“Resurgence”: Chapter Four

So–what do you think so far? Please leave a comment. And if you’re interested in the first two books, here’s the link for them: https://www.amazon.com/K.-R.-Morrison/e/B009RBRJ0C/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

CHAPTER 4

Steve sat on the end of the bed in his hotel room, staring numbly at the TV screen. He could hardly believe what he was seeing.

The video showed flashing lights in the dark, emergency personnel rushing around, and a body bag, occupied, being lifted into a coroner’s wagon. Those images were not what had caught his attention; unfortunately, they were daily fare in this modern world. The reason for his dumbfounded stare was that this news story was located at the very lot where he had been just a few hours before.

The announcer droned on: “The body was found by a security guard who had just come on shift at midnight. The man who was on duty before him has been reported missing, and a search is underway.

“The tarp over the buried house had been disturbed, and that is the focal point of the search. Police have—“

He was interrupted by a shout. The cameras panned immediately from the announcer to a close-up of a man’s head popping up out of the hole. Everyone on the site clustered around him, so that any audio was drowned out. The news reporter and the camera operator ran toward the crowd and tried to wedge their way in to get some information.

The station suddenly cut to a commercial. Steve waited impatiently for the news to return. As he waited, his cellphone rang.

“Steve Bronson. Oh—Mike? What’s the story out there? Yeah, I have the news on here in Seattle.” He listened, then almost dropped the phone in surprise and shock.

“They found WHAT? How do you know? Oh—you’re there? Okay, okay, keep track of what’s—What?  They found the missing guard in the COFFIN? Gang signs where?”

Steve’s face screwed up in disgust. “Well, that might go a long ways to explain things. Rotten neighborhood—I felt unsafe even during the day. Okay, keep me informed. Thanks—bye.”

Steve turned off the TV. No need to keep watching, since Mike was right there. To hear it again on the TV news would just make it worse.

His head whirled with questions. How did the security guard get himself murdered?  And where were his clothes? How did anyone know about the casket in the buried house?

So many questions. He wished he was home and completely ignorant of this whole dilemma. But he had to spend an extra night away due to the fact that he had to meet the high-and-mighties at corporate downtown tomorrow. Hopefully, sometime during the night, he would be able to come up with some answers that corporate could use against the inevitable newshounds.

And what would the client think when she learned of this mess? Steve rubbed his eyes and passed his hand over the top of his head. She’ll go nuts, is what. Well, he’d just have to handle her the best he could, whenever he saw her again. He was sure he’d hear from her soon, considering what had happened on her lot in New Orleans.

The phone rang again.

“Steve.” he answered.

“Mr. Bronson, this is Professor Brown in New Orleans.”

“Oh, yes. How are things progressing?” He was surprised at the very late hours the professor seemed to keep.

“We have been very busy today, but we have made some progress. I thought I should call to let you know what our preliminary findings were on that piece of wood.”

“Ah, yes. And…?”

There was a long pause. Steve was beginning to think the connection had been lost, then Professor Brown cleared his throat. “First of all, let me reiterate that no conclusive information has been presented yet. It may take up to two weeks to be absolutely sure. But—“ another long pause—“ it is not from around here. And it’s ancient.”

“Just how ‘ancient’?” Steve was getting impatient; he wasn’t especially interested, except for the circumstances under which it had been found. He could understand the professor’s interest, but Steve had had a long day.

“At least a thousand years old. We believe it’s from a tree species that grows, or grew, in the Middle East, or perhaps in the North of Africa.”

“Wow!” That was a surprise. “Let me know what else you find. Thanks for the update.”

“Certainly. Good night.”

Steve clicked off and, since he was too tired to go anywhere for dinner, flipped the TV back on and passed through the channels. Too early to go to sleep, and nothing else to do.

The action of the rapidly-changing TV stations was mesmerizing. He found himself going into a trance of sorts, as he continued to push the button on the remote.

Beside him, next to the bed, a barely-discernible change in the air occurred as Lilith materialized as no more than a frisson of energy. She gloated to herself as she let her gaze travel down his long, lean body. As she leaned over him, she pricked the skin on his neck with a sharp demonic talon. When he absentmindedly swiped at the irritation, Lilith had to smother a giggle. Oh, she was going to enjoy this…

She licked her lips as her fangs grew. Her breath came harder and she saw the bloodlust mist as it covered her vision. Reaching out, she lunged at his shoulders—and missed completely.

His phone had rung simultaneously. She swiped at empty air as he rolled quickly to grab the phone from the nightstand.

“Hi, Lydia! How’s my favorite wife?”

At the very moment when he uttered Lydia’s name, a sudden surge of energy crashed into Lilith—a power she had not felt in eons. It picked up her still-invisible essence and threw her backwards, through the closed door and into the hallway. She kept going, straight through the next wall and back into Howard’s room.

Howard was also watching TV. He looked up, surprised, as Lilith landed in a heap in the middle of the room. She was round-eyed with surprise at what had just happened to her. Anger swiftly replaced the more vulnerable emotion.

“Went well, did it?” he asked.

“Shut up,” Lilith growled, and disappeared back through the wall.

“When do I get dinner? It’s not getting any earlier!” Howard yelled after her.

She poked her head back through the wall. “I have to think. Go find someone. But—remember, we do not want to be a threesome, so kill or go lightly. I know what Judas is capable of.”

Howard shook his head as she disappeared again. He got up and went to the refrigerator, where he pulled out a bag of red fluid. He tore off a corner with his teeth and had the contents gone in a flash.

Nasty. Well, cold blood was better than none at all. Barely. That blood bank across the street was certainly in a handy spot. In and out, invisible, and problem solved. But of course there was no challenge to it. Nothing like the hunt. He preferred hot blood from a frightened victim, the heart racing, the stream spurting into the back of his throat…

He groaned. Maybe he should call room service and have them bring up, um, “dinner”…

 

Lilith paced up and down the hall, frustrated. She’d tried to get back into Steve’s room again to latch onto him, but that powerful force was still present. What could be causing that? Only angels, or…worse…had that kind of power. Why would he be protected so strongly?

A tingle in the back of her head told her that her Dark Master was near. She held still, waiting.

No entities appeared, no smells of sulfur or changes in atmosphere, merely a vision worming its way into her mind.

Two vampires bent over a woman’s body in a blood-spattered room.

Lilith smiled. Her type of scenario.

Her smirk vanished as she saw unbearably bright light pass through the ceiling above them. It broke into three columns, and then manifested further into three armored Beings, each bearing a mighty sword.

Lilith gasped, then growled as she recognized one of them. Michael! The most powerful of the Creator’s heavenly host! She watched helplessly as he gave a signal to the other two beings. They rapidly dispatched the vampires, who had been so intent on the destruction of the mortal before them that they had had no idea of what was going on above them.

She then heard her Master’s voice, mere thoughts in her head. “Lydia Bronson. The one who decided to come back. These two servants you just saw destroyed were Vlad and Lucius, lost to my use for now. Michael saw to that. You know what is needed.”

Yes. Revenge! Lilith’s eyes narrowed. Revenge for what Steve’s wife had done to Vlad, revenge for the power that emanated from Lydia Bronson so strongly that it enveloped her husband in a mere phone call.

Perhaps—and Lilith smiled evilly at the thought—perhaps that power could somehow be used against Lydia, and against the Creator and his happy sheep. It was worth the risk. And if Lydia could be utterly destroyed into the bargain, well, so much the better.

Steve was a different matter.

Lilith continued to pace. She needed him as her slave, so that she could pursue her plans without questions or obstacles. But how to get to him, if she couldn’t get close enough to change him into her thrall?

She was still deeply in thought as she wandered back into Howard’s room, just in time to see him finishing off a housekeeper. The woman lay on the couch, her face frozen in terror. Her fingers were still deep in Howard’s hair, clutching, even in death trying to push him off.

“Howard! Dammit!” Lilith stomped over and, disentangling the woman’s fingers, rolled him off of her. He had the good sense to look embarrassed.

“She just…came in,” he explained helplessly. “I guess she thought the room was empty. I couldn’t help myself.” He frowned at Lilith. “It’s your fault for taking so long.”

Lilith rolled her eyes and sighed. Then the hot, coppery smell of the victim’s blood hit her nose, and she groaned with hunger and desire. Without another thought, Lilith fell on the hapless victim and completed the job of emptying her of life.

Then she got up and looked at Howard. “What. pray tell, did you plan on doing about the body? I am fairly sure she’ll be missed. And the rest of the staff will know she came up here.”

Howard looked lost. He hadn’t given any thought to the consequences, only that he hadn’t hunted in far too long. A bag of pilfered, donated blood just wasn’t enough.

Suddenly the body stirred. The housekeeper sat up, eyes red and mad, new fangs glistening.

Lilith blew out her breath in frustration. “Oh, you’ve done it again, Judas. I’m pretty certain it wasn’t Howard. Another mouth to feed. Well,” she sighed, “you can keep her, but you’re responsible for her.”

Howard looked over at his newly-awakened offspring. A thought came to mind almost immediately, one that would actually make her useful. He asked her, “How would you like to be my personal assistant in a new business venture?”

The new vampire nodded dumbly. She had her mind on blood, not a career.

Howard looked over at Lilith and shrugged. “Well, we have to start somewhere.”

He got another bag from the refrigerator and handed it to the new staff member. “Finish this off. We’ll hunt later.”

* * *

Steve sat at the bar, toying with his nachos, and waited.

He had been very surprised when he found out that Delilah had also arrived in Seattle; surprised even further when she told him, over the phone, where she was staying—right here in the same hotel.

So even though it was late by his standards, Steve had gotten himself presentable and had come down to wait for her. He wasn’t looking forward to what he had to tell her about her New Orleans lot.

How he wished he could have just gotten into his car at the airport and driven home tonight. But he had a lot of fires to put out at corporate, and home was a couple of hours away. What should have been a routine update on a build in New Orleans had become a media nightmare, and it would take all of his energy and intellect to get through this.

He noted his reflection in the mirror behind the bar, and was startled to see how tired he looked. Home and Lydia would help him immensely, but unfortunately that was not in his immediate future.

He glanced to the bar entrance again, and saw Delilah framed in the doorway. Fresh-looking as a flower; not for the first time, he marveled at the resilience of youth. She was accompanied by a man whose face Steve knew, but couldn’t quite place. He looked like he was in his late thirties perhaps, with longish hair, and somewhat uncomfortable in what seemed to be brand-new clothes.

Delilah met Steve’s gaze and smiled. But instead of coming over to meet him where he sat at the nearly empty bar, she and her companion took seats at a table near the door. She motioned for him to join them.

Puzzled, Steve gathered up his plate of nachos and his drink and walked over to their table. Delilah smiled brightly at him as he sat down.

“Steve, it’s so good to see you again. What a surprise to find you here, in the same hotel. Isn’t it, Howard?” She had to nudge her companion, who was looking at the drinks menu.

“Huh? Oh…yeah.”

Delilah frowned as Howard returned to perusing the menu.

Steve tried to return her smile, but those facial muscles were already in bed, asleep. The best he could muster was a sincere effort at a twitch at one side of his mouth.

Delilah looked concerned. “Is something wrong?”

Steve rubbed his eyes; their lids were strongly hinting that they’d like to join his smile muscles.

“No, not with me,” he replied wearily. “Just exhausted. I was up at four this morning and it’s almost midnight now. That is a really long day, when you add in the time difference.” He drew a sigh and squared his shoulders for what he had to say.

“Delilah,” he began, “I don’t know if you heard, but your lot in New Orleans is off-limits indefinitely.”

“What??” She obviously hadn’t heard. “Whatever for? I mean, once the archaeologists and history officials are done with it, what’s to keep me from building over it? If they want to pull the house up, I’m willing to wait, but…”

“Um—there’s been trouble. Big trouble. Two murders on the scene. One inside the house itself.”

Delilah was speechless.

Steve continued, “I’m really sorry about this. Looks like the murders were gang-related—at least one, anyway. There’s already so much tension between the rival gangs in the area that there’s bound to be an outbreak of revenge and counter-revenge. The police have sealed the place up tight. That entire neighborhood has had extra patrols put on it, and if anyone on the streets even sneezes funny, well…let’s just say it’s a good idea to steer clear for a while.”

Delilah sat in silence, thinking. After a moment, her smile returned. “Oh well, not much we can do, then. Just—leave it. I’ll pay everyone what I owe for all the hard work they did, plus a week’s wages for time lost.”

She leaned over and gazed into Steve’s eyes. “Besides, I have some other irons in the fire.”

Steve stared back. Those eyes! So…beautiful. So mystifying…so…NOT LYDIA!

He tore his gaze away, deciding that now would be a good time to make his acquaintance with Delilah’s companion.  The poor guy was obviously bored; Steve wondered why he was even there if Delilah was paying so little attention to him, and way too much to himself.

“Sounds good, but who’s your friend here?” Steve held out his hand as Delilah nudged Howard. “I’m Steve Bronson. I was on the site to help with Delilah’s plans for her lot. As you heard, it’s at a standstill.”

The man glanced a bit sourly at Delilah, then shook Steve’s hand, smiling affably enough.

“Howard Messer.”

Ah-ha! Steve thought to himself. So that’s why he looked familiar.

“I thought I recognized you.” Steve was diplomatic enough to avoid mentioning why he had heard of Howard Messer. Practically everyone in the media had nicknamed him “Howard Mess-up”. Everything he touched turned to chaos and disappointment.

Howard’s smile faded a little, then returned just as quickly. The silence that followed became a bit awkward. Neither man knew what to say that wouldn’t be stupid or insulting.

Delilah finally intervened. “I met Howard in New Orleans, and I’ve agreed to underwrite his new business. And it’s going to be based right here, near Seattle!” Delilah looked as happy as if she’d just won the lottery.

Steve could only stare, dumbfounded. Was she the only person left on earth who hadn’t heard of Mr. Messer’s famous business nosedives?

“You’re sure about this? I mean,” Steve added hastily, seeing Howard’s frown, “do you have the funds to see such a plan off the ground, and the means to keep it going until it is a success?

Until. Right…

“Oh, yes, I’m sure I do. Daddy has lots of money, and Howard’s idea is just the perfect thing for what he wants to invest in.” She smiled indulgently at her friend.

Steve was interested in spite of himself. “And what is it, may I ask?”

“Medical research. Specifically, blood-borne pathogens. Finding what’s wrong and making it right. We still have a lot of planning to do,” here she took Howard’s arm and smiled joyfully at him, “but we can take our time, hire the right people, all of that.”

You’d think she was talking about planning a wedding, Steve thought to himself. He had to force himself not to roll his eyes.

He smiled at the two of them. “Well, I hope it all goes well with you. Best of luck.” He raised his glass, realizing only now that neither Delilah nor Howard had ordered a drink.

Odd…

Delilah looked surprised. “Oh, you’ll be right along with us—you and your company. We plan on hiring you to renovate the building complex I’m buying.”

Steve set down his glass a trifle hard. He was not ready for this little surprise.

“Really? And do you have a place picked out?” He toyed with his drink, trying to cover his astonishment. As he raised the glass to his lips, he waited for her reply.

“Oh yes. A big place a couple of hours’ drive from here. Used to be owned by Magma Enterprises.”

The glass fell from Steve’s hand. He stared at Delilah, the shock evident on his face.

Magma? That’s where Lydia worked. Where…”

“Steve? What’s wrong?” Delilah was mopping up his drink while he stared, unseeing, remembering the horrors that had taken place there not so many years ago.

“Steve?” Delilah patted his hand, making him jump. He snapped back to the present.

“Huh? Oh, sorry, did you say ‘Magma’? That burnt-out shell that’s been rotting on the hill overlooking Morningview?” he asked.

My hometown.

“Yes, that’s it. Why? Is something wrong with it?”

“It’s just…no one’s been able to do anything with it since Magma folded. Vagrants break in for shelter occasionally, but never stay the night there. Investigators, both police and paranormal, have tried to explore the place, but run out, unable to stay more than an hour.”

“Haunted?”  Howard leaned over, showing more interest now than in the entire time he’d been occupying space at the table. “That’s perfect. I love the challenge!” He smiled, delighted.

“Yes—or worse,” Steve answered him. “I wouldn’t spend a minute there, myself.” He shuddered at the thought.

“I hope you change your mind.” Delilah touched Steve’s chin, turned his face to look into her eyes.

He fell into their blackness, floated along in their silky softness, rolled in their embrace. He heard himself muttering, “…’k…”

Wait–what have I just agreed to?  

That thought broke the hold she had over him, and he shook his head, hard. Then he rubbed his eyes yet again.

“I’m sorry, Delilah, Howard. I have got to get to sleep. My mind’s playing tricks on me.”

Delilah arched an eyebrow. “Really.” She sounded amused.

Something’s wrong here…Steve got up quickly, almost knocking over his chair. “I’ll, um…see you around maybe.”

“Yes. Tomorrow, in fact. Bright and early. We’ll fill out the paperwork at the office.” Delilah looked like the cat that had eaten the canary. She smiled and looked out at him from under hooded eyes as she toyed with a strand of her hair.

Steve looked surprised. “Paperwork?”

Delilah grinned happily. “Yes, of course. You just agreed to be my foreman on the project, remember?”

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“Resurgence”: Chapter 3

CHAPTER 3

The first thing Howard was conscious of on his way to awakening was that, for the first time in years, he was stone-cold sober. The second was that he no longer hurt. Anywhere. Body, mind, spirit—especially spirit. Following closely on the heels of these two sensations was the feeling that he was no longer alone inside his own body.

At first, the awareness of the other two presences was more of an idea, a thought that eluded him like quicksilver when he tried to grasp it. But gradually, as he moved away from wherever he’d gone to, which remained unclear, he started to make out two indistinct forms in his mental vision.

They emerged from the depths of his unconscious mind, pixels of light and dark, coagulating into the shapes of two men. At the same time he was finally able to see distinct features, he became aware of a tugging at his mind and the sensation that, not only were his thoughts and experiences being exposed, they were being absorbed by the two figures that co-existed here with him.

Well, this has to stop, he thought indignantly, no matter what strange things are going on.

“Who are you?” Howard demanded, scowling at each man in turn. “Where is this? Are there more of you? Let me out of here.”

Neither answered him. The first being looked, to Howard, just like any other Middle-Eastern man he’d ever seen. Yet the clothing was odd, somehow. And the sandals on his feet—unless they were some sort of retro fad, he’d swear they were the same as what he’d seen in the Bible picture books he used to read to his kids.

The other one was really strange. Clad only in some sort of animal skin, this one’s features were very primitive-looking, as if he had just stepped out of an Ice Age exhibit at the museum.

They both had their eyes closed, breathing deeply, their arms out from their sides. Howard could see their fists clench and unclench as the data stream from his own mind was drawn into theirs.

Finally, the pulling he had felt in his memories abated and the two men relaxed. Opening their eyes, they stared at each other in wonder.

“Amazing. What a change in the world since our imprisonment,” said the Middle Eastern man. The other merely nodded, clearly relishing this new knowledge.

Howard’s patience, never long, was shot. “Oh, enough of this. I demand some answers! Who are you?” he demanded through gritted teeth.

The first man, seemingly the more outspoken of the two, looked at Howard in pity and shook his head briefly. “Best to let Lilith tell you.”

“Lilith?” Howard was truly puzzled now. “Who’s Lilith?” He glanced around in the space they occupied. “Is she in here too?”

“Oh, that’s right. Name change. Don’t know why, but whatever. She does what she does.” The spokesman held out his hand. “At the moment, we are CJ. What we will be called is still a mystery to both of us.” The other nodded.

“What the blazes are you blathering about?? Again—where am I?” Howard was beginning to panic— what he had blown off as being a really odd dream was too real now. He could see nothing past the greyness that surrounded the three of them, but he knew that he was in a strange new reality—and he didn’t like it one bit.

“You are still quite safely in your physical body. She’s destroyed mine,” Middle Eastern said bitterly, “so now we’re rooming with you.” CJ smiled nervously, both of them, casting nervous glances at each other.

“So do we both fight him and share control, or take our chances?” whispered the primitive to his counterpart.

“Wait—wait a minute.” Howard rubbed his eyes wearily. “Are you saying that I now have three personalities? Because I’m quite sane, and—“

“Not three personalities. Souls. Three of us, in one body. The Devil’s little joke on the Trinity.”  Seeing Howard’s confused look, CJ Dominant asked, “You know, God? Trinity? Father, Son, Spirit?”

“Yes, yes, I know all that.” Howard snapped irritably. “I’m not…wait, you haven’t answered my other question. Who’s Lilith? I need to talk to her and straighten some things out.”

CJ Primitive snickered softly. “As if we haven’t been trying for millennia…” he muttered to himself.

Dominant gave him a “shut-up” look and turned back to Howard. “Ah, yes. Well, my dear Howard Messer, Lilith is actually your new friend Delilah. And she now owns your soul.  As she does ours.”

“No! I don’t believe that!” Howard tried to back away, aghast and terrified.

Suddenly CJ Primitive held his breath and listened, eyes gazing upward, hearing sounds that Howard could not. He seemed as if he was waiting for something to happen. Then he looked Howard in the eye.

“Well, you’ll have every chance to talk all you want, if you end up being the one to control our body. I think we’re about to wake up.” He took a warning step toward Howard. “That’s a big ‘if’. Keep in mind, neither of us,” he nodded toward his cohort, “goes down easily. Vlad won before, but only because we fought individually. We won’t make that mistake again.” The two invading souls glanced at each other conspiratorially.

“Vlad? Who’s Vlad? Where is he?” Howard spun around, as if there might be a third being creeping up behind him.

“Vlad Tepes. You know—Vlad the Impaler? Count Dracula?”

Howard was incredulous. He stared into nothing for a brief minute, then shook his head, hard. “Damn bartender. Hallucinogenics,” he muttered to himself, glancing at the two beings. He rubbed his forehead. “Wait ‘til I regain consciousness and sic the cops on him. Then he won’t think it’s so funny to zing the customers. Good-bye business, hello lawsuit.” He managed to grin at the thought.

Then he felt a sharp kick in his side, and heard a somewhat familiar female voice.

“Howard! Wake up! We have to get you cleaned up and out of here.”

Howard suddenly found himself alone. His mind swam leisurely toward consciousness, holding back, luxuriating in this new privacy and quiet. CJ, or whatever, was gone, and he was alone with his thoughts. Floating, floating, hmmm, hmmm, hmmm…

A sharp slap to his cheek and he was awake, staring up at a woman’s face. A rather lovely one…hmmm…bring on the hallucinogenics…double them, as a matter of fact. Who knows who I’ll see next…hmm…hmm…

The woman rolled her eyes. “Judas!” she commanded in a voice that brooked no dissent. “Get up here! Now! This guy’s worse than you ever were.” She stood up, brushing the hair out of her eyes. “Hades, I sure know how to pick them,” she said to herself.

Howard felt a push in the center of his mind, and suddenly he was standing next to CJ Primitive. CJ Dominant was nowhere to be seen.

“Taken control, as usual,” CJ Primitive said sullenly. “After thousands of years, you’d think I’d get a chance, but no…”

“How do you think I feel? I’m in my own body, but no longer in control of it!” Howard shouted. “And why the HELL is this making sense??”

Primitive held up his arms to ward off a blow that didn’t come. Howard gaped at the being’s reaction to his fit of anger.

“You wonder why you’re not in control?” Howard snorted disdainfully, shaking his head. “It’s because you’re a wuss.”

“Hey!” Primitive put his arms down and turned away, hurt. “I’ve gotten soft, stuck in the background all this time. At least when Vlad was in control, I had Judas to keep me company. Not the best of companions, but at least he didn’t call me names.”

“Wait—what? Judas? Who’s—you’re saying…” Howard pointed randomly, not knowing which direction CJ Dominant had gone—“That’s…JUDAS? THE Judas? But—no way that…” He sputtered and his voice trailed off, not knowing what else to say.

“Now don’t be so surprised. Haven’t you picked up on our memories? You must have. Didn’t Lilith say anything to you?” CJ mused about this for a moment. “Well, that’s odd. Oh, well, that’s Lilith though. Forgets all about us when she is hell-bent on a prize.”

He turned to Howard and laid a hand on him companionably. “Well, it’ll all come clear soon enough. Things will make more sense after you’ve died by day for the first time. Then we’re in a different world, and…”

“Hold it. Here we go again with the crazy stuff. ‘Die by day’? What’s that all about?” Howard was losing the tenuous grasp he had on his sanity. This day was not going at all well.

Primitive sighed. “Okay, obviously the data stream was only one way, from you to us. Guess you weren’t conscious long enough.”

“All I remember was seeing a gorgeous woman standing over me, getting angry, and now I’m back here again.” Howard remembered thinking that a liaison in a dirty alleyway was rather disturbing, but he kept that thought to himself.

“Then allow me to fill you in on what’s going on. You’re not going to like it, but neither did any of us. So there we are.” Primitive stuck out his hand in an unexpected modern gesture. “Name’s Cain—and yes, it’s the Cain from the Book of Genesis, so don’t ask.”

Howard’s mouth opened and closed convulsively, his eyes wide as saucers.

Cain smiled reassuringly. “Once you’ve died by day and then awakened entirely, you’ll understand everything.” He held up a hand at the next barrage of questions. “Hold it. Let me finish what I’m saying.” He looked steadily into Howard’s eyes.

“First of all, the term ‘awakening’ is when someone is turned completely into one of the undead. Until then, he or she is in kind of a holding pattern between alive and, well, me.”

“‘Undead’? Like ‘zombie’?” Howard was near panic, sure that he had gone completely over the wall into looneyville.

“No, not zombie. Not so simple as that. Now, remember that Vlad the Impaler was part of our merry crew at one time. And what was he?” Cain was enjoying being the one who knew everything for once. First time since, well, ever actually.

“V-vampire?” Howard unconsciously put a hand to his throat.

Holes!

He let go in a full-blown panic. “No! I won’t! Never! How do I get back and get Judas out of me? And you?”  Howard caught at Cain, but the man’s ephemeral form merely closed over his hands like fog. The soul of Cain shook his head. He actually seemed to pity Howard.

“You’re stuck. And Lilith won’t let you back until she needs some aspect of you that she finds important.”

Something suddenly occurred to him. “Oh—this won’t help, but you need to know. Lilith is the bride of Satan, his first and favorite slave. You should look her up in one of those computer things everyone’s always staring at these days.”

Howard never wanted a bottle of whiskey so badly in all his life. Just one big series of swallows, and this would all be a blur.

Suddenly, without preamble, he was in full control of his body again. He was standing now, the muck of the alleyway clinging to his clothes. And Delilah, or Lilith, or whatever, was speaking to him.

…and we’ll be leaving for Seattle tonight, after some unfinished business.”

Howard backed away, trembling, shaking his head in disbelief and terror. “No! I—I can’t! I WON’T! You get these two out of my mind and leave me alone! I’ll—I’ll just get by without you. Go away!”

Lilith turned her full attention on him, gazing in dull surprise. “Nice of you to join us, Howard…”

She advanced on him, her eyes like ice, her voice edged in death-cold steel. “You really think it’s that easy? Just ask, and we will go away? You seem to have an idea of what has happened, or you wouldn’t be cowering against the garbage like that. Had a nice little chat with Cain then? He’s hordes of fun, isn’t he?” She laughed sarcastically. “Such an idiot. There’s good reason why he’s left in the background.”

Howard was still backing away, stumbling over trash and slipping on puddles. Lilith just kept coming toward him, taking her time, as do all beasts of prey. Her eyes stared holes into his soul.

“My dear Howard, there is no going back. You have only one choice—our Master’s orders.”

“I n-never agreed to any of this!”

Lilith’s eyebrows arched. “Didn’t you now? As I recall, you said you’d do ‘anything’ to become a success.”

“Not this!” Howard found a shred of courage, and clung to it with his life. “How could I know this is what you had in mind?” he shouted.

“What does she have in mind, Howard?” asked a new voice from the mouth of the alley.

“Damn!” Lilith hissed in a low voice. “Judas, take control.”

She whirled around to see a man observing them, leaning against the brick wall of the pub.

Putting on her most alluring smile, she slithered towards him. His attention was definitely caught.

“Hmmm, what have we here?” the stranger crooned, giving Lilith the once-over about three times. Her body-hugging evening dress did not leave much to his imagination, which was working overtime.

“And what have we here?” Lilith purred. She put out her hand and grazed his shoulder, smiling seductively.

“Are names important?” the newcomer asked.

Then he looked at Howard, a sneer on his face. “Except for Mr. Messer’s of course. I don’t know what you see in him. He’s pretty famous for screwing up. Or did you know? Makes big bucks and then flushes them down his throat.” He grinned. “Can’t wait to tell the press about this little escapade. Caught with a—well, lady—in a back alley, reeking of whiskey and dung. He’ll be sunk even further.”

He looked back at Lilith with a self-satisfied air. “You’d be better off with me. We can have ourselves a good ol’ time.” His hand was on her back, drawing her closer.

Lilith’s voice was deep, ancient ice. “Hmmm. I don’t think so.” The man drew back, shocked at this rejection.

Then he smiled broadly. “Surely you don’t mean you prefer The Mess to me?”

Lilith gave him the briefest of frigid smiles. “You’re not my type.”

He grabbed her, drew her up to him, his face inches from hers. “And just what is your type?” he whispered hoarsely in her ear.

A quirk of a smile on those lovely lips; he missed entirely the cruel spark of demon fire in her eyes.

“You’re not breathing.”

The man’s eyes widened in surprise, then he laughed. “Well, of course I’m breathing.”

Lilith laid her hand gently on his chest. “Oh, my mistake. I’m sure we can fix that.”

The man’s eyes went from merriment to puzzled, then rapidly into terrified shock. His breath came in short gasps as his face turned red from lack of oxygen. He tore at Lilith’s immovable hand and struggled to back away, but found he couldn’t move. He was paralyzed with fear as he saw Lilith’s face transformed into true evil.

Finally, when he was on the verge of collapsing, she let him go. Gasping in great lungsful of air, her victim backed away, not taking his eyes off the she-devil who had almost destroyed him. Then he turned and tore out of the alley and down the street.

Before Lilith could react, a large black shape raced past her. The beast was on the hunt.

“Don’t be gone long,” she mentally yelled after it. “We have a flight to catch.” Then she laughed to herself. “All for the best, really, that guy showing up. We’re not on a dinner flight.”

* * *

Inside the beast’s mind, Cain was grinning from ear to ear while Howard looked on, stupefied with shock.

“The only part of this putrid existence I’ve come to enjoy!” Cain shouted, as excited as if he was on a carnival ride.

Howard could only look on helplessly, seeing what Judas saw from inside his own disembodied mind. He watched, horrified, as the beast caught up with his prey, jumped him, and clamped its jaws—his jaws!—on the man’s throat. The neophyte vampire wanted to throw up at the sight of all that blood streaming from the gashes on the victim’s neck.

“Wait for it…”said Cain, almost giddy with anticipation. “Wait…for…it…” He closed his eyes and smiled, hardly moving.

The beast pushed its muzzle into the open wounds and drank. Howard closed his eyes too, but in disgust and loathing.

Suddenly, that was all pushed aside, as a feeling of incredible power came over him. It was better than any drug he had ever abused, because he got the high without losing his identity. This was what he had been looking for. This completed him!

Cain, of course, felt it too. Howard could see him swaying, his eyes half-closed, a big grin on his face.

Howard got it, this whole undead experience.

Okay, I’m in. What now?

* * *

The beast trotted back into the alley. An orange feral cat watched from the top of a garbage dumpster, her tail flicking.

They both transformed at the same time. Lilith just stood there, shaking her head in wonder.

“A dog? What happened to the wolf?”

“Gotta change with the times and geography. No wolves here, but lots of dogs. And what about you…Catwoman?”

Lilith blinked in surprise. “Judas?”

“Yes…who else could have pulled this adventure off? Not Howard—psh, what a whineyass. You think Cain and I are just stupid relics from past centuries? We pick up on things pretty fast.”

Sirens howled in the distance. Lilith listened, then turned to the monster. “Okay, great, you’re geniuses. Now put Howard back in control.”

“What? Why? I’m doing quite okay here…”

“We need him to go pack whatever he owns from that flea-bitten dump he’s been living in, and get out of those disgusting, smelly clothes. He has to have his own personality and face on the body when we get on that plane.”

“Why? He seems like he has made a name for himself that isn’t all that pleasant. Who would care?”

“Howard needs to be seen on that flight because of what we will be doing in the near future. We have an appointment to keep, which will change things forever. And people need to make the connection. The media has to know where he is and what he is doing now. Call it marketing—it’s the beginning of a brave new world for our kind.” She walked a few steps, then turned and looked back at him.

“Wipe your face. You’re a bloody mess.”

They settled themselves into the first-class section and watched the other passengers as they passed down the aisle. Lilith entertained herself by imagining them all with their faces frozen in one last rictus of terror, their bodies strewn throughout the cabin. And she standing in their midst as the plane went down, covered with their gore.

But a jouncing disturbance kept disrupting her thoughts.

Howard couldn’t seem to keep still. He kept turning around and looking behind him, playing with the overhead lights and air jet, and leaning over her to look out the window.

Lilith watched him, taken aback by his behavior. Was he high? Had his victim been loaded on coke or something? Then it came to her, and she caught him by the shirt front as he bent over her a third time.

She forced his face towards hers, and confirmed her suspicions. Cain’s and Judas’ visages kept coming to the surface, as excited as kids.

“Get back in there and put Howard in control,” she growled at him in a low voice.

Howard surfaced. He smiled apologetically. “They’ve never been on a plane, so…”

“Shhh! Someone will hear you and think you have some sort of multiple personality disorder. We can’t have that, can we? It’ll rather spoil your chances at remaking yourself.”

Howard sighed, settled back, and closed his eyes. Actually, ‘multiple personality’ pretty much described him now. “Not my fault you put…”

He caught himself and opened his eyes, looking around for anyone who might have heard him.

“…that you did what you did.”

He finally settled down and feigned sleep. Lilith sighed and pulled out an in-flight magazine. She was still reading it when they landed in Seattle.

* * *

They checked into a nearby hotel and settled into their rooms. Howard was perusing the TV channels when Lilith suddenly materialized in one of the chairs.

He jumped, surprised. Then he let out a breath and said indignantly, “Must you do that? Hell, you almost made my heart stop.”

“Uh, guess what—it already has. Or mostly.” She gave him a lopsided smile.

“Which reminds me,” Howard said. “I have a lot of questions.” He sat on the edge of the bed and stared intently at Lilith. Since he had had the chance to chat with his “roomies” on the flight, he was now less frightened of her.

They had shared their memories and thoughts with him, and by the time they’d made Seattle, there was nothing about them that he didn’t know. And their attitude toward their jailer was now his—fear had no place with him.

“And I’m hungry,” Lilith retorted. “Can we delay the interrogation until after I’ve fed?” She looked bored; Howard was told by the others that he could expect that attitude very soon in their relationship.

“How are you going to do that without someone noticing? You can’t go around killing people without being noticed. And you didn’t like my idea.” He nodded toward the room’s small refrigerator.

Lilith glanced at the fridge and wrinkled her nose in disgust. “I have my ways, Howard. I’m sure the three of you had a lovely chinwag on the plane, so you needn’t ask such a thing.”

“True,” Howard said, “but there is one thing we’re all still mystified about.”

Lilith looked at the ceiling and let out an exasperated sigh. “Oh, fine, get it over with. What is it?”

“Why us?”

“Why you…what?”

Howard started over. “Why were the three of us chosen for this…plan…thing? Why not anyone else in history, besides Vlad, of course. He seemed a natural.” The name sent chills down Howard’s spine; like the other two, he was horrified by the Impaler’s unworldly cruelty.

Lilith stared at him for a long moment, then she slowly smiled in wonder, shaking her head. “I was wondering when someone would get around to asking that. Believe me, I asked the same question to the Master. ‘Why him’? I’d ask. Seemed such stupid mortals to be using. Except Vlad…”

She smiled in dreamy memory. “He was a really great adventure…”

“Um—Delilah? Lilith? Hello?”

“Oh—right. Anyway, the Master told me one time. Guess it’d be okay to pass on this little nugget of knowledge.

“Cain represents the Creator’s first mistake, breeding you loser piles of carbon in the first place. Judas represents His second mistake—allowing said chunks of carbon to have freedom of will, to decide to love or hate… Judas did the most vile thing of all, by killing the Son.”

Judas interrupted her, the eyes now brown and furious. “I never!…You…I didn’t!” he sputtered in impotent rage.

“Oh shut up and go away, Judas. We’ve gone over this for centuries.”

Howard pushed his way back to the forefront. “And me? Why?”

“You were convenient for the time and events we are preparing for. Disgraced, despairing, totally lacking in anything that could be perceived as morally upright. Your core was as black as if rotted by plague. Worse. Perfect for us to conquer.”

“Oh, well, thank you so much,” Howard snapped. “Tell you what. You go away, and we’ll proceed on our own, like Vlad did. None of us care for your company any more—as if we ever did.”

“Not happening. Vlad was useful for his vicious, destructive use of the power to create our offspring, but he drew too much attention. Good thing he was removed. You, Howard, have the cool head and business acumen to drive this project, now that you won’t be drinking…booze. With alcohol no longer an issue, you won’t be slugging the profits down your pie-hole anymore.”

Howard ignored the barb. “What, exactly, is this ‘project’?”

“Well, making offspring, of course, but in a different way than before. Replacing mortals’ free wills with a mind and soul chained to the powers of darkness, until there are no souls left that can be claimed by their Creator.”

“And how am I supposed to do that? Hunters are still out there somewhere.”

“They won’t bother us. We’re going into a legitimate business.” She looked levelly into his eyes. “We are going into medical research.”

She smiled at Howard’s shocked reaction. Then, standing up, she said, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get a drink.”

“Where from?”

She smiled. “Across the hall. One Mr. Steve Bronson.”

**********************************************************

So–what do you think so far? Please leave a comment. And if you’re interested in the first two books, here’s the link for them: https://www.amazon.com/K.-R.-Morrison/e/B009RBRJ0C/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

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“Resurgence:” Chapter Two

CHAPTER 2

“Oh, do shut up. You’ll wake the neighbors.”

The sardonic voice in the darkness in front of him made the vampire leap in surprise. He hissed, fangs and talons ready to tear up whoever had been fool enough to let him out.

The voice, and the body it belonged to, moved toward him in the darkness. A distant memory made him pause.

Could it be? Lilith?

She sauntered over to him, dimly glowing with her own ethereal light. He didn’t recognize her at all, but knew it was she beyond a doubt. The clothes, the hair, the demeanor—all very strange. But they could not completely conceal who she was, at least not to the eyes of one who had spent eons with her.

She smiled. “Welcome to the twenty-first century… Um…okay, which one of you is driving?”

The beast stood confused. ‘Driving’?

Then it hit him. ‘Twenty-first century’? Twenty-first century?!

Just like that, over a hundred years and more of existence, gone in a flash. It had to be true; he’d never seen such clothes on a woman before. Imagine, a woman wearing trousers!

“Well?” Lilith sounded amused. “Are you going to say anything? Or did Vlad take away your voice before he left?”

“You know about…?” He could only get out a squeak after so many years of silence. His throat was beyond parched from lack of sustenance.

“Oh, yes, we knew. He popped right into Hell when he was, shall we say, ‘liberated’ from your body. Made a terrific impression.”

She peered closely at him. “So which one are you? Looks like—oh, yes, how could I forget those big, brown, anguished, I-hate-myself-and-everyone-else eyes? Must be Judas. Am I correct?”

He nodded, dazed. Not a few minutes ago, he was in the world inhabited by the undead, and now here he was slammed face-first into an unknown new one. He couldn’t comprehend what was happening.

Lilith was pacing, her eyes looking at the floor, tapping her lips with a finger.

“Lilith— ”

“Shut up. I’m thinking.”

“ ‘Shut…’? What?” How could he do what she wanted if he couldn’t understand what she was saying?

She rolled her eyes, noticing his confusion. “Okay, listen up. For over 100 years I have been inhabiting this world while you’ve been holed up in an inaccessible room. So let me do the thinking. We have things we need to do, and I need you to just follow my lead.”

Judas shook his head to try to clear it. Such strange language, and so unexpected from a woman, even if it was Lilith.

She continued pacing. “First, we need a new name for you.”

“I am Judas.” The statement was strong, decisive, and unquestioned by the soul of Cain, who was hiding in the background of the monster’s mind.

Lilith gave him a half-smile. “Um, yeah—no. Even in this day and age, people avoid that name like the plague. We could go with Cain, but that means he’d be in control, and he wasn’t so good when he was just in his own body.”

The primitive features of Adam’s son appeared on the face and snarled. He opened the mouth to hurl insults, but was subdued by Judas’ stronger personality.

“Got it!” Lilith stopped pacing, finger pointed up. Then she lowered it at Judas. “We’ll call you CJ. Cain and Judas. That’ll work for this time period.”

“I will make my own decisions!” barked the beast. “I was in control of myself for many hundreds of years…“

“And then you got jumped by who knows who, some Hunter, no doubt, had the Vlad kicked out of you,” she chuckled at her own joke, “and got put in deep freeze until now. Yes, really great judgment calls there.”

A new question finally made itself known in CJ’s mind. “How did you know I was here?”

Lilith looked at her fingernails, admiring the red paint on them. At least, he thought it was paint. He salivated, thinking of what it might be…

Finally, she answered him. “Oh, we’ve always known where you were.”

What?

CJ felt the anger of two frustrated souls welling up rapidly within him. It burst from his lungs in volcanic wrath.

“WHAT? You’ve KNOWN? Yet you left me here for over ONE HUNDRED YEARS???”

“HEY!” Lilith yelled back. She advanced on him, painted nails now her horrible claws, beautiful face transformed into her real visage. CJ stumbled backwards, momentarily frightened into silence.

Smoke rose from her. She looked like damnation triumphant as her eyes bored holes into him. “There was this little matter of something wedged into the keyhole. A piece of that CROSS!!! And how can any of us get past that, you tell me! It certainly kept you from getting out!”

One hundred and more years in a room with no sustenance and no means of dying hadn’t put CJ in a very good mood, and he rose up himself, matching her horror for horror.

“And what, pray tell, has happened to your talents for bewitching mortal men into doing what you wish? Surely you could have found someone to enthrall—someone who knew which end of a shovel to use in order to dig a hole. And with a little more talent, he could have plucked out that noisome sliver just as easily as someone else seems to have done now.”

Lilith seemed to physically deflate as she returned to her human appearance. She responded in a much calmer voice, “For some reason—I don’t know—I couldn’t hold anyone in thrall for this purpose. Believe me, I tried,” she said in an almost pleading voice, her eyes unnervingly human in remorse. “But something held them all safe from my plans.”

“But anyway,” she continued a little more blithely, “at least you’re out now. We can get on with what we’ve been assigned to do. Finally.”

“Wait.” CJ hesitated. “Is Vlad still—a part of this ‘assignment’?” He didn’t like the idea of that filthy, depraved soul controlling his body again. Memories of his cruelties made the two remaining souls cringe in disgust.

Lilith’s face reflected disappointment, but only briefly. “No. He and Lucius became great pals at Headquarters, and were given an assignment together.”

“And?”

“They screwed it up completely. Taken down by the Creator’s winged puppets.” She shook her head ruefully, smiled a half-smile without humor. “They think they’ve won, the little do-gooders. Well, our Master’s not without some retaliatory strategies. And that’s where you and I, and Howard, come in.”

“Howard?”

“We’ll meet him tonight.” She looked at something on her wrist. “Oh, damn. We’re running late—all this time talking to you instead of just pulling you out of here.”

CJ looked at Lilith’s wrist. “What is that?” he asked.

“This?” She held up her arm. “It’s a wristwatch. You know—a ‘timepiece’?”

“Interesting. And it’s fastened somehow around…”

“We don’t have time to talk about modern inventions. We need to get you fed,” she saw CJ’s eyes flare in hunger, “and get to our meeting with Howard.”

She twisted around into the dark, then dragged something heavy from behind her.

It was the security guard, who had learned too late that a pretty face didn’t mean a pretty heart. Getting to him at been all too easy. All she had to do was play the helplessly lost stranger, and he had become putty in her hands.

Now he was bound and gagged, but very much awake. Lilith had put him in thrall just enough to keep him quiet, but when he saw the lean, pale madman before him, his eyes widened in panic. He squealed and struggled, his heart racing.

Lilith stepped back. “He’s all yours. Try not to turn him, and don’t get his blood on his clothes. You’ll be wearing them.”

The poor mortal was in full-blown panic, and was struggling to his feet.

“You’d better hurry before I take him instead,” Lilith whispered hoarsely, her own eyes glowing red. Her tongue all but lolled out of her mouth.

CJ needed no more prompting. He fell on the hapless guard, and finished him in seconds. The mortal’s final screech was absorbed by the walls of the house, which had heard such sounds for decades and were not impressed. CJ was so efficient at his kill that his victim’s very skin became wrinkled and dry.

Lilith whistled low. “Boy, when you finish ‘em off, you don’t mess around.”

CJ looked up at her questioningly, blood dripping from his chin.

She shook her head impatiently. “Never mind. Get this guy’s clothes on, and make it quick.”

 

It wasn’t as quick as Lilith would have liked, since such inventions as zippers had to be explained enough so that CJ could manipulate them.

“Crap. Next time I’ll find you a guy in sweats,” she muttered as she helped CJ into the clothes. CJ wanted to ask what she meant by ‘sweats’, but thought better of it. Hopefully, he would pick up on these modern-day expressions quickly.

Once he was dressed and his face cleaned up, they headed for the ladder. Suddenly Lilith stopped, laughing to herself.

“Wait a sec. Got a great idea.”

She went back and picked up the security guard’s naked corpse and settled it into the coffin. Then she clawed a mark on the man’s torso. CJ looked on, puzzled.

“What will those mortals think when they look through this place tomorrow!” Lilith laughed.

“What kind of rune did you mark him with?” CJ asked. “I haven’t seen that one.”

“It’s a gang mark. Groups of people are waging war on each other everywhere, and once the news gets out about this mark being here, the local gang is going to blame the one that uses this one. Hopefully it’ll start a turf war, and won’t the Master be happy about that!”

Before they left, Lilith flung CJ’s old clothes into a closet. They then departed the house. CJ was surprised that they exited by use of a ladder, not realizing that his grand house had been eaten by the very earth it had stood upon. What a surprise it was when he emerged onto the roof, only to find himself standing on solid ground.

He gaped at the empty lot, with the fence around it.

“Wha…? WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO MY HOUSE?? He walked as if in a daze over the top of his once-grand mansion.

“‘Hell’. Yes, close guess. It sank into a huge hole that just opened up below it.” Lilith checked her watch again, hurrying toward the sidewalk. “Come on, we have to get going.”

“Not so fast, lady.” The voice came from a dark spot under the trees. A huge man appeared, a machete in his fist. “No one comes through my territory without paying the price.” His gaze all but tore off her clothes.

Lilith answered his gaze, level and cool. “And that price would be…?”

The stranger huffed an odd imitation of a laugh. “You have to ask?” He stuck the knife under her chin. His free hand roamed the contour of her collarbone, then started making its way south. His breath came harder, his heartbeat hammered enticingly.

“Oh, CJ,” Lilith called in a singsong voice, not taking her eyes off her assailant.

CJ turned.

The assailant kept his eyes, knife, and hand on Lilith, but addressed CJ. “Stay where you are, and I’ll only rape her. Come near us, and you’re both dead. Got it?”

“CJ.” Lilith’s voice was cold, her eyes taking on the bloodlust CJ knew so well. She directed her full, unmasked power on the would-be murderer. He was suddenly unable to move, the knife fallen from his unnerved hand. He choked on his own fear, trying to fight his paralysis in order to get away from her.

Lilith spoke one word.

“Kill.”

CJ screeched like a banshee and flew up in the air, glorying in his freedom, and then dove with murderous finality onto Lilith’s attacker. As he ripped into the man’s throat, Lilith stopped him.

“Save some for me. I haven’t fed either, you know. And we have to keep poor Howard from being totally sucked dry.”

Without moving his head from the blood gushing from the torn throat, CJ merely growled at her. He was feeling much better now.

 

“Come on! Howard’s waiting, and I don’t want him to get away.” Lilith pulled CJ behind her down the deserted street. He could barely keep up, what with ogling all of the changes he saw around him.

His neighborhood had deteriorated. The houses that lined the street, once so grand, were now nothing more than deserted shells. Groups of young boys drifted in and out of them, some lounging at corners, others talking in hushed groups, each eyeing the other clusters with distrust and anger.

“Even the same gang members don’t trust each other,” Lilith whispered to him.

‘Gang’. Another thing to ask about later, CJ mused.

They passed a tattoo parlor. A young couple was just coming out, the boy so covered with art that his original skin was difficult to detect. He had a bandage over a new masterpiece; the smell of the blood under the gauze caused CJ to lose control. He lunged at the couple, his fangs bared.

The youngsters hesitated, shocked at his behavior. Then the tattooed kid smiled wide, staring at CJ’s demonic grimace.

“Whoa, dude, where’d you get the fangs?”

CJ simply stopped and gaped at this reaction.

The girl next to the boy answered for him. “Oh, I’ve seen ‘em for sale at the tourist traps on Bourbon Street.”

“Oh, man, let’s go get some.” The boy started off in the other direction, dragging his girlfriend behind him.

“Bram, you do NOT need fangs! You cause enough trouble,” the girl giggled. Yet she cast an apprehensive look behind her at CJ.

CJ looked at Lilith, not knowing what to think.

She shrugged. “Yep, that’s the world we’re in now. Lots of folks not believing in the demonic, but also not believing in the divine. Good pickings for both sides. Our task is to get to them before the Creator does.”

CJ, deep in thought, was not aware of the presence of a car driving down the street. When it rushed past, it was such a surprise to him that he screamed, clutching frantically at Lilith.

“Oh, damn, I forgot.” Lilith sighed, took CJ, and spun him around to face her. She stared into his eyes. “That was a car. People get from place to place in them. Now be quiet and just—deal with stuff as it comes along, okay?”

“What’s his problem, lady?” asked a man sitting in a doorway. He reeked of booze and urine, and had a grocery bag of belongings beside him, along with several empty whiskey bottles.

“Um—he just got back from the war. Stress thing. I’m trying to re-socialize him.”

The guy in the doorway nodded drunkenly. “Yep, been there. Say, you try Dr. Norman on King Street? I got his card somewhere…”

He fished in the pockets of his oversized trench coat and produced a business card. “Don’t know if he’s any good, though.” He smiled, showing grey, broken teeth. “Can’t afford to go to him myself.”

“Um—thanks. We’ll think about it.”

They hurried off, leaving the man still holding the card. He looked at them, looked at the card, and shrugged. Putting it away, he fell asleep almost instantly.

CJ looked back, puzzled.

“We didn’t kill him.”

“No,” Lilith sighed, “give him a couple of days, and he’ll do that to himself.”

 

Howard Messer stared into his empty glass. He shook it a couple of times, trying to drain more alcohol out from between the ice cubes.

Messer. Good name for him, seeing as to how he had messed up everything. Again.

His shoulders slumped in despair and resignation. The suit he wore, once so grand, was threadbare with overuse. It was the only one he now owned, and it was what he wore to every job interview he could score. But, no matter how he interviewed, his track record was there on paper for all the world to see. Every endeavor, every brilliant idea, had been financed, had worked for varying amounts of time, and had collapsed into a bottle of liquor.

He winced, holding his stomach. How ironic—the alcohol that had eaten away his life savings, his wife’s nest egg, and then his kids’ college funds, was now eating away at his insides too. Not that he cared anymore. If things didn’t pan out tonight, he was going to take that short ride off a long cliff.

Somewhere in Maine seemed nice…

He rapped on the bar for a refill. As the bartender picked up the glass, Howard felt a cool, gentle hand on his arm.

The bartender took one look at the newcomer, started in fear, and suddenly remembered something he’d forgotten to do. He hurried away, leaving the whiskey bottle on the counter.

Howard looked blearily at the woman who had come up beside him.

Gorgeous…

But, he mused to himself, beauty got more beauty – ful the more the whiskey flowed—ha ha. He reached for the whiskey bottle and tipped some of the liquid into the glass the bartender had abandoned.

“I don’t think you need that, Mr. Messer. Or should I call you Howard?”

He suddenly found himself holding an empty glass once again. His eyes meandered their way back over to his new companion, seemingly taking the scenic route all on their own.  

Woo—what a looker! He’d take her upstairs to his room right now—if he had one.

“Who’re you…?” he managed through his whiskey fog.

Wait, who is this beside her? Howard squinted, then took a sniff of his glass. He didn’t know this place put hallucinogenics in their drinks. How else to explain the woman’s companion? His face…weird…unclear, like the faces seen in dreams. Howard peered closer at CJ, whose face kept switching from Cain to Judas, and back again, unbeknownst to Lilith, who had her back to him.

She smiled and held out her hand. “Mr. Messer? Howard? I’m Delilah. We spoke over the phone today? About venture capital?”

Howard straightened right up—ish. His last chance! Yes, he remembered the call. But he hadn’t believed it. Yet here she was in person—in very rich-looking person.

He took her proffered hand.

“S’good to meetcha.” Damn! Why weren’t his words clear? He would have to take better care to enunciate.

The nutter behind her was staring at him, then at the walls, and the people around him. Howard gestured toward CJ.

“S’m—I mean what.is.the.matter…um…matter.with.him…?”

Lilith laughed to herself. The sot! Out loud she said, “Oh, that’s my cousin CJ. He just got out of the state hospital. I brought him along to expose him to, well, to re-socialize him, you might say.”

A young, pretty barmaid flounced over, giving CJ a wide smile and an almost complete look at her own personal menu. CJ stared, enrapt, but not where the young temptress was expecting. He was focused entirely on the throbbing of the vein in her neck. She didn’t notice. “So,” she breathed at him, “what can I get you?” She leaned over the bar, inches from CJ’s face.

He made a sound in his throat, a mixture of growl and whimpering desire. Lilith turned at the noise.

She could see his claws starting to extend, his eyes widening, could see the tips of his fangs just showing—

“CJ!” she hissed sharply.

He jumped, startled out of his bloodlust trance. “What?” He looked nervously around. Had he done something?

Lilith smiled at the girl, who looked perplexed at this exchange. “It’s been awhile since he’s been out in public.” To CJ she said, “She asked if she could get you something.”

“Um, L—Delilah…,” he gestured helplessly, his tongue almost hanging out when he glanced at the barmaid.

She smiled seductively. “I know what he needs. After hours, come back and we’ll take care of it.” She turned, gave CJ one last look over her bare shoulder, and flounced off, her blonde hair swaying seductively across her back.

CJ almost cried. “Oh, I have to, I simply must! Can I?”

“No! We…” Lilith/Delilah suddenly stopped mid-sentence. Then she smiled to herself and shrugged.

“Why not? But only after we’ve concluded our business.”

She turned back to Howard, who had been communing with his whiskey glass. The poor ice cubes were about done in.

Wrinkling her nose in disgust, Delilah took a deep breath. She put her mouth to Howard’s ear and whispered, “Let’s go someplace else, shall we? It’s far too crowded in here.”

Howard’s inebriated heart soared. Then it plummeted just as rapidly. He shook his head, making the room bounce around in his vision. “You don’ wanna—WANT. TO.—get involved with me. I’ll jish screw it up.”

Delilah smiled. “You let me worry about that.”

Howard belched. “(Skuseme.) I don’ got no place to go.”

Delilah traced his cheekbone with her finger, trying to hide her nausea. Oh, the Old Fart owes me big time for this one, she thought to herself, meaning her Dark Master.

“I do,” she said.

She planted a 100-dollar bill on the bar. The bartender noticed it immediately. “Change?” he asked, testing the paper for authenticity.

Really? That must have been a helluva bar tab. “No,” she told him, “you can keep it.” He looked at her nervously and rushed away.

Howard squinted at the two or three figures of CJ beside Delilah.

“What about him? He’s…must go away.”

Still trying to sound sober. Well, that’ll happen soon enough, Delilah thought, hiding a smile.

She turned to CJ, and spoke to him in barely a whisper. “Wait for me in the alley.”

CJ got up and headed for the door. His curiosity got caught on everything he saw, so it took him some time to make it across the room.

Finally he was out the door. Delilah blew out her breath in frustration, and balled up her fists. Idiot.

But then she turned again to Howard, all sweetness and light. “Okay, I got rid of him. Gave him some money for, um, ice cream.” She winked at him; Howard thought briefly of the barmaid, and thought, If that little weirdo could get some—

“Lesh go then.” He staggered to his feet and rolled towards several doors in his vision. Delilah clung to his arm, guiding him towards the right one.

The steamy night air hit his lungs and made him gasp for breath. This humidity was not on his list of favorite sensations.

Delilah looked at him, concerned. “Are you okay, Howard?”

He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “Oh, sure, I jus’ have a hard time breathin’ this humi…hoomy…huma…”

“Humidity?”

He nodded.

“Hey, just sit down over here and I’ll find you a cold, wet cloth to use until we get to my car.” She steered him towards a crate deep in the alley, which seemed to Howard to be really close, but took forever to get to. His knees buckled as he fell against it, breathing heavily.

Delilah stood over him, their lone figures unheard and unseen in the rush of the midnight hour outside in the street. Sirens blared, people yelled and laughed, and music pumped relentlessly from car stereos. Delilah loved this century; she could get away with practically anything in public, and no one would notice or care.

Howard lay on his side in the muck, snoring peacefully. The alcohol being sweated out through his pores sickened her.

A noise came from the darker depths of the alley.

“CJ? Get up here, you idiot.”

He came up to stand beside her, blood dripping from his mouth. “Barmaid,” he chuckled happily.

“Well, I hope you’re still hungry. Do our Howard in, won’t you?”

CJ looked down at Howard. The drunk was passed out in garbage, drool trickling out of his mouth. He reeked of whiskey and incontinence.

CJ turned away. “I thought you’d be hungry, Dee-li-lah,” he said mockingly.

She grabbed him, pushed him to the ground beside the snoring sot.

“Do it, you turd!” she shouted angrily. “It’s not a suggestion!”

That look again. She could turn a heart to stone. And he wasn’t at all convinced that there weren’t dark emissaries standing beside her.

CJ reluctantly went back to Howard and half-heartedly sucked the man to the point of turning him. After the barmaid, it was really a rotten turn to his first nocturnal adventure in decades. The man never even woke up, his heartbeat sluggish. Boring.

CJ stood up, swaying from Howard’s blood alcohol level. Delilah moved swiftly to CJ’s side and waited.

Howard groaned and sat up. His eyes were clear, but filled with the hunger the other two recognized from their own experiences. CJ had worked his magic again.

Delilah smiled. “Very good, CJ. Only one thing more is required.”

In one swift move, she pulled the machete she had kept from earlier that evening, and sliced into CJ’s neck, decapitating him cleanly.

Both the head and body dissolved into dust as the souls of Cain and Judas, incredulous, floated above the scene. They took one look at each other and tried to scramble away, free at last.

But Delilah had other plans.

She opened her mouth and inhaled mightily, dragging those two unfortunate souls into her being. Then she sat on Howard’s legs, held him as he struggled against her, and forced Judas and Cain into the body of the man once known as Howard Messer.

 

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And so it begins…

As promised/threatened, here begins Book 3 of my series, “Pride’s Downfall.”

Book 3 is entitled “Resurgence: The Rise of Judas,” and continues the story of the Bronson family and their fight against the powers of darkness.

Chapter One starts where Book 2, “UnHoly Trinity”, leaves off. In fact, it is the same as the last chapter of that book.

So, without further ado, I give you Book 3, Chapter 1:

CHAPTER 1

New Orleans

Present Day

            Steve Bronson looked up from his clipboard as his foreman rushed across the street towards him. The New Orleans heat and humidity were taking their toll on the Northwest native;even at its summertime worst, his home state couldn’t hold a candle to this torment.

He wouldn’t be here at all, except for the strange turn of events that necessitated his organizational abilities. Construction crews rarely faced a situation like this; in fact, he’d never heard of anything quite like what they were having to deal with in this dig. He imagined that protocol everywhere was being rewritten, as details emerged on this lot they were trying to build on.

Preliminary x-rays, now part of the procedure in historically-sensitive construction bids, had revealed a large, hollow area five or six feet below where all of the bulldozers and equipment had been sitting just days before. He had been called in because he had had experience with archaeological digs in the past.

“Okay, Sid, what is it?”

The foreman wiped his brow and looked back across the street. “Looks like a roof.”

“What??”

“Yeah—like a whole house just sorta sank into the ground.”

Steve groaned and turned to his assistant. “Mike, notify the subcontractors. Looks like there’ll be a helluva delay. City too. They’ll want all interested parties in on it—historical society, whatever. I imagine the archaeologists will get their knickers in a twist if they aren’t notified too.”

“Got it, Steve. Anything else?”

Steve smiled at the assistant. Such an innocent…

“Not for now. But get your phone ready—the shit will be hitting the fan shortly.”

Mike looked puzzled, but started making his calls. Steve turned back to his foreman.

“What’s it look like?”

“Well, just from a preliminary look, it’s in amazingly good shape. Not sure of the age—no one remembers a house ever being there. It was an empty lot before Katrina, so who knows how long it’s been there.”

“See if there are any areas where we can gain access. Might as well see if there are any other surprises under that roof. I’ll have Mike check the city records to find out where the hell this thing came from, and when.”

The foreman nodded and trotted back across the road. Steve could hear him barking orders at his men.

Overseeing the almost-surgical proceedings, Steve couldn’t help but be impressed by this crew. They seemed to have an almost proprietary attitude toward the dig and the treasure they were unearthing. He looked at the roof pieces, carefully labeled and piled in a safe place, and at the tarp that was put over the exposed roof, a hole neatly cut in it and positioned over the entrance they had made. No doubt about it, this crew deserved much more than they were being paid.

“Who do you have going down?” he asked Sid.

The foreman pointed to two men, already armed with flashlights, oxygen tanks, and gas masks. “Chad and Rene, two of our best. They’ve been trained in archaeological procedures—even went down to a couple of shipwrecks in the Gulf. I trust them completely.”

Steve nodded, and watched as a ladder was lowered into the opening through the roof.

“Be sure to test the flooring—we don’t know what stage of rot it might be in.” Sid hollered.

The two men nodded, indicating the ropes they had fastened to their waists. The other ends were tied to a nearby backhoe, with two other men standing watch over them. Sid nodded, gave the thumbs-up. Soon Chad and Rene were down the ladder, leaving the rest to wait up top.

Chad turned his flashlight on halfway down the ladder and shined the light around. “Holy cow, would you look at this?”

Rene, two rungs above him, gave a low whistle.

“Wow. You’d think folks just up and left a month ago.”

Everything they could see was still in place. Not even a window was broken. Dust covered everything, but beyond that, it looked like a museum setting.

“Well, keep going. Don’t make me stand here contemplating the landscape.” Rene tapped his friend’s fingers playfully with his foot.

“Okay, okay. Let me test the floor…”

Chad climbed down to the bottom of the ladder. He put a foot on the floorboards, tentatively at first, then with his full weight.

“Hunh. Guess no one told the termites about this place.” He jumped up and down a couple of times. “Solid.”

Rene followed Chad down the ladder to stand beside him. “Still, be careful.” His flashlight was now on as well, searching the corners.

“Bet the historical society’s gonna want to have this place pulled up in one piece and taken to some other spot. Lady who bought this piece of property is not gonna want to keep it here, that’s for sure.”

“Helluva fancy basement she’d be getting.” Rene snorted. “So much for our crew getting anything done. Might as well go home and break open a few brews.” He shook his head and turned to go back up. Just then, his light cast over a loveseat in the back of the room.

“What the–?” He played the light back over what he’d thought he’d seen. “Oh, hell.”

“What?” Chad looked at where the light was pointing. “Lord…”

On the loveseat was the remains of a human body.

 

“Oh, damnation.” Steve squeezed the bridge of his nose, trying to ward off the coming headache. “Where’s Chad?”

“Still down there. Saw a hallway he felt needed exploring. I wasn’t staying with the skeleton any longer than I had to.” Rene was still in the ropes, in case Chad needed help, but the gas mask was off and his face was a ghastly pale color.

Steve peered closely at him. “You okay?”

Rene took a deep breath. “Yeah, I’m all right. Just wasn’t expecting it. The stories…”

Steve was instantly on the alert. “What stories?”

Rene looked around, hesitated, then plunged in. He seemed embarrassed at telling the tale.

“Folks round here, they won’t tell an outsider, but we know—there’s a story that says there used to be a grand house here, but it fell into a sinkhole over 100 years ago. Land has never been quiet since. Folks say you can hear screaming and moaning come up from the ground—that’s why no one’s ever built here.”

Rene looked as if he needed to put a lot of space between himself and the lot. But Steve had questions.

“You knew about this before the excavation?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yet you told no one.”

“I didn’t believe the story myself. Then when the roof was found, I thought, okay, well, that don’t mean nothing.

“But when I saw that skeleton…” Rene’s hand shook as he wiped his face.

Steve looked at Mike, who nodded. “Already got Forensics on the line. They’ll be here within fifteen minutes.”

“Okay, good. Now someone get Chad out of there. We need to stay out of the way until the remains have been taken by the forensics people.”

 

Chad’s flashlight illuminated the space down the hallway, and he hesitated. He knew he should have left with Rene, procedure being what it was. But overwhelming curiosity got the better of him, and he stepped cautiously into the passageway.

The light revealed a door at the end of the hallway, with other doors leading off to right and left. But it was the one directly ahead of him that caught his attention, because it was the only one that had a huge pile of dirt and bricks in front of it.

“How in the–? he muttered. Flashing his light at the ceiling made him even more puzzled.

No hole in the ceiling—how did this pile get here? The house had settled evenly, almost deliberately in a way. There was no way for this debris to just magically appear here.

He ventured close to the end of the hallway. Stopping at the edge of the pile, he idly picked up a brick, hefted it, and then put it back. He was about to take out his cellphone and take a picture when something else odd caught his eye.

The lock mechanism in the door flared for a moment in the flashlight’s glare, and Chad took a closer look.

Weird.

There was a piece of wood jammed into the keyhole. It was a fairly decent size, and seemed to have actually deformed the hole.

What kind of force could have caused that? Chad reached over the pile and pulled on the wood. Surprisingly, it came out easily with one tug.

Curious, he shone his flashlight into the keyhole. Would the room beyond be full of treasures, like Tut’s tomb, or a big nothing like that gangster-safe thing a number of years ago? Chad completely abandoned the idea of following protocol and, clambering up to the top of the debris pile, he put the light and his eye up to the hole.

He jumped back immediately. With a shriek, he fell off the dirt pile and backed away hurriedly. With the wood tight in his grip, he ran with all speed out of the hallway, and didn’t stop until he was up the ladder and back to the land of the living.

 

“A what??” Steve was incredulous.

“A coffin! Behind one of the doors!” Chad was panting, as much in fear as in exertion. His eyes were wide and his face pale.

“How odd. Are you sure?” the woman beside Steve asked in a low, almost purring tone.

Chad blinked and stared at her.

Wow! Gorgeous! Raven-black hair, big black eyes, and a figure that didn’t know how to stop.

She glared at his open admiration, but then smiled. “Delilah Atherton. I own this lot.”

Her voice held a tone of iron, and something else, which caused Chad to tremble and lose all physical interest in her. Something wrong here…He reached into his pocket and grasped the rosary he always carried.

“Um—hi,” he managed to stammer. He then turned to Steve.

“There was this door at the end of a hallway, with all this dirt and stuff in front of it,” he said in a rush, glancing uncomfortably at Delilah, who was showing far too much interest, “and there was this piece of wood in the lock.”

“Wood? What wood?” Delilah’s eyes seemed to blaze at this information.

“This.” He uncurled his fist, exposing the shard. Steve picked it up, looking curiously at it.

“That’s when I looked through the lock, cos I couldn’t get the door opened—and that’s when I saw the…the coffin…” Chad gulped, looking apologetically at his boss. “I can’t go back in there…” he whispered, his voice shaking.

“Not necessary,” Steve assured him. “Forensics and the university’s archaeological staff will take over from here.”

Chad nodded, wiping his forehead, and walked away toward Rene. The two talked animatedly between themselves, glancing at Delilah and looking uncomfortable.

Steve felt Delilah’s eyes on him. He looked up from the wood shard and smiled.

“Sorry,” here he held out the wood to her, “did you want to have a look?”

To his surprise, Delilah jumped back as if burnt. “NO!”

Did she just hiss?? Steve wondered to himself.

She quickly regained her composure. “I…I have a thing about touching dirty things. I can see it fine from here…” She looked at her watch. “Oh, dear, I have an appointment to keep. I’ll keep in touch.” And that quickly, she was gone—down the street, into her car, and away.

Steve shook his head in puzzled wonder. What was that all about?

A small cough behind him made him whirl around.

Two men stood in the shade, one in a business suit and the other dressed in khaki shorts and a T-shirt. The suit man spoke.

“Mr. Bronson? I’m Brett Taylor, from the historical society. This is Professor Brian Brown from the university’s archaeological department.”

“Great! Glad you could both make it so soon. The sooner we get this project tagged, bagged, and out of here, the better for all of us.” Steve wiped the sweat from the back of his neck. He missed home, missed Lydia, missed the cooler weather. And he knew the evening wouldn’t be much better, but at least he could escape into air-conditioned rooms.

His heart dropped at their hesitance to answer. They merely exchanged glances with each other and looked uncomfortable.

The professor spied the article in Steve’s hand and gestured at it. “Is that something from the house?”

Steve had forgotten the item. “Oh—right. One of my guys found this in a keyhole.”

“A what?” Brown asked skeptically.

Steve related what Chad had told him, handing the wood to the professor.

Brian looked at it with little interest at first. “Probably just a piece of wall, or—“

Then he peered at it more closely.

“Wait.” His voice took on a serious tone as he reached for the glasses in his shirt pocket. Putting them on, he turned so that the piece was in full sunlight.

“It can’t be…,” he muttered in growing excitement. He turned to the group of students he had brought with him. They were grouped around the roof samples, notebooks in hand, writing down observations.

“Eugenie!” he yelled.

A young woman separated herself from the group. She looked slightly older than the others; Steve guessed that she was a junior assistant or intern.

“Sir?”

“What can you tell me about this house so far?”

“It looks to have been built about 150 years ago. The ground makes it appear as if it was simply swallowed by a—sinkhole, I’m guessing.”

“Anyone been inside, besides the construction crew?”

They heard a curse as two men labored to get a body bag out of the roof hole intact. Brown groaned, “And the forensics team…”

“Yes,” Eugenie answered him. We’ve had a preliminary sortie down there. Seems everything is intact, down to the books and knickknacks on the shelves. Weird.”

“Any wood that looks like this?” He held out the shard.

Eugenie touched it, hesitated, then took it from Brian.

“This came from down there?” she asked, eyes wide.

“Yes. Why?”

“This shard’s ancient. Well, at least much older than the house. I’ll have someone go down and see if there is anything that looks like this, just to be sure.

Brian said, “I’ll take the wood back to the lab and run some tests.”

Steve nodded and reached for his wallet. “Here’s my card. Let me know what you find out as soon as you can.”

“Will do.” The professor turned away, going back to his knot of students. Eugenie was having a hard time convincing the group to volunteer for the fact-finding mission. They had all seen the body bag, and had heard about the coffin.

Steve turned to speak to the historical society representative. “And what can I do for you?”

“We’d like to have copies of any and all information, pictures, test findings—all pertinent information. It is our hope to exhume the house and put it on the state’s list of historical sites. But we have to have the proof before we can get state or federal grants to even start an excavation.”

Steve sighed and handed out another card, which Taylor took. He put it into his pocket.

“Thank you. We’ll be in touch.” He turned on his heel and went back to his car.

“Mr. Bronson?”

Now what…

The coroner had walked up behind him. Steve turned, eyebrows raised.

“We have removed the body. And we did find the coffin. I have a team coming tomorrow to examine it and the rest of the house. Until that is done, I’m afraid all activity must cease at this site.”

Steve rolled his eyes. Another night snuggled up to a bottle of headache pills… “Did you find anything inside, the, uh…”

The coroner looked uncomfortable. “No, none of my staff would open it. Superstitious bunch.”

“Ah. Understandable,” Steve agreed. He signaled to Mike. The assistant nodded in turn, and spoke to the crew lounging around in the shade. They moved off to their cars, some looking back sadly, others pairing off to head to the nearest bar.

Steve watched them go. He felt bad for them; they were a really good bunch and needed the work. When he got back to corporate, he’d see what he could do about getting them paid some sort of compensation for the time they were delayed here.

 

The lot was deserted, the roof pieces carefully laid back over the hole. Temporary chain-link fence had been brought in and hastily erected around the entire site.

As evening approached, the only living being left there was a security guard. He sat in his car with the doors locked, slumped down in the seat so as to be less noticeable. This was a really bad neighborhood to be found in at night without some sort of protection. And a firearm, which was all the guard had on him, was not nearly enough to keep the denizens of these blasted and rickety buildings at bay. He sat, unmoving, praying to survive until midnight, when the next unlucky stiff got to take over.

Inside the underground house, a low rumbling started. The foundations did not shudder; the chandeliers were still as death. Through the floorboards rose dark wraiths. Some solidified into formless black masses, taking on substance. Others, lighter, less ponderous, formed into what looked like round, floating sea urchins. Blacker than the memories of the worst nightmares, they skittered on the ceiling and walls. Occasionally they would emit quick flashes of lightning.

Once the mists stopped rising through the floor, the emissaries of Hell moved purposely through the rooms, seeking.

They gathered in the hallway that led to the door with the coffin behind it. Swarming over, around, and through each other, the entire mass thundered toward the door, the shadows moving thickly across the floor, the black orbs fluttering across the walls. They reached the end of the hall, and the dirt and bricks exploded into dust. The door flew open for the first time since the late 19th century, and the blackness overran the coffin within.

Suddenly the lid of the coffin shattered. Pieces of wood flew up and out, raining down to the floor in a torrent of clatter. Part of the group of shadows separated itself from the rest and dissolved back into vapor. It drifted over the inert body in the coffin, and with sudden precision forced its way into the mouth and nostrils of the apparently dead form.

A groan, and the body sat up. The eyes opened, looked around at its surroundings, and then saw the open door.

With a scream that came from the years of frustration, anger, madness, and, above all, unrelenting hunger, the creature flew out of the room.

The monster had arisen.

 

 

 

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An open letter to my eight-legged neighbors

(Warning: spider pictures ahead)

Hello critters

It’s me, that two-legged large being that puts a hand through your webs all too often.

It’s not that I mean to; after all, it’s not a pleasant sensation. I know how much time and effort it takes to make that web, and that you’re probably pretty tired after finishing it. However…you are in my garden, and sometimes you have built your home across the tomatoes that I have grown.  I try to work around you, but it doesn’t always work out.

I don’t know what your realtor told you about me when you took up residence, but he was lying if he told you that folks like me didn’t exist. Don’t feel bad–mine lied to me too.

Me: Any poisonous spiders in this area?

Realtor: Nope, not at all.

Uh-huh…

spider4

Brown recluse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

spider3 Wolf Spider

 

 

 

 

 

 

spider2  Black Widow

spider1 Garden spider

 

So…yeah.

Okay, I think I can come up with a plan that is mutually agreeable. Especially where these poisonous ones are concerned.

I will keep an eye out for you and your webs, and try to keep from walking through them. You, for your part, have to keep your webs out of areas where I normally walk. You have eight eyes–use them! Putting up webs across my path is just not a good idea. I won’t see them–they’re pretty transparent. If they weren’t, I don’t think you’d be a successful prey creature. Bright blue or rainbow would be just dumb, on your part.

I know you’re out there. Chances are good that I am never more than four feet from a spider in any situation. Dropping down in front of me or climbing any of my appendages would only lead to tears–and not for me. Your plans for that day could come to a very tragic end. A surprised human is not a pleasant thing for a tiny arachnid like yourself.

In other words, don’t draw my attention.

I will allow you in my home – that’s the big covered thing with all those delicious silverfish in it – as long as you don’t multiply into too large a population. If this happens, I do have to cull the herd. Keep your seed to yourself.

And the poop you leave under your web–that has to stop. Don’t be surprised that I spray your leavings with foul-smelling cleaner. You’ve been warned. Get a diaper.

By the way, the tolerance for your existence in the house goes only as far as me. Stay out of sight, and the other members of the house will not suck you up with a vacuum or swat you with paper. Tragic ending for you–makes no never mind to me. Sorry–but this is your warning, after all.

Eat silverfish, not humans. No biting.

If you see someone outside spraying around the house, make as fast a trip to the center of the yard that your legs can take you. He won’t spray there. You’ll last another day.

Okay–a lot to remember. But it would be worth your while. Keep this where all of your friends and neighbors can see it.

A last word: if you skitter across my bed or hang out inside my bathtub, that breaks all bargains.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

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A summer trip to Ireland with author Claire Fullerton

 

Irishreel2

Céad míle fáilte!

That’s the Irish for “A thousand welcomes!” Don’t ask me to pronounce it…

Anyone who has ever been to Ireland knows just how wonderful the land and the people are. Being of Irish descent, I have to admit a certain prejudice toward the Emerald Isle.

Claire Fullerton sets her story in this beautiful country, peopled with colorful characters that will be unforgettable, I am sure.

So let’s have a look, shall we?

BBB2

Twenty five year old Hailey Crossan takes a trip to Ireland during a sabbatical from her job in the LA record business. While there, she’s offered a job too good to turn down, so she stays.

Although Hailey works in Galway, she lives in the countryside of Connemara, a rural area famous for its Irish traditional music.  When Hailey meets local musician, Liam Hennessey, a confusing relationship begins, which Hailey thinks is the result of differing cultures, for Liam is married to the music, and so unbalanced at the prospect of love, he won’t come closer nor completely go away.

And so begins the dance of attraction that Hailey struggles to decipher. Thankfully, a handful of vibrant local friends come to her aid, and Hailey learns to love a land and its people, both with more charm than she ever imagined.

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I can almost feel the sun on my shoulders and the cobbles beneath my feet…

Let’s find out more about Ms. Fullerton…

about

Irishreel3

 

Claire Fullerton is an award winning essayist, a magazine contributor, a former newspaper columnist, and a four time contributor to the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series. She hails from Memphis, Tn. and now lives in Malibu California. “Dancing to an Irish Reel” is her second novel.

Make sure to check out her pages.

 

www.clairefullerton.com

https://www.facebook.com/clairefullertonauthor

http://about.me/claire.fullerton

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Lovely! Doesn’t she look like the ultimate Irish lass too?

Now for the best part of the blog, in my opinion. I love reading excerpts, don’t you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~♣♣♣~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I walked into Taaffes a few minutes after five and saw Liam sitting at the bar talking to the bartender. I sat down on the stool beside him and accepted the half-pint of Guinness the bartender placed before me as if he read my mind.

“Well, now I’ve seen where you work,” Liam said.

“You have,” I nodded. “Thanks for coming by.”

“Glad to do it. My brother Anthony will be here in a minute. He and his friend Eamon are playing here tonight.”

“Anthony plays guitar, right?” I asked. “I think I saw him playing guitar in Hughes, didn’t I?”

“He does. He sings as well, not very well, mind you, but he tries.”

“So, what’s he sing?” I asked.

“Songs from American songwriters mostly, people like James Taylor and John Denver,” he said.

It’s amazing the things that make it over here, I thought. I don’t know anybody who takes John Denver seriously in America.

“Do you have any other brothers besides Anthony?” I asked.

“No, but I have a sister,” he said. “People say we look exactly alike.”

“What’s her name?” I asked, thinking if she looked anything like Liam, she must be absolutely beautiful.

“Nula,” he said.

“Named after your mother or grandmother?”

“My grandmother,” he said.

“On your mother’s side?” I asked.

“Yes, did I tell you that before?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then how did you know?”

“I didn’t, I was just guessing,” I said. Since most names in Ireland are family names, it wasn’t that big of a stretch.

“So, you’re a psychic then!”

“I’m not a psychic, Liam. Please,” I said.

Liam’s brother came bursting into the pub and headed straight for us, coming to a smiling stop and looking me in the eyes as Liam turned to me saying, “You remember Anthony, yah?”

Anthony stood looking me over with eyes suggesting he had all the facts. He was older than Liam, and was his complete physical opposite. Where Liam was dark, Anthony was light; where Liam looked mysterious and withdrawn, Anthony had a wide-open freckled face, big blue eyes and an eager manner. “Hi-ya,” Anthony sang, beaming at me.

“Hi Anthony,” I said, as if I knew him. “Does anyone ever call you Tony?”

“Ah, good question from an American,” he said, “I’ve heard that one before. We don’t pronounce the letter “H” over here. Naw, I’m not a Tony, just an An-Tony.”

“Very good, I got it. What time are you on tonight?”

“Not until eight,” he said. “We’re just here to set up. If you miss it, you won’t be missing much from me; Liam’s the real singer in the family.”

Surprised, I looked at Liam. “You sing?” I asked.

“I don’t,” he said quickly. “At least not in public.”

“He should sing in public, but he never will,” Anthony sang his brother’s praise.

“All right, if you were to sing, what would you sing? What kind of music do you listen to?”

“He likes Sting and Chris De Burgh. He has all of Chris De Burgh’s records,” Anthony answered for him. “You’re familiar with Chris De Burgh, yah? ‘The Lady in Red?’ Liam loves that song.”

“I know the song,” I said.

“Chris De Burgh is Irish, did you know that?

“No, I had no idea,” I said.

“Oh yah, and Liam can sing just like him,” Jimmy said. “You should hear him.”

Liam seemed embarrassed during this exchange while his brother did the talking for him. “Liam is known all over Ireland as one of the best box players around, but the truth is he’s good at everything: he composes, arranges, sings and teaches — he can do everything and do it well,” Anthony said, just as a stout young man wearing a waxed jacket joined us. “You ready?” Anthony turned to the young man.

“I am, yah.”

“This is Hailey; she’s an American.” Anthony clapped a proprietorial hand on my shoulder. “This is Eamon,” he said. Eamon made no pretense of hiding his newcomer’s once-over.

“Let’s do this,” Anthony directed, and the two retreated to set up the stage.

“Are you and Anthony close?” I turned to Liam.

“Not really. I guess we’re about as close as I am to anyone,” he answered vaguely.

I don’t know why, but I thought Liam’s quick response was kind of odd, or maybe it was just telling. You have to watch people when you’re first getting to know them because they send out clues when you least expect it, and you’d be doing very well to pay attention. I wondered if this was an insight into Liam’s character. Was he telling me he’d never had the desire to be close to anyone? Was he indicating he wasn’t capable of closeness? What was he doing sitting here with me if that were the case? I decided to keep an eye on it and just let time tell.

What time told in the days and nights that followed was that Liam Hennessey was on the case and everything ran together in one exhaustive blur. Two weeks after Liam appeared at the Centre, I sat in my porch writing in my journal, documenting how much had evolved in such a short amount of time, feeling as though I’d been thrust into a new set of circumstances from the singular event of Liam’s entrance in my life. At some point, I began to expect the sound of my sliding glass door sweeping heavily aside, followed by a knock on my living room door. I never knew when it would come, but I began to listen for it right around the time the sun set. Sometimes Liam would have a plan in mind, other times he just came to sit and talk. I never knew which it was going to be, and it didn’t much matter; I was just happy to have him around. Some nights, we walked through the fields to the sea, sitting down in that place at the land’s end where two gigantic boulders sat side by side on an elevated patch hovering over the Atlantic. The first time I took him there, Liam turned to me and said, “You discovered this place on your own, yah? Is this an initiation?” Humoring him, I assured him that it was.

“It’s not just anybody I would take here,” I said, much to his approval.

“Ah, then, this is your way of chasing new romance!”

I stopped and considered: the thing about new romance is there’s an unbalancing undercurrent in its heated thrall. You’re never quite sure where you stand in the other’s eyes until the subject is broached or some overt gesture is made. It is ambiguous guesswork until then; the air is thick with it. Maybe I was chasing new romance, but I wasn’t sure what I was getting in return.

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Fantastic! Just from this excerpt, I can tell that this would be a book that is well worth the read. I know I would love to escape to Ireland through Ms. Fullerton’s words.

Speaking of escapes and vehicles–here’s another vehicle:

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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And do stop by all of these other blogs too–after all, there will be something different on each one, and I’m sure every one of them will be enjoyable!

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Official Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1385522748418974/

July 22

www.julkbearreads.wordpress.com

http://elsawinckler.com/category/featuring-other-authors/

July 23

http://aone-clickaddictsbookblog.blogspot.com/

http://www.authorsrevealed.blogspot.com

July 24

https://krmorrison325.wordpress.com/

http://singinglibrarianbooks.weebly.com/

July 25

http://anovelkindofbliss.blogspot.com

https://www.facebook.com/bellasbookreviews?fref=ts

July 26

roomwithbooks.com

semishort.blogspot.com

July 27

http://lisaisabookworm.blogspot.com

http://kindlelightreading.blogspot.com/

July 28

https://www.facebook.com/micielle.carter?fref=ts

http://www.annadelc.com/blog

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~♣♣♣~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

That was fun! Please come by again soon.

Irishreel1

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New murder mystery series: “Death Unscripted”, a Trudy Genova mystery

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Another fine book blog, courtesy of Loving the Book Blog Tours!

I love all kinds of books, as long as they don’t have word problems and beastly number thingies in them. But mysteries are my all-time favorite. It is always fun to host this genre.

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Well, alrighty then. Looks like my part of the tour is starting. Here’s what the book’s about, in short:

Trudy Genova has the best nursing job, working as an onset and script medical consultant for a Manhattan movie studio. No more uniforms, night shifts, or real emergencies. That is, until a soap opera actor Trudy has a tense relationship with dies suddenly while taping a hospital scene—but not before pointing his finger accusingly at Trudy.

Detectives Ned O’Malley and Tony Borelli view Trudy as a suspect, and in an effort to prove them wrong, Trudy interferes with their investigation. Then a second actor dies, and Trudy realizes she’s put herself right into the path of a killer.

Bridle Path Press: http://www.bridlepathpress.com

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Oh yeah–the good old-fashioned murder mystery. Love it!

about

OK–I wasn’t sure if I was through blathering, but obviously the banners are in charge tonight…

OK–author time!!

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Marni Graff had a successful career as a registered nurse who wrote on the side before writing full time. She has a degree in English Lit and studied Gothic Mystery at Oxford University in England. She also wrote articles for Mystery Review magazine, where she interviewed many of the authors whose work she admired.

Marni is the award-winning author of The Nora Tierney Mysteries, set in England. The Blue Virgin introduces Nora, an American writer living in Oxford. The Green Remains and The Scarlet Wench trace Nora’s move to the Lake District where murder follows her.  In process is The Golden Hour, set in Bath, England. Premiering in the next few months (blogger’s note–that’s now…) will be Graff’s new Manhattan series, Death Unscripted, featuring nurse Trudy Genova, a medical consultant for a New York movie studio. This new series is based on Marni’s favorite nursing job in real life.

Marni is also co-author of Writing in a Changing World, a primer on writing groups and critique techniques. She writes crime book reviews at Auntie M Writes and is Managing Editor of Bridle Path Press, an author’s cooperative. A member of Sisters in Crime, Marni runs the NC Writers Read program in Belhaven which allows writers experience reading their work out loud and getting immediate feedback.

Twitter: @GraffMarni

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/bluevirgin.graff

Blog/website: http://www.auntiemwrites.com

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Oh boy–she had me at “Gothic”…

I get to post an excerpt, which I can hardly wait to get to! So without further ado, here it is:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Inside, the windowless room held a few tables and folding chairs. Nikki Olivier, the star who played Vikki Starr and was the big draw of Thornfield Place, was stirring a cup of tea, her wet hair wrapped in a towel. The star had the uncanny ability to ignore people she knew well if the mood struck her, but I’d learned to read her moods and stayed out of her way, so we’d always gotten along well. On the show for almost twenty years, the blonde had a shelf of Emmy statues at home and over that time had probably suffered every known ailment and accident the writers could conceive, including a split personality and demonic possession. It was amazing what viewers would tolerate if they liked the actor. Suspension of belief, and all that jazz.

Beside Nikki sat my nemesis, Griff Kennedy, but with Nikki present, I didn’t have to worry about him taking liberties again.

“C’mere gorgeous,” he stage whispered in Nikki’s ear and threw his arm over her shoulder. Griff sipped from his ever-present plastic Emmy cup, a relic from the one time he’d been a presenter. Covered with a plastic lid, its contents were usually some variation of adult beverage, a grownup’s sippy cup. The burly, hard-drinking actor had been a stage star in his younger days, a fact everyone he met was made aware of in the first three minutes. I know I should feel sorry for him, with his star over the horizon and all that. But after his third attempt to put a check mark by my name on his conquest list, there had been that knee incident and I’d been decidedly cold toward him. His hair-transplant plugs are obvious, his gut straining at his belt, and the thought of coupling with him, of anyone coupling with him, gives me the willies.

“Hello, Trudy.” Nikki deigned to be polite today and nudged Griff, who added his own “Hi there” without meeting my eyes.

I murmured my own greetings and read the yellow pages over–nothing I couldn’t handle—and flicked my eyes to take in Nikki and Griff’s cooing.

In real life Griff and Nikki are divorced, but rumor has it they are still lovers off and on. On the show, the number of times they’ve been married and divorced was too numerous to count. Today my job was to teach Griff how to fake a heart attack while the computer worked its magic to reflect a myocardial infarction on his hospital monitor.

Ron Dowling entered and arranged three folding chairs side-by-side into a makeshift bed, motioning Griff into position. The short, intense director scowls entirely too often and has a cocky attitude. I’m short—although I prefer petite—and too often we meet eye-to-eye when disagreeing. He likes to call me “Nurse Nancy.” After more than two years of working with him and other directors who are far nicer, I decided this is his attempt to keep me in my place, directly beneath his tiny, Birkenstock-shod feet. I tend to get touchy over men with attitudes, in positions of power or not, and have my own way of letting them know that.

A king to his subjects, Dowling pretended to look around the small room for me. “Nancy?” He beckoned me closer.

“Trudy,” I corrected for the umpteenth time, taking my place near Griff. I took his cup and placed it on a nearby shelf while he slid carefully down across the chairs.

“Whatever,” Dowling answered. “We’ve decided to go for a situation where Griff first feels his chest pain in the bed, stumbles out of it to the window as the symptoms progress, and we insert voice-overs with Nikki. Then he realizes he’s in trouble, turns back to reach for the call bell, but falls short of it to the floor. Alarm bells ring as the scene closes.”

They sure weren’t going for reality today. “What about his monitor?” I reminded Dowling. “You had him hooked up to a heart monitor in Friday’s scene and it has to show a change in heart rhythm.” Part of my job is to stay on top of this stuff. Viewers hate to see reality thrust at them by a loss of continuity. The phone calls and emails arrive in droves to PBJ when that happens.

Dowling scowled but quickly recovered. “He disconnects it when he gets out of bed.”

I squashed that one immediately. “The alarm would go off and staff would rush in.”

Dowling crossed his arms over his chest. This was going to be a battle of the wills and he was determined “Nancy” was not going to win. “The doctor comes in earlier and tells him he’s getting better and disconnects it then.”

Over to me; I shook my head. “If he was that much better, he wouldn’t be in ICU. He’d have been moved to a step-down unit–it’s a protocol matter.” I shrugged my shoulders.

Dowling crushed the pages of his notes while I watched his crooked toes curl in his sandals. I firmly believe someone with toes like that has no business wearing sandals without socks unless they’re playing a Hobbit in a Lord of the Rings movie.

Griff, who had started to doze on his makeshift bed, mumbled: “Move the bed closer to the window.”

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Oh wow–this sounds terrific! That room is just full of suspects, isn’t it? Motives galore!

Bet none of them has ever ridden a rafflecopter, though. Have you? Well, here’s your chance:

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

And there’s even more fun to be had on this event page–check it out!

Official Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/348540105341300/

The fetivities are just beginning! Here is the schedule–every blog will be different, I am sure. Snippets, guest interviews–all sorts of stuff:

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July 20

www.julkbearreads.wordpress.com

http://www.bound2escape.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sarah-Kirstys-Book-Reviews/740671655951314

July 21

https://krmorrison325.wordpress.com/

http://www.authoralainastanford.com/alainas-book-review-blog/

July 22

http://www.melsshelves.blogspot.com

http://thenaughtlibrarianplayground.blogspot.com/

July 23

http://semishort.blogspot.com/

roomwithbooks.com

July 24

http://sweet-n-sassy-book-a-holics.blogspot.com/

http://www.thebookbeacon.com

July 25

http://nerdgirlofficial.com/

http://cbybookclub.blogspot.co.uk

https://charmxoneblog.wordpress.com/

July 26

http://fictionalrendezvousbookblog.blogspot.com/

http://www.bound4escape.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Triple-A/471916489621936?fref=ts

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~XxX~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, that’s it for this time. See you again!

 

 

 

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“In the Land of Shiva: A Memoir” by James O’Hara

Shiva Front Cover

From the moment I first read what this book was about, I was hooked. And why? I think I will let you see for yourself:

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When Brother Jim leaves his comfortable life teaching in Catholic high schools and travels to India, he finds himself unprepared for the challenges he faces.

His assigned task is to start his religious order in that country, but as he immerses himself in a land of unfamiliar customs and ancient religious traditions, he soon discovers that his mission has become deeply personal. Brother Jim questions not only all his vows, but his deepest beliefs.

As he travels across India and encounters holy men, thieves, rabid monkeys, and genuinely good-hearted people of all backgrounds, he realizes that the religion of his upbringing is but one of many paths to spirituality, and a sometimes oppressive one at that. On the eve of celebrating twenty-five years as a brother, Jim must decide what he truly holds as important and how he wants to live the rest of his life.

India and Nepal, with all their clamor, fascination, and surprises, come alive on every page in this unusual memoir set in the ‘80s.

Book Genre: Memoir

Publisher: Leandros Publishing

Release Date: June 10, 2014

Buy Links:

http://www.amazon.com/In-The-Land-Of-Shiva/dp/0991241606/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402617223&sr=8-1&keywords=in+the+land+of+shiva

www.jamesohara.com

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Mr. O’Hara has a few things to say concerning memoirs, and has been kind enough to share his thoughts with us. So, without further delay, I give the floor to our esteemed author:

My Memoir is 100% Truth and 90% Fact – And Yours Can Be That Too

“I have exercised the storyteller’s device of telescoping time in order to bring events into focus, as well as creating and rendering dialogue which, though not necessarily verbatim, conveys my recollection of the event and my perception of the speaker’s personality.”

The above quote is from the Author’s Note in my memoir In The Land Of Shiva.

A truth for many Westerners living in India and Nepal for a significant period of time (seven years in my case) is the recurring issue of health problems. However, believe me, you would not want to read in every other chapter of any book a sad tale of amoebic dysentery. So, in order to convey the constant assault on the body that the Indian subcontinent can produce, I put into one single chapter a reference to dysentery followed by scurvy followed by shingles.

Yes, all of these health issues truly did happen but, fact, not within the several week time frame of that chapter. But condensing the time frame conveys the true intensity of the very real and ongoing health challenges that life in a foreign country can provide.

Dialogue doesn’t have to be verbatim (how could it?) but it needs to be realistic and as honest an interpretation of the person and scene as the memoirist can muster. When my book came out I wrote to many of the main characters in the book and gave them the above quote about rendering dialogue. I also said, “Yes, I have put words into your mouth. Apologies where appropriate.” All said they were delighted by the book (even those with whom I had had conflict) and no one said anything about dialogue that I had ascribed to them.

Marion Roach Smith, author of the wonderful The Memoir Project says this: “If there is a moral responsibility in writing nonfiction, it favors the intent of life’s actual circumstances.” (Emphasis mine.)

So, go for the truth of your life as best you understand it, and write that memoir!

James O’Hara

Author, In The Land Of Shiva – A Memoir

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Terrific advice!

Let’s learn a bit about the author himself now:

Author Ohara s

Born in Milwaukee, WI, at age 18 O’Hara joined the Catholic order of Brothers who taught at his high school.  As a Brother for almost 30 years, O’Hara taught math at both the secondary and college levels, and in his late ‘30s volunteered to travel to India to establish a branch of his religious order there.  After seven years in India and Nepal, he returned to the States, left the Brothers, and became a massage therapist and massage instructor.  In addition to doing bodywork, he has also become a certified dream worker.  He makes his home in Berkeley, CA. His time in India and Nepal took him from immersion in religion to a place “beyond religion.”

Author Links

www.jamesohara.com

https://www.facebook.com/jim.ohara.1257

https://www.linkedin.com/hp/?dnr=frUfFrNtSQV2wzMJyrHmdogtSU29wW22I4yN&trk=nav_responsive_tab_home

https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard

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Thank you, sir, for stopping by. And thank you, dear readers, for joining me today. I shall return another day with another wonderful book for your perusal.

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The Future is Here! “The Seed” – Book One in the “Future’s Edge” Trilogy

There’s nothing like seeing the gas/petrol prices creep up to make someone wish there was another way. As we will see from the following “blog-of-the-day”, sometimes those other ways can be a bit, er, troublesome too.

FuturesEdge book cover

***************Book Description******************

Most people do not carry the fate of the world on their shoulders. Sam Greenhut does.

By the year 2230, the world is no longer dependent on fossil fuels. All power is harnessed directly from the Earth’s core. A clever integration of neural technology and wireless energy gives rise to the Global Network (GNET), revolutionizing society. Diverse industries operate efficiently under the umbrella of a neurally connected world economy, powered by an unlimited geothermal fuel supply controlled not by Presidents, Sheikhs nor Monarchs, but by a Corporate Federation run by seven individuals.

This is the state of the world when the Corporate Federation charges Sam Greenhut with ensuring GNET’s unquestioned reliability and integrity.

Sam sees a world whose population is totally dependent on GNET, as if the previously admired trait of self-reliance was weaned from the gene pool. Inevitably, the insatiable demand for energy prompts a reckless decision by Corporate Federation board members to expand the geothermal energy lattices. Despite Sam’s protest, the choice to exceed the cautionary “Greenhut Limits” precipitate a string of earthquakes that destroy GNET and plunges the planet into the chaos known as “The Upheaval.”

What happens next fundamentally alters the destiny of the planet and catapults Sam into the center of The Seed – book one in my science fiction trilogy, Future’s Edge.

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I like that whole neural-net idea. Makes you wonder just how the world’s population will react…or survive.

So let’s meet up with the author of this sure-to-be-a-thriller trilogy, Mort Herman:

MortHerman Bio picture

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Mort Herman has a Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering. Holder of six patents, he worked at several companies including IBM, Texas Instruments, AT&T and Lucent Technologies where his specialty was semiconductor electronics, systems design, and marketing.

Mort lives on the Jersey shore with his mate Mary Ann. When he’s not writing, Mort is an avid sailor, a wood sculptor, and a charter member of the Arts Society of Keyport. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, he added his technical, artistic, and project management skills to the design and implementation of three, free form concrete sculptures that replaced destroyed public art in the town of Keyport, NJ.

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Sounds like Mr. Herman has a full life! If you want to know more about him and his work, please visit him at his links:

Website: www.futuresedgebook.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/futuresedge?fref=ts

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=316031646&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pic

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7880581.Mort_Herman

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1502337002

There’s much more to come, from many and varied blog hosts, on this blog tour. Please visit them as the days go by, and see what I mean:

************Schedule************

June 10 – Spotlight at Urania’s Distractions
June 12 – Spotlight at Paranormal Romance And Authors That Rock
June 15 – Spotlight at The Voluptuous Book Diva 

June 15 – Spotlight at eBook Review Gal
June 15 – Review & Guest Blog at There Will Be Another Sunrise
June 17 – Spotlight at XOXO Book Blog
June 17 – Reviewed at Deal Sharing Aunt
June 17 – Reviewed at My Life Loves and Passions
June 17 – Spotlight at My Book Tour

Now, before I finish here, I have one more thing to add, and that is a

>>>>>>>Rafflecopter<<<<<<<

<a class=”rcptr” href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1d8dec70232/” rel=”nofollow” data-raflid=”1d8dec70232″ data-theme=”classic” data-template=”” id=”rcwidget_5wgqdhk7″>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>

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I hope you’ve enjoyed visiting, and I look forward to writing at you in the future!

vbt

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Pirates, murder, and magic!

Flintlock: Book Three of The Cutlass Trilogy

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We are thrilled to be bringing back this fantastic author, Ashley Nixon! Her first book in the Cutlass Trilogy was absolutely loved by our followers and we know that this book will be to! So first lets get to know a bit more about her:

about

 

flintlock1Ashley was born and raised in Oklahoma, where the wind really does sweep down the plains, and horses and carriages aren’t used as much as she’d like. She has a Bachelor’s in English Writing and a Master’s in Library Science and Information Technology. When she’s not writing she’s either working out or pretending she’s Sherlock Holmes. Her obsession with writing began after reading the Lord of the Rings in the eighth grade. Since then, she’s loved everything Fantasy–resulting in an unhealthy obsession with the ‘geek’ tab on Pinterest, where all things awesome go.

Links to social media:

Website http://ashley-nixon.com

GoodReads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5199530.Ashley_Nixon

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ashleynixonauthor

Twitter https://twitter.com/AshleymNixon

Blog http://ashley-nixon.blogspot.com

Ashley Nixon’s news letter http://eepurl.com/bda8QH

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Flintlock is the second book in the Cutlass Trilogy. It continues Barren and his crew’s story.

flintlock2

 

Barren Reed hopes to protect the Orient from his tyrant uncle, but his plans to make the King’s life a living hell aren’t supported by the Elders of the pirate community. As it stands, Barren has earned the Elders’ disdain for his carelessness, and they threaten him into exile if he makes one more mistake.

Barren’s not the only one feeling the Elders’ wrath—they don’t trust Larkin either. Worse, Barren can’t comprehend Larkin’s wish to have a relationship with her father, and the secrets she’s forced to keep create a tension that may pull them apart forever.

When the Pirates of Silver Crest begin to die, bullets laced with dark magic are to blame. With more and more of these weapons infiltrating the Underground, discovering who’s behind the dissemination is no easy feat. As fear and tension mount among the people of the Orient, Barren and his crew find themselves in a race against time to stop the spread of dark magic before the world of Mariana spirals into collapse.

Links to where book is sold:

Kindle:http://www.amazon.com/Flintlock-Cutlass-Ashley-Nixon-ebook/dp/B00XTH3XMI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432517931&sr=8-1&keywords=flintlock+by+ashley+nixon

 

~~~~~~~EXCERPT~~~~~

Cove saw the torchlight first, scattered across the landscape, then he heard the cries and clamor. Several people crowded into the courtyard, others looked down from their windows far above, but they all joined in to rise in discord and demand justice for the display before them. And a display it was. Five bodies hung by the neck upon the gallows that rose like a dark shadow at the very center of the yard. The bodies had been frightening when Cove first found them, but now, between their wounds and the decay, they were horrific. Before the bodies stood Ben Willow and at his feet was Dr. Newell, who rested on his knees, bent over at his waist as if he’d been hit. His thinning gray hair fell over his face, hiding it from view.

“Stop the carriage!” Cove ordered as they came upon the mob. Cove climbed out of the carriage followed by Hollow. They stood for a moment, only a few feet from the crowd. He could feel the hostility in the air and it sprouted from one thing, fear.

He scanned the crowd. It took a moment, but his eyes finally found the men and women he had been searching for. Jonas had succeeded; members of his crew and network stood at the brink of the throng, waiting. Ainsley, Ean, Maddox, Sayida, and Jeanna. They all nodded, and as Cove made the first break in the crowd, they followed.

There was resistance at first, and the wave of the crowd made him dizzy. There was nothing calm or nice about how Cove moved through the bodies, elbowing, thrashing, demanding entrance. And soon there was no struggle, for the men and women began to move aside, creating a path for him. He walked forward, drawing closer to the gallows. Silence descended, and now Cove could hear Ben’s voice.

“If you refuse to speak of what befell these men, how are we to believe you aren’t responsible for their deaths?”

He had not yet realized why the crowd had suddenly gone so quiet. Ben bent to grab a handful of Doctor Newell’s hair, forcing his head back so that his neck was exposed. Cove saw that the old man’s face was bruised and bloodied. A dagger flashed in Ben’s hand, and panic overtook Cove. He broke through the front of the crowd.

“This is madness!” the ambassador seethed. “Stop! I demand you stop!”

Ben straightened, letting go of Dr. Newell, who sagged to the floor of the gallows with exhaustion.

“Ambassador Rowell,” Ben drawled. He didn’t seem surprised to see Cove here. “You would halt the punishment of a man who has killed five men?”

The crowd reacted, shouting and throwing garbage at the stage, intent on hitting Dr. Newell. Cove moved, holding his side. His skin felt clammy and he was dizzy, but he maintained his focus. “Has this man had a trial? Has he been convicted of murder?” the ambassador challenged.

“This is all the jury Dr. Newell needs, and they have declared his guilt!”

The crowd cheered and the fire of the torches in the crowd swayed with agreement.

“What is going on here?” the voice boomed, but not in its normally cheerful manner. It was Matthew Dulcemer, the governor of Arcarum. The crowd parted even further for his large form.

“Governor,” said Ben stepping forward.

“Is this your crowd, Mr. Willow?”

The man hesitated. “They’re here for answers, Governor. These men were found in Dr. Newell’s office. You will see that their wounds are…rather unnatural.”

The governor’s eyes moved to the men for a moment, and he studied them. Then his eyes slid back to Ben. “What is to fear of a dead man?”

Ben set his jaw. “And what of you, ambassador? Can you argue with the men behind you? Surely even you must agree that such an evil must be stopped.”

“I do agree,” said Cove. “Which is why I brought the bodies to Dr. Newell in the first place.”

Ben smiled, his eyes alight with pleasure. Gasps escaped from the crowd. The air around them was thick with the smell of rain, and lightning began to flash in the sky. Cove wanted it to pour and douse the sick flames that had begun this panic.

“Say that again,” Ben demanded.

“He said,” Matthew’s voice boomed. “That Dr. Newell was only doing what he was instructed, and you, Mr. Willow, should also know that I was aware of this agreement.”

Cove was careful not to look surprised, but he felt it. Matthew had not been aware of such a thing.

Ben narrowed his eyes. “Why keep this a secret? Did you not feel the people of Arcarum had a right to know about this?” Some voices rose in agreement.

“The men were not found in Arcarum. They were found at sea,” said Cove. “Besides, we cannot infer anything from what we have here, and we should not spread fear needlessly.”

“But this is to be feared!” Ben argued, pointing at the men. “This is fear!”

“The only thing I see to be feared here is your disregard for what is right,” said Matthew. Ben didn’t look at Matthew. His eyes were on Cove, menacing and dark. Cove stepped forward to help Dr. Newell to his feet. He took a knife from his boot and cut the bonds from the doctor’s hands.

“Are you okay, John?”

“Yes,” he wheezed, leaning into Cove. “Thank you.”

“You’re bleeding, ambassador,” Ben said. Cove didn’t look at his shirt. He still felt lightheaded from the wound.

Matthew’s voice rose. “Go to your homes! You should all be ashamed!”

The crowd broke away slowly, and Cove helped Dr. Newell down from the gallows. Those who had come with Cove wandered to him.

“Take the bodies to the church. Alaster will know what to do,” he ordered. As they obeyed, Ben’s voice rose, catching the attention of those who remained in the courtyard.

“These are the bodies of pirates, are they not, ambassador?”

Cove paused and turned with Dr. Newell. “If they swore by the mark, we will never know,” he said. And they wouldn’t. The wound over their hearts had erased any traces of the tattoo. “We cannot make assumptions about things we do not know…that’s how people die.”

And he meant that as a threat.

Then he turned, moving past what remained of the crowd. He felt Matthew following close behind, like a thought he didn’t want to recall. Matthew was reminding Cove that he still wanted answers.

As Cove helped Dr. Newell onto the carriage, he turned to face Matthew. The governor didn’t look severe, but he didn’t look jolly either. No, the look in his eyes made Cove’s chest tighten up. It was a mix of fear and sadness. This was what it was like to be on the brink of losing.

“I expect a visit,” said Matthew. “And soon.”

Cove nodded, and while he was indebted to Matthew for what he’d done, he knew there was a profound change between them. Tonight had ensured that a seed had been planted in Matthew, in the people of Arcarum. Cove Rowell was not to be trusted.

~~~~~♦♦♦♦♦~~~~~

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