Flash Friday: “Love So Deadly”

This week’s Flash Friday is the culmination of two of my favourite areas – history, and the paranormal.  Opening in Rhode Island shortly before the start of the Revolutionary War, the Work-In-Progress this passage is taken from, LADY’S LAMENT, it absorbs all the history of the period, and the danger of being a privateer in an age of upheaval.  Then, it fast-forwards to modern day, as a paranormal investigator takes on a challenge she never saw coming – tangling with the ghost of a man determined to make her remember.

“Love So Deadly” 

copyright 2009 by Esther Mitchell

            “The Cap’n, he be acomin’, Mistress!  An’ he look fit for the storms of Hell, he does!”  The brogue-laden words of Brigit, Caroline’s Irish lady’s maid, reached Royce’s ears, even as he mounted the stairs, and his lips twisted in a dark smirk.  Oh, aye, he was in a fit, and his lady-love should well know why, if the rumors he heard were true.

            Ah, Caro, how could you?  Cold comfort enough, the news borne by the Continental Congress, that the Colonies were to go to war.  Normally, war would profit him most fortuitously.  Hadn’t he procured the funds for this lavish estate from the war between England and France, ended just twelve years ago?  Even as young and new to the fine arts of the privateer as he’d been, back then, he secured his fortune in those turbulent waters of the channel, and then added to them by plundering French merchant vessels from the West Indies in the name of King George, in the years since.  And still, Caro would not marry him.  Though he gave her lush estates, and provided her with everything she could want, she claimed she could not marry a man who made his fortune on the blood of another.

            She was returning to Boston.   His scowl returned in force, and rage prowled his soul.  He gave her everything, squandered his immortal soul at the Devil’s table, for nothing more than her love.  And now he learned she could not be bought.

            “Damnation!”  He spun on the stair, his fist flying of its own will, to crash against the timbered walls with a terrible splintering of wood.

            “Royce!”  The voice from above him on the stair was sweet, and laced with shocked disapproval.  Ah, how he wished to truly offend his lady’s delicate sensibilities!  Images flooded his mind as he stared up at her, standing at the top of the stairs like a goddess over her erring petitioner.

            “You’re leaving.”  He spat the words out in a fury as he lunged up the remaining steps between them, heedless of the mud on his boots upon the expensive carpeting.

            She stood her ground, which drew a grudging smile from him.  That was one thing he loved most about his Caro.  She never backed down.  “Yes.”

            A simple enough statement.  Another man might have taken it at its worth.  But he was not another man, and he already made a bargain with the Devil, to have her here.  Without Caroline, he was already damned.

            “No!”  He roared the word as he covered the final inches between them, and yanked her hard against his body.  “You belong here.”

            “Unhand me, you beast!”  She shoved at his chest.  “How can you say I belong here, when here I am nothing but miserable?  I am not your property, and you cannot buy me – not with coin, and not with demands.”

            “Have I not given you everything I have to give, ungrateful wench!”  He could not control his tongue.  After weeks of fear, terror that he would arrive to find her already gone, his temper ran unchecked.  “Perhaps I should just take what I have already paid for, then!”

            He would not harm her.  It was not in what little remained of his soul to ever cause her harm.  Yet, he craved one taste of her, and the chance to convince her to stay.  Yanking her hard against him, he slanted his mouth over hers, and plundered willfully, the pirate he truly was. 

            Caroline’s body went rigid against his, and he heard a soft snick, like a knife loosed from its sheath.  Breaking his hold, he barely heard her soft whisper, before heat pierced his chest, and the world began to darken.  But, as he stared up into her tear-filled eyes, he knew he was betrayed, and her words were his last companion into the darkness.

            Forgive me, my love.

            He would not.  He could not.  She had consigned him to the Devil, but as life ebbed away from him, he made a promise to them both.  One day, he would return.  And she would pay for what she did.

Flash Friday: “On Guard”

“On Guard” -excerpted from Project Prometheus’ SHADOW WALKER

copyright 2002 by Esther Mitchell

     The dark woman pushed open the door to Starbuck’s and stepped out into the busy street of downtown Washington D.C.  It was midday, and the local restaurants and coffee shops were bursting with the midday crowd.  The two people in the non-descript sedan exchanged looks.  The man lifted his cell phone and punched the speed dial before lifting the unit to his ear.

     “This is Wolf One, checking in.  Den mother secure.”

     The woman in the passenger seat shifted restlessly.  “This is a waste of time, Ryan.  She’s not in any danger.”

     Ryan McCauley glanced at his partner, his lips flickering up in a small smile.  “I know you hate babysitting details, Shayne, but the boss has a feeling about this one.”

     She scowled and flicked strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder.  “You mean his wife has a feeling.  Why aren’t they the ones out here, letting their asses go numb in a rented car?”

     Ryan chuckled.  Shayne loved dramatics, and the profiler in him enjoyed the challenge of dealing with her shifting moods.  “They’re not even in country, Shayne, and you know it.  Besides—”

     What he was about to say was cut off as a dark van sped toward Gayle as she stepped from the curb at the cross-walk.

     “He’s going to hit her!”  Shayne was out of the car before Ryan could react, sprinting across the distance between them and Trevor’s sister like the distance runner she was.

     “Son of a bitch!”  Ryan slapped the steering wheel and punched the redial button even as he gunned the car to life.  “Control, this is Wolf One.  We have a situation.  Request back-up.”

     There was a screech of rubber on icy asphalt, and Shayne’s scream for Gayle to get back, before the redhead threw herself toward Gayle, tackling her in a roll that carried them both out of harm’s way.

     “Back-up enroute, Wolf One.  Please advise of situation.”  Julia Williams’ clipped voice filled his ear as Ryan jammed on the brakes and stared after the van that almost ran Gayle Burman down, unable to believe his eyes.  The van screeched around the corner, and he saw a familiar face through the open side door of the van, before it slammed shut.  Sickness lurched through him.  No way was Matt going to like this.

     “Be advised, there’s been an attempted kidnapping.  The Brotherhood just tried to pick up the den mother.”

     “You’re sure?”

     His mouth set in a grim line.  “I saw Red Widow.”

Flash Friday: “Fatal Conspiracy”

This scene comes to you courtesy of my next book in the Project Prometheus series.  As the danger mounts, can the Prometheans hope to stop the tide of destruction the Brotherhood of Spiders leave in their wake… Or even hope to save the life of one of their own?

“Fatal Conspiracy” – excerpted from Project Prometheus: BLOOD DEBT

copyright 2006 by Esther Mitchell

“Your man in the camp is fucking up all our plans!”  The scientist shook an accusing finger in the stone-cold face of Dimitri Lapinov.  Would it really kill the younger man to display a human emotion, occasionally?

Younger man.  Hah!  He snorted as he glared at the tall Russian.  If the rumors he heard were true, Lapinov was old enough to be his grandfather.  Which made it even more disgusting that the man didn’t look a day over forty.

“Calm yourself, amigo.”  The soft voice soothed him against his will, even as a gentle, unlined hand rested on his forearm, lowering it and his shaking digit.

He turned his gaze to the source of that hypnotising calm.  She wasn’t anything much to look at, on the surface.  A soft face – she might actually be pretty if she did something with that stringy, unkempt hair and used a few cosmetics to take care of the dark circles under her eyes.  Surprisingly delicate hands and wrists that hinted she was more slender and attractive than those frumpy, wrinkled clothes and the stained lab coat indicated.  He couldn’t help the stir of interest.  Never mind that she was so far out of his league they weren’t even in the same division.  If Lapinov was old enough to be his grandfather, this pale-faced woman who looked like a lost child playing dress-up was old enough to be great-grandmother to every living human being on the planet.  And her status, at least, was no rumor.

Magdalena – God alone knew her real name, anymore – claimed the only direct blood tie to Onuris in all the Brotherhood.  She was his daughter – a child spawned of a magical union, incapable of aging, or dying.  And seemingly entirely content to retreat into her world of plants and potions and let the rest of the world slip by her, until Red Widow traipsed into her territory and started hunting prey.  He smirked.  Nothing like competition to get a Widow all riled up.  Magdalena’s lips flickered in return, a soft smile that said she knew what he was thinking, as she moved a step closer to him.

“Dimitri cannot be blamed for the incompetence of his associate,” she said in that quiet, husky voice of hers.

“Can’t he?”  He wasn’t mollified by her deference to the Tarantula leader.  “Thanks to that bumbling idiot, Babin, our target is suspicious, now.”

“Not of you,” Lapinov interrupted coldly, the first words he’d spoken since arriving an hour ago.

“But that whore Banks has taken up with is.  Or didn’t you listen to the tapes your man brought in?”

Lapinov snorted derisively, as if to say that he had no need of such trivial things as the tapes Babin routinely supplied from the bugs planted all over the Angelis Fund camp.  “The Daughter of the Star of Heaven would be suspicious even had Rurik not erred.  She is a vessel of the Musir, and a catalyst in the Healer’s life.  You failed to cover your own tracks well enough to evade her intuition.”

Rage poured through him, and he fought to keep his expression neutral in the face of this bald-faced attack.  There was no way he’d rise to this bastard’s challenge.  But, as he opened his mouth to toss a retort back in Lapinov’s face, he was cut off by another voice.

“Enough!  Both of you.”  The room’s only other occupant, who’d been strangely silent until now, spoke up sharply, reminding them all of her presence.  Red Widow turned from the office window to pin each of them in turn with her icy glare.  “I refuse to lose this artefact because you two want to have a pissing match.  We need a plan.  Though,”  she favored Lapinov with a censuring look, “he does raise a valid point, Dimitri.”

Smug humor burst in his as he watched Lapinov bristle with indignation.  So the pet wasn’t above censure, after all.  Interesting.

“Okay.  So, what’s the plan, then?”

Red Widow’s scarlet-tinted lips twitched, but he couldn’t tell if it was a smile or a frown that marred her cosmetically-altered face.

“The plan hasn’t changed.  The Daughter of Heaven must die, if we are to succeed.”

 

Flash Friday: “Dangerous Bait”

“Dangerous Bait” – excerpted from DEAD MEN…

copyright 2006 by Esther Mitchell

“What are you doing, Calli?”  Cade murmured the words into the headset, aware she could hear him, but that she couldn’t respond while the mark was with her.

“Sounds to me like she’s got his number.”

Cade turned toward MCAR Homicide Detective Stefan Theonides, seated next to him in the surveillance flier, and scowled.  None of these people got Calli – not like he did.  Even the people she worked with; hell, even her own brother, from what he saw of Lance McKinney, didn’t get Calli like Cade did.  He knew what drove her, how isolated she felt out here in the real world.  It wasn’t that she couldn’t relate, either.  She tried harder to be noticed than anyone he ever met.  Like now.

Cade swore beneath his breath, wishing he knew more about Martian culture, so he could properly profile how dangerous this creep was.  The anxiety that threaded through Calli’s voice told him he probably wouldn’t like the answer.

He heard Calli’s sharp intake of air, and a noise like some kind of weapon being released, and tensed.

“Talk to me, McKinney,” he ordered in an undertone.  They’d been unable to set up visuals, in case the perp was watching the park beforehand, and now that lack could put Calli’s life in danger.

“What do you need a shankblade for?”  Calli’s voice came through clear, but Cade frowned at the unfamiliar reference.  He glanced at the man beside him as Theonides swore beneath his breath.

“A shankblade is a weapon crafted up on Satan’s Tit.  It’s a titatone blade, housed in something innocuous-looking, and undetectable to contraband scanners.  Usually, the blades are coated in nuerotoxins.”

Cade’s blood froze.

“Calli, get the hell out of there!”

“I think you know,” came the cold voice of their mark, closer than it shoud have been to the microphone.  Hell, it sounded like the asshole was breathing in her ear.

“What do you want?”  Calli’s snapped response was followed by a rustle of movement that Cade hoped like hell was her moving out of range.

“Why, the Muse, my dear.  She will make such an interesting addition to my…collection.”

That tore it!  Cade was on his feet, and across the surveillance flier’s bay before he heard another word.  He’d just reached the door when a scream reverberated  through the vehicle that sent terror slicing through his soul.