272, where he cowered under the branches of an early blooming shrub, trying to stay out of reach of Bobby’s wheels and hands. Bobby was stoned, and pissed as hell, because Richard had tripped coming out of the back door, and spilled hot dogs and slices of cheese into the dirt, and now Bobby’s barbecue was motherfucking cunt ruined.

The propane Weber Bobby had ordered from Home Despot was so hot Richard could see waves coming off the grill. Bobby kept trying to ram his wheelchair into the shrub, but the shrub kept swatting back, which only made Bobby angrier.

Even at five years old, Richard knew there was no possible way the afternoon would end well. He wished Mama would come home, because at least Mama knew the right things to say to keep Bobby from going off his head and seeing invisible monsters, but Mama was home less and less often recently, and Richard was learning not to depend on her rescue.

“Ricky,” Bobby screamed, spitting foam. “Come out and take your punishment like a soldier! Come out and take your whupping like a man.”

Bobby hadn’t been a soldier for a long time. Richard knew soldiers, he’d seen parades on television, and once in person on the Fourth of July. The soldiers walking down Constitution Ave were tall and brave and heroic in their fancy clothes and polished shoes.

Richard thought Bobby had never been heroic or brave.

“Goddammit, Ricky! Get your ass out!” Bobby shouted, knuckles white on his rims, while Billy Joel sang about tie-dye jeans. The barbecue made an angry hissing noise and Richard twitched, and that was a mistake because then Bobby managed to get fingers around Richard’s arm like a handcuff.

“Fuck, boy.” Richard squirmed, but even without legs Bobby was super-strong, maybe because of the pills. He dragged Richard up out of the shrub and onto his bony lap, locking his other hand on Richard’s shoulder, squeezing.

“Sorry, sorry,” Richard tried, because it was the best word he knew, and one Mama used a lot. “Sorry about the hot dogs. Sorry, sorry.”

But Bobby had forgotten all about the hotdogs and slices of expensive cheese. Bobby was angry because Richard had tried to hide. Bobby wasn’t brave, but he hated cowards.

Richard struggled. Bobby pinned Richard face-down across his stubbed knees, holding him down with one hand, wheeling the chair about with the other. Dirt flew up from under his wheels, striking Richard’s face. Richard stopped struggling and lay very still, because Bobby was steering toward the barbecue, and the air above the grill wavered like water in a bathtub.

Bobby was quiet, but for the deep heaves of breath into his barrel chest. When he had his chair against the barbecue, he set the brakes, then hoisted Richard upright until their knees were pressing together, and Richard was kneeling on his lap.

“Don’t scream, Ricky,” Bobby said, almost a plea. “Don’t scream, soldiers don’t scream.”

He bent Richard over the Weber, stuck Richard’s face into that wobbly magic air, then lower. Richard screamed. Not because the air was hot enough to hurt, but because he knew Bobby wouldn’t be satisfied until Richard and the barbecue kissed.

Richard’s screams silenced Billy Joel. Bobby swore, but his grip on Richard’s head and ribs didn’t loosen.

“What did I say, Ricky? What did I say? I warned you!”

Richard fought, but he was only a kid, and not very strong. Mama said he was small for his age. He closed his eyes and prayed Mama would come before Bobby cooked his face, and then as waves of heat made his nostrils sting, he bit his lip so very hard and wished he’d never, ever been born.

He wished so hard he managed to convince the universe that it was true.

 

 

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INFECTION

 

WhiteFireBackground

The tunnel rose straight into the mountain. Richard didn’t have Lolo’s knack for time-keeping, and he’d retreated into that half-aware state where pain and fear were less sharp, so when the passageway suddenly widened and spat the Host into a large, bright chamber, making Richard gasp and blink, he wasn’t entirely sure how much time had passed since they’d marched into Reilig na .

He thought not long, because Aine was still safely on his back, and although she was small and light, he thought it was unlikely he’d managed to carry her far.

“This way,” Water-Bearer said, appearing at Richard’s side. “Come. You can sit and rest.”

The cave was oval-shaped. As the Host spread out, thinning, Richard realized the space was far more than large; it was gigantic. A white fire blazed high in the center, stretching from a circular pit in the floor, disappearing toward the distant ceiling, shedding light and warmth in great pulsating waves. The white flame flickered, but made no sound.

“Here,” Water-Bearer led Richard ten feet along the curve of the wall. “There. Rest there.”

‘There’ was a niche in the wall, a sluagh-sized shelf cut into the stone. Richard grunted, easing Aine from his shoulders. The girl half-crawled, half-climbed into the niche, stretching onto the shelf with a sigh of relief.

“It’s warm,” she said, wonderingly. “Warm but smooth as ice.”

Richard sank down onto the floor, which was equally warm and satin-smooth. He lay on his side, face turned to the white pyre, and concentrated on breathing. The air in the chamber was sweet, oxygen rich. The radiating heat off the ground and walls lulled his aching bones and lured Richard into a half-sleep, but the sharp slashes of pain from his hand and the two forbidding sluagh very obviously standing guard to either side of their niche kept him from falling completely under.

Water-Bearer sat alongside Richard’s head, wrapping itself in black feathers.

“Watch,” it murmured, too low for any but Richard to hear. “Watch, mortal. Your life may depend on it.”

Richard was resigned to the fact that his life was shortened line, worth very little in the grand scheme of things. Still, he shifted and sat up, groaning as his hand protested. It felt as though he’d a hot knife shoved all the way from the tip of his middle finger to his elbow. He had to swallow hard to keep his stomach from rebelling, but at least the agony chased the last of the fog from his brain.

“Infection,” Water-Bearer pronounced wisely. “You’ll have to loose the hand, I think.”

“Shut up,” Richard hissed out of the corner of his mouth. Cold sweat trickled across his face. He wasn’t worried about his hand; he didn’t expect to live long enough for it to matter.

“And if you succumb,” Water-Bearer ask, watching Richard out of its one eye. “Who will care for the siofra? Pat attention.”

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ABNA QUARTER-FINALISTS ANNOUNCED

Congratulations to everyone who made it! So exciting!

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SUMMONED by Rainy Kaye

I’ve recently discovered Rainy Kaye and her latest New Adult Paranormal Thriller, SUMMONED. The book was great fun – dark, sexy and entertaining – my favorite combination of flavors. It’s a great ride, bumpy in all the right places. So, without further dawdling, buckle your lap belt and meet Dimitri:

 

SummonedIITwenty-three year old Dimitri has to do what he is told—literally. Controlled by a paranormal bond, he is forced to use his wits to fulfill unlimited deadly wishes made by multimillionaire Karl Walker.

Dimitri has no idea how his family line became trapped in the genie bond. He just knows resisting has never ended well. When he meets Syd—assertive, sexy, intelligent Syd—he becomes determined to make her his own. Except Karl has ensured Dimitri can’t tell anyone about the bond, and Syd isn’t the type to tolerate secrets.

Then Karl starts sending him away on back-to-back wishes. Unable to balance love and lies, Dimitri sets out to uncover Karl’s ultimate plan and put it to an end. But doing so forces him to confront the one wish he never saw coming—the wish that will destroy him.

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Rainy Kaye is an aspiring overlord. In the mean time, she blogs at RainyoftheDark.com and writes paranormal novels from her lair somewhere in Phoenix, Arizona. I asked her a little about her writing process:

What preconceived notions do people have about being an author?

Some people seem to think coming up with concepts is the hard part. Telling me I should write about a guy who does this one thing is not, in fact, “half the work done already”. Now I just say “Great idea!” and bust out with the plotting charts, scene outlines, and character development papers. That usually stops the little hamster in its wheel mid-spin, and I can go back to eating unhealthy amounts of chocolate and making weird faces at the monitor.

What is one piece of advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t mistake terrible writing with “voice.” I would like to elaborate on this, but that pretty much covers it. If nine of out ten people in the critique group say they have no idea what’s going on in your story, and the tenth person is fascinated with their fingernail dirt, chances are you need to pop open an energy drink and get back to work.

What process do you go through before writing?

Step 1. Do the dishes because that won’t happen again for a while.

Step 2. Stock up on caffeine like beer for a frat party.

Step 3. Apologize to the significant other that for the next few weeks, he will be known as Person Who Doesn’t Let Me Starve.

Step 4. Say farewell to the sweet bliss of sleep.

Step 5. Make an awesome playlist.

Did a character or plot in Summoned take an unexpected twist?

Silvia Walker. She started out as just a logical piece of the world building—of course the master would have an heir—but once she stepped into her first scene, it was on. He role became so fundamental to the story, I can’t believe she wasn’t part of the original outline.

You can find Rainy on Facebook and on Twitter: @rainyofthedark

You can also enter to win a copy of SUMMONED here. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

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THURSDAY REUTS RUNNER UP

This week the Reuts Pub. Runner Up is RED REVENGE by Caity H. And let me just say: Eeek. Excellent job, Caity!

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ABNA SECOND ROUND ENTRIES 2014

Amazon has posted the list of entries moving on to their second round. Take a look, stalk the authors, show some support. For the entrants, it’s the first hurdle crossed.

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TEMPTATION (FLOOR ART)

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Corbin woke before the sun. The sky outside his broken windows was a heavy grey; the forest past the Manor a sleeping shadow. The sparrows and pine siskins perched above his bed and on the wardrobe barley stirred when he stood; most still had their heads tucked under their wings.

He found his boots on the floor and laced them tightly. He slung his sword across his shoulders, used a sulfurous smelling match to light the beeswax taper used for reading, and took the candle with him out into the hall.

Outside his room the Manor was dark as a sleep, and drafty. Corbin cupped the candle flame with his palm, shielding the light, and padded quietly down the corridor. He took the grand stairway one step at a time, almost on tip-toe, afraid the ancient architecture would squeal in protest.

It was twilight in the foyer. The large front door hung open, explaining the unwelcome draft. Corbin smelled spring in the air, although desiccated brown leaves still littered the garden and much of the entryway. He shut the door softly, used to the Beast’s absentminded tendency to leave the Manor open to the world.

Corbin paused, listening. The ancient home echoed with the scratch of shifting foundation and creak of old timber. He was used to that, also. Beastly Manor was never completely silent, it was too full of sorcery and history.

He waited long enough to make sure the Beast wasn’t alerted to his wakefulness. Corbin preferred to stay abed until well after dawn. And the Beast tended to spend nights in the Manor’s kitchen, slaving over loves and pastries and the occasional souffle.

After a long moment of held breath and stillness, Corbin exhaled in relief. Nothing untoward stirred in the shadows.

Still sheltering the candle flame, Corbin turned under the stairs and crept away from the foyer. He trailed the fingers of one hand along the wall so as not to miss a turning. He’d practiced the way in his head for several days now, even going so far as to sketch it in the dirt in the garden. He wasn’t easily frightened, but the thought of becoming lost in the Beast’s lair made Corbin’s skin prickle.

Beastly Manor was as changeable as its lord; time was fluid between its cursed walls.

Lady Luck was kind, and Corbin found the narrow wooden door he remembered without too much difficulty. It was unlocked. He took the narrow stairway down, brushing torn spider-webs aside. A narrow thread of spider-silk caught against the wick of his candle and burned, smoking.

The passage ended in an low arch. Abandoned stone cells loomed, guarding a random collection of crates and barrels. Footprints broke the layer of frost glittering on the floor. Corbin muffled a sneeze.

He followed the footprints to the west-most corner of the dungeon.  There he set his taper on the floor, using both hands to haul the lid from the oubliette. As it had before, the cold metal handle stung his flesh. The lid scraped loudly as he pulled it across flagstone. He held his breath, waiting.

Nothing.

He didn’t suppose he faced death if caught mucking around were he wasn’t wanted, but did think the Beast would be very, very…displeased.

There was a ladder attached to the oubliette’s curving wall. Corbin retrieved his light and slid into the hole, climbing one-handed. He smelled cheese, and cedar, and mold. His boot soles slipped a little on the ladder, but he was sure-footed and quick, and didn’t fall.

He dropped the last three feet into the hole, sword bouncing against his shoulders. He ignored the frankly astounding selection of cheeses piled in wheels against the wall. He took half a step forward, then dropped to his knees, holding the candle out just above the floor, searching.

He didn’t have to look carefully. The pentagram carved into the bottom of the oubliette sparked in welcome. Red light spread like molten liquid across etched symbols and runes, racing faster and faster until the summoning circle burst fully to light, vibrating eagerly.

The blood in Corbin’s veins leapt in echo, and his heart began to pound. Something like lust coiled in his belly.  He couldn’t help himself. Licking his lips, he stretched out a hand, fingers spread a hair’s-breadth above the glow.

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