Saturday, October 15, 2016

Savvy Saturday: The Muse's Revenge Part III

The Muse's Revenge Part III

Last week we left Rita safe at home in her bed. Now it's J.S. Marlo's turn. Will she too escape the evil muse's trap? Or not?

Marlo turned left on the gravel path and followed it as it twisted and turned in the dark. There were no bars on her cell phone, but she still used it as a flashlight. She walked by cabin nine then cabin twenty. From there, she veered into an entrance that ended in front of tiny cabin two.
It appeared whoever affixed those numbers to the doors had picked them at random from a bag. She wondered if the others had as much trouble finding their cabins.
In the night, something growled and leaves ruffled.
“This is getting ridiculous—and spooky.”
If venturing alone in the dark was part of the workshop, it’d achieved the desire effect. Creepy critters, real or imaginary, crawled up and down her spine, chasing her fatigue. At this rate she wouldn’t sleep for weeks.
She continued on a grassy path sneaking around cabin sixteen. No lights illuminated the interior. It was either unoccupied or the guests were asleep—unless there was no electricity.
“That would be just great if I can’t recharge my phone.”
The gate of the cemetery crossed the grassy path. It was unlocked. Farther ahead, a white glow caught her eyes. She pushed the gate and advanced solemnly between the graves. On her right, petrified wood formed rustic crosses. She approached the closest one. The crude engraving still visible on the horizontal plank astonished her.
Hadrian Drake 12 4/8 17 – 12 25/11 62
It took her a few seconds to decipher it.
Hadrian Drake, born on August 4, 1217, died on November 25, 1262.
The man had been forty-five when he drew his last breath. It was too bad the inscription didn’t list a cause of death. History fascinated Marlo, and she was curious to know how he died—and how he lived.
The comforting odor of a campfire teased her nostrils.
She continued toward the glow. As she drew nearer, it took the shape of a fluorescent tombstone.
“How strange. And beautiful.”
The inscription shone a brighter shade of white and the lamb on top of the stone seemed to curl into a tighter ball.
Aaron Clark (3 May 2011 - 10 Nov 2015)
“Four years old? Poor little guy.”
A light suddenly flooded the cemetery. It came from a lantern attached to the front of a cabin edging the graveyard. Two big bronzed numbers, two and nine, were nailed to the door.
“Cabin twenty-nine? Really?”
The skeleton key rattled in the hole, and after some jiggling, it unlocked the door. Marlo entered the cabin. Flames sizzled inside the fireplace built in the corner of a cozy room. She closed the door, and as she locked it, she noticed a light switch near the handle. The flick of a wrist later, a lone bulb shone over the bed pushed against the windowless wall.
A rectangle box wrapped with a red ribbon rested on two pillows. Banshee had mentioned chocolates. Hoping it wasn’t a lie, Marlo unwrapped the box, lifted the lid, and removed the foiled paper.
The rich aroma tantalized her senses.
Eight chocolates beckoned her to sink her teeth into their dark exterior. Four were decorated with swirls on top while the other fours were carved with a letter. A-E-S-V.
As she tasted a swirly one, an orange cream center, she mentally scrambled the letters to form words. She came up with two possible combination: vase and save.
The orange swirlies were her favorite, but she still devoured lemon cream A, buttercream E, raspberry cream S, and chocolate cream V. Though she’d eaten enough for tonight, she removed the second foiled paper to reveal a second layer. Three chocolates had swirlies while the other fives were carved with more letters. A-A-N-O-R
“Let’s see...”
She moved the chocolate letters in the box.
“R-O-N-A? A Rona?” Back home, Rona was the name of a hardware store. “O-A-R? An oar?” Though it was a possibility, she felt she was missing the boat.
“Those two As are...” A name fleeted across her mind. “Aaron?” Then the two layers formed a sentence. “Save Aaron?”
The only Aaron she’d ever heard of was the young boy buried near the cabin, and he appeared beyond saving.
Marlo didn’t know when or where they were supposed to meet in the morning for that workshop, but before joining them, she would have another look at that fluorescent tombstone.
~ * ~
Birds awoke Marlo at dawn. To appease her growling stomach, she emptied the last layer of chocolates. Hopefully a more substantial breakfast waited for them somewhere.
After a quick shower under lukewarm water, she donned a polar jacket, grabbed her purse and left her cabin.
A thin layer of frost simmered over the cemetery while a chilly mist clouded the blue sky. She approached Aaron’s grave. The carved letters added a touch of finality to the stone. He’d died on November 10, 2015.
“Almost a year ago.”
She’d found no other clues in the chocolate box. The circumstances surrounding his death remained a mystery. Baffled by the message, she caressed the little lamb protecting the young boy’s final sleep. Warm to the touch, the stone generated tiny electric shocks that sizzled through her skin.
A bright orange spark lit up the eyes of the lamb. Marlo’s gasp of surprise was lost in the thunderous blasts of energy gushing through her body and short-circuiting her mind.
At last, oblivion embraced her.
~ * ~
The wind battering her face roused her senses. Wincing, Marlo cracked an eye open.
Different shades of white assailed her vision. She made a fist and trapped something cold and wet. As she propped herself on her knees, she unclasped her hand. The slushy snow chilling her palm fell to the frozen ground.
“What on earth happened?”
She took in her surrounding.
Flurries swirled in the air at the mercy of the wind and a layer of snow covered the cemetery. White carnations tied with a white ribbon rested near the divot her head had created in the snow.
Puzzled by the sudden change of weather and the apparition of the flowers, she gazed up toward the lamb and gasped in shock. The lamb had disappeared, replaced by a gargoyle with outstretched wings.
She jumped to her feet, and as she stepped away from the grotesque statue, she crushed the flowers.
“Darn.” Distressed over her carelessness, she picked up the pathetic little bouquet. A card was attached to the ribbon with a paperclip.
We miss you
Martha & Aaron
“Aaron?” Wasn’t Aaron the dead boy? Confused, she reread the inscription.
George Aaron Clark
Beloved Husband & Father
(7 December 1973 - 8 November 2012)
“What’s going on here?”
Aaron’s grave had been replaced by George’s. The man had died in his late thirties. The greeting card suggested George was a close relative of Martha and Aaron.
“Probably Martha’s husband and Aaron’s father.”
The flowers looked fresh.
“The boy’s name wouldn’t be on the card if he were dead.”
She flipped the card and was stunned by the stamp at the back.
“Beautiful Bouquet on Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, Manitoba?”
Though she hadn’t set foot in Winnipeg in a decade, she hadn’t forgotten about the flower shop where she’d picked up the bouquets for her brother’s wedding. He’d married a local girl before moving east. Marlo had never lived in Winnipeg—almost being posted there didn’t count—but she’d enjoyed its hospitality many times over the years to attend her daughters’ swim meets, her son’s hockey games, and to visit the zoo with her granddaughter.
Relieved not to have lost her purse, she checked its content. Her wallet and her phone, along with its charger, were inside. Money and credit cards inflated the former, but the battery of the latter was dead.
“I need to hail a cab.” And stop somewhere to eat before I visit that flower shop.
~ * ~
Amazingly, her credit card wasn’t declined when Marlo paid for breakfast at Tim Hortons.
She wondered if the workshop had been a figment of her imagination or if this escapade in Winnipeg was a weird dream in which she was trapped. Either way, she felt compelled to investigate Aaron’s mystery.
The flower shop in which a teenage girl watered plants near a window hadn’t changed. “I’ll be with you in a moment.”
“No rush, sweetheart.”
A lovely smile spread across the girl’s face. She set a green watering can on the floor before approaching the counter. “What can I do for you?”
“When I visited the cemetery this morning, I stumbled on two teenagers playing catch with a bouquet of white carnations they’d snatched from a grave.”
The girl grimaced in disgust. “That’s awful.”
“Yes.” The advantage of being a writer was that she could spin a believable tale at the drop of a hat. “I chased them, but they escaped through the gate before I gave them a piece of my mind. Anyway, in their haste, they dropped the bouquet. This card was attached to it.”
Marlo presented the card she’d removed from the bouquet and handed it to the young lady who flipped it between her fingers.
“This is ours.”
“Which is why I’m here. I’d like to buy an identical bouquet and return it to its rightful departed owner, except I’m not sure from which grave the teenagers stole it. Would you by any chance remember those people, Martha and Aaron?”
Fine lines creased the girl’s forehead. “White carnations you said?”
“Yes. There were maybe a dozen. They were tied together with a large white ribbon. They didn’t look more than a day or two old.”
“Let me see...” Her fingers danced on a small keyboard attached to an iPad.
Propped on an elbow, Marlo leaned against the counter to get a better view of the screen.
“I have a Martha Roswell. She ordered ten white carnations by phone on the 7th and paid to have them delivered directly to the cemetery.”
While the girl provided her with the details, Marlo’s attention focused on the name and address at the top of the screen. Martha Clark Roswell. The last name puzzled her, though she supposed it was possible the woman was George’s sister and not his wife. Regardless, she committed the address to memory.
“Phil, our delivery guy, dropped them off yesterday on George Aaron Clark’s grave.”
Marlo had requested a receipt from Tim Hortons for the express purpose of looking at the date. Today was November 9th, 2015.
Yesterday had been the third anniversary of George’s death, and tomorrow signaled Aaron’s last day.
“If you’d be kind enough to arrange for a new bouquet to be delivered as soon as possible, I’ll pay for it and nobody needs to know about the incident.”
The girl scrutinized her with a peculiar expression. “Are you sure? I mean that’s very kind, but it wasn’t your fault the grave was vandalized. You shouldn’t be paying for it.”
Marlo presented her credit card. Paying was the least she could do after accidentally ruining the bouquet. “This is the right thing to do.”
~ * ~
The fifteen-minute cab ride cost more than the flowers.
Marlo landed in a residential area as a school bell rang. Kids hurried across the street to a red brick building two blocks down. Brakes squealed and horns resounded, but no vehicles collided with little bodies.
She walked on the sidewalk looking for house number twenty-nine. The coincidence unsettled her, but unlike the cabin, the houses stood in numerical order.
The elderly cabbie had stopped in front of house one-hundred-twenty-nine instead of twenty-nine. She chalked up his error on her accent, on some hearing impairment, or a combination of both.
In front of house thirty-one, a middle-aged woman covered her bushes with burlap. Marlo approached her.
“Your bushes will be all toasty for winter.”
The woman granted her a cordial smile. “That’s the idea. May I help you?”
“Yes, but don’t worry, I’m not selling anything.”
The statement elicited soft chuckles from the woman. “That’s good because I’m not buying.”
“My name is Jane Smith. I’m...I was George Clark’s older sister. Foster sister,” Marlo quickly added in case their ethnicity differed. “We lost touch over the years, but I recently learned he passed away. Someone gave me the address next door, but I’m a bit nervous about knocking after so long.” She fidgeted with her purse. “Is there anything useful you could tell me about his family before I meet them?”
“Useful? Yeah, run away.” As the woman straightened up to her full height, her gaze darted right, left and center. “Your brother and Martha made such a lovely couple, but then he died and she married that thug, Roswell. I used to see her every day, smiling and happy. Now, I’m lucky to glimpse at her, and when I do, she sports new bruises or broken bones and she cast her eyes.”
“He’s beating her?” Imitating the neighbor, Marlo whispered. “What about Aaron?”
The sadden expression settling over the woman’s face didn’t bode well. “Poor kid has it worse than his mom.”
Appalled by the situation, Marlo fought the urge to barge into the house and haul mother and son out. “No one phoned the police?”
The neighbor wrapped her arms around her tiny chest.
“It’s not that simple. Roswell has connections with the crowd that ties concrete blocks to people’s ankles. One day, Annette talked to Martha to convince her to leave. She used to live at the end of the street.” She pointed at an empty corner lot. “The next day, her house burned down. Lucky for her, she didn’t end up at the bottom of a lake, but trust me, we all got the message.”
As long as terror ruled the woman’s decisions, arguing with her was pointless. “I understand.”
Determined to help, Marlo walked down the street toward the school. Thinking the neighbor would have refused to let her borrow her phone for fear of reprisal, she didn’t bother asking. Instead she counted on the school secretary’s sense of duty, but when she noticed the electrical outlets in front of the parking stalls, she plugged her phone instead.
The icon of a battery flashed on her screen. She waited a few more seconds then she dialed.
“Nine-one-one. What’s your emergency?”
~ * ~
Alone in the park facing home twenty-nine, Marlo swept the snow from a bench and sat. Her new jeans protected her buttocks from the cold, but she wished she’d packed a winter jacket and a pair of gloves.
A truck was parked in Roswell’s driveway and from time to time, she spotted shadows moving behind the draped windows.
She’d called Emergency Services an hour ago. By now, she’d expected a response, but so far, nothing. As she toyed with the idea of calling again, a police cruiser followed by a blue sedan drove up the street. The car stopped in front of Roswell’s house while the cruiser parked behind the truck, blocking any escape route.
A tall woman with long black hair exited the car. She met two police officers in the driveway. One officer accompanied her to the door while the other stayed by the truck.
The door opened and a bare-chested man stepped on the porch. From the gestures he made, he wasn’t happy at the visitors.
A scuffle suddenly erupted between the man and the officer. The second officer intervened and they subdued the man while the tall woman entered the house. A few minutes later, she returned with a young child in her arms while fending a distraught woman clawing at her sleeve.
Death threats spewed out of the man’s mouth and sobs racked the woman’s body as the tall woman departed with the child. When the officers gave the man a ride in the cruiser, Marlo scuttled across the street to talk to the woman.
“Go away!”
Her bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, and erratic behavior spoke as adequately as the bruises, scratches, and cigarette burns on her exposed skin.
~ * ~
Marlo spent the afternoon seeking help for Martha only to be given the same answer wherever she knocked. We can’t help unless she wants to be helped.
Before attempting to return home, she needed to make one last stop.
Children’s Services was located in a brand new professional building in the industrial district. Marlo paid the cabbie as the sun set over the city.
The crowd she encountered in the lobby was leaving for the day, but someone spared a moment to point her in the right direction. In the belly of the second floor, Marlo knocked on an open door.
The black-haired woman who took custody of Aaron sat behind a desk covered with paper and folders. The nameplate identified her as Claire Huxley.
Warm chocolate eyes gazed at Marlo. “Come in.”
“I’m sure you’re eager to go home so I’ll be quick. I—”
“Please, take your time.” Claire indicated a chair. “I already called my husband to let him know I’d be late. So? What can I do for you?”
Feeling at ease, Marlo introduced herself before leaning her purse against the leg of the chair in which she sat.
“I’m the woman who reported the abuse of Aaron Clark, the boy you rescued this morning. You’re probably not allowed to tell me anything, but I’d very much like to know he’ll be okay.”
A kindhearted smile floated on Claire’s lips as she nodded slightly. “Unfortunately, I can’t discuss my caseload. That being said, once I’m home tonight, I’ll share a nice glass of wine with my husband. It’s a ritual after a rewarding day.”
Understanding befell upon Marlo. “I hope you won’t get home too late.”
~ * ~
The weight lifted from her shoulders, Marlo breezed through the deserted lobby and exited into the night. Aaron was safe. She’d fulfilled her mission.
“I deserve more chocolates.”
Big snowflakes twirled in the light of the lampposts surrounding the parking lot. Only one car remained, its color concealed by the snow. As she reached for her phone to call a cab, she froze.
“My purse?”
A wave of panic washed over her until she remembered where she’d left it. Against the chair in Claire’s office. She backtracked and pounded on the locked front door. When no one answered, she looked up. Light illuminated Claire’s office.
“I guess I’ll have to wait.”
To keep warm, Marlo walked briskly around the parking lot, then she ventured in the park adjacent to the building while keeping an eye on the window.
After what felt like an eternity, darkness engulfed the office. She hurried toward the building.
“Claire Huxley?”
Startled, Marlo slowed her pace. Claire paused in the parking lot where a hooded figure stood near the car.
“Marlo? Is that you?” Claire raised her arm. “I have your purse.”
A detonation resonated in the air and Claire collapsed on the ground. A scream escaped Marlo’s throat. She rushed toward the social worker.
Blood gushed from her head reddening the snow. Down on her knees, Marlo wrapped a hand around Claire’s wrist. A weak pulse throbbed at the tip of her fingers.
“Stay with me, Claire.”
Grabbing her purse, then her phone, Marlo called nine-one-one. Beeps warned her to speak fast before the battery died.
“Children’s Services parking lot. A woman was shot. Hurry, plea
The line went dead.
Something ruffled, spiking the hair on Marlo’s nape. She looked up. Bile rose in her throat.
The shooter advanced toward her. A sudden gust of wind pushed the hood back as a second gunshot resounded. Sharp pain blurred Marlo’s vision, obscuring the killer’s face.
She stumbled clutching her chest. Every nerve in her body tingled. As reality faded away, her mind pondered the title of such a story—had she had the chance to finish it.
~ * ~
Water dripping on her face then scorching pain stirred Marlo’s consciousness. She opened her eyes. Through the rain, she recognized the cemetery, and at the edge, cabin twenty-nine.
Too weak to move, she stared in horror at the blood coating her fingers. Hoping her fellow authors fared better, she called for them.

Her faint cries were lost amid the graves.

Looks like not all of our authors were so lucky as Rita was. We have one more to go. Will Jenna fall victim to the muse, or escape with her life?

This week's piece was written by J.S. Marlo.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Savvy Saturday: The Muse's Revenge Part II

The Muse's Revenge Part II 

Last week we left our authors traveling to their respective cabins. This week we find out what happens to Rita Bay when she finds hers.

In the faint light cast by the oil lantern, Rita Bay frowned at a battered sign pointing into the darkness that read “Cabins One–Ten.”

“I’m not believing this,” she mumbled as she retrieved a small flashlight from her handbag and set out on the pebbled path with her suitcase dragging in her wake. Twenty yards in, one of the bag’s wheels cracked. Cursing under her breath, she hefted the bag and continued on undaunted.

Farther along the path, the main cabin faded into the night. Rita flashed the light into the darkness, then gasped. To her left, several decaying cabins sagged nearing collapse. Damned if she’d stay in one of those. On the right, an ancient cemetery loomed with lichen-encrusted headstones leaning akilter, defying gravity. Resisting the impulse to turn and flee, she continued along the path as her apprehension grew.

Living in an isolated community in the North Georgia mountains, Rita understood the dangers that dwelled in the darkness. No street lights leaving her home shrouded in the relentless black of a moonless night? Owls screeching outside her bedroom window, marking their territory? Occasional death cries as prey succumbed to night hunters? No problem. She didn’t scare easy, but this was outside of her experience. The hairs on her arms stood on end, a sure warning that something was amiss.

Sucking in a deep breath, she hummed to shut out the cacophony of ominous night sounds that grew as she journeyed toward…What? No way in hell would Ellen or Nikki have arranged this.

As the last of her resolve faded and Rita prepared to turn and flee, a faint light appeared in the distance. She quickened her pace, seeking the safety of the light. A peeling sign beside the cabin’s porch confirmed she had found her abode for the night. The exterior was in better shape than the ones she’d passed. Now for the cabin’s interior.


Rita pulled the heavy silver key out of her handbag, unlocked the door, and stepped inside. She sighed in relief as she took a quick tour. Electricity, running water, working toilet, and hot water. She was good to go. She wouldn’t set foot in the rust-stained tub with a scummy ring, compliments of a previous resident. It was nasty beyond the meagre supply of cleaning supplies she always carried when sleeping away from home.

Unpacking her paper towels, disinfectant spray, and her extra linen, she went to work. An hour later, Rita flung herself into the armchair beside the fireplace and surveyed her work. A fire burned in the small fireplace, banishing the dampness and faint odor of mildew. Except for the tub, the bathroom was spotless and the bed and furniture clean. Her clock, which had stopped at about the time she’d arrived at the train station, and her usual necessities were arranged to her liking on the bedside table.

Her stomach growled. “Damn.” Where was the wine and snacks Banshee had promised? She’d bet a buck the bitch wouldn’t answer a call, even if her phone had bars. Come to think of it, she didn’t have the resort’s number. She grabbed an energy bar out of her handbag and tore off the wrapper. When someone knocked on the door of her cabin, she dropped the bar on the floor and almost fell out of her chair.

She wasn’t expecting guests. Should she answer the door? Then she remembered the promise of food and drink. Perhaps Banshee would deliver after all. She armed herself as best she could and walked to the door. “Who is it?”

“It’s Stephen, Ms. Bay. Banshee ordered me to deliver your tray.”

“Hmm.” Stephen’s voice sounded pleasant and respectful. He knew about the tray, so he was probably associated with the resort. Wine and snacks would be nice, but she wasn’t a fool. She couldn’t see who was at the door, but she could prepare.

Rita removed the chair wedged beneath the doorknob, unlocked the door, peeked outside, and then shined her flashlight in her visitor’s face. A handsome young man with compelling blue eyes and long dark hair tied with a strip of leather carried a tray with a plate filled with snacks, a wine bottle, and a glass.

Very nice. She wouldn’t mind him visiting a bit. The writers’ conference was obviously a ploy intended to get them to the resort. Maybe she could discover what was going on. Rita opened the door wider, but he stood still.

She huffed. “Don’t just stand there and let the bugs in. Come inside, Stephen.”

As he stepped inside, the man offered her a smile that could only be described as predatory. Rita wrinkled her nose at the overpowering stink of decay that surrounded him as he walked across the room and set the tray on the small dining table. Stephen himself seemed clean enough, and handsome too. Maybe his outdated suit needed a trip to the cleaners. She’d send him on his way, then spray the room.

Rita offered Stephen a generous tip, but he waved a hand dismissively. She returned the bill to her pocket, alarmed at his response. No hospitality services employee would ever refuse a tip. “How long have you worked for Banshee, Stephen?”

He shrugged. “At the resort? Not long, but we’ve had a relationship for some time.”

What in hell did that mean? “Banshee looks old enough to be your grandmother. Just what kind of relationship are we talking about?”

His handsome face twisted into a snarl. “The kind of relationship that will help me obtain the retribution I’ve sought for the last five years.”

She didn’t know the man—certainly not well enough for her to have offended him so grievously that he felt the need to seek retribution. Five years? She hadn’t moved to the mountains. Was it someone she’d known in Atlanta or maybe the Gulf Coast? “What did you say your name was?”

“Stephen—Stephen Fields.”

It couldn’t be. The only Stephen Fields she knew was a character she’d written in The Aegis—the evil vampire, one of the Dark Ones as she’d called them. He and his nest had been destroyed by the Light Warriors led by Melinda Kildare and Damian Sinclair. Damian, who had spent four centuries battling the Dark, had rescued the twenty-something Melinda shortly before she embraced her Light Warrior heritage. When she was a toddler, Fields had murdered her Light Warrior mother before she was rescued and hidden from the Dark and Light in human boarding schools until she was grown.

He had to be insane or lying. She’d go with lying. “The only Stephen Fields I know was a character in one of my books. He and his minions were killed by the hero and heroine in The Aegis.”

Fields stepped toward her, she backed away. “You let them murder me and my children. All of us—gone—and that bitch Melinda and her goon Damian lived happily ever after. I’ll pay Banshee’s price to have my revenge.”

She moved so the table stood between them and glared at the intruder. Perhaps she needed to go with insane. Maybe a dose of reality would help. “We’re talking about a story that I wrote years ago, Stephen. A creation from my imagination.”

“You stupid human, you know nothing about creation. In my world where stories take on life, you created me and my children, then destroyed us in a single scene. If you had not written me so powerful, I would not have survived the slaughter or been strong enough to travel here. Your foolish mistake. Banshee invited me here because she wished to extract your store of creativity for herself. She occasionally needs a refill. I have no need of it.” He looked at her neck and sniffed. “Delicious.”

Damn, the man had to be insane. Rita assessed her situation. All she had in hand was the key and her pepper spray from her bedside table. She searched the room for potential weapons. She froze when she reached the dresser with the mirror hanging above it.

The Fields reflected there was not the one she’d seen at the door. The description from The Aegis which she’d been particularly proud of writing fit him perfectly. “His face was a pasty grey-white. His blue eyes were glazed over like a dead fish. Mucous drained in tracks from the corners of his eyes down his cheeks. His thinning black hair straggled in greasy clumps around the leather tie that bound it.”

Holy shit! Up a creek with no paddle. A vampire who intended to harm—likely kill—her. She considered her alternatives. When in doubt, brazen it out. She glared at him. “Get the hell out of my room.”

Fields laughed. “You invited me in. Remember your own rules. You’ve given me access to your home. I can come and go as I wish, but I tire of toying with my dinner. I’ll dine, then deliver your head to Banshee. She has a particular taste for authors’ brains.”

Fields tossed the table that separated them aside. As the vampire lunged for her, Rita sprayed Fields’ eyes with the potent pepper spray disguised as a pink tube of lipstick that she always carried. He screamed, bent over, and rubbed his eyes which only made it worse.

The spray might not affect him for as long or as powerfully as humans, but she was ready. When he raised up, she stabbed his left eye with the silver key. If her rules ruled, then the key would do some serious damage.

More than she could imagine evidently. Fields screamed in agony, yanked out the key, and threw it to the floor. “You bitch.”

The silver in the key had destroyed his eye. Liquid goo drained out of the empty socket, down his face, and onto his filthy jacket. From her nursing days, that crap was likely vitreous humor. Fields wouldn’t be using that eye again, but she remained in danger. He was injured, but not down. Flight was out of the question. If Fields didn’t hunt her down, Banshee would. She ran into the bathroom, slammed the door, and propped the chair underneath the doorknob. What in hell could she do?


Rita paced the half-dozen steps across the bathroom floor and back with Fields’ alternating moans of pain and curses of fury echoing in the adjacent room. She might have only a couple of minutes to come up with a plan. The small bathroom window was nailed shut. Not that she could fit through the opening if she broke the window. Not that she had someplace to go if she managed to escape outside.

What knowledge did she have that might help her? Fields claimed in his world stories took on life. He referred to living for five years since she’d written the book. He also said he could travel here from his world.

Based on Fields statements, she could assume that there was an alternative world or reality where book characters existed after their stories were written. Since Fields was here, and given the weird conference location, she didn’t believe she was in her own world or reality. If she and Fields had travelled here from somewhere, then perhaps she could bring others here to help her. She knew just who to summon.

“Melinda, Damian. Can you hear me? I need your help.”

She waited a few precious seconds. Then, feeling like a fool, she called again. “Melinda, Damian, Lord Arthur, I really need your help.”


Fields slammed a fist against the bathroom door. A faint crack appeared, but the door and the chair propped against it held.

“Bitch, I’m going to bleed you real slow and make sure it hurts real bad.”

If a villain she’d written could cross into this place, then why not her heroes?

She slapped her forehead. How could she have missed it? The key word was write. She was a writer who had written The Aegis characters into existence. She dumped the contents of her toiletry bag into the sink and retrieved her lip gloss.

Fields slammed against the door again, harder this time–maybe he used his shoulder. The crack widened, but the door held. The cabin grew silent. What was Field’s planning? She was about out of time.

She opened the tube of lip gloss and poised to write on the bathroom mirror. No time for finesse.

“Rita Bay summoned the Light Warriors Melinda and Damian
to her side to defend her against the evil vampire, Stephen Fields.
They appeared in a flash of light, eager to do her bidding.”

Rita stepped back to consider her composition. A flash of light almost blinded her. A larger-than-life couple dressed in white appeared in the bathroom, sucking out the air and overwhelming the small space.

She’d forgotten her description of Damian—“long curly, coal black hair and ice-blue eyes with a kick-ass body.” The man was drop dead gorgeous, enough to temporarily take her mind off her peril.

Melinda, magnificent with her Celtic looks and formally dressed in the Gramail stone-covered vest and tunic of a Light Warrior, cleared her throat and frowned.

Rita blushed, then smiled. “Sorry.”

Damian shoved his lifemate behind him and laid a hand on the hilt of his sword. “Who are you?” He looked around the dingy bathroom. “What foul magic brought us here?”

Rita paled. All she needed was a pissed off Light Warrior. “I’m Rita, Rita Bay. I wrote your story. Now I need your help. Stephen Fields is alive and on the other side of that door.”

Melinda stepped around her hunk of a husband. “I killed him myself. He murdered my mother and almost destroyed my life.”

Rita nodded. “I’m not sure where we are, but Banshee is our hostess. Fields has made a bargain with her—my blood for him, my brain for her. I’m afraid there won’t be much of me left to cremate.”

Damian scowled. “I know of this Banshee. She is a creature of many worlds. Despised in all of them. She wished to suck out your creativity and steal your imagination for herself.”

“No,” Melinda wailed.

Damian put an arm around his lifemate and pulled her close. “I will make things right, dearest.”

“What’s wrong with Melinda?” Rita asked. “She doesn’t know me from Adam.”

Damian’s shoulders drooped. “You gave us a happily-ever-after for which we will always be grateful, but my brother Dominic and Melinda’s sister Elizabeth have been alone for centuries. We had hopes you would write their stories, so they might enjoy happily-ever-after’s with lifemates also.” He frowned at her. “We’ve waited five years for you to write the stories. If you die before they’re written, they are doomed.”

Rita looked between the two in confusion. “I admit to planning on two additional stories in the series, but focused on my historicals instead. Both of the books are plotted and ready to write with happily-ever-after’s for everyone—including Lord Arthur.”

Melinda sniffed. “I love them so much, if only they could have the joy that we share.”

Melinda made a compelling case and Rita needed their help. “How about this? You take care of Fields, help the authors who came here with me, and see me safely home, and I promise to write both stories next year when I’ve finished my other series. Happily-ever-after’s for everyone.”

Melinda threw her arms around Rita’s neck. “It’s a deal. Thank you so much.”

Damian pulled his wife to his side. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Melinda. Rita, you and Fields are the only ones I sense “here,” though I’m not really sure where “here” is. I can’t help the others, they are on their own. As for seeing you safely home, it’s complicated. I’m not sure I can even see us home.”

“I wish we could help the other authors, but I understand. As for our trips home, that’s easy. I wrote you here, I can write us home.” She picked up her lip gloss and added to the writing on the mirror.

“After killing the vampire, the Light Warriors returned Rita to her home, then
journeyed safely to their own world.”

Damian smiled. “I see the pathways to your home and mine. Thank you.”

Melinda clapped. “Now let’s destroy Fields once and for all.”

As if on cue, Fields struck the bathroom door with an axe he’d found somewhere. It crashed through the door, sending large wooden splinters flying into the bathroom. Damian and Melinda with swords drawn stepped out of Field’s line of sight.

The vampire looked through the hole in the door. “Got you now, bitch.” He reached an arm through the door to grab her.

Damian’s sword sliced through the air cutting off Field’s arm. The limb fell to the floor, shriveled, and turned to dust. Fields screamed in pain and fell away from the door.

Rita removed the chair and opened the door. Damian and Melinda stepped into the cabin’s main room where Field’s writhed on the floor holding the stump of his arm against his chest. He glared at the Light Warriors. “How did you get here?”

Rita held up her tube of lip gloss. “The power of the written word.”

Fields snarled at the Light Warriors, then charged the two intent on doing what damage he could. Damian stepped aside and Melinda beheaded Fields as he passed by. His head rolled across the floor before turning to dust. Damian kicked Field’s clothes into the fireplace, then turn to the ladies. “I suggest we leave while Banshee appears to be occupied elsewhere.”

Damian turned to Rita. “Thank you for everything, my lady. You are truly brave. Most humans would have succumbed to Field’s attack. I can erase the memories of this night, if you wish.”

Rita considered his offer. “No, I think not. I may need these memories someday,” she smiled at Melinda, “and I certainly need to remember to write those stories as I promised.”

Damian nodded and held out a hand. “Very well. I will need to take a bit of your blood to transport you.”

Rita jerked both her hands behind her back. “You want to suck my blood? Yuck!”

Damian shrugged. “Remember John and Jessie who work for me? I couldn’t transport them without the blood exchange. You know it’s necessary.” He paused. “Or you can take your chances with Banshee.”

Rita grabbed her bag and offered him an arm. “That’s not a choice. Suck away.”

“Close your eyes. It will only take a minute. You’ll go to sleep and wake up in your home. Thank you again, my lady.” Rita felt a sharp prick when his fangs sunk into her wrist. As she faded into sleep, Melinda put her arms around her. “Thank you, Rita, for everything.”


Rita awakened from a terrifying nightmare. She sat up in bed to discover she was dressed in the clothes she’d been wearing during her nightmare. Her bag sat close to the bedside table. She frowned. The plastic wheel was broken. She grabbed her handbag. Her energy bar was missing. Had she really dropped it on the floor of the cabin? She pulled back the sleeve of her shirt. Two punctures marred her skin.

Never a fool, she admitted the reality of her night’s excursion. She had survived and hoped her fellow Champagne authors had also. She might never discover who or what had really been behind her night of terror, but she owed publisher Ellen and editor Nikki apologies. She would be ready, if it happened again. Just now, though, she needed a trip to the kitchen.

As she reached for her phone, Rita noticed a ring on the bedside table. Gold with a pink jewel she recognized as a Gramail stone. Even though she wasn’t into jewelry, she slid the ring—likely a gift from Melinda—on her finger. It flared a bright red. She smiled and headed toward the kitchen, vowing to wear the ring until she gave Damian’s and Melinda’s families their happily-ever-after’s.

Rita has successfully escaped her cabin, but will the others? Find out next week on Savvy Saturday!

This week's piece was written by Rita Bay.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Excerpt from Rael

A Must Remember Novella
By Colleen S. Myers
Science Fiction Romance
Champagne Books:

What would failure cost him?


An explosion rocked the inner city, shattering brick and stone. Debris fell like rain. Dust and smoke coated the morning sun in darkness. The echo of the blast rang in the air and then faded to silence. One minute. Two. Then a second detonation followed. And another, until the sounds of bombs and falling rock drowned out everything else.

Rael shoveled down his breakfast standing up in the cafeteria when the first explosion hit. Food flew. Chairs overturned. The long tables skidded across the floor into the wall and Rael slid right along with them. The floor still swayed when he managed to pick himself up. His ears buzzed and a headache spread across his forehead. He tasted copper as he balanced on his clawed toes, dark wings tucked tight to his back to protect them from falling glass. With a quick glance, he took stock of his surroundings and the destruction around him.


His eight-year-old sister had trailed him to the dining hall this morning, begging to go to training with him. Where was she? Panic seized him as he flipped tables and screamed her name again and again. His gut churned. Please, don’t let her be hurt. Not Seri.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Excerpt from Search and Rescue

Search And Rescue
Lexie’s Guys
By Rita Bay
Erotic Contemporary Romance
Champagne Books:

It was love at first sight for coed Lexie Carter and Army Ranger Taylor Jackson. Can Lexie survive when Taylor is reported killed in action?


“Lexie, Lindsey. Come here! Hurry!”

Lexie exchanged a concerned look with her mother and ran to the front of the house with Lindsey following close behind. Miss Cathy stood frozen, grasping the doorframe. Looking through a sidelite of the front door, her breath caught and her heart raced. Six men in Army dress blues stood on the porch.

Lexie put an arm around Miss Cathy and assisted her to the couch in the formal living room, while Lindsey invited the men inside. Lexie knew why they were here, but was confused. Officers and NCOs didn’t come to notify families unless… It couldn’t be.

“What’s happened to my sons? No sugar-coating.” Miss Cathy’s voice trembled. One of the officers stepped forward with the senior NCO. “I’m Captain Springer.” He nodded at the man beside him. “This is Sergeant Michaels. Are you the mother of Captain Taylor Jackson and Private Tyler Jackson?”

Lexie gasped. Both of them couldn’t be gone. Blood surged through her veins like ice water.

Miss Cathy struggled to speak. “Yes, I am. This is Taylor’s fiancĂ©e, Lexie Carter.”

“Is Mr. Jackson available?”

“He’s out for the evening. Tell us what you have to say. Now.”

Lexie didn’t want to hear it. The words would make her fears real.

“We’re from the Army’s Casualty Notification Unit. Your son, Private Tyler Jackson, was reported missing in action in Khost province two days ago. The Afghan police discovered Captain Taylor Jackson’s body in the city of Khost yesterday. The Secretary of the Army extends his condolences for your loss.”

Lexie went numb inside. Taylor, the man who had introduced her to love and passion, couldn’t be dead. His team should have arrived at Fort Benning yesterday. They’d planned a weekend at the Gulf Shores condo after he’d debriefed. The weather was still cool and the beaches would be mostly deserted. Not that they would have left the condo often. Tears slid down her cheeks. The reality of life without Taylor overwhelmed her. Soon, sobs wracked her body. Her mother took her into her arms, patted her on the back, and muttered soothing nothings.

“What happened?” From her seat at the end of the couch, Miss Cathy was doing far better than she was. How could she bear it? One son dead, the other missing. Her babies, both gone.

Captain Springer nodded to Sergeant Michaels. “Private Jackson, at great personal risk to himself, saved the lives of members of his platoon while on patrol when it came under attack by a superior force of insurgents. When the extraction team arrived, he was missing. He remains missing after an extended search.”

“What was his condition when he was last seen?”

The pain in Miss Cathy’s voice reflected her own. Tyler was no friend of hers, but she hoped Miss Cathy didn’t lose both her sons. Why did Taylor have to die? Her Taylor, whom she’d fallen in love with at first sight, lay dead in a foreign country, but Tyler, the evil twin, might have survived. How could God let that happen?

Sergeant Michaels consulted a folder. “Members of his platoon reported he’d been injured. How seriously is unknown. There have been no claims of a captive. The search for him continues.”

Miss Cathy pursed her lips, then nodded. “Tell me about Taylor.”

Lexie gulped some air, trying to control her sobs. Miss Cathy was helpless where Tyler was concerned, but she could see that Taylor was taken care of.

Captain Springer and Sergeant Michaels exchanged a telling look.

“Afghan police discovered Captain Jackson’s body yesterday near the market in Khost. The circumstances are under investigation.”

“What does that mean?” Her voice sounded shrill. Taylor wasn’t a body. He was her fiancĂ©. The man she’d planned on spending the rest of her life with. A brave and decorated hero.

“As I said, ma’am, how or why Captain Jackson died is under investigation. We’ll keep you informed on the progress of the investigation. We should have details about his arrival at Dover Air Force Base by tomorrow.”

He turned to Miss Cathy. “We’ll give you a contact number for the Casualty Assistance Unit.”

He glanced her way, then nodded toward the door where two officers stood. “A chaplain and a physician accompanied us, if either of you need them. Mrs. Jackson, I recommend you phone your husband immediately. If you have family or others you wish to contact, we can assist you.”

Miss Cathy pulled her cell out of her pocket, speed-dialed Mr. Tom’s number, and prepared to have the most difficult conversation of her life. Miss Cathy was a strong woman, but how could she tell her husband both their sons were gone? They needed help and her own mother, who’d been a stranger for most of her life, was useless.

“Call Ely and Todd, Lindsey. I need them here.” Her guardians would handle the military. They would know what to do, but until they arrived she would discover what she could. She bounded off the couch, stormed across the room, and confronted the officer. “What happened to Taylor? What aren’t you telling us?”

Captain Springer shrugged and looked away. “We’ve given you the information we have, ma’am.”

Maybe she shouldn’t have left the couch so quickly. Breathing rapidly, she bent over and tried to control her breathing. She sucked in a deep breath and the room darkened. She barely felt the pain of hitting the floor.