Wednesday, October 18, 2017

(25) When all else is lost the future still remains



“If he’s found us, why aren’t we staying here to fight?” Addie asked. “It’s certainly much more defensible that either of our places, and with the wards I’m certain you have in place, whoever he’s sending won’t be able to get within a thousand yards of us without you’re knowing.”

Shan scowled angrily. “Very true, but there are the islanders to consider, I won’t do anything that will endanger them. Their lives are hard enough as it is. So any battle here is out of the question. Sure, we could remain within the wards, but too soon you’d need to feed, and Race and I would need more than the mangos to keep us alive, as well. However,” he paused momentarily, “we’re not going back home.”

Something in tone of Shan’s words made Addie sit up and take notice. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“According to the message from Kayne, you don’t have a home any more,” he said quietly, putting his arm around her.

“Not again,” she whispered in a pain-laced voice. “When will it end?” There was a moment of deathly silence and then she straightened, pulling away from him. “Where are we going and who do we get to kill?” she said savagely.

“Not my place. The exterior may still be standing but that’s all that’s left of it. Whoever is responsible for this is doing their best to make certain we have no real options left.”

Addie steeled herself as an idea came to her, one she knew Shan would resist with the very marrow of his being, just as she already was. But it was perhaps the only option. Taking his hands in hers she said, “We go back to the ruins of the Compound.”

“No fucking way in hell!” he growled, pulling away, rage suffusing his face. “How can you even suggest such a thing Addie?”

“Because it’s the one place in the world where no one would expect us to go.”

“No! Absolutely not! I’d rather face a thousand deaths than go back there again.”

Race walked around the corner of the house at that moment, bags slung over his shoulder. He froze when he saw the emotions running rampant over both Shan’s and Addie’s faces and began to back away.

“Get over here Race,” Shan growled. “We’re leaving. Unless, of course, you want to stick around and practice your defensive skills on a bunch of rabid humans.”

Race inched closer, muttering, “I’d rather not, given my druthers.”

“Good.” Shan grabbed his hand and then reached for Addie’s.

She stepped away with a shake of her head. “Not until you tell me where you’re taking us.”

“To meet Kayne. From there we’ll decide, but it will not be the Compound.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

(24) When all else is lost the future still remains



The afternoon of their fourth day on the island, Shan again checked his email. There was a message from Kayne that had Shan up and moving immediately.

“Pack up,” he ordered Race.

“Trouble?”

“There will be soon enough unless we get out of here.”

“What about Addie? She’s still sleeping and…”

“Just get everything together from your room and mine. Can you…No, probably not.”

“What?”

“Shoot a gun, or use a knife defensively?”

Race nodded. “Not a gun, but a knife isn’t a problem. I carried one when I was living on the streets.”

“Ever use it?” Shan asked as he shooed Race towards the house, following behind him.

“I did, and successfully, although I never killed anyone if that’s what you’re asking.”

“It was and it wasn’t. I need to see something, so come with me.” Shan led him into his room, which in Race’s opinion was very Spartan. The only thing that said it was Shan’s was the camera bag. It stood open on a low chest which matched the one in Race’s room.

“Holy shit,” Race muttered when he caught sight of what the bag held.

Shan smiled tightly. “I never go anywhere without protection no matter what, which apparently you believe, too, from what you just said. Why didn’t you have your blade with you when you delivered the message?”

“Who says I didn’t?” Race replied.

“You don’t have it now.”

Race cocked an eyebrow. “How do you know?”

“Kid, I’m the one who undressed you the night we arrived here. No knife.”

Race turned somewhat red when Shan said that, covering it by moving closer to the case to see exactly all that it contained. “I forgot it in our hurry to pack up and get out of your place,” he mumbled.

“First lesson, never do that again.” Shan handed him one of the knives from the case, smiling when Race took it, holding it as he should, the blade projecting up from the top of his fist. “One thing…” Shan took hold of Race’s hand, releasing it instantly when the young man stiffened. “Sorry, I keep forgetting,” he apologized. Retrieving another knife from the case, he demonstrated the thumb position that would give Race even better control in a fight.

Race nodded, tried it and then, with Shan’s, permission sheathed it, attaching it to his waistband. He snickered when he realized that drawstring pants didn’t give quite the support that a belted pair would.

Shan chuckled in agreement before telling him to get moving and do as he’d been asked. Then he strode from the room.

As he left, Race watched him hungrily, knowing Shan had misinterpreted when Race had frozen at his touch. Shan’s closeness had sent a frisson of desire through Race’s body that made him grateful Shan couldn’t read him—and unhappy about it at the same time. Heaving a deep sigh he set to work.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Guardian Angels – An Interesting Life (14)

"So?" Dom said, when Vic and Evan came into the living room.
"So, as much as possible, we believe you. Now we need to figure out what to do with the information you got," Evan replied. "Vic says he can trace the phone number but he has to be at his office to do it."
"He can't use your computer?" Paddy asked.
"I could, but I've got programs on mine that will speed things up," Vic told him.
Evan eyed him. "Legit ones?"  
"Define 'legit'."
Paddy chuckled. "That answered that question."
"Okay, so presuming you can put a name and address to the number, then what?" Evan wanted to know.
"We'll decide once I do. It depends on who it is. If he's just another hireling…"
"We take over," Dom interjected.
Evan looked at him. "And read his mind? Or hers, I suppose. We're just presuming it could be a man."
"Yes," Dom replied succinctly.
"Which means, you can read ours. I don't think I like that idea."
"We could," Paddy told him, "but we won't. It's not considered good form unless it's an emergency."
Damned good thing. Vic glanced at Evan. Try as he might, and he had, he couldn't help but find Evan interesting. Not that I could, or would, do anything about it. He might not be married—well, it's obvious from looking around the place that he's not—but it doesn't mean he doesn't have a girlfriend waiting in the wings, or whatever they do.
Paddy cocked an eyebrow. "You never know."
"You said you weren't going to read our minds," Vic spat out.
"I didn't. I was reading the emotions on your face. So ask."
"No."
"Chicken."
Vic almost replied 'Bock, bock' but refrained, knowing he'd sound childish. "You're going to push this, aren't you?"
Evan had been listening, a speculative look on his face. "What's going on with you two?"
Paddy grinned. "Vic has a question for you."
Taking the bull by the horns, since he had the feeling Paddy wouldn't let up, Vic blurted out, "You're good-looking looking, smart, easy to get along with, so why aren't you married and settled down with two point five kids and all?"
Evan seemed to ponder how to reply. Then his lips quirked up when he said, "The right man hasn't asked me yet."
"I… oh… well," Vic managed to get out. "I guess that answers that question."
Evan chuckled. "I could ask you the same thing."
"Yeah…" Vic shrugged. "You'd get the same reply. Only if I met a guy who interested me that much, I wouldn't wait for him to ask, I'd get down on… Hell, never mind. You get the picture."
Evan smiled and nodded, eyeing Vic with more than a bit of interest now. "I do."
"Gentlemen," Dom said, "if you don't mind, can we get back down to what's important at the moment, finding out who those men work for."
"In the morning," Evan told him. "Right now I'm beat and Vic needs more rest, if he's going to be up to even half-speed to deal with this."
"I'm fine—or at least better," Vic protested.
"Sure you are. Better, maybe. Marginally. Get a good night's sleep and perhaps you'll be moving without wincing with every step. And before you say anything, remember I was a medic, I know what to look for. So"—he turned back to Dom—"we will continue this discussion in eight hours, give or take."
"I had to get the bossy one," Dom grumbled, explaining when Evan asked, "we're not tag-teaming the two of you. I'm your angel; Paddy is Vic's. You two take off in different directions then I stick with you."
"And I watch out for Vic." Paddy sighed. "Better than I did last time."
"Hey, you got me out of the car," Vic said. "Okay, not by airlifting me or whatever, but if you hadn't, I might be dead now, not just a bit more battered and bruised. That counts for a lot in my book."
"Thanks."
"Okay," Evan said, standing, "we're going upstairs. The alarm is on, so if you two decide to go out for burgers or something, do your dematerializing act. Okay?"
Dom laughed. "If we were going to, we would. As it stands, we're sticking around, because that's what we do."
"That actually makes me feel better," Vic told him, as he clambered unsteadily to his feet. "Do not say one word," he muttered, looking at Evan. "By morning, I'll be dancing a jig."
"Now, as an Irishman, that I've got to see," Paddy declared as he watched Vic go upstairs with Evan right behind him.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Release day for 'In the Blink of an Eye'!

In the Blink of an Eye
 
Four men whose lives intertwine: Craig Hudson, the manager of a used bookstore in New Orleans; Scott Reed, Craig's boyfriend, who vanishes in the blink of an eye while celebrating his birthday with friends; Kevan Martel, a small-time private investigator, hired by Craig to find Scott; and Zoran, the one responsible for Scott's disappearance.

Will Craig be able to find Scott with Kevan's help? And if they do, what will happen to the growing attraction developing between them? Meanwhile, can Scott survive what Zoran has done to him? If he does, will Zoran regret it?

EXCERPT: 
 
Kevan heard the waiting room door open and went out to see who was there.

"Mr. Martel?" a good-looking man Kevan figured was close to his own age asked.

"Yes. May I help you?"

"I don't know. I hope so." The man looked around and Kevan had a feeling he wasn't terribly impressed with what he was seeing. Not too surprising, since the walls were institutional beige, with two chairs and a short, brown sofa along one of them. A desk, which would have been for a receptionist, if he'd had one, faced the landing doorway, while the doorway to his office was opposite the seating area. Kevan knew that, with his scruff of a beard, he fit right in with the ambiance. Every morning, he vowed it was time to get rid of it -- and didn't.

"Only one way to find out. Tell me your problem," Kevan replied. "And your name would help."

"Craig Hudson."

"Nice to meet you. I'm Kevan, with an 'a'." Kevan gestured toward his office. "Let's go in there and you can tell me why you think you need my services."

Kevan was aware that his office wasn't much more impressive than the waiting room, but at least the walls were a decent blue. His desk was old, antique in fact, and took up a good portion of the right half of the room. He gestured to the chair in front of it, while talking his seat behind it.

"Now, what's the problem?" he asked.

Craig took a deep breath. "My boyfriend is missing." From the look on his face, Kevan figured he both worried about that, and about how Kevan would react to the fact he had a boyfriend. Of course, being New Orleans, he shouldn't be.

"How long has he been gone?" Kevan asked, starting to take notes.

"Since last Friday night. We went to a club, to celebrate his birthday. Around, oh I guess one-fifteen or so, he said he had to use the men's room. I haven't seen or heard from him since then. No one has. Well, at least none of our friends who were there, or his parents."

"Have you filed a missing persons report?"

Craig nodded. "The officer didn't seem too interested. I mean, he took the information but ..." He spread his hands.

"Your boyfriend is an adult, and I presume in his right mind, so I'm not surprised. What's his name, for starters?"

"Scott Alan Reed. He's twenty-five."

Kevan wrote that down. "Do you have a picture of him?"

"Yes." Craig took out his wallet. "I gave the officer two of them. This is the last one. At least the last one I have with me at the moment." He handed Kevan a photo.

It showed a good looking man with blond hair, perhaps a bit too long in Kevan's opinion, and pale blue eyes. A definite contrast to Craig's shorter brown hair and hazel eyes.

"Where does he work?"

"At a souvenir shop in the Quarter." Craig gave him the address.

"Have you talked with anyone there to see if they've heard from him?"

"I called, Saturday afternoon," Craig replied. "He hadn't shown up for work, or called in."

Kevan added that to his notes. "You said none of his friends have heard from him."

"No, they haven't. It's like he vanished off the face of the earth."

"How were you and he getting along?" Kevan asked.

"Fine. We never really argued. It just wasn't us. Friday night Scott was happy and having fun at the club. We both were."

"How long have you been together?"

"Umm, a little over two years. He came into the bookstore where I work, we got to talking, and pretty soon he was a regular. Eventually, I asked him out, he accepted, and things progressed from there."

Kevan jotted that down before asking, "Are you living together?"

"No, but we'd been talking about it."

"So you had a pretty solid relationship."

"Yes," Craig replied emphatically.

"All right. Back to the night of the party. Which club?"

"The Avenue."

"I know it. Nice place. So, according to you, he went to use the restroom at --" Kevan checked his notes, "-- one-fifteen. How long before you missed him?"

"About twenty minutes, I guess. Janie, she's one of our friends who was there, suggested maybe he'd gone outside to get some fresh air. I didn't see him do that, but the place was crowded."

"It usually is," Kevan said.

"Yeah. So, anyway, I tried calling him rather than searching for him. It went to his voicemail. I asked Felix, the doorman, if he'd seen Scott leave. He said he hadn't, and he knows him, and me. We go there pretty often. While I was doing that -- and then while I went outside to check the car, just in case -- everyone else was looking for him inside the club. No luck." Craig sighed, then grimaced. "I've come up with a million scenarios about what could have happened, but none of them make sense."
 

(23) When all else is lost the future still remains



Three days passed while the trio took advantage of their enforced leisure. During the afternoons, while Addie still slept, the men swam or lay on the pristine beach soaking up the sun. They talked in a casual way about nothing in particular, each one avoiding anything to do with their lives or what might happen once the three of them returned to New Orleans.

Shan was quite aware that the younger man looked on him as more than just a casual acquaintance, or at least that he wanted there to be more between them. But that was not something that would happen. Every time he looked at Race he thought of Lav and vowed that never again would he open himself to someone and chance the agony of loosing them. In his world, with who he was and what he did, the risk of that happening was enormous. Better to live alone with his memories.

Addie joined them when she woke, usually just as the sun was going down. At her age she was able to tolerate it and savored the bit of daylight allowed to her. Then the trio would spend their time exploring Shan’s part of the island. Each time they did Shan shifted so that he could run, loving the freedom it gave him, while Race had watched in wonder.

“He’s beautiful,” he’d whispered when it happened again on the third night.

“That he is,” Addie agreed, “although I think he’d prefer handsome.”

“He’s that too. It almost makes me wish I was a Were. There’s something magical about being so at one with the earth and life. Something a human could never experience.”

“Very poetic, and very true I suspect. There are advantages to being non-human as you so politely put it. That’s one of them.”

“But there are disadvantages too, like you not being able to be out during the day,” he replied, nodding.

“There’s always good and bad to everything, Race. You just have to make the best of the bad and embrace the good the way Shan is at this moment.”

“I know,” he said, leaning back against one of the trees while they waited for Shan to return. “Every time I got really bummed about how my life was, I’d think of the fact I was my own person with nothing to tie me to anyone. No one other than me expected more than I could give. And if I wished, well sort of anyway, I could go wherever I wanted to, and do whatever I wanted to, and no one would be hurt.” He grinned. “Well, no one but me that is, if I did something totally stupid.”

“You weren’t lonely, living like that?”

“Sure, sometimes. But the alternatives were worse than the loneliness. I couldn’t, wouldn’t go back home. Not to people who hated me. Living in a shelter wasn’t an option. Not when I’d know about anyone I happened to literally bump into. I got jobs sometimes so I’d have money, but as I told Shan they didn’t last long because of the whole touch thing.”

“You let us touch you,” she pointed out.

“Because I know you’re good people and I trust you.”

“And we’re the first ones since you left home?”

“Yes,” he replied quietly.