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.
“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?”
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.