Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Samantha Lee Week 148: Boundries

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: Boundries

It was one of those stone walls, the kind made up of different sized rocks stacked atop each other, and it snaked its way around the pastures, its length stretching hundreds and hundreds of miles. And, lucky me, I got to lean on it.

At least I didn't have to lean alone.

"Remind me again why we're leaning on this wall?" Fi asked for about the tenth time that morning, absently braiding her hair as she sat cross legged on the ground next to me. "Not that Scotland isn't swell, but it's not exactly my favourite place in the world. Or any other world for that matter."

"Why not? It's not so bad of you can learn to ignore all the sheep."

"I'm a sun elf. In a place where sunlight is so foreign it needs a stamp in its passport just to visit."

I gave her a skeptical look. Or rather I gave the top of her head a skeptical look; her eyes were focused on the open book she was balancing on her lap. That's Fi - big on multitasking. "I thank you for your sacrifice."

"Sarcasm is totally unbecoming, Rav."

"Fi, it's your default setting."

"That's different though; I'm a professional. And don't think I haven't noticed you're avoiding my question."

"You've asked ten times."

"And you haven't answered once. Should I try for eleven or...?"

I sighed. I knew very well if I didn't answer, she'd go all Lois Lane and poke and prod and push until I caved and spilled my beans. And then she'd go ahead and make chili out of said beans. Not that I didn't love her literal chili, but in a metaphoric sense it wouldn't be fun. Did that make sense?

"We're waiting for something."

"I am shocked by this totally new and unpredictable revelation."

"Sarcasm, Cat. Anyway, yeah, we're waiting. For, um, someone."

"Oh? What sort of a someone?"

"So, ah, this wall we're leaning on? It's a boundary line."

"Most walls are."

"Well, yes, but this wall is separating the Fae territory from the mortal. See over there? The field is a buffer zone until the forest where there's a patchwork Fae tribe. You can't sense them?"

She winced and shook her head. "Scotland has a high Fae population, like Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany, India, China, Africa, Australia, or Canada."

"Long list."

"Well, when you get yourselves locked out of your homeland, you make do with what's available."

"A little human, no?"

"Oh, you should drop that little tidbit into the grapevine. It'll drive the Nobles totally looney."

"Cat, you realize you're the one they'll come whining to, right?"

She shrugged. "I have a buffer."

"Cat, I'm that buffer."

"Shut up. It'll still be amusing. For awhile. Maybe. Anyway, blah, blah, boundary, blah, blah, waiting, blah, blah, elaborate."

Okay, this would be the part with the impending freak out. Fun times ahead, yes sir, lucky me. I was really hoping I could stall for another few hours or maybe a couple months. Why didn't life come with a pause button? "The Fae tribe that lives here? They're sending an advocate. They want to come home."

So it went better than I thought; no earthquakes, no storms, no twisters, not even a rumble of thunder or a darkening sky. No trees suddenly fell, no rocks spontaneously split, no animals so much as chittered. In fact, she seemed remarkably calm as she thought about what I'd said, her Magic and power carefully contained.

It scared the hell out of me.

"You agree? You think I should allow them back into Faerie?"

"Um, no. I, ah, no; there's too much of a security risk. If we just let three hundred and eight Fae into our home there's no telling whose old grudge will come back to bite us in the butt."

"You counted?" She sounded surprised. I decided not to be too insulted.

I nodded. "Twice."



"Have I been sitting here for the past six hours waiting for you to build up the nerve to tell me the Wild Fae want to ask permission to come home? Because, you know, we didn't even have to come out there for that. I could be home, playing my violin and ignoring the petitions for audience right now and Keeley could be here. Keeley likes scaring the sheep and intimidating Fae who think they're all top of the food chain."

"Do demon-based wraiths really out place Wild Fae on the food chain?"

She shrugged. "Mine does. It's the teeth; his are bigger than pretty much anyone's and it helps. A lot."

"So, ah, are you agreeing ...I mean, are you implying...do you mean that they can come home?"

Rolling her eyes, she hopped up to her feet and shook out her hair, her book vanishing. "Of course not. I'm saying I don't care if they come home or not so long as one of the wraiths vets them before they step through the portal."

"Didn't you calibrate the portals to, ah, vaporize anyone who meant you harm?"

"Yup. Or Faerie in general."

"Then why bother having the wraiths vet them?"

"Everyone deserves a chance to sing a song about conferring with flowers and consulting with the rain while hunting themselves up a brain. Just because they're angry and upset today doesn't mean it should cost them all the years they have ahead of them, all the time they need to calm down and try again. Was there anything else? I really can't stand the smell of sheep."

"Ah, no, except what I'm supposed to tell the advocate."

"Tell him to grow a pair and come to Court to submit their petition in person. The advocate and whoever wants to claim leadership. Also, makes sure they understand the wraiths - probably Kelley and London - will be coming regardless of their decision."

Oh, fudge. "Why?"

"Because this isn't a mortal playground; they can't just test the waters and then chicken out. I told them - told everyone - after I ascended that the Winter Fae had a choice; remain in the mortal realm and I'd leave them in a sort of limbo unless they chose to act against me, but a return to Faerie meant a return to full Court status, privileges and responsibilities included. This, brother mine, could be a precursor of an act against me, possibly recon of some sort, and I'd like to err on the side of caution. I think I've had more than enough experience with my own Fae turning against me, don't you?"

When she put it like that, it was hard to argue. Still, the Fae of this Wilding were not going to be happy. Not happy at all.

Cue sigh here.


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Monday, April 27, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 148: Checkmate

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Checkmate

George took his usual seat at the table and surveyed the chess board. It was as he and Ava had left it two weeks ago. She was winning (as usual) and claimed to be only five moves away from a ‘checkmate’. He focused, his fingers clasping his only rook.

“You really don’t want to do that do you?” He looked across the table into Ava’s watery blue eyes then back to the board. Of course he didn’t. She was right . . . again. “I didn’t think so. I can still checkmate in five.” He looked to her again. Her smile was warm, her silver bobbed hair shone in the summer sun, framing her face. He moved his knight instead and her smile was replaced by a frown of intense concentration. “Mmm, I didn’t expect that.” George grinned. Foxing Ava didn’t happen often. He might actually win the game. She moved her queen, checking his king and taking his rook.

As the light dimmed, George, stared at the board. She was right. He was one move away from her convincing win. How did she do it?

“Hey, Dad, don’t you think you should come in now?” Dan said softly. “You’ve been out here alone for a while now. There’s some of Ava’s friends here who would love to talk with you.”

“I miss her.”

“I know you do. We all miss her. Come on.” he placed a gentle arm round his fragile shoulders. “Who were you talking to anyway?”

“Ava. She never liked unfinished games. We were trying to finish it. She would’ve won again, you know.” George stood, the bones in his arthritic knees clicking loudly. He still had his fingers clasped around the rook. Letting go, he shuffled back inside as a gust of wind swirled around, knocking over his king.



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I dream of sharing my work with the big wide world one day as a published author. Right now, I share flash fiction with a wonderful community of writers and friends. If you liked this story, then why not visit my blog at http://40somethingundomesticateddevil.blogspot.co.uk/ for more. Thank you. Love Lizzie x


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Laura James Week 147: The Collector (part 7)

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Laura James’s Picture Choice:

Title: The Collector (part 7)

Detective Crawford sat at his desk with a coffee wondering why his town had become a magnet for petnappers. Over the past month the police department had received over 30 reports of pets disappearing. The odd dog or cat could have run away or been involved in an accident no one reported, but the range of animals involved led Crawford to believe a gang was involved. Though he had never heard of a black market for guinea pigs or rabbits but he supposed it was possible.

He was still working out what the next step was when his door opened. "Sorry to interrupt sir but we've just had a missing person report called in." Crawford held out his hand for the paperwork, "Teenage runaway?"

"No, it's the Nicholsons. Both of them."

"Why do I recognize that name?"

"Nasty car accident killed their son just over a year ago. Was not long after you moved here."

"Oh yes I remember. The other son," Crawford dredged through his memory, "the twin, witnessed the whole thing. Odd family if I recall." He read the missing persons report. Mr & Mrs Nicholson went on holiday for the anniversary of their son's death, had been expected back after just two weeks but neighbours hadn't heard from them in over a month. "Why did" Crawford referred to the paperwork "Mr Dawson wait so long before filing the report?" He said he was giving them time to grieve, but that now he was worried. "Ok let's pay this Mr Dawson a visit. Chances are it's nothing, just an extended holiday but I'm getting no where with the pet disappearances."

Sitting in Mr Dawson's front room Detective Crawford accepted the offered tea whilst PC Long took up her pen and notepad, "Thanks. Now if we could get back to why you think something has happened to your neighbours?"

"I saw their car a few weeks back, but it disappeared." Mr Dawson's hands shook as he drank his tea, "That son of theirs ain't right either, always been odd but got worse after Stephen's death." Crawford looked out the window towards the Nicholson's house. Apart from an unkempt garden, everything looked normal house. "So you've seen the son then?"

"Oh yes. Comes and goes at all hours he does."

Crawford returned the cup to the saucer and looked directly at Mr Dawson "And what does he say about his parents disappearance. Is he worried at all?"

"Well...." Mr Dawson was obviously struggling with something so Crawford sat in silence and indicated to PC long that she should do the same. He had always found that people with something to hide could never leave an empty space in conversation and he was proved right when Mr Dawson continued. "I may have misled you as to the nature of my relationship with the Nicholsons." PC Long rolled her eyes and mouthed 'stalker alert' towards Crawford. Suppressing a smile Crawford encouraged Mr Dawson to continue. "They keep themselves to themselves mostly, but I always see him in the garden, he loves his garden he does." Mr Dawson looked out his window, "Just look at it. A mess. Something's wrong I know it."

Crawford stood "Well thanks for the tea. I think I'll pop over and have a chat with him. I'm sure there is nothing untoward, maybe they've just spent more time away."

As they walked down the path PC Long cleared her throat, "He was a bit of an odd fish, don't you think sir?"

She pushed open the gate to the Nicholson's house. "I mean reporting people you don't speak to as missing without even bothering to check with the one person who would know."

Crawford rang the bell, "Some people are just lonely and observant. Doesn't make them odd."

"No but I think he comes close sir."

When no one came to the door he rang again and knocked. He heard strange muffling noises from behind the door but no one opened it. Whether it was his years of training or just his gut talking, Crawford knew something was wrong. He had seen a side path on approach to the house, "Why don't you stay here to see if someone opens the door, I'm going to have a look round back." Crawford made his way round to the back garden and was stopped in his tracks by what he saw.

Various cages or traps he supposed, were positioned everywhere he looked. Even in the trees. On closer inspection he saw that some contained birds that were frantically trying to escape. A young male was calmly walking towards the first of the occupied cages. Crawford stood still waiting for the man to spot him, but luck or fate was on his side as the man returned to the house carrying a couple of the cages but not once glancing in Crawford's direction.

Crawford made his way back to the front of the house. "Long, something's not right. I'm not sure what's going but I don't like it." He banged on the front door once again this time shouting "Open the door, it's the police. We know you're in there." He waited with bated breath to see if the man would open the door.

He heard a click and the door was opened a fraction. "Can I help you officer?" A small white face peered through the crack in the door.

"Good afternoon, my name is Detective Crawford and this is PC Long." Crawford pushed at the door to try and see further into the house. "We've received a report that Mr & Mrs Nicholson are missing. Can you shed any light on this?" Crawford watched as small beads of sweat appeared on the young man's face and he started to stutter "Th Th They, they're fine, just out at the moment."

PC long moved forward, "Could we wait inside? It's getting a bit chilly outside. " Crawford silently thanked her for her quick thinking. If the young man, who had to be the Nicholson's son, had nothing to hide he would let them in.


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Based in Dunfermline, Scotland, Laura is obsessed with all things horror and spends her time writing flash fiction which she hopes, on occasion, really scares her readers. Feel free to stalk her on twitter, @lejamez


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Aleea Davidson Week 147: Hearts as One

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Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: Hearts as One


The wedding is a blur. White dress, white pearlescent flowers, precious circles of gold that bind their promises with concrete evidence adorning their fingers. He knows he cried when she came down the aisle, something he thought he'd never do. Reception champagne and food he never really tasted are mere blurs in the memory department. All that really matters is now, the present, this moment when finally she's his and his alone.

They are as close as two people can get without crawling under each other's skin. He hears her heartbeat, feels it against his chest as he breathes her in. He wishes she was his first as he is hers.

So many past regrets. He never knew precious and important until she smiled at him, flirtatious and blushing inside a crowded subway car.

His hold tightens.

Night creeps up against the hotel windows, slipping inside to cradle the room in shadows. They stay still, arms and legs entwined, intimately connected for the first time. Pleasure curls low and deep, but for now this is enough. Love sets its own pace and slow is all they know.

They've been cautious, dancing around each other with tender touches and slow persuasion. He wants so badly to heal all her hurts, fill every hollow. She arches slightly, shivering and turns her face to his neck.

Everything about her pulls him in deeper, ripens the moment until need dictates a desire for more. He begins to move, careful, learning sex pales in comparison to making love, and her flesh means more than his own. He wants to feel her come undone so he can prove he'll catch her...






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Aleea lives in her imagination most of the time. It's an interesting place to be... Occasionally she can be coaxed out to chat on Twitter, though she finds it akin to torture to stick to that absurd 140 character limit. (@Aleeab4u)


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Michela Walters Week 147: A Gator Tale

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: 1

Title: A Gator Tale

“The wind was whipping my hair in front of my eyes, making it difficult to see much of the course in front of me. Thankfully my sunglasses kept my eyes protected from the water spray and flying debris that whizzed by in my open aired buggy.

It was the third year I’d competed in Cypress’ Swamp Rat Race in my own buggy. I’d been a passenger before when my old man raced, but there was nothing like the thrill of being in control of your own car and your own destiny. The Swamp Rat Race was a twenty mile off road race that included mud running through the swamps of my small Louisiana parish. I’d just passed ol’ Roscoe Jones and was creeping up towards the front of the pack as I approached mile fifteen. I could taste victory and couldn’t wait for the whole town to buy me a beer and Justine’s Crawfish Shack. It was customary for the winner to have to be carried home, being too drunk to walk, and my liver couldn’t wait.

My throughs wandering into the winner circle had taken me off task and I chided myself for letting my focus drop. I was just approaching Devil’s drop when I heard a pop and my steering went rigid, sending me and my car careening down into the water below. Just my luck to have a crash within miles of victory. After coming to a rolling stop about twenty yards from the road, I assessed my injuries, knowing i’d probably knocked most of my sense outta my brain. My hand came back a bit bloody, but other than a headache and a few bruises, I figured I’d be fine.

The seat belt came undone, allowing me to start my slow slog towards land. Glancing above, I caught Roscoe pass me by without as much as a wave. I cursed my excellent camouflage paint job, and kept on swim-walking towards the road. I paused, just for a moment, the hairs on the back of my neck sticking up in warning. It felt like the whole swamp had gone still, silent and I spun around to see if my luck really had just run out.

There I was, sitting eye to eye with a less than charming gator, in full on approach. I tried to run, but the water was a shade too deep, and my swimming wasn’t going to win me any medals. With the quickness I’d never seen, his jaw clamped down on my leg, pulling me under.”

“Aw hon, don’t go filling up Jacob’s head with that nonsense. You lost your leg to diabetes five years ago, not to some ugly gator,” Wanda, the night nurse exclaimed just as he’d gotten to the good part of his story.

His roommate’s grandson loved his stories and Jess loved to regale anyone who’d listen with his glory years. “Aw, Wanda. You’re no fun.”

Jacob chuckled, and thanked him for the story, telling him he’d be back next weekend for another one.

“You’re gonna give that boy nightmares, Jess,” Wanda chastised, as she gave him his pain meds before bed.

He knew he didn’t have long, and his exciting memories, grandiose and perhaps a bit exaggerated, were all he had left. When an enthusiastic audience appeared, who was he to decline his tall tales?

“Get some rest, I’ll see you in the morning.”

Jessie went to sleep dreaming of road races, alligators and a girl named Justine.


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Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog: michelawalters.wordpress.com


Sarita Aisling Week 147: A Measure of Grace (Part 29): Painted Corners

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: A Measure of Grace (Part 29): Painted Corners

**Warning: This chapter contains graphic situations that may be upsetting to some readers.

Gibbs leans casually against the wall, mere feet away, sadistic smirk in place. A triumphant gleam lights his gray eyes. Short brown hair is plastered to his skull, darkened nearly black from the rain.

I stare in stunned silence.

He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. Why should he be? The only way out is past the sizable bulk of him filling the narrow hall. And here I stand, startled and naked under this flimsy towel.

The seconds stretch between us, the drumming of soft rain drowned out by Grace, howling and throwing herself at something solid below.

Inside me, a coil of dread builds, cold and horrible. I try to contain it within and mentally slap myself, demanding that I find a way out of this.

The bedroom door is three feet away, Gibbs about five. If I distract him, I might be able to close myself inside and get to my knife.

A glint of cruel amusement darkens his gaze. “Doing the math, sweet Marie?” Gibbs steps away from the wall and cracks his knuckles.

I glance over his shoulder and yell, “Take him down!”

My words have the desired effect. Gibbs whirls around, falling into a crouch. I move into action, hurling myself through the bedroom door and slamming it shut. There’s no real lock, just an old hook-and-eye closure, which I fasten with shaking fingers, surprised it catches on the first try.

Grace continues to bark wildly, covering up any sound Gibbs might make. I rush toward the bed, intent on my knife.

One solid kick slams the door open, the flimsy hook shooting across the room to ping against the window. I’m a few feet short of my goal, and if I go for my weapon now, Gibbs might take it away, leaving me with nothing to surprise him with.

Gibbs pauses in the doorway and smiles, not even breathing hard. He presents an imposing figure in camo pants and a skin-tight T stretched over bulging muscles.

My heart thunders, sweat breaking out all over. He’s been waiting for this moment, and now he has me trapped in this tiny bedroom in a remote location without the chance of a fair fight.

“Nice try. I admire your fire . . . makes things more interesting.” He rakes a lecherous gaze over my body.

“Pig!” I spit on the floor between us.

His response is to toss his head back and laugh. “Oh, I am going to enjoy you.” He steps forward and kicks the door shut with his boot, dampening the sound of Grace.

“I’m with James.”

Gibbs raises his eyebrows. “Are you now?”

“He’ll kill you.”

“He’d have to know what I did and catch me first.” Gibbs digs in his pants pocket and holds up one of the keys that will open my collar.

“Where did you get that?”

“I’m resourceful.” His steel-gray eyes drift over the room until he spots what he wants. He reaches a long arm out and grabs the chair, shoving it snugly under the doorknob.

“What are you doing?”

“Buying myself a little time . . . just in case.” Gibbs stalks forward like a lion assessing its prey, the key to my collar hidden from sight again.

“What the hell do you want?” My voice is shrill, and I instinctively pull the towel tighter around myself. I feel so damn vulnerable, and I hate it.

“What a loaded question. The short answer is whatever Jimbo has. You’re a lovely bonus I haven’t been able to forget since you tried to leap from the truck the night we captured you. Feisty.” He palms his crotch, pulsing his hips forward suggestively. “Fighters are more fun, and you are a fighter, aren’t you?”

I swallow hard, refusing to answer. The blanket whispers against the back of my calf when I take another step back, and I realize the bed is directly behind me. There’s nowhere to go. My only chance might be to keep him talking and pray James or Eric shows up. I glance at the window, cursing the light because it’s not likely either of them will show before dark.

Gibbs shoots me a knowing look. “I made the same calculation. Jim and Eric will be busy for hours. You boning Eric, too?” His lips twist into a sneer.

I try to conceal my surprise over Gibbs’ knowledge that Eric was here. The prickle that climbed the back of my neck when I was outside with Grace occurred early yesterday, before Eric stopped by. That means Gibbs has been watching me for a while.

The floor creaks beneath his weight as he steps in closer, towering over me, and he slides his finger along the top of my towel. “You felt me watching, didn’t you?” He wraps a large hand around my neck, pressing his thumb firmly against the front, just above the collar. He brings his cheek so close to mine, the stubble brushes my skin, leaving his lips close to my ear. “Did you know it was me out there? Were you hoping I’d come to your bed last night?”

“No!” It’s hard to speak under the pressure of his thumb. I dig my fingernails into his forearm in an attempt to dislodge his hold. “You disgust me!”

Blood wells around my nails, but Gibbs seems unaffected. “Frankly, I don’t give a shit as long as you scratch my itch. And you will scratch it willingly—unless you want me to gut your precious dog.” He looks down on me with cold promise.

Horror descends, threatening to chew me up with sharp teeth and swallow me while I’m still screaming. I have two weaknesses in this new world: Grace and Max. I believe Gibbs when he says he’ll gut Grace. My choices are rapidly dwindling.

“She’s innocent. Don’t hurt her . . . please.” Tears stand in my eyes, and I wonder what I’ll have to endure to ensure Grace’s safety.

Gibbs releases his hold on my neck and caresses my cheek with two fingers. “Shh . . . don’t fret. I’m not a complete monster. I adore animals. Now, be a good girl for me, and I won’t have to hurt either of you.”

Much to my dismay, the tears spill over, twin tracks sliding down my face. A small sob hiccups from my throbbing throat.

Gibbs swipes at my cheek with the pad of one thumb and then pushes it into his mouth sucking the tears off. He takes a few steps back and stands with feet, shoulder width apart, arms behind his back, making no effort to conceal the bulge of his erection straining against his pants.

“Wh-what are you doing?” I whisper.

“Drop the towel.”

I gasp, crossing my arms over my body.

“I’m not going to rape you, Marie. You’re going to gift yourself to me, persuade me there’s no need to kill the dog.” His expression hardens. “Do it.”

Closing my eyes, I let go of the towel. Cool air hits my sweat-soaked body, and I shiver even as my face and chest burn with embarrassment. I’ve never hated anyone so much in my life.

“You have a fantastic body—curvy, nice tits, not too skinny. I’m not disappointed.”

“Just get it over with.” I grit my teeth and open my lowered eyes, staring at the floor.

Gibbs takes a stride forward, his damp, mud-caked boots coming into my line of vision. “I said I’m not going to force you. Grace’s fate is in your hands.”

“Don’t you say her name!” I glare up at him defiantly, and he smiles.

“There’s the fire I admire so much! I hope you fuck as enthusiastically as you defend that dog.”

“Why would you want someone who despises you?”

Gibbs runs a finger along the curve of my shoulder and looks amused. “I’m not proposing marriage.” He grabs my hair in his fist and forces my head back. “I want what Jim has, and it just so happens I want to do you. Win, win.”

His free hand roams my body, touching me roughly, probing my most intimate places. Cold gray eyes challenge me to object or fight back. He clamps down on a nipple and twists hard, causing me to cry out in pain, before abruptly releasing me.

My scalp stings, and a dull ache pulses through my nipple. I glare at him with hatred.

“I’d like to bend you over . . . but maybe we could save that for later. Right now, I want you on your back so I can see your face.”

I lay on the bed and fight the urge to close my eyes, forcing myself to remain alert and aware. Grace's barks have grown hoarse, but she hasn't given up, and I won't either.

Gibbs laughs softly and walks around the bed, touching me where he pleases. He returns to the end of the bed and kneels on the mattress, undoing his belt. “We're going to have so much fun.” He presses my knees apart and moves closer, grasping my hips. “This doesn't have to be awful. I can out-fuck Jim any day. Relax for me.”

He unzips his pants and reaches inside to free himself.

This is it. Gibbs will never be more vulnerable than he is in this moment. I shove my hand inside the pillowcase and grab my knife, flicking it open.

With a cry of rage that comes from the depths of my soul, I sit up and ram the knife into his gut as hard as I can. The force reverberates back up my arm, causing a sudden aching numbness. My fingers weaken and slip from the shaft.

Gibbs yells out, ogling the knife sticking out of his flesh in disbelief. And then he looks at me, a murderous expression replacing the shock. “Bitch!”

Obviously, my effort wasn’t enough to take him down.

He punches me in the face, and the world goes foggy. My ears ring, drowning out the sounds around me, and flashes of light prick the edges of my fading vision. I struggle to remain conscious, terrified he’ll kill me for stabbing him. There's no fight left in me and no weapons close enough to use. I should have loaded the rifle and kept it close, but I allowed complacency to take over.

Pounding thumps in my ears. Gibbs groans as he yanks the knife out, and there’s a metallic clank as it slips from his hand and hits the floor. Blood gushes from his wound, the sticky warmth pouring over my naked body and soaking the sheets. I'm disgusted by any part of him touching me but can't muster up the strength to move or utter words.

Gibbs grabs for my discarded towel, balling it up and jamming it against the wound. “Fuck!”

A distant part of me fears he'll pick up the knife and slit my throat. My cheek stings and aches where he punched me, probably the only thing keeping me halfway coherent.

“I'm going to make you so fucking sorry.” Gibbs slaps me, rocking my head to the side. “Stupid bitch!”

Pain flares across my already tender cheekbone, and I scream involuntarily.

A booming starts nearby, drawing Gibbs' attention. He lets out an ugly laugh. “That you, Jimbo? Fuck it—let's do this!”

A savage roar comes from the hall. That's the only way I can describe it. Seconds after, the door gives way, the chair that held it shut, slamming into the wall with a crunch. Splinters of wood fly through the air, a few bits raining over me.

Gibbs curses. The flat slam of fists on flesh breaks out, the two figures a blur of action.

I try to lift up on my elbows, and the room spins around me. I manage to hang off the side of the bed and wretch, the contents of my stomach coming up. Surprisingly, this clears my head a little, and the room stills.

The fight moves into the hall with a lot of slams, muffled curses, and glass shattering. Grace barks from her prison downstairs with renewed vigor.

A war cry sounds with a breathless grunt on its heels, and by the bangs and crashes that follow, they both must be tumbling down the stairs.

Other than Grace barking in the distance, the house is eerily silent for a few moments.

The stairs creak with uneven footfalls, and I hold my breath, afraid Gibbs is coming for me. I lean over, tumbling to the floor, and grab the abandoned knife. Smears of blood paint the weathered wood crimson as I drag myself, so there's no point trying to hide. I curl in a ball beside the bed, conceal the knife behind my back, and pray for the strength to finish him off.

A shadow falls over the threshold, and my heart races wildly in response.

It's not Gibbs that lurches through the door, one arm banded tightly around his ribs.

It's Max.

I sob with relief.

“Oh my God, China!” Max forgets his own injuries and rushes across the room, wincing as he crouches beside me. His jaw is already beginning to swell, the shadow of a bruise where Gibbs hit him. He reaches out but stops just short of touching me. “Baby, where are you hurt? There’s so much blood!”

I manage a raspy, “It’s not mine.” I shake my head, burning tears sliding down my cheeks. “I—I stabbed him.” Pulling the knife out from behind me, I drop it on the floor.

“Your face . . .” Max traces the air next to my cheekbone, sea-glass eyes filled with sorrow. A moment later, they turn stormy. “Why the fuck are you naked? Did he . . . did he rape you?”

The gravity of all I’ve been through and what could have happened if Max hadn’t show up crushes me under an avalanche of emotion. I can’t stop crying, helpless as wracking sobs shudder through my body.

Could I have done more to prevent this?

Max opens his arms, folding them around me once I lean into him. He rocks me gently, stroking my hair and whispering comforting words. I press my face into his chest, the familiar scent of him gradually calming me.

Grace’s barks are no longer urgent. Every so often, she lets out a sharp yip as if she wants to remind us she’s still locked up.

“Is he dead?” I whisper.

“Pretty fucking sure he is. Think he broke his neck when we tumbled down the stairs. And you say he already had a stab wound.”

“Did you make sure?”

“No, I had to get to you.”

“Check . . . please.”

Max grabs a blanket and drapes it around my shoulders. “Be right back. I’m gonna let Grace out, too.” He pauses, brushing his knuckles back and forth over my uninjured cheek.

Thirty seconds later, Max lets loose a string of expletives, and something crashes downstairs.


“It’s safe! Going to get Grace!”

Grace races up the stairs, whimpering when she sees me. Taking slow steps, she extends her neck and sniffs before licking my face. Her tongue sweeps across the spot where Gibbs punched me, but I’m so happy to see her, I don’t care about the pain.

Max walks into the room with his head lowered. His brows are drawn together, and he mutters to himself.

I loop my arm around Grace’s neck. “What is it?”

“Fucker’s gone.”

“Gone? But how is that possible?”

“Don’t know. He shouldn’t have been able to walk away from all that.”

“Do you think he’s still here?” Fear steals my breath, and Grace whines, giving me a lick.

“Nah, I did a quick check around. He’d be easy to take out now anyway.” Max’s jaw clenches, and he looks away.

“Is something else wrong?"

“Everything’s going to be all right.” His gaze comes to rest on me again, and his expression softens. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

He helps me to my feet and leads me into the hall. Just outside the bathroom door, I step on something hard. It’s the key to my tracker. I bend down and grab it, holding it up.

“Max, look! Gibbs had a key for my collar. It must have fallen out when you were fighting!”

“Fuck. Yes.” Max snatches the key and tucks it in his pocket. “We’re not taking it off until we leave here. Removing it might trigger some kind of alarm, and the last thing we need is more trouble. I’m in no shape for another fight.” He points to his left side.

“Let me see.” I tug the bottom of his T-shirt up and gasp. His ribs are already an angry shade of purplish-black. “You’re hurt! Are they broken?” I skim the pads of my fingers across the bruise, and he sucks in a breath.

“I’m fine.” He pulls the shirt back in place and shoots me a look when I try to lift it up again. “Stop. I’m more worried about you. Let’s get you in the tub. Maybe now that you’re calmer, you can tell me what happened.”

The water left in the tub is long cold, so Max empties and refills it, pouring more bath salts under the hot stream. We don’t talk while he prepares my bath. Grace wanders in, posting herself by the door like a sentry.

Max helps me into the tub, trying to hide the obvious pain he’s in when he moves. “Just sit back, China.” He grabs a washcloth and dips it. “Let me take care of you.”

“But your ribs.”

He snakes a hand behind my neck and presses a soft, lingering kiss to my lips. “Don’t fight me. I need to do this.”


Max takes his time, washing the blood away with the gentlest of touches, taking stock of my injuries and paying close attention to areas of soreness. When he notices the bruising on my right breast, his fist clenches. “What’s this?”

“Max, he didn’t . . . rape me.” Tears well up again.

He averts his gaze and continues washing me. “Tell me what happened.”

“Grace heard something while I was taking a bath. She went to check it out, and Gibbs locked her in somewhere. He came up here. I was only in a t-towel. I pretended someone was behind him, and when he turned away, I ran in the bedroom and locked the door. He kicked the door in—” I blow out a breath, blinking away more tears, and tell him how Gibbs tried to coerce me into doing what he wanted by threatening Grace. I claw at Max’s arm. “He didn’t give me a choice!”

“Hey . . . hey.” Max kisses my temple. “You are not to blame for any of this, China. Tell me how these happened.” He indicates the bruises marring my breast and face.

“He m-made me drop the towel . . . then he t-touched me all over. He twisted my nipple really hard. Then he told me to lay on the b-bed and he wanted to . . . I thought he was going to . . . but my knife was in the pillowcase. I waited until he undid his p-pants and stabbed him as hard as I could. That’s when he p-punched me in the face.”

“You stabbed him.” The corner of Max’s mouth twitches. “That’s my girl. You did good.”

Grace’s ears prick up, and she growls low in her throat. Max stands and wipes his hands on a towel. He puts a finger up to his lips.

“Yo! Anybody home?”

It’s a relief to hear Eric’s booming voice. Grace barks happily and scrambles down the stairs.

“Hey, hey! Where’s Marie, girl?”

“Eric, we’re in the bathroom!” Max calls out.

“Jesus!” Eric’s heavy tread crosses the living room to the base of the stairs. “What the fuck? It looks like there was a massacre in here! Who finger-painted threats on the wall? Is that written in blood?”

I glance up at Max, who gazes back with his best poker face.

“What’s he talking about? What threats?”

“It’s nothing.”

“What threats?”

Max punches the wall, leaving a fist-sized hole in the plaster. “Let’s just say if I ever see that fucker again, his death will be long and slow.”


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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook

Monday, April 20, 2015

SJ Maylee Week 147: A New Search

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SJ Maylee’s’ Choice: Both

Title: A New Search

Gabriella wandered through the rubble of yet another home torn apart by their ugly war. As a little girl, she’d dreamed of growing up and joining the Alliance, of bringing peace to the land. The ruin broke her heart, but the memories of all that could have been tore her in two.

She looked through the doorway of what used to be someone’s basement. If only they could find some sign the tribe had left the area before the fighting began, but the inspections hadn’t revealed anything new in days. She prayed they’d all gotten out since there didn’t seem to be anything left.

Her focus zoned out at the site of her shadow.

Maybe there was something to learn from what they were seeing. She pulled on a burned plant from the ground and it broke at the stem. The same dead bunches of scorched bushes were everywhere.

“Jamison, take a look at this.” She held out the burnt bush. “Is it possible this means this land has long been deserted?” Hope bloomed inside her.

“I think this is Salsola. The tribe would never have allowed this to grow so close to their homes.”

This was the sign they’d been searching for. She ran as fast as she could back to the ship, eager to re-enter the search algorithm. The tribe wasn’t lost. They just had to find them.


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SJ Maylee believes hearts are meant to come together and find love. As a writer she has a tendency to break hearts, but she always glues them back together. You can follow her at @SJMaylee,


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Miranda Kate Week 146: Discovery

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Miranda Kate’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Discovery

Once they had brought everything in from the trucks they gathered in the lounge round the fire, enjoying its warm glow. They were all formally introduced to Daniels’ niece, Darla, and the discussion over the bedroom allocation took place.

“We’ve got four bedrooms – well three and one small one. Couples in with their kids takes up two of them.” Daniels inclined his head to Roderick and Abby, then Hanson and Janice, who nodded back in return. “I can bunk down with Harris, Brandon and the two young lads.” He looked at Steve and Bobby. “But where to put Darla …”

“Dad, me and Pansy’ll happily have Darla bunk with us. There’s room for another bed in the small room,” said Damon.

Darla hurriedly said, “I don’t want to cramp your style guys, you need your privacy. I can bunk in with Uncle Wes and the guys.”

“Darla, that’ll be too cramped. There’re five of us in there already, and I’m not sure we’ve got enough bed as is it; we haven’t yet counted out the blow-ups we brought with us and what’s already here.”

Darla’s face dropped a little. Daniels put his arm round her. “It’ll be okay. We’ll work it out. You’ve all just got to get to know each other, is all.”

This brought the discussion to an end. Abby got up.

“I’m gonna make a start in the kitchen, see what food we’ve got and get something going. I’m starved.”

There was a general sound of agreement, and Pansy joined her. It set everyone in motion and the unpacking begun.

Over the next few months they settled into a loose routine, everyone pulling together to become a family unit. There were games nights and music nights. It helped keep them going as they rode out the winter, along with focusing on their building plans once spring came.

When the thaw arrived they ventured out to take a look at the building they planned to refurbish and create another home in. It had been an old work shed Daniels’ father had built at the other side of the plateau, up against the wall of the mountain. It had been obscured all winter by heavy snow drifts, which were now starting to subside. They hadn’t bothered to check it out during the winter as it would have taken too much energy, especially with the risk of more snow thwarting any headway they might make in uncovering it. And while they were snug in the main house they didn’t see the need, despite everyone knew they were tolerating the living situation solely because they believed it was temporary.

Daniels took Roderick, Hanson, and Brandon with him. Steve and Bobby wanted to join them, but Daniels decided that for now the four adults would go it alone, seeing as they weren’t sure what they were going to find.

Daniels tried to ignore a nagging sensation of foreboding he had in the pit of his stomach. He put it down to their living arrangements. Although he loved his niece dearly, having her around reminded him of the family he had lost, and he found that hard.

The four men took shovels from the house, and started digging from different sides, slowly uncovering the building. It was sturdy, built from solid logs sourced locally, but it was only one layer thick unlike the main house which had two layers. The windows were intact which surprised them all, and the door was still padlocked. But when they finally worked the lock off (Daniels had no key) they couldn’t have anticipated what was inside.

The smell hit them as soon as they pushed the door open. Daniels had hoped it was an animal, or maybe two, that had found their way in and died there. But Roderick’s horror-filled shout killed that idea, reaffirming his worst fears.

He pushed the door wider, but it stuck. The tips of fingers poking out from under it explaining why, causing him to cover his nose and mouth with his arm, not only to kill the smell but to stop the risk of vomiting. The others did the same.

They gathered just inside the doorway, looking round at the carnage before them, wondering what had taken place. Bodies were scattered across the floor, some dismembered, with their skulls smashed open. Then Daniels spotted something that made him shout, ‘Out! Now!’ and grab at the others as he yanked the door shut behind them.

“What? What the hell was that about?” Hanson yelled as he reeled from the shove Daniels had given him.

But Roderick had seen what Daniels had. “Oh Christ, no! Tell me I didn’t see that, tell me that wasn’t the classic sign of infection?!”

“I can’t do that. I’m pretty sure it was.” Daniels mind spun, wondering what had taken place here.

Brandon voiced what they had all read in the health warning advertisements, before the clearing had taken place. “Flesh turns orange, developing a grainy texture inside, often likened to that of a cantaloupe.”

They all looked at each other.

“What’re we going to do?” Roderick said. “Should we risk going back to the house?”

“They won’t have a clue what has happened, and why we haven’t come back. They might come out looking for us.” Hanson looked scared.

“Won’t the cold have killed the virus by now?” Brandon shot a hopeful look at Daniels.

He pulled a face. “There’s no telling. Maybe we weren’t in there long enough to be exposed.” He glanced round furtively at each of them. “We could just go back say we saw the bodies through the windows.”

They fell silent, not entirely comfortable with the idea, but no one wanting to voice it.

“The building is useless to us now. We may as well burn it,” Brandon said.

“Oh that’s a definite,” said Hanson.

“Yeah. Let’s do it now.” Daniels liked the redirection and having a purpose. Plus the jerry cans were in the back of the trucks so they could easily reach them without having to debate returning to the house again.

They each took a can, pouring it liberally around the entire building. Then Daniels started stripping his clothes off, including his boots, and throwing them onto the roof. After a minute the others followed suit, until they were all standing in their underwear and socks.

Then Daniels turned to Roderick, who was holding his zippo, and said, “Light her up.”

He threw the lighter high, and they heard it land with a thunk, followed by a ‘whoomph’ as the building went up. All four men stood there clutching themselves as the flames licked round the building, showering them in much needed heat.


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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Samantha Lee Week 146: Loose

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Samantha Lee’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: Loose

We tried to warn them. We put up signs: "Stay out of the water" and "Danger: Water inhabited!" I told the creature that children are foolish; they cannot read and do not understand danger. I told him not to eat the children. Children, I told him, deserve to grow up and he, well, he's too good a hunter to rely on what amounts to snack food.

At least the creature listened. Mortals? They never do.

Case and point: the mortals built a cage and trapped the creature inside. They thought they were being clever. With the creature contained, they reclaimed the reservoir for themselves, sometimes using the creature as a experiment subject, sometimes just leaving it be but for regular feedings. It was barbaric.

"One more time - you want to what?"

"Free the, um, bog beast."

"This being the bog beast that's been locked up in a dark stone cage masquerading as bridge for the past...how many decades?"

"Um, eight or nine, I think."

"Oh, yeah, I'm sure that's made him real sane. Out of, you know, a wavering sense of self-preservation, are the mortals presently remembering or forgetting him?"

"Ah, well, I think they're, um, using him as a method of execution actually so...remembering?"

"Method of execution? As in, he's grown accustom to having live bodies tossed down to him for the sole purpose of snackage? Cat? Honey? I am not snackage."

"We just need to destroy his cage and he'll be free-"

"-to go on a rampage. Probably a murderous one. Seeing as how he's been sealed up and likely driven Looney toons over the last eight or nine centuries. Cat, this is a horrible plan."

"Well, okay, maybe a little-"

"Try a lot."

"-but you have to admit, I've had worse plans."

"Was that supposed to reassure me?"

"Did it?"

"A little, actually. You do know that reservoir is used as a swimming hole by the locals, right? We let him go there and, Cat, he'll not only eat anyone who goes in the water, he'll actively hunt every man, woman, and child in that town - anyone whose scent he's caught over the years. I mentioned that he'd be insane beyond measure, right?"

"Rav, I'm not just going to leave him there, alone in the dark to be used and abused by those...monsters. I can't."

"Ugh, no fair. You know I am defenceless against the whole protect-the-weak-from-the-strong argument. Fine. Let's go rescue the creature. But please, for the love of all that's holy, tell me you have a better plan than setting him loose on the town. Not that his tormentors are undeserving, but he's not going to discriminate; a lot of innocents are going to get caught up as collateral damage."

"I have a plan! It's an awesome plan. A great plan. Best plan ever. Let's go, shall we?"

"Regret. That's what I'm feeling right now. Regret. And we haven't even done everything."


This just in, boys and girl! Spotted dragging themselves through the palace hallways, our beloved Queen and her brother, dripping wet from head to toe, mud smearing their faces. Reports further add that our Court's valiant White Knight appeared to be nursing a newly broken arm while Her Majesty is said to have had her hands pressed against a bleeding wound in her side. Neither looked very happy.

According to a source within the palace, Fiachra was said to tell his sister, "Regret was the wrong word. I need a stronger word. A much stronger word."

"Everything worked out fine!" was Her Majesty's response.

The White Knight is said to have just glared back. But, wow, if looks could kill (and Her Majesty weren't immortal) we're told Fiachra's could have sent his sister straight to the grave.

No official word or verifiable theory yet on what those two could've been up to that got them so banged up, but the rumour mill is rife with possible answers. Keep your eyes here as this story develops, folks. As always, we'll keep you looped in as more information comes to light.


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You can read my blog - Calliope's Domain - over at calliopedomain.blogspot.ca


Monday, April 13, 2015

Lizzie Koch Week 146: A snippet from my WIP The Sleepless

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Lizzie Koch’s Picture Choice: Two

Title: A snippet from my WIP The Sleepless

After morning break, we changed for PE. I was raring to go but didn’t like the orange t-shirt I had to wear. Despite the cool temperature, I omitted the trackies in favours of shorts. It suited my running style. However, my shorts didn’t suit my whiter than white British legs especially against everyone else who seemed to have a healthy glow. I wouldn’t care once we started. My legs would redden quickly and probably be covered in mud.

After a few stretches, we were off. The boys had already gone but it wasn’t long before I overtook the stragglers. The terrain started out open but bumpy, and then into woodland with gnarly tree roots creeping across the floor, thick bracken and gorse to weave through and streams to leap. I’d never run a cross country course like it but it was a challenge and I loved it. Quickly, I’d overtaken the bulk of the boys, a few cheers made me smile but didn’t distract me. Soon, I was on my own with only orange markers to guide me which was perfect as I welcomed the peacefulness and abundant bird song. The pounding of my feet, my steady breathing and my thumping heart accompanied the bird song.

The glade thickened, preventing the sun’s autumn rays peeking through. It was like dusk which changed the atmosphere completely. I felt out of my depth and anxious. Which was silly but I couldn’t shake it. As long as I could see the orange markers, I would be fine and that’s all I focused on. I splashed into another cold shallow stream but didn’t care my feet were sodden.

Shadows started to move, gliding across in different directions. I kept running forward, my stride longer. Another shadow. A chill ran through me. I looked around. There was no one, not even orange shirts in the distance. My heart raced and my breathing lost its controlled rhythm. I started swearing to myself, talking to myself, trying to calm my nerves. I needed to escape the darkness. I felt I was being watched, forest eyes upon me. I shuddered, feeling isolated.

Spinning around, turning my head in all directions, I was disorientated and panting. Where were the markers? I didn’t see the vine sprawling across the forest floor until I was flying through the air with a scream and landing with a thump and roll. My knees grazed, pride dented and palms sore, I sat, gingerly brushing the debris from my bloodied knees before rising up, wincing with the pain. Something moved . . . in front of me . . . something black, in the shadows . . . moving swiftly. I strained my eyes but couldn’t see anything. I wanted to walk but I didn’t want to go on. I was sure something was there, waiting, watching. I stood still, listening, met only by a dark silence. I realised even the bird song had ceased. No orange shirts were coming up behind me. None were in front. I was alone in a wood. In the dark. A fear began to creep over me. There it was again, the shadows moving, creeping closer, like a blanket of darkness gliding closer and closer. I tried to scream but my throat dried up and closed. The cold shadow was going to swamp me . . .


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I dream of sharing my work with the big wide world one day as a published author. Right now, I share flash fiction with a wonderful community of writers and friends. If you liked this story, then why not visit my blog at http://40somethingundomesticateddevil.blogspot.co.uk/ for more. Thank you. Love Lizzie x


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Laura James Week 145: The Collector (part 6)

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Laura James’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: The Collector - Part 6

"Hector, I can't get through to you Grandparents. When did they leave?"

Hector picked up his old baseball bat and met his father in the hall. "They didn't leave, I lied." He swung the bat with all his strength relishing the way it connected to his father's skull. He watched as the body crumpled to the floor, blood slowly seeping from the hairline and covering the hall carpet.

He dropped the bat next to the body and picked up his father's feet dragging him to the closed bedroom door. Balancing them on his knees he unlocked the door and swung it open, the smell of the trapped animals invading his nostrils. His latest acquisitions started to whimper and thrash in their cages and he dragged his fathers limp body into the room.

"Hector sweetie, everything ok. I heard a thud?" His mother called from the base of the stairs.

"Not really, "he called back, "I think you should come upstairs."

He followed the sound of her footsteps as they made their way up the stairs, pausing at what he knew was the blood pool and resulting drag marks. "What's happened?" Her voice was a mere whisper. "I'm in here mother." He stood at Stephen's bedroom door, "Why don't you come on in, see what I've been up to."

He watched his mother approach him slowly, all happy affectionate thoughts no longer evident on her face as she kept glancing back at the blood on the floor. "Oh my god! What have you done?" She dashed across the room to her husbands side, "David! David! Talk to me!" She shook his shoulders trying to wake him.

"It's okay, mother, just a glancing blow." Hector walked towards her, "He'll be fine," he laughed. "You on the other hand I'm not so sure." Behind his mother he reached down and placed his hands around her neck. "Do you know just how much I hate you? I was always second best to you wasn't I." He squeezed harder. "Stephen was your favourite." His mother was scratching at his hands with her fingers, but it was no use and her hands eventually fell limp at her side. Hector let the body fall next to his father.

He stood looking at his collection and knew that he should be happy. Various animals were trapped and the fear in their eyes filled his heart with joy. Yet something was missing. He had yet to add any birds to his collection. It would be easy to simply go to a pet store and purchase a parrot or similar but now he had the house and garden to himself, he had plenty of time to capture a wild bird. He was looking forward to the challenge.


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Based in Dunfermline, Scotland, Laura is obsessed with all things horror and spends her time writing flash fiction which she hopes, on occasion, really scares her readers. Feel free to stalk her on twitter, @lejamez


Aleea Davidson Week 145: Catching Up

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Aleea Davidson’s Picture Choice: One

Title: Catching Up

Late October chill hangs heavy in the air. Why Genevieve insisted on an outdoor cafe, Gwen doesn't know, but it's always best to humor her irascible sister. At least the espresso is good.

She sips from the dainty cup, the liberally sweetened yet still bitter brew is a delicious explosion of heat and flavor in her mouth. She ghosts a gloved finger lightly over the tarnished silver of her newest treasure. The Victorian era hand-mirror was an exciting find; one she didn't expect to discover at the tiny second-hand shop Genevieve dragged her into.

"I can't believe you bought that old thing." Genevieve sniffs disdainfully, ever the critic. If it isn't modern, she simply won't have it. One of many differences that exist between them. Blood they may share, but little else seems to bind them.

Gwen sighs, knowing the futility of explaining the visceral appeal such items hold, and turns her attention to the sidewalk. Hustle and bustle accompanied by the click of heels and the thud-scuff of boots mingles with snatches of conversations. Busy, busy. Life is always so busy. She misses their tiny hometown and a simpler life. The roaring twenties in a brimming city can't compete.

"...it's the jazz age, after all."

Realizing she's lost the thread of her sister's chatter, Gwen attempts a nod.

"Oh, do pay attention, Gwenie," Genevieve snaps, tapping her cigarette ash to the ground. "Really. Always off in your head somewhere." She exhales a plume of smoke then suddenly smiles, her expression sly.

"What?" Gwen asks, alarmed by the look.

"I like that shade of lipstick on you," Genevieve replies, then, apropos of nothing, "New man in your life?"

Blushing, Gwen drops her gaze.

Genevieve laughs, scooping up the mirror and examining her chic hair in the reflective surface that bears only a few deep scratches. "Good. It's about time, sister dear. I worry you'll turn into an old maid with how picky you are."

Smiling shyly, Gwen shakes her head. "He's just a boy. You know I'm holding out for a man who'll move mountains for me, Gen-Gen."

Genevieve smiles, surprisingly tolerant, perhaps warming to the use of her childhood nickname. She places the mirror down and reaches for Gwen's hand, squeezing her fingers gently in a rare sign of affection.

"All right. Tell me all about this 'boy' then. I do love a diversion." She winks and Gwen laughs, a rush of love for her sister doing more to warm her than the espresso coursing it's caffeinated magic through her body.

"My little sister, the inexhaustible romantic." Genevieve sighs, laughs, and flags the waiter. "I believe we're going to need cocktails."

Gwen finds herself agreeing. It's an odd mixture - espresso, cocktails, antique mirrors, and her and Genevieve. Somehow, it all works.


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Aleea lives in her imagination most of the time. It's an interesting place to be... Occasionally she can be coaxed out to chat on Twitter, though she finds it akin to torture to stick to that absurd 140 character limit. (@Aleeab4u)


Friday, April 10, 2015

Nick Johns Week 145: Taking Out the Trash

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Nick John’s Picture Choice:

Title: Taking Out the Trash

Reality is an illusion.

It’s like magic, just a question of perspective.

Don’t believe me?

Look across the street.

That red van, in the front; is that a sack barrow waiting for the driver to come back, or a trolley jack to lift the front?

‘Give me a long enough lever and I could move the world’. Archimedes said that, you know? It’s not stupid. It’s only a sack barrow because that’s what you’re expecting to see. And that’s the point.

Magicians know what you are expecting to see. We show you that and then we do something else. We don’t confuse you - you do that to yourself.

Misdirection, we call it. Make you look at one thing and not see what’s really happening.

Let me ask you. What’s people’s greatest weakness?

Selfishness? No.

Desire? Betrayal? OK big ones, I grant you, particularly in view of what you and that man..., but never mind,I’ve told you already, and I’ve made full use of it here.

Give up?

Pattern recognition.

We make up patterns in everything. A great evolutionary trait but less useful in today’s crowded, confusing world.

People don’t look at things properly, they skim over things, see what they expect to see. Of course I’m serious.

Even cops do it.

Up there, right now, they are putting together a pattern, telling themselves a story based on what they can see.

A broken front door. A man, in his own apartment, savagely and repeatedly stabbed with a kitchen knife. In his hand a letter from a woman, threatening him.

But the woman? No sign.

Of course, they may find some of her blood too.

She wouldn’t stick around, would she? She would run, hide, lie low.

She wouldn’t go home, or anyplace they might look.

That’s what they are expecting from previous experience and there is more information that they will soon have.

I’m expecting a phone call soon.

‘Excuse me, sir, but where is your wife?’ - ‘I don’t know, Officer, but her suitcase is missing and a large amount of money has been removed from our joint account’.

They are not looking for a body.

Oh, yes, that.

Misdirection, see?

OK, that street artist over there. You saw him dozens of times, hundreds maybe, as you went in and out of that building. No, too late to deny it now. He’s been there for years, right? How closely did you look?

I know it’s not what you call art, but anyway…

‘I’m sorry to have to ask, sir, but were you having any matrimonial problems?’ - ‘Well, my wife had been acting a little distant recently, I put it down to her not wanting me to take my act out on tour again’.

So, just as you walked past things that you weren’t interested in - so did they.

All right, let me ask you an easier one. Where does that guy get the stuff he paints?

Of course you know. You saw lots of it before.

He scavenges the streets around here for rubbish early in the morning - just about the time you would have been sneaking out of here - and paints up unusual things and tries to sell them to the tourists.

So if he found some body parts - heavy, plaster maybe, but not quite as heavy as you might think, exsanguination, you see, covered in dust and plaster, he sees a broken sculpture, from that artist guy in the studio, and sprays them.

He won’t sell them. He never sells much anyway, the stall is just a cover for his drug dealing. Oh, you never noticed that either?

Anyway, back to the Police. They don’t expect to find the woman quickly, they would expect a search, an APB, and a long wait.

Anyway, nice having this last chat with you, dear. It’s important for an illusion to be as truthful as possible

‘When was the last time you spoke to your wife, sir?’ - ‘Just this morning, as a matter of fact. She did seem a bit...cut up. Didn’t really say much of anything. Sorry I can’t be more help’.

What? Oh, the artist, - or drug dealer’s stock?

Anything he doesn’t sell he throws in the dumpster in the service road at the end of the day. And tomorrow is trash collection day.

And, in Police work, like in magic, if you don’t see it at the time, you probably never will. Timing is everything.


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Despite his Mother telling him not to, Nick continues to make things up.


Michela Walters Week 145: Hiding Amongst the Shadows

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Michela Walters’s Picture Choice: Both

Title: Hiding Amongst the Shadows

Hiding down beneath a moss covered rock, I wait. My brother has been hunting for me for at least ten minutes. Our games of hide and seek usually lasted for hours, or until our mum called us in for dinner. The forest behind our cobblestone house went on for acres, leaving plenty of hiding places to be discovered.

“Come on Sylvie, I know you’re here somewhere. I saw your footprints in the mud.” My brother, Jeffrey called from nearby.

Peeking over the rock, I could see his silhouette to my left. I knew if I was quiet, I might be able to make a run for it and hit our home base, a large squatty tree that sat in the middle of our property. If I got caught before getting there, I’d be subjected to my brother’s evil love of hiding in dark, dank corners that usually had spiders or other creepy crawlies inhabiting. He knew I hated spiders and took a perverse love of winning the game because I’d usually run into a spider web before making it to his hiding spot.

I’m about to spring up and take off for the base when the biggest spider I’ve ever seen drops down in front of my face. My scream echoes through the forest, but I hear my brothers maniacal laugh above me, holding the dangling spider I skittered away from.

“Ha! You’re such a wuss. By the way, you’re it.” He saunters off towards home base after tucking the spider back in a nearby tree.

I stand up, brushing off my pants and head towards home. I’ve had enough of the game for today and need time to recover from my near death experience and to sort out my very own diabolical revenge plan.


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Michela Walters is a wife, mother and book enthusiast. She is currently attempting her hand at writing her first romantic fiction novella. You can read her other stories on her blog: michelawalters.wordpress.com


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sarah Aisling Week 145: A Measure of Grace (Part 28): Reunion

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Sarah Aisling’s Picture Choice: 2

Title: A Measure of Grace (Part 28): Reunion

James raises the pistol, and I cry out, throwing myself in front of him.

“What the hell are you doing, Marie? Get out of the way!” He grabs for me, but I sidestep him and hold my hands in front of me.

“Put the gun down.”

“Have you lost your mind?”

A low, warning growl fills the air. Wiry hair brushes against my leg as Grace presses forward and insinuates herself between me and James, baring her teeth.

“Grace . . .” I reach out, touching her back. “It's okay, girl.”

“Grace?” James mutters, bringing his arm down so the gun points at the ground. “You know this dog?”

Grace backs up, pressing her haunches against me, causing me to stumble. She no longer bares her teeth, but her chest rumbles continuously, and her gaze is focused on James.

“She's mine. Please, you can't tell anyone!”

He stares at me, confusion marring his expression. “We haven't seen any dogs since the outbreak. How did you find her?”

I crouch beside Grace and loop an arm around her. She whimpers softly and turns her head for one quick moment to lick my face before resuming her previous watchful stance.

“She found me. I was sick—don't even remember traveling to this area. I woke up on the cliffs near town with her watching over me. We've been together ever since.” My fingers are drawn to the cool metal of my collar. “At least until I was taken.” I try to keep my voice even, but a touch of accusation seeps into my tone.

James drops to his knees, flattening a few more stalks, and holds a hand out so Grace can catch his scent. “Hey there.”

Grace stiffens but eventually relaxes enough to sniff his hand. She doesn't lick him but chuffs and eases into a slow sit next to me.

“You’re a beauty, aren’t you?” He ruffles Grace’s fur.

“She must have tracked me.” I lean closer to her warmth, something I’ve missed a great deal. “You won’t tell anyone about her, will you?” I search his face, hoping to find a kernel of sympathy.

James tilts his head, appraising me. “What are you suggesting?”

“Let her go.”

“Won’t she keep searching for you? Someone else might find her, and then there’s nothing I can do.”

We face off among the waving wheat, and I tighten my hold on Grace. I’m not about to tell him there are others out here who are probably searching for Grace at this moment, wondering where she is. Eric could bring her back to the power plant, but I’d need to get a message to him. My options are limited with this damn tracker around my neck.

“Isn’t there somewhere we can stay? I wouldn’t mind being away from the compound myself. After my conversation with Garth today . . . I could really use a break.”

“There is one place that comes to mind. It’s rather remote, and few people know about it.”

“Sounds perfect.”

James helps me to my feet and leads us through the field to the road where his truck is parked. Grace remains plastered to my side and watches James warily. He lowers the pickup's tailgate, and Grace hops up when I pat my hand on the ridged metal.

We drive for a while before turning onto a narrow, meandering dirt road. He pulls the truck into a hidden driveway and parks in front of a crooked metal gate that blocks further passage.

“We walk from here.”

James comes around to open my door before letting Grace out. She leaps from the truck bed and trots to my side, lifting her nose to sniff the air.

Regal trees line the drive, their colorful, fluttering leaves providing dense cover. We slip around the end of the gate, which is no longer connected on one side, and make our way through the trees until they open onto a field of grass. The driveway continues all the way to a rickety farmhouse. Even from this distance, the weathered, sagging wood is obvious.

I look at James askance. “Looks like it’s about to keel over.”

He smiles. “She’s stronger than she looks, some settling over the years but still good and solid inside.” His gaze pans the property, a touch of pride gleaming in his eyes.

“Did you know this place . . . before?”

“I grew up here. This was my parents’ home. They had me late in life, and both of them died years ago, but I couldn’t let go of the place. When I joined the military, I rented it out to some locals that knew my folks.” James rubs at his forehead with a knuckle. “When I found myself here again—talk about coming full circle—I decided to hold onto the property. It’s somewhere to go when I need a break from—” His words end abruptly, and he shakes his head.

“From the horror?” I finish gently.

“Something like that.” His voice comes in a husky whisper, a mix of nostalgia and resignation. “Nobody will bother you here. There’s food, running water, electricity. I won’t tell anyone about Grace, but if you get caught, I know nothing.”


I'll figure out how to return Grace to the power plant later. Staying here temporarily might give me time to plan my own escape as well.

As we get closer, I notice a screen door propped crookedly over the front entrance. The house was once white, but more than half of the paint has given way to bare, weathered wood.

“Let's go around back. The front door is perfectly solid, but the broken storm door acts as a deterrent and an alarm system of sorts.” When we reach the back, James fishes a set of keys from his pocket, removing one from the ring and handing it to me. “This is the spare. You can use this place whenever. Just keep it to yourself.”

He unlocks the door and holds it open for me. Grace trots right in, disappearing into the shadows. Her nails click on the wood floors, and she stops every so often to sniff something before moving on.

James leans in and flicks a switch. Weak yellow light pushes back the darkness in a large farmhouse kitchen. A slight mustiness hovers in the dense air, but it's not entirely unpleasant. The scent reminds me of historic homesteads I've visited on school trips.

The inside of the house is rustic wood and gingham country charm. He forces a window open over the kitchen sink, and dirty white curtains flutter against the dusty sill. He grabs an electric lantern and moves deeper into the house, opening more windows. I follow him into the living room, which is sparsely furnished but homey. Floorboards creak overhead as Grace explores the second floor.

James turns to face me, rubbing his hands on his pants. “There's only one bathroom, which is upstairs. Toilet's a bit temperamental. The place hasn't been updated in decades . . .” He shrugs, looking apologetic.

“No, it's fine. Thank you for sharing your hideaway with me.”

He shows me the rest of the house. The stairs creak but are quite solid beneath us. The second floor consists of the bathroom, three bedrooms, and the entrance to a stairwell leading to the attic. We crack open more windows as we go but pull the shades down in the rooms facing the front.

James brings sheets and a blanket into the bedroom that faces the rear of the house, explaining using this room will keep my presence secret by concealing any light I use at night.

When the full size bed is made, I hover beside it awkwardly. “Will you be staying here with us?”

“No, I have duties to attend to. I'll explain to Garth that you wished to return to the compound. I can buy you a few days before your absence is noticed. How about I send Timms out here to check on you while I'm gone?”

“No!” I grab for his sleeve.

James strokes my arm. “It's okay. Timms is a trusted officer.”

“I know—he's been really nice to me. It's just . . . Gibbs is never far from him.”

He purses his lips. “Hmm . . . you have a point.”

My heart beats fast, and I take a deep breath. Stay calm. “How about that other guard . . . I think his name is Eric. Big, tall guy, broad shoulders.”

“You know Eric?”

“From when I first arrived. He's always been helpful and kind.”

James nods, eyes thoughtful. “Yeah, that could work. How about I gather your things and bring them back later, and I’ll send Eric out here tomorrow night. He’s on duty during the day.”


“Will you be all right alone until then?” He moves in closer and rubs the back of my neck lightly.

The reminder of being on my own sends a frisson of fear skipping up my spine. Grace will be here to protect me, and I have my knife.

“I’ll be fine.” My steady voice conceals any worry.

While James is gone, I explore. The kitchen cabinets hold a variety of canned goods. There’s a root cellar, stocked with more cans, bottled water, paper goods, small propane tanks, various tools, and rope. I find candles and matches in the living room. There’s a charming claw foot tub in the bathroom, no shower.

Grace follows me outside. Darkness is descending, the breeze bringing in an evening chill. Crickets sing, and squirrels dart across the edge of the yard, chasing each other into the trees. If I close my eyes, it’s almost possible to pretend everything’s normal.

We walk the property because it’s wise to know the landscape. Grace hovers close, rubbing her head against my thigh and licking my hand often. Her tongue lolls out the side of her mouth when she glances up at me. Maybe I’m imagining things, but her soft brown eyes seem to convey how much she missed me. I hope she knows how much I missed her, too. I speak softly to her as we go, sharing my burdens.

The yard is edged on all four sides by vegetation. Behind the house, the tree line is overgrown by thick brush and twisted vines one would need to hack their way through. The side perimeters are filling in, but a few passable trails still exist. The only official way in is through the rusted gate out front. There’s a small grain silo and an old wooden barn that lists to one side but seems stable enough.

When it becomes difficult to see, and my nerves get the best of me, I head back to the house. There's no need to call Grace because she hasn't been more than a few feet from me the entire time.

Letting out a long breath, I place a lantern on the coffee table in the living room and collapse on the couch. It's hard and lumpy but comfortable enough. Grace jumps up and curls in a ball next to me with her muzzle resting on my lap. I stroke her head gently and close my eyes, exhausted from the emotional turmoil of the day.

Grace's ears perk up sometime later, and she woofs softly, climbing down from the couch and trotting to the back door. She lowers her head to sniff the crack along the floor then wags her tail slowly. I hover in the kitchen doorway and wait.

A tap sounds on the door. “It's me.” James unlocks and opens it slowly.

Grace returns to stand in front of me. She doesn't growl, but her tail remains at half-mast.

James places my things on the table and walks over, crouching in front of Grace and gazing up at me. He offers his hand, palm up, for her inspection. “Grace is very protective of you. She's definitely chosen you as her person.” He turns his attention to Grace. “Right, girl? Marie is very lucky to have your loyalty.”

Grace whines and licks his hand tentatively. She shifts her paws but remains in place.

James pats her head then stands. “I think you're in good hands. Just in case of trouble, there's a loaded rifle in the gun cabinet in the den and boxes of ammo in the drawer. I can show you how to shoot.”

“I know how. My father was a cop, and he made sure I knew how to protect myself.”

“Okay, then.” James stares at the ground awkwardly. “I'll see you soon.” He takes me by the shoulders and leans forward, pressing his lips to mine.

I freeze, unsure how to react. He's been wonderful to me, and I am grateful. Though I don't return his feelings, there is a need for caution. He might not react well to my subterfuge.

I soften my lips and allow the kiss to continue. The sensations flowing through me are all wrong. Max told me to do what I had to, but this still feels like a betrayal. I pray James won't try to take things further. We are alone in the middle of the woods, and nobody knows we're here. Maybe this wasn't my brightest move ever.

Grace solves my dilemma by issuing a sharp bark and butting her head into James’ leg.

“Whoa!” He steps back, and Grace latches onto his pants leg, tugging hard. “Guess she doesn't approve.”


James laughs. “No, it's all right. I have to earn her respect—and yours.” He retreats to the door and pauses. “Be sure to lock up after me. Have a good night, Marie.”

“You, too. And thank you—for everything.”

After he's gone, I lug my things up the narrow stairs and put them in the bedroom closet. Best not to make it obvious the house is occupied. Max taught me well.

My eyes water, and I sit on the bed. I wonder what Max is doing at this moment. Is he cramped in the ventilation shaft in my room at the compound? Does he have enough rations? Does he have any idea what I would give to be in his arms right now? Grace places her front paws on my lap and licks my tears away.

I curl into a ball under the covers with Grace's warmth pressed next to me. This would be a great time for a good cry, but I find my eyes dry and stinging from all the blubbering I did earlier. So I lie in bed, listening to the house creak and settle around us, and it's not long before I fall into an exhausted sleep.

The morning dawns, gray and cold. When I step outside with Grace so she can do her business, the air is laden with moisture, the blades of grass bent under the weight of dewdrops. My boots dampen quickly as we wander the yard, and I’m grateful they’re waterproof. Grace takes off after a squirrel, chasing it across the yard and into the bushes. I run after her, laughing when she plants herself at the base of a tree and barks at the squirrel, now safe among the branches.

A prickle climbs the nape of my neck and tingles across my scalp, causing me to look behind us. I pan the area carefully, watching for any movement. I blow a short burst on the dog whistle, which is hanging around my neck again, and Grace abandons her quarry, trotting to my side. I sit on my heels and scratch behind her ears, listening for anything out of the ordinary. Nothing stands out. I walk around the entire perimeter with Grace, but she doesn’t sense anything.

We share a jumbo can of chili. Though the house is drafty, I’m hesitant to light a fire and make do by wearing layers. I nap, read, explore the den and locate the rifle James was referring to, take another walk with Grace, heat some soup for dinner, and read some more. I try to avoid thoughts of my mother and the treatments or how I’m going to escape the alliance.

The gray sky is beginning to darken as the day comes to an end. Grace yips and scratches at the back door.

“You have to go again?”

She bolts out the door the moment it’s open and races around the side of the house. As I turn the corner, I recognize the hulking figure of Eric coming toward us along the drive. He waves and laughs when Grace launches herself at him.

“Hey, Nudge—I mean, Grace. What are you doing all the way over here? People are worried about you. Yes, they are.” Eric rubs his huge hands back and forth over Grace, scratching her back while she keeps trying to lick him. “Hey, Marie. You okay?” His forehead creases with concern.

“Fine, yeah.” I flap a hand. “Come on in. Are you hungry?”

He laughs and pats his stomach. “I can always eat.”

Eric sits at the kitchen table while I fill a pot with soup and place it on the stove.

“Have you spoken to Max?” I twist my hands, my heart speeding while I wait for him to answer.

“Yep. Cramped in that shaft, cranky as hell, but I made him promise to wait until I spoke with you before making any moves.”

I blow out a breath. “Thank God nobody discovered him!”

Eric slaps his meaty palms against the table top. “Want to tell me what the hell is going on?”

I turn my back to him and stir the soup to give myself a moment to consider how much I want to say. Eric is loyal to Max, and there’s no guarantee he’ll keep anything secret even if I ask him to. I end up telling him about my discovery at the lab, the resultant conversation with Garth about the origin of the virus and treatments, and how Grace showed up when I was in the wheat field with James. I leave out the part about my decision not to receive treatment.

“Wow, so General James went the extra mile. I’m glad he sent me here.”

“He wanted to send Timms, but I got around it by mentioning that Gibbs is never far behind. James can’t stand Gibbs.” I ladle the soup into bowls, place them on the table, and sit across from Eric.

“Good thinking!” He spoons the soup into his mouth so fast, he’s half-finished before I take my second mouthful.

Without asking, I grab the pot and refill his bowl.

“Thanks! This is great.”

I finish my bowl and put one down for Grace. She rushes over and laps at the soup.

Eric wipes his mouth and tilts his chair back with a satisfied sigh. “So, I need to ask—‛cause, you know, Max expects a full report—are you really okay? And, I quote, ‛did that fucker Gibbs put his hands on you?’”

My heart aches. I won’t admit the ugly truth about my refusal to receive treatment, so I grab the dirty dishes and turn toward the sink, afraid the lie might show on my face. “I’m good. James has been a gentleman, and Gibbs hasn’t bothered me.”

“You sure nothing’s wrong?”

I bark out a laugh. “Of course things are wrong! Have you looked around lately?”

“Fair enough.” The chair scrapes against the floor as Eric stands. “I need to go. Oh, Max sent something for you.” He pulls my cell phone from his jacket.

“My phone . . .”

“Fully charged, and here’s a solar charger.” Eric places both items in my hands. “Max said to tell you he made a video for you.” He wiggles his eyebrows.

I smack his arm. “Pervert. I’m sure it’s nothing racy.”

His booming laugh fills the room. “I wouldn’t know. Max threatened to break my face if I nosed around.”

Once Eric leaves, I head upstairs with Grace and sit on the bed. I’m not sure why I’m so nervous, but I push the feeling away and click on the video.

The screen flares to life and Max’s face fills the space. His sea-glass eyes are bloodshot, scruff covers his face again, and he looks so tired. Tears stream from my eyes before he even speaks. I’ve missed him terribly, and seeing him only highlights how much.

Hey, China. Eric said you’re staying with Grace at a house away from the compound. The little bugger got loose and took off searching for you. Our girl is amazing, isn’t she? We’re making a plan to get you and Grace out of there, so just hold tight.” He moves closer until only his eyes and nose are visible. “I’m going to take you home. We’ll make it through this together—I promise. I love you, China.” Determination and love shine from his eyes, and he leans back, caressing the screen with the tip of one finger before the video goes dark.

I watch it many times, shedding tears of happiness and grief. How do I tell Max if the cure isn’t found soon, the virus will eventually take me from him? When I’m ready to fall asleep, I listen to Katie sing “Rosalinda’s Eyes,” clutching the phone to my chest.

A steady rain falls in the morning, drenching everything. There’s no wind, so the fat drops come straight down, pattering softly on the grass and dripping from the eaves. Grace only goes out long enough to do her business and rushes back inside, shaking droplets of water from her thick fur.

I find some bath salts in the bathroom vanity and pour a generous amount into the stream of hot water as I fill the clawfoot tub. Grace curls up on the braided rug as I strip my clothes off and slip into the bath. The warmth of the water soothes the tension from my muscles, creating a boneless, floaty sensation. Tendrils of fragrant steam fog the mirror and caress my skin. My lids grow heavy, and I stay in far longer than I should.

A growl rumbles in Grace’s chest. Her ears twitch, and she bolts out of the room and down the stairs. My heart speeds, and I lurch from the tub, sloshing water onto the floor. I grab for a towel and start drying myself.

There’s a bark then the soft murmur of a voice—probably James or Eric. I wrap the towel around my body and curse the fact I left my clothes in the bedroom.

A door slams downstairs, and Grace barks ferociously. I hear thumps and the scratch of her nails on wood, and my pulse races. Footsteps creak on the stairs, slow and steady.

I can’t catch my breath.

There’s nowhere to hide.

Grace howls and barks urgently, obviously trapped somewhere below.

I peek around the edge of the bathroom door, intent on crossing to the bedroom, and let out a shriek when a shadowy figure moves away from the wall, laughing softly.

“Hello, sweet Marie.”


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Sarah Aisling hails from the East Coast of the US and loves living by the ocean with her incredibly indulgent husband and precocious daughter. She’s currently editing her upcoming novel, The Weight of Roses. When Sarah isn’t being enslaved by her characters, she can be found with her nose in a book, obsessing over nail polish or anything leopard, biking, hiking, camping, and spending time with friends and family. Twitter: @SarahAisling Facebook