Skip Beat – Lame Name but Awesome Manga

Estimated reading time: 2 – 4 minutes

(Originally posted April 21, 2009)

Skip Beat’s summary courtesy of One Manga:

“Kyoko Mogami followed her true love Sho to Tokyo to support him while he made it big as an idol. But he’s casting her out now that he’s famous! Kyoko won’t suffer in silence–she’s going to get her sweet revenge by beating Sho in show biz!”

The summary, while accurate, just really doesn’t capture how awesome this manga is. I’d want to add:

Kyoko, reeling from the depths of Sho’s betrayal, casts off her loving, gentle demeanor to become an avenging demon who thirsts for his blood!

Cheesy. Yeah. But it’s true. Even the bloodthirsty part.

Now I’ve only made it Chapter 36, but I honestly have blubbered a few times while reading Skip Beat. This manga’s initial appeal for me could be summed up in the following images:

Chapter 1 Pg. 47

skipbeatch1_47

Skip Beat Chapter 1 48

skipbeatch1_48

Skip Beat Chapter 1 Pg. 49

skipbeatch1_49

However, while Kyoko’s need for vengeance still drives her motivations, she learns to find herself. Okay, that’s just not specific enough. Kyoko, through her encounters with “showbiz people”, is able to dissect her personality. She comes to find out how much of what she’s learned, suffered, accepted, and strived for where never for her benefit, but rather a few key dysfunctional people.

While this may be a manga with a questionable title, I have found myself reflecting on my own life since I began reading this yesterday. I intimately know what it’s like to strive to please a parent who only sees perfection as an indicator of my worth. I also know what it’s like to be burned by someone you’ve sacrificed for and trusted. I’ve often wondered if my personality is truly my own or a reflection of what a few key dysfunctional people in my past wanted of me.

Okay, enough personal blog therapy.

Skip Beat is definitely worth a lengthy read. I’m watching Kyoko and those she encounters growing alongside her. Don’t let the cutesy title put you off like it’s done me for a couple of years. This manga has it all: angst, drama, comedy, even romance.

You can find it at: http://www.onemanga.com/Skip_Beat/

Procrastination is Never Pretty

Estimated reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

(Originally posted April 10, 2009)

But it has a nice way of putting things in focus.

WARNING: This is going to be a random post. I’ve said that I’ll be using this blog to chat about my writing, etc. and I’ve yet to use it for that. Today is the day I’m going to change that. Let the randomness begin!

I’m torn between looking out my window and watching an unknown Telenovela. Option #1: overcast sky, gray bark, gloomy, gloomy, gloomy. Option #2: handsome man, cute girl, cut scene, another handsome man lying naked in a bed.

Choice should be obvious, right?

It would be if there wasn’t responsibility #1: WRITING!

Why is this so hard?

I love to write. I love to read. I love to read and then write. However, I’m feeling a little schizophrenic between the five worlds competing to be created. My mind is all over the place.

I’m in a creepy little southern town called Vickery Hill one day dealing with an unstable Resurrector and psychotic Pureblood vampire, another sees me in an outlet mall cavorting with a werewolf and empath, the next I’m creeping along strip club with an immortal Narcissus and his reincarnated lover (one he drove to suicide BTW), the following I’m stuck in the woods in France during the 12th century with another mega-powerful vampire and her gentle bastard (literally) soon-to-be lover, and occasionally I’m in a Nephilim dimension frozen in time with a snow god and his Nephilim-assigned partner Alice who’s on the verge of a melt down.

I totally see this as my fault though. I went through three years of a writing drought and now it’s flash-flooding. I was always one of those writers that could only focus on one story at a time. Part of my new lease on life was to break that limitation. I want to come back strong and five stories is my ROAR. It’s my way of making up for lost time. It’s my way of saying, “You want to be a writer? Well, show ‘em what you got, biatch.”

Le Sigh.

I wouldn’t say I’m floundering. I’m just a little crazy. All these stories exist in the same world, so having them develop at the same time rocks because it allows me to check for consistency. Quality Inspector #77 at your service, you know? But, it’s hard not to play favorites. Just this week I was on Devil’s Descent II and had just wrote the update. I posted it and wanted to come back to Julian. Getting into his mind can be a very scary yet fun place to play. I imagine much like a rollercoster. (I imagine only because there’s no f-ing way I’m ever getting on one. Balls to that!) Anyway, I’m wanting to go back and play but I can’t because Narcissus yanks me away to go write what’s going to happen next to his Suicide Doll.

I’d like to whine, but there’s no one to whine to because I immediately hear, “You wanted to write. So write, biatch.”

I do it because I’m a good little biatch. Finish one then another steps right in place. Finish that one, another comes in. Do that one, hey look! There’s another one.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I’m bitching. I know it. I’m not a good little biatch.

So I’m sitting here at my makeshift desk that wobbles when I type with any smidgen of passion. My butt is falling asleep on the wooden chest I use as a desk. My right foot is getting tingly on the Firm’s Transfirmer I use as a foot rest. My glasses keep sliding down my nose reminding me that I should just put my contacts in even if I won’t do anything else. Trent Reznor is whispering in my ear, “Everywhere I look you’re all I see/Just a fading fucking reminder of who I use to be/Come on tell me!” My wobbly table is cluttered with junk, ipod, and an empty Nasa mug I got on vacation last year.

Wow. You know what? I think I’ll take a little schizoid right now. Hell, any of those worlds is gotta be way cooler than the mess I’m tolerating right now!

Thanks for reading. I really should do this more often.

Image Credit: Baltar at Stock.Xchng.

What is Best in Life?

Estimated reading time: 2 – 3 minutes

(Originally posted April 22, 2009)

Monday evening I was in my kitchen peeling potatoes and blubbering because I just felt awful. After months of perpetual optimism, of going against my nature and being a perky person, I cracked. I just effing cracked. Reasons? Too many and too embarrassing to actually type and have posted on the internet. (Even though I’m trying to do the blog thing, I just can’t open my heart to that extent. At least not yet.)

So I’m peeling these potatoes, my hand flying across those spuds with my demon peeler, hacking away with the ferocity of a savage, and crying my eyes out. My husband reaches over, gently pries the peeler out of my bloodless fist, and says, “Why don’t you let me do this?”

I answer somewhere along the lines of, “Fuck no! I must take my rage out on something already dead.” (I’m sure it didn’t really go past “Fuck no!”)

Anyways, I’m cutting the bejeezus out of these potatoes, swearing off ever being a good schmuck again, embracing my inner evil, seething with the injustice of why does everything I touch effing fail, when I said, “You know what my company motto is going to be? What is best in life?”

Yes!

Instantly, I felt better.

Oh, I still raged about selling my soul, hating everyone but my holy trinity (oldest son, youngest son, and husband), stomping on all who oppose me, etc.

But I felt better. I felt good. I felt empowered. I felt awesome. So here’s a clip for all you who don’t know where “What is best in life?” comes from and for all of you who do and need a pick-me-up.

Awkward Beginnings

Estimated reading time: 3 – 4 minutes

(Originally posted April 21, 2009)

I could say that I’m working on Grim Alice today, but I’d be lying. I have the file open. I’ve even looked at it. It taunts me, sitting there on my desktop taking me away from my feelings of awesomeness. Why do you do this? Why do you remind me of responsibility? And why, oh why, do I feel weird blogging?

Everyone blogs, right? It seems to have become a given possession along with cell phones and ipods. (I have two of the three. Ipod — I *heart* you. Cell phone — Death first! Blog — Do I have to? [Looks around. Sighs. Mopes.])

I claim to be a writer. Blogging shouldn’t be this hard, right? WRONG! Blogging is way freakin’ harder than writing. As a composer of fiction, I am expected to step out of the world I create. It’s not about ME, it’s about the WORK. The work always! I’m the hand behind the throne, never seen and never heard from. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Blogging, on the other hand, is all about the Blogger. All eyes are on me. Yuck!

“But Claudia, don’t you have anything clever to write about? Don’t you have any observations on the world? Come on–show how witty you are and blog about the latest blah, blah, blah.”

No. No. And hell no.

So why the freak out? Don’t like blogs, don’t have one. Simple, you whining pussy.

I hear ya. Yeah, very true. But I have this trait, call it a strength of weakness. When I feel most uncomfortable about something, that’s when I can’t back away from it. My mind/body locks up and fixates on that which torments me the most. (Read the first few lines about Grim Alice. There’s a prime example.) Once I realize how much I fear something, that’s when I make it my mission to destroy it.

I honestly didn’t want to write a post. After all, I doubt anyone even reads it. What does it matter? No one will care if I blog or don’t blog.

True.

But I know.

So I squirm here, face wrinkled like I have constipation — which I guess I do, you know, of the blogging sort — and type. I type without pause or what’s the word? Censorship. Yes, I type without censoring my thoughts.

And it’s freeing. I don’t have to police my actions. I just…type. You know what? Blogging is like running for me — it’s hell when I start, it’s hell when I’m chugging along, it’s hell when I stop to suck in air, but when it’s done I’m all smiles. I actually feel better.

I can understand why people love their blogs.

Grim Alice Tab — I see you. I see you squashed between iTunes and My Documents. I see you sitting there, constant and mocking me with your presence. Oh, yes. I see you. Guess what? You shall mock me no more for I will defeat you. We will tangle again tomorrow and I will beat you then too.

Blog — thank you for taking mercy upon me and not destroying me like the worm I am! *whispers* But one day I’ll kick your ass too!

action-kitty

In your face!

Wash Away by Greenway Review

Estimated reading time: 3 – 4 minutes

“His life was resting on a knife edge; the blade held firmly in fate’s fickle fist. And the only person he believed could save him from the inevitable was the girl he cruelly tormented for six long years.”

Summary for “Wash Away” by Greenway.

Typically, reviews are written with methodical thought and precision. While I may approach my writing with those qualities in mind, I am not approaching this review with such sterling qualities.

Simply put:  I am writing from the gut. I am writing with envy. I am writing with adoration. I am writing because this story deserves to be read.

Please be aware that I am not a reader of J.K. Rowling’s most-beloved Harry Potter series. I skimmed the first chapter of the first book and decided it wasn’t for me. Frankly, I’m not quite sure exactly how I wandered into HP fanfiction. However, it probably isn’t a surprise that even with very little background knowledge of HP, I still managed to become enamoured with Draco/Hermione fanfiction. The extremes of class, ideology, blood, love, and hatred summed up so well by these two characters are exactly my kind of thing.

The point of my HP backstory, or lack thereof, is to express what an outstanding piece of fiction Wash Away truly is. While HP elements are mentioned, a novice to the Rowling universe can enjoy this story–if they’re into this kind of thing. You know—fiction that leaves you aching, empty, miserable, and all-too-hungry for more?

So what exactly has me so moved by Wash Away?

It is a decidely dark, psychological look into the psyche of a character whose very emptiness is only compounded by the unwanted love he has for the eptimome of everything he has ever loathed. Draco’s obsessive love for Hermione does not go the way of ardent lover who seeks to force his will onto his hapless victim. In this story, Draco seeks blessed obliviousness in regards to his feelings for Hermione. He would rather disintegrate into nothingness before allowing himself the desire to even hope for love.

To say Hermione’s feelings for Draco are any less violent would be an understatement. Hers, of course, are handled much differently. She charges forward, unwilling and unable to box up her love for much of the story. The inevitable push and pull between these characters is intoxicating to someone of my literary proclivities.

Greenway skillfully tells this story in a way that draws the reader into the very minds of Draco and Hermione. Draco’s soul is tormented, lonely, empty, grey, and pristine with apathy. The only splash of color in that terrifying space is Hermione. Hermione’s is glimmering with the emptiness of innocence. It isn’t too long before it too becomes darkened. Yet, she never loses hope—not completely.

Not once did I ever feel that I couldn’t empathize with Draco for his cruelty or Hermione for her desperate optimism.

Wash Away is intelligent, moving, obsessive, and has stayed with me long after I read the final chapter last night. Thankfully, the sequel is being worked on and will hopefully be posted in the upcoming weeks. I strongly urge anyone who has a terrible love of angst fiction to please read this story. It truly is a gem worth reading. My only regrets are that I didn’t write it myself.

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/4587942/1/Wash_Away

Now, go on and read this!

Image Credit: krrass from stock.xchng.

Sleeping Poison Chapter One

Estimated reading time: 20 – 34 minutes

Chapter One
Among The Sheep…

Auvergne, France
March 1179

Cold, damp moss lay beneath Liana’s cheek. Her nostrils twitched and agony immediately possessed her broken frame. “I’m afraid,” she whispered to no one. Half awake, she opened her swollen eyes and saw not the black earth beneath her, but the black spirit lying inside.

“I’m afraid,” Liana repeated listlessly through torn lips, too tired to know one desperation from another. Her bloodied fingers curved as if to claw away at the images in her traumatized mind—or place them somewhere far more comforting.


“The world means nothing. It exists for us. It exists because of us.”

“I don’t understand.” Liana stuffed tiny fingers in her mouth and watched the sleeping woman warily.

The exquisite face remained smooth. No movement rose to betray her living thoughts. Ebony hair draped the luxurious bed, falling like cobwebs to the stone floor like it always had.

However, immense rage consumed the monstrous will beneath.

“Don’t be stupid, Liana!” it snarled in hatred. “You know what to do!”

“No, I don’t.” Fat tears made the little girl’s world warble and shake. “I don’t know how…” Liana wanted to run away. She wanted to take her sleeping brother’s hand and flee. Her green gaze slid to the door. Instead of granting freedom, the iridescent barrier mocked her.

“Cristophe, brother, wake up. Please.”

Low laughter hummed with beautiful menace. Liana startled

“You don’t need him. Cristophe is as good as dead for all the help he can give you.”

Liana’s gaze skittered to the fair-hair boy sleeping in a forgotten corner. “He’s not dead.” Although shaky, her voice held an undeniable note of mutiny.

“I know what you want. Just do it.”

Liana shook her head frantically. She started singing, desperately trying to drown out the voice in her mind.

“He can never wake. He can only dream and as long as he dreams, the door will never open. We’ll be trapped here, Liana. Forever. Do you want to live forever in this room?”

Liana rocked back and forth. Betrayal linked arms with her. She wanted to see what lay beyond this pile of stone. She did NOT want to rot away in this prison.

The woman’s body seemed to gleam with triumph.

“You want to see the world? Well then, Daughter, destroy it all. Destroy it all and be free.”


Blood pooled in her mouth, making swallowing a torturous function. Mud flaked from Liana’s broken nose, speckling the ground.

Vivid images of recent destruction mapped their presence in Liana’s mind, effectively overlapping with the past. The ground grew red with phantom blood.

“No…”

Terrible cries of suffering echoed in Liana’s ears, loudly proclaiming her no different than the demon who spawned her. Mangled bodies littered her clouded sight, making Liana remember the price of freedom.

“I did what I had to. I’m not like her. I’m not like her. I’m not like Hel—” Liana’s parched throat closed up. The past remained lodged in her thoughts like a parasite.

However, it receded when faced with the present agony lashing away at Liana’s flesh.

She shifted and violent spasms shook her. Her lips quivered with hideous delight. She eagerly welcomed the pain, knowing it would summon something stronger than guilt or fear.

Self-preservation.

I can’t stay here much longer but…

Without looking down, she knew blood continued to soak her already waterlogged dress.

Stupid. Not gone more than a day and this is what I let happen to me.

Liana’s chaotic trip down the river ended when she had impaled herself on a submerged tree. Its wicked branches had sunk deeply into Liana’s chest, stomach, arm, and thighs. Although she had eventually managed to free herself, torn muscle and ligaments lamented the brutal method.

My leg is broken. So is my arm. And my face. I’m losing blood fast and there’s no one in sight to give me more.

Involuntary shudders continued to torture her. Liana pushed past the anguish churning madly about the edges of consciousness. She crawled forward, leaving a trail of scarlet mud in her wake.

However, Liana only managed to drag herself an insignificant distance before collapsing.

“Oh, damn…”

Liana gritted her teeth in frustration. It was too early to panic and far too early to stop. She may have temporarily thrown the Trackers off her trail by jumping in the river, but they would’ve discovered that amateur ruse by now.

Filthy Trackers. Would that they stayed rotted in the ground instead of looking for me.

The Trackers would destroy anything in their path searching for her, but Liana didn’t fear physical retribution. Those half-dead shadows didn’t have the power to hurt their prize. However, they would inform the one person who did.

Cristophe.

Her brother would find her. It was only a question of time. However, what happened next was entirely up to obliterating chance.

Cristophe, you won’t understand. And because you don’t…

Unholy destruction shot across her sight. Never had she fought her brother. Never. But now…

Damn the Court for tricking him so well!

Her guardians until yesterday, the Court still held her brother tightly within its corrupt grasp. Cristophe fervently believed in their public convictions, never looking through the surface humility to see its private deceit.

Cristophe saw the Court as their saviors, sent down from God himself to free them from the vile creature known as Hel.

And Mother.

Duty bound to a code she could never accept, Cristophe would never let their familial bond interrupt his honor. The pain of her own brother hunting her down was almost too much to bear.

I can’t think about it right now.

Liana dug the fingers of her good arm into the soft ground and pulled herself forward. Every limb throbbed in agony. Pebbles and twigs scraped her clammy skin but Liana kept going.

I can never go back to Court. I have to keep moving.

Wheezing, struggling in a pitiful showing of single-minded obsession, Liana cleared the bank. Beads of sweat stung her eyes. She blinked quickly and ragged pants filled her bloodied ears.

I will not fail. I will not!

Suddenly an angel’s song courted her earthly suffering.

Liana froze, suspended between fear and enchantment. Beautiful and haunting, the siren melody dulled her pain. She held still, not for cunning, but a crazed curiosity to know the creator.

“My days mean nothing against myself
I cry out for salvation
Mayhap one day the Lord will hear my fear…”

She dared inch forward. The exquisite voice grew closer. Liana desperately needed to hear more.

“I bask in humbleness
Throw ashes in my hair
Mayhap one day the Lord will see my purity…”

The heavenly pitch swelled. Spasms seized her chest, forcing Liana onto her back. Colorless light tinted her vision. She wondered vaguely if the singer’s grief was meant for her.

“I wait in misery
My solitude is my downfall
Mayhap one day the Lord will feel my devotion…”

Trees collapsed, sending down a flurry of lamenting leaves. The sky grew grey. Before she could understand fear, Liana felt the remaining strength flow from her body. Dumbly, she realized too late nothing had changed except her.

He was singing to me. Angels do know my name. This means there is something more…more than I wreak.

Liana’s life continued to bleed away. An enigmatic smile lifted the corners of her waxen mouth. She closed her eyes and waited. Silent parting drifted on bittersweet currents.

Cristophe, I’m sorry for what I said…for what happened. I will miss you more than anything. I’ll find a way to tell you how much…

However, instead of dying, Liana witnessed the end of melodic deliverance.

“I pray for understanding—”

The song died in mid-verse. Soft footfalls approached. “My God, what happened?” The horrified whisper belonged to its owner, obviously never meant to fulfill its function as a question.

Liana’s eyes fluttered open. What she saw filled her weary heart with joy.

An angel.

The pungent scent of male human sweat filtered through her weak senses. Weary lids slid closed in disappointment.

Maybe not an angel then. Apparently, Death isn’t ready for one like me.

Irrational fury took hold of her, much like the kind that destroyed half a castle and a small village the day before.

It may not want me, but Death will be ready for this one.

The stranger crouched beside her motionless body, never realizing Liana’s homicidal intent. Rough fingers touched her shoulder. Liana could feel his hesitation. Fear drenched the air, but surprisingly it wasn’t because of her. Rather it was for her.

Why do you care?

Curiosity salted her instinct. Liana remained still and waited.

“Is she dead?” Twigs snapped as he shifted his footing. He carefully lifted Liana’s sodden hair away from her face. The quick inhale of breath told Liana how horrible a countenance she presented. “What or who did this to you?”

My stupidity.

He gently touched her grotesquely swollen cheek. When she didn’t stir, the man let out a muffled whine. “Mama, what should I do? I can’t fix her but…”

But what?

“But if I can’t fix her, I won’t leave her to die alone.”

Liana’s eyes slid open. Gray orbs slick with tears met hers.

“Can you hear me?”

“You can fix me.”

He leaned closer. “What?”

“You can fix me.” Liana lunged for his throat.


Update for April 17, 2009

The poor man screamed and tried to stumble away from the broken mess of a woman. He failed. Even in her miserable state, Liana had more than enough strength to keep him trapped within her greedy arms.

She sank her blood teeth deep within his neck. He struggled, whimpering and crying for mercy. Liana shook him once in an attempt to silence him. The man whined, a high-pitched ugly thing, before falling unconscious. Liana sucked deep, tasting and relishing his essence with gluttonous glee. His stench no longer was repellant. Instead, it wafted beneath her nose with a curious mixture of innocence and promise.

Liana’s face repaired itself. The time between ruin and perfection lasted less than a mortal’s moment. Yet, the rigor of undergoing transformation wore Liana down. Her eyes drifted shut. Her mouth slowed its deadly languor. The thought of finishing her meal plied the vampiress with delicate fingers, massaging both her ruthlessness and conscience.

Liana remembered his beautiful song. She recalled the genuine worry gnawing away at his fine silver gaze.

He was worried about me. He had no reason to care, no reason to stop, but he did. He did.

Liana’s smooth brow betrayed her patrimony by furrowing in a human manner. She released her prey with a small gasp. He rolled off her body without a sound. Sitting up, she studied his complexion with a keen eye. He was deathly pale, lips colorless, barely trembling with breath. Despite his poor condition, Liana knew he was going to survive this encounter.

Thank you, Sir. You’ve done much good this day.

Her blood teeth receded. If she smiled all anyone would see was a normal human smile. Her father’s blood was instrumental to keeping a mortal façade. Neither she nor Cristophe suffered from outward signs of vampirism. Liana knew of other weaker vampire lines that were forced to remain out of the light for fear of instant death. They also needed to feed continuously unlike Liana.

Thanks to the Samaritan I won’t have to have a bloodletting for at least another month. Good. It gives me to time to figure out this mess.

Liana looked about her in grim study, wondering if the Trackers were on the wood’s edge yet.

I don’t have time for this.

Her gaze dropped back to the man sprawled next to her before flitting away.

If I leave him like this then I will be no better than my mother. I kill only when needed, not for ambition. He tried to help me and help me he did. He deserves more than to be abandoned in the woods like an animal.

She bit her lip and whipped her head about. Penetrating the green shadows with her burning gaze, Liana forced her mind to clear itself of panic and fear.

The Trackers are not going to win today. Neither is the Court.

Decision made, she settled back on the poor creature who had nearly given his life to her. Once he woke he’d have memories of what transpired between them. Liana shook her head. That would never do. Although she obviously didn’t agree with the Court, she did believe in keeping humanity relatively ignorant.

They’re too simple to be complicated unnecessarily.

Placing a white hand upon his brow, Liana allowed a tiny portion of her power to pool in the fingertips. She reached into his mind, respectful of not viewing anything beyond the past moments spent in her dubious company.

When you awaken you will do as I say. You won’t remember me but you will obey my commands.

Liana waited for him to stir, unsure of how much longer it would take. Her moody stare flickered with annoyance. Obviously, being bound so soon by a Samaritan act was not what she had intended when she escaped from Court.

This world is not quite what I expected. I don’t know if that angers me or not.

Liana understood she was somewhere in France but was unsure of exactly what year. Dread yawned widely in her gut as she quickly came to realize she was several centuries off from her intended target. What Liana lacked in knowledge she fostered in uncanny detail—which only added to her fear. She studied her clothing for the first time with an apprising stare. A voluminous kirtle fitted her form from arm to waist. Its color reminded Liana of a bruise. The chemise underneath had dried stiffly and scratched at her skin. Her shoes, a victim to the river, had been made of leather—she was sure of it. She touched a hand to her hair. The waterlogged locks still held onto their plated style.

To regular eyes, Liana appeared as a noblewoman or the daughter of a merchant. In a word—rich. In another word—helpless.

Of all the times to land in, why couldn’t I have come several centuries closer to what I wanted? I’ll draw too much attention to myself like this. People will expect me to be married, pregnant, and hidden away in some fortress. Not wandering about in a forest chaperoned only by the wind.

Liana shot a glance to the fallen man, ensuring he was still unconscious, before groaning in dismay. Granted, she hadn’t really had much time to plot before escaping the Court, but now that she was in this time, Liana had no real idea of what she was going to do or how she was going to hide.

Tears helplessly welled up in her eyes. She snorted with anger and impatiently wiped them away. Crying over her circumstances wouldn’t make them disappear or make her assimilation into this time any easier.

Liana blew out a cleansing breath, folded her hands, and waited. She waited for the Trackers. She waited for the Samaritan to awaken. She waited for her life to begin.

If the Trackers came they’d crowd her, trying to enter her mind so they could force her through the portal. Failing that, they’d bring Cristophe who could pull her through to the Court’s dimension where she’d be imprisoned without respite. All the niceties they’d given Liana in an attempt to keep her placated would surely be withdrawn. The Court might seal her, exactly how they did to her mother—the mythical Hel.

Cristophe would pray for me, plead my case to the Elders, but he’d never lift a finger to free me. I’d be imprisoned in my own mind for however long they see fit to keep me.

She thought of the poor human still incapacitated by her side. The Trackers might very well kill him rather than have him carry tales of shades, portals, and a woman who had the ability to hold a grown man down for his blood.

I cannot let them hurt him. I won’t carry the sin of his murder on my shoulders. I’d prefer not to send this forest into Hell but I’ll do it if I have no other choice.

Liana glanced up at the sky, seeing the overcast weather as a portent of days to come.

But if I do that he’ll die. If I let the Trackers at him he’ll die as well. If he walks out of here he’ll eventually die. Either way he dies. Does it really matter how? Perhaps I’m over thinking this issue.

A weak cough rent the air. The man moaned pitifully. He rolled his large body from side to side, reminding Liana of an infant learning to crawl. Once he sat up, she watched his lax face tighten with confusion. She stood and beckoned for him to stand as well. Still on the edge of a waking dream, the man obeyed, albeit clumsily.

Liana bade him to follow her. Once she led him a hundred paces away from the riverbank, she scanned their surroundings one more time. No Trackers. Satisfied from her reprieve, Liana spoke in a soft, compelling tone. “You will remember nothing from the time you saw me until now. You will go home and leave this place. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

His speaking voice was as lovely as his singing. Liana experienced a tiny sliver of regret at not having the chance to finish listening to his song. “You will awaken once you reach the spot you were before you walked to riverbank. I want you to go now.”

“Yes.”

Liana waited for him to turn around. He walked with lethargy, heavily muscled thighs stomping away without care for the brush or path. She let out a sigh of relief once he was gone from her sight.

One problem solved. Now onto another.

Liana returned to the riverbank. Eying the ground, she saw several areas where her blood and fluids had stained the rocks, dirt, and vegetation. She had to erase all traces of her presence before leaving.

Liana held her hand out. Energy skimmed down her arm and burned brightly in her palm. Blood droplets beaded on the ground before levitating into the air. They hovered lazily before flying to her hand. The white ball of energy quickly burned crimson. Once every bit of evidence was collected, the bloodied orb sank back into Liana’s body.

She nodded in satisfaction, shook her skirts out, and turned about. Her feet were bare and unfortunately conjuring was beyond her capabilities, but she needed to find the nearest lord’s castle. Liana had enough knowledge of how things were done in this approximate time and she knew she’d need human protection if she were going to blend into the populace.

Once before the lord she’d plead for assistance. She’d conjure some tale of being attacked by robbers, left for dead—violation a given but never spoken—and then she’d cry prettily. Given her beauty, clothing, and delicate demeanor it’d go very far to convince him of her noble status. From here, the human lord would feel honor-bound to give aid. If not, Liana would be sure to persuade him to listen to reason and give her what she needed—information.

Afterwards, I can take all the gold, horses, men, and supplies I need. The Court won’t think I’m bold enough to hide in plain sight of man. They’re expecting me to run far away, hide myself where none can see me, all because they assume I’d be too scared to do otherwise. Fools.

Liana scented the air, looking to find the nearest concentration of humans when she scented the familiar again. Moments later the Samaritan crossed her path. Again.

“My lady!” He blinked curiously. “What are doing in these woods? It is far from the road and filled with dangerous creatures for the unwary. Are you lost?”

Liana resisted the urge to snort. Was she lost? What did he think? However, this disobedient man who should’ve done exactly what he was told might come into further use. After all, she needed to see the lord quickly before nightfall and before the Trackers came upon them.

“Yes.” She smiled shyly. “I don’t know where I am.”


Update May 1, 2009

His face flooded with color. He dropped his gaze and stumbled over his words. “This is the province of Duc La Tour.”

“Oh?” Liana’s mind whirred with the implications. The name meant nothing to her but the title was good. It meant power. “Is he far from here?”

“Duc La Tour?”

“Yes.”

He rubbed the back of his neck, unease clearly resonating in every part of his posture. “Not too far for one like me, my lady.”

Liana ducked her head to further his implication of her supposed weakness. “Will you take me there?”

“To the Duc?”

She resisted the urge to force herself into his mind. His stupidity truly tested the limits of her patience. “Yes.”

The youth shifted from one foot to another. Fear clogged his pores and overshadowed the musky sweat odor.

Liana noted his obvious discomfort with an assessing, yet discreet, eye.

He looked at her and inhaled deeply. “I can do it, my lady.”

“Thank you.” Liana wondered at why he didn’t question her further. Surely he had curiosity over why a well-dressed lady was wandering about in the woods. Superstition had to play a part in his daily beliefs.

But he just accepted my excuse of being lost. He hasn’t asked where my retinue is…nothing.

She cut him an accessing gaze. Perhaps, he wasn’t stupid at all but a rather clever human trying to lure her to a bloody end. She grinned, lips cunning and eyes burning with promised vengeance.

Play me dirty and see just exactly you reap.

Liana followed him at his urging. She studied his broad back, noting the play of muscles beneath the rough fabric. The cut of his clothes proved his peasant status. However, his height and features spoke of a different story.

The face, while not the angular angles of pure aristocracy, did have a certain fragility. He really was quite pleasing to the eyes, at least hers. His build bespoke of powerful lineage, that of a generations of men used to war. His muscles were taut but lacking size. Liana sniffed. He didn’t eat meat very often, if ever.

His diet kept him smaller than his lineage demanded.

Why? What were you doing out here?

She trailed the Samaritan at a respectful distance. Liana could force him into another waking dream, ferret out all the information she needed, and then dump him in the forest.

I do that and then it’ll take longer for me to find any other possible enemies. No, let him keep to this. If he’s innocent then there’s nothing more to fear. If he’s not then my appetite will be sated for quite some time.

He looked his shoulder and gave her another scraping bow. “It will take some time to reach the Duc’s castle, my lady. Your feet will hurt from the walk.”

Liana expected him to offer to carry her, a favor she’d accept, if only to continue her charade of weak femininity and to get to the Duc that much faster. She couldn’t resist looking over shoulder, eyes seeking the shadows to see if the damnable Trackers were poised to rush them.

Nothing.

“My lady?”

“Yes?” she answered gently, ready to protest over his generous offer.

He asked nothing of the sort. Instead, he asked the one question she never expected.

“Why are you running?”

Liana glanced at the awkward man-child sharply. Her melodic voice held the ferocity of a wolf. “Why do you ask?”

He ducked his head in apology. “I meant no disrespect, my lady. Forgive me.”

She felt something hot slither about the bowels of her suspicion. It was guilt. Looking away from him, Liana murmured stiffly, “I’m your equal. There’s no need to give me an honorific.”

“My equal?”

She heard the hope spring forth from his well of loneliness. “Yes.”

“Then may I ask…”

His voice trailed off when she met his clouded gaze squarely.

Liana expected him to fall beneath his discomfort and cowardice. Instead he surprised her.

He cleared his throat and finished his query. “May I ask your name?”

“Liana.” She raised her chin in perfect challenge. “My name is Liana and I mean nothing to no one and that’s why I ran away.”

She immediately closed her eyes and cursed herself. Why did she tell him anything close to resembling the truth?


Update for May 8, 2009
I can clear it out of his mind but why did I even bother to answer him at all?

Liana drew herself up. “How did you know I was running?”

He dropped his gaze. “I just…I just knew.”

“Is it that obvious?”

“No!” he rushed to assure her.

“Then how did you know?”

The young man hemmed and hawed, extremely uncomfortable to answer yet obviously trying to find the courage to reply. Liana wondered again if his reticence was an act designed to lure her into comfort.

He answered just as she was a hairsbreadth from grabbing him by the throat.

“You have the look of someone who has reached her limit. You’re like a wounded bird needing to fly.”

Liana was surprised by his perceptiveness. “What is your name?”

He startled. His liquid gaze met hers shyly before darting away. “Laurent.”

“Laurent.” She tested it slowly. “Laurent?”

“Yes, my lady?”

She thought of admonishing the use of that title but changed her mind. Her request for him to address her by first name was hasty and much better forgotten.

“Who are your people?”

He drew inside himself. The gentle smile died, leaving Laurent as stark as the trees surrounding them. “I am alone.”

“Alone? Completely?”

“Yes.” Pain oozed from his emotional skin, blinding to Liana’s perceptive mind. “My mother died.”

Liana’s throat knotted in empathy. “I’m sorry.”

He jerked his chin in acknowledgment.

Liana’s vivid irises dulled. She intimately knew the feeling of grief for a fallen mother. Unlike Laurent, she mourned for what never was while he obviously mourned for something very real.

“Laurent?”

“My lady?”

She pushed by his despondency. “Would you forgive my intrusion if I stayed with you tonight?”

Laurent jerked away as if slapped. “You cannot!”

“Why?” Liana belatedly reminded herself of the required decorum for her supposed station.

“It would not be seemly for you to stay with me, my lady. I am not fit to speak to you much less accompany you anywhere.”

“You’re speaking to me now.”

Laurent backed away, much like a frightened animal. “Am I offending you, my lady?”

“No.” Liana’s stomach coiled with pity for him. While suspicion still remained, she couldn’t deny the very true fear roiling off him in nauseating waves. Laurent’s abject distress affected her. His outward demeanor reflected what she had suffered for years at the hands of her mother.

Did I look this pitiful while I begged?

Liana’s white brow dampened as well as her palms and feet. She forced herself to continue. “Laurent, I’m lost. I don’t know where I am other than I traveled very far. You are the only person I know in the whole world now.”

Laurent lost some of his anxiety. He answered in a low, trembling voice, “You are the first person I’ve spoken to in a long time. That is why my tongue is too loose. Forgive me.”

Liana swallowed down her questions. She wouldn’t continue to probe at his very obvious wounds just for the sake of her curiosity. She also wouldn’t  invade his thoughts. That violation just couldn’t ever be forgiven. Although Liana was guilty of many sins, that was one she would never willingly commit.


TBC…
Image Credit: somadjinn @ Stock.Xchng

Previous | Next

Sleeping Poison Prologue

Estimated reading time: 18 – 30 minutes

PROLOGUE
“Twenty-one Makes a Dream Die”

Biting wind whipped Liana Moreau’s hair wildly about her waxen face. Violent shivers possessed her small frame, mimicking the panic thundering in her chest as she stood on the precipice of a fifty-foot drop.

But it wasn’t the threat of falling that commanded Liana’s churning fear.

“Don’t do it.” Puffs of air punctuated each drawn out word. “Just don’t.”

“Don’t do what? This?” A glittering smile broke with jagged glee. Long, translucent nails stroked the trembling woman’s exposed stomach. “But this excites me, little bird. Can’t you taste her fear?”

Liana’s nostrils flared imperceptibly. Rank terror polluted the space between them. It entered her body, clinging to the roof of Liana’s mouth and coating her insides with human frailty.

“It’s good, yes?” The elegant creature’s gray orbs sparkled with malicious insight. Touching Liana’s secret obsession, his throat possessed the tenor of a demented lover. “It’s so good having complete power over someone’s life…so very, very sweet…”

Liana swallowed back her useless denials. He had stopped listening to her long ago. Even so, Liana couldn’t help but listen to him and what she heard slashed her to the core.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Knowing that this thing’s existence is only of your choosing. Omnipotence is just so addictive…” Sculpted cheeks hollowed and a bitter smile creased his lips. “No wonder you love it so much.”

You’re wrong. I never loved having it over you.

Somehow Liana couldn’t make her throat form the words. Instead, visceral shame forced her to look away.

“No protests, little bird? Not even one pretty tear?” He brushed his mouth against his captive’s damp cheek. “She’s crying for me but you’re not. Don’t disappoint me this quickly, my love.”

Liana smarted beneath his mockery. Familiar guilt burned her eyes.

Now is NOT the time for regret. Deal with him like you’ve done before. Get him under control quickly!

Liana blew out a slow, steady breath, vainly trying to keep her mind from splintering into habitual purgatory.

This is what I have to do. I can’t feel sorry for anything. Not right now.

Drawing aristocratic dignity about her, Liana leveled the unstable being with an imperious emerald stare. “Come to me, Laurent.”

Thick, black lashes drifted shut. His perfect countenance slackened in potent consideration. Laurent’s arms loosened, giving his terrified prey a whisper of freedom.

“That’s it, darling” Liana coaxed, instantly shedding cold dominance like an unneeded skin. “Just come to me. I’m not angry. Don’t be afraid.”

“You’re not?” Laurent’s husky voice shifted, abruptly sounding young and unsure. “Truly?”

“No, my love. I’m not. Come inside and let us go to bed. Quickly!”

“Quickly?” Laughter seeped from Laurent’s rosy lips. Beginning as a whisper, it swelled into a cacophony of pure doom.

Liana resisted the urge to clap her hands over her ears. Tears filled her eyes while she whispered, “Laurent, please stop…”

The laughter died, leaving absolute loathing in its place. Laurent cocked his dark head in contemptuous amusement. “I’m not your dog anymore. So burn in Hel’s fire, you bitch.”

As if summoned by that Norse goddess of ruin, demonic wind suddenly whipped Liana’s thin sleeping gown up. She looked down in dismay, barely noting the whiteness of her naked limbs or the ice beneath her toes. All Liana saw was distance.

Horrible distance.

What am I going to do? The space between the inner bailey wall and the outer curtain seemed insurmountable. How am I going to stop this? Will he just let them both fall if I jump? I can’t take that chance yet.

Liana raised her hand in wary supplication. Desperation tinged every husky word. “If you won’t come to me, at least let Tanya go. Please, Laurent.”

He looked down vacantly, gradually remembering the existence of the person in his arms.

“Tanya.” Laurent said it slowly, savoring the syllables in his mouth. “I’ve never heard that name before. It’s beautiful.” He leaned forward and whispered, “Do you know what it’s like to die, Tanya?”

A small whimper escaped Laurent’s helpless captive. Her pallor matched the billowing lab coat she wore. Glassy blue eyes bulged with terror even as they prayed for help.

“Our f-f-father w-who art in h-heaven…”

“God is not talking to you. I am. Do not make me ask again.”

“I-I don’t w-w-want to die!”

Liana winced. Wrong answer. She recognized the sadistic game Laurent was playing. No one understood the calculated moves better than Liana. After all, she had played the role of mouse to his cat for centuries.

“I didn’t ask if you wanted to die. I asked if you knew what it was like TO die.” Laurent turned Tanya around and carefully brushed back her hair. The graying blond strands clung to his slender fingers perversely even as their owner quivered in near-hysteria. “Do you know what it’s like, Tanya?”

“N-No.”

Her choked whimper inspired a lopsided grin. However, it did nothing to erase the maniacal cast of Laurent’s face.

“Ah, Tanya, that’s most unfortunate—especially because you ARE going to die. Ssh! Don’t cry! I can tell you what’s coming.”

Laurent’s frenzied tone dropped into listless confession.

“I know what it’s like.”

Liana’s face hardened, seemingly oblivious to Tanya’s plight.

You can’t end it this quickly. You’ll play with her more and when you’ve mentally broken Tanya, then and only then, will you let us all know if you ever really wanted her dead.

I can outwait you.

Unaware of Liana’s detached reasoning, Tanya’s knees buckled and she sagged in Laurent’s hold. “If I die, God…God will…”

“Will what? Welcome you to heaven? Don’t let your faith deceive you. There is nothing there.”

Laurent’s clipped words were relentless, meant to shatter all illusions of hope.

“Death isn’t peaceful, Tanya. It’s bloody. It’s hellish. It’s brutal. Just like…”

Laurent shifted his stance. His gaze instantly found Liana.

“Just like…”

The exquisite mask splintered, giving birth to equal parts rage and despair. Laurent’s inhuman glare bored into his former lover, gutting her with pure condemnation.

“Just like…”

She held his stare, but Liana tasted despair inside the frail shell of courageous observation. Mute pleas littered Liana’s convoluted mind like rotting dreams.

Don’t. Don’t feel that way, Laurent. Please.

“Just like…”

Laurent continued to repeat his two-word lamentation, wearing on the emotional membrane of both his victims.

The staccato rhythm became profane, raping the barrenness inside Liana. She already knew what he was going to say. She had already tasted the wound he’d expose when he broke faith with repetition.

“What am I saying? You know what Death is like. I’m sure you do.”

Tanya vomited denial along with pieces of her dinner.

A pitying frown pulled at Laurent’s brow. He ignored the bile staining his boots. “You know it, Tanya. You’ve known Death if you’ve ever loved.” A shiver of regret lurched across his beautiful face. “I loved, Tanya. I loved and then I died.”

Laurent’s pained whisper sank into Liana, draining her of all color. She faltered in her resolve and showed him her corruption. “Laurent, it didn’t have to be this way—”

“I know what it’s like,” he interrupted harshly, “because I’ve done it hundreds of times.” Laurent pinned Tanya with his enraged stare. Cold madness glinted deep within his silver orbs. “But you already know that, don’t you?”

Tanya shook her head slowly, mindless with terror.

Laurent leaned forward, as if to share his secrets in perfect confidence. “I’ll even bet you watched me die, Tanya.” He smiled terribly, bringing long fangs closer to his prey. “Haven’t you?”

Tanya turned away, forcing her dirtied chin into her shoulder. “Mme. Moreau! Please make him stop!”

“Why keep bullying her when it’s so easy? She’s just a human!” Liana shouted gamely, emerald eyes brightening in morbid challenge even as her heart clenched with indescribable misery. “Take me instead, my lord. I provide much better sport.”

Laurent’s wild laughter sent chills down both women’s spine.

“I already know what you’re capable of, little bird. There’s no justice in it for me. Besides, this is infinitely more rewarding.” His lily-white hand caressed Tanya’s jaw. “After all, you seem to care whether this piece of meat lives or dies.”

A cruel smile graced Laurent’s lips, casting his face in murderous perfection.

“Don’t you?”

Liana stood still, thoughts scurrying in nauseous chaos and disrupting her cunning. Which way should I go? Care or don’t care?

“Don’t make me ask you again, little bird.”

She swallowed once. “I do.” Liana saw the satisfaction creeping into his flinty stare. “You know me. You already know why.”

Laurent shrugged, his velvet-encased shoulders rising with easy elegance. “I don’t know anything about you. Never have. That’s why we’re here.”
Tossing Liana another mocking grin, Laurent quickly spun Tanya around. He ignored her frightened gasp and clamped one hand on her bruised wrist while the other returned back to her waist.

“M-Monsieur, please…”

“Ssh, Tanya. There will be time for begging later.” Laurent settled his chin on her shoulder. “It bothered you to be called a piece of meat, didn’t it? Made you feel insignificant, worthless?”

Wise to Laurent’s expectations, Tanya whispered, “Yes.”

“Mmm. I understand. It doesn’t feel good to be looked at as a thing without feelings and value.”

“You ARE the reason for my life!” Liana shrieked angrily, hurt and enraged by Laurent’s insinuation. “No one, and I mean NO ONE, has ever looked at you that way!”

Laurent ignored Liana’s outburst and continued his sadistic conversation.

“Your mistress is very odd, isn’t she? Always has been. Quiet when she should be shouting, shouting when she should be quiet. Now, let’s go back to where we were, Tanya. How do you think I felt being called a…what was it? Ah, yes. A case study?”

Spittle flecked the crusted corners of Tanya’s drooping mouth. “I’m s-s-sooo s-sorry.”

Liana blinked back furious tears. Once more Laurent was backing them both into a corner. Except this time, Liana had no idea if she could sidestep Fate again.

One wrong move and it’s over.

“You’re sorry. Hmm.” Laurent mulled over Tanya’s answer for several moments before letting out a relieved sigh. “Since you’re sorry, surely you’ll accept my apologies for what I should do, won’t you?”

“No! Laurent, why are you doing this? You’re not capable of hurting anyone…” Liana’s voice faltered. “Please just stop!”

“Shut your mouth, Liana.” The soulless growl made Tanya scream in panic. Laurent turned his rapacious attention back to his hostage. He clucked his tongue and cooed, “Now look what you made me do, little bird. You made me scare her.”

Liana clenched the edge of her nightgown. Her nails tore through the sturdy cotton, piercing her naked thighs. Although her voice quaked, she managed to rasp, “I’m not scaring her, Laurent. You are.”

“On second thought, maybe Tanya isn’t afraid at all. After all, she’s bloodless—isn’t she?” He pursed his rosy lips in contemplation. “Only someone bloodless and without a conscience could help keep me in that hellish nightmare.”

“It wasn’t Tanya’s fault, Laurent. It was mine.” Crimson rivulets snaked down her legs. “I’m the only one you should hurt.”

The scent of Liana’s blood instantly intoxicated Laurent. He swayed forward, mouth open wide for nourishment before his long limbs locked in place. Ugly shame twisted his countenance and Laurent’s disgust for her became obvious.

“Oh, I am already quite aware of that, you bitch.”

Liana dropped her gaze. “Then punish me all you want. I won’t fight you. I swear it.”

“You won’t fight me.” Laurent turned his head slightly. With treacherous lips against Tanya’s ear, he murmured, “She tells me I should just hurt her. But doesn’t she understand that hurting you hurts her more?”

“Please don’t…I beg you…p-p-please don’t…I didn’t mean to…”

Laurent placed one finger against Tanya’s mouth, effectively silencing her. He released her wrist only to wrap a graceful hand around her throat. Laurent kissed Tanya’s ear with painful tenderness.

“Now let’s see what your mistress will do if I snap this skinny neck.”

Liana’s eyes widened in panic. “Killing Tanya makes you no better than me, Laurent!”

“Wrong. It does make me better. At least, I’d be showing her mercy by ending it now.” Venom threaded each softly spoken word, binding Liana with cords of hatred. “Unlike what you’ve given me, little bird.”

Liana quickly calculated the distance between herself and the precarious pair. I have to do it. I have to jump.

“Move and she’s gone.” Laurent tightened his hold on Tanya. He backed them both to the edge of the outer wall. Less than an inch separated predator and prey from a mortally fatal fall.

“Don’t! I’ll do whatever you say.” Liana’s gaze darkened to black when she saw him ease back defiantly.

Please let me stop this. Please!

Laurent lowered his head. Ebony hair fell over a smooth brow, tumbling along exquisite cheekbones. “Tell me something, little bird. Is your concern real or just a mask you wear to inspire devotion?”

When Liana didn’t answer quickly enough to suit his pleasure, Laurent drew a line across Tanya’s stomach, forcing out a broken cry from her parched lips.

“It’s real!”

He ignored Liana’s shout, keeping intense focus on the terrified woman beneath his hand. “Ssh, dear,” Laurent consoled with cruel kindness. “Don’t weep. It doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it could. Trust me—I know.”

“Damn you! Stop playing these games with me, Laurent!”

“Keep braying your orders, Liana, and you’ll see how much I listen.”

Indecipherable insanity tickled the tiny hairs on Liana’s neck. The absence of mercy found within his iron gaze compelled her to whisper, “Forgive me, my lord. I beg you, please don’t.”

“My lord.” The honorific rolled off his tongue, hinting at the bitterness of Laurent’s thoughts. “Was I ever really your lord, Liana?”

“Please…” Pitiful sobs quickly clawed their way past her shredded pride.

“You’re begging me. Me! You truly have become pathetic,” Laurent sneered. “There was a time when you would’ve taken her head yourself before debasing yourself before anyone. Surprising. Compassion isn’t something I expected from you, little bird.”

The caustic words cut deeply. Liana’s voice came out heavy and labored. “My lord…Laurent…don’t do something you’ll regret.”

“I’d never regret this.” He nuzzled his prey with the softest of kisses. Several moments crumbled with latent decay. “Tanya’s scent is divine…it makes me spin inside.”

Liana shifted her stance, grinding several pebbles beneath bare feet. Hearing Laurent’s obvious adoration for her employee made Liana sick with dread and jealousy.

As if aware of those tainted emotions, Laurent gifted her with a rakish grin. “Or maybe it’s not Tanya at all. Maybe it’s the air.” He inhaled deeply. Laurent’s eyes glittered with feverish anticipation. “Do you know what I smell?”

Liana shook her head slowly, watching her entire world disintegrate. There was no longer any doubt where this was headed.

If there ever had been.

All I did, sacrificed—suffered for us both—and this is where it ends.

“You don’t know?” Laurent lifted his hand up. Tiny carmine drops stained the long, elegant fingertips. “I smell something better than blood or even your cunt, little bird.”

Ruthless commitment possessed his smile.

“I smell freedom.”

Cold tears spilled forth in lamentation. Liana reached out one last time. “Don’t abandon me, Laurent. Please.”

Liana’s pleas cut through his hate, leaving raw agony to ravage his immortal beauty. Laurent’s smile faltered. It transformed his mouth into an ugly slit.

“Remember what I told you once? Remember how I told you I’d kill you, burn your body, rend your limbs apart, and let your ashes regenerate for what you did to me?”

Her shoulders bowed. Liana’s heart clenched and a broken sigh was born. “Every time I look at you I remember.”

“Do you?” Hollow laughter swelled in mimicry of absolute triumph. “Well…now I’ve finally found something worse to do.”

Hunched over, dangling by a heart sore thread, Liana felt her obsession grow. “Not possible, Laurent.”

He bared his teeth. It was an unmistakable warning. “You won’t control me anymore. Not another moment. Not ever again.”

A feral snarl mated with Liana’s quick intake of breath. She closed her eyes tightly. “If it were the other way and you had the power to keep me, would you?”

Silence judged her. A ribbon of grief tightened its noose about Liana’s neck.

“I had the power, my lord. I had the power and I used it. Not to condemn you, not to control you, but to save you. To fix what I had broken and save the man I love above all others.”

Liana swallowed once.

“Just like you did for me, my lord.”

Laurent’s conviction faltered—as did his heart. Tanya may have remained in his arms, but he stood alone on a precipice made of more than just stone.

Countless lifetimes breathed in his ear, pushing him towards the fey woman he lost his soul for.

“I love you, Laurent. I know you feel the same…though you don’t want to.” Tragic perfection curved Liana’s full lips even as her eyes wept. “Let me show you what is now. Let me show you how else I can love.”

He longed to set the hysterical woman in his arms free and capture the other in his cage. Laurent desperately wanted to hold Liana, take her to his prison and love her until he died.

“Don’t force me to show what else I can be. Please?”

But he couldn’t die. Neither could she.

Laurent clenched his jaw, grinding his teeth until they threatened to shatter. Cages weren’t enough. Memories weren’t enough. Nothing could justify Liana’s treachery.

Not the first time or the countless ones after.

And while Laurent watched her, loathing choked his regret. He wanted to crush her and he knew exactly what to do.

“You’re wrong, little bird. Seeing you now, watching you snivel, I know it without a doubt.” Laurent let his narrowed eyes roam up and down her figure. His fine lip curled in disdain. “I don’t love you.”

A terrible cry of anguish rent the night. Liana doubled over and shook her head frantically. “That’s not true. You’re lying!”

“I don’t lie—unlike you. So that’s why I say this clearly—never again, little bird. You will NEVER see me again after this moment.”

Liana’s strangled sobs suffered an abrupt death. She turned her head. “You don’t understand what never means.” From her bowed position, Liana’s wet gaze glowed eerily. Terrible power vied with maddened passion. “Just as you don’t understand that nothing you can say will ever change my love for you. Nothing.”

Laurent’s bravado disintegrated. Liana’s insatiable truth devoured him—nearly picking his bones clean of resistance. He shook his head, desperation manning his only weapon.

“Even if I say I’d rather love a sow than the one I married? Even if I tell you I don’t want you anymore? That when I dreamed I dreamt of fucking anyone but you?”

Liana straightened slender shoulders. Her beauty shifted, becoming utterly still, utterly dangerous. The wind, previously a separate entity, now seemed to emanate from her. It howled angrily, promising eternal vengeance if not appeased.

Terror asphyxiated the last of Laurent’s courage, causing his knees to buckle. He swayed forward and his heels left the ground. Only Tanya’s shrill shrieks kept him from pitching them both forward. Locking his limbs, Laurent jerked back but kept his gaze trained on the barren ground below.

Although away from Liana’s petrifying stare, Laurent felt his lips begin to tremble.

He truly was pitiful, just as he always had been. Bastard that Laurent was, he never learned what it was to have dignity. The only person who had ever given it to him freely was the same one to strip it away.

Then and now.

“Liana…I…”

“Come to me, Laurent, and I’ll forgive every word you said. Defy me and we’ll both regret it.”

Laurent’s choked sob echoed a much softer one. He reluctantly shifted his attention to the fragile female in his arms.

In one moment, Tanya’s filthy face proved to be his salvation.

This woman was evidence of love gone wrong. This woman was proof of what lengths Liana would go to continue orchestrating an obscene lie. This woman was confirmation of the kind of creature his wife really was.

Inconsolable grief ruined Laurent’s smile. “So be it.” He tightened his hand, choking off his savior’s incoherent pleas. “I’m sorry that I’m your monster, Tanya,” he whispered sadly as he leaned forward once more. “But I’m more sorry you helped expose mine.”

Laurent suddenly flung Tanya towards Liana. Screams rent the silence before losing to the power of deafening sirens.

Liana caught the flailing body in mid-air. Without care for Tanya’s overwrought emotions, Liana tossed her onto the walkway behind them and continued her mad dive to the outer wall. Liana’s feet barely skimmed stone before she anxiously scanned the barren plain and forest beyond.

But it was too late. Laurent was already gone.

Liana stared bleakly into the shadows. A cacophony of noise continued to assault her, each rhythmic set growing more and more distant. The electronic wailings proved Laurent had penetrated straight through the estate.

Liana dug her fingers into the ancient wall. Several nails split, tearing into tender flesh. Her legs threatened to give way and the night sky blurred beneath the weight of bitter tears.

You’ve broken the cage door leaving your little bird behind. Damn you for doing this! Damn you for not understanding!

Dozens of feet pounded across the inner walkway. The esteemed scientists of Solange Incorporated flocked to their employer, feeling courageous now that Laurent was gone.

A miserable smirk twisted her lips. Liana could already hear their questions and observations.

“Where did the breach occur?”

“Our data shows M. Laurent was in a comatose state. He shouldn’t have woken at this stage.”

“What will we do now that our subject is missing?”

Indeed. What will we do now?

Liana schooled her tortured features into a bloodless mask before turning towards her audience. Standing together with identical lab coats, they reminded Liana of bleached crows. She raised her voice to benefit their mortal hearing.

“Cut the sirens and relay tonight’s footage to my office.”

Allain, a man who Liana had employed for the better part of three decades, called out, “Everything or just the cameras in Quadrant P?”

“All of it.” Liana watched as several enfolded Tanya into their ranks. “And take her to the Infirmary. She has a shallow scratch on her stomach as well as several scrapes from her fall. Tonight has been very traumatizing. I suspect she’ll need sedation.”

“What about Security? Should we dispatch them in pursuit?”

The very idea sickened her. She would never send Trackers after Laurent. Liana kept her tone emotionless with much effort. “No, Allain. GPS is enough for now.” Liana returned to her previous position, troubled eyes staring far into the night.

Their dismissal obvious, the group shuffled away.

“Thank you for saving me, Mme. Moreau.”

As intended, the hoarse whisper reached Liana easily. Something akin to guilt stabbed her. Liana nodded her head, not bothering to turn around. Once more, she raised her voice and answered, “I’m sorry for what you went through tonight. It shouldn’t have happened. I’ll make sure a generous bonus is added on the next pay cycle.”

“You’re most kind, Mme. Moreau.”

No, Tanya. You are.

Liana’s green eyes hardened as a new sound colored the landscape. She didn’t need to see the time to know New Year’s had just arrived—and with it the twenty-first century.

I should’ve seen this coming. I always lose right before twenty-one. Always.

Brilliant threads of silver, purple, and crimson stitched the night sky. Shrill whistles echoed across the French countryside as more fireworks glittered in celebration of a new year.

We were supposed to share this new century together. Even though you were sleeping, I was going to be by your side, Laurent. Like always. And now…

Tanya’s gratitude was unnecessary. Liana didn’t do it for her at all.

She did it for Laurent.

Everything Liana ever did was for Laurent. Always.

And now I’ll begin the hunt, my love.

Poisoned eyes glowed with an intensity rivaling the display in the sky. With renewed conviction, Liana ghosted her grief. She turned away and leapt into the barren courtyard. There were hours of footage to study and countless lines of data to analyze. No sleep for her staff tonight and definitely none for Liana.

Everything’s changed, Laurent, but nothing’s changed for me in eight hundred years. Where do you think you can hide that I can’t find you? But I’ll let you run for a bit. Run and see that the world is something you can’t tolerate. Then you’ll understand my kindness in keeping you here.

Run, my love. But never forget that I will always be behind you.

And I will find you because I won’t let you go—no matter how far you run.

Image Credit: Onatos @ Stock.Xchng

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Sleeping Poison – Cast of Fools

Estimated reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

“I wronged you. I’ve admitted a thousand times before and I’ll admit it a thousand times more. But how can I give you up? You taught me to trust in something other than blood. Your innocence brought me from the void threatening to swallow me whole. I love you, Laurent, and I’ll send the world to Hell before I let  you go.”

—Liana

“You’ve ruined me completely and all I ever, ever did was love you. How can you be this monster? How could you let me become one? You trapped me for centuries, a helpless pawn to your vanity. Now that I’m free I’ll never be under your thumb again…even if my heart threatens to rip free to go back to  you.”

—Laurent

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Sleeping Poison – Copyright

Estimated reading time: 1 – 2 minutes

Copyright © 2009 by Claudia D. Christian

All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from DelSin Publishing, LLC. DelSin Publishing, LLC and the author assume no liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Published by:

DelSin Publishing, LLC
www.delsin-books.com

Image Credit: dimitri_c @ Stock.Xchng

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Sleeping Sins Excerpt

Estimated reading time: 6 – 9 minutes

A single tear snaked down her cheek. The pale-faced woman brushed it away listlessly. Nightmares came in cruelly, spikes tearing into her paper-thin flesh. Memories, ancient and new, melded into a macabre dream book. The ink crimson, the text reprehensible, it told part of a perverse tale.


Soft, chubby fingers clutched at the rotting counterpane. The little girl with a pixie’s face climbed onto the enormous bed, one that had witnessed her conception, birth, and now life. Careful not to touch the lush hills and valley hiding beneath velvet and down, she gazed at the exquisite summit.

“So pretty.” The innocent words disturbed the motes swirling about like dispossessed souls. “So very pretty.” Rapturous euphoria made the little girl’s mind buzz. Falling into temptation, she reached out to touch a softly rounded breast.

She immediately snatched her hand away with a whimper and scooted back, nearly to the edge. Stuffing raw fingers into her mouth, the little girl suckled them much as she wished she could her mother’s breast.

The woman lying there now burned with coldness. Although smooth, every facet of her perfect countenance promised retribution for daring to touch where unwanted.

“I’m sorry,” the little girl whispered.

“It’s not enough.”

The voice droned in her tiny ears. She gasped and her gaze darted fearfully. She slid off the bed, tearing several silken threads in her haste.

“You’ll pay.”

“Mother?”

“No, I’m not your mother.”

Immediately, the little girl sought the comfort of her sleeping sibling. Wrapping her arms around his thin chest, she buried her head beneath his pointed chin.

“I am you. You are me. We destroy the sons of God. We shred them apart—make them do our will. We defile the pure, annihilate the weak.”

“I don’t want to,” the little girl moaned incoherently.

“But you will, Liana. You will.”

“Yes, little bird. You will rip out my heart and devour it slowly.”

She looked up from her huddled position. A beautiful man crouched a few feet away. “Who are you?”

Silver flame reflected a woman’s perfection. “Your sin.”

“Who is looking out at me?”

“You.”

The little girl touched her face and found angelic grace. Wonder had no time to develop for suddenly her arms lay empty. “My brother! He’s gone!”

“Of course he is,” the handsome stranger replied in detached amusement. “And I am here. I have something for you, little bird.” Without another word, he reached into his pale chest.

Her shrill screams haunted the room as the man pulled out a disgusting mass of veins, muscle, and flesh. “Here,” he offered with a pained smile. “Taste my suffering.”


_______________________________________________________________________________________

She rubbed her eyes, weary of fighting the cords threatening to tie her down into misery.

“It always comes to me on this day. Always.”

Dreams and memories meant nothing and everything to Liana. They spoke to her in strangled whispers. They marked a seductive madness running swiftly through her veins.

Soon Liana would talk to her dream and this time she would make the ending different.

An hour. Maybe less. Maybe more. The broken thoughts forced her gaze to slide to the barred door. Rigid lines of wood and iron mocked her. How long has it been? How long have I been locked in this room?

Her question meant nothing. Liana already knew the answer because it was always the same.

Twenty days.

Memories of the world beyond her cage disintegrated.

“Taste my suffering.”

More tears seeped into Liana’s dark hairline. A few slid across her chin, splattering onto the sheets. The noise assaulted her ears and she imagined her tears sounded like dripping blood.

Liana shifted. A grimace immediately tightened her colorless mouth. Although ebony sheets of the softest linen lay across Liana’s naked limbs, they felt like sand. She brought her knees up and winced as pain burned between her thighs.

Scattered all over her body, several fresh scrapes overlapped old ones. Deep punctures wounded Liana’s breasts, thighs, and arms. Their horrible presence depicted a tapestry of depraved pleasure.


_______________________________________________________________________________________

“I can’t bear it!” The hoarse cries spilled from her bruised lips as a giddy offering.

“Yes, you can,” he answered with chilling arousal. “You can and you will bear it for me.”

Splayed beneath him, Liana whimpered as his lean hips ground against hers. “My lord…”

He threw back his head and growled with pleasure. “I love hearing you say that. Say it again.”

“My lord…my lord…please.” Liana’s legs fell away from his waist, exhausted from the incredible strain of holding him so tightly.

“Again.”

“My lord…” The world grew smaller as he started thrusting harder and harder.

“Again.”

“My lord…more…ah!”


_______________________________________________________________________________________

Liana touched a particularly vicious cut on her abdomen and hissed in pain. Reaching up, she ran her fingers over the scabs encrusting her neck.

Almost healed. But it doesn’t matter. I’m happiest when they get ripped open again.

She braved shifting positions once more. Mist immediately swirled about the edges of her vision. Not waiting until it subsided, Liana gritted her teeth and moved again, albeit gingerly.

Suddenly a mangled growl seeped from Liana’s throat.

Please make it right this time. Please.

The agony continued to intensify and it became bitterly clear.

God’s ears were closed to her.

Liana moaned in black anguish. Her prayers mutated into venomous curses.

No matter what I do, it ends like this. How can I change my fate? How can I make tonight different?

A murder of crows flew by, startling Liana out of miserable turmoil. Their raucous chatter warned of what her raw core already knew. Liana’s moans ceased abruptly and the tears ran dry. She eyed the lone window. Terrible longing stained her vivid green irises. Night was coming.

So was Laurent.

Voracious hunger stirred inside her veins. Liana embraced it with desperate conviction. Her flesh crawled with the exquisite memory of his tainted touch. Color returned to Liana’s pale cheeks and the sharp note of hunger altered its melody—becoming something more torturous than before.

Soon he’ll be here, but by tomorrow will he still?


___________________________________________________________________________


This excerpt is from Love Unfortunate. The book is a work-in-progress anthology and will be sold in paperback once completed. The novel length sequel tentatively titled Sleeping Poison will also be posted online chapter-by-chapter.

©2005 Claudia D. Christian. All rights reserved. No part of this book shall be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from DelSin Publishing, LLC. DelSin Publishing, LLC and the author assume no liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual or fictional events, locations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.