Flash Friday: “A Dangerous Kind of Help”

“A Dangerous Kind of Help” – excerpted from DOUBLE TAKE

copyright 2007 by Esther Mitchell

He paused in his office doorway, not sure if he was more surprised that Analeise was talking to thin air, or that she was actually there. His wry glance passed over the clutter of books that hadn’t been there when he left, either. Apparently, she raided Jason’s archives. Wonder if Jason knew.

Damn it!” The sudden oath, punctuated by the sharp sound of flesh striking wood as she slapped the desk – hard – snapped Jesse from his musing. She looked pissed, and the furious light in her eyes shouldn’t turn him on, but damned if it did. Lust surged toward his groin, and he stifled his groan only through sheer force of will. So he had a thing for bad girls. No surprise there; Natalya had been as bad as they come, and he fell head-over-heels for her.

Jesse heaved a silent snort of disgust. Natalya should be all the warning he needed to stay away from Analeise. Tangling with another bad girl was liable to get him killed, even if that was more difficult these days. His eyes fixed back on her, and the rush of heat was instantaneous at the memory of her hot, welcoming body and eager responses. Both heat and memory were expected, though neither was appreciated. Still, it was the tiny twist in his gut at the layer of vulnerability beneath that anger that bothered him most. She looked innocent, and that was such a contradiction he wanted to grin, but his swollen, split lip protested the attempt, and he hissed in pain.

Analeise’s head jerked up, a gasp of surprise flying from her, and she stared at him as if he was a ghost. The irony of it was, without Victor, he would be – twice, now. He uttered a bitter laugh, but it ended on a groan as his bruised ribs protested. Good thing he was a fast healer, these days. A year ago, a beating like that would have laid him out for a good week, if he survived it. Now, a good night’s rest, and he’d be right as rain, as he mother put it; or, as right as a man under a vampire’s curse could be, anyway.

“You’re bleeding!” He didn’t realize she moved, but her hand was suddenly there, a cotton handkerchief in it, pressed against his mouth. He jerked away with a surprised hiss as the thrum of the pulse in her wrist filled his ears.

Goddammit! Jesse clamped down on the impulse that urged him to take her arm, and sink his teeth into her soft, warm flesh. Strong as the urge was, he wasn’t an idiot. He knew the ritual of Turning – he burned it into his brain those first few months after Victor’s impromptu gift, terrified he had no choice but to become a monster. He couldn’t begin to describe his relief when he discovered that wasn’t true.

Turnings were elaborate rituals, full of ceremony and magic. At least, most of the time. Problem was, there was no recorded precedent, no history for cases like his, where a vampire essentially gave a life-saving transfusion. It just wasn’t done. The closest Jesse could find, in a year of desperate searching, was the mention of a young girl from the fourteenth century who was miraculously restored to health after a terrible fall, by a nameless traveler. Unfortunately, the story didn’t leave him with much hope. By the account, later the same year the girl accidentally swallowed some blood while tending to an injured family member, and became an unnatural creature. She was eventually burned as a witch, for her thirst for human blood. Jesse’s stomach had plummeted after reading that. One taste was all it took to Turn her. One accident. How many bloody scenes did a cop – particularly a homicide detective – see in a week? Too many. So he quit the force, unwilling to take that chance. Not that it mattered, now. Whenever his adrenaline surged, the urges were there. He feared it was only a matter of time.

No. He dragged his mind from the thought with a shudder. It wouldn’t happen. Not to him. Jesse Guardian would not become a damned monster. Hell, he was probably damned anyway, but at least he could still make a conscious choice. He could choose to avoid temptation, to not take that first taste. He could choose to avoid the subtle scent, the rich, sweet wine of blood, the siren pulse of life…

He yanked his mind from the thought with a muttered oath. He wasn’t about to go that route, damn it all. Especially not with this woman; she already fascinated him too much. He blinked, and found her watching him with worried mocha eyes. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he rasped, and focused beyond her, on the desk where she’d been sitting when he came in. “What are you doing here?”

Her brows knit as she backed off a step, and her dark eyes searched his face. “Helping you. I think you should go to the hospital and–”

“I’m fine,” he repeated sharply, with one upraised hand when she would have continued her protest. “Really. And I didn’t expect you to stay here all night.”

That flash of vulnerability was back, and something else that tugged him toward her like an invisible guide wire. She met his gaze, and the smoky quality of her eyes sucked the breath from him. Her tongue darted over those lush lips, and he could barely focus on the words that followed, through the lust roaring in his ears. “I… I wanted to help.”

“Help?” Was that croak really his voice? He swallowed hard, even as a hundred images of how she could help him right this moment cascaded through his mind.

Flash Friday: “Memory”

“Memory” – Excerpted from Project Prometheus #3: SHADOW WALKER

copyright 2003 by Esther Mitchell

Senses he didn’t understand told Trevor Watkins that there was someone outside the door, even before it opened.  He had no idea where the heightened sensations came from, but sight, sound, and smell were intensified to the point of overload.  He smelled fear, deep and earthy, and the salty scent of grief.  He could hear a heartbeat, loud and fast, and female.  Whoever she was, the woman on the other side of that door had something to hide.

The door opened, the motion a badly needed distraction for his growing disquiet.  He didn’t like the emotions and sensations whirling in his mind.  He was edgy and out of place, unable to remember how he came to this place, or why he had these strange senses.  He felt… well, hollow.  That hollowness terrified him and comforted him at the same time.  It told him he once had a life, full of friends and family.  What scared him most was that all the people he should know were strangers to him.  He agreed to see the psychiatrist only because he wanted – no, he needed – his past.  He was lost without it.

One glimpse of the woman in the doorway, however, convinced him that desire, at least, was not confined to his past.  Her warm, cinnamon scent filled his lungs, and his body responded with a primal force that nearly flattened him.  His eyes roved over her and he decided this was the closest he’d ever been to perfection.  She was tall – probably only an inch or so shorter than his own six-foot stature – with shapely legs that, beneath the starched hem of her uniform skirt, seemed to go on forever.  Her skin was the flawless, lightly burnished tone of a deep tan; but why did he think she was that same shade all over?

As he studied her, his eyes narrowed.  He picked up the scent of fear and guilt again, and heard the subtle alteration of her breathing.  Then she shifted, and he became aware of her body, beneath that regulation uniform, all toned curves and supple lines.  No woman he saw in the past year could carry off the pure white of a Naval uniform like this woman could.  She had smooth, high-boned features, and full, lush lips that made him think of sultry whispers and sinful kisses.  Her head was held proudly erect, the raven-wing hair coiled into a tight braid around her head.  The image of his hands, tangled in dark, waist-length hair, assaulted Trevor and cranked his already-elevated temperature up another degree.  Who was she?  The flash of vulnerability, and confirmation of guilt, in her amazing jade-green eyes sent a chill of fear through Trevor.  They obviously had a past, but for the life of him, he couldn’t recall what it was.

“Hello, Trevor,” she greeted him familiarly, confirming his fear.  Her voice, even softened by pain and uncertainty, lanced through him in a way nothing since he awakened had.

He blinked at her, suddenly afraid to know who she was, or how they hurt each other.  Maybe, he realized with a shiver of apprehension, not remembering the past was a good thing.

Read the stories that started it all in IN HER NAME and HOPE OF HEAVEN, available now from Aspen Mountain Press at www.aspenmountainpress.com

And look for SHADOW WALKER, coming soon from Aspen Mountain Press!

The Buzz: In the Black

So, I’m sure anyone who’s come through my website to this blog, recently, has probably noticed the changes (well, that’s assuming you’ve visited before!)… I’m sure you’re asking yourself “What gives?  Has she gone off the deep end?”

*grin* The answer, my dear friends, is NO, I haven’t gone off the deep end.  Finally, I’m introducing the world to the REAL me… I like black.  No, take that back… I LOVE black.  I love red.  I love to explore the dark and dangerous side of the world, to delve into the depths of the human psyche and see what lurks there, waiting to be found out.

The world I deal with in my daily life is far from serene or “Happily Ever After”… Instead, it reads more like the TRUE Fairy Tales of Yore… dark, and full of mythic themes and dangerous beings which defy our very nightmares.

So, does this mean I’ve slid into Horror?  *laughs* Perish the thought.  Because, believe it or not, I do still believe in the power of Love.  I believe in its power to pull us out of the darkness, to allow us to glimpse the wonder of a world beyond fear, prejudice and hatred.  I believe in the concept of the Soul Mate, and in the power of love to endure past even death itself.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the kind of Romance I believe in, check out the Free Reads section of this blog, or (if you haven’t already) visit my website at www.esthermitchell.com and have a look around.  And, if you’re interested (or feeling particularly adventurous, check out my current releases, IN HER NAME and HOPE OF HEAVEN at Aspen Mountain Press (www.aspenmountainpress.com) or my Near-Future Speculative Fiction offering, TAMIA, at Under the Moon (http://www.underthemoon.org )