I'm sorry, I left the last installment at a skeery cliffhanger. I woke up with a headache that morphed into a migraine, though. I'll write an installment tomorrow.
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
“Titus!” Draven shouted as he ran past the portable. There was no use in trying not to panic; fear clawed at Draven from the inside out. “Titus!”
“Draven! Draven!” Riveen grabbed his arm. “He can’t be far. Maybe he just walked—”
“No!” Draven tried to shake Riveen off but couldn’t. “I feel it, Rive. I feel that he’s gone!”
Riveen paled. “G-gone?”
Draven snarled. “Not that kind of gone!” Draven was certain he’d know, but the idea of a world without Titus in it bruised his heart and soul. “He’s been taken!”
“Who’d take him?”
Draven spun around and almost slammed into Zach. “What?”
Zach frowned. “You’re yellin’ for your boyfriend and said he’d been taken. Who’d take him? I can call the cops--”
“No,” Draven snapped. “No cops.”
“But if he’s been kidnapped or…or whatever, then we need—”
“No,” Draven reiterated, cutting off Zach’s argument. “No cops, I mean it. This is…not that kind of thing.”
Zach didn’t look cowed. “Um, what kind of thing is it, then?” He folded his thick arms over his chest.
Riveen squeezed Draven’s arm just as Draven opened his mouth to put Zach on blast.
“This is a game we play with some friends of ours, fake abductions,” Riveen said. His smile looked strained, but hopefully Zach wouldn’t notice. “It’s like a treasure hunt. We have to find clues and track them down, then we get Titus back and formulate our revenge.”
“That’s messed up,” Zach muttered, staring at Draven.
Dariel was approaching behind Zach. “It is, but that’s how we roll. We’re a group of weirdos.”
Zach turned to look at him. “I guess, whatever floats your boat.”
“Yeah, so we need to get on with our scavenger hunt. I’m sure y’all can do y’all’s job without us taggin’ along,” Dariel said.
“Of course we can.” Zach glanced back at Draven and Riveen.
Draven wanted to punch Zach for causing a delay. Instead, he nodded. As far as he was concerned, he was done answering questions.
“The family’s already spread out and looking,” Dariel whispered when Zach headed back to his lunch. “As soon as you realized he was gone. Come on.” He took off and Draven was right beside him, with Riveen there as well.
And probably all the rest of the cousins that’d been hanging around the cleanup site.
Draven looked as he ran, searching for any trace of Titus—or Andres. He saw birds flying overhead, heard them calling out and recognized their voices.
His family was there, had been there and yet, Titus was gone.
“What kind of fuckery are we fighting against?” he mumbled.
Dariel pointed to the house at the end of the block. “Stop there, around the corner.”
Draven didn’t want to stop. He wanted to find Titus and not rest until he held him in his arms.
“Stop,” Dariel growled. “We need to formulate a plan. Otherwise, we’re running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off.”
Several birds squawked at that.
Draven stopped around the corner. “I have to find him. I have to find him, now!”
“Right,” Riveen agreed, grabbing him and giving him a shake. “So let’s figure out how best to do that.”
“How?” Draven laughed but there was nothing other than fear in the sound. “We don’t even know who has him for sure. If it’s Andres, we don’t fucking know what Andres is!”
Birds settled around them.
“He has to be magic. He couldn’t have been only a human being. Andres had to have been more, and maybe…maybe he became something stronger upon his death,” Riveen said.
“Like a goddamn evil phoenix,” Dariel added. “No one has heard from Aunt Jusis. Damn it, what would she do?”
“I don’t care what she’d do-- we have to find Titus!” Draven was ready to punch someone. He’d never felt so helpless before, and his anger was only held in check by his fear for Titus.
“Yes, we do. It’s—” Dariel hissed when one of the birds began to shift. “Not in public!” He moved to shield her from anyone who might have been watching. Riveen helped him.
“We fight magic with magic.”
Draven recognized the voice of his cousin Ninfa.
“I am sorry I only just arrived to help. I came as quickly as I could, and that’s enough on that. You must remember, we are supernatural beings, too,” she said.
“That’s not helping us find Titus,” Draven bit out.
Ninfa peered over Dariel’s shoulder. “We are looking with the wrong part of ourselves. We are shifters; we were created with a drop of blood from Alquinones, have you forgotten?”
Draven had heard the tale a dozen times. “That’s just a—”
“Not just anything,” Ninfa interrupted. “It’s not a fable. It’s our past, our creation. It’s real, and we carry the blood of the animal god in our veins.”
“So what does that do to help us?” Draven wasn’t going to argue. If there was any chance Ninfa was right, that she could do something to help find Titus, then Draven would listen.
“Magic all comes from the same place, from the first moment in time, when the great goddess gave birth; particles collided and energy spiraled out in great and lesser amounts,” Ninfa explained. “The greater energy became our demigods, and the lesser, humans and animals, all life as we know it. Alquinones wanted his own people, and we are the result of the compromise he struck with the great goddess. You have heard this before.”
Draven ground his teeth. He’d heard it before, and time was being wasted on the story when action was what was needed.
“We can find him,” Ninfa said. “Through our blood. Through your blood, Draven, because it is your mate who is missing. Come here, and someone give me a knife.”
Cold. Titus shivered. His head ached, and the cold seemed to seep all the way to his core. He tried to open his eyes, and maybe he succeeded—he couldn’t tell. There was nothing but the darkness, not even a speck of light. With his head pounding, he couldn’t think, couldn’t focus. All he knew was confusion, darkness, and the cold.
Friday, January 12, 2018
If I don't have your email address here or haven't emailed you recently, please email me at email@example.com so I can send out your ebooks! Got my copies-- I'll send them out tomorrow because I'm going to be lazy for the rest of my birthday :D
PS: Watch for a new contest next week!
PS: Watch for a new contest next week!
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Draven’s nape itched with that feeling he got when he was being watched. He and Titus were being watched— Draven’s cousins were discretely following them on land, and some were in the ocean, close to the shore. Riveen had mentioned some friends of the family— friends who were aviary shifters—keeping an eye on them from the air and trees, or wherever the birds might be.
“Lots of birds there,” Titus whispered, nodding towards the large garbage bin by the ruins of Draven’s house. Crows and seagulls were plentiful, as well as a couple of tricolor herons and great egrets.
Draven couldn’t tell right off the bat which ones were just birds. He’d have to be closer to them to discern that, and now wasn’t the time.
“The cleanup crew is going to be here in a few minutes,” Riveen said as he jogged over to join them.
There’d been a long discussion about whether or not Riveen should be with Draven and Titus, but the consensus was that, had there been any kind of emergency, Riveen would have been at his brother’s side. For him to be elsewhere would have been suspicious.
“How many people did we hire?” Draven asked as he took Titus’s hand in his.
Riveen stopped a couple of feet away and swiped at his forehead. “The company I called is sending a group of ten people, a backhoe, and some other equipment. I don’t remember what-all, but hopefully with them and us working on it, we’ll get most of this cleaned up in the next few days.”
“I hate that you lost your home.” Titus moved closer until they were standing shoulder to shoulder.
Draven knew Titus meant it, even though they’d outlined a rough plan for conversational topics in case they were overheard by the enemy—whomever that was. “Thank you, sweetheart. Everything is gone, but together, we’ll rebuild, and we’ll make a home that you and I both design. It’ll be our home.” And it would. Draven wanted that, wanted Titus, forever.
After searching his eyes for a moment, Titus smiled. “I want a cat. Two cats.”
“That wasn’t—” Draven pressed his lips together.
Riveen snickered. “Good job, Titus. Y’all should have at least two cats, and a couple of dogs. Oh, hedgehogs are—”
“Riveen,” Draven grumbled.
“What?” Riveen tried for an innocent look but failed. “Two cats for each of you. Have you seen those Savannah cats? They’re huge! That’s what you need, Drave, a man’s cat. Big. Tough. Half-feral. No one will doubt your masculinity when you’re walking it out in public.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Draven asked. “No one walks a cat!”
Riveen shook his head. “Damn. You’re gonna be a shitty cat owner. People walk their cats. Look it up online.”
“Relating the size and breed of a cat to someone’s masculinity is just not right,” Titus said. “And I think Draven would like a ragdoll or two.”
“A what? Why would I want any kind of doll?” Draven wondered if someone had spiked Titus’s coffee.
“Ragdoll is a breed of cat,” Titus explained. “You’d love them. Some people do walk their cats. I had a neighbor down the block from my house, he used to walk his goat on Wednesdays and Fridays, and his chicken Mondays and Tuesdays. I have pictures on my laptop I can show you sometime.”
Draven was trying to figure out what to say to that offer when he saw a van pull into his driveway. “I think the cleaning crew is here.”
“Look at every one of them,” Riveen muttered. “You too, Titus. See if any of them give you the creeps, or looks like you know who.”
“That’s the plan.” Draven headed for the group getting out of the van.
Titus tugged his hand free.
Draven looked at him.
“We’ll be there in a minute.” Titus tipped his chin towards the van.
“Y’all are plotting to get cats, aren’t you?” Draven asked.
Titus grinned. “Maybe.”
In truth, they were giving him a chance to check the people out first. If Andres—or his doppelganger—were there, and he saw Draven alone-ish, perhaps he’d give himself away.
“Hi,” he called out as he neared the cleanup crew. “I’m Draven. Who’s Zach?”
“Me.” A tall, older man with grey hair stepped forward and held out his hand. “Zach Morris. I’m sorry for your loss of property.”
“Thank you.” Draven shook Zach’s hand. “I’m just glad no one was hurt. “
Zach nodded. “Yeah, things can be replaced, unlike people, and even pets. You’ve got the right attitude.” He turned and gestured to his crew. “We’ll work our asses off to make this as easy for you as possible.”
“Y’all been at this a long time?” Draven asked, hoping Zach would mention any newcomers.
“Over a decade now. Got a great group working for me, and I know they’ll do right by you.” Zach pointed at a huge truck hauling a backhoe on a trailer. “That’s gonna help a lot right there, and there’s another two bins on the way. If we don’t need ‘em, that’s okay. You’re only charged for what we have to use.”
“Sounds good.” Draven didn’t get a weird feeling from Zach or anyone nearby. He wasn’t sure that meant anything. “I have my brother and boyfriend here, and some of my family will arrive in a bit to help if we need them.”
Zach hadn’t so much as batted an eye at the boyfriend comment. “I’ll tell ya, it’s best to keep people away while we work. You, your guy and your brother, that’s fine, and you can have your family here, I’m not telling you you can’t, but we’ll have to keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t get in the way or endanger themselves.”
“So they’d be a distraction,” Draven said. “Hm. Well, if they show up with food and drinks, we’ll keep them away from the working area.”
Zach nodded. “That’ll do.”
Titus and Riveen walked over, and Draven introduced them to Zach, then the work began.
Draven kept close to Titus and they tried to check out every person there. None of them were Andres, and after an hour, Draven began to think Zach and his crew were just regular people.
Working on cleaning up the debris, then clearing it out, was hard work. Riveen, Titus, and Draven didn’t slack off. Though Zach wanted them to stay away from the remains of the structure itself, there was still plenty of hauling and lifting to do.
When they broke for lunch, catered by Draven’s family, Draven was ready for a break. He had soot in places no one ever should have it. Titus and Riveen were grungy, too.
“I swear I’ll never not smell this.” Titus held up a burned piece of wood, then tossed it aside.
“Same,” Riveen mumbled. “My back is starting to hurt like a motherfucker.”
“You can sit back and watch,” Draven said.
Riveen shook his head. “Nope. Things seem calm here. Everyone is nice.”
Translation: no weird vibes from anyone.
“Yeah,” Draven agreed.
Titus nodded. “Very professional and friendly folks. I’m going to wash my hands then use the portable toilet. Well, use that then wash my hands. Or wash them both time—whatever. I’ve got to hit the head.”
“We’ll be here.” Draven watched Titus jog over to the water hose and wash his hands, then enter the blue portable.
“He’s only twenty feet away,” Riveen pointed out.
“Doesn’t matter. Been closer to bad people and things,” Draven replied. He took a bite of the sub sandwich he’d gotten off the food table that had been set up.
“Yeah, that’s true.”
And even though Draven hadn’t looked away for more than thirty seconds—forty, tops, as he’d taken a bite and a drink—when Titus didn’t come out of the portable in three minutes, he began to worry.
“He’s probably doing, you know,” Riveen said, looking at the toilet. “You’ve been watching.”
“Except for when I grabbed my sandwich and picked up my drink.” Draven set the can down. He wiped his hands on his shorts.
“Seconds.” Riveen set his food down as well. “Just seconds. He’s in there.”
Draven stood up and Riveen was right behind him, striding to the porta potty. Draven knew he was probably being paranoid—until he saw the door was open an inch or so.
“Titus,” he rasped as he reached the door and pulled it open— and found it empty.