QUIZ – What do your Arts say about you?

Welcome to a new Theme Quiz that will reveal what your choice of Art has to say about you. All you have to do is read the question, then the choices, and please make your decision within the first 5 seconds since the moment you understood what each choice means. Do NOT read the interpretations before you’ve made your choice, and be completely honest. Be completely true to yourself, this is a MUST for a correct assessment. And most of all – Enjoy! : )

Which of the following Arts represents you best?

  1. Painting
  2. Instrumental music
  3. Dance
  4. Singing
  5. A Craft

Interpretations:

  1. Painting – you’re capable to see beyond appearances; you can see the beautiful in everything; you have an eye for hidden meaning and love exploring; you understand the symbolic and have a very rich inner universe.
  2. Instrumental music – you believe in the beautiful beyond the human; you search for what is beyond, for the greater, the perfect; you enjoy losing yourself in the ethereal;
  3. Dance – you’re connected to the world and to sensations; you’re grounded and dynamic and feel most alive when you experience sensations in your body; you’re a person of the physical, and may despise the exclusively “spiritual”;
  4. Singing – you believe in the bridge between the human and the divine; you believe humans can achieve the state of a semi-deity; to you, vocal music is the gate; you sense emotion in people’s voice; you have communication skills;
  5. A craft – you’re realistic and determined; you see most value in the useful; you’re reliable and focused; you search and find solutions; you’re a doer, but also have your daydreaming moments; the craft is your way of meditating.

 

Enjoyed this quiz? Plenty more where it came from. Check out the other quizzes in the Quizzes section on this site, and please share your feelings in a comment. I’m always happy to read from you.

Feel free to roam this site for many more goodies, especially the Short Stories of Suspense. Stay tuned for a new episode of The Marquis tomorrow for a suspenseful and thrilling ride. Enjoy!

Pic source.

Christmas Stories Suspense & Mystery for Adults

COVER REVEAL and official Story Blurbs

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The day is finally here, I’m so excited about this! And so grateful that I’m allowed to share this with you guys. It is Șeila Rațiu I have to thank for this cover design of my upcoming e-book, Christmas Stories – Suspense & Mystery for Adults, which will be released on Amazon on the 22nd of December.

She has been a sweetheart working with me on this one and presenting different cover versions until we both felt it represented the feel of these stories. What do you guys think? What does the cover inspire to you?

For some hints, here are the final official blurbs of the stories:

HYPERION

Hyperion is a former soldier with a secret. A secret that enables him to accomplish more than a normal man, making him among the few who can fight a special kind of enemy. He’s sent to a village by the Dark Forest, where he sets up camp and begins observing his target. There’s little Hyperion doesn’t see coming and even less he can’t deal with, but his target’s young wife, Ligia, does threaten to complicate things. 

SAPHIRA

Saphira is a young artist with a curse – she’s that kind of beautiful that sells. Which her parents – business people in distress – decide to exploit, dragging her to business banquets in order to find her a rich husband. It’s at one of these banquets that Saphira witnesses murder and draws the attention of the Marquis, a killer with mysterious reasons.

LILA

Agent Lila Banks’ original mission is to get under the skin of Andrey Jones, a suspicious high profile broker. It turns out he’s a step ahead of her in every way, and forces her hand to infiltrate the Jinx Enterprises as his own spy. She has to use her F.B.I. privileges as well as her skills as a financial tracker to discover who the Jinx are paying for medical experiments that seem to result in DNA modification. But she also discovers that Andrey Jones is far more dangerous than she or even her F.B.I. superiors have anticipated. 

 

All these stories are linked to each other, the common core being revealed at the end of each story layer after layer. Enjoy the previous episodes of the stories here, and feel free to roam this site for many more goodies. Stay tuned tomorrow for a new quiz, what do your Spirits say about you?

Saphira episode 6 – Dark Intentions

BLURB:

This is the final episode of Saphira. Her father throws a Christmas party in which Saphira’s (unwilling) engagement to the Marquis is announced. Her heart drums in suspense as the Marquis reveals the true purpose of his murders and his reason for wanting to marry her. In the end it all links together, and Saphira realizes the true measure of the Marquis’ danger.

***

Father got so ecstatic about the Marquis’ asking for my hand in marriage, that he throws a huge Christmas party to announce it. Mum’s all flashing smiles too, her Marge-Simpson-hair littered with ornaments and making it easy to mistake her for the Christmas tree. Me she styled into the ice queen tonight, the white and the glitter mirroring the upcoming wedding and my state of mind – frozen.

It’s as if my brain refuses to acknowledge the horror of my situation – I’m forced to marry a serpent-like monster whom I witnessed killing two men. And yet one single fact worries me – on the first night we danced together, he told me he had the best of reasons for doing what he does; I told him there is no good reason for murder; now I know there is indeed no one good reason – there are plenty.

“Saphy, I can’t believe this,” a girlish squeal rings in my ear before Jeanie Simmons squeezes me in her arms. My cheek twitches as I look at her. She’s such a pure vision with those cute curls and flushing cheeks that I dread her attraction to Joyous. He’s as much a criminal as the Marquis, and Jeanie doesn’t have a clue.

“The Marquis is every girl’s dream,” she exclaims, her small but surprisingly strong hands shaking my arms. “He’s super hot and super rich. Pretty Lauren is eating her heart out.”

Both of us glance in Lauren’s direction. Indeed, she seems pissed with arms folded across her chest, looking like one of Cinderella’s evil sisters with those pouty lips, bad-girl make-up and provocative scotch-red dress to match her hair. She lost the battle for the hottest bachelor in town, but I’m sure she’ll try to get him in her bed the way she got Jeremy, just to prove to herself she’s the better.

“You look like a fairy tale princess,” Jeanie returns her attention to me, her eyes sparkling as she looks me over from head to toes. “Silk ice-queen dress, neat. I love it!”

I don’t, but that’s beside the point. Virgin Vivien joins to save me from the fashion-talk, her noble features alight with true emotion – I can tell she’s happy for me.

“Saphira, I so, so, so congratulate you,” she says, taking my hands in hers. “I never saw this coming.”

“Neither did I,” I manage. Vivien takes it as a joke and laughs.

“You didn’t even hint at it at the banquet. I mean, how long have you even known each other?”

“A while now.”

“Was it a secret romance?” She leans in with a classy ghost of a wink.

My cheek twitches again, and my smile must look disturbed, since Vivien turns serious. “Saph, is everything all right?”

Jeremy steps in, surprising me. I didn’t realize he was around, let alone so close. “Saph, if there’s anything you need to say . . .” He’s got his no-nonsense London detective look on, injecting me with the urge to speak. He’s been on to the Marquis all along anyway, the truth might not even be wholly new to him.

The pressure is heavy, and I’m about to crack and cry out loud that the Marquis is a monster murderer who forced me into this, and that no, we do not know each other well, I don’t even know his first name. But that moment murmur increases, and clapping hands make up a crescendo. Both Vivien and Jeremy turn like opening doors to clear my sight, and I see him. The Marquis.

He walks directly to me, elegant and dangerous like a panther, his dark eyes hypnotic on that youthful ivory face. He extends his hand – gloved and black – and I’m compelled to offer mine. He leans in and takes it to his lips, his eyes fixed on my face, threatening as hell from under his brows.

Soon his arm is around me, keeping me close to his body that feels hard and delicious under his clothes. He’s using that inexplicable power he has over me to influence my feelings, and I don’t stand a chance to resist him. He leads me around to greet people, who congratulate and stare. I’m sure I look like a zombie. I can’t even speak, as if he put a spell on me that seals my lips to anyone but him. I feel like a living mind in a corpse, I want to scream but I’m unable to.

Lauren bats her lashes at the Marquis when we come to her circle, smiling seductively. He gives her a reserved smile back, no more. If I were myself, I’d probably welcome her winning him over, but I’m not myself.

After a while the Marquis and I have a moment alone with a glass of red wine, and his hold on me lessens. I take the chance to win some of his trust, since it seems like my only option.

“You were right,” I mutter with some difficulty.

He takes the glass to his lips, looking purposefully away, as if to allow me to regain some self-control. “About what?”

“You did have the best of reasons to take Pukov’s life.”

“I’m glad we begin to think alike.”

“Who was that woman, Marquis?” I dare. “The one Pukov killed?”

“He beat and raped her, then had others do the same,” he cuts. “But he wasn’t the one to kill her.”

My throat knots. It dawns on me. “The man at the Royale, he was one of them?”

“Your wit is quick.”

“My God. They’re all from Northville.”

“And they’re all here now.”

I can’t believe my ears. Instinctively I look around, my gaze sweeping over every male face starting with my father – an obsolete, dusty Godfather-type of businessman – and ending with Jeremy, who stands a protective pillar by his sister Jeanie and Virgin Vivien, frowning at his suspect – the Marquis. William “Billy” Dean – the mouse-faced notary public who’s had a crush on Lauren forever – would never fit the profile after my standards. Maybe Ronald Lord Barkley, the livid head of the lunatic asylum; he looks deranged enough.

But when the Marquis glides behind me, one arm coiling around my stomach and the other pointing discretely but clearly in the direction of the killer, my blood turns to ice grain, scraping my veins.

“It was him.”

The words make the sky drop and squash my heart. I stare frozen, unable to feel.

“That’s why you insisted to marry me. It wasn’t just to keep me quiet about the murder at the Royale,” I whisper.

“Quick wit despite the shock. I like you more and more, Saphira.”

The haze begins to lift, and the reality presents its grotesque face – my father killed that woman. He raped and killed her, taking some sick pleasure in it. Somehow my intuition confirms, even if I would have never suspected it of my own accord.

“What do you intend to do?” I manage.

“Initially I planned a slaughter,” he hisses. I become aware of his men lining the walls, Joyous and Stone Mask guarding the exit, ready to seal it at their boss’ signal that the bloodbath may begin. I doubt they’d spare the collaterals. “But when you surprised me at the Royale, I had a much better idea.”

My skin crawls. “Who was the woman, Marquis? Who was she to you?” I force myself to look aside to his face over my shoulder. His eyes are black and deadly on my father.

“She was the woman I loved. I was very young back then, and nothing like I am now. I tried to protect her, but Pukov’s men battered me to a pulp. Pukov himself never even took notice of me.”

“But how is it possible that his men could defeat you? I mean, you’re –,” I stop.

“A monster,” the Marquis finishes for me. He smiles that wicked smile of his. “I told you, I was nothing like I am now. I was an orphan in love with an aristocrat, a hopeless but requited love. A secret love. But since I didn’t have anyone in the world but her, Pukov’s men did with me what they did with every such opportunity – they sold me to my maker.”

Chill after chill crawl under my skin. “Will you do with me what they did with her?”

Mystery replaces the threat in the Marquis’ eyes, and I’m somewhat calmer. But his good will is a mirage.

“You will assist me in my revenge, Saphira. And I’ll make my revenge epic.” With these words he extends his gloved hand again, and his power compels me to take it. He says the good-byes for both of us, and invokes a romantic chariot ride as reason for our leaving the party. The bastards don’t have a clue how very lucky they are. On the inside I’m boiling. I’m paying for the sins of sadistic perverts.

They gather at the windows and in the doorstep to watch the Marquis help me into the chariot under falling snow-flakes, believing me the fairy-tale princess, when in truth I’m the sacrificial lamb. The Marquis opens his coat like a demon his black wings to look like he’s warming me, but I can’t feel the cold anyway. My heart drums in anxiety with the tramping of horse hooves as I watch the black tower emerge from the white winter night. The Marquis’ lips touch my ear, his breath warm.

“I told you I’d be taking you with me to the underworld, Persephone.”

Epilogue with bonus scenes to be released in the upcoming Christmas Stories for Adults on the 22nd of December. Stay tuned!

***

Previous episode.

Liked this? Check out the previous episodes of Saphira here, and stay tuned for the COVER REVEAL to the upcoming Christmas Stories for Adults tomorrow! The book will contain all three stories – Hyperion, Saphira and Lila –, with bonus end scenes that will only be disclosed in the book. Please feel free to roam this site for all the previous episodes to all three stories in the Stories for the Coffee Breaks section, and enjoy the suspense and the mystery.

UPDATE: Saphira’s whole story has been published in the Christmas Story Book for Adults.

Pic source.

Hyperion Episode 9 – The Graal of Desire

BLURB:

The moment came for Hyperion to eliminate the Swine. He intends to do it at mass, when the Swine sits in the first row, exposed to Hyperion, who replaced the village priest for the opportunity. Yet the moment he decides to attack something unexpected stops him – only until nightfall, when the Swine’s wife, Ligia, finds Hyperion and seduces him. Sparks fly, but mortal danger is just around the corner. The final battle begins.

***

It’s a gloomy day. The church bells, slow and earnest, make it even gloomier. I’m prepared for mass at the altar, cross hanging by my neck, hands together as I summon my focus. Frost covered the windows, and the snowfall made the paths almost unusable. Yet the church is full. Even the octogenarian cripples spared no effort to see the new priest – too young, I heard them whisper, how will they ever confess to a mere boy?

The blade I used to cut the holy bread – what the monks used to insist I called only the “Body of Christ” on every attempt to exorcise me – is tucked under my priest cloak, strapped close and within quick reach. There is indeed good opportunity. The Swine occupies the first row with his minions, beautiful Ligia at his side, looking at me with those big blue eyes as if I were a god. Her golden mane is hidden under a kerchief, which I long to remove. I strangle the feeling and focus on the task.

All of a sudden the Swine frowns angrily, and the corners of his mouth draw to the floor. But he pushes his chest forward as if to prove who’s number one, and my senses light up. He’s perfectly vulnerable. It’s the perfect moment, but then a row of children starts pouring between us – the reason of his anger; they come before him for sacrament, it’s the law and the letter. They’re all rags, they’re cold and dirty, and look at the pieces of bread in my hand like starving hawks. The sight brings back memories that make my heart clench.

“Mr. Mayor, in his great generosity,” I announce at the end of mass in the echo of the church, “organizes a meal for all village children this evening. His good wife will see to the preparations.” I give Ligia a meaningful look, and it’s enough for her to understand. She smiles, her eyes full of gratitude and admiration, and I have to look away in order to keep focused.

The Swine is exposed to the villagers’ surprised fidgeting and murmur, while the children can barely restrain their glee. There’s nothing he can do about it, he’s forced to comply, but his glare promises retribution. It’s mean, and his grin a display of bad teeth ready to bite and tear.

An impulse to take him straight-on fires through my limbs, and I have difficulty damping it down. A young body comes with good but also bad, such as thirst for adrenaline and violence. I yet manage to get a grip until later at the old widow’s barn, where Ligia and the old woman gather all the urchins, and where I expect to see him again. He doesn’t show up. His minions are all over the place though.

“You went too far,” the old widow whispers as soon as she finds a reason to linger by my side. Her sleeves are rolled up as she settles a caldron of hot soup by the pile of wood I cut.

“I didn’t come here to walk short distances,” I hiss.

“No, but this will make the Swine channel all his attention on you. And you need the shadow.”

“His attention was on me already. He was suspicious of my years and my interactions with his wife, so I don’t think there’s much difference between then and now.”

The woman glances at Ligia, who tries to make the children settle, but those with already full bellies laugh in mischief, daring her to chase them.

“Speaking of his wife,” the widow says, looking at Ligia, “she’s in love with you.”

My knees threaten to disjoint, and my heart flares. I stare at Ligia, no more than a girl with rosy cheeks herself, grabbing one of the bigger girls by her rags as she runs and laughs. She looks so carefree and happy. She catches me staring, and I can no longer deny the truth – I desire her.

On the first opportunity I return to church and find seclusion in the Old Father’s chamber. It’s restricted to a cot, a small table, a chair and a candle that now makes the stone walls flicker. Not even a holy face for company – indeed, enough of them just next door. The chamber is practically a small stone shed adjacent to the nave.

I light the fire in the stove, remove my priest cloak and lie down on the cot with the Bible. I never thought I’d lay a hand on it again, yet now I find myself a demon in desperate need of God’s angels. My desire for Ligia is as intense as sin, and jeopardizes too much.

I recognize her small steps echoing in the empty nave, and my blood surges as I jump to my feet. When she appears in the doorstep, the candlelight playing on her sweet milkmaid face, I realize my torso is bare. I’m uneasy as she looks me up and down, her eyes surprised and wide. I’m sure the scars disgust her, and it’s a stab in the heart. My jaw clenches as I tell myself it’s for the best.

“You shouldn’t be here, Ligia. Go home.”

“I will.” Her voice is small and it trembles. She gathers her courage and looks me in the face again, her eyes teary and loving instead of what I expected. She walks closer. I should retreat, but I can’t bring myself to.

“Just once, Hyperion, just once let me feel you,” she whispers, now so close that I can feel the touch of her cloak on my skin. Her small white hands follow, cold and electrifying. My body tightens, and I clench my fists to restrain.

“You’re so beautiful,” she mutters as she looks at my body as if I’m made of candy. It’s so hard to keep myself in check that I can’t speak. This is new and alarming.

“Let me kiss you, just this once.” She looks up at me, warm and inviting, and I can’t resist. I find myself bending my head to feel the full taste of her lips. Sweet, soft and completely new, the sensation is irresistible, making me crave more of her. I pull her to me until I can feel her breasts under my chest, my arms locking around her small waist while hers travel up my back, pressing possessive. I begin to lose myself in her consuming kiss when I hear the stomping in the nave.

I shield her behind me in a flash, and the moment the Swine walks into the room, confident stomach forward and framed by his men, we’re no longer kissing, but the truth is obvious anyway. He grimaces in rage and points a chubby, shaking finger at me.

“I knew you were here for her!”

I can’t keep back a hiss. “No. I’m here for you.”

At his slightest signal two of his men leap toward us, but I jump forward even faster, manage to get between them and grab the knife from one of them. In a second I have the knife at the Swine’s oily chin, and demand them not to touch Ligia. My blood boils as I breathe in the Swine’s smell, I’m so eager to kill him.

I urge Ligia to go, once, twice, three times, but she refuses and begs the Swine to leave me in peace, that this is all her fault. I must raise my voice to wraith anger to scare her and get her to scurry by me. The men let her pass to make sure I don’t slit the Swine’s throat, but that’s all my strategy can accomplish. I’m in the very situation I’ve been trying to avoid.

Just as Ligia bursts out of the church into the snow, the creature inside the Swine wriggles and slithers to the surface, his body hardening. His men approach with monster eyes and sharp purpose that I cannot fight fair. The blade can’t pierce the Swine’s skin anymore, and I’m outnumbered.

To be continued.

***

Liked this? Please share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Hyperion’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults, so stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other goodies, such as the COVER REVEAL on Sunday – I’m super excited about your thoughts on it.

Enjoy Hyperion’s former episodes on this site 1, and my muse for Hyperion’s fabulous works here.

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Buy Hyperion’s whole story here.

Lila Episode 4 – The Mission

BLURB:

The F.B.I. can no longer help Agent Lila Banks. Andrey Jones – her former target – was ahead of her moves. After using her for his own purposes, he framed her for murder. Now it turns out he has more in store for her – a mission that will change her forever, full of action, danger and secrets. In this episode Lila is forced on the path to track down the project Reptile Man.

***

No point insisting on, “I’m an F.B.I. agent.” They disregard that information at the police station as if on purpose. There’s no detective in a bare-walled room looking ominous and interested, just uniforms around a cuffed woman in a chair, talking to a bored clerk who pecks away at his keyboard. He doesn’t seem moved by my supposed murder. He draws the conclusion that what started off as consensual sex spiced with some bondage ended badly. I have enough experience to know I better leave it at that.

Andrey Jones’ plot worked perfectly for him, and he’s obviously bought off some of the police too. Still, in 24 hours max Chief Schwarz should be able to find me – or so experience encourages me. My perspectives darken in only a few of those hours though – I’m thrown in a cell with angry-looking prostitutes and drug dealers, but the worst one is a drag queen.

“Heard you’re a cop,” she – or he – says.

“I’m not a cop, I’m a financial analyst,” I say evenly, but he – or she – is set on kicking my ass.

“F.B.I., no less.”

I look up from the bench. The others gathered around the drag queen, looking down on me with clear purpose. One of them cracks her knuckles to make sure the message comes through. I don’t even wonder how they know – Andrey Jones put the information in here to make things difficult for me, surely. I take a deep breath and press my eyes shut as the first punch strikes like lightning and sends me crouching on the floor.

I keep enough presence of mind to retreat under the bench, which makes it difficult for their kicks to find me. But the drag queen pulls me out, and all I can do is take the snail-shell position to protect myself. It must be divine intervention that all my ribs stay intact until I hear the cell gate fling open, and the warden step in with cusses and rubber-rod swings.

The attackers now scattered, the warden grabs me under my armpits and pulls me up, then settles me roughly back on the bench. I’m dizzy and scared stiff for another hour, but the craze of the moment cooled down for the ladies, not to mention that it drained them, so I’m safe for now. Later my heart leaps to clog my throat as the drag queen stands up to resume action, but then the gate opens again and Mr. Bad and Mr. Worse make their entrance. I’m so relieved to see them I can barely believe it.

They grab my arms one on each side and escort me down a neon-lit corridor with sickly green walls. I look down at my legs in the orange prison overalls, and the realization that I’m a convict hits me hard. When a metal door opens to a prison bus I’m sure there’s no escape for me anymore – my life is in their hands. I’m tired, and I welcome the swaying and bumping drive to wherever they might take me – I’m too beat from all points of view to care about that either.

Our destination reveals itself as an airport. I’m alone with the driver in the bus when we reach it, Mr. Bad and Mr. Worse at the back. All the others have been dropped off at different institutions. My body’s all bruised and tender as they escort me through whipping wind across a field to a jet with no windows, strapping me to a metal seat like the prisoner that I am. My head hangs, dirty and sweaty strands that lost all hue of blonde hanging like rags on the sides of my face. As the machine starts trembling and the engines humming I see a pair of black shoes slipping under my eyes.

I look up to see Andrey Jones in the seat across from me, wearing a suit but looking athletic, his face business-straight but young and what I called attractive before all this, his reddish brown eyes drilling into mine. A surge of hatred fuels me, and I jolt from my seat with a cry, but the straps bite into my flesh, forcing me back down. Something softens in his gaze, making the bastard look almost hurt.

“I understand your rage. But it’s no use to you or to me.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before,” I hiss. The edges of my eyes are burning, and I wish I could scratch him bloody.

He looks down and swallows whatever his feelings, then throws a file on my knees.

“The reptile-man. What do you know about it?”

Now I understand why my hands are free. I take the file and leaf angrily through it. I recognize the report indeed – I wrote it. I hurl it back at him.

“I don’t know anything more than this file says.”

“And what does it say?”

“You actually expect me to narrate twenty pages now?”

“Just the essential.”

I want to defy him so bad, but his stare is steady and patient. He’s more rested, and has more energy to play this game than I do. “Give me some water, my throat feels scrubbed.”

He presses a button, and Mr. Bad brings a glass of water. It feels like honey down my throat, but every gulp hurts.

“More, please,” I say as I hand him back the glass. I make an effort to look back at Jones as Mr. Bad departs. “I met Dr. Randolph Kalb back when I was with my first employers. We met in Heidelberg, Germany. He’s a high-class geneticist, and he worked for one of our subcontractors, but these subcontractors billed for the development of supplements, while Kalb’s reports were on genetic testing. I looked deeper into that, and certain tests could only be performed on humans. That’s how I got suspicious.”

“Why did you look deeper?”

“I see you’re eager to blame me of the same wickedness you blame my employers of,” I spew. “But I had to know this stuff in order to determine if it could be deduced from tax. You can’t deduce cement if you’re a hairdresser, you know, except in special circumstances. You should know all this, you’re a broker.”

“I’m not really a broker. My support comes from my organization.”

I remember what he told me on our first meeting, and let it go. “Well, we can dive into accounting details, or we can stick to the subject.”

“Stick to the subject,” he commands and squares his shoulders.

“I went to the F.B.I. with this. Chief Schwarz asked me to work with them on the case. That’s how I had the means to determine Randolph Kalb did experiments on humans, and that one of his projects was called the reptile-man, but I never discovered more than that. I only discovered what money-tracking – yes, black-money tracking too – revealed. Chief Schwarz delved deeper into the case, he knows much more.”

Jones’ jaw tightens. “And you accepted ignorance? Just like that, knowing you’d supported experimentation on humans? When you had the chance to discover the details, you just threw your hands in the air and moved on?”

“There were more important things I could do –,” and I want to list them, but Jones’ face goes stone-hard.

“More important things? More important than ending the slaughter?”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I could help track down more of those bastards. It was only wise to let trained people like Chief Schwarz and the operations boys take care of the commando matters, don’t you think?”

No, Andrey Jones doesn’t think. He pulls an ace from under his sleeve.

“Why didn’t you turn in Ivan Basarab, Lila? Why didn’t you turn in your first direct boss? You nailed all the others, but him you helped get away from the F.B.I.”

The answer to that catches in my throat, but at this very moment Mr. Bad thankfully appears with the second glass of water. It’s a bit misty, like tap water, but I gulp it down and use the chance to think of how to put it. I hyperventilate, so I keep quiet and strain Jones’ patience yet more. He glares at me as angrily as a troll as he speaks the next words.

“Your sparing Basarab had consequences, Lila, as I’m sure you know. He’s a scientist himself, an early genius who graduated at fuckin’ 12, you should’ve known how dangerous he was.”

I shake my head. “He’s not dangerous. He’s not a geneticist. He’s –“,

“I know what he is. Can’t you put two and two together? His skills are even more threatening than Kalb’s.”

My eyesight begins to cloud, and my head feels heavy.

“And now, Lila, you will have a taste of the vile things you allowed to be bestowed on the world. First, you will lead me to Kalb.”

The Sandman leans in heavy on my lids, a weighty sleep making me numb – the water. I don’t feel my feet anymore, the numbness crawling fast like tentacles through my entire body. Jones takes my limp arm and injects something in it.

“Lose a word on me or this mission, and I’ll kill you in pain.”

I fall like a stone.

When I wake up I’m in a cage, hands muddy and tied with rope to the grates. I first feel my eyes and face, then the rest of my body to my toes. It happens fast, before I gather myself and remember what happened. As soon as I’m fully aware I scream and jolt, tugging myself from the ropes. I’m naked, oily and muddy all over. A curtain gets yanked aside and a circus clown looks down at me. I freeze, trying to make sense of it.

“There she is,” the clown says, “from a cheap brothel, she was so stoned they feared she’d die on their hands. They were happy to get rid of her.”

“No family?” another voice speaks, but I can’t see a face.

“No family. No friends. No papers. No identity. She’s tabula rasa.”

“She’s perfect.” This time the face appears to join the clown. Leathery skin, icy eyes, the impassible-faced German. Dr. Randolph Kalb. I realize what’s happening, and I cry out in dread.

***

Liked this? Check out the previous episodes on the Stories for Coffee Breaks section on this site, and stay tuned for a new episode of Hyperion on Thursday – he will maneuver the Swine into his trap as the tension builds up to the boiling point.

Here is the whole schedule for this week (Stories and Quizzes), and if you have a particular love for graphics don’t miss the cover reveal for the Christmas Stories – Suspense & Mystery for Adults on Sunday. The e-book will be released on Amazon on the 22nd of December, and it will contain all three stories of Hyperion, Saphira and Lila in full – including final goody parts that will not be included in the episodes on this site. So if you’re thinking of a nice last-minute present for your friends and family, this may just be it.

UPDATE – Lila’s whole story has been published in the Christmas Story Book for Adults.

Please feel free to roam this site for all the goodies it has to offer, and take advantage to the fullest. Enjoy!

Picture from www.pinterest.com

 

 

Saphira Episode 5 -The Marquis

BLURB:

Saphira witnessed the Marquis murdering a man – though she only saw the Marquis removing his gloves by the corpse. She has thus become of interest to a murderer. He solved her father’s financial difficulties to win the man’s favor, and maneuvered Saphira to attend his banquet. He managed to sway her up to the dark tower, where she could no longer resist his power over her. His kiss had her hypnotized, and she was ready to give herself to him right there, but the Marquis retreated into the darkness. Then the door burst open and Saphira saw a face she forgot to expect. In this episode the action reaches dangerous highs as the Marquis finally reveals his secret.

***

Jeremy Simmons stares at me, his expression worried. He’s gained weight since the last time I saw him – in bed with Pretty Lauren – or his fancy suit makes him look that way. As he approaches I realize the extra weight is muscle mass. His facial features are more square and hard than I know them – a result of the testosterone he’s been taking, I guess. Jeanie said he fell in a workout fever after we broke up. He looks good, but my mind is soaked with the Marquis, his bittersweet scent, those hypnotic dark eyes and the feel of his lips on mine.

“Why on Earth did he bring you here?” Jeremy says and approaches like a man on a rescue mission.

“Don’t,” I mutter. Jeremy gets me wrong. He lifts his arms in the air then drops them, looking exasperated.

“Saphira, I’ll grovel if I have to. I’m not asking you to forgive me for what happened with Lauren, but let’s at least be civil. It’s been a long time.”

I can’t repress a smile – his ego must be as pumped as his muscles if he believes I’m still hurt. I shake my head easily and hold up my palm to stop him talking.

“All forgiven, Jeremy, no need to go there. It’s not that.”

He blinks, puzzled. “Then what is it?”

“I’m just surprised to see you all of a sudden, after all this time. Especially in the tower of the manor.”

“I was trying to get to you in the crowd when I saw our host sneak you out of the ballroom. I choked with worry. I couldn’t use the same exit, people seemed obstinate to block it, so it took a while to find another way. I was afraid I might be too late.”

I can’t believe his guts, but I refrain from comments on the matter. “Too late for what? What made you think he might’ve hurt me?”

Jeremy’s features lock. He straightens up and looks through me, his lips seamed to each other. I realize he knows things about the Marquis, and I put two and two together fast – Jeremy hasn’t been in Northville since we broke up. He had no reason to appear now. He’s a detective in London, and the Marquis is a murderer. In the blink of an eye Jeremy Simmons becomes interesting to me all over again, but in a way that’s light years away from romantic.

I manage to talk him out of the room, avoiding his holding up his lamp to see the portrait. Just a few moments later I descend the spiraling stairs with him, my arm hooked around his, my brain spinning around ways to get him talking. I fail all the way as he leads me into the crowd. Even though he sticks around, he keeps scarce of words. Nevertheless, I can see the gravity in his face whenever he looks at the Marquis.

On the rare occasions the Marquis looks at Jeremy he seems to scan the man inside out. His youthful features are relaxed as he glides in the crowd, talking to people, as if Jeremy’s presence doesn’t worry him in the least. Stone Mask and Joyous flank him the entire time, and a group’s constantly shifting to back them up, which makes it clear they’re undercover security. I can’t help stealing glances at him, compelled by his unusual beauty and the memory of his kiss.

I realize I’m always around him, beginning to act like a stalker. Refusing to sink any lower, I stomp to the wardrobe, let the valet help me into my coat and hurry down the manor stairs. I increase pace with every step, but before I get to slide on my butt on the last one a chauffeur catches me and elegantly motions to a car. He tells me the Marquis insists that I’m safe and comfortable. As the car departs I look back at the majestic manor, wondering if he’s watching me leave.

For days I keep myself locked in the attic, painting him in a frenzy, canvas after canvas. I sink my hands in the watercolor and reproduce his portrait with my fingers. My brain spins with questions – should I tell Jeremy what I saw? Should I risk it? Should I paint the scene, let it speak for itself? The answer subdues my morals every time, reminding me my own father could have the same fate as the man at the Royale if I betray the Marquis’ secret. So I ignore Jeremy’s calls, fearing his questions. It’s not the same when the piranha Vladimir Pukov resumes attack.

As usual, I don’t answer at first, but then it hits me – maybe he decided he wouldn’t let the Marquis intimidate him out of the chase. I need something to distract me from the dark-eyed murderer who’s been haunting my nights and daydreams too, so I pick up.

“Well, er, uhm, hello beautiful,” he babbles. He didn’t expect to actually hear me at the other end of the line. I’m half nice, half mocking, which he registers but doesn’t let sway him.

“I got reservations at the Apostles,” he brags. It’s the fanciest restaurant in town, in the old town center, all high ceilings and paintings to match the Sistine Chapel. The owner didn’t save a dime, and invested a lot in art, the piranha observes as soon as we’re settled at our table in a booth.

I wear a little black dress this time, like Virgin Vivien – it keeps unwanted hands off her, so I hope for the same effect now. After the same model, my hair is up in a tight golden bun, and my make-up discrete. To my dismay this only makes the piranha go serious-relationship on me, holding my hand over the table – immaculate cloth, I notice, it even smells of flowery detergent.

“I’d like to know more about your own art, Saphira,” he says.

“It’s not –”

“Hush, no,” he stretches over and squashes my lips with his finger. He’s so ridiculous looking long into my eyes and pretending to be gentle, that I fidget to keep back a burst of laughter. “I understand you like to be taken seriously. And my intentions with you are very serious.”

“So are mine.” That dark, liquid voice gives me the goose bumps. I look in the direction it came from and see the Marquis walking to our table from behind the fake wall that separates it from the rest of the restaurant. I freeze as he stops by our side, an elegant feral in a dark suit, his eyes intense down on Pukov.

Stone Mask and Joyous flank him on each side now too, only that Stone Mask’s steely eyes shoot daggers, and Joyous’ smile seems deranged like a killer psycho’s. Just a shade different from his smile at the banquet, but it gives him a whole new aura, and I think of poor Jeanie.

Beads of sweat appear on the piranha’s baldhead again, and his fleshy frame cringes in his suit.

“Marquis of Vandenesse.” He attempts to stand, but Stone Mask pushes him back down into his chair. Pukov’s eyes widen as he realizes the conflict is no longer veiled.

“You didn’t contact her in days,” Pukov explains himself, sounding anxious. “I assumed it was just that night at the banquet.” The last words fade as his look at the Marquis gains more rounded meaning – he assumed the Marquis did me that night, and then ditched me, therefore leaving the path open for Pukov to do the same. But that’s not what the Marquis picks up on.

“And how do you know that I haven’t contacted her? Did you stalk her?”

“You must’ve done the same, since you’re here.” Pukov says. Then something in the Marquis’ eyes makes more sweat break out through his skin, his face now luscious with it. “I mean you’re in your every right to, since the two of you are more serious than I thought, obviously. Saphira could’ve told me, but she chose not to.”

The Marquis flashes a youthful smile at him. “Are you blaming the lady now?”

“She did give course to my invitation.”

“She broke under your insistences.”

“I hardly think that’s fair. She didn’t have to answer my calls.”

“You cornered her from every direction. You’ve been burning her phone for weeks, had her father lobby for you, even offered him money.”

Pukov would like to grin, but he bites his inner cheek. “Didn’t you?”

“Not to get her in my bed, but to secure her as my wife.”

Both Pukov’s and my jaw drop.

“This is direct,” Pukov says. “I apologize, I didn’t realize the two of you were this far.” It’s obvious he retires from the exchange because he’s afraid of the Marquis, not because he’s any less convinced that I’m a bitch who lifted her tail, merely playing hard to get. But the Marquis isn’t willing to let him off the hook.

“Your pattern of thinking, Mr. Pukov, it’s brought ruin to innocent destinies before. It got a particular young woman raped and killed. Do you feel she provoked you the way Saphira did?”

His words fire shock in my head.

Stone Mask and Joyous tighten their presence on each side of Pukov, while the Marquis bends down to loom over him, a hand on the rest of his chair, the other one a fist on the table. It looks strong and angry despite the Marquis’ low voice.

“You pursued her affections as aggressively as you do Saphira’s. She wasn’t interested, but you wouldn’t take no for an answer. You persuaded yourself she was just playing difficult, and forced yourself on her in an alleyway. She fell limp while you had your way with her, which drove you mad. You beat her up so badly, that by the time anybody could identify her again she was dead in a dumpster, after having been roughly used by a number of your friends – for money, for days.”

My heart beats in a rage as I process what the Marquis is saying. The piranha’s eyes are wide with fear, fixed on the Marquis’ menacing face.

“Say her name, Vladimir. I’m sure you remember it. You don’t forget an experience like that easily,” the Marquis slurs darkly.

The piranha tries but fails, and the Marquis doesn’t give him another chance. What happens next electrifies me to the marrow.

I strain to understand what I’m seeing as something looking blade-sharp begins slithering out of the Marquis’ mouth. I jump up as I realize a serpent tongue undulates slowly towards the piranha, but someone’s behind me and covers my scream with their hand. I have no choice but watch how the young man with the angelic face and demon-like eyes forces the thing that moves out of his mouth down the piranha’s throat. A bubble seems to form in Pukov’s belly then further up in his chest. I can see it moving under his shirt, and I feel a violent need to throw up. The tongue twists and turns inside the piranha and then yanks out in a splutter of blood, coiled tightly around what I realize is the man’s stomach. I press my eyes shut, releasing the fear and shock into the hand that presses hard on my mouth.

When I open them I see the Marquis through my tears, I see the skin on his hands changing texture into something reptilian. The tablecloth catches fire like paper at the edges under his touch, but Joyous is quick to spill the piranha’s glass of water on it. The Marquis pulls a pair of special gloves over his hands, then starts wiping the blood off the piranha’s face with white towels that Stone Mask provides. Joyous moves just as fast and skilled while he cleans the scene, suddenly assisted by people pouring in from around the fake wall. I recognize some of them from the banquet.

I’m being led out through the back, into a limo. I’m shivering and I’m sure I’ll pass out, but then the Marquis takes the place opposite from me, looking elegant and youthful as if nothing happened, removing his gloves the way I saw him at the Royale.

“You weren’t mocking,” I breathe with my last drop of self-awareness. “You’re indeed a demon.”

“Demons are the creation of a god, Saphira. I’m the creation of a man.”

To be continued.

***

Next episode.

Previous episode.

Liked this? Check out the previous episodes on the Stories for Coffee Breaks section on this site, and stay tuned for a new episode of Lila tomorrow – she will finally discover why Andrey Jones framed her for murder.

Here is the whole schedule for this week (Stories and Quizzes), and if you have a particular love for graphics don’t miss the cover reveal for the Christmas Stories – Suspense & Mystery for Adults on Sunday. The e-book will be released on Amazon on the 22nd of December, and it will contain all three stories of Hyperion, Saphira and Lila in full – including final goody parts that will not be included in the episodes on this site. So if you’re thinking of a nice last-minute present for your friends and family, this may just be it.

UPDATE: Saphira’s whole story has been released in the Christmas Story Book for Adults.

Please feel free to roam this site for all the goodies it has to offer, and take advantage to the fullest. Enjoy!

(Pic source.)

Stories and Quizzes this coming week

As promised, here are the updates about the stories and quizzes ready for you this week:

On Monday the tension between Saphira and the Marquis reaches dangerous highs,

On Tuesday Lila will finally discover what Andrey Jones truly wants from her, and why he framed her as a murderer,

On Wednesday a new quiz is up – What do your Landscapes say about you? (visual),

On Thursday Hyperion takes the stage with his plot to finally rid the world and Ligia of the corrupt mayor the Swine,

On Friday a new quiz is coming up – What do your Castles say about you? (visual), and

On Saturday Saphira and the Marquis will highten the action on their Christmas Eve, while

On Sunday we’ll have the cover reveal for the Christmas Stories for Adults (Suspense&Mystery) which will comprise all these three stories, and will be released the 22-nd of December – just right as an electronic Christmas gift, quick and delicious. I’m so excited about this!

Please feel free to share your expectations in a comment – what do you envision happening in the plots, what thrills you, what you enjoy about the stories and what you’d like more. Check out all the previous episodes here, and the all quizzes here. I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

(Picture from http://www.pinterest.com)

Hyperion Episode 8 – In the Moonlight

BLURB:

Hyperion is on a mission to slay the Swine, a powerful Night Wraith. Yet in the last episode he found himself compelled to save his target’s wife, Ligia, from rape by one of her husband’s men. Hyperion killed the attacker, and now he has to dispose of the body, which he takes deep in the woods. Yet in the moonlight there’s more than Hyperion’s wraith that comes to life. Enjoy the story as secrets even Hyperion doesn’t expect reveal themselves “In the Moonlight.”

***

The Weasel’s body now lifeless at my feet, I hide my face deeper under the hood. This is the part where I become a real monster, and I don’t want Ligia seeing it in my eyes. I don’t want her to know I’m no better than her husband.

Without a glance at her or the widow, I grab the Weasel by his ankles and drag him over the sill. The adrenaline is still alive in my blood, and I must take advantage of it while it lasts. I jump over and sling the body over my shoulder, but as I advance into the darkness my feet begin to sink in the thick snow, the cold and the strain catching up with me. It’s been a draining night.

By the time I reach the heart of the woods I can’t feel my toes or my fingers. My lips are split and start to hurt. The ground is too frozen and too hard to dig anything resembling a tomb, so I give in to my other monster impulses. I take the Weasel’s knife – dented and blunt – and start around his face, applying more strength than I would with a good blade, and more skill.

He’s already rigid and barely bleeds as I cut around his forehead and cheeks, making sure he’s unrecognizable. I rip his shirt open with the same bad temper he ripped Ligia’s, shred his pants and underwear, and I chop him open. The cold neutralized his smell, but the warm insides of his body are an odor bomb.

I wait for a while in the frosty shrubbery to see if wild animals take a chance on him. They don’t – they prefer their prey wounded but fresh. They will devour him eventually nevertheless. Food in the winter woods is scarce. Still, if he doesn’t fall prey to fangs, by the time anyone finds him he’ll be long forgotten anyway.

The break helps refill my tanks just enough to start back towards the old widow’s house. I remember the story about the orphans in the widow’s barn, and I decide to seek shelter there. For that, I have to take a path through the village to cross to the other side of the woods, and so I have to pass by the well. When I do, my heart leaps in a way no wraith could ever cause it to.

Ligia stands in the moonlight with her back at me, her blond locks falling free down to her waist. I approach, the snow crunching under my feet. Apart from the sound of it there’s an unfamiliar pounding in my ears. Maybe I’m worried about the consequences of her leaving her house. What I know for a fact is that I can’t believe she honors the midnight meeting she suggested even under the circumstances.

“What if your husband returns and doesn’t find you?” I admonish when I’m close enough. Not too close, I don’t want her feeling the stench of death on me.

Her frame straightens and stiffens at the sound of my voice. She spins round, and her bright blue eyes meet mine, the blush in her cheeks like roses on porcelain. The sight stirs me, and I feel the urge to shield against it. I square my shoulders, putting on a forbidding face.

“He’s –,” she babbles a bit and gathers the afghan around her like a shy child. “He’s not coming back until morning. It’s not the first time he goes out like this.”

I give a stiff nod.

“I mean he’s at –”

“No need for explanations,” I interrupt, doing my best to sound unfriendly. It makes her feel embarrassed, and my stomach clenches. Not what I aimed for. “He’s seeing other women, I understand. You don’t have to give me the details if they hurt you,” I add a little softer. This encourages her.

“Hurt me? No, they don’t hurt me. I’m happy to have him away.”

She walks closer and looks me right in the face. I take a step back and she stops.

“I’m sorry about the first night at the citadel,” she says. “I didn’t realize you were . . . You’re not going to tell him, are you?”

“I just killed a man in his house, right before your eyes. Do you think I’m in any position to expose you?”

Her eyes wander all over my face, greedy and relentless, and I realize my hood is off. I want to pull it back on, but it seems awkward and pointless. It’s too late.

“Then we keep each other’s secret.”

I don’t reply, and keep my gaze fixed between her eyes. It helps me look distant, but something very strange happens inside of me.

“The widow’s lips are sealed as well,” she whispers. “She said she prepared the old Father’s chamber at church for you, it’s warm and cozy now, and she will be attending to you. I will as well, if you wish.” Her cheeks go even redder and hotter despite her breath turning to steam in the cold. I’d like to breathe in that steam.

“No. It would cause trouble for the both of us.”

Now she feels embarrassed again. She sinks her head.

“No it is, then. But if I may ask – why did you do it? Why did you save me?”

“Just an impulse. I came to see your husband, and –”

“You came to kill him,” she cuts off. It doesn’t really surprise me, the widow must’ve told her. I decide to restrict the answer though.

“It’s not that simple.”

“I understand. No need for explanation on my side either. Just know that whoever seeks to free this place of the Swine – freeing me of him in stride – has my complete and purest loyalty.”

She walks by me and stops by my side. She’s too close.

“Father Jacob. Is that your real name?”

“It’s the name they gave me in the monastery.”

“But not the name your mother gave you?”

The words make my jaw lock, but Ligia is patient. She doesn’t move until I speak again. “My mother was young. She had big dreams and daring ideas. She picked a more pretentious name.”

“Tell me. Even if it’s the last word you ever address me,” she pleads, her voice sweet and broken. It blows my shield into pieces.

“Hyperion,” I hear myself before I think it.

“Hyperion,” she repeats. There’s a kind of reverence in her voice. She seems to take my name with her as she departs, while I remain motionless by the well under the moonlight, my heart pounding, my face burning. The adrenaline races through me, but this time it isn’t anger or bloodlust. It’s something different. Something new to me. And strangely pleasant.

To be continued.

***

Liked this? Share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Hyperion’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults, so stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other goodies. This Story Book for Adults will also be quite fit for a Christmas present – stay tuned for the reveal of the cover versions next week, and you’ll see how come.

Enjoy Hyperion’s former episodes on this site 1, and my muse for Hyperion’s fabulous works here.

Picture from www.pinterest.com

Buy Hyperion’s whole story here.

 

 

Saphira Episode 4 – Bewitched

BLURB:

At the Marquis’ ball Saphira has learned that, apart from being a murderer, the young man is slowly taking control over the entire region. Soon there will be no place for her to hide. She attempted to leave the ball when her way was blocked by one of her overly insisting admirers. Then something that happened behind the man drew her alarm, and now she finds herself in a very perilous situation.

***

The young Marquis walks close behind the piranha Vladimir Pukov and stops him with a hand on the piranha’s shoulder. Something flashes in his other hand –metal. I only see it for a second or two, but it’s enough to make things clear – he can kill the piranha in cold blood, same as he did the man at the Royale.

“I have to step in,” he says. “You’re heading too confidently towards my date.”

At that word both the piranha and I look puzzled from one to the other, then to the Marquis.

“My apologies,” the piranha says, his shoulders slumping, his baldhead glistening with sweat under the chandelier. He has no idea that he’s facing a murderer, but he’s intimidated nonetheless. It’s the first time I see the bastard humbled, and it feels good. “I didn’t realize you and Miss Lothar –”

“Apologies accepted,” the Marquis replies before the piranha finishes, then offers me his arm. I’m afraid of the consequences of a refusal to take it, so I do without a thought.

He sweeps me with elegance away from the staring piranha. Surprised faces and Venetian masks draw from our path as we glide among them, and I become ashamed of my appearance. Most women look glittery and flamboyant but decent, their dresses long, so I feel more like an escort than a lady in my short golden cocktail dress, my hair unrestrained down my back. It’s too much, maybe even ostentatious. Inside I’m shooting reproof at my mom, who I now notice on the side, a happy smile on her face. Dad must be ecstatic at the sight of the Marquis and me together too.

In order to sheathe our heading for the exit, the Marquis stops here and there and introduces me to people I know already. They’ve been spending their holidays in this town for years, but one fact is indeed new and shocking to them as it is to me – I’m the Marquis’ girlfriend. Some of them would’ve considered their own daughters, sisters or themselves a far better pick, especially since they’re leading rich sharks in London and Paris. They have some difficulty swallowing the info that a bankrupt artist from the province has won the freaking lottery with the Marquis’ interest.

I have even more difficulty. I stare up at the Marquis’ face as he speaks, and find myself compelled by those dark, murky eyes. The way his hair frames his head, rich and glossy, it enhances the youthfulness of his features and the menacing feel of his gaze. I’m all too aware that he was ready to kill a man just minutes before. The scene of him removing his gloves after taking that man’s life at the Royale comes back like a stinging warning, and fear makes my muscles clench.

It’s baffling how he manages to lead the way amidst the crowd and then out of the banquet hall without anybody noticing. A line of people who look like guests but must actually be the Marquis’ staff close behind us like a human wall as we leave through a narrow – and secret – exit. My heart pounds in my throat as he takes me up dark stairs to the tower, an architectural ghost.

“Why are we going there?” I manage, breathless with anxiety.

“Don’t be afraid,” his voice resounds close. It makes me feel drunk, and I know he’s got a grip on my senses again. The fear subsides, and my hand relaxes as he takes it in his. The touch of his skin electrifies me.

I’m little more than a zombie with a crush by the time we reach the room at the top, the door creaking open like an old cell grate. The place looks a dungeon, the walls black and foreboding. The Marquis leads me slowly to a niche to the side, lights a candle, and holds it up to illuminate what I expect to be a wall. But when the painting I made of him reveals itself in the candlelight my senses shudder out of the trance, and I reawaken to reality.

I’m standing in the manor’s oldest tower with a murderer, looking at my best-kept secret. The Marquis seems to read my mind.

“You took mine, I took yours.”

“How did you even know about it?” I whisper, trying to hide my fear. I’ve painted it in repeated fits of nightly obsessions after the day he visited at my parents’ house, he shouldn’t even know of its existence.

“Your father. I suppose he wanted to make it clear to me that the chances stood high for the two of us.”

I’m embarrassed and enraged. “He had no right.”

“He had a reason.”

“He just wants to see me married to someone wealthy,” I spit. “I understand you’re as filthy rich as they come, so he’s doing his best to bring us together. That’s as noble as his reasons get.”

I can feel the warmth of him close behind me, and my knees threaten to melt. I struggle to keep control. My jaw tightens as my thoughts run in errant circles. The Marquis bends his head so that his lips touch my ear, sending a thrill all through my skin.

“You think it’s a good idea to put your father in that light? I understand tonight you learned what I do with greedy bastards.”

My head snaps to the side, and I stare at him baffled. A smile draws his young lips, and I feel an urge to kiss him. I bite the inside of my cheek until I taste blood.

“Yes,” he says, “I know what was discussed at your table.”

“How?”

“In my business I have to keep spies everywhere.”

“You mentioned your business before. What is it exactly?”

“Direct again.” He looks up at the painting and raises the candle. “Let’s talk some art first.”

I decide on direct once more. “You want to know why I painted you?”

“Oh, I know why you painted me. It’s how you did that I find intriguing.”

I look up at the portrait too. It shows him in his full beauty. I’ve been waking up at night with the urge of plunging into the oily colors, forgetting the brush and working on it with my fingers, wishing to feel him, to become one with him so I can understand him. I felt possessed, pushed into it by some evil force, moving like a nut case until I fell exhausted and smeared with pasty color all over, my eyes puffy and heavy.

“How did it get here?” I whisper.

“Your father helped. After you left for the banquet tonight, your maid opened the door to my people, who packed it and brought it here.”

“They were fast.”

“They always are.”

“What’s your name, Marquis?”

That smile again. “I can’t tell you that.”

“Why not?”

He looks me in the face, and I’m lost in the depths of his eyes, glittering dangerous in the candlelight. “Because it would give you power over me.”

“Are you a demon, then?”

“Yes.”

“You’re mocking.”

“You’re shaking.”

I haven’t realized that he walked to me while I retreated, and now I bump into the wall opposite from his portrait. I’m hot and start sweating, yet I can’t control my shivering.

“Why do you do this?” I whisper. “Why do you tell people I’m your girlfriend?”

“I’m making this serious. Otherwise you’d think I’m playing with you.”

“I don’t want us to be serious.” The words hurt as they leave my mouth, because in truth I desperately want him to kiss me.

“What do you want?”

“I want you to leave here and never come back,” I lie blatantly.

“I can’t do that, Saphira. Not after everything you saw.”

“I saw the end of a murder, yes. But not exactly what happened. I’ll keep my mouth shut, I assure you.”

“It’s not only what you saw at the Royale.” He’s now too close, and I feel high again. “It’s what you see in me. What you put in that portrait. And what you might reveal in other works too.”

“That is the portrait of a young man, nothing more.”

“That portrait is a confession. You don’t realize this, but it talks too much. You won’t be able to hold back, you’ll reveal more in time.”

I want to keep the line of replies open, but the Marquis’ next move stuns me. His arm winds around me and presses me to him, his other hand stroking its way up the halter under my dress. My heart jumps and my breath catches as his lips, warm and soft, take over mine. My head spins, and I can’t help touching him, letting my hands knot in his hair. He retreats before my passion breaks out of control, a satisfied smile on his face. I know immediately that he’s aware of his power over me, that he’s aware I’d go all the way.

“Not yet, Saphira. Not yet.”

He withdraws in the dark, leaving me shaking with desire. I’m under his spell, and I barely realize where I am until the door creaks sharply, bursting open. My head turns in its direction, and I see the last person I expect to see.

To be continued.

***

Next episode.

Previous Episode.

Liked this? Please share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Saphira’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults between the 15th and 18th of December. The book might just make the best present idea for some of your friends. Know someone who loves fairy-tales even in ripe years? Then take advantage of this opportunity, and stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other goodies.

UPDATE: Saphira’s whole story has been released in the Christmas Story Book for Adults.

Stay tuned for the Wednesday Quiz – One question. One choice. What does it say about you? tomorrow, and a new episode of the suspense story Hyperion on Friday. Enjoy!

Hyperion Episode 7 – Bloodlust

BLURB:

Hyperion has been feared in battle. The creature he turns into in his fights is fierce, draining, and impossible to tame when provoked. In this scene Hyperion returns to his target’s house to save the man’s young wife, Ligia, whom he might’ve put in danger. The situation he encounters surpasses his expectations and he is no longer capable or willing to control the wraith inside.

***

The Weasel has Ligia pinned against the wall, one hand ripping her shirt open and grabbing her breast. I can see it all through the window – it’s the only one lit. My senses spike free, my hearing now sharp enough to pick up every sound in and around the house – only some old furniture creaking in the main room, and two guards outside the front door. Not wraiths. The Swine took the heavy weight with him when he left. The Weasel must’ve stayed behind as indoor guard, and does the hell of a job attacking the boss’ wife. Ligia struggles and screams, her blond ringlets whipping the air around her.

“You’re doing this, you little bitch,” the guy spittles through his rodent front teeth, “unless you want your husband to hear more of you and your lover-boy the priest.”

“Nothing happened with the priest.” The despair in Ligia’s voice makes my blood surge. But it doesn’t seem to touch the Weasel at all. On the contrary, it makes him want more. He looks her in the face and grins.

“And who’s the Swine going to believe? He’s sort of lost interest in you anyway, he’s at the brothel as we speak.”

Ligia scratches him with a cry, and he slaps her hard in return. She covers her cheek with her palm, and I zoom in on her teary eyes in an impulse.

“I’ll fight all the way,” she tries to defend herself. “How will you explain the bruises to your boss?”

“I doubt he’ll tell the difference between mine and his own.”

That second I spring forward from the shrubbery toward the window, but a new element stops me in my tracks. I see the old widow launch into the room and push the Weasel with all her strength. He’s short, skinny and a bit hunch-backed, but the women are still no match for him. He sweeps the widow with one arm, sending her sprawled on the floor, and returns his attention to Ligia.

I can’t take any more of this. All pain and discomfort from the last hour is forgotten, my blood now hot with adrenaline. All I need is minimal input from my wraith to unhinge the window frame soundlessly and slither inside without the Weasel noticing. The moment he faces me I’m already close enough to squeeze his balls, the other hand covering his mouth and pushing him against the wall.

“Hello there,” I hiss, relishing the wide fear in his eyes. He stinks badly of alcohol and excrement, and his clothes are dirty. My nose creases as I look him up and down. “You and water are mortal enemies or what?”

He mumbles something behind my fingers, and I can’t resist the temptation to hear his fear too. I want to take it in through all my senses before I kill him, letting it recharge me.

“If you scream I’ll kill you slowly and painfully,” I say as I free his mouth. He’s surprised at the sudden freedom and stares dumbly at me before he gathers himself.

“What are you doing here? How come –,” his voice cracks. He clears his throat and tries again. “What are you doing here?”

“You presumed to know already.” I give him my evil grin. “I’m lover-boy.”

The Weasel’s jaw drops. “But you’re a priest. You said Catholic priests –”

“What does it matter what I said? You accused this woman of having an affair with me. So why are you surprised to see me here on a night her husband is away?”

“I –”

I don’t give him a chance to find his words, and punch him hard in the face. I hear his jaw split, so I grab his nape and press my hand on his mouth again before he can howl. The pain and inability to let it out makes powerless dread expand his pupils like a drug addict’s. Now I have a grip on the back of his head and the front of it, as well as on his full attention. I bring my face real close to his, so that he can get a good look at the creature under the priestly hood.

“This is what this woman felt as you prepared to rape her.” I give him a few seconds to feel it. Then I pull the arm behind his neck to the right, and the one on his mouth to the left. His head fires to the side, his spinal cord snaps, and he falls dead on the floor.

To be continued.

***

Liked this? Share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Hyperion’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults, so stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other goodies. This Story Book for Adults will also be quite fit for a Christmas present – stay tuned for the reveal of the cover versions on the 1st week of December, and you’ll see how come.

The picture featured in this article is considered for the cover, so let us know your thoughts about it.

Enjoy Hyperion’s former episodes on this site 1, and my muse for Hyperion’s fabulous works here.

Buy Hyperion’s whole story here.

HYPERION EPISODE 6 – MONSTERS

BLURB:

Hyperion is a man with a dark and dangerous secret. His mission is to eliminate the Swine, the corrupt mayor of a village by the Dark Forest, who is more than just a man himself. Provoked by the Swine’s vile nature and the man’s treatment of his own wife, Ligia, Hyperion had trouble restraining himself and sticking to his plan. He managed to keep it together until he left his target’s house, and let the creature inside manifest only when he reached the depths of the woods. But there has been an unexpected witness. Enjoy the adventure in episode 6, and discover more of Hyperion’s mystery.

***

The Mad Widow walks down the riverbank, then turns and looks at me over her shoulder. Her eyes tell me to follow. What she just witnessed doesn’t seem to as much as surprise her, let alone scare her. She must be truly mad. I have to make sure she doesn’t talk around, so I swallow the embarrassment and drag myself in her wake, with no idea what to do about her.

Naked and drained of power, I’m shivering. It feels bad, very bad. By the time we reach the old woman’s place in the woods I’m all frostbitten. She leads me inside her hut – no more than a big wooden tent actually – and I immediately focus on the cot by the fireplace. The ember is warm, and the spot the coziest one in the world right now.

Without asking for permission I crouch on the cot like a wounded animal, letting the warmth soothe my body. Every bit of it hurts, and I can’t think of anything else until I feel the scraping touch of sack material on my back. I turn to see the Mad Widow covering me with an old quilt and reaching me a mug of milk. I drink slowly, letting the hot liquid melt my insides, hands locked on the mug. My tongue is too damaged to feel the taste of poppy, but I soon recognize the effect – I’m calm, warm and sleepy. It must be obvious in my face, judging by the Mad Widow’s smile.

“There’s enough in there to knock you out,” she says. “But you look only comfortable.”

She wears a kerchief to cover her head like Ligia, but she’s old, and it fits her. Her eyes are dark and seem much livelier than you’d expect from someone as worn, let alone crazy.

“I’m weakened. But I’m still not fully –” I stop. I don’t know how to put it.

“Human,” the woman finishes the sentences for me. The way it comes out of her mouth, I feel exposed and angry. She turns, rolls up her sleeves and starts working on the kitchen-looking niche, as if nothing extraordinary happened.

“You’re not really a priest either, are you?” She continues just as calm.

I don’t answer. She turns and sits at the table with a mug of milk of her own, looking down at it.

“Something like you can’t come from God.”

“I don’t come from the devil either.”

“Too bad. You’d have to sprout out of the devil’s very lap to defeat the Swine.”

Weren’t it for the poppy, my blood would quicken now.

“You presume to know my purposes.” I keep my voice low. “May I ask how come?”

“Imagine you saw the mayor transform from a fat-bellied bastard into a nasty slithery thing. You’ve barely processed the shock when, a few months later, you saw the new priest turning into the same kind of monster in the woods, only muscular and steely. He’s new in the village, and you know the mayor doesn’t like him. What would you believe?”

“Some of the mayor’s men are monsters too,” I say through gritted teeth. “I could be one of his minions.”

“No, you couldn’t. I saw you with the old Father. I know he’s against the mayor. He let you take over the parish in his place, and left. From my end, it looks as if he set you out to do what he doesn’t stand a chance of doing himself.”

The woman sees too much. I try to stand, but my legs give in after only a few seconds. I’m going to need at least another hour until I’m strong enough to leave. Chills course down my spine, and I gather the quilt around me. The woman looks me in the face for the first time since the woods, and a bitter smile stretches her hatched lips.

“Am I a liability now, Father?”

“I’m not going to hurt you.”

“What are you going to do?”

“It depends. How do you imagine the Swine’s future?”

“Are you asking me if I’m a supporter?”

“I’m asking if you’ll tell,” I whisper, seeking to catch her eyes. She avoids my gaze again, and her features distort. She seems to be fighting back tears.

“Nobody in this village would tell on someone who’s here to rid them of the Swine. You’ve been in his house, you’ve seen his pack – he brought those men with him when he came here. Those men and the village drunkards are his only faithful servants. He practically took over by force. Killed my husband in the process.”

Her shoulders shake as she sobs, and I feel an urge to go over. Just be a little closer to her. But that moment a big shadow appears in the doorstep – I catch it from the corner of my eye. It’s the Village Bully, wearing a tame expression on his virtually furry face. He’s carrying a priest’s garment on his arm.

“The Old Father came to see me on his way out of the village,” he says. He looks a bit puzzled as his eyes wander from the widow to me. “He said you’d be here, and that I should bring you this. There’s more in his stash at church.”

I don’t even wonder how the Old Loon learned what happened. By now I know he has his ways, not always natural, and rarely orthodox. But the man’s next words make my stomach clench. He actually addresses them to the Mad Widow.

“You might want to go see Ligia. After the young Father’s visit the Swine gave her some serious bruises.” Here he turns to me, and I can see he’s sorry to bring such news. “He says prevention is always better than treatment. His right hand saw the two of you talk yesterday, so –”

My blood quickens, I don’t even listen anymore. His right hand. The Weasel.

The widow’s fit of anger breaks mine. She wipes her tears and cusses, gathering quickly what she can, throwing her afghan over her shoulders and pushing the Bully out of her way. He feels he owes me an explanation.

“She takes care of orphans.” He sounds moved. “They gather every morning at her barn, and she feeds them. In warm seasons they sleep there too, but in winter it’s impossible. She and her husband raised Ligia, who’s like a daughter to her.”

My stomach twists painfully. “Ligia is an orphan?”

The Bully nods. “Fate hasn’t been nice to her. Her parents died in a fire that consumed half the village when she was little. The Mad Widow took care of her and the others. Later, when the mayor came, they all crowded to get a job at his house, ‘cause it meant food and clothes. Her looks helped, she got hired along with two others. Later he married her.”

“Poverty forced me into it. That monster forced me into it,” Ligia’s words from our first meeting come back to me. The need to make sure she’s not in deadly trouble wins over the pain in my limbs. I stand, holding to the edge of the cot and to the table. The quilt falls off, but I don’t have time to be shy. I extend my hand for the priest cloak.

The Bully – I decide to rename him Pitbull ‘cause of his features – looks me up and down with an open mouth.

“This isn’t a circus, give me the clothes,” I urge him. He moves too slow, and I snatch them from him to make a point.

“Jesus, mate, what clawed you like that?” He says as I tie the rope around my waist, covering the scars.

“What does it matter? I’m standing here, aren’t I?” I push him out of my way and, unlike the widow, manage to haul him on his butt. He scrambles up and follows me, a string of questions shooting out of his mouth. He doesn’t relent until I’m exasperated enough to slam him against a tree trunk and squeeze his throat so tight he goes as red as blood.

“Drop it,” I hiss, and let him slump by the thick, gnarled roots.

It’s pitch dark when I reach the Swine’s house. I seek cover and move as lightly as my strained body allows until I find what I’m looking for. Adrenaline surges through my muscles as I see the danger. This could be it.

***

Liked this? Share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Hyperion’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults, so stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other goodies. This Story Book for Adults will also be quite fit for a Christmas present – stay tuned for the reveal of the cover versions on the 1st week of December, and you’ll see how come.

Enjoy episode 1episode 2  episode 3  episode 4 and episode 5 on this site, and my muse for Hyperion’s fabulous works here.

Pic source.

Buy Hyperion’s whole story here.

LILA Episode 3 – The Twist

BLURB:

Lila Banks is a financial spy for the F.B.I. Her target, Andrey Jones, is a young Wall Street broker who was ahead of Lila’s moves, and maneuvered her for his own purposes. In episode 2 they met again at a conference, and Lila realized she had a crush on him. She was wired, but the Chief’s warning came too late – two men in black flanked her from the elevator as she tried to leave, Andrey Jones blocking her way back. Enjoy the suspense in Episode 3, and a twist that will surprise you.

***

The two men in black suits drag me from the elevator to one of the rooms, and throw me inside. They haven’t said a word after I’ve given them my wire and everything I had on me besides the dress and my underwear. My heart pounds like crazy, and my mind is frozen on one thought alone – I should’ve taken the fighting training when I joined the F.B.I. I refused back then, arguing that it was my financial tracker skills that got them interested, and that I’d hold on to my femininity. Now I’m at the mercy of Mr. Bad and Mr. Worse.

They take position by the door, one on each side.

“Take off your dress,” Mr. Bad says – shaved head and goatee, neck tattoo right above the shirt collar. I don’t react, looking at him with an open mouth, trying to process what he said. He repeats and approaches, and I automatically crawl out of his way. He gets me between one of the beds and the heating.

I barely understand what’s happening as he pulls me up and tears off my dress. Before I know it I’m standing in my bra, panties and stockings, no shoes, each of the men keeping me in place by one arm, crammed in the space between the bed and the heater. I scream and wriggle, desperate. I throw a look at the window, seeking the smallest chance at salvation. Beyond the reflection of a blond woman in black underwear struggling with the perspective of rape I see it’s bricked up. Panic spikes.

“This isn’t helping your situation,” Mr. Worse says, his grin somehow reptilian. With his free hand he grabs my jaw, and I’m even afraid he might shoot out a split tongue, but what he does is force my head to look in the direction of the door as I hear it open.

The room is L-shaped, and I’m at the end of the long line. It takes a few seconds of heart-hammering suspense until the visitors reveal themselves as Andrey Jones and the Vogue cover Monique Maurette. The woman wears a self-satisfied expression to go with her seductive powder-blue eyes. Andrey Jones is the same unnervingly attractive young man, but his gaze is different than I’ve ever seen it before, in pictures or in person. It’s wicked and even hateful as he and his companion approach me, looking me up and down and clearly relishing the sight.

“Well, well, well, nice package,” he says. His voice makes the finest hairs stand on my arms. “You’ll do well in the business.”

My mind doesn’t even try to dodge the meaning of his words. Prostitution screams out in my head, but I can’t believe Andrey Jones would risk that with an F.B.I. agent unless he’s mad.

“There must be better use you can put me to.” I hear myself as if I’m outside my body, merely a witness. It must be the shock.

“A power-negotiator even under the circumstances. I’m impressed.”

“You say that a lot,” I spit.

“You’re starting to resent me.” He approaches slowly, his eyes now fixed on mine.

“Would you love yourself in my situation?”

“I’d like to know what I have planned. So I’d ask.”

“I have a feeling you’ll tell me anyway.”

“Your sixth sense fails you.” He walks very close, I now feel his cologne and his breath on my face. Against all odds, blood rushes to my cheeks. The crush is still there. For a second I doubt my sanity, then I persuade myself it must be the shock again.

“Why are you doing this?” I manage, my voice faint, my skin numb to the two thugs’ grip on my arms. But not to Andrey Jones’ as he lets his long fine fingers run down my neck and my chest, now stroking my breasts above the bra line, electrifying me. His eyes are deep and dark.

“I could say because the likes of you support the likes of Jinx. I could say because people get sold and slaughtered as lab mice due to the likes of you supporting psychos obsessed with yachts, icy champagne and wanting a new whore every night. I could say that because people die like ants squashed under a brutish boot supported by the likes of you, but it would be a waste of words. You know all this. No, don’t be quick to talk.” His finger stops my opening lips in a hushing gesture. “You’re not paying for anyone’s actions now but your own. Before the F.B.I. you worked for one of these people. And you knew damn well what you were doing.”

“I never . . .” But he doesn’t let me finish. His eyes are narrow and angry as his hand turns from caress to a hard grip on my cheeks. My lips swell outward from the squeeze. I frown and whine at the pain.

“Don’t lie to me, Lila. I have your record. Chief Schwarz fished you out of an office where you found ways to cover financial payments to flesh dealers.”

“They billed for something very different,” I pitch, growing desperate. “When I found out . . .” But he doesn’t let me make my point. I went to the authorities, that’s how Chief Schwarz discovered me, I scream in my mind. But before the idea can make it to my lips Andrey Jones covers them in a vicious kiss. It stuns me. His mouth latches on mine, soon turning invasive. Seconds feel long, and my head spins.

As Andrey’s lips leave mine I must look like a dumbfounded sheep. This time I can see more in the darkness of his eyes – a spark of desire. For a moment there he looks taken aback himself, and he retreats fast to Monique’s side, who I now notice stares daggers at me. She seems not only mad, but surprised too.

“You were successful, Lila,” Andrey says, gathering himself. “You gave me the Jinx. Now I’m greedy. I want more. But you can’t give me more from the custody of the F.B.I. So I need you exclusively in mine.”

With these words he grabs Monique’s hand and retreats a few more steps. I hear the door open again, and people stomping in. Two men carry what looks like a stretcher with a covered body and place it on the floor at Andrey’s and Monique’s feet. They shuffle the cellophane off to reveal the corpse of Dr. Boyd, my direct boss at the Jinx. I release a scream, shocked and scared.

There’s blood coming out of his nostrils. His chest is bared – shirt open – tie soaked over his hairy stomach. There’s a still gurgling hole in his throat. I keep screaming as Mr. Bad – or Mr. Worse – push something in one of my hands, cuffing the other to the heater. Faster than I can register they all leave the room, while I scream myself numb. Andrey is the last to exit, looking at me over his shoulder for a moment. I see a trace of pity in his gaze, but it must be just desperate wishful thinking.

The door slams shut and I fall apart hanging by the cuff, eyes on Boyd’s dead body sprawled on the floor, gun by my side, with my prints all over it.

There’s soon more screaming from the corridor, as if there’s a massacre taking place. Just minutes later policemen storm in.

***

Liked this? Share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Lila’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults between the 15th and 18th of December, so stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other Goodies.

UPDATE – Lila’s whole story has been released in the Christmas Story Book for Adults.

Pic source.

Hyperion Episode 5 -Night Wraiths

BLURB:

Hyperion is face to face with the Swine, his target. Hyperion himself is a man with a mystery as dark as the Swine’s, and with power to match, but his target’s young wife, Ligia, makes things difficult for him. Plus that the Swine is not alone. In this episode Hyperion has infiltrated the Swine’s headquarters disguised as a priest there to replace to the Old Loon, but his cover threatens to fall and the odds to turn against him any second as the action picks up.

***

My jaw tightens in frustration. I’m forced to sit at the Swine’s table, his men standing guard around us. Ligia’s eyes are bright with panic while his hand sinks in her golden locks. It seems he’s playing with them, yet by the twitch of her cheek I know he’s causing her pain.

I drop my gaze and repress an urge to grab the knife from his plate and drive it in his throat. In a split second I’d have him writhing on the floor, but his minions would be all over me, and they’d eventually save him. Instead I clutch the wooden cross hanging by my neck to keep my hands busy. The immediate proximity of a holy object is uncomfortable, but my wraith is on low supply to avoid being sensed by the others, so it’s bearable.

“You’re too handsome for a priest,” the Swine grunts, and I sense him looking me up and down from under his sweaty frown. “You catholic holy men are obligated to remain celibate, isn’t it?”

I nod, and feel his scowl drop to my lap.

“Such a waste.”

“The sacrifice was my own choice,” I say through clenched teeth.

“An irony. You’re supposed to keep us safe from temptation, and yet you make one yourself. At least for our women.” The dark pressure of his wraith puts snapping strain on my bones. It forces my own wraith to pump itself through them, steeling them, coming to life. I let my shoulders slump, like a human would. Head bent, I fight to keep down the surge of power in my veins.

“Much gratitude for your compliment.”

“Don’t be too quick with that,” he says. “I don’t like your lot, but I can barely wait to see the old soul-pastor return to his office. At least he’s harmless.”

I crouch even more, looking the intimidated human. “I understand.”

“Where do you come from, boy?”

That word again . . . “The Cozia monastery.”

“How long have you been a man of God?”

“For as long as I can remember.”

“Where did you grow up?”

“I was offered to the monastery when I was a toddler.” At least this part’s true. I leave out the attempts at exorcism though.

“And will you return there after the old priest reclaims his office?”

“I’ll probably replace another servant of God in another village.”

“Is that what the monastery uses you for? Replacements?”

“It is.”

The Swine doesn’t feel very convinced to me. My eyes are still down, but my pores are open to register every wraith and emotion around. I pick up Ligia’s heart pounding. Fear released drops of sweat down her back. She believes my cover, and fears I might betray her attempt to seduce me. Having seen me with the Old Loon last night only makes all of this more credible.

The Village Bully stands behind me like a bodyguard. I’m thankful to the Old Loon for the second time in my existence for having poured his witchery into the man, otherwise this would be a damn good moment for him to expose my plot and get a dozen wraiths on me.

The Swine stands and walks to the cabinet. I can see his feet in the silk slippers, and I hear the sound of liquid pouring in glass. Only a moment later his hand pushes the drink under my nose. He wears rings with colored stones tight on chubby fingers. The drink is something local, the smell of alcohol pungent.

“I hear you don’t fast,” he says. The chair creaks as he retakes his place, his eyes drilling into my half-bent forehead. I should’ve thought about it – with the Bully’s intervention last night, more of his men took notice of me with the Old Loon at the bar.

“The old Father invited me. It would’ve been disrespectful to refuse him.”

“And it would be disrespectful now to refuse me. Raise your eyes,” he demands.

Slowly, with a tight grip on my wraith that wriggles inside like a viper on adrenaline, I lift my gaze.

The Swine’s face is an unpleasant sight. It’s round and sweaty and lecherous.

“I hope you take the other virtues required from a priest more seriously,” he says, his hand winding around Ligia’s nape and pulling her close. His move lacks the smallest amount of gentleness. I sense the concept is foreign to him, as is any delicate feeling. My muscles tighten, I struggle to keep control.

One of the men behind him draws my attention. The one on his left. A weasely face, his front teeth like a rodent’s, and chipped. He has the specific grin of someone who knows himself the hero for something. I understand he’s the main spy in the team, so he picked up Ligia’s and my slight exchange last night. And he told the Swine.

I gulp down the glass of alcohol, which burns straight to my guts.

“Infringing the requirement of chastity is a nearly unforgivable sin,” I say after I set the glass on the table. “It can get one excommunicated. I’ve been in the Church for many years, and I’m still a priest.”

The Swine looks me up and down again. “I’ll accept that for now. Just make sure the parish is well taken care of until the old Father returns.” He measures me from head to boots again. “I can’t believe I’m actually looking forward to it.”

Two of his men approach from behind. My back stiffens, but they stop in place, synchronized in the same angle.

“I’ll see you on Sunday at mass, Father Jacob,” the Swine says, and I stand to leave. The men, both of them wraiths, escort me the few steps to the door. I can feel the creatures slither inside their human bodies. When the door slams behind me I take a deep breath of freezing winter air, but the Village Bully’s touch on my shoulder unbalances the frail control.

His, “All right, mate?” and Ligia’s pained yelp coming from the house set my wraith springing forward like a spanned snake. My whole body steels. I can barely repress a howl, which sends me sprinting towards the first tree line of the forest, wanting to come as far as possible before I must let it out.

By the time I reach the woods my muscles feel like metal, and my skin scrapes the priestly garment, which is barely more than a rag anyway. It shreds in the race from the friction with my hardening and raking body. Bald trees flash by, and knotted branches whip my face. They’ll leave no mark, and I run free and naked, the blood pumping hot in my veins.

The clearing comes into sight, opening wider from between two lines of thick old oaks, and I know I’m close to the citadel. This should be far enough for anyone to mistake my cry for a wolf’s. By the water I let out a long, liberating howl, putting all my power and urge into it. With the last tones my wraith releases pathos and I slump on the shore, cheek now humanly soft on the frozen riverbank, eyes on the sharp animal nails retreating back into a man’s fingers. It feels so cold I’m afraid the skin on my face might stick.

I lift my head slowly and look up. A couple of quick dark eyes meet mine from the other side of the river, confused but not stunned. I know these eyes.

“You here?” I hiss.

To be continued.

***

Liked this? Share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Hyperion’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults between the 15th and 18th of December, so stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other goodies. This Story Book for Adults will also be quite fit for a Christmas present – stay tuned for the reveal of the cover versions on the 1st of December, and you’ll see how come.

Please enjoy episode 1episode 2 and episode 3 as well as episode 4 on this site, and my muse for Hyperion’s fabulous works here.

Pic source. 

Buy Hyperion’s whole story here.

SAPHIRA EPISODE 3 – “NIGHT OF VENICE”

BLURB:

Saphira’s parents want to see her married well. She suspects they might even sell her to the highest bidder. The Marquis, a murderer whose secret only Saphira knows, has threatened to take advantage of this. He’s bought the most expensive venue in her home town from her father, a real estate agent, which won him the man’s favor and and control over Saphira. He organizes a glamorous banquet that everybody in town attends, but his ways are subversive. In this episode Saphira discovers that the Marquis is dangerous in more than one way.

(Episode one and two are available here)

***

It’s the Night of Venice here in Northville – a town devastated by air raids during the war, and rebuilt by some of the wealthiest families in England shortly after. They restored the houses to former Gothic glory, but there’s none like the Manor with the Fields. The place could easily pass for Dracula’s castle. It was the toughest sell in Father’s career, which got the family out of a very bad money situation, but I would’ve preferred bankruptcy to the chilling presence of its new owner.

The streets bustle with majestic outfits and Venetian masks. Laughter and giggling fill the night air as my parents and I make our way to the Manor, snow crunching with gravel under our feet. My ankles are frozen in the stilettos, and my feet already feel like bruised meat. I should’ve put on something more comfortable for the road, but Mum wouldn’t hear of it. I was required to make an impression from the moment I stepped out the door, since we wouldn’t want Pretty Lauren’s eyelashes to out-bat ours, or her outfit to gain any competitive advantage.

In conclusion now I’m wearing a short golden cocktail dress, and my hair like a mane of golden locks. Little difference left between my appearance and that of a luxury prostitute. Against the cold I’m wearing a quality wool coat, so at least for now I’m safe from stripper-ogling. I think of Father’s eyeballs spinning with dollar signs each time a bachelor shark sets his eyes on me, and my stomach turns. I yank my arm from the hook of his as soon as we reach the Manor steps.

A valet helps me out of the coat, eyes me up and down – discretely in his opinion, I’m sure – and I step into the ballroom. It has quite an effect, I must admit. The Marquis turned the place into a grand venue with mirrors and crystals. Better even than the Royale by the sea, where he and I first crossed paths.

All men wear dark suits like a uniform, but women make for a ripple of color and glitter. A knot begins to swell in my throat, my nose creasing at the flood of cologne. It’s soon hot and too loud. I follow my parents into air-kiss greeting here and there, and fail to spot the figure flying my way until it bumps into me, its arms around my neck with a film of sweat and scent of lilies.

“Saph, oh my Saphy,” she squeals.

I grab her shoulders and look into her face. She’s smaller than me and rounder, her eyes cacao-brown, sweet cheeks and a contagious smile. My mood changes in an instant, and I lift her in my arms.

“Jeanie Simmons, you little loony,” I yelp like a schoolgirl. Jeanie Simmons is the purest soul I’ve ever met. I’m genuinely happy to see her. “You here?”

“Came for the Christmas break,” she says, drawing me away from my parents and their cluster. “Just for two weeks but guess what,” she now whispers in my ear as if not a day had passed since our last pajama party. “I met someone and I don’t want to leave again.”

Like a squirrel she makes our way to a table where we find the banquet-polished versions of what we may call our oldest friends, though the term doesn’t fit in all cases. I’m the only one who still lives in Northville and not some fancy metropolis, so I must watch my manners.

First I recognize Pretty Lauren, the most label-aware, perfectly groomed of the group. Indeed, what Mum would resent as serious competition for a wealthy husband, especially in a pool such as the Marquis’ banquet. Lauren wears a short red cocktail dress, Swarovski jewelry and smoky make-up. Her hair is naturally dark red but now dyed the color of fire, and her smile forced to say the least. She raises her hand, and for a moment I wonder if she’s going to wave from so short a distance, but what she does is flutter her skinny white fingers – in order to prevent that I come any closer, I’m sure.

“Hey there, Saph. Long time no see.” Her voice is nasal and annoying.

“Nice to see you too, Lauren,” I lie and turn to the modest and grounded-looking woman sitting on the right.

Virgin Vivien is an understated and distinguished presence. Her face is smooth as porcelain without a trace of make-up, her eyes intelligent, and her frame slim. Wearing a dark bun and a little black dress, she’s not only a natural beauty, but she’s the most interesting woman I know. The eyes scanning her don’t dare do it overtly.

“Hey, Viv,” I greet as I take the chair by her side. Virgin Vivien and I have always been close in a quiet way. She comes to Northville often because the sea is close and she hates city life. A smile quirks up the corner of her mouth.

“How long do I still have to wait for that lonely-cliff landscape?”

I give an apologetic sigh. Truth is, I’m not that inspired. “Just give me another decade or so.”

“What’s it going to cost to get you moving?”

“Take your clothes off for a nude,” I crack, and she bursts into laughter. A second later something hits my back, and I realize it’s Jeanie’s arm resting on me, her breath warm in my ear.

“That’s him, up there with our host, that’s him.” It’s an enthusiastic whisper. I look up in the direction her gaze has taken, and my throat laces up.

The Marquis stands on the grand stairs, an elegant young man of a stunning beauty. The contours of his face, pale and flawless, contrast with his eerie dark eyes, and make something stir in my chest. I punch the feeling away, but it keeps returning. He is our host, so at least I’m relieved he’s not the new master of Jeanie’s heart. It must be one of the two men flanking him. Still, Jeanie is the exception rather than the rule. The female sighs around at the sight of him – including Lauren’s – leave no doubt the young Marquis fills the dreams of many.

His companions stand with crystal glasses in their hands, one of them keeping a jovial smile in place, the other’s face an impenetrable mask. The music stops and there’s the clinking of spoon on glass. It’s not the Marquis who signals a toast though, but the smiling friend on his left. He’s very tall and lean, his face bony and pronounced. He has ruffled locks and a creepy stare that has a disturbingly familiar something to it. He’s handsome in a unique and, most of all, interesting way.

It takes a few moments of en masse fidgeting until the crowd settles into a murmur low enough to allow a speech, which is restricted to gratitude for accepting them in the community.

Turns out the smiling speaker is the Marquis’ cousin, and Stone Mask on the right is his head of security. The Marquis himself only offers a short welcome to the banquet, and an invitation for everybody to enjoy themselves. That excited flutter moves to my stomach at the sound of his voice, and I realize with a cuss that I have a crush on him.

“Your mouth isn’t any cleaner than last time I heard it,” Lauren spews wickedly. I fail to bite back, but Jeanie does it for me.

“The last time you heard it you were in bed with my brother.”

And my fiancé at the time. I’m grateful he’s not here now. I wish Jeanie would add the part where I wiped the floor with Lauren for everyone to hear, and Lauren’s eyes widen at the possibility too. She picks on another subject with a momentum.

“Who’s your Mr. Special of the two?”

“Why d’you wanna know, plan to bed’em?” Jeanie blocks.

“How does she even know about Mr. Special?” I ask. Jeanie’s still looking daggers at Lauren.

“She was a bit loud when she told me,” Viv cuts in. She’s smiling a warm smile at Jeanie. “Always exuberant in her jolly moods.”

Jeanie drops in her seat next to me. “The one who talked. Joyous.”

“Are you serious? His name is actually Joyous? He looks more like the young version of Hannibal Lecter,” I say.

“Stop that. He’s the sweetest guy ever.”

“Where did you two meet?” I’m dead curious now.

“He came over like some Mr. Bingley,” she sparkles. Then spews a bit of harmless venom at Lauren. “You know, Mr. Bingley? Pride and Prejudice?”

Jeanie’s a bit ridiculous trying to make Lauren look an idiot. Lauren rolls her eyes and raises the Venetian mask on a stick to shield them. I guide Jeanie back to the subject to save her from looking the idiot herself.

“It’s all thanks to the Marquis,” Jeanie continues with reddening cheeks. “He’s interested in my dad’s old pub and the land that goes with it. It’s been rotting closed for years, so dad said why not. The Marquis sent his cousin to discuss the matter.”

My jugular pulses in alarm. “The Marquis wants to buy yet more land?”

This strikes a chord for Lauren, who flashes the mask away and bends into the discussion over the table. “The guy’s so rich, it’s almost insolent.” Her eyes glint. “My dad talked of it often these past weeks, he was intrigued. So he did a bit of digging, and it turns out all the Marquis’ business partners ended up ceding him everything they had. And he’s been doing business with some very powerful people.”

“One of them from Northville, actually,” a young man slips into the discussion. “He died a month ago. On the night of the Royale banquet actually. He was supposed to attend but never made it. You might remember him from other events, in his forties, plucked eyebrows, good body, in love with himself. Found dead in his car.”

A buzz starts in my head, and I no longer listen to the cause of death. I know it’s a fake. The man died at the hand of the Marquis, I saw it. I saw his dead eyes fixed on his murderer.

“Signed the cession on the day he died, word has it,” another man says. Soon the discussion heats up, and I stand with a dizzy head, seeking my way to cooler air. The cologne and body warmth of the crowd smothers me.

Jeanie asks if I’m okay and wants to join, but I refuse. On my way to the door the baldhead piranha who’s been terrorizing me with phone calls walks my way with a filthy grin on. I don’t stand a chance to avoid him, but then I see it. I see what’s behind him. I want to scream, but I fail.

To be continued.

***

Next episode.

Previous episode.

Liked this? Please share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Saphira’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults between the 15th and 18th of December. The book might just make the best present idea for some of your friends. Know someone who loves fairy-tales even in ripe years? Then take advantage of this opportunity, and stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other goodies.

Saphira Episode 1 & Saphira Episode 2 are available here for your entertainment.

UPDATE: Saphira’s whole story has been released in the Christmas Story Book for Adults.

Pic source.

LILA Episode 2 – Short Story for the Coffee Break

BLURB:

Agent Lila Banks’ original mission was to get under the skin of Andrey Jones, a suspicious high profile broker. It turned out he was a step ahead of her in every way, and forced her hand to infiltrate the Jinx Enterprises as his own spy. She has to use her F.B.I. privileges as well as her skills as a financial tracker to discover who the Jinx are paying for medical experiments that seem to result in DNA modification. But she also discovers that Andrey Jones is far more dangerous than she or even her F.B.I. superiors have anticipated. This scene depicts the pivotal moment.

(the first episode is available here)

***

There is no dinner or cozy fireplace when I next meet Andrey Jones. It’s at a conference in the lobby, the place swarming with financial crooks in expensive suits, drinking champagne. Greed seeps out of their predator grins, and their eyes are glassy and cold. All I can see in them is numbers and ego.

When Andrey appears my heart jumps – a face too handsome for this place, his worked-out body outlined in a dark quality suit. A millisecond later my spirits sink. There’s a swan-like woman on his arm, slim and tall, a toned leg emerging from the split of her dress with every step she takes. Ebony-black hair in a chignon, striking powder-blue eyes. Probably in herself a label of the New York modeling business.

Despite this glamorous adornment I can’t help glancing at Andrey too often. Champagne in hand, I decide to keep on my new boss’ tail with a smile, resisting the urge to adjust the tiny headphone in my ear that Chief Schwarz equipped me with. I have to move like a stuck-up diva myself in order to keep it in place. It doesn’t threaten to fall out, but to slip into a position in which it would become useless.

My boss is in a fervent discussion with the Head of Operations when I hear Andrey’s voice behind me.

“Miss Lila Banks, what a pleasant surprise.”

A wave of heat floods my cheeks as I look up at his face. Masculine features, dark brown eyes and a cunning expression. The man is mighty attractive. I swallow hard. “Mr. Jones, yes. Pleasant indeed.”

He takes my hand and kisses it. Something stirs in my belly at the sensation, but my boss steps in and spoils the feeling, demanding to be introduced. He’s a big and protective presence, in his early fifties, cleanly shaven and serious-frowned, salt-and-pepper hair. He’s the no-nonsense type of guy, but soft-spoken and well-liked.

“Andrey Jones, this is my direct superior, Mr. Boyd.”

Dr. Boyd,” the boss corrects and holds out his hand, palm downward like any domineering animal. But Andrey’s no less of a predator. With elegant moves he walks just slightly to the side, forcing Boyd to subconsciously rotate his hand, and only takes it when the palm faces upward. Boyd doesn’t realize his mistake until it’s too late, but he takes it with dignity.

“Doctor,” Andrey slurs in that voice of his that electrifies me. “I’m impressed. And in what field?”

“I’m the head of finance at Jinx Enterprises,” Boyd declares, swollen with pride. “What field can it be?”

“Please forgive my ignorance. Lila hasn’t told me she worked for the Jinx.”

“I only started a few weeks ago,” I say, my voice breaking with anxiety. Acting is not my forte, never has been. I’ve done what Andrey wanted, I’ve sent him the data from my most secure account at the F.B.I. It wasn’t easy to track down Jinx’s payments, but what the heck, I’m excellent at it – false modesty isn’t my forte either.

Andrey holds out his arm and invites his lady companion into the picture. She flashes a perfect, dashing smile at Boyd.

“Monique Maurette,” Andrey says. “She’s the latest cover on Vogue.”

That he labels her as “cover” without any hint at her being human doesn’t bother the diva. Yet Boyd reacts unlike anything I expected. He straightens up and makes a point of being unaffected by her charms. He draws near to me, his hand covering the small of my back. I start with surprise. I don’t understand him.

As not to affect the egos around I’m wearing a little black dress, a vintage hair-do that goes with the white-blond hue of my hair, and slight make-up. I’m just one of the many blondes around, consciously keeping a low profile, and not even close to Monique’s league. Still, Boyd completely ignores the diva, who pouts in disbelief.

“And how do you and Lila know each other, Mr. Jones?” he demands to know.

A russet flash crosses Andrey’s eyes. He looks like a challenged lion. “We go to the same gym.”

Boyd turns to me rather theatrically. “You never told me you knew the Andrey Jones, dearest Lila.”

“I don’t really know him,” I try for a smile, but my voice is still shaky.

“She applied for a job with me, before she decided to try for the Jinx.”

I wish the ceiling would fall down and squash me. Or rather Jones. My eyes convey a desperate, “What are you doing?”

“Is that so?” Boyd now turns fully to me, his gaze interrogative and crushing. “Did you keep in touch since? To be more exact, were you in touch as Mr. Jones maneuvered his way to the majority of shares at Beta Pharma?”

Andrey breaks out into a conciliatory laugh, and slaps Boyd’s shoulder, who raises an eyebrow in outrage. He’s too shocked to do anything else about it. “Relax, Dr. Boyd. Lila had nothing to do with it.”

“To achieve something like that one needs information, Mr. Jones. Some of it vital.”

“That is a fact. Yes, I knew the Jinx controlled the majority and effected major payments to Beta Pharma, but not from Lila,” he lies.

Boyd changes colors like traffic lights, and I must be doing the same. There’s no way I’ll come out of this clean. I should’ve never trusted Andrey Jones.

“You turn out to be some financial tracker,” Boyd grunts, his eyes hostile as they fix Jones.

“I have a great financial tracker.”

Can he get any more specific than that? I’m certain my cover is blown, blood pumping in my ears along with Chief Schwarz’s breath and staccato typing in the tiny headphone as he listens to this.

“It won’t bring you much gain, Mr. Jones,” Boyd spews. “If we only just delay payments, the company will go down.”

“Not with their as good as inexistent costs and blasting results they won’t,” Andrey defies. He looks at me as he continues. “I must ask, Dr. Boyd, if you knew how they optimize their expenses. If you knew their R&D costs include acquiring test subjects from corrupt countries. Mostly inmates without family, you’d be surprised what a good investment they make. Barely worth a grand each. There’s rumor even the scientists they employ are recruited against their will, and motivated by rather medieval means.”

“That’s preposterous,” Boyd exclaims, and the tone of his voice assures me he simply didn’t know.

Chief Schwarz’s voice pierces through static in the headphone, controlled but urging. “Agent Banks, get out of there, now.”

I freeze for a moment, my eyes darting from Boyd to Jones and back.

“Abort, now, Lila, or we’ll never see your pretty face again.” His urgency increases.

I excuse myself and turn on my heels, heading like a robot towards the elevators. I punch the button and act as calm as possible, eyes upward to keep the tears from breaking out with anxiety. I turn nervous and switch my weight from one leg to the other as I sense a dark presence behind me. I can feel Jones’ eyes on me. I do my best to ignore him, but it’s a hurdle.

That very second the elevator doors begin to open in their slow high-tech time, revealing the cabin like a safe haven. Yet as they grow wider two ominous figures in black suits step out perfectly synchronized. One of them extends his hand.

“Your phone Miss Banks. And make-up kit. No, make that your whole purse.”

I hesitate for a second, decide a struggle would only be pointless, then hand it over. The man passes my purse over to his partner, who begins rummaging, and extends his big hand again.

“And your wire.”

***

Liked this? Share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Lila’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults between the 15th and 18th of December, so stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other Goodies.

UPDATE: Lila’s whole story has been published in the Christmas Story Book for Adults.

Please enjoy the first episode here.