“Quit stalling in there!” Steven pounded on the bathroom door while Rayna, Julia, and Penny paced the floor. When Sorcha emerged in her slip, she was pushed into a chair in front of her dressing mirror. More maids scampered through the door and went to work painting her nails and setting her hair in curlers.
Lily babbled as she applied false eyelashes, strand by strand. “I recommend the dark lip stain—less smudging.”
Penny spritzed sample perfume on linen strips.
Steven grabbed his nose and sneezed three times. “You know not to spray that near me.”
“The spicy jasmine, please.” Sorcha patted Steven’s back.
“It’s just allergies. That slip is beautiful enough to be the dress itself.”
“Your allergies are in your tiny mind.” Julia snorted.
“Oh, shut up.” Steven held a handkerchief over his face and collapsed in a coughing fit.
“Ok, stop,” Sorcha said, “I want a short break and Steven could use some air. You all need to get dressed, too.”
Julia stormed out.
The rest of Sorcha’s attendants hesitated until she gave each a sincere hug. “You’ve made me feel like a movie star. Steven, how in the world do you have allergies?”
“Never mind.” He dabbed the corners of his eyes with a sleeve. “I’ll see you downstairs.”
“Can someone send for Raimond? I need to have a word with him.” Digging in her nightstand, she found a smashed pack of cloves. Glad I don’t have allergies. Sorcha straightened the least damaged cigarette and lit it in the doorway of the balcony.
“I’ve been summoned?” The duke appeared out of the shadows, dressed in tuxedo pants and unbuttoned shirt, missing his tie and shoes.
“That’s a dashing look—you should attend the party as you are,” Sorcha said, “I especially like the slicked-back hair.” Sultry and dangerous.
“Touché.” Raimond scanned her outfit. “Is that underwear or your gown?”
“Ha-ha. There’s an important question I need answered. I want to know the procedure to change a human into a vampire.”
He shook his head and his finger in unison. “Way too soon.”
“I’m serious—I need to know.”
“Do you require my assistance?” The prince appeared on the balcony, like a phantom in a silk robe…
Can you feel it…the dawn of spring?
If you just got buried by Blizzard #Stella, you probably can’t see past mountains of snow.
But the snow is melting and the Spring Equinox is just days away.
Time for the story of a beautiful girl in her sapphire gown, waltzing into vampire royalty.
As soon as she drags herself out of the bathtub…
The evening of the party kicked off before sunset, the equivalent of early morning for a house full of vampires. Sorcha’s eyes fluttered open and settled on bustling around the armoire.
“Whoa, is that my dress?” She threw the blankets off and flipped on the chandelier. The blue fabric leapt to life in the soft glow. Her fingers caressed the subtle tone-on-tone pattern. Steven outdid himself. A silver slip lay on the nearby chair; its boning and fluffy layers would give the skirt perfect fullness.
“Breakfast is served!” Steven and Lily barged in, carrying coffee and chalices of blood. “You have to eat early today—you’ll need your strength for tonight. Hurry up. Hair and makeup take time.”
Sorcha fiddled with her food, spun her glass and left everything but her coffee on the tray before retreating to a tub full of bubbles.
“Quit stalling in there!” Steven pounded on the bathroom door…
Last night, I saw the splendor of our future. Not in the glow of the bursting full moon or the blaze of crackling fire, but in the halo of my protégé.
In a tiny room, bathed in the glow of a rose-glass lamp, one of our dearest and loveliest patients received the Lord’s call. Reaching for the light, the elderly woman’s fingers trailed the air as if a loved one’s grasp fell short, time and time again. The hand she finally found belonged to you—her lifeline between the realms of heaven and earth.
Then tonight, I discovered you alone and grieving in our private chapel. Your tears fell to the stone floor with the weight of time’s relentless march, reminding me of all the life lights we’ve watched flicker out and the spirits we’ve had the privilege to set free. While we share what some call the curse of immortality, in your hands it’s a miraculous blessing. You, the youngest of old souls, soar closer to the flame than most of us dare—ever vulnerable to the heart-wrenching pain of human tragedy. Dignity and grace in the face of death…that is a talent born into your blood.
So, on this year’s darkest and deepest of winter nights, I implore you to celebrate the ritual of Solstice with our family. We will feed well, drink deeply, and unite our energies until the veil separating us from the ancestors falls away.
Mourning and respect offered for those lost, will heal your heart. Joy that transcends time and restores hope for the new year, will grant you wings.
Until tomorrow night then, my brave angel,
Each footstep down the winding stairs is part of a choreographed dance. I’ve memorized every board and nail that creaks under my weight. The iron balcony veiled by tropical plants makes my Vieux Carré apartment a gem. Only drawback…the landlady is a nosey bitch.
Forsaking the refuge of shade from the galleries, I walk down the middle of the narrow street, cloaking myself in vicious sunlight. At the moment of dusk, my escape will become dangerous, if not impossible. If they won’t change me, what choice do I have? The monsters prowl this labyrinth at night, flaunting their power and toying with me like a lab rat on the wheel to oblivion.
The beat up convertible is parked close to where I left it. Fishing the key from under the seat, I pump the gas and the engine turns over. Fuel gauge is a little lower that I remember. In spite of the heat, driving with the top down is the perfect disguise.
Damn seat belt is still jammed and useless.
Long after I make the final turn out of the cramped neighborhoods, I allow my lungs their first full breath. The brackish air tastes of rusty mud and angry fish. All that remains between me and freedom is the gauntlet of an old bridge over a sea, masquerading as a lake. The pedal under my foot sinks to the floor and the little jalopy leaps into the fading light. Tapping my finger on the glowing screen of my phone, I glance at the GPS, then glue my eyes back to the rickety road and aim for the dotted line.
Grim shadows loom in the dangling mirror. Adjusting the wobbly reflection does nothing to make me feel safer from clouds that roil behind me like a tsunami of evil. I toss my phone in the back seat and slam both feet on the gas pedal until the sign comes into view.
Liberty, salvation, the threshold of a new life.
New Orleans City Limits
The figure appears in front of me, out of thin air. No fog, no flash…just a man in the road where there was none a second ago. Before I can hit the brakes, the car flips through the air as if thrown by the hand of Zeus. Steel collapses into a death cage around me, right before the car careens through the guardrail. Instead of plunging into the dark water, my face collides with crumbling pavement.
Nausea from the metallic taste in my throat hits right before the burn of road rash ignites every inch of my body. I force my eyes open to find a phantom standing over me.
The man rakes one hand through his jet black hair. “Think you’d get away so easily?”
“Aren’t you?” Blood gurgles from my mouth, spilling into a puddle under my chin. “The doctor from—”
“Chief of staff at the trauma center where you work.” He answers.
“So, you can save me.”
“Oh, I will.” The doctor rubs the salt and pepper of his goatee. “And grant you what you’ve been searching for.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“The magic. If you still desire it.”
“It’s been the ultimate tease…all this time. It was either leave town or go insane.”
The doctor unsnaps his cufflinks. “That’s part of the test, young lady.”
“How did you find me?” Through an explosion of searing pain, I turn onto my back and stare at the moon’s silver ring. “I took every precaution.”
“Look at yourself.”
Blinking back tears, I lift mangled hands in front of my face. Flecks of color sparkle through blood and grime.
Dr. Monster rolls up his sleeves. “The glitter of our city is all over you.”
In case you missed the beginning,
The Grand Plan
The afternoon alarm rattles the roots of my teeth. I flail for my phone to end the noise, but throwing it across the room isn’t an option. Without that little GPS, the escape plan doesn’t have a prayer of success. My hand brushes across a cut above my eye…the dawn of an ugly scar. Somehow, I managed to fight off last nights’ attacker, but it was the last straw.
The final sign—time to move on.
Years ago, I arrived in the Crescent City for a long weekend. Seduced by a thinly veiled promise of magic, I never left. The quest for a spell to make me like the ancient guardians, immune, immortal, forever beautiful…remains unfulfilled.
Tonight’s the night. It’s been lurking on the horizon. Despite every cell in my body screaming in protest, I’m breaking off this love affair with a city that’s been nothing but pain and heartbreak. The heat and the storms are scary enough. Now, even the monsters need to watch their backs on the street.
The clock ticking in my stuffy apartment echoes the hammering pulse in my ears. One peek through the crooked shutters reveals heat rising from the cobbled streets like roiling fog. I twist damp strands of hair and pin them high off my neck.
Get out now, leave everything behind.
My eyes scan the apartment and land on a mahogany armoire with dangling doors. A flash of color from the top shelf sends me rummaging for jewelry. Natural clumsiness knocks everything else down on my head. Carrying stuff could drag me down, but leaving these masks is a crime. Each one is a piece of local art bought for a specific holiday. Jammed in the back, the blue mask calls my name. I climb over the pile of costumes to grab sapphire beads and tassels.
Just this one…to remember it all, and hold on to the fringe of my shattered dreams.
To be continued…
The original prologue for Monsters and Angels…long since rewritten and blended into the story…
Holy men, healers and horn players—unlikely allies in society, yet brothers in the unique glory of Crescent City royalty. Villains, artists and creatures of the night flipped their collars up and bowed their heads to Mother Nature, driven into hiding by rare frost in the Deep South.
All, except one.
Raimond ignored the glare of the bar lights and the bite of the wind. His commanding stride propelled him to a decaying house just past the point where the sidewalk turned dangerously dark.
Dangling gutters and crippled railings blended one home into the next for blocks at a time. He found the decline of the area tragic, yet the beauty remained visible in lace ironwork and stained glass… if one looked past the ruined surface, into the elegant disrepair.
Black doctor’s bag in hand, Raimond rapped an ancient knocker against the warped oak door. Tonight’s mission would be specific, an act of compassion in sharp contrast to the excess and debauchery that made the city famous. This visit served as the first step in his recommitment to an oath taken decades ago; complacency and apathy had derailed him for long enough.
If he was completely honest with himself, his actions were selfish. After all, the endurance of his own kind was directly linked to humanity’s survival. He took a wistful look at the crisp, full moon before he entered the sagging house, once the most glamorous jewel in the neighborhood.
Twisted metal, forged in flame,
A work of art that lit your romantic gathering of familiar strangers,
Ancient wood, carved with wind,
Enough glitter and spark to paint monsters as angels,
Scarred bone, ravaged by predators,
Cruel dawn light pierces crystal, and the silhouette turns grotesque,
Prehistoric serpents, coiled and ready to strike,
Think you’re safe, sipping coffee under that sculpture of the night?
By the time you see the viper’s crimson eyes, it will be too late…