Coming out in 2017!
The Children of Ekhidna and Typhoeus
Natalie Richards is a party girl, a chef and an addict. Her drug of choice is earth alchemy. When she disappears, it’s a good thing her uncle is a hybrid and a member of the Primordial Senate. Detectives Leela Sharma and Ryker Troelsen battle alchemist dealers, magic and politics to find her. They learn that a simple missing person’s case is bigger than one party girl. [Use the above link to read the first chapter below]
Blaire Underhill had accepted her future. No longer a polite pharmacist, she now belongs to a group who save humans from primordial monsters. Her past was not done with her. A message brings news that her wife is living a nightmare. Demons, self-doubt and an unstoppable power that compels her to kill blocks Blaire’s path to return home. Can she save her wife, Yarah, from a fate worse than death? Or, will True Sight devour Blaire before she even makes it home? [Use the above link to read the first chapter below]
I am the target text.
Chapter One: Pray to Gods
The ground whirled under her feet. Placing one foot in front of the other was important for some reason. Very important. Natalie’s ankles rolled as she forced her feet to do her bidding. Her knees and legs were rubber bands bound in a leather mini skirt. A sudden rush of wind whipped loose red hair and set teeth into a jittery chatter. Goosebumps rose on her arms. Clouds of steam exhaled with each breath.
Where am I?
She was supposed to know this. At one point she did. Salt tinged the air. Darkness retreated from pastel pinks and yellows blooming in the sky. Natalie peered over her shoulder. A one eyed shadow loomed over head. The rising sun framed the giant. Its eye a laser beam scanning the horizon.
She choked down a squeak and pitched forward. Between the gales and cold, Natalie waded through invisible soup, the air itself an unbalanced force.
She heard waves crash under the wind—somewhere and everywhere at the same time. Wrapping her arms around her midriff and sticking stiff fingers under the hem of her white crop top, she tried to remember last night. The need to get far away grew like hunger in an empty belly. But, get away from what? She didn’t know. She could hardly think beyond the moment. Her body felt like a puppet whose strings she struggled to wrangle.
Sparklers. Glowing neon headbands. Girls in furry, orange bikinis. A muddy room. Cigarette smoke wafting in from the balcony. Hip hop beats blaring from the stereo. A shot of … something scooped from between the glorious, perky breasts of a button nosed blonde with a pixie haircut.
Natalie’s cheeks reddened as flashes of the no-dinner dinner party she hit last night emerged.
Wait. She stopped in her tracks. Was that last night? Or, last week?
A ripple of fear tickled behind her neck.
Something’s way off!
She hurried over rocks and gravel away from Flower City, Maine’s coastline in search of civilization. There had to be a main road somewhere, she hoped. After wandering over sand dunes, she set her sights on a rocky hillside. Using both hands and skinned knees, she climbed up the hill and slid down the other side, landing on a winding, two-lane road. Expanding sunlight bounced off the asphalt. The road curved and disappeared around a bend.
And still not sure where I am. Hum, what is that?
By the curve, a van sat parked on the edge. With a hand over her eyes, Natalie squinted then waved to the driver in the front seat.
If he has a cell phone, I’ll call … Well? She frowned. Her mother would kill her, slowly. Her brother would yell ‘fuck off,’ smugly. What’s the butler’s number? She couldn’t even remember his name. Man, I hope this guy can drop me off downtown. Or has a ride sharing app on his phone.
Natalie waved her arms wide and beat an unsteady march towards the van. Gusts of wind buffed her backwards. She stumbled but pressed forward.
The driver looked up from the map he was reading. A smile brightened his face. He waved to her then tossed the map over his shoulder. The cargo van shuttered. Its engine rumbled awake as if the RAM had been startled from a deep sleep.
Relief washed over Natalie as she daydreamed of a hot shower, her down feather duvet and grilled cheese on fresh sough dough bread. I’ll figure this shit out later.
The van inched forward. Its lettuce green paint job an eyesore on an otherwise picturesque blue vista.
Not my usual chariot, but will have to do. At least it doesn’t look like the run down pedo-mobiles you see in made-for-Lifetime movies.
The mid-twenties-ish driver didn’t radiate a Charles Manson vibe from the shoulders up. Clean shaven. Hair parted, swept to the right side.
As she limped to greet her savior, the ocean breezes beefed up into hurricane force blasts. Temperatures dropped to subzero in a flash. Grit blew into her eyes. She blinked and covered her face. Telltale signs of a migraine pressed on her sinuses.
“Oooowww!” Natalie’s moan blended into the roar of the wind, a ghostly howl carried out to sea. The end of her nose glowed pink, numb with snot icicles forming down to her mouth.
An image popped up.
Natalie clawed at a faint memory. Hands ripping out her hair, squeezing her throat. I couldn’t breathe. They dragged her … where? To the lighthouse?
That green. She shook her head. That awful, green.
The driver grinned, his eyes focused. The van stalked forward, slow but steadily determined to reach her.
Raw panic shot through her heart. A scream burst from Natalie’s lips. Spinning around, she ran. Her legs wouldn’t cooperate. They wobbled, elastic and loose sinew.
The van barreled down the road. It didn’t stop when it reached her side, only slowed down. A door slid open with a bang.
“Come ‘ere, bitch,” snarled a man’s voice.
Breath caught in Natalie’s throat. She couldn’t think. Her vision twirled as muscular arms yanked her inside. Natalie’s face hit the floor with a hard thud. She couldn’t see. Bodies pressed down on her.
They spread her legs. They rammed a knee into her forehead. Dots of light flashed behind her eyes. She screamed.
I can’t breathe!
Whimpering, Natalie tried to struggle.
A boot stomped on her head. Pain and dizziness pierced holes in her courage.
Drain them, she thought in desperation. Invisible tendrils flung from her mind. A thread hit a mark. Quintessence, bitter and rancid to taste, fed into her pores. She knew that taste well.
A lesser humanoid of the Odei race, Orratz rarely acted alone. Fear pushed Natalie to suck deeper, gobbling essence as if her life depended on it. The hold on her arm loosened.
“Hurry!” a low voice rasped.
Fists rained down on her head. Knees pummeled her sides. An elbow to the face brought blood to her lips. Tendrils slipped from Natalie’s mental grasp. A blow struck the back of her head. Natalie couldn’t tell up from down. Threads snapped. Somewhere in the dark a female voice begun to chant. The words sounded like oral hieroglyphics.
The van jolted over something in the road.
Another knee slammed to her face.
Oh gods, please.
Natalie spat blood. She babbled, “Don’t hurt me. Don’t. Doe. I. I. I. I’ll do-“
The knee struck her again.
Natalie’s heartbeat thundered in her ears.
Ekhidna, primeval mother, save me and I swear I’ll change. I’ll be good. Tears mixed with blood oozing from her nose.
The woman’s babbling stopped. The fists stopped. Heaving lungs echoed over the rumble of the engine.
Blurry green light, then tranquility entombed Natalie in a sphere that existed outside of pain and fear.
I am the target text.
CHAPTER ONE–TRUE SIGHT PART 1
Neiman Marcus played fast and wild with their music selection. Tunes jumped from instrumental to watered-down pop melodies in the hopes of loosening the variety of wallets within its confines.
Violins certainly made Blaire feel classy as she dashed across the women’s shoe department.
Where is she? Where is she? Where is she?
Blaire darted up the escalator, pushing shoppers aside to reach the top. Her mind raced. She whipped her head in every direction. North was plus-size, East held designer wear, West children and baby, South intimates and maternity. Plus-size seemed obvious, so she went north.
Blaire attempted to be inconspicuous, but her twitchy, hurried movements drew nervous stares. Her target stood by a checkout counter in front of the fitting rooms. She dived behind a circular rack of fifty percent off jeans. Sizes ran clockwise from small to extra-large.
“Do you have this in like turquoise? What about this one and this one? And this?” said the middle-aged customer.
The sales clerk answered, the store only stocked what was on the sales floor.
The woman tossed an olive camisole at the clerk. She picked out the same in apricot, coffee and fuchsia. Almost dropping the new items, the clerk struggled to carry them plus the trove of pants, dresses and blouses already given to her.
Blaire crept closer. She ducked down, pretending to peruse Capri pants on sale–also fifty percent off. She eyed the man following the women. On one arm, he carried six bulging plastic bags with logos from other stores in the Las Vegas mall. A stack of loose garments draped over the other. When he had crossed a mirror earlier in accessories, his outer shell presented a handsome man in his early twenties. His shoulder length, mouse brown hair curled at the ends. He stood about five feet, nine inches with an athletic upper body.
The target picked up more clothes as she strolled and talked to the pair. She didn’t consider any item. She drifted like a street sweeper gathering all in her path.
“You want to try these on, Miss?” said the saleswoman.
The woman’s eyes fluttered over the clerk then at the stuff she had in her arms. She appeared surprised. The middle-aged woman’s vacant eyes looked to the man.
“I think you should, Kristen,” he said.
She agreed and walked back to the dressing rooms. Relief relaxed the sales associate’s face. Kristen collected more clothes on her way. Most were the same as the ones she had. With every item she took up a plume of white smoke wafted out of her and sucked into the skin of her male companion. The clerk didn’t see the cloud even as she walked through it. Blaire saw it and heard the soft slurping sounds he made.
She could not see a quintessence cloud until two years ago. Arguably, Blaire hadn’t really seen Primordials until two years ago either.
Everything emitted quintessence. The ethereal particles the size of neutrinos poisoned living things at high levels, except the descendants of primordial gods Ekhidna and Typhoeus. At the opposite end of the spectrum, to little quintessence killed all life. Plants, earth and animals stored, created and released the most into the atmosphere. Primordial bodies needed it to function, like how plants needed water and lions needed to kill hyenas. Blaire had never cared to know how the ancient spirits fed or how they affected humans. That changed two years ago, like everything else in her life.
No one milling about the department store saw the purple light emanating from the man’s skin as he passed them. Blaire saw the glow. She saw the stubby horns protruding from his forehead, the whip like tail at his lower back, the elongated arms that ended in claws. She saw his hairy, goat like face. The horror of it would empty Neiman Marcus’ second floor in a stampede of screams. It put a grin on Blaire’s face. She covered her mouth to stop from snickering aloud.
I have to save her.
Kristen and the clerk went into the fitting rooms. Blaire grabbed a Capri from the rack and followed. The goat faced Primordial didn’t notice her as she walked pass him. She slipped into the stall across from Kristen’s to wait for the clerk to leave. She paced the tiny dressing room. Her bubbling excitement made her giddy. When the sales associate left, Blaire counted to five, stepped out and knocked on Kristen’s door.
“Someone’s in here.”
Blaire knocked again. “You dropped your phone outside.”
The door opened. Blaire barged in and shut the flimsy stall door.
“What the-” Kristen said.
Blaire took hold of Kristen’s shoulders. The woman gasped. The haze in her eyes evaporated.
As calm as she could, Blaire asked, “Are you alright?”
Bewildered, Kirsten shook her head. Blaire let go of her. Kristen stumbled back and leaned on the mirrored wall behind her.
“What’s happening? I’m like exhausted.” Kristen’s hand trembled as she extended an arm to the wall to brace herself.
Blaire knew she didn’t have much time before the Primordial realized his broken connection.
“We have to get out of here,” Blaire told her.
“Oh God, have I been shopping again?”
Blaire took the woman’s forearm to pull her to her feet. Kristen loosely pulled away. Her arm flopped like a wet noodle. She slid down the wall, landing on a pile of clothes. She put her head in her hands.
Blaire lost patience. “I’ll explain later. Gather your purse. I’ll distract the guy and you meet me in the parking garage. Level three. Row F. Got it?”
Kristen stared at her, mouth agape. “Guy? You mean Russell? He’s my boyfriend.” Kristen pulled herself up using the back wall as support. She left greasy palm prints on the mirror.
“Kristen, listen to me. He is not your boyfriend. He’s a goat-faced monster that is sucking the life out of you.”
Kristen blinked at Blaire as if she had turned into a goat-faced monster. “I don’t know what you want lady, but I’m way too tired for this.”
Blaire rolled her eyes. She had to get Kristen away from him or she would die. Before Blaire stepped into the fitting room, Kristen had a smooth, wholesome appearance. Now, her face grew ashen; she shook and could hardly stand on her feet. Deep lines creased her sagging forehead and around her eyes. Her face shone with oil and her hair hug flat, dirty. Blaire’s touch had broken the Primordial’s spell that worked as a mask to shield its victims from the truth.
“Think, Kristen. Since you met Russell, what has your life become?”
Kristen leaned her head back on the wall. She ran a hand over her slick forehead.
“What am I doing? I have to stop this,” Kristen wailed.
“The shopping. The partying. I’m drinking too much. Oh God, I owe so much on my credit cards.” She slid down to sit on the pile of clothes. “It’s like I can’t stop. I try to stop, but like I can’t. I need it. I need more stuff. You know? Like, I need help.” Kristen laid her head on her arms.
“It’s Russell,” Blaire pleaded. “He’s doing this to you. Please listen. We have to go.”
The changing room door swung open. Russell and the sales clerk stood in the doorway.
“Who are you?” he asked.
The sales woman butted in, “Only one person at a time in the stalls, Miss.”
Kristen stood up as if injected with adrenaline. The color in her cheeks returned. She shoved Blaire into the wall and stormed out of the stall.
“Yuck! This woman is crazy. She said all kinds of bizarre things,” Kristen said to Russell as she hooked her arm around his.
“About me?” he asked. “Do I know you?”
“Look at her. She’s jealous. Skinny twits can’t stand seeing a young hunk with a real woman like me.” Kristen sneered at Blaire.
“I should call security, Miss,” said the sales associate.
Blaire held up her hand. “I’m leaving.” She pushed past the three. The sour stink from the Primordial singed her nasal cavity.
“I’m buying everything!” exclaimed Kristen to the clerk. “Oh!” Kristen ran to the return rack to pick up a sequined dress. “This too, and this one.”
Blaire hurried to the escalator.
Flashing purple and green strobe lights dyed everything in the nightclub. The time was 1:45 a.m. People wavered like dense clusters of sea anemones in Pure Haze nightclub. Women in short skirts and bedazzled tops rubbed against men in T-shirts and jeans. Music pulsed at eardrum popping levels. The base rattled Blaire’s bones.
Blaire wanted to lose herself in this strange ocean, to become Jacques Cousteau and study these brightly colored, picture-taking creatures. She had not gone to clubs in her teens or twenties, a virgin to this scene at forty-seven. Blaire stood as close to the roped off VIP section as she could get. Why would anyone pay one thousand dollars extra to sit in a roped off corner of a nightclub? Kirsten had bought a table and two bottles of Crystal Head Vodka. She ground her backside into Russell’s crotch, out of sync to the music.
The best thing Blaire had gotten from her stake out was a tour of Las Vegas. She had trailed the couple to several jewelry stores, high-end boutiques and restaurants. Kristen had maxed out one credit card after another. She had consumed her body weight in food and alcohol at four different restaurants. Nothing filled her. After an hour at their hotel, Blaire followed the couple into Pure Haze. Sneakers, jeans and a button down Polo shirt were hardly club wear, but the doorman didn’t turn down a hundred-dollar bribe.
Blaire frowned at Kirsten’s pitiful state. Her glittery dress fitted too small and looked too young for her. Too far gone to notice, it had ridden up to her waist. She appeared as she did in the fitting room, sweaty, pale and worn. Kirsten was dying. The supernatural mask no longer worked. As the day had passed, Blaire noted that Russell siphoned less quintessence from her. She had ventured to rescue Kristen a second time, cornering her in a restaurant bathroom to disastrous results. Kristen had smacked her with her purse. A pair of waiters had chased her for two blocks.
Kristen convulsed, then vomited on the floor. She clutched her left arm and collapsed. The very important people in her section backed away. Blaire rushed to get into the VIP area. A bouncer warned her away. She pointed to the brewing commotion. She shouted in his ear that her friend just got sick. He let her in and followed her to Kristen’s side. A vomit and stale alcohol stench floated like a cloud to overwhelm her senses.
Blaire put her ear to Kristen’s mouth to hear her over the music.
“Help, feels like someone is sitting on my stomach,” Kristen wheezed.
Blaire pulled the bouncer to her and yelled, “Call 911. She’s having a heart attack.”
The man’s eyes widened. He nodded the shoved a path through the gawking crowd.
Blaire looked for Russell, he had disappeared.
Damn! Where is the bastard?
A woman handed her a bottle of water and an aspirin. Some men helped Kristen into a chair. Blaire told Kristen to swallow the medicine, but she was in too much pain. Not wanting to miss her chance, Blaire turned to leave.
I have to find him.
Kristen grabbed her arm. “Please don’t leave me.”
Blaire scanned the club. Russell had fled, his free meal consumed. She held Kristen’s hand until the paramedics came. Nothing could be done. EMTs pronounced Kristen dead on arrival.
Blaire had searched through VIP to the bathrooms of Pure Haze. After side stepping dancers, the police and getting two drinks spilled on her jeans, she gave up. Outside on the street, she called her people. Danek answered on the first ring.
“I lost him,” she said.
“Find it, tonight. If you don’t it will disappear and kill again,” he said.
“What do you expect me to do?”
“Use your head. You’re trained for this.” Danek hung up.
Blaire slapped her thigh in frustration. Return to the scene, she recalled, search for clues. She ran back to the club. Men handing out flyers and groups of young adults stumbling to their next party destination turned the sidewalk into an obstacle course.
A line snaked down the block to enter Pure Haze. The bouncer from VIP talked to hopeful patrons at the head.
Blaire ran up to him. “Hey, can I get back in. I dropped my purse.”
“Yeah,” he said, “I gave it to the manager. Hold on.”
He dashed into the club before she could finish. Blaire cursed in her mind. Her wallet, the only accessory she carried besides her phone, was in her back pocket. Thumping music poured through the doors when he came out holding Kristen’s caviar leather, Chanel shoulder bag.
Blaire thanked him and walked away. Receipts, credit cards and brand name make-up filled the handbag. In a side pocket, she found Kristen’s hotel room key card.
This is nicer than celebrity homes in magazines, Blaire thought. She explored the two thousand, nine hundred square foot penthouse suite room by room. Each flip of a light switch displayed a glossy page of extravagant design. Italian marble covered the floors. A flat screen television embellished every room, even the kitchen and bathrooms. The table in the formal dining room held a place set for six, the piano in the living room and jetted tubs in the two bathrooms cried out for use.
Blaire stood in front of the panoramic windows in the living room, staring at the mountain vista. It would all seem beautiful if every room didn’t testified to Kristen’s destroyed life. She turned off the lights, lit a pair of scented candles from the master bedroom and waited.
Russell sauntered in at 3:33 a.m. His whistling ignited Blaire’s fury. Unopened designer boxes and plastic shopping bags littered the penthouse suite. A mountain of shoes and clothes with tags blanketed the master bedroom like snow in a hoarder’s paradise. When he whistled as he turned on the lights by the door, euphoria exploded within her chest like a firecracker.
Blaire hit him in the face with a brass candlestick taken from the dining room. Excellent quality, she thought of the heavy ornament.
Russell stumbled backward. He crashed into the consult table in the foyer. It capsized, breaking a crystal bowl filled with potpourri. Blaire kicked his ribs as he tried to stand. He fell onto his side, groaning. Blaire struck at his head, but he blocked with his forearm. Russell kicked at her legs. She jumped back, giving him time to scramble to his feet.
“What the fuck!” Russell yelled as he ran into the living room towards the phone.
Blaire chased after him. She grabbed his collar and tossed him into the TV cabinet. Cursing, he charged her. He rammed her into a wall, then landed two punches on her face. Pain vibrated in her jaw. She pushed forward, breathes coming in hard. She gut punched him. He fled back, holding his side.
His eyes widened. He had not expected such strength from a human.
Blaire chuckled. Her mouth stretched into a Cheshire grin.
“What the fuck do you want?” Russell howled.
Blaire sniggered at his confused fear. BEHEAD THE GOAT, a voice inside her screamed.
He put up his fists.
She came forward, dukes up.
He took a wide swing at her head, but hit air. She again struck his side, hard. He moaned and doubled over. She socked the back of his head. A rapturous bliss coursed through her. She pummeled his head and shoulders. He fell onto the carpet with a grunt.
This wasn’t like the last time, her first time. She pulsated with energy. She stopped punching, though that felt good. She kicked his trunk, back and head. Russell curled into the fetal position. Blood spurted from somewhere. So much flowed she couldn’t tell exactly from where.
Was it his head? Nose? Who cares? Blaire had never felt so alive.
Blaire straddled the whimpering Primordial. No stopping now. She walloped his head and neck, both fists like pistons. Her power climaxed. It consolidated in her hands, making them throb with warmth. Blaire laughed. Her arms moved untired, as if on their own. Russell no longer covered his head, lying limp like an empty boot.
This is it! This is it!
Blaire’s left arm tingled from shoulder blade to fingertip. She struck Russell with all the strength she could muster. His body exploded into a cloud of black, sticky ash, clothes, shoes and all. The ash billowed up, covering her thighs, stomach and face. Blaire sprawled onto her back in a fit of giggles.
Olivia answered the door and whispered, “She’s still crying.”
Danek tiptoed into the hotel room. He handed Olivia today’s newspaper.
“There’s nothing about yesterday,” he said as he walked to Blaire’s bedside.
Blaire lay on her side, arm over her face. Tears blurred the view of the hotel parking lot through the window. The hotel shuttle drove out with former guests to McCarran International Airport.
Danek sat beside her, putting his hand on her arm. Blaire stifled a sob as tears streamed down her face.
“This is a natural part of it,” he said, “It will pass and you’ll feel cleansed.”
Like Hell I will.
She breathed through her mouth because her nose had congested.
The crying had started in the car five minutes after Danek picked her up from the hotel where Kristen had staid. Blaire had brushed away stray tears in annoyance, thinking the ash caused her eyes to leak. Jubilation ruled her. She could kill a hundred Primordials, cure cancer and backflip down the strip. This afternoon, she could not drag her body out of bed. Her muscles felt sore, tiredness drained her energy despite eight hours of sleep.
“I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to go home,” she said. Her shoulders shook as she cried.
“I was worse after my first mission,” Danek rubbed her arm. “Screaming, wailing and rolling on the floor.” He smiled.
Olivia listened like an eager student, sitting cross leg on the opposite twin bed.
“Amalfi, Italy. Cordelia and I spent weeks tracking a monster that had murdered two young men. I was scared. The tusks on this fiend were the size of my fingers.” Danek wiggled his fingers in front of his mouth. “Anyway, I killed it in a tiny apartment — at about midnight, maybe? The next day, forget it. I balled like a newborn. I wanted to slit my throat. Cordi, my mentor, she saved me.”
Danek gently turned Blaire to face him. Her eyes were bloodshot. Black and purple colored half her swollen face.
He brushed his fingers through her hair. “Cordelia told me, this pain makes you human. It’s a reminder. Even though our power to kill demons gifts us with rapid healing and centuries of life, we still have feelings. The monsters have no moral conscience or emotions. Embrace the sadness, relish the pain. The gift of True Sight is not about killing. It’s about humans saving humans from monsters.”
Tears soaked Blaire’s pillow. Her eyes stung and her face throbbed. She wanted answers, not a feel good speech. She had fallen into an emotional pit that she could not climb out of. Blaire drew in a few slow breaths to get her voice under control.
“W-will it al-always be this w-way after?” She stuttered.
“Yes. As you learn to control your powers, the mood swings get less intense. You’ll recover faster.”
“How long ‘til I f-feel normal?”
“It took weeks after my first. Now, its a few hours, depending on the battle. Things do get better with time.”
Olivia snorted, “Tell that to my computer.” Her nasal voice and childish need for attention grated on Blaire’s nerves.
Danek listed things that aged well, while Olivia countered with stuff that didn’t.
The thought of feeling anguished for weeks made Blaire feel worse. She had lived with Danek for two years and had watched him on missions. Usually, he acted cold, guarded and focused. An image of him crying didn’t form in her head. Blaire searched his boyish face to judge if he told the truth. She could not tell.
On the surface Danek appeared a man in his mid-twenties, with a dancer’s body and Romani features. Over the months, neither Danek nor Olivia had shared anything too personal. He did tell her his age of one-hundred and sixteen years old, that he worked in finance and invested in real estate when not tracking Primordials. Based on their travels Danek spoke at least five languages. Olivia, his twenty-five-year-old girl Friday, was fluent in three. Blaire had not figured out whether she was his daughter or a beloved employee.
Danek rubbed her arm. “We’ll go to the house in Spain so you can rest. Olivia, please book the flights, the sooner the better. Mother’s Day is this weekend, let’s avoid the crowd.”
He smiled at Blaire. “Another thing that helps is training. However, tonight we celebrate. Wine definitely improves with age.” He stood and stretched. “You’re one of us, Blaire Underhill. Welcome to the family.”