Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Sampler Chapter 1 of Dancing With Monsters

If only the the rest of the chapters can go as easily as chapter one.  here is the first chapter to Dancing With Monsters and if all goes well, I hope to have it out around Christmas time.  Enjoy!



1
April
My first vivid memory that will be forever burned into me was being pulled away from my mother.  If I had to label her expression during that dramatic moment, it would be that of relief.  I screamed, cried, and reached for her with my tiny hands.  She had no tears…no sadness…no regrets.  Even at the early age of four, I understood that I was different, I was some kind of abnormality, I didn’t fit in, and that’s why I was here.
Sunrise Acres held those who loomed in the darkness and on the borders of society.  Too humane to eliminate us, they kept us in large sterile buildings titled with names that were much brighter with promises of good things rather than the truth of our existence. 
I had a happy face on my door.  I hated it.  I didn’t want to be happy because I was satisfied with who I was.  I’m sixteen now, and I had to get out of this world.
“April Snow,” said the new night caretaker with a fake smile.  I wondered if she had to take classes on how to be phony.  “You have a very unique name.”  She handed me my evening pills I secretly flushed down the toilet every night.  You’d think the toilet wouldn’t get as plugged up with all that poison in it to clear it out.
“Why?”  I asked.  “What’s so special about the name April—it’s a month.”
“True, but put it with Snow and you’ve got April Snow.”  She smiled and I faked swallowed the pills.
“So,” I said nearly spitting them out from their hiding place in my mouth and towards her after I showed her my fake empty mouth.
“Well, we usually don’t get snow in the month of April, and when we do, I think it’s kind of contrasting.  Almost like the seasons are battling it out to see how long winter can hang on or if spring is strong enough to overcome it.”  This chick had put too much thought into people’s names or she’s been dipping into the good meds.  “Don’t you think?”  She bobbed her head making her little ringlet curls bounce in agreement.
I smiled and nodded my head taking amusement in her.  I had to get these awful pills out of my mouth, they were turning bitter.
She left, and I ran to the bathroom.  Suddenly, a scream broke the silence and cut through the gentle music that played every night before we went to bed.  The music, I guessed, was supposed to be a lullaby, but it wasn’t working on the girl two doors down and across the hall from me.
I went to my door to see the staff flocked around her doorway.  She screamed and growled in almost a chanting rhythm.  I listened too, and then closed my eyes.  If she was speaking words, only she could understand them.  She repeated the same tone over and over as the staff tried to calm her. 
I didn’t know the girl yet, as she only arrived two days ago, and this was the first noise I heard come from her room.  She had been quiet since she came, and now all of a sudden she was going crazy.  It could be bad meds or lack of meds on her part, but suddenly a realization washed over me.  She wasn’t crazy; she was chanting darkness to come.
I’ve only had two encounters with what I called the darkness—once when I still lived with my mom, and the other at my first foster home.  It always came at night when I was in bed, and hovered over me like a blanket with red eyes.  It was like a magnet to me, and I couldn’t resist wanting to know what it was at the same time I wanted to run. 
“No!”  The girl finally cried out.  “You don’t understand it’s in 23!  It’s in 23!”
The girl’s whimpering faded followed by an eerie silence.  She was right.  The darkness had come, and it was with me in my room, room 23.
I had to get out of here.  I was planning to escape anyway, but now with the darkness invited, I had to escape now. 

Seth
“You are the only one I’ll ever love.”  Ezra’s lips brushed mine making them tickle as a shiver ran down my spine.  “I’ll never let you go.”  Her indigo eyes sparkled like the night sky.
“I don’t want you to go,” I said.
Ezra was beautiful in her lightness and darkness that reminded me of a forest at midday.  Sunlight cut through the trees splattering pools of light here and there among the deep shadows that were never touched by light.  Ezra was like that.  Her dark brown hair, deep blue eyes that almost appeared black, and her skin as pale as moonlight made her appearance striking.  There were definite lines between shadow and light, not only in her appearance, but her soul too.
“You should come with me to the Shadowlands, lover.”  Playfully, she ran her finger across my lips.  “We can be together forever there, and,” Ezra leaned back letting her gauzy gown fall from her shoulder, “you know what to do to get here.”
Her smooth skin looked as soft as velvet, and tempted me to touch her.  I ran my fingertips across her collarbone, and then down her shoulder causing her gown to fall off the rest of the way.  I pressed myself to her cool body.  Ezra’s eyes twinkled like I truly gazed into the night sky that held enchanting mysteries of untold stories.  I did want to be with her.  I needed to be with her, and I was going to be with her.  Ezra needed me as well, and I wasn’t going to let her down.
“Seth!”  An unwelcomed voice stabbed at my ears.
I ignored it.
“Seth, hey…get up sleepyhead,” said another voice that was musical and female.
I knew who the voices belonged to, and I wasn’t about to listen to them.
“I said, Seth!  Get up now or I’m coming in after you and your dead girlfriend!”  The female voice warned.
Suddenly, a wave of ice flashed between Ezra and me.  Her image was gone, and I was soaking wet.
“Why do you let her in like that?”  Nessa asked bending down in front of me.  Her white-blonde hair was pulled back letting only a few strands fall around her round face. “If anything she should leave you alone in this world and get on with the world she’s in.  She shouldn’t try to draw you in like she’s some enchantress, some seductress…some…What’s the word I’m looking for?”  She turned to Malachi, my other partner in crime.
“I would call her a nymph or pixie.  They are nasty little creatures that appear harmless and cute until they sink their teeth into ya.”  Malachi gazed down at me with his gold eyes.  “In fact I can tell you through personal experience…”
“Shut-up, he’s got the point.”  Nessa play slugged him a little too hard in the stomach.  “And we don’t need to hear about your past experiences.” 
Nessa folded her arms across her chest as Malachi, who was a head taller than her, straightened and shook his head at her.
I chuckled, which made Nessa’s freckled tanned skin redden.
“I’m serious,” she stomped her foot.
I jumped up and patted Nessa on the head like you would a pet.  She glared at me.
“Come on, we need to be moving anyhow.”  I pulled my hood over my head, and jumped down the crumbling rock cliff in two strides.
Malachi followed, and we had to wait for Nessa.
“You know my legs aren’t as long as yours and my ankle still hurts from the last cliff wall we scaled up.”  She stood in front of us with her hood over her head and a few white strands curled over the edge like cobwebs.
“Do you want me to carry you?”  I asked seriously.
“No, I want you to at least give me a head start until I’m better.” 
A rumble of thunder erupted from the deep purple clouds that rolled lazily over our heads.
“Come on,” Malachi gazed up at them.  “The Charedlands are not a place for gathering and visiting.  They are the nomad’s lands.”
We were in a dangerous place, not only physically, but for me, mentally.  I was what you’d call haunted.  Ezra had moved to another world not meant for the living, and she wanted me to join her.  I would give anything to bring her back, but the only thing is, there isn’t enough to give to bring someone back from the Shadowlands.  There is no one to accept payments or favors to bring someone back from there.  There is only one entrance, and once in, you never come out.
Each minute, hour, day that went by, pushed me farther from her.  I could join her, but something inside of me was guiding me away from her.  I shoved back, not giving in, but I was growing tired of the battle.

April

No one expected me to run, but I did.  I never caused any trouble at Sunrise Acres, and was always the one that helped the staff, or visited with the staff, and overall, appeared like a normal teen.  They trusted me, and that trust was my ticket out of here.
I had earned garbage duty which meant I got to go outside.
It was November, and the temperature reflected the time of year.  At least I had a coat, but my shoes were flip flops—the only kind of shoes we had beside our slippers which stayed in our rooms.  I would have to make due and find something else later.
Most duties were supervised, and yes, someone was supposed to come to the dumpsters with me. But I had earned respect, and I had always come back before, except for this time.
The paddle lock was supposed to be locked, but never was and hung loosely on a chain like a necklace.  I slipped out and ran into the timber.
Sunrise Acres was surrounded and bordered a large park.  Most of the park was left to Mother Nature to take care of, while only a small portion beside the lake was maintained for camping or picnicking.   But at this time of year, the park would be void of any campers, and the perfect place to make my run.
I knew they would look for me, and probably have not only search dogs, but the police as well.  I had to move quickly and find better transportation than my feet—I needed to get a ride.
Across from the park was an old truck stop.  I could easily get ride there, at least that was my plan.
I didn’t follow any path, but could see the lights from the truck stop glowing through the barren tree branches.  I had abandoned my flip flops when I left, throwing them in the opposite way that I went.  Hopefully, that would give me some time.   
The timber consisted of gullies and small creeks.  My feet were frozen, and stung with coldness and scrapes.  I just hoped someone would give me a ride.
“No!” A voice cut through the darkness.  “I didn’t take any!  I-I prommmise.”
I stopped and stood barefoot in a tiny leaf-lined creek.  The leaves were slimy under my feet as I looked all around me to see who the voice belonged to.
“I don’t believe you, and you know what I have to do.” Another voice, male replied to the first.
I held my breath as I slowly climbed u the embankment on my stomach.  In a stretch of land between the truck stop and the park, was a thick wooded area where a lot of the garbage along the road seemed to end up.  It was the buffer between the two areas, and by the looks of the two darkened figures, the large one holding the other by the neck—a murder scene.
I hugged the ground as I watched with unblinking eyes.  The taller man held the other up over his head by the neck until his body withered.  I held in the scream I wanted to expel, and hoped whoever this was, left without noticing me.
The man brushed his hand together as if he was removing cookie crumbs from them.  He looked at the ground and kicked the area with his feet as if covering up any evidence.  But what evidence was there?  He had just sucked the life out of the guy.  Had I accidently consumed one of my nightly pills?  Things like this don’t happen.  Guns, knives and other weapons would be believable, but simply turning someone into what looked like bits of tissue paper, didn’t happen.
I sunk closer to the ground and closed my eyes wishing the scene away.  Hopefully, the man would leave none the wiser that I had witnessed the murder, or I guessed it was a murder, he had committed.
Suddenly, the sound of footsteps came up the other side of the embankment.  They were heavy, and shook the ground under me.  Before I could think about jolting into the darkness, a hand grabbed my thin shirt and turned me over. I would had screamed, but the air wouldn’t leave my lungs as I stared into gleaming eyes that reflected what light penetrated through the trees from the truck stop.

Seth

Dunelock was one of the largest cities in Iethia.  Though safer than the Wildlands or Chardlands, it still had its dangerous areas.  Malachi, Nessa and I wound our way through Flametree Street that twisted and turned in gentle curves like a continuous S.  It also went uphill following the gentle incline of the landscape. The buildings of this area were of a bygone era.  Built out of glintstone, they caught the daylight and held it in their tiny flecks of silver embedded in the irregular shaped stones mortared together.  Their delicate glow made all the buildings look freckled with light.  Weeping trees dotting the skinny road, and orilion orbs lit up each door that had a plaque with a number engraved on it. 
“Why didn’t we just go up a block and then cut over so we didn’t have to climb up this never ending hill?”  Nessa huffed behind us.
“Because they just had riots in that area, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get caught up in that mess.”
Nessa limped along behind us pushing through the pain of her swollen ankle.  I felt bad for her and offered to carry her up this steep hill, but she declined in her strong willed way.  Nessa was proud and since we left Light City, she has done nothing but try to prove herself.  Malachi, of course challenged her the whole way.
“Two more houses and we’re there,” I said trying to encourage her.
She only looked at me with her bright green eyes.
The house we stopped at was located at the top of Flametree Street.  On the north side was a tall iron fence that partitioned the area from the other streets.  A brick path led to the brightly painted red door that was surrounded by moonflowers.  Their pungent, sweet, and nearly intoxicating smell emitting from the bell-shaped white blooms filled the air welcoming us.
“Do you think your uncle has enough of those stinking flowers?  They about knock you over from just their smell and it looks like they are trying to take over the sidewalk.”  Malachi scowled at the elegant flowers.
“They’re pretty and they smell a lot better than you.”  Nessa crossed her arms and glared at Malachi.
“Well excuse me for not being able to take a bath the last three days.  You know, you don’t smell very pretty either.”
Before I could knock, the door swung open.  “You two are fighting like spoiled children.  Stop it before I get a complaint from the neighbors,” said a tired looking man with grey-brown hair and nearly black eyes.
“It’s good to see you, uncle,” I said cheerfully.
He stepped aside with a nod.  “Please come in.”
My uncle’s house looked like the lady who was here before, still lived here.  The walls were painted in a mauve color, and some of the furniture she sold to him was covered in a flower designed coverings.  About the only thing he brought when he moved here two years ago were his maps, books and journals he kept.  They were neatly put on the shelves that lined the walls.  Nothing about this home reflected who he once was.
“Do you like it here, Uncle Hes?”  I asked as he shut the door behind us.
“No, but I’m getting used to it.”  His stature was short, only an inch or two taller than Nessa, but he could outwit a giant if he had to.  “I’m glad to see you made it here so quickly and…your mother…”  He gazed at me from under his bushy eyebrows.
“She of course didn’t approve of me coming here,” I said in a cool tone.
Uncle Hes let out a sigh as he motioned for us to sit on the puffy couch covered with over-stuffed silk pillows.  I almost expected to see a tea set sitting on the table.  “I knew she wouldn’t, and I wouldn’t be calling you here if it wasn’t important.”  He extended his gaze to Nessa and Malachi.  “These two squabblers are your capable help?”  He then looked at me with questioning eyes.
I smiled at him as from the corner of my eye I could see Nessa trying to contain a comment to my uncle’s blunt question.
“Only the best,” I replied with confidence.
“Very well, time’s ticking.  Let’s get started.” 
Uncle Hes rolled out a map with ink so fresh, it had been smeared from rolling it up before it complete dried.  Unusual for my uncle to treat a map he was working on like that.
“There are only two known portals in Iethia.” My uncle looked up from his map and at us.  “But there is a third—forgotten in the Angel-Demon Wars.  It was used by angels as their escape route when things started to turn on them.  It was supposed to have been sealed, and right before I…retired,” he said with a regretful glint in his eye.  “I found out it had been used, not only once, but several times.  I think that’s where they are taking it.”  He tapped his finger on a small drawing of a circular door part way open and light coming out.
“Is that what it really looks like—the door that the angels used?”  Nessa asked as my uncle’s face reddened.
“I said bring with you capable monsters, not incompetent ones!”  His dark eyes shot to me.  “This isn’t a school field trip.”  He hissed.
“They are loyal and smart.  I’ve known them a long time and they understand…my strange family’s business.”  I gazed steadily at my uncle, almost challenging him.
He rolled up the map and squared his shoulders.  “You have a lot of my blood in you, and that’s why I trust you to find out who is transporting, who the distributor is, and what their plans are when they turn millions of humans into monsters.”
“Being a monster isn’t all that bad,” Malachi said as he leaned back and grinned at my uncle.  “It might be kind of nice that the humans would cross over and experience a little monsterism.”  He meant to be funny, but Uncle Hes didn’t find anywhere near that.
I snickered, which only angered my already angered uncle.
“You’ve never seen humans transformed into monsters.  They won’t be like us.  It’s unnatural for anything to change into something it was never intended to be.”  Suddenly, his words softened and he looked at the floor.  It was almost like he was a volcano ready to explode, then, suddenly stopped as if something had entered his thoughts.
“Uncle,” I said softly as his eyes darted to me.
“You can’t stay here long,” he said.  “I’ve already inflicted suspicion on whoever comes into my home.  You will leave before the sun comes up.”

Poster for Betwixt

Here is a poster for the second installment of the Jinxed Trilogy.  I will be starting on it soon and will post sample chapters of Betwixt hopefully in December.  I plan on releasing Betwixt in the spring of 2015.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway!!!!

If you live in the US, are a member of Goodreads, and would like to have the chance to win one of two signed copies of Jinxed-then you have from Friday Oct 10, 2014 through Friday Oct 31, 2014 to enter!  yes, I will be giving away 2 signed copies of Jinxed to 2 lucky winners in the US only. Good luck to all who enter!!!!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Free download of The Librarian's Daughter the Story of Sage Greene

Check it out!  Free download of The Librarian's Daughter The Story of Sage Greene at Smashwords!  Will end on Monday-download while you can!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sunday Sampler Sirens Chapter 10 excerpt

Getting real close to being done, in the meantime, here's a sample of chapter ten.  Enjoy!







Chapter Ten

Hannah

“The calling shell belongs to Mae,” I said holding it in my hand. 
“Yes, as all calling shells do.”  Sean flipped through several white envelopes he had in his hand.
I watched him scan with his eyes each envelope flipping them over and under one another.  He reminded me of a dog twirling in circles until he found the right position to sit in. 
“I don’t think you understand,” I finally said since Sean was ignoring me.  “The calling shell,” I shook my head.
His eyes lifted to me.  “Yes, what of it?”
“I still have it, and I need to give it to her.”
Sean tucked the envelopes under his arm, and walked towards me with his usual warm smile.  His footsteps were soft on the marbled floor.  The room was large with circular windows that streamed in the morning sun and made the white, sandy walls sparkle like ice crystals.  We stood in what Sean called the greetway of the receiving hall building where we have been for the past two days.
“Calling shells are not to be possessed by any individual, but kept in the implements department.  That my dear Hannah is where you’ll be going today with Rae.”
“Who’s—”  I started to say when the large arched doors that were solid glass stained with swirling blue and green colors, opened and nearly blinded me with the light they reflected. 
I moved out of the bright light, as the door quietly shut.
“Ah, you’re on time.  Excellent.”  Sean greeted the girl with white hair.  “You remember Rae?”  He glanced at me as he placed his hand on her shoulder.
I nodded.  “Yeah, she was there the day we arrived in Atlantis.”  I kept my eyes on her.  Rea looked a lot like Sean, and I had to ask the question that burned in my head. “Are you two brother and sister?”  
Both gave me a blank look before glancing at one another.
“Do you mean closer in relation?”  Rae asked. 
“Yeah, like having the same parents.”  I knew my blunt question was well, very blunt, but I felt the need to ask as many questions as I possibly could.
“We have the same mother, but father, we have different ones.  As you know, sirens have trouble reproducing our race, and when a female siren can become pregnant…”  Sean for the first time looked uncomfortable.
“That becomes her duty?”  I asked breaking the awkward silence.
“Sort of,” he replied vaguely.  “Now the business with the calling shell.”  He motioned towards my hand.  “Rae will take you where we keep all of our treasures, and maybe show Hannah as well as Sophie around until I return from council.”
Rae nodded as Sean said goodbye leaving us alone in the sparkling room.  I smiled as she kept her face expressionless.  I cleared my throat, and waited for her to say something or tell me more about what we were going to do.  Instead, Rae walked around me as if she was evaluating me in her own way. 
I stood uncomfortably still as she made a slow circle around me.  Her hair was pulled back into a loose braid letting a few strands curl around her oval face.  Her steady grey eyes were surrounded in her perfectly creamy complexion.  Rae had an icy appearance that reminded me of a sunny winter morning with newly fallen snow still in a state of perfection before it had been trampled.
“You are a grand siren, like me.”  Rae finally said.
“Sean explained that to us…about the different types of sirens.”  I hoped she wasn’t going to be like this the whole time I was with her.
“But you like females over males—interesting.”  She added casually as my mouth dropped open.  “Don’t be ashamed.  It’s not uncommon for our kind to care for both sexes.”  Her pale lips curled into a smile.
She then slipped her hand into mine.  “Come on siren; let’s get that calling shell where it needs to be.”

I didn’t protest or suggest we take Sophie, like Sean had said.  I felt like an oblivious child following a stranger after being told not to go with strangers, and here I was doing it.  Rea had a dominating feel to her, and one that I wasn’t going to challenge.  I was new here, and if I wanted to stay here, I had to do as I was told.

“These are the academy buildings.”  Rae stopped in front of a large three story building with the same style of door as the receiving building, except this one had glass stained in pinks and oranges.  It too looked like it was made out of sand molded into gentle curves and arches.  Various sizes of windows filled with glass matching the door, covered the front of the building. “This is the reception building.” Rae gazed up at it.  “Behind it are the academy buildings that teach everything from using your abilities as sirens to history and even some mathematics.”  I cringed at the thought of math.
“Math,” I said with bitterness.
Rae turned around with her stone-like expression and gazed at me with her steel colored eyes.  Her cold stare made me feel I had insulted her, and I had better un-insult her fast.
“I-I mean…math…it’s good…we need to have it.”  I took a deep breath trying to compose myself.
“Don’t hurt yourself.”  Rae finally said turning back towards the building.  “I don’t like math either, but Sean does.”
“Well, the building is beautiful.”  I tried to say something to change our conversation.
“Yes, and once you get past the reception building there are several other buildings that encircle a court yard filled with trees and flowers.  It really is pretty.”
“So do all sirens go there for schooling?”  I asked.
“No, only the selected ones.”  Her tone was flat, but had a tinge of resentment to it.  “Come on, we need to keep moving.”

We followed a narrow road that was covered in crushed shells embedded in what looked like cement.  There were no carriages, bikes, buggies or anything motorized.  Everyone walked on large sidewalks that wove and wound through the multitude of sand buildings like ribbons.  I tried not to stare at everyone we walked by, but I found it difficult.  I was surrounded by nothing but sirens—my people.  If not dressed in the pale colored clothing, they looked like the humans I would pass on the streets of Chicago.  There were men and women, and even a few children.   All with different colors of hair, skin, and eyes.   I smiled as we passed them with an overwhelming sense of happiness.  I was walking among sirens, and I felt like skipping down the pathway like an idiot without a care in the world.  I was really here…my heart pounded in my chest…my feet became light…
“What are you doing?”  Rae suddenly stopped, grabbed my arm, and turned towards me. 
A group of teenage girls passed by giggling with hushed whispers among themselves. “What do you mean?”  I asked ignoring them trying to calm myself.
“It’s spewing out of you like a geyser.”  She then pulled me close.  “Look, I know you are happy to be here, and I would be too, but your letting it spill all over the place.”  Her eyes studied mine for a moment.
“Sorry, I’ll tone it down.”
“Stop it all together or you’ll draw attention to us.”  Rae studied my eyes for a moment.  She liked them, and wanted to stare into them longer than time would allow.
Wow, I had felt a sudden rush of her emotion that was spewing out as well.  I pushed it away.  I was new here, and I didn’t want to screw up any chances I had at making life for myself in Atlantis.
“So, where are we taking the shell to?” I asked ending the overflow of emotions.
“To the implements archives building, but first we are going to put a mark on you for your own good.”  Rae grabbed my wrist and pulled me down the sidewalk.
“Mark…what’s a mark?”  I asked with no reply.  “Rae?”
We turned several corners, and went down many paths, some narrower than others.  We passed a market area with people selling everything from clothing to produce.  Some areas were crowded, and others took on a darker feeling.
The tall, glistening buildings slowly downsized to a tiny river of single level buildings.  Rae guided me down a winding walkway littered with broken pottery and other unidentifiable garbage that had been swept into piles.  The narrow path glowed in a soft golden light that made the area look more enchanting than it probably appeared later in the day.
I felt a familiar sense that this place was the south-side, projects or slum of Murk Island.  Some of the buildings had scrolling marks above their doors, while others had nothing identifying them except for the hooded sirens looming by the darkened entrance.  I kept my sightseeing to a minimum as not to catch the attention of the wrong person.
Without a word, Rae darted into a building that had razor sharp geometric designs painted around the doorway.  I nearly tripped over my own feet at her sudden change in direction.
Inside was dark, and it took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust, but when they did, I knew where I was at.
“You want me to get a tattoo?”  I stood looking at the walls covered with sample drawings, and the man sitting in the corner getting a tattoo on his arm.
Rae turned to me.  “Not for vanity’s sake, but for your protection.”  She went over to the wall looking up and down at all the sample drawings.
“Wait,” I said stepping behind her.  “Protection from what?”
“From my brother.”  Her voice was even toned.  “Do you have any seer marks?”  She asked the cloaked figure giving the bald headed man his tattoo.
He stopped, and looked over his shoulder towards us.  I couldn’t see any of his face that was covered completely in blackness from his oversized hood.  I thought of the few horror movies I had watched where there were creatures just like this one.  I bet if he’d remove his hood there’d be just a skull for a head with red glowing eyes.  I wanted to run away, and started to take a step back when Rae grabbed my hand.  She glanced at me with warning eyes.
“He’s just a mark giver, and nothing more.”  She reassured me in her stern voice.
“Yes, I have a few seer marks,” he replied in a whisper.  “Over there,” he motioned with a tilt of his head towards the opposite wall.
Rae pulled me with her as she quickly scanned the scroll-like drawings. 
“Here,” she said pointing to a pinwheel looking mark that had arrow shaped ends.
“That’s ugly.  It looks like a wicked children’s toy gone wrong.”  Once again I got a scolding glance from Rae.
“It will keep you protected.”
“Why would Sean want to hurt me?”  I asked since Rea was being vague and I was growing tired of it.
Rae didn’t answer, but instead pulled the tattoo sample from the wall, and then turned to me.  “He doesn’t want to hurt you.  He wants to use you for something that could shatter our very existence here.”


Beannca

“I think I like the blue one better,” I said turning to Hannah.  “What do you think?”
She shrugged her shoulders as she looked at my reflection in the full length mirror.  “I like the lavender one better.  Especially since the fabric is really sheer.”  She pinched a section of the material between her fingers.  “And besides, the lavender one has tiny rhinestones in it,” she said with a raise of her eyebrows.
I smiled, glad Hannah was helping me as she and Sophie had picked out a few outfits to wear.  I took a long time to pick things out because I was so indecisive. 
“Are you about done, Beannca?”  Sophie asked with a large canvas bag hanging from her shoulder.
“We’re just about done.”  Hannah replied before I could say anything.  “It takes a while sometimes to find the perfect pieces to wear.” 
Sophie let out a tiresome sigh as Rea came up behind her.
“We are on no time schedule, and besides, it takes Sean sometimes a couple of days to find placement for just one siren and he’s got four to deal with.  So really, just enjoy Murk Island and all its amenities right now.”
I looked at myself in the mirror.  “Yeah, the lavender one I think would be a great choice.” 
Even though Rae said not to hurry, I didn’t want to spend the whole day at the clothing boutique.  Hannah along with Sophie pushing us along to hurry up helped me find a few outfits.  It was fun, and I didn’t want it to end.  It was like being with Bridget again. 
“What’s wrong?”  Hannah asked.  “Don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts on the black capris and silver shirt.”  She put her hands on her hips and looked as though she’d shove them in my bag regardless of my answer.
“No,” I half smiled.  “I like them.  You picked out really nice things, it’s just that…” I felt tears sting the back of my eyes.  “Bridget could pick out things for me just like you can.  You both have a really good sense of style.”
Hannah had a stunned expression that quickly turned to uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”
Hannah waved me off.  “No, it’s a nice compliment, and I’m glad I helped.”
Sophie had stepped outside the store with Rae, but came back in when we didn’t follow.  “Are you guys coming?”  She asked.
“Yes, mother, we are,” Hannah grabbed Sophie by the shoulders, turned her around and out the door.
I followed behind Sophie and Hannah as Rae led the way.  So far, Murk Island was like a vacation to me—one I knew couldn’t go on forever.  Everything from the beach to the village we were shopping in, what Rae called University Hill was something that you’d see in a magazine and wished that you could go there.  But most importantly, I was free of the librarianship as well as Aaron.  I slowed my pace realizing that I didn’t have rules and regulations hanging over my head, and Aaron couldn’t get me here.  I managed to do something that so many other sirens could only dream about, that is, is they even had a glimmer that Murk Island even existed.  Really, the way sirens were treated wasn’t fair.
“Keep up Beannca,” Hannah turned around and grabbed me by the hand. 
“Oh, sorry,” I now walked beside Hannah and Sophie on the other side of her with Rae guiding us through the busy midday traffic.
The sun was overhead, and shone down on the buildings that Rae said were made of sand and a clear emulsion that hardened very quickly.  The emulsion came from the ground stones from the bottom of the Sanudra Ocean that were clear as diamonds and the pulp of some of the palm trees.  When mixed, they made a sticky substance that hardened like cement.
“Beannca, if you are interested so much in the history of sirens and Murk Island, we can go to the Lygia Museum.”
“That actually sounds interesting.”  Sophie looked at me with raised eyebrows.
“I would love to go as long as everyone wants to go.”  I looked at Hannah.
She smiled.  “But first, let’s get something to eat.”
Rae said she knew the perfect spot that was a little off the beaten path, but was her favorite.
We left the bustle of shop lined streets paved with crushed shells and sandcastle-like buildings of University Hill to the windswept hills filled with sparse grass and tiny daisies that looked too delicate to be blooming in such a windy place. 
When I looked back, you could see the town we just came from, and it was just as spectacular here as it was walking like an ant among the sculpted buildings.
A tiny path carved from just foot traffic, led down a steep hill to a ravine.  A rushing stream ribbon its way through tall trees with fern-like leaves that made a canopy over a flattened area.
Tables made from irregular shaped rocks sat on tall podiums with chairs constructed from intricately woven twigs surrounding them.  Lantern hung from the trees illuminating their golden light that was lost to the beams of sunshine filtered through the limbs like spotlights.
“This is beautiful.  This is a restaurant?”  I asked in disbelief.  It looked more like something from a fairytale with its unique d├ęcor and the large tree that acted as the kitchen.
“It’s called Siren’s Dell, and is usually packed on the weekends and holidays.  We’re in luck today since most sirens don’t have time to come up here.”
“Welcome, my name is Myra,” said a girl with hair so red, it looked like it was on fire.  “Is this all in your party?”
“Yes… and could we have a seat by the stream?”  Rae asked with an approving nod from Myra.
She led us down the flight of rock stairs to the large patio covered with the same grey rocks that had moss growing between the irregular shaped joints.
“Today’s special is tuna imported from earth made into a salad and served with fried sweet potatoes.”  Myra announced trying to make it sound exotic.
Hannah, Sophie and I exchanged surprised glances.  Really…tuna from earth?
No menu was handed to us so we all looked at Rae.
“What do you suggest?”  Sophie asked looking at Rae.
“Wait, are you sirens new here?” Myra asked looking between Hannah, Sophie and me.
I wasn’t sure how to answer and by the looks on Hannah’s and Sophie’s faces, they didn’t either.
“Not me, just them.”  Rae motioned towards us.
“I thought so.  You two don’t have your marks yet, but you just recently got yours.”  She nodded towards Hannah.  “Well, anyhow welcome to Murk Island and the Siren’s Dell.  How about if I bring you some complimentary appetizers while you decide.” Myra nodded and left with a bounce in her step.
“Alright, you need to explain something to us.”  Sophie’s eyes turned dark as she glared at Rae.  “What are these marks, and why did Hannah get one?”
Rae leaned back in her chair as another couple was seated a table away.  Sunlight flickered through the trees and the stream trickled by us as Sophie, along with Hannah and I waited for Rae to reply. 
“You are protective of your lover, and I respect that, but I did it for her own protection.  Hannah is a strong siren.  I can see that, and her power without the mark, is noticed by all.  And what I mean by all is everyone with good intentions as well as bad.”
“Why didn’t Sean tell us about it?  Why did you take Hannah and secretly get it done?”  Sophie tried to contain her anger, but it was quickly noticed by the man and woman seated by us.
Rae casually took a sip of her water Myra brought us, and looked passively at Sophie.  “Because he planned on using Hannah’s as well as all your abilities to put in motion a plan he has been working on for the past two years.”
Sophie gave Hannah a look of dismay.
“It isn’t the end of your world.”  Rae said with amusement.  “Let me ask you this.”  She leaned closer towards us.  “Would you like to have a choice as to your future here on Murk Island or would you like to be at the mercy of someone else’s plans that you  know anything about?”
We all looked at Rae without a word.  “I don’t need any siren abilities to see, no, you wouldn’t want to be at the end of someone’s whim and command at all times.”  She leaned back in her seat with a troubled look on her face as she looked up at the trees with a sigh.  “I can tell you,” her eyes fell on all of us, “it isn’t fun, even if you are on one of the most beautiful islands in all Atlantis.”
“Here we go,” Myra, with her musical voice and child-like face said as she sat a platter of what looked like fried green beans.  “These are called fried fairy legs, and before you out-of-towners think they are actual fairy legs, they are really a batter made with several herbs and cheeses all fried into what our chef thought looked like fairy legs.  It’s one our specialties.  Enjoy.”  She left with a smile.
We all looked at the fried fairy legs and then back at Rae.
“These are really good if you dip them in the sauce.”  Rae took one and dipped it into the marinara sauce.
Sophie, of course, had more questions that we all wanted answered, but Rae said she would explain later where there weren’t so many ears.
I watched Myra as she waited on several people, and thought back to my employment at the Glass Guardian.  I really did miss the customers, planning parties and even going out buying supplies as glamorous as toilet paper.  Even though it wasn’t a prestigious job, I truly felt alive when I worked there.  But that life was all gone, and a blank canvas was my new direction now. 
“I hoped you enjoyed your meal,” Myra said as Rae paid her.  “Oh, thanks,” she said as she tucked her tip into her pocket.
Everyone grabbed their bags and headed towards the steps.  I lingered behind and caught Myra as she cleared another table.
“Can I ask you a quick question?”  I asked and she nodded.  “Do you hire here much?”
Myra smiled.  “In fact we need another waitress.  Here, let me get you an application.”
Hannah, Sophie and Rae stood at the top of the steps and shook their heads as to what I was doing.  I mouthed the words getting an application, but they didn’t understand me until Myra came back with a rolled up piece of parchment paper.
“Wow, this is fancy.”  I unrolled it surprised to see it was blank.  I looked at Myra with questioning eyes.
She smiled with a small laugh.  “I know, it doesn’t give you much direction, but what the owner likes to see is why you want to work here.  He doesn’t want your past work history or references that may or may not remember you.  The past doesn’t matter to him.  He wants to know why you want to work here.”
I rolled the paper back up, thanked Myra, and then took one last glance at the Siren’s Dell hoping I could work here one day.