Archive for May, 2012


Fortunatus. My forgiven vampire. He is very old. Exactly how old, I don’t even know yet. There is hymn in our hymn book at church written by a very early Christian hymn writer named Venantius Fortunatus who live around 550 AD. Is this my Fortunatus? (It’s where I got the name.) If so, when did he reject his salvation and take the painful path to becoming undead? I have so many questions still left to answer about this character, which is probably why he is one of my favorites. Someday the tale of his undeserved rescue by the Dhampir Crow will come to print. In the series, Inheritance, Fortunatus is already forgiven. He is the god-father to Jack Galloway and has teamed up with Ronan to stop Mara’s murdering theft of power.

If my story were ever turned into a film, I would be honored to have Daniel Craig play Fortunatus. He has just the right amount of suave – shaken, not stirred – paired with the right amount of cold disinterest. His bright blue eyes exude a chill which creates a feeling of danger around him. Perfect for a vampire, even more perfect for Fortunatus.

So, tell me what you think, dear reader? Can you see Daniel Craig as the vampire willing to risk his undeadness for a human? Can you see him capturing the love of an angel? Comments below, please!

(If you have no idea who or what Fortunatus is, please read my series to find out! Start HERE!)

Quote of the Weekend

…Back to the Beginning…

…Last time in Inheritance…

The Necromancer

Genesis stepped out, long legs, white hair, grace embodied.  She reached out to her vampires as she flung back her coat to give herself free access to her tied down guns.  The late hour of the night, her element, surrounded her.  She relished the feeling of control.

“Stay back,” she ordered and stepped outside the line of the mercenaries.

She opened herself up to her TrueSelf.  The men behind her stepped further back as her appearance changed, even Sebastian grunted in surprise.  Genesis paid the vampires respect.  She belonged to them, as their witch, as much as they belonged to her, as her people.  A position she never took for granted.  They shifted up to face her in a straight and perfect row.

Rail Quinn bowed, “My Lady, we have done as you requested.  We have kept your sight secured, but we grow restless and hungry.”

“I thank you for your service.  I will call you again if I have need.  Please set up a rotation and have someone here as long as it is night,” she commanded and they disappeared into the darkness.  Genesis faded back to herself.

“All clear.”

“Move out,” Tell said.

The mercs split into two forces covering each other’s backs.  Genesis grabbed her duffle and laptop from under her seat and swung the bag up on her shoulder.  She followed them with her shotgun out and all senses on high alert, but came up with nothing.  The inside of the building looked like a war zone minus the dead bodies and guns – desks where out of place, holes blown in the drywall, glass, blood, and paper lay everywhere.

Genesis stepped in with a sigh.  The only bodies left in the building were her team, and they were starting to smell.

“Okay, you guys secure the perimeter and I’ll start my magic.”

Tell led his men off.  Sebastian looked around, his face green from the carnage and the three dismembered bodies.  He gritted his teeth, said nothing, and started looking around.  Genesis put down her shotgun and pulled a gray pouch from her coat pocket.  She removed a mirror broken by the voice of a vampire opera singer.  Sprinkling its pieces on the ground, Genesis sat down.  She took a deep breath and blew a lung full of frosty air onto the mirrors.  The temperature in the building dropped.  Frost formed on every surface.  Sebastian shivered in her peripheral vision.  She dropped the temperature a little more to make him uncomfortable.  She would regret being mean and childish later.

Focusing on the mirrors, she looked to see what they showed and frowned.  The lines where clear in their communication, just improbable.  Genesis shook her head.  Nothing made sense.  With no explanation in the reflection she pulled out her phone.

“Hey Gen?  Can we turn the temp backup?” James called from down the hall.

Genesis waved her hand and the frost dissipated instantly.

“Can’t we do anything about the smell or the bodies?” Sebastian said.

She swung to her feet and walked over to the corpses.  Taking a handful of bone dust from an albino rabbit’s first spring litter, she sprinkled it over the bodies of her dead team.  Decomposition stopped and the smell faded from the room.  Genesis glared at Sebastian – spoiled president’s son – for wanting her to use her magic on something so trivial. She walked away ignoring his returned frown.  Any minute now and they would be sticking their tongues out at one another.  Shaking her head, Genesis flipped open her phone and called Vash.

“Why would Dora be after me?” She started without preamble.  Her heart started pounding for no reason.

“What?” Vash mumbled sounding like her call woke him up.

“The magical lines here are all Dora, Dora alone, no one else,” Genesis’ voice rose as she spoke.  She felt scared and angry, and angry for being scared.

“Dora?” The witch of NewLife? I haven’t a clue.  I’ll start asking around.  Did you find out what happened to the healing?”

“In process.”

“What’s wrong Dunlear?”

Genesis sighed and ran her hand through her white hair.  Her powers and respect over those she commanded put her at odds with most other “good” witches.  For 140 years she struggled against the ease to be evil.  She struggled against the disdain of other good witches.  One even suggested she use her power to kill of all the vamps – good and bad.  Genesis could not do that.  She did her best to spare as many innocents as possible, but why not tell the Sun witch to keep cancer from happening – ultimately a witch’s powers had limitations and negative sides.  She just wished the good witches would accept her as one of their own.

She said none of this to Vash because she knew it would come out whiny, ‘nobody understands me, nobody loves me’, and she refused to sound that way in front of Sebastian.

“Nothing.”

“You alone?”

“Nope.”

“Pull it together, Dunlear.  We’ll trace it out.”

Trace out a 140 years of crap from holier than thou witches? Good luck.

“I’m good.  I am going to dissect this curse and try to get the others out of me.”

“Don’t weaken yourself too much.”

“Bye, mom,” she smiled.

“Bye,” Vash hung up.

“So, now what?” Sebastian asked.

“I’m going to move the bodies into the cold storage we used for the cadaver before I turned it into a zombie, and take that curse apart with the equipment here.  We may or may not be attacked again.”

“Who’s Dora?”

“The castor of the shield spell which kept me from protecting them,” she waved her hand at the mauled bodies on the floor.

“So we need to find out if she’s working for a company or if it was a personal attack?”

“Yeah.  We also need to find out who helped her and how they hid the fact.”

“I’ll pull some strings and see if she is working for anyone.”

“Sounds good,” she said, impressed by the first professional conversation they had had in the entire time they worked together.

Genesis studied him as he set up his computer  and then walked off.  The polite conversation unnerved her more than yelling.  Polite conversation let her look at him like a man.  Dangerous.  Yelling kept him at a distance because she found him annoying.  Genesis used a breeze and a pinch of light to lift the bodies off the floor and move them into cold storage.  The small rectangle room contained two rows of metal doors which pulled opened the drawers for the bodies.  The air smelled of decay kept at arm’s length, barely.  Genesis put the parts and pieces of her friends into different drawers.  She paused for a moment to collect her thoughts.  Dora, the witch of NewLife had attacked Genesis, the witch of the Undead.  In the process, three humans Dora had brought into this world were slain.  Wolfe, the witch of Death, had power over them now.  The SoulReading witch, Ronan, remained out of the picture not accepting his powers, so she knew she could not utilize him.  She shook her head, unable to figure it out.

Of all witches, Genesis could only think of two who might have a grudge against her.  She leaned back against the silver doors holding the dead and looked up at the ceiling.  The witch of Death and the witch of the Undead obviously had a tense relationship.  Genesis helped humans escape Wolfe’s grasp when the human willing paid the painful price of becoming undead.  Wolfe did not really appreciate it.  But on the other hand, Wolfe and Genesis had always maintained a professional relationship trusting the will of the King to guide the souls as he saw fit.  She remembered the vision she had had of Wolfe helping the witches with Fortunatus after their battle.  She wanted to find out who those witches were, but she had been unable to see their tattoos.  Maybe she needed to contact Fortunatus.  She knew better than to just jump in his head like she had Vertune.  Vampires did not appreciate it when she exerted such control for no reason.  Genesis would need to call him first, on the phone.

Genesis knew she avoided the truth.  She avoided the truth as she had for many years.  The only witch she really did not get along with on the level of mercenaries and magical fields, the only one who might want her dead was Mara.  Dora be hanged.  She might have cast the spell, but Genesis did not believe for one minute that Dora acted on her own.   She needed to talk with Ronan…having someone who could read souls would be helpful right now.  The man just refused to do his job.  With a sigh, she left the small, cold room.  Maybe with a little applied pressure, like being forced to look at the bodies of the dead innocents, she could convince the wayward witch to take on his responsibilities.

Returning to the lab she pulled the canister with the curse from her duffle without a word to Sebastian who worked on his computer.  She held it up and peered in at the creature lying on its side. Without warning, it leapt at her.  Genesis jumped.  The dish flew out of her hands.  It flipped end over end and she lunged to catch it.  Slipping between her fingers, it shattered on the floor.  The curse gave a high-pitched wail.  Sebastian leapt to his feet and grabbed Genesis.  He jerked her back.  The creature raised its head, scented and zeroed in on her, slithering fast.

Sebastian flung her away from the curse. Surprised by his force, Genesis flew back and hit the floor crashing into a rolling table full of instruments.  Glass, wires, and heavy, sharp tools showered down around her.  The curse screeched again.  It wriggled across the floor towards her.  Genesis crab crawled backwards staying just out of its reach.  Sebastian pulled his gun and fired shot after shot at the creature racing for her.

Shouts filled the air from the merc team.

Genesis bumped into the lab wall and the curse jumped for her.  Landing on her thigh, it burrowed right through her pants and into her flesh with sharp tiny teeth.  Blood spurted as it cut through the muscle of her leg.  Genesis howled in pain.  Sebastian dropped his gun and straddled her, grabbing at the curse. Too late.  It moved inside her leg chewing its way up under her skin towards her side.

“My knife!” Genesis pointed at her boot.

Sebastian ripped it from its sheath and pulled her shirt up.  The curse wormed its way higher, a gross, moving bump under her skin.  Taking a deep breath, Sebastian made one quick slice and flick.  The curse flew across the room and slapped against the glass wall of the lab.  Genesis palmed her gun, aimed over Sebastian’s shoulder, and fired.  The glass shattered; the curse splattered into a thousand tiny red pieces and dripped to the floor.

Genesis leaned her head back, panting.  Sebastian wrapped his hand over the bleeding wound on her side and his other on her thigh.  She looked up at him, her heart racing.  She felt his pulse pounding against her wound.  Time lost its flow as he stared down at her.  She had the overwhelming desire to kiss him and part of her said he felt the same way.  Strange things happened when adrenaline started flowing through human veins.

“What the fuck?” Tell yelled, skidding into the room.

“Told you they were hot for each other,” Dune muttered coming up behind him.  He glanced around the room, gun ready.

Sebastian disengaged himself and stood up.  He held out his hand.  Genesis took it, and he pulled her to her feet.  She wrapped her hand around her side.  The room swam.  Her leg trembled beneath her.

“Go sit and I’ll get the first aid kit,” Sebastian said, ignoring the mercs.

“So?” Tell said.

“Curse was still alive.  It got me and Sebastian cut it out.”

“And you blew it to smithereens?”

“Yeah,” Genesis hissed as she moved over to a chair.

Sebastian asked her to stand as soon as she sat down.  She grabbed his arm and pulled herself to her unstable feet.  He wrapped a bandage tight around her leg, the least damaged part.  Done, he had her hold up her shirt.  A warm, wet, bloody mess soaked the shirt.   A sudden rush of desire flooded Genesis from her people.  She pushed it back, fought it down.  As it waned, a burning anger at Dora replaced it.  Genesis battled her people into submission.  Sebastian looked up at her as she left only enough of herself to keep her standing and commanded her people to stand and wait.  Not all was reviled.  Stand and wait.  One unspoken order at a time, Genesis returned to herself, weak, panting for breath.  She opened her eyes to Sebastian’s intense stare.

“You were gone, as real as death, still standing, but gone.”

“Not totally,” Genesis said.

“Where did you go?”

“To save Dora’s life.  All my people were about to descend on her as soon as the sun set.”

“Why did you stop them?”  He dropped a soaked handful of paper towels in the trash and grabbed some more.  He had cut clean, but the wound bled copiously from the chomping the curse had done on the way up.  Genesis hoped she stayed on her feet, but she felt more and more light headed every moment.  Weightlessness soaked her body, replacing the lost blood.

“Cause there is more to this than her,” she whispered. “I don’t want her blood on my hands.”

“She’s going green,” James said.

Sebastian turned to the open the kit.  His phone rang.  He looked at it and frowned.

“It’s okay, I can wait,” Genesis said.

“Like hell,” he looked down at her blood drenched side.  He pulled out some fresh paper towels, soaked them in alcohol and began cleaning the wound.  Genesis gritted her teeth against the sting.  The sharp smell of the alcohol cleared her head.  The phone rang again.  With a wave, the mercs went back on guard.  The phone kept ringing and then went silent as the voice mail picked it up.  After a moment it started ringing again.  Sebastian swore, pressed gauze to her side, and flipped open his phone with his other hand.  He held the phone in one hand and the gauze against her side in the other.  They stood very close and Genesis tried to look anywhere but at his face.

“Hiya babe,” the girl who had called in the SUV said.  Genesis could hear the entire conversation.  The girl sounded drunk or like she had just woken up.

“Janie, I’m in the middle of something…”

“You’re always in the middle of something.”

Defiantly drunk.  Genesis wondered what kind of sad life she lived which required her to be drinking so late, or so early.  She tried not to listen in, but she could not help it since he stood right there with his hand keeping pressure on her side.  She tried to mind her own business, this girl seemed a distraction from everything, standing this close to him seemed a distraction from everything.  Genesis took Sebastian’s hand off the gauze.  He glanced at her.  She nodded him away pressing the wound closed herself.  She had bled before and would again.  She leaned on the desk as Sebastian moved off talking quietly.

A deep down, bone weary exhaustion flowed over her.

“Genesis…” her people hissed to her.  She dropped into their embrace letting go of the conversation on the phone, letting go of the distraction named Sebastian.   Since the attack she had not had any chance to rest.  It had been one healing after another followed by fights, arguments, and nightmares.

Her other leg twitched, the one with the original wound.  Something crawled under the skin of her shoulder.

“No,” she moaned.

Sebastian stopped mid-sentence his back to her.  He turned.  Genesis felt sweat wash over her.  She gripped the edge of the desk with white knuckles.

“I gotta go now, Janie.”

“Bastian!” Genesis screamed as the two remaining curses attacked.

“Was that a woman?” Janie shrieked loud enough for Genesis to hear her.

Sebastian flipped the phone shut and rushed to her.  Genesis grabbed his strong shoulder with a bloody hand.  The red stained gauzes stuck to her side, glued in place with her blood.  Pain washed over her again and again.

“By the gods, I am so tired.”

Her shoulder ripped open.  The tiny curse screamed in her ear. She clenched her teeth unwilling to scream back.  Her arm went dead and she gripped Sebastian’s shoulder as hard as she ground her teeth.  She lost her ability to hold onto the desk.  The other curse tore out her leg.  It gave out.  Sebastian caught her and lowered her to the floor.

“You’re a real bitch you know that, right?” He growled at her, “Why do you have to be so tall and fit?”

“At least I’m not an asshole,” she gasped

“No, just fired.”

“Like I need the job.”

“Ready to get them out?”

“No.”

Sebastian gripped her hand and she poured every ounce of cold killing power into her veins moving against the two curses at the same time she drew on Sebastian’s core.  She did not scream in pain, not anymore, not letting the witch who did this win.  The pain bordered on unbearable, making her want to vomit.  Instead she pulled her whole being into her TrueSelf, her magical, before-the-King, in all her power, self.  She pulled the curse in with her and, with the help of Sebastian’s strength, she forced the curse from her body in a violent explosion.  Genesis returned from her center and blacked out.

Darkness:

Janie threw the phone against the wall.  A black hatred for Sebastian, his promises, and this new bitch he slept with filled her.  How dare he blow her off?  Call her self-focused?  Cheat on her?  Janie had heard the woman scream.  She had heard her scream Bastian’s name, his nick name, not even his full name.  Janie boiled at the thought.  She knew she had to more beautiful than Bastian’s new girl, just had to be.  Janie worked out all the time.  She got her hair and make-up done regularly, her nails were always perfect and her wardrobe the most fashionable.  But more than good looks, Janie knew people.  She was good with faces and names.  Sebastian needed her at his side.  He had to have a good woman to help him in his father’s business and now! this woman cut in on Janie’s territory.

She lit a cigarette, number two this week, and picked up her phone.  Two of the rhinestones had come off where it had struck the wall.  Janie made a note that she would need to get a new cover and flipped through her contacts list.  Before she could find who she needed her phone rang.  She answered it even though she did not recognize the number.  Maybe yelling at a sales call would help her feel better.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Janie,” the voice on the other end reminded Janie of silk, chocolate silk, smooth and soft, “you don’t know me, but through means I won’t disclose right now, I have become aware of a mutual problem.  One I may know more about than you do.”

“Oh yeah?  What’s that?”

“Sebastian and Genesis.”

A chill and a thousand questions raced through Janie.

“So that’s her name?”

“Yes.  She is a very powerful woman, not one you will be able to compete with, without help.”

“So I suppose your offering to help me?” Janie could not believe her luck.  Her stars must be aligned.  She put her hand on her hip waiting.

“That is exactly what I am offering, because I know what it feels like to lose someone you love so very much.  I know what it feels like to lose someone you love to this woman, specifically.  This Genesis Dunlear takes over what is not hers.  That is her way of getting what she wants.”

“The bitch took your man too, didn’t she?”

“Yes, she did. Meet me in one hour at the coffee shop on 7th street.  You know which one I am talking about?”

“Yeah, the 24/7 one that’s underground?”

“Yes.”

The silken voice was gone.  Janie looked down at the phone with a frown and then walked off.  How was this random woman going to help her get her Bastian back?  At least it would get her some coffee, which she really needed.

After primping quickly, Janie headed out to the coffee bar, Underground.  She ordered their world famous Jitter Bug – a sweet concoction with enough espresso to keep you up all night or all day in Janie’s case – and found a seat near the back of bar where she sipped the hot coffee, waiting for a woman she had never met.

She let her mind wander into dark daydreams of how this Genesis had stolen Bastian away from her, and what she would do to her when she met her.  She would destroy the woman.  Destroy her bank account, her reputation and her life.  She could kiss her good credit good-bye and by the time Janie finished with her everyone would know just what kind of man-stealer she was.

“Janie?”

Janie looked up to see a tiny woman, tiny in build and height, a true size 0.  Shiny black hair, streaked white in the front, framed a fair face with a dangerous glint in her eyes.  She came from the same part of the world where many  nightmares and dark desires found their life’s blood.  She looked like a girl who lived in Transylvania or some such exotic place.  Her outfit, from skinny jeans, black ankle boots from Jimmy Choo with four inch heels, to a gray cardi and a mustard yellow scarf, impressed Janie.  She recognized the boots from Choo’s brand new winter collection even though she could not locate the name in the dark corner of the bar.  The clothing looked expensive enough and the woman’s Prada bag belonged to a limited edition line which cost more than most people made in half a year.  Janie was ready to listen to this woman.

“My name is Mara,” the little woman held out her hand and Janie stood and shook it.

“So, tell me who this Genesis is and how she broke your heart,” Janie said as they settled around the table.  She liked thinking of it that way, it made her feel more romantic.  She pushed away the bitterness caused by someone else horning in on her territory so she could focus on her sense of lost love.

“Many years ago, Genesis took away the man I loved.  She just stepped in and as if by magic, he was gone.  He died before we could be reunited and I have never forgiven her.  She is like that.  Men are drawn to her as if she had a magical power, and she uses that to trap wealthy men.”

“You said many years ago… Does that mean she is older than Sebastian?”

“Yes, by quite a few years,” Mara said with a sigh and a shake of her head.

“You said you could help me, how?”

“This is how I will help you,” Mara said.  She reached into the beautiful bag on her arm and removed a heavy looking package.   Janie watched her un-wrapped a wide silver choker engraved with a strange script.

“What is it?”

“My own form of magic, if you will.  Go to where Genesis and Sebastian are working and find a way to slip this around Genesis’ neck.  When you do this she will lose her power over Sebastian, and he will see her as she truly is and believe me, he will not want her then.  You will be there, having broken her spell over him, he will fly back to your arms very readily.”

Janie reached for the necklace.  She did not typically believe in voodoo magic, but the necklace was pretty ugly and she knew once she got near Sebastian again he would forget this Genesis.

Mara grabbed her hand in a surprisingly strong grip.

“You must do this within the next 24 hours.  The power of the Necklace will begin to dispel after that.  It will take you a few hours to get there, so once you arrive you need to move quickly.”

Janie nodded, “I understand.”

…Join me, next Friday, for the continuation of the tale…

Setting Expectations.  As a small business owner and a writer, I have learned the hard way how important it is to set correct expectations.  From explaining exactly what I expect of my staff, to telling my customers what to expect at sales, to correctly describing my writing style, setting expectations correctly can make or break you.  I have hired people on who thought the job would be easy, only to find out that 14 years experience makes it look easy, when it’s not.  I now have every potential employee come in and do the job for a few hours before choosing to hire them to set their expectations and mine.  The business I and my husband own is a set of designer consignment boutiques.  We have worked diligently to help our customers understand we are not thrift stores.  You will never come in and find things for a few dollars.  You can purchase a Louis Vuitton handbag for about half of the original cost.

Now, as a writer, I’m learning about setting the expectation of my reader.  I’m not fond of the term paranormal, but it’s where most readers would put my stories because I have characters who are witches and vampires.  I tend to think of them more as thrillers with a fantastical flare.  But, if I want to find readers, I’m going to have to communicate in a way which sets their expectations correctly.

I experienced a great example of this last week when I celebrated my 32 birthday!  Go me!  When my hubby asked what I wanted for my birthday, I told him I wanted a cheesy movie night.  That means renting cheesy action flicks, buying wine and cheese, and stuffing ourselves with great movies and food.  I chose Cowboys and Aliens and Killer Elite.  I was very excited about both films.  I walked away happy with one and disappointed with the other.  I blame my disappointment on bad expectation setting.

Cowboys and Aliens was exactly what the previews led me to believe.  Cowboys and Aliens.  Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford both played their parts with their usual charisma.  I loved it.  It was cheesy, silly, well-done, and balanced all the action and drama just right.  You would never go into this movie expecting the next Shawshank Redemption.  You went into it expecting cheese.  It delivered.

Killer Elite.  Groan.  When you put Jason Stathem and Clive Owen in a film, I’m so there.  It promises action out the wazoo!  The previews confirmed this assumption with plenty of scenes of the two duking it out.  I was very excited to see this movie because I chalk my rediscovery of action flicks to Jason Stathem’s first Transporter movie.  He rarely fails to deliver.  I also tend to enjoy Clive Owen’s films and his ability to play a morose anti-hero you can’t help but love.

Killer Elite was not a cheesy action flick.  In fact, it was a political thriller.  The kind you have to pay super close attention to when you watch it cause most characters don’t have names and you need to recognize someone 45 minutes later after only seeing him once.  There are lots of names, faces, and facts to keep together and all of them introduced fast and not knitted together until near the end of the film.  I  also felt like the pacing was a bit off.  Long moments of nothing were you had to really listen, broken up with the expected and anticipated fight scenes between Stathem and Owen.  Not Cheesy.

Looking back on the two films, I am sure Killer Elite was the better, or more worthwhile film.  But, I was disappointed when  I saw it.  I felt like my expectations, based on the previews, had been mislead.  I felt like they should have worked the previews with less action and more talking so I knew I was getting into a political thriller when I started the film.  I would have eaten less cheese and drunk less wine, so I could pay attention.  The only good part came when I did some reasearch and found out Killer Elite was based on a book called the Feather Men by Ranulph Fiennes.  After reading the sample, I purchased it for my Kindle right away.  It starts out swinging and doesn’t stop.  I’m really enjoying it, but then again, I knew what I was getting into when I started it.

When I finish, I’ll let you know what I think.

Looking for cheese, I will pick Cowboys and Aliens over Killer Elite.  The movie delivered exactly what it promised.  And, once again, I have learned the valuable lesson of expectation setting and hope to learn how to do it better myself!  First, I better overcome my personal hurdle of my work being paranormal/urban fantasy…

Quote of the Weekend

“Tis now the very witching time of night,

When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out

Contagion to this world.”

- William Shakespeare

…Back to the Beginning…

…Last time in Inheritance…

Alone.  She woke up, without even a vampire to guard her.  A wave of self-pity washed over her.  Genesis rolled out of the bed and stumbled to her feet feeling like shit, feeling like she had the worse hang-over ever minus the fun of not remembering the party – this party haunted her waking and sleeping.  Her phone sat on the table flashing at her.  She flipped it open and found a text from Vash: Get moving ASAP.  I’m checking on the curse.  If I didn’t know better I’d say you cursed yourself.

“On the same page, Vash,” she said to herself.  After changing into clean clothes, again, Genesis rolled her shoulders loosening up.  She checked her holsters and guns.  The three wounds, which had reopened, were pink scars for now, but the curses still rested within her.  She could feel them, waiting, biding their time.  Genesis pulled her black coat from a chair where someone had dropped it.  Slipping into it, she stepped out the door.  Vertune leaned against the wall and waited for her.  She had not felt out for him.  Genesis just assumed everyone had left her.

“I’m an idiot,” she whispered to herself.

She wondered how many vampires waited for her to come to them.  For a split second she opened herself up to all her vampires.  She dipped herself in the comfort of their voices, in the comfort of their unabated, simmering anger at the attack on her.  Something tickled her mind.  Something told her she missed a critical piece of information…from Fortunatus.  But what?

“What’s going on?”  Genesis pulled herself back into corporate headquarters setting Fortunatus aside for the moment.

“Sebastian requested you call him when you emerged.”

Irritation rose in her.  She did not want to call him for a situation report.  She was a witch, damn it, she should be running this thing, not some childish, male human.  Muttering to herself, Genesis pulled out her cell phone.  She texted Vash first with an update on her situation: I’m up and ready to go.  I’ll keep you posted.  Send.  She flipped to contacts and scrolled to Sebastian’s name.  A desire to return to the permanent night of LeVidal filled her.  She never spent much time there, why did she want to now?  Regardless, the desire welled up in her.  She longed to return to the court of the Five, to dance with Nicholas as he tried to woo her, wanting her power to increase his own.  Genesis wished she could visit the Draught and be with her people, good and evil, at least they were hers. They called to her.  They wanted her with them.  They wanted her where they had the power to protect her, and she almost gave into their seductive call.

Genesis rubbed her eye and focused.  She had a problem to sort out; running away did not qualify as problem solved.  She hit the call button.

“Finally decided to join this little expedition and do your job?’ Sebastian started without preamble.

“Fuck you,” She said.  If she wanted to slit her own throat, she could not have done a better job.  Now who sounded like a childish, female human?

“We’re in the basement and plan to leave in fifteen minutes.”

Genesis flipped the phone shut.

“Come with me,” she said to Vertune.

“As you wish,” Vertune fell in beside her.

“Have you heard from Rail Quinn?”

“Yes.  The sight is secure, but he reports strange lines of magic.”

“Not surprising,” they stepped into an elevator and she punched the basement button.  They rode in silence to the bottom of the corporate offices. The elevator doors opened to a room of shadows and shelves.  From its depths she heard voices, and they headed that way.

Sebastian’s new point of frustration became clear as Genesis approached.  She smiled.  Tell Pogues’ mercenary team stood around a table piled high with guns, ammo, and supplies, gearing up and prepping weapons.  Sebastian stood beside Tell – a man with a weathered map of a face – who ignored him.

“Hey! There’s the lady I’ve been waiting for all my life.”

Genesis stepped up and clasped the short man’s callused hand.  From his cropped dark hair and beard to his worn down cowboy boots, Tell was a welcome sight.

“How are you, Tell?”

“About to get better.  Vash said you’ve got some nasty shit to deal with.”

“Yep,” She nodded to the rest of the team.  “You’ve all met Sebastian?

They all nodded and Genesis felt a sick satisfaction at their lack of enthusiasm.

“We also had a little talk with him about keeping up and covering our backs,” Tell said.

“Good.  Well, get me up to speed, Boss man.” Genesis said with a smile.

Sebastian frowned at her as he started, “The maps of the site have all been downloaded into your head gear along with your need-to-know file about the experiments going on there.”

Genesis shook her head, “Like I said in the meeting, there are no zombies left.  We need to watch our backs for the units used to attack me, and we need to look at the magical lines and see who they trace back to.”

“We can’t know for sure that all the zombies are dead.”

“Boy, you are skating on some real thin ice…” Dune, a sandy-haired maniac with a special affinity for knives, said. “If Genesis says there are no zombies, there are no zombies.  You don’t argue with a witch.”

Genesis held up her hand and took mercy on Sebastian before his team hog-tied him and left him in the basement.  The time had come to re-instigate some professionalism.

“I want to remind everyone that this is a company run operation, and the company’s footing the bill.  We protect their interests first, and we follow Sebastian.  I have some vamps in place to keep the location secure until we arrive.”

“You didn’t tell me that,” Sebastian said.

Genesis swallowed a million snide remarks beginning with his too clean hands and ending with something about his mother.  She would not let him start another yelling match.

“I did.  Yesterday, when I returned, I had Vertune send a team of vampires to protect the location.  I mentioned it to your father in the meeting this afternoon.”

At the mention of his name, Vertune shifted from the shadows.  Tell hissed and brought his gun up. Genesis laid a hand on the barrel.

“This time we’re on the same side,” she said.

Tell hesitated not taking his eyes off the vampire.  He lowered his weapon.

Sebastian looked from the vampire, to the team, to Genesis. “You, how,” he stopped, shaking his head, “How dare you go against the policies of this company and endanger the lives of our staff by summoning him here!” He bellowed.

“I didn’t know what kind of danger I, or the company, was in, Sebastian,” she explained. “I called someone who could handle whatever I found here.”

Vertune bowed at the compliment.

Sebastian grew red in the face.  He stepped up to her, “You had no right to go against our policies, in fact, as a paid employee you had the responsibility to uphold our policies.  I don’t care if you’re the witch of the fucking world,” he spit all over her face as he screamed at her, “when this is done your fired, you bitch!”

“And you…” he rounded on Vertune, “get the hell out of my building.  I uninvited you, or whatever.”

Vertune stared at him without moving, instead he looked at Genesis.

“She’s not in charge!”

Genesis told him to go, mentally.  The vampire bowed and disappeared.

“Anything else we need to know that you might have decided not to tell us lowly humans?” Sebastian said with a maddening glimmer in his eyes.

“No.” Genesis held her ground unflinching in his storm of anger.  She felt tears surface.  She felt the sting of injustice.  To be yelled at by the Boss’s pampered son, while she had been forced to watch her friends be killed, and then been attacked by a large group of well trained men, stung.  But, she had disobeyed company policy which she had promised to uphold, and she had forgotten to tell them about securing the site with vampires, specifically.  Damn him again.  Damn him for being right.

“Good, then finish gearing up and let’s go.”

“I have to get some information from my office.  I will be right back.”

Tell raised an eyebrow at her, but she ignored him.  She kept her emotions sealed while she rode the elevator up to her floor.  She stalked down a nondescript hall and opened the door to her tiny office.  She shut and locked the door behind her.  With a deep breath, she leaned back against the door.  Tears spilled from her eyes and a broken sob escaped her lips.  All the pain, sorrow, anger, and fear of the last few days spilled out of her.  She knew if they had gotten off to a better start, she and Sebastian could have gotten along.  That would never happen now and she did not want it.  She hated him for his disrespect and his disregard for what had happened to her.  Unbidden, the image of him holding her hand during the pain of the healing, giving himself to be her center of strength, broke through to her heart.  She sank to the floor weeping with her tattooed hand over her mouth.

Fighting against herself she regained control of her emotions.  Exhaustion haunted her and her stomach growled.  She pushed herself up off the floor.  She hated him – hated him for making her cry, for calling her on her mistakes, and for yelling at her.  She hated him for not respecting her for who she was.  Genesis paused.  Did she think so highly of herself that she hated a man for not thinking highly of her, too?

“He’s right, I am a bitch,” she said to the ceiling.

She felt kicked in the guts.  Sebastian’s complaints were founded in truth.  He might not have expressed them in the best manner, but he was right.  He was right.  Genesis took a stuttering breath and promised herself to do better.  She promised herself and Sebastian she would be the person she needed to be.  Professional and mature.

Genesis went to her backup laptop and logged in to the Main-net of the company.  She downloaded the latest files and video’s from the experiment and headed out.  Her stomach growled again as she returned to the basement.

“Ready?” Tell said.

“Yeah, but I need to stop for food.”

“Rickie’s driving.”

“Rick? Food?” She turned to the kid, not really a kid but the youngest guy on the merc team.

“Whatever you want, babe!” Rickie called from under the hood of their Suburban.

Sebastian sat inside working on his laptop.  He ignored her.  Genesis grabbed up a couple of extra pistols, two boxes of ammo, a duffle, and a sawed of shotgun.

“You riding upfront?” Rickie asked as he slammed the hood shut.  He wiped black grim from his fingers with a dirty rag and then stuffed it into the back pocket of his jumpsuit.

“Sure,” Genesis said as she tested the weight and feel of the shotgun.  Pleased with it, she put it in her duffle, carried it to the front seat, and stuffed it under the chair.  Behind her Dune passed cash to dark skinned Leonidas – Leon – and gave Rickie the finger.  Genesis raised an eyebrow in question and Dune shrugged innocently.

“What’s up?” Genesis asked.

“Dune didn’t think I could get a hottie like you up front, and after that spat he figured you and the Boss would be all over it.  We didn’t and we won the cash,” Rickie explained.

Genesis shook her head, “We are never going to be ‘all over it’.  And why wouldn’t I sit with Rickie?”

“Cause the rest of us are way better looking,” red-headed James stuck his head out of the back seat of the Suburban and winked at her.

“That’s not an argument I am taking sides in,” Genesis said, holding up her hands and backing away.

“Are we going?” Sebastian said.

James rolled his eyes and climbed back in.  The others followed.  Genesis buckled up in the front passenger seat.  She tried not to smile at the grumbling men and the hunched, miserable, angry Sebastian.  He had a long way to go to earn their respect.  Maybe he did not really care about their respect; he had the checkbook after all, which obligated them to obey him.

“Where to babe-a-licious?” Rickie asked with a smile.

“Drive through and then hit the highway and go south,” Genesis looked down at her watch, sunset soon, “we should get there around dawn.”

“Earlier with my modifications.”

“Good.”

“How did you get back so fast? Weren’t you attacked less than 24 hours ago?  Didn’t you say you were unconscious until early this morning?” Sebastian bullied her.

“My vampires brought me back, they move much faster than humans,” Genesis said with utter calm.  She refused to be angry at him again.

Everyone but Sebastian ordered food.  Genesis could feel his tension mounting at the delay, but Rickie was right.  Once they hit the freeway, they made great time.  Genesis wished she could cast a calming spell on Sebastian, but decided he could stew since she could not.  The sun began to set and Genesis closed her eyes and fell asleep.  As she drifted off the headlights faded to a world of shadowy nightmares.

She beat against the shield harder and harder drawing on all her power.  It did not flex.  On the other side of the shield she watched Phil and quiet Sarah ripped apart by her zombie.  A zombie she controlled, supposedly.  She turned as Mr. Byron, the oldest and head of the team, slammed against the shield.  He looked at her with pleading blood-shot eyes until the zombie ripped his spine out.  Genesis sank to the floor with a wailing scream.

“Shit,” someone yelled.

Genesis’ eyes flew open as the Suburban swerved in the empty, dark highway.

“Report?” she snapped.

“Report? You fucking scared the fucking shit out of me!” Rickie said as he righted the Suburban and returned to his lane.

“Sorry,” Genesis said sheepishly.  She glanced back to men with wide eyes except for Sebastian who looked at her like she put on a show – a demand for pity and preference.

Genesis took a deep breath, resisting the urge to scream, yell, and rip apart Sebastian’s arrogant face.  Instead, she pulled out her laptop, plugged in her head phones, and began researching the moments before the zombie attacked by watching the security videos.  Nothing new came to light other than to confirm something magical blocked her and the cameras could not record it.  At least it gave her something to do to stay awake.

The Suburban filled with the sounds of snoring and heavy breathing as the mercs fell asleep.  Genesis dozed on and off but never let herself fall asleep again.  She would have to talk to Dream about her nightmares if they did not stop soon.  A sudden, sharp pain flashed through her side and she gasped doubling over.

Rickie glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, but Sebastian spoke, “Genesis?”

She felt it this time, the poison inside of her eating the healing.  She located it and pushed it back with her own cold power.  Sebastian leaned up and touched her shoulder.  She sensed him, deep down, tied to the healing the curse attacked.  It sensed him, too, and pushed harder against the wound.  Desperate to win, Genesis grabbed his hand, lifted her shirt, and pressed his warm palm to the scarred skin on her side.  Electrical currents flowed from his touch.  She fought for breath as he joined forces with her own magic and pushed back the curse.  It moved.  It moved in her, away from the cold she hacked at it with, away from Sebastian’s soul tied to the healing.  She pushed harder against it, wanting to drive it out and away from herself.

Her whole body arched against her chair and she vomited.  Something wet slapped against the dashboard and Rickie yelped.  Sebastian hissed in her ear.  Something dark slithered in the vomit.  A knife whistled past her ear and blossomed in the curse pinning it to the dashboard.  Her side spasmed, trembling and throbbing.  Sebastian pressed his hand harder against the soft pink scar.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” Genesis panted, “but there are more of them in me.”

Sebastian pulled his hand away and Genesis slumped back in her chair covered in sweat.  She eyed the creature while she caught her breath.

“Something’s not right here,” she said.

“Other than vomit and a little creature on my dash?” Rickie said.

“Just drive, Rickie,” Genesis said.

“What are you talking about? Sebastian said, still leaning over her shoulder.

Genesis quick cleaned her laptop with some paper towel handed up from the back.  She opened up the video of the zombie attack.  Not wanting to watch it, not wanting to share it with Sebastian, she pushed play anyway.  Silence did not hide the horror of the video.  Watching it to see something else, flinching at the attack, tears coursed down Genesis face.  The attack came, the shield fell, she slaughter her zombie and removed the infestation.  Then the second attack began.

“Damn…” Sebastian whispered as he watched her take on the fifty-strong merc force.

“There!” Genesis leaned forward over the screen.  She rewound the video and slowed it down.  When the last man fell, the bodies faded and a shimmer passed over the screen.  Genesis watched herself convulse and fall to the ground. Three black slug-like creatures slithered out of the shadows and crawled in her wounds.  She lay unconscious on the floor and the video rolled on.

“That damned witch infected me with these thing,” Genesis felt her blood boil, “What the hell is going on?”

“Someone wants you dead, or almost dead,” Sebastian said.  He sat back down with a frown and crossed his arms.

“Anyone have something I can put this thing in?” Genesis yelled to the back.

“Coming right up,”

She caught a canister as it flew towards the windshield and scrapped the creature off the knife.  After she screwed the lid on tight, she stowed it in her pack.  She wiped the dash and the knife clean, before passing it back to Dune.  Genesis closed her laptop and turned in her seat to Sebastian.  The mercs pointedly busied themselves with going back to sleep.

“Thank you.  I owe you one,” she said holding out her hand, hoping for a truce.

“You owe me more than one,” he muttered and pulled out his tablet to work.

Genesis frowned.  She faced front and watched the white strips of the highway pass under the Suburban in a monochromatic rhythm.  She wondered if something deeper than their less than professional meeting frustrated Sebastian.  Something she set off, but not something truly her fault.  The breach of company policy on vampires reared its ugly head.  She could not fault him for standing by his company and distrusting her for ignoring the law.  Actions and consequences were inescapable.  Genesis sighed with the realization she would have to accept responsibility for her choice.

Sebastian’s phone rang.  Several sleepy mercs grunted.  Genesis could not help but listen in as he answered it.

“Hey honey,” he said, “yeah, I miss you too.”

Silence.  Genesis could not hear what “honey” said.

“I was, but something came up.  I should be home in a few days, once I get this mess cleaned up.”

Again with the other end of the line.

“Nope.  Just a stupid foul up, I’m sure.  I’ll get it cleaned up, and then we can take some time off, maybe go to that beach your always talking about.”

Genesis stopped listening.  Even after watching the video, even after helping her fight that curse inside her, he still thought of this as a stupid “foul up” he would be able to clean up in a few days.  She could not believe it.  She leaned back in her chair, thankful no one else possessed the power to see in the dark.  No one else would see her silent tears in the dead of the night.  Just to be sure, she turned her head and stared out the window as the gunmetal-gray landscape raced by.  Genesis could not remember the last time she cried this often or this easily.  It made her feel weak and out of control.  She hated feeling out of control.

“Fucking piece of shit,” Rickie whispered to no one in particular, but Genesis had to agree with him.

The rest of the trip involved sleeping and ignoring Sebastian talking with his girlfriend.  The two other curses laid low.  Good.  Sebastian’s touch, his help, sat at the bottom of her wish list, right now.  The remaining few hours of the trip seemed like a forever living hell.  The tension built in the Suburban until Rickie pulled into the parking lot of the experiment site.  The mercs spilled out more willing to face whatever waited out there than the tension between Sebastian and Genesis.

…Join me, next Friday, for the continuation of the tale…

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First things first, this contains SPOILERS! If you have not read all three books, you may want to wait to read this review.
I hesitated to start the Hunger Games. My sister gave it to me, she loved it. But, I was afraid to start it. Not only was I busy writing, editing and living life, but I was beta reading, reading indie authors, and had just started the Time Traveler’s Wife, again. I was afraid I wouldn’t like Hunger Games. I thought it was an extended Lottery story. It was not until I talked with the excited checkout girl at Best Buy, who wore a Mockingjay pin, that my mind was changed, and boy am I glad it was!
I drank this story in, savored it one painful moment at a time while deflecting my sister’s demand for it back. :) I was hooked when Katniss took her sister’s place in the Hunger Games. I was a fan when I realized this book was all about an enslaved people’s war against a spoiled government. This story is so much bigger than just kids fighting to the death. The use of fashion to communicate the anger of the citizens, Katniss’ struggle to find herself, and even the love triangle are beautifully executed by Mrs. Collins.
At first, I was not fond of Katniss being pulled out of the action so regularly due to battle wounds, but I respect the realism it brought to the story. I loved the passion, sacrifice, selfishness, love, and brutality of these books. Katniss’ choice to kill Coin in the end and free her people of exactly the same replacement government won me over. It was a bold move and a powerful moment. This book made me cry, cheer, ache and wonder even when I walked away. Read it soon if you have not and share your own thoughts, please!

“Like an apple on a tree, Hiding out behind the leaves, I was difficult to reach, But you picked me, Like a shell upon a beach, Just another pretty piece, I was difficult to see, But you picked me, Yeah you picked me.”

 

 

Sundance is beautiful, un-earthly, graceful, and amazing.  When I saw pictures of Alison Sudol, the lead singer for A Fine Frenzy, I knew I had found my Sundance.  Her hair would need to be turned more golden and less red, but other than that, she is exactly what I imagined my Sundance to look like.  Who, but a beauty inside and out, can calm Ronan’s heart and hold his hand as he faces off with the dark?

Many of Alison’s song have a bit of sadness to them, even the love songs, and they always remind me of my characters.  Some you have met, and like this happy love song quoted above, that just makes me smile, so their love just makes me smile. Others you will meet some day later, in other tales, and their love has more longing and pain.  Something just out of reach, just lost, never quite gained.

 

Quote of the Weekend

Mr. Darcy: So this is your opinion of me. Thank you for explaining so fully. Perhaps these offences might have been overlooked had not your pride been hurt by my honesty…
Elizabeth Bennet: My pride? 
Mr. Darcy:  …in admitting scruples about our relationship. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your circumstances? 
Elizabeth Bennet:  And those are the words of a gentleman. From the first moment I met you, your arrogance and conceit, your selfish disdain for the feelings of others made me realize that you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry. 
Mr. Darcy: Forgive me, madam, for taking up so much of your time.

- Pride and Prejudice

(I willingly admit, Genesis and Sebastian are my first attempt at a Mr. Darcy/Elizabeth Bennet type relationship.)

…Back to the Beginning…

…Last time in Inheritance…

She woke up and knew a vampire sat in her room.  The last of her senses on high alert relaxed.  They relaxed for the first time since the sun rose this morning.  She felt much more comfortable with an undead present than she had felt with only humans around.

“My apologies, Mistress, I alone was able to follow your commands during this time of day.  I came underground and up through the basement.”

“I doubt Calvin would be too pleased knowing a vampire made it through all of his careful precautions.”

“A human would never succeed in penetrating this establishment.  You designed it’s protection with great fineness.  We appreciate your careful discretion with your knowledge of our weaknesses.”

“I am not the enemy of undead, Vertune,” she tired of feeling at odds with her own people. “But I won’t participate in the evils of my predecessors.”

She sighed and said to herself, “To once in my life not to feel torn between the two.”

“You have our respect and obedience, Mistress.  You need little else.”

“Just sleep without nightmares,” Genesis said, knowing they had been there, just on the edge, ready to push in as soon as she let down her guard.

“That is not in my power to provide, but I will watch while you sleep.  Also, your cellular phone has vibrated many times, and I do not think your friend Vash wishes to speak with me.”

“I doubt it, Vertune.  When darkness comes, send Rail Quinn and the others back to the experiment site.  I want it secured until I can return and look at the magical lines.  Thank them for bringing me here before dawn.”

Vertune bowed his head.  He held up her cell phone before messaging Rail Quinn from his own.  Genesis sat up with a groan her clothing stiff and itchy with dried blood.  She reeked to high heaven.  The healer had dropped off new clothes, Genesis saw.  She decided a shower needed to happen before more sleep.  Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she tried to stand up.  They gave out from under her, and she stumbled and dropped back down into the bed.  Vertune pulled her up.

“Shower,” she said.

The vampire helped her peel off her ruined clothes.  She sensed his desire as he stripped away the blood soaked clothing.  What a high for a vamp to drink the blood of the witch with power over his very nature, but Vertune, old and not Taken, kept control over his lust.  They both knew he had no power or will to disobey her, and she was not about to share her blood with him.

Turning the water on as hard and hot as she wounds could stand it, Genesis scrubbed the blood, mud, and sweat off her body.  After she washed her long, iridescent, white hair three times, she stood under the spray of water and tried to take stock.  During the attack, she felt something abnormal, so she went back in her mind and tested it.  One of her vampires almost died.  But who?  Genesis felt out with magic and found him.  Blackened.  Bruised. Broken.  Sunlight had eaten through his pale skin and burned him deep down.  But why?  She called to him, spoke his name, covered him in soft, deep darkness.

“Fortunatus,” she called his name remembering the vampire who switched sides.  She felt anger and fear.  Not fear for himself but fear for another, a rare feeling to sense in a vampire.   Her heart trembled for her vampire who battled so hard against his nature since his mortal enemy forgave him.  Would he survive this burning?

Genesis reeled back, bumping into the back wall of the shower and the cold faucet.  An image came to her from Fortunatus.  Everything she had sensed was the past, was yesterday.  Even as the black clad mercenaries attacked her, someone he cared about came under attacked.  As night fell, a being of perfect purity came to the dying vampire and held him close, wounded.  Genesis had missed it.  She should have been there for Fortunatus, but she had been unconscious while he lay dying.  Genesis could sense her, the perfect being, painfully perfect to Genesis, the Necromancer.  Fortunatus moaned as the angel gathered him to herself.   But, a deep joy filled Fortunatus as he stared into the eyes of this angelic woman.  Glittering tears fell on his face; the white being cradled him in her arms.  To her great surprise, Genesis saw another witch.  Wolfe, the witch of Death, who suffered misunderstanding much like herself, arrived with his pale horse trailing behind him.  He made his way to a group of unconscious witches.  What the hell?  The witch of Death and what appeared to be an angel pleaded with the King to save these people.  The images faded and the water turned icy cold.  Genesis shook her head, unsure of what she had seen and decided to deal with it later.  She could sense life returning to Fortunatus.  She smiled to herself glad he had been shown mercy, yet again.  She treasured his love for others as a rare jewel even among the Requiem vampires.

Genesis felt her poise and humanity return as she stepped out of the shower.  A sense of stability followed it, and Genesis breathed deep of the humid air, alive.  She looked at herself in the mirror noting the new scars, still pink, on the non-tattooed parts of her skin.

She found clean clothing on the counter and thanked Vertune for leaving them for her.  After she pulled on a dark navy halter top and underwear, Genesis brought the pants and socks out and climbed back in bed.  Warm, soft blankets enveloped her.  Vertune had put clean sheets on the bed as much for his own sanity as her sanitary needs.  Genesis lifted her wet hair up on the pillow to let it dry.  Settled, she picked up her phone and dialed Vash’s number.

“What happened?  I’ve got vampires agitated as hell, agitated enough to call me.  I have a zombie… a zombie! attacking and you simply drop off the planet.”

Genesis held the phone away from her ear.

“Meet me here at corporate in two hours.  You’re gonna need to hear this and I need some more sleep.”

“How bad were you hurt?” Vash’s tone softened.

“Bad,” Genesis ran her hand through her damp hair.  Her throat tightened and she swallowed the desire to cry.  Where had her poise and humanity fled?

“Shit,” Vash whispered. “Okay, I’ll meet you soon.  Who’s with you?”

“Vertune.”

“Tell him if anything happens to you between now and then, I’m staking his heart to the wall.”

“Will do.”

Vash hung up.

“He says hi,” Genesis put the phone down.

“I very much doubt that.”

Genesis smiled, pushing away the fear, and fell asleep with a vampire keeping guard over her.  In her dreams, she watched her friends get eaten again and again.  Over and over she struggled against the magic blocking her, but never overcame it.   Three times, Vertune woke her from the nightmares, until Vash arrived with a chilled greeting.

Early in the afternoon, Genesis woke up.  Vash sat in a chair next to the bed with his feet up on the end table.

“Afternoon, Sunshine, and happy birthday.”

Genesis groaned.  She sat up and accepted a cup of hot coffee from him.

“Wanna tell me what happened?” The scar, which ran from his hairline down his face and under his collar, bunched as he talked.  Genesis walked him through the experiment and the disaster which followed between sips of coffee.  When she finished, Vash said nothing at first.  She watched him as he digested her information drop.  As he chewed on her story Genesis mentioned Fortunatus, the angel and Wolfe.

“I’m not sure why, but I think the two attacks are connected somehow, and it’s more than the mercenaries.”

He nodded, steepled his fingers, and leaned back in his chair.  While he thought, she finished getting dressed tucking her pants into her knee-high boots. The board meeting started in a few minutes.   Vash stood up and held out a heavy black coat, old and worn.  Genesis had lengthened it years ago and patched it many times since.

“Thought you might want this.”

“Thanks,” Genesis slipped into it after strapping her double holsters on low around her waist and tying them down on her thighs.  The coat felt better than the shower, an old friend, always there for her.

“Let’s go,” she said.

“To get lunch, because you’re still white as a sheet.”

“Thanks mom,” Genesis teased him.  She pulled the door open and stepped out bumping right into Sebastian.  She jumped back, startled.  Sebastian stood in the door way with his hand raised to knock.

“Sorry,” He said, also stepping back, “I was coming to get you.” He lowered his hand, but raised an eyebrow at Vash standing behind her.

“Thanks,” Genesis said, with a bit of hesitation.  After his cad-like behavior early this morning, she had formed an image of him which might be totally wrong. He stood equally as tall as her with broad shoulders and slim hips.  His age struck her.  She thought of him as some punk kid, but he had young smile wrinkles around steady eyes.  He looked her up and down and Genesis realized the same thoughts about his own misconceptions crossed his mind.

Vash cleared his throat, “Okay, kids, we got some big problems to solve.”

Genesis stepped out of the room, upset with herself, and rolled her shoulders.  She knew better than to make assumptions about people.  Why had she trusted her judgment after the battle and the blood loss?  She wanted Vash here for that very reason, to help her see beyond her own small bubble of post-traumatic stress.  She should never have trusted herself.

“Anyway we can get some food before the meeting?” she asked with a humble tone.

“We are having lunch catered, so we can get right to work,” Sebastian said.  He led the way down the hall with one glance back.

Genesis watched him move and found herself admiring the roll of his shoulders as he walked.  She must have lost more blood than she thought.  She shoved aside all the distractions as she headed down the hall after him.  All signs of her mud and blood were scrubbed.  Genesis felt kind of sorry for the clean-up crew.  Blood, mud, and pus probably did not fall in their regular list of dirtiness.  Ahead of them, Sebastian held the door to the conference room open for Genesis and Vash with a nod for them to go in.

“Sit, I’ll make a plate,” Vash said.

Genesis obeyed, too tired to argue.  None of the board members sat in their seats, instead they milled around talking and eating.  She could not tell if there were more people here now than this morning, and she wondered if any of them were lawyers.  Many of the men and women give her appraising looks, trying to sort her out.  She felt weighed in the balance, but how often did these people meet a real witch?  She could not blame them, but she could ignore them.  Though she never claimed to grow accustom to the stares, at 140 she had enough practice to remain calm.  At 6’4”, slim, curvy, with white iridescent hair, gray eyes flecked with black and a large moonstone piercing in her nose, she tended to attract attention.  As the witch in charge of things which haunt the human nightmare she tended to attract attention even more.  No wonder she spent most of her time away from others.

Genesis slipped off her coat as she took her seat.

“Now you’re just showing off,” Vash said.  He set a plate piled high with a hamburger, all the fixings, chips, and fruit in front of her.  Next to it, he set a platter of meat and cheese, and a pitcher of coffee along with a mug bearing the company logo.

Like all witches, Genesis wore a halter top with a low front and back so all her tattoos – who she is, who she was, who her friends were, and who she served – were easily seen.  Genesis bore a large black and white image on her back of beautiful men and women stepping out of the darkest of shadows.  On her arms, connected by swirls of gray were symbols of many powerful witches, vampires and fey.  Across her upper chest rested the image of a cloaked man in a top hat standing next to a lamppost on a foggy night – the image of Cairn, her predecessor.  Her hands both bore the letter V.  The tattoos looked like letters carved from marble with a large crack marring the surface.  Never before had the Witch of the Undead served someone, but Genesis served under Vash’s directions and commands.  He found her just as she inherited her powers as a small girl.  She followed him ever since.

Sebastian sat down across from her his eyes dropping to the low neckline of her top.  The board women wore conservative suits and high-necked blouses.  Genesis laughed at the idea of trying to fight in a pencil skirt.  He shook his head as he sipped a coke.  Genesis glared at him while she poured herself some coffee.  He did not dictate her dress code, her society did.  He wore a suit as the President-in-training, not body armor and a gun.  To each his own uniform.

“I’m not showing off, I’m being polite,” she said to Vash.

“You’re the only witch here, babe,” Vash said, helping himself to several slices of cheese.

“You’re in my chair,” someone walked up behind Genesis.  She chewed and swallowed a mouthful of food.

“I’m Vice…” he started.

Genesis stood up and nonchalantly straightened her gun belt, “Did you say you were sitting here?”

The man looked up at her taking in her height, her tattoos, and her guns.  He paled, swallowed, and walked off to bully someone shorter and further down the chain of command – and unarmed – for their chair.

“Very classy,” Vash said.

“And very lady like,” Sebastian said.

Genesis gave them both the finger, sat down, and started eating again.  She could not remember being more starved or so irritable.  Not irritable.  Edgy.  Edgy like the time she watched the witch of Storms and Electricity work their magic on a hot summer day.  That kind of edgy.  Electrical.  Between the fight, being unconscious for so long, racing to get back to the company, and the blood loss, her body screamed for any sort of nourishment.  Her heart and soul screamed for a second chance, for a way to repay those who had killed her friends.  But, while she could eat, she could do nothing for revenge except be in this boardroom.  Irritable did not begin to describe how Genesis felt.  If there had been no food on the table, she would have been pacing in front of the windows looking down into the city, wishing she could leap free of the glass and fly.

Calvin came in, dressed in a smart gray suit.  Genesis recognized the cut as a designer often favored by vampires.  He stood by his chair and looked out over the group of people at his table.

“Ladies and gentleman,” he nodded to them all, turning to her he said, “Genesis, you are looking far more beautiful than this morning.”

With her mouth full, Genesis held up her coffee cup to acknowledge the compliment.

“Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and your friend, who I don’t know, and then get us all up to speed on what happened?”

Genesis nodded and after taking a swallow of the strong coffee, she stood up.

“As most of you know, I am Genesis Dunlear, the Witch of the Undead.  I was hired by the company to oversee an experiment designed to test whether zombies could be formed from corpses as more modern myths suggest or not.  It was also my responsibility to discover a way to control them.”

“Why were you doing this?”  Vash asked.

“This is Vash.  He is the lead expert and slayer of undead.  He is here as a consultant to me.”

“Why would the witch of the undead need to consult someone to get help with her specific field?” Sebastian asked.  He looked up at her slowly from the table top, a proud challenge on his face.  The urge to slap him sprang up in Genesis, but she rested her hand on the butt of her Desert Eagle instead.

“Because, I am not so over confident I don’t know when it’s a good time to ask for help.  I don’t even pretend to believe I know everything.  Besides, he has fought the undead much longer than I have ruled them,” she said, calm and collected.  He looked back down at the table, but she saw a glint in his eye – he ruffled her feathers and thus he won. Damn him.

“There was a rumor,” Genesis continued her statement to the room, “which I checked on and substantiated that another company had figured out how to create zombies without vampires.”

“How?” Vash said.

“That was what we were trying to discover,” Genesis said.

“The government promised some funding,” Calvin explained, “and we were mainly looking to control them should the country come under attack.  We also wanted to keep our own soldiers from being turned against us.”

Vash nodded.

“Wait a minute,” he said, “Genesis, did the attack happen yesterday?  The 30th of October?”

“Yes.  We were working and the attack hit in the early evening.”

“If it had happened today, Halloween, it would be rather infamous, yes?” Calvin said.

“In more ways than one,” Vash said, eyeing Genesis.  She rolled her shoulders and pressed on.  She wanted to ignore the date.

“We were able to create a zombie –an animated corpse – and I was able to keep control of it.  Then, we were attacked.  I was outside the lab when a magical field took over.  It blocked my power.  The zombie, not under any other controls but mine, attacked the team.  I could not break open the shield and …” Genesis stopped.  She closed her eyes.  The images flooding her mind intensified.  She took a deep breath while she pinched the bridge of her nose.

“By the time the shield was released, it was too late.  The team was dead.  The zombie was back under my control and I slew it.  I also removed the zombie taint on the dead team members.  Then I was attacked.”

“Attacked?” Calvin said.

“Yes, and quickly overwhelmed.”

“What does that mean?” Sebastian asked, “I mean what are we talking about 5 – 10 men? And who attacked you?  Also, who made the decision to not have any other way of controlling the zombie other than you?”

Vash laughed, “I trained you better than that.”

“There were 50, highly trained, ex-military mercs with magical enhancements.  I had to kill each and every one of them before I could escape.  They were very determined and they attacked while the sun still reigned, so I was unable to get help.  I passed out afterwards.  When I woke up, it was night.  One of my vampires brought me here, just before dawn.  I was afraid that if they attacked me for information on our experiment, that corporate would be attacked because all our information is backed up here.  That’s assuming another company is behind the attack,” Genesis paused.  She turned to look specifically at Sebastian.  “I made the decision to leave the zombie under my control only.  I had no reason to doubt my ability to control it.”

“I hope you have reason now.  And next time you’re responsible for the lives of those without magical abilities, who have to make their own way in the world, you’ll be more careful.  Also, we are not working under the assumption this is an attack from another company, but possibly a witch only problem,” he said.

Before Genesis could get over her shock at his tone, he continued, “You fought 50 men alone?  I don’t believe it.”

“Only that many would have hurt her this bad,” Vash countered.

“And they knew to attack me in the daylight when I was vulnerable.”

“What do you mean?” Sebastian asked.

“I am the Witch of the Undead,” Genesis leaned on the table and let just a little taste of fear roll off of her.  She thrilled as the cold raced through her veins and gave her the opportunity to show Sebastian just a hint of her power.

Sebastian leaned back in his chair getting away from her.

“If it had been night I would have called vampires to my aid.”

He glared at her, but she saw the fear flash through his soul.  She smiled, satisfied.

“Who is powerful enough to do this?” Vash asked breaking into the tension.

“Not many,” Genesis muttered still leaning in towards Sebastian.

“But who?”

“Good or evil?” Genesis said, without breaking eye contact.

“Both?”

That startled her and she straightened soaking the fear back up.

“Why?”  She did not like where his train of thought went, if she guessed its track right.

“Humor me.”

“Time and Space obviously, A full coven, Olive, Faith, Hope or Love, The Three Sisters, when they were Three, all have greater power than I.  Beyond that?  It would have to be two or more witches working together.  I’m equal in power with the rest.  I would’ve been able to dispel the shield blocking my control if it was just one witch.  NewLife, Storm, Electricity, the Elements, the witch of the Fey are all my equal, and let’s see, of the evil, Murder, Lies, False Hope, maybe others, again my equals, again they would’ve had to work together,” Genesis looked up into space thinking.

“Not Darkness?”

She shook her head and sighed.  He just had to go there.  Sometimes, she wished she could just walk away.  Or, she wished she could be evil like Cairn and just go live in LeVidal.  No more trying to help others.  It would be easier.  She tilted her head at Vash, “We are equals in magic.  With help, she would be able to block me.”

“So now what?” Sebastian asked trying to get the conversation back on a non-magical track.

“I’m going back to the experiment site to find out what’s going on.  I need to get more information, and I need to find out if this was an attack on me, personally, or on the company.”

Calvin nodded, “Here’s what I want to happen.  Sebastian, you will take over Dunlear and her investigation focusing on the interest of the company, since this is our biggest concern.  I will take over the buyout you were handling.  I want your full focus on this new project.  As soon as the two of you are ready head out.  I expect a report from both of you in 24 hours, Genesis from the magical side, and Sebastian for the company.”

Sebastian nodded.

“Get a team together, Sebastian, and email me who it is ASAP. I assume you have the site secured, Dunlear?” Calvin said to Genesis.

Genesis nodded.  Working with Sebastian seemed unwise, but it did not really surprise her.  The company needed to protect its interests.  If this played out to be a feud amongst the witches alone, they would do well to pull out and not chose sides.  But, her record with Sebastian was rocky at best.  He got under her skin far too easily.  She sat down as the boardroom kicked in, everyone suggesting different things.  She remembered the moment Sebastian held her hand and took part of the pain of the healing, but she pushed it away.  Positive emotions were more confusing and frustrating than the negative ones he inspired.  If this is what Calvin wanted and Calvin trusted his son, Genesis would find a way to work with him.  She glanced up at Sebastian.  He looked down along the table at the other men and women.  Genesis reached out feeling, looking for any residue of magic which would clue her in on the tension she felt around him.  Maybe he inherited some fey blood from a great-aunt or something.  Mixed blood always made humans a little strange.

Sebastian reached up and scratched the back of his neck.

She found nothing.

The discussion broke through her thoughts.

“We should have a full squad at least,” Sebastian said.

“Wait, what?” Genesis said.

Sebastian turned and glowered at her.  The pairing made him unhappy too, apparently.

“Since you don’t seem to think you have to pay attention, I said we should take two full squads of men.”

Genesis almost took the bait.  Almost.  Instead of reacting to his insulting tone she shook her head, “Absolutely not.  We need five men at the most and if they have any magical experience, even better.  I suggest Tell Pogues’ Unit.”

“I’ll pick who I like and the number of men.  You think I wanna come back looking like you did?”

“You think I am gonna wait for you to mobilize two full squads to cover your ass?” Genesis said, going deadly calm.

Sebastian sprang to his feet, “Are You calling me a coward?” he yelled down at her.

Genesis stood up in one graceful sweep.

“Are you bringing two whole squads of men to a cold scene?  Do you think they can protect you better than me if we’re attacked?”

“I don’t need you to protect me.  Considering how well you protected our people, I don’t want you to.”

“I don’t plan on it, just stay out of my way.”

“Don’t forget who is in charge here,” Sebastian leaned towards her putting his hands down on the table.  Genesis leaned in meeting him glare for glare over the table.  Just as she opened her mouth to retort, Calvin said, “Mr. Vash, perhaps you would like to lead this expedition?”

“I’m beginning to think so.”

Genesis dropped her head, ashamed.  Maybe they shared the same maturity level.  She took a deep breath and gasped clutching her side.  Pain ripped and shredded through her.  Blood seeped between her fingers.  A wave of nausea passed over her and her legs turned to rubber.  She dropped to her chair as sweat broke out over her whole body.  Voices sounded from far away as her heart pounded louder and louder in her ears.

“Vash?” she called.  Nothing.

“Vertune?” she called from her magical soul.

“Here, milady.”

“What’s happening?”

Genesis screamed as her shoulder split open and her leg twisted.  Doubling over she vomited blood.

“The wounds are cursed.  The healing only closed them temporally.”

“How is that possible?” She gasped and panted each word.  Even deep in her magic the pain took her thoughts away.  Breathing became her focus.

“I am unsure,” the vampire said.

Strong arms picked her up and she groaned in pain.

“Thank you, Vertune…” She whispered opening her eyes.  She looked up, not at Vertune, but at Sebastian with his jaw clamped shut.

“Where…?”

“Don’t say a damned thing, witch,” he said through clenched teeth.

Genesis blacked out only to awaken to the pain of another healing.  Sebastian anchored her soul, again, but this time the pain passed to him and he fell to the floor with a wail of pain.  Somewhere she blacked out…screams not her own echoed in her soul…she floated…

…Join me, next Friday, for the continuation of the tale…

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