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Something from a new WIP

20130724-Haida-Gwaii-3182

“Forgotten were the hollow hills
By those who banished fae
Until came the clash of wills
with others from the afar”

Come the battles
Come the killing
Come away, come away

“Awakened were the banished fae
from restless dreams beneath the earth
and troubled by the anguished cry
upon a once lush land”

Lady of the Lake Chapter 2 part 2

“Mordred, will you shut your door like I did?” She didn’t know whether to be relieved or not when he did. Was this an elaborate act, or not? “Here is what I hope will happen. We will drive out of the village and take the main road to my boat. That is where I am going. If you want to stop any place along the way, then that is your call. If we are stopped at a roadblock, you let me do the talking. If I say to you ‘John, get your passport out’, this is what you will do.” She demonstrated. “Can you do this?”
“That isn’t my name.”
“No, but it is the name on the document. You will pass it to me, and I will show it to the policemen before I hand it back to you. Do you understand?”
“Thee will try an illusion to fool the evil ones. Yes.” He looked relieved.
She had to strap his seatbelt on for him as he didn’t seem to have a clue. Once they started, the glow of the instrument panel showed his hands as white-knuckled lumps in his lap. He had closed his eyes tight.
All went well until they hit the only road south out of the village. A cordon of police cars waited. “Mordred, there is a road block.” She couldn’t keep a tremor out of her voice. “Pretend to be asleep and let me do the talking. If you must respond, just smile and nod.” Oh God, was this going to be the end? She hadn’t seen a weapon on him, but the report said he had hurt people. A policeman waved her to pull over. She rolled down her window.
“Sorry to trouble you, Miss. Could I have your name and that of your passenger?” The young officer shone a flashlight on Mordred’s face. He winced and opened his eyes.
“John and Ella Harrison. We live just up the road. Is there a problem, officer?”
“The John Harrison?” The guy’s eyes boggled. “From ‘Cut to the Bone’?”
“Yes, that is him. Look, we are in a hurry and have a plane to catch. Is this going to take long?”
The young officer shone the light on Mordred again, who smiled and nodded. “No, you may proceed. So sorry to trouble you, Mr. Harrison.” He stepped back, spoke into his radio, and the barrier was moved aside.
Ella eased the car forward until they were clear. Beads of sweat ran down her neck and into her eyes. Her heart hammered in her chest. What had she done? How would she ever explain this away if they were caught?

Lady of the Lake. Chapter 2 first part.

“Hush now, I don’t make war on maidens. There is nothing for thee to fear from me.”
Encased in his arms, Ella trembled. He was a lunatic, a dangerous madman. Dangerous, the report said. What part of this was real and what wasn’t? Would she even survive the night?
“You hurt people.”
“They stood in my way. I did ask for them to stand aside.” He marched her over to her chair, pushing her down in it as he released his grip. He turned his chair, straddling it to sit opposite, watching her intently
“People will be coming. They will check every house. You need to go, right now.”
He frowned. “I will fight if they come for me. Canst thee help me? I will free thee if so.”
What were the rules of a hostage situation? Defying him could create a monster capable of anything, but if she went along with his wishes? He hadn’t threatened her with any weapon. He had said he would release her if she helped him. She wanted to live. How could she get him past the road blocks?
John’s passport, if he had really left it here. He was so disorganized it was impossible to say, but it was a start. Mordred looked close enough to John that she could make him so with her work kit and give herself time to escape.
“I think I can make you look like someone else. I need that big bag I took to my car. Can I get it?” Did she have a chance of jumping in and speeding off?
“We will go together.”
So much for that plan. Now she was trapped by her offer. Once the case was inside, she opened it and started work on his face. Mordred was surprisingly calm while she altered him with her toners, tints, and padding. John was fatter in the face than Mordred, so cheek pads were needed. Then there was the problem of his shaven head and prison clothes.
“Come with me. You need to get out of that prison overall, and I need to find identity documents to match your new look.”
“Clothes would be good, but what are documents?”
“Never mind. Just trust me that you need these.” A small part of her relished depriving John of his needed passport. Spite grew branches. John had more clothes than he needed. One change wasn’t enough for Mordred when she could give him an entire case of clothes.
The steep old staircase creaked under their steps. Mordred’s eyes widened when he saw the bedroom and then narrowed, zeroing in on her, his face a picture of surprise.
“Don’t even think about those thoughts, Buster. You want my help? You keep your distance.”
“Who is Buster?” He looked puzzled.
“That is you, dude. I am off limits.” She opened the wardrobe, getting jeans, a polo neck shirt, and a brown, corduroy jacket out for him. These she thrust into his arms. “Go through the end door and change.”
“No. Turn thy back to preserve thy modesty.” He stared her down until she complied.
Another chance at escape gone, Ella concentrated on another task in hand. Where would John have stashed his passport? She went through the drawer on his nightstand. Nothing, but John had a horror of being robbed. Not the usual places, so where? On impulse, she felt between the mattress and the box springs on his side and felt a package. Out came a thick manila envelope sealed tight. Inside were John’s passport, his driver’s licenses, and a thick wad of notes, some sterling and some dollars. She wouldn’t have to use a credit card that might not work…and she couldn’t be tracked. Maybe this was good, for what if they were stopped? Would she survive a standoff? She could if she could get Mordred through the checkpoints. He promised he would let her go. Would he?
One last finishing touch left. She turned to the armoire and bumped into Mordred. Heart racing, she choked back a scream. Did he have to move so quietly?
“What are these?” Mordred looked at the documents and cash in her hand.
Ella stuffed them back in the envelope. “Things we will need to win your freedom. I also need something from in here. She pointed to the armoire. When he didn’t move to stop her, she opened to doors to reveal a neat row of wigs on stands. John’s vanity hadn’t let him accept his thinning hair. How ironic that this meant the thing she needed most was the very thing to hand. Ella selected the one most matching the passport, a slightly long cut with hair partially over the ears. By the time she had finished with a bemused Mordred, he could have passed for John, although his shoulders were broader and he was far too thin. This point was made when he yanked up his slipping pants, but a belt sorted out the problem.
“Now, stay out of my way while I pack some more clothes for you.” Ella snagged a sports bag and carefully sorted through John’s side of the wardrobe. He didn’t use half his stuff and wouldn’t miss a few items here and there. She hesitated over underwear. No, not that. There were the new shorts she had brought for John at the weekend for his upcoming trip. They went in the bag instead, and Ella derived a small sense of satisfaction from the act. John’s documents and cash went in a side pouch as Mordred would seem more in character if he reached for his own I.D were they stopped. Next, she grabbed a dry cleaner bag to stash his prison garb, including his footwear. It couldn’t be left here, or the police would know who to follow. But what if they were stopped? She would have to trust to luck and hope they could find a dumpster along the way.
“Here, take these.” Ella thrust both burdens at Mordred. Whatever else, she felt safer when his hands were full. He followed her down the creaking stairs in his stocking feet. The next stop was the cellar for recycling. She needed to reassemble a couple of boxes, and this could be the answer to Mordred’s prison clothes. His face was a picture when she carefully packed down his convict clothes under a layer of cereals and dried goods. The other box was for cans and containers with perishables. Fairy Child would be fit to sail without a grocery visit if she chose wisely, but the car wouldn’t hold much more. One last stop at the front porch for shoes, but here she hit a snag. Mordred’s feet were too big to squeeze into anything except a pair of rubber boots, and then his expression became pained. Well, he would just have to put up with it.
“We are going to pack my car. I want the big cases on the outsides, and the groceries in the middle. The heavy one goes first with the lighter one on top. Your sports bag goes on the back seat where you can reach it.”
For a dangerous lunatic, he trotted along, obeying her orders like an obedient puppy, right up until she took the keys out of the now closed tailgate, and then his hand grasped hers.
“Do you want to drive?”
“Not without horses pulling this …” Words failed him.
“Let go of my hand, then. “Horses? Was he for real?
“Thee will vanish in a magical cart and leave me.” His eyes narrowed.
“Look, all my clothes and my papers are in that car. I need them. Why don’t you get in first? I think you could outrun me if I tried to escape.” He towered over her, leaving her little doubt on that score. She herded him around to the passenger side, opening the door. He surprised her by lowering himself inside, but he stopped her when she would have shut the door. Ella walked in front of the car to the driver’s side. She settled into place, slammed the door and put the keys in the ignition.

Lady of the Lake chapter one second snippet.

“I’ll not hurt thee. Don’t be a fearful,” a male voice murmured, close to her ear.
The shudders came back with a vengeance. If this man was after money, then he was shit out of luck. What if he tortured her for something she didn’t have? John wouldn’t pay any ransom, of that she was sure.
“Pass through the threshold.”
A tanned hand, leading to an arm clad in prison grays opened to latch to let her in. She recognized the pattern from the work crew in the village recently. Oh God, a convict. What had he done? Was he a killer, or a pervert? Heart pounding strong enough to break her ribs, Ella did as she was told. Maybe she would have a chance to grab her cell phone, or a knife or something heavy? The door swung shut behind them with a click as the latch settled.
He marched her into the kitchen. “I smell food. If I do let thee go, will thee serve me?”
Something wasn’t right here. Why was he using archaic language? Was this a setup? Would John stoop so low to intimidate her with another actor playing the part of a convict, or was this man a real a convict? How did one manage hostage situations? Ella didn’t know. She nodded.
“That is good. I will be a letting thee go presently. Don’t thee be making any swift movements, or I will not be pleased with thee.” He released her.
Trembling Ella walked to the stove. She dumped the roast beef and roasted potatoes pan on the hob, next to the boiled carrots. What now? Was she to get the electric carver going? What she didn’t want to do was to turn to see his face. If he was a convict, he would have to kill her. Wasn’t that the way it went?
“Thee can get a knife to carve the meat. Don’t try to skewer me with it. I be a warrior and thee might get hurt if I needs to disarm thee. I don’t want to hurt thee.”
Slowly, carefully, Ella reached for the electric carver. She turned it on.
“Odds blood, what be that device?” A hard arm encircled her again. She hadn’t even heard him moving.
This had to be a setup. No one talked like that. Fine, so she would go along with this parody. “You wanted a serving of meat, and I am about to cut it for you if you will let me. What I am holding will cut the meat.”
He backed off.
Ella continued, reaching up for a plate in the overhead cabinet. She had everything now, including the gravy, but how to serve him without looking at him. Was he an actor or not? Her life might well depend on her next move.
“Serve thyself, too. I’ll not be eating alone. “
Ella reached for another plate to serve herself a tiny amount. No way did she want to eat. Her stomach lurched in protest.
“Is anyone else expected to share the repast?”
“No, just you and me.” Crunch time. She couldn’t serve him without looking in his direction. Was John going to get lucky and become a widower? Was this guy for real? Ella took a deep breath and put both plates on her kitchen table. She tried not to look at him, to keep her eyes downcast and then reached into the drawer for silverware. She set their places, still with eyes lowered. Grunts of enjoyment followed.
“Thee not be eating. I did say I wouldn’t harm thee.”
Ella stared at her plate. “Then why are you in my home, holding me a prisoner?”
“Evil people did lock me away and perform black magic on my body.” His voice hardened in tone. “I needs to get away, to my own place. I needs to hide so they can’t find me, and I needs food for strength to fight them if they does try.”
Shocked, she looked up at him. He was a young man, who might have been a blond, judging by his eyebrows as his head was shaven bald. Faint, darker stubble peppered his jaw and cheeks. Once, he might have been a powerful man, but now his prison clothes hung off an emaciated body. Deep blue eyes stared at her.
“Who are you?”
“They be a calling I John Smith, but that bain’t my name. I be Mordred.”
Ella laughed. This just wasn’t real. She had either lost her mind, or he was a very good actor. “Mordred was the son of the mythical King Arthur.”
He frowned, shoveling in a chunk of roast beef, which he took his time chewing before he answered. “Not so. That was a rumor. I be Merlin’s son and his apprentice.”
Yes, she had lost her mind. “Those people were supposed to have lived twelve centuries back. Who are you really? One of my soon to be ex-husband’s friends sent to scare me?
The man finished his meal with obvious enjoyment. He thrust his empty plate at her. “That were good. Could I have more?”
This was getting surreal. “When you have answered my question. Who are you?”
“I be Mordred. I will prove this to thee when I have more strength. Now, can I have another serving of your excellent food?”
Ella complied. She didn’t know what to do with this strange man. If he was one of John’s buddies, he was doing a stellar job on her. On the other hand, what if he was a madman, escaped from the hospital section of a prison, which his prison grays seemed to suggest?
Mordred wolfed down his second portion with relish. He then looked directly into her eyes. “Do thee have a candle or a taper?”
Ella wasn’t sure what a taper was, but she did have candles. Ones meant to go with this supper. She stood up to get the candelabra from the sitting room, but he was there, breathing down her shoulder before she had reached the doorway.
“The candles are in another room. Can I get them?”
“I’ll be coming along behind.”
He did, shadowing her to such an extent that she wondered about him. Ella placed the unlit seven candle candelabra on the table between then as they resumed their seats.
“There be no lights. Thee agree?”
She nodded. Where was this madness going?”
Mordred lowered his head and shut his eyes. “Watch the candles.”
One by one, starting on the right, they flamed into light. Ella gasped, stunned. She didn’t know what to think. No one could do this.
“Watch.” He commanded.
The candelabra rose above the table to almost ceiling height before it gently drifted down to its former position.
He opened his deep blue eyes. “I be Mordred, the apprentice and son of Merlin. Do thee believe me now, or do thee think me moonstruck, like the people in white coats?”
“I think I have gone mad. No one can do what you have just done”.
“I can and much more when I have my strength back. Will thee help me?”
He was serious. He had just accomplished an impossible feat. None of John’s actor friends could have done this, let alone an escapee from prison. Yes, this whole thing was a hallucination brought on by stress. She would wake up in the morning to her new, horrendous life, and that would be the end of it. In the meantime, she would go along with this madness invented by her mind. It spared her smashing things or dissolving into useless tears.
“What do you want from me?”
“I need to be where the wild things are, away from people. I can’t be going back to the place of sorcery and torment again.” He reached up to wipe a dribble of gravy from his mouth, exposing a wrist with heavy slash-marked scars slicing across it.
Reality slammed through Ella. She was sitting across the table from an escapee from a hospital wing of a prison, who had tried to self-harm. He wasn’t making sense, and yet the candles …that hadn’t been an illusion, or was it? Just how dangerous was this man, if he were real? She stood, turning to reach for the TV remote. A chair crashed back, and the next instant her arms were locked at her sides by his steely embrace.
“None of that long distance talking to call them to me.” His voice was a rumbled growl in her ear, his breath hot on her neck.
Heavens, he thought the remote was a cell phone. Her world tilted askew again. “I can’t talk to anyone with the device.” Now she had better humor him or else. “It is to turn on the box over in the corner that will show pictures and words from a distance, but not hear any words I say to it. I need to know where the people are who are chasing you. How can I help you if I don’t know what traps they are setting?” Would there be news of him? She thought there would for sure if he were judged a madman.
He released one of her arms, still keeping her close against him. “Don’t thee be crossing I.”
Ella flipped through the channels until she had a local one. Halsham manor, a secure state mental hospital, rather than a prison and just five miles away, flickered into view, surrounded by police cars and reporters. The camera zeroed in on a reporter describing a breakout of a dangerous and psychotic patient, who was on no count to be approached by the general public. A picture of Mordred, looking drugged, flashed onto the screen, while the voice reported that he had injured three staff, one seriously. Assurances followed of roadblocks and house to house searches in the immediate area. The man was considered dangerous. Ella killed the screen and gently put down the remote before it fell out of her shaking hand.

Lady of the Lake Chapter one snippet.

As it happens this book is the one that just received a very stale offer of advancement after four years. Yes, I have a new title. Yes, it is most probably different from what those people read. Anyhow, here is the first snippet from Chapter one.

 

“Look, I think it is time to call it quits.” John’s voice sounded crisp, clear and rehearsed on the other end of the phone as if he had studied for the part. “We don’t move in the same circles anymore, and I certainly don’t want noisy brats invading my space. You made it clear that you do.”
A woman’s throaty laugh sounded close to him, too close. Someone was there, with him, listening to him give her the brush off. Ella started shaking. The oak-beamed room blurred under a veil of tears. A lump grew in her throat. What had happened to her husband? Who was this stranger with his voice?
“I’ve paid the rent on the cottage up to the end of this month, in two days’ time, and I handed in our notice. The landlord just told me it is let, so you need to be out tomorrow. I have also removed your name from my bank account.” More throaty whispers came from the vicinity of the receiver followed by John’s low-toned ‘Hush’. “I am suing you for divorce on grounds of adultery. Don’t imagine you will get any alimony out of me.”
Adultery, the word jumped down the line and carved into her heart. “That is not true!” Ella’s voice came out in a squeak. How could he say these things to her? She had never even looked at another man since he came into her life and who was that woman with him listening in to a private phone call? If anyone was having an affair it was him.
“I have pictures of you with another man, someone who is prepared to come forward. The pictures show a very good view of that disgusting birthmark on your leg. If you try to fight me, I will see to it you never work again.”
He could do that, the big name movie star. He could set people up to act the part, with a little help of Photoshop to reproduce her single blemish, an unusual pattern of freckles shaped like a trident. What was the fate of a make-up artist to film producers by comparison to the needs of the big star? Why hadn’t she seen this coming? They had been so happy, or so she had thought. Her dream, her illusion, built on the bones of an unknown actor and her with a foot in the industry, meeting and getting together, making sure he got the right introductions to the right people.
“One more thing, do you think you could find my passport? I am flying out to work on location in Australia next week so could you leave it on the coffee table for my agent to collect? Cooperate with me and I might consider giving you a reasonable one-time payoff.”
Money, it was all about money and lust. John had a nasty habit of accusing others of his own flaws in any disagreement, so she guess the woman by his side was his current woman. Cold logic began to take over from the pain and shock. He had been caught by the paparazzi with some bimbo. He couldn’t risk his image, so this was going to be her fault for cheating on him. How he must have scrambled to manufacture his evidence. Ella didn’t know this person anymore. Four years of living an illusion of love came down to a moment on the phone.
“I will be gone first thing in the morning. I take it you haven’t canceled the lease on my car?”
“No, I was too late. You have it for one more month, not that you’ll need it for much longer. I imagine you’ll want to go back to the States.”
Ella put the phone down very gently. They were done. It didn’t matter whatever else he might want to say. Through it all the smell of a roast wafted from the tiny kitchen; a supper they were to have shared together by candlelight. The supper he had told her to get ready to celebrate his new contract and their four year anniversary. Maybe she could salvage it to take with her.
He was right on one score; she was not going to stay on this damp and crowded island, despite the lure of its history. The Tudor cottage, with it blackened oak beams now sharpened her loss. This was to have been their love nest where they raised their first child together, for it looked as if John was going to be based in England for a few more years. The overstuffed chintz furniture wasn’t theirs. The place had come fully furnished so she didn’t have to worry about getting removal people to come in, or sorting through what she wanted to keep. She should pack her clothes to make an early start since she didn’t want to see his agent. Move, do something, so she didn’t have to think—do anything.
The narrow stairs creaked when she went up to their bedroom, her bedroom now for just this night. What to take? The tools of her trade for sure, but the rest? Where would she need designer dresses again? She left them hanging, along with her wedding gown. What would fit into the tiny foreign car? Pack the practical work clothes and leave the rest. She didn’t want to pack more than she could book in at the airport.
Two large suitcases full of clothes later to haul down the stairs and Ella realized she had no idea where she was headed. A person couldn’t simply head to London and jump on a plane, although that was what she had been thinking before her mind woke up. It had to be booked, and she had no money, not now he had closed their joint account. God, did she have to go cap in hand to beg him to buy her a seat? No, there was the boat. Frantic now, she attacked the Georgian bureau for her passport, driver’s license, birth certificate and the deeds for her boat. It was in her name—his gift to her when he had scored his first blockbuster. Fairy Child was ocean going and would fetch a good price, maybe enough to set her up without begging from him. Yes, she could go to the West Country and live on the boat until a buyer came along. If she were quick, she could stock it up with provisions before he thought to cancel her Visa card. No doubt that would be done at the end of the month. Tonight, she had to leave tonight.
Ella hauled the suitcase with her work stuff out to the tiny car, flipping up the tail gate to heave in the heavy burden. Light rain anointed her face with sky tears. Clouds covered the stars and the moon, making for a dark and grim night of driving. She didn’t care. All she wanted was to be away from the ruin of her dreams. Two more case and then put the food in containers to take whatever she could. Yes, she would need that tomorrow. She ran for the door.
A hand snaked out, covering her mouth. An arm wrapped around her, stopping her from moving. Oh God, oh God, nothing more bad, please don’t let this be happening.

 

00500013

Death’s Angel. Last snippet of this section

The centurion didn’t help her with learning to read and write their language as he had promised. He sent Nyka in his place. Azriel still wanted to please the centurion above everything, despite her constant attempts to neutralize his venom. His absence robbed her of the ability to judge her progress.
Nyka had set the portable unit up for her and showed her how to key the screen; activate the voice mode and how to interact with it. Aside from this, she was left completely on her own. Buzzing from the food hatch, to announce a meal break at regular intervals, became her way of marking time. Notably, the food was the same as had been given out to the captive women in the holding pens. At least the centurion’s task gave her something to occupy her attention. She wanted to master the skill since it would be easier to navigate her way through the ship if she could read the directions, if that is what they were, posted at the intersection of corridors.
The worst part of her isolation was increasingly vivid dreams. They always started in an Angel holding cell where all her kind were gathered; a rare event in itself. She could see them but not make them hear her or see her. This was the point when she started awake, still screaming at them to notice her. And then came the last, most horrific dream of all. She had watched what the Angels were doing this time, instead of trying to make them notice her.
Azriel woke shaking, covered with a cold sweat. Only once had an Angel died without having an immediate body replacement. Uriel had been more than a friend to her when they got a chance to spend rare time together. Like her, he was an assassin, although no-one would guess from looking at him. His curling blond hair cascaded to his shoulders, framing a face of classical proportions. Deep-set blue eyes sparkled with mischief when he was around her. Added to the good looks, in her opinion, was the fact that no one supplied the Angels with a means to shave during non-working times. His beard came through about four shades darker than his hair, making him look like a charming rogue.
Both Coda and Azriel had been with Uriel on his last mission. It should have been an easy break-in for Coda to access the mainframe data base. Something had gone wrong. They were expected. Heavy duty weapons fired at them without warning. Azriel found a way for them to get clear when a shell blew a hole in a security perimeter wall. She turned to call to the others and saw Uriel’s body drop to the ground. His handsome head had been blown clean away: gone into a million pieces of mush and bone. He couldn’t be regenerated without his memories. He was really dead; forever. It was Coda who got them clear that day. Azriel didn’t remember how; everything was a blur from that moment on.
Back at base, she turned her face to the wall in their underground cell, ignoring Coda’s attempts to reach her mind. One by one all the Angels had been thrust into the cold, dimly lit rock cavern. They gathered around her in silence, all withdrawn from assignments while the controllers searched for the breach of security. When the last Angel arrived they began making a marker for the fallen.
Grieving together, the Angels carved Uriel’s name in the rock floor, taking turns to pound it with a hand-sized piece of harder stone someone had managed to smuggle in past the guards. No one investigated the noise. No one came near to give them food or water beyond what was already in the holding cell. Not one of them spoke. The sound of the stone pounding echoed for days and nights until they had finished. They did this for the one who was never coming home to them.
In her dream, she had seen them pounding with the stone again, heard the sharp beat going on and on until they all gathered around in silence, looking down. When they moved aside, she saw another name under Uriel’s . . . Her own.

Death’s Angel, next segment of the new snippet.

Things are moving faster now and in a new direction. 

The centurion was at her side, sitting on her bed, when she awoke, refreshed. He smiled, causing her heart to jump. The dark, curling lashes around his beautiful green eyes did things to her insides. His wavy dark hair looked slightly damp as if he had just finished ablutions, and he was wearing casual, light gray pants and a loose top. Azriel guessed he must be off duty.
“I have set out a meal for us. Will you join me?” He offered her his hand, the claws well retracted into his finger pads.
She thrilled to his touch, grateful for his aid as the edges of her wound didn’t stretch as much when she stood up. His hand was warm and hard; the hand of a warrior. He led her to the glass-topped metal table now covered with dishes. The Sidhe even slid the chair into place for her when she sat down, something she vaguely remembered from a distant lost lifetime and the occasional glimpse of how the rich people behaved at social gatherings.
The food was familiar by sight if not flavor. Both plates held a dressed kiki bird in citrus sauce, accompanied by a salad of dates, nanga nuts and succulent cactus flesh topped with a drizzle of oma seeds. A rich man’s repast; the choice of the Controllers. Angels only ate recognizable food if they caught it for themselves when they were out on a job and could get a campfire going in the open. Of course, the fire would depend on whether the campsite was near any of the black rock deposits that burned slow when ignited with a laz gun.
He intercepted her surprise with a grin. “We stocked up on provisions when we visited your world. Enjoy. We will be on ship’s rations again soon enough.”
“Are those on my world aware you acquired produce?”

“No doubt the knowledge will come to them in time.” His smile deepened. The tips of his brilliant white fangs showed.
Azriel wondered who would be screaming their loss. The thought was good. The food was even better, matched only by a well-aged wine. She guessed this had also been ‘acquired’. It was a long time since she had tasted a potent beverage. Her internal processors made the necessary adjustments to neutralize the effects.
“I think we will be tweaking your enhancements to allow for the full enjoyment of potent brews. A good wine must be savored without the effects being neutralized.”
“You would have me at your mercy?” The thought sent waves of pleasure thrilling through her.
“My venom is far more potent than any potable beverage.” His eyes took on a dangerous glint. “However, I prefer willing bedmates.”
A small voice of reason stirred within her. She didn’t do ‘nice’. This wasn’t her Angel assassin function, but the centurion seduced her from her role. She could not deny him and yet he chose not to take advantage of her vulnerability. Her prime directive to kill these people fuzzed into a tiny gray zone. This was not the enemy, as the pregnant girl had not been the enemy. She didn’t have to kill anymore, since her refusal would not result in punishment.
“Fight it, Azriel.” He raised his glass to her. “I offer you a life with the freedom to make your own choices and live with the consequences.”
She fought both her directive from the controllers and his venom. Her processors hadn’t honed in on his venom because he had been in her mind. Now she needed control over her life back from all those bent on leeching it away. Her head started pounding from the effort. What the controllers demanded of her faded into an unreasonable request to be ignored. No, she would not attack the Outworlders, or try to destroy their ship. The Sidhe needed her to ignore the controllers. Yes, she could do this for him. What he asked was fair and reasonable. She could see this now.
He cleared away their dishes, placing them in a service hatch, and retrieved sweet fruit sorbets in tall, frosted glasses. “Here. Live for the enjoyment of the moment while you decide how you will spend your life.”

Death’s Angel newest snippet.

The tingling of the venom rushing through her blood stopped when it reached her extremities, but the euphoria remained. A great weight lifted from Azriel, and it wasn’t just from the centurion easing off her. She didn’t stir when he raised her loose blue garment, stopping before he exposed her breasts. His intention seemed merely to check her wound. How kind he was. Why hadn’t she realized this before? She was so lucky to have been taken by the Outworlders.
The centurion grinned. The tips of his fangs showed, still stained with her blood. He was in her mind again and yet she didn’t care anymore.
“Good girl. Lie still while I get more bio packing. You want to get well, don’t you? I want you healed.”
Yes, she would do whatever he asked of her just because he asked. She needed to please him. Somewhere, buried deep within, a tic of wrongness died. Long forgotten happiness surged into life.
He looked up at her from a crouched position. “You don’t want to die, do you? I don’t want you to die.”
The Sidhe retrieved a med kit and returned to her. He gently removed the old dressing to clean the wound. The edges were much closer together, and it looked as healthy as a wound could look. Did she want to die? No, she didn’t. Not if he wished her to live.
“When you are healed would you like to work out with me? I’d prefer you kept your battle edge.”
She would adore more time with him. He was so gentle as he tended to her. She could barely remember how ‘gentle’ felt until he touched her.
He paused, looking up at her. “We are searching for a new home, one that has no sentient lifeforms and is able to sustain us. It will be hard at first, building a new beginning from what is available. I need someone who is used to living off the land to instruct us all. This is why I took an Angel . . . My beautiful Angel.”
She melted under his green gaze. Without thinking, Azriel reached out to touch his face. He caught her wrist, arresting her movement.
“No. Those are decisions best made when my venom wears off, and it will. Beginnings are a delicate path to tread.” He returned her hand to rest by her side and then finished dressing her wound, pulling down her clothing to its former modest position.
Disappointment flared. She wanted him.
“Later, if you still feel the same way.” He packed away the med kit and returned it to storage in the side cabinet by her bed. He then sat down on the bed, close but not touching her. “Nyka thinks you are bored, and I agree. I would like you to learn to write in our language. Do you think you can do this for me?”
Of course she could.
“When you have mastered this skill, I want you to write about everything you learned of survival skills from your experiences in the wilderness on your homeworld. Now I want you to sleep. When you wake, I will return to show you how to operate a portable console, and then we can begin.”
Her eyelids grew heavy. She drifted into sleep.

Death’s Angel. The rest of the new snippet.

With a sibilant hiss, the door slid aside to admit her into a communal area. Padded chairs and low tables were arranged in groups. Some had game boards set out on them. The game pieces looked as if the players had left in a hurry with pieces scattered and on their sides.
At a table against a far wall, by one of the small port windows, sat the centurion and Nyka. Both of them seemed relaxed and were sipping from tall glasses containing a clear green liquid. They watched her approach.
“I guess I win the bet.” Nyka smiled, a faint stretching of his lips. “I told you she was getting bored.”
“I concede.” The centurion didn’t look amused. “You get your planet leave when we find a refueling stop. I really thought she would wait until she had regained full strength before she made a move.”
Azriel froze. Did he know her intentions? Where was this leading? Neither of them had weapons pointed at her.
“Come here, my bad Angel.” The centurion gestured to a chair next to him. “I would offer you a beverage, but I think, judging from your expression, I would end up wearing it.”
He was right, damn him. She wasn’t in the mood to ‘do nice’. She accepted his invitation.
The black void of space shone with a myriad of tiny stars from the port hole. Azriel had expected to see the surface of Altair IV. “Where is my homeworld?”
Nyka turned to study the view. “I think your twin suns are the brightest light on the tip of the constellation shaped like a hexagon.”
“When he isn’t tending to your needs, Nyka’s duties include astrometry.” The centurion raised his glass to the young Urak. “He is very good at it.”
Azriel barely heard his words. She focused on a tiny point of light, one among millions. Altair IV didn’t have interstellar travel technology. A world poor in metal lacked the resources. She hadn’t imagined a starship could travel so far, so fast. Now she understood why she couldn’t connect with the other Angels. The vast void of space isolated her.
“Nyka, you have a task now Azriel has joined us.”
“Yes, Centurion.”
Nyka glanced once in her direction and then marched to the door. Azriel doubted it would open for her as it did for him. She was trapped with the Sidhe.
He continued to sip at his drink, regarding her. A faint pressure in her temples warned of his intrusion in her mind. Azriel concentrated on the sights, sounds and sensations from a trek through a parched gulley under the blazing suns.
“Interesting, if too late. I have most of the information I wanted.” His eyes narrowed. “Why do you want to die? Here you are free. Your controllers cannot order your movements.”
She held in a laugh. “Free? I am kept in a locked room away from the other women. You had me herded here when I found a way out. It is another form of control.”
He sighed. “I can’t return you to your sisters. They now know that you are still dangerous, and I would prefer not to send them into hysterics. I can’t let you roam my ship hoping to goad my crew into firing at you, and yes, you will obey me. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to force this issue, but it appears you leave me no choice.”
Azriel smiled, daring him. “Do you really think you could cause more pain than the controllers?”
“Oh, I wasn’t thinking of pain. Far too unsubtle. Come now, Nyka will have fixed the security issues in your room.” He stood, holding out his hand to her.
She let him take hers. Obey him, or he would send a message back to Altair. The next instant her body dissolved to reform beside him in her room. Shocked, she missed the start of his move. He threw her down on her bed, pinning her arms above her head, using his weight to keep her still.
“This is going to hurt a little. I am sorry,” he said, although he didn’t look sorry. His eyes took on a faint gleam. He transferred both her wrists to one hand.
Azriel waited for him to start tearing off her light clothing. She jumped when he turned her head to one side and lowered his mouth to her neck. The next instant he bit. She tried to struggle, desperate, fearing what he had started. He didn’t disengage, and a slow tingling started to spread from the penetration. The tingling spread, enveloping her body. A strange lassitude wrapped her in soft coverings that distanced reality. One small part of her mind screamed ‘venom’ but now she looked into the Sidhe’s incredible green eyes. There was blood on his lips, on his bared fangs; her blood, but this didn’t seem important. The eyes drew her.
“You are going to do whatever I say, aren’t you Azriel?”
“Yes, Centurion.” Whatever he wanted, she would do for him. Joy flooded through her that he would ask.