Short Story Friday

St. Nicholas Day

by
Anne Marie Andrus

A wiry man crossed the avenue and limped under City Park’s arched gate to admire fresh holly wreaths. Gravel crunched under his pointy black boots. “This could be fun.” He raked one hand through the platinum streak at his temple and plucked a glittery ornament from the winding path. “Hard to believe so many rotten children don’t believe I exist.” Behind him, impending sunset glowed through tangled boughs and draped Spanish moss. “In exactly one week, their nightmares will come true.” He crushed the cardboard Papa Noël in his fist. “Yessss…positively jolly fun.”

“Halt, beast!” Cloaked in a flowing sapphire habit, the figure emerged from an ancient grove. She strode through the cathedral of sweeping oaks and blocked his progress. “Not in my city, sir.”

“And who’s going to stop me? You?” The man snickered and offered his bony hand in friendship. “I don’t think we’ve had the pleasure.”

“I’m Charmaine Roussel.” She flicked her gaze to his mock greeting and then locked her eyes with his. “I’m aware of what you are and you know bloody well I’m not alone.”

“Do I?” The man turned and doubled over with laughter. “So, your back-up appears to be a nurse who has clearly never held a pistol before and a crone waving her crooked stick. With all due respect, Mademoiselle Charmaine…” He struggled to compose himself. “You don’t stand a chance.”

“Shoot it.” Charmaine glanced at the trembling nurse. He might look like a normal man, but it’s a disguise. “Shoot now!”

The first bullet flew wide but the next two rounds blasted through the man’s ribs. He dropped to one knee as the swamp around them swallowed the sharp noise and spat back pulsating silence.

“Leave now and I’ll spare your life.” Charmaine gritted her teeth. “You’ve been banned from this city for a century.”

“Oh, the mighty New Orleans…how she has fallen.” The man shrugged a heavy cloak off his hunched shoulders. His fingers plunged into the wound, ripped out the bullet and tossed it into the underbrush. “Seven years of mourning and seven years of weakness after an incompetent fool killed your Duke. Once a coward, always a—”

The elderly woman wailed, stood straight and wielded her cane like a sword, blasting a ball of blue fire that ripped the man from the ground. He slammed back down in a smoldering fractured heap.

Charmaine crossed her arms with precision. “You were saying?”

The groan that escaped his twitching lips descended into a growl as black hair twisted into horns. For a few seconds, the misshapen head of an animal loomed in blue-grey smoke. “Savior of the soldiers, defender of the innocent, care-giver to the hopeless…” A human face fought back while the figure staggered. His eyes glowed a crimson hue only found in the deepest embers of the devil’s fireplace. “I think your Duke was a fraud.”

“Demon!” The nurse tossed her gun aside and grabbed the old woman’s cane, waving it at the beast’s face as if stoking the flames in his skull. “Show yourself!”

Invisible ripples of power exploded through the emerald canopy while the sky beyond plummeted into deep purple. At the moment of sunset, a vampire with tasseled gloves stepped from behind a massive tree trunk and fired her crossbow. A solid gold bolt lodged in the man’s neck. His body twisted and swelled until the fabric of his clothes ripped free revealing the coarse fur of a demented goat. He pawed one cloven hoof and bared warped fangs before lunging at his attackers.

Charmaine took two steps, reached under her habit and drove a swirled blade into the beast’s heart with her final stride. Time flickered and the ground thundered as the creature collapsed to the muddy pebbles, swirling his split viper’s tongue around her ankles.

Four women—a nun, a nurse, a witch and a vampire—stood over the writhing body. In unison, they grabbed the blade’s carved hilt and twisted until the demon disintegrated.

“I’ll take back the Duke’s knife.” Charmaine plucked her weapon from the ash. “Bonne nuit, Monsieur Krampus.”

 

 

If you enjoyed this Holiday Lagniappe from the Monsters & Angels Realm, catch up on the saga...

 

Short Story Friday Night

Under The Square

by
Anne Marie Andrus

chicory, humidity, decadence

 

Trickles of murky water danced between shadows and fractures on the underground wall. Flickering candles twisted wilted blooms and innocent stone angels into a jungle of goblins.

“If you’re still fussing, you should have started earlier.” A redheaded vampire flashed through the arched doorway and scowled at his watch. “This space will never be anything but a tomb disguised as a fancy courtyard.”

“Like the desolate streets above us, masquerading as our city?” A man in a tuxedo slicked his mohawk straight up and adjusted his bow tie. “I thought you said rebirth was near, Mister Steven.”

“It’s so close, I can taste it. You’ve followed my instructions to the final detail?”

“Haven’t I always, sir?”

“As much as humanly possible, I guess.” Steven pointed to a steaming carafe. “Pour.”

The man’s shoulders slumped. “What am I now, your waiter?”

“I didn’t mean…that came out all wrong. Pour me a taste, Zachary. Pretty please.” Silence and a smirk followed his lingering sip. “Ah, silky smooth with a viper’s bite.”

“One coffee blunder was humiliating enough.” Zachary tipped his chin in the air. “That other swill tasted like it was blended with the ashes of the dead.”

“Sure wasn’t chicory.” Steven shuddered. “Ick.”

“Don’t worry. The tool who sold it to me, is at the bottom of the river.”

Steven planted one hand on his hip. “So, where did this brew come from?”

“Cross’ the lake.”

“Hope you’re taking my bodyguards when you leave the French Quarter.”

“So much gloom, even your soldiers can’t tell where the safe zone ends and enemy territory begins anymore. Sun hasn’t come out in years.”

“Yet, the dreadful humidity remains. Just to remind us we’re home.” Steven snapped the cuffs of his dress shirt. He inspected the linen tablecloths, uncovered serving dishes, smiled at the scent of peppermint and turned his nose up at licorice. “My chocolate?”

“All your favorites.” Zachary bowed in front of the dessert tower. “Amaretto, raspberry, almond hazelnut…but, the hazelnut still sucks.” He tapped the artery in his neck. “How bout’ a taste of this?”

“Later. Be available,” Steven said. “Eat a little cinnamon.”

“You…are damn bossy.”

Steven waggled his finger. “Leaders delegate, Zach.”

“Oh well, excuse me.” Zachary plucked a sugar cube from the pristine buffet and dropped it on his tongue. “Will it be the usual guest list tonight?”

“Yes, and I’m sure you’ll hate them all.”

“They turn the room frigid. Swear I can see my breath.” Zachary pointed to the fountain. “Your snooty, light-up water feature was frozen solid after last week’s festivities.”

“There’s a method to my madness. We’ll need the allegiance of all the coven leaders, from every corner of the globe—even the villains—to take back New Orleans.”

“Hmph.” Zachary crossed his arms. “Bastards do seem impressed. You’re still the king of decadence, like in the old days.”

“Just wait for the new days.” Steven leaned over the pastel bubbles and watched glittery fish spinning in circles. “When our family is back in power, all this melancholy will be a distant memory.”

“What about that man with the sapphire eyes?”

“You mean the warrior?” Steven sighed dramatically.

“He’s more than politics to you, isn’t he?”

“Is that a hint of green demon I hear in your voice?”

“After so many years of us…” Zachary shuffled his feet and stared at the fish. “Never mind.”

“His fire, his army—that blood.” Steven spun and pumped his fists. “The warrior is our savior. He holds the keys to an empire.”

Zachary stepped back, but not in time to avoid Steven patting his cheek as if he were a petulant child.

“My empire.” Steven flashed back through the arch. “All mine.”

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This story was originally written for the “3 Word Challenge” on the blog Bonnywood Manor, home of fabulous writer and friend Brian Lageose.

Check him out!

Monsters & Angels: The Series

 

A lone soldier on night watch. A single bullet through the heart. Every light in Paris flickers—the city’s thundering silent scream.
When Commander Raimond Banitierre was assassinated, French Revolutionaries lost their gallant leader. After a villain’s offer of eternal life condemned him to slavery, Raimond rebelled again, driving his vampire comrades to freedom.
Raimond escapes to Savannah, Georgia where his dream of becoming a doctor comes true. During his trial-by-fire residency on the Civil War’s battlefields, he discovers his true calling—the power to preserve memories and dignity in the face of death. His chance meeting with a beguiling mortal nurse ignites passionate nights and a long overdue crack in the door to paradise.
Vicious flames and an unholy miscalculation deliver Raimond back to the depths of hell. Being arrested for treason makes him wish for death and the arrival of Prince Draven Norman appears to be the final nail in Raimond’s coffin. Will the prince’s eccentric judgement grant Raimond a true reprieve? Is Draven’s invitation to join New Orleans mystical royalty an extension of his own treachery, or the next step in Raimond’s miraculous journey?
Has the legendary Crescent City found a spirit noble enough to protect her future?

♦♦♦♦♦

 

Fledgling nurse Sorcha Alden knew she had the skills to save lives, but she never dreamed that her own life would be the one in danger.

Driven by tragedy to honor her family name, Sorcha embarks on a journey that takes her from the bleak but familiar streets of New York, through the sultry and seductive city of New Orleans, and into the brutal jungles of Nepal. Forging friendships and carrying on her mother’s mission of healing was her dream. Plunging into a love affair with the mysterious Dr. Ashayle, could have been a fairytale.

Being murdered and waking up as a blood-thirsty monster—became her living nightmare.

Torn away from a life that had just begun, Sorcha returns to New Orleans as a newborn vampire, forced to start over in a cutthroat underworld of devilry and decadence. Complicated politics, bitter rivals and jealous ancestors stand between her and the promises she’s still determined to keep.

In a realm where the boundary between good and evil is as murky as the Mississippi River and immortal does not mean invincible, will Sorcha ever risk her shattered heart and love again? Can the magical harmony of the Crescent City give her enough courage to fulfill her eternal destiny?

Sorcha’s final word will make your jaw drop!

 

AnneMarieAndrus.com

 

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Short Story Friday

Chasing The Enemy

by

Anne Marie Andrus

 

June 17, 1970
On the Eve of Graduation…

Thunderclouds raced east, leaving the Augusta air sparkling and ready for the biggest weekend of the year. Clear horizons sparked the campus bustle back to life as the noise of saws and hammers bounced off stately columns and rang past ancient oaks.

In a cluttered dormitory room a mile away, Stori shoved moving boxes around enough to find the corner of a mirror to check the hemline of her brightly flowered dress. “Stellar.”

“Too short.” A voice squawked from the corner.

Stori yanked the fabric lower. “It’s fine.”

“Nope, nope. Too short.”

“Jett, zip your beak.” Stori waved him off. “Tomorrow will be all high heels and graduation gowns, but tonight is the senior class party.”

“Bad weather.”

“Shush, the storms are over.” She rummaged through a pile of paperwork on the nightstand. “I hope.”

“Need coffee.” Jett flapped his bright blue wings. “Storytime!”

“I have to deliver this stuff to the office before they close. Are you going to be quiet?”

“No, hell, no.”

Stori’s shoulders slumped. “Then get in the cage.” She opened a miniature bamboo door. “Now, bird.”

“Parakeet, please.”

Stori held papers in her teeth and hauled Jett’s bulky cage to the car.

“I’m in jail.”

“You deserve it.” She wrestled the antique into the passenger seat and climbed in next to it. Ten minutes of majestic curves on gravels roads brought them to a rolling stop under the shade of a massive tree. “I wish you wouldn’t yell bonjour at every person you see.”

“Perfect manners.” Jett preened himself in the side view mirror. “Junky car.”

“It was a gift from my uncle.”

“Stuffy in here.”

“Quit complaining.” Stori gathered up her documents and jumped out. “I’ll be right back.”

“Storytime!”

“You little demon.” Stori pointed at Jett’s beak. “Who taught you to say that? Never mind.” She crossed her arms. “I’ll take it up with Uncle Steven tomorrow night. Why couldn’t he teach you to sing like all the other birds?”

“Parakeet, pretty please.” Jett leaned back and screeched. “Ha, ha!”

Stori walked backward and held up two fingers in the shape of a V.

“No peace. Ha, ha!”

She spun, drew a cleansing breath and smoothed her skirt before stepping into the oldest building on campus.

The receptionist peered over her glasses and broke into a wide grin. “Miss Stori, is your ear-piercing bird in the parking lot?”

“Unfortunately,” She rubbed her forehead. “That’s Jett, howling like he’s escaped from an asylum.”

“With the door shut, I almost can’t hear him and I do believe congratulations are in order. I always knew you’d graduate…but at the top of your class?”

“Sister Gilda, four years ago, you didn’t think I’d last a week.”

“Well, you were just so young even for a legacy student, but I didn’t mean…”

“No, no.” Stori waved both hands in front of her face. “You were right. I was so young, wasn’t I?”

“We all were, once upon a time.” Gilda sighed and pointed to the papers. “Are those for me?”

“My name change.” Stori tried to flatten the documents and gave up. “All legal and finalized.”

“And you’re positive about giving up your father’s name?”

“I am. His side of the family is in ashes…he started the fire.” Stori swiped a tear with the back of her hand. “But my mother and grandfather will be at the ceremony. They’re both Aldens and they’ll be thrilled, so I want to make sure it’s correct—”

“Don’t you worry, dear. Tomorrow night, the Medical College of Georgia’s president will announce you as Doctor Stori B Alden.”

“And then I walk across the stage?”

“That’s how it works, dear. Give me a moment to put this in order.”

Stori pressed her trembling hands into her skirt and wandered to the soaring wall of pictures. She read the name of each honored alumni, from the most recent years on lowest row, all the way to the top. She tipped her head back to read the plaque below the highest centered photograph and waved at a familiar face in the ornate silver frame.

“Wish I’d had the chance to meet him.”

Stori jumped and grabbed her chest. “I’m sorry, my nerves.”

“I’ll say.” Gilda shook her head and pointed to the picture. “I just meant, a very distinguished gentleman.”

“He’s my legacy connection here. The B in my name is in his honor.”

“Wait.” Gilda craned her neck to look in Stori’s face. “You’re related to him…the legendary battlefield surgeon?”

Stori nodded. “Raimond Baniterre.”

“Honestly, I don’t say this often. Or ever.” Gilda flopped on a bench in front of the pictures. “You’ve knocked me off my feet.”

Stori settled down next to her. “I’ve never said it out loud.”

“The secret is safe with me.” Gilda tapped her chin. “The residency you accepted? That’s the busiest Emergency Room in the country.”

“It’s New Orleans, so…probably destiny. This time next week, I’ll be in St. Louis Cathedral, lighting candles for the all the souls we’ve lost.”

“That’s your dream job…Emergency Medicine?”

“I’ll tell you another secret. My true passion has become defeating Alzheimer’s Disease. I won’t be a bystander while an invisible monster steals life and dignity from my patients.”

“Chasing the cruelest enemy.” Gilda smiled and stared at Dr. Banitierre’s picture. “You’ll make him and all of us proud.”

Minutes passed in heavy silence until Jett’s distant voice broke the trance.

“I hear bonjour and coffee.” Gilda covered her mouth to hide a laugh. “What else is he saying?”

“Storytime.” Stori tossed her hands up. “What am I going to do with that fool during graduation?”

“Drop him off in my office. He’ll be safe and far enough away that nobody will hear him—much.”

“Thank you, for everything.”

“Give the poor bird credit though, he’s got a stroke of genius.” Gilda squeezed her hand. “It’s Stori time.”

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Blessed Nightside…

Interview With A Different Vampire…

by Holly Hannon

 

Doctor Raimond Banitierre, thank you for joining us today. Might you tell us a little bit about your story?

Bonjour Holly, it’s a pleasure to meet you…and please, just call me Raimond.

Not Commander Banitierre?

I see you’ve done some impressive research! Yes, I held that title once…in a different lifetime. But, it’s much too formal for today.

Is there anything you would want changed if your Author asked you?

I wish Anne Marie wouldn’t tell people about all my slip-ups. I admit, I ripped people’s heads off and put them back on the wrong bodies…one time, in a moment of regrettable revenge. I may have been born in the 1700’s, but even I’ve heard of accident forgiveness.

How would you describe Anne Marie?

Private, quietly emotional and passionate about the dignity of elderly people and their treasure trove of memories. We have that in common.

Do you feel like she portrayed you correctly?

Most vampires don’t aspire to be doctors…there are much easier choices of profession. Anne Marie gives me credit for that sacrifice every chance she gets, though calling me a saint in spite of all my missteps may be…more than I deserve.

How about others in the story. Do you feel she did well with them?

Anne Marie portrayed my heiress Julia, and my children Lily and Steven perfectly…especially Steven. He’s like the son I never had, with talents far beyond what outsiders see.

If we’re being totally honest though, she needs to reveal my friend Prince Draven Norman as a more compassionate man, vampire…whatever. He may act like an arrogant and flawed jerk…often…but underneath all of that is an incredible soul.

Oh, and one more person—Ivori Journé has taken her knack for blending into the background and elevated it to an art form. The truth is, she’s a New Orleans voodoo starlet and powerhouse in the making. Never underestimate her. Never

You might be wondering why I’m wearing this scarf so tight. It’s not that I don’t trust you…

No worries, I’m on my best gentleman’s behavior today.

Okay, I feel better now. So, in the saga of Monsters & Angels, who created you?

The villain Faison, as a slave to bring him victims.

Are you still connected?

I killed him. So, hell no.

Was there a reason for your creation?

It was a trick and power grab. Faison wanted to rule Paris. It backfired on him, badly.

Where are you from initially?

I was born in the French Alps. I’ve since discovered that I’m descended from one of the few gladiators to earn Roman citizenship.

Were you happy or angry about the transition from human to bloodsuc—I mean vampire?

I was furious for decades. Finally, I fought back and won independence for myself and my family. But freedom is rarely free. It was a bitter lesson in reality.

I like to think I’ve made the most of my second chance at…existence.

Favorite blood type?

AB-negative, but when I’m hungry, I’m not picky.

Favorite place to dine? Just in case some of us might want to avoid any late-night forays there in the future.

In New Orleans, the Rex Room at Antoine’s Restaurant. But please, don’t skip Antoine’s on my account…it’s a New Orleans must-visit. Especially if you enjoy Oysters Rockefeller.

Have you seen any more stories in the recesses of Anne Marie’s mind?

That girl has way too many stories in her head. A murder mystery at the Jersey Shore, a tale set in a mysterious Rhode Island mansion and a few more books in the Monsters & Angels Series.

Do you get to play a part in any of them?

I’ve never been to New Jersey…not yet anyway. But in Monsters & Angels, of course. I’m as much a part of New Orleans as the city is a part of me.

You’re no stranger to darkness, but what’s Anne Marie’s darkest secret?

She shows a very tough exterior, downright icy and intimidating at times…that is, until you get to know her. Don’t get me wrong, Anne Marie is no wimp, but she’s much more sensitive that she reveals.

If she makes you mad, you could just bite her when she’s sleeping, you know.

What makes you think I haven’t? Besides, she may be a bit annoyed with me for spilling that particular secret. I’d better text her before this goes to print.

I’ve heard that you go all-out celebrating the holidays.

Christmas is my favorite season, but tonight’s festival is incredibly special too—the longest night of the year. You’re welcome to join our celebration of night’s glory. I’m sure Anne Marie would love to meet you. Who knows, you could be the inspiration for her next main character.

Thank you so much for your time, Doctor Raimond, and I think I’ll take you up on that offer!

Bienvenue, Mademoiselle Holly.

Joyeux Noel!

Read Raimond’s story!

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Continue with Monsters & Angels!

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Read the original interview at JB’s Bookworms with Brandy Mulder! A special thank you to JB’s for inspiring these questions/answers and for participating in Raimond’s blog tour!

AnneMarieAndrus.com

Happy December!!

Happy December

Monsters & Angels

Fans!

I’m just starting to look back at 2018 and…

Wow!

What a year!

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Two

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And last but not least, order signed paperbacks of either (or both) of my books!

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Signed Paperbacks!!

 

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