Monday Flash Fics — First Moot

When I saw the latest picture from Monday Flash Fics, it made me think of Dale, one of the wizards from the “Craft Night” group that pops up in Triad Blood and Triad Soul. In Triad Blood, you don’t learn a lot about these wizards, but more of their purpose becomes clear in Triad Soul. I thought I’d write about the first time they all got together, just after the events in “Bound” occur. So, very minor spoilers (ish?) for Triad Blood and Triad Soul.

Flash Monday

First Moot

The five of them stared at each other around the small café table tucked in the back of the tea shop. Dale knew the others, of course. With her great-grandfather’s recent death, Mackenzie Windsor’s mother was the new Windsor covenhead. And at the moot to declare her so, the rest of the people here had all been present. Mackenzie herself had a soft little smile on her face, and her hair held up with two sticks. Beside her stood Rebekah Mitchell, a tall black woman who didn’t say much and yet still managed to make him feel like he was doing something wrong just by exhaling in her presence. And beside Rebekah, Tracey Spencer stood a step apart, and looked the part in her expensive couture and perfect manicure, though a paleness to her complexion belied the calm arrogance she was projecting. And then, on the other side of Dale, the guy who’d invited them all here.

Matthew Stirling. The great-grandson of the son-of-a-bitch in chief himself. In glasses and a button down white dress shirt, Matthew Stirling looked like a harmless nerd.

Dale supposed in their own way, they all looked harmless, though of the bunch he was the largest by a not-so-slim margin. Even so, looks were deceiving. But their families—or, more properly, The Families—had the most power of anyone in the city. Ottawa was what it was on the say-so of their families, to some degree or another.

Why did I agree to come here?

“I suppose you’re wondering why I gathered you here today,” Matthew said.

No one laughed. Matthew cleared his throat, looking awkward.

“Maybe you should just tell them,” Mackenzie said.

“Tell us what?” Tracey said. Even her voice was aristocratic. Man, she was just what he expected from the Spencers.

Then again, his own family wasn’t exactly cuddly either.

“I’m pretty sure you’re the next inheritors,” Matthew said.

No. Dale had to clench his hands to stop from saying or doing anything. No no no.

“How..?” Rebekah had to take a breath. “How do you know that?”

“I inherited,” Matthew said. “I don’t know if you know what the Stirling inheritance is, but—”

“You’re prescient,” Tracey said.

Matthew nodded. “As of this week.”

Dale fought off a full body shiver, but only just. So Malcolm Stirling had access to the future? No wonder he always ended up on top. He wondered if his father, or his grandfather, or his great-grandfather knew.

“It’s not soon,” Mackenzie said. “Or at least, Matt doesn’t think so. But…” She looked at Matthew. He nodded. “He’s pretty sure it will be us five. And the thing is…”

“The thing is we’re fucked?” Rebekah said.

Dale surprised himself by laughing.

“No,” Matthew stepped forward. “No, no that’s my point. We could… We could work together.”

Tracey laughed. “To do what? If I… If I inherit, do you have any idea what that will mean?” She shook her head. “Mackenzie gets to heal. Rebekah becomes some sort of illusion-proof abjurist. Hell, even Dale—”

“Don’t,” he said.

She stopped. Regarded him. He saw it then. In her eyes. The same thing he was sure she could see in his.

Fear.

“If we work together,” Mackenzie said. “We could… push the boundaries. Figure out things they won’t let us learn. Before they have us at their beck and call. Maybe we can…” Mackenzie sighed. “Maybe we can make things better.”

She barely sounded convinced herself.

“If they even find out I came to talk to you on my own, they’ll be furious,” Dale said. “I’m out.” He pushed off the wall and started for the front of the tea shop. He eyed everyone on the way. The store was mostly empty, but was it just him, or did the guy behind the counter pay way too much attention to him?

Why had he come?

He was an idiot.

*

He made it home without incident, and back into the mansion without trouble. It didn’t relax him any—he was never relaxed in his family Chantry—but it was where he was supposed to be as far as his elders were concerned, and that meant a modicum of safety.

Of a sort.

He wandered the halls. What he wanted more than anything was to tear off his tie, change into a sweatshirt, and maybe hit the punching bag for a while. Matthew and Mackenzie should have known better. The Families didn’t work together. Not across their covens. It was insane to even suggest it.

He wouldn’t be excused until after dinner. He wondered how many of his aunts and uncles (and great-aunts and great-uncles) would be visiting for dinner, and if any of his cousins would be there. Sometimes the massive table was set for thirty-six.

Sometimes it was set for eight.

He rarely interacted with his great-grandfather. Dale did everything in his power to go unnoticed. Stay below the radar.

He approached the study. He could hear them in there, talking.

I’m pretty sure you’re the next inheritors.

Some things you couldn’t avoid, though. Not forever.

Dale glanced behind him. No one around.

A few words of magic, whispered under his breath, and a prickle of magic flushed across his skin. He crouched, and looked through the keyhole of the study.

Whatever they were doing, he could feel the power from here. And more than that, he could feel something inside him stirring, as always.

Matthew had inherited. Prescience, apparently. If Rebekah, and Mackenzie, and Tracey also inherited? If he did, too?

They were barely in their twenties. His own great-grandfather would never give up his position just because his “gift” had moved on to Dale. No, he’d shackle Dale to his side. He’d probably even call it “grooming.”

Inside the room, magic twisted, and Dale could almost hear a voice.

He pushed away from the door and started for the gym. He could shower and get dressed again before dinner. He needed the punching bag.

*

After his shower, his knuckles raw, and still breathing heavily, Dale tied his tie in the mirror. Once it was knotted, he took a deep breath and picked up his phone.

The original message inviting him to meet at the tea shop was still there. He hadn’t deleted it. On some level, it occurred to Dale not deleting it the moment it had arrived already spoke volumes.

He tapped out a message.

When’s the next meeting?

Before he could change his mind, Dale hit send, slid his phone into his pocket, and went to the Family dinner.

The magic inside him stirred again. There was another whisper of voices just quiet enough he couldn’t make out the words.

Dale ignored them.

For now.

 

 

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Friday Flash Fics — Checkout

For Friday Flash Fics today, there was an image going around Twitter that was definitely sparking a lot of conversation and we decided as a group it was worth using as inspiration. I’m so glad we did, because it’s not just an awesome image, it’s a stereotype smashing image and I love those.

Flash Friday

Checkout

He was at the desk.

Jeremy tightened his grip on the books, and took a long, deep breath.

Maybe this was a bad idea? It was totally a bad idea.

He had decided to leave, to go put the books back, but he took one more glance and…

The librarian made eye contact.

Oh crap.

He’d been seen.

Jeremy started for the desk.

This was officially the world’s worst idea.

*

“Oh my God,” Jeremy said, and stopped walking. “No way.”

Wyatt walked right into him, and then grabbed him for balance. “Dude.”

“Sorry,” Jeremy said.

“What’s wrong?”

All around them, the parade was in full swing. Music, dancing, signs, floats and rainbow balloons—especially the purple, blue, and pink of this year’s focus on Bi Queers—slipped further ahead of them.

“Nothing,” Jeremy said.

“You look like you’re about to pass out,” Wyatt said. “Spill. What is it?”

“That’s him. There.”

“Him?” Wyatt stared to where Jeremy was pointing, across the street where others were watching the Pride Parade go by. “Could you be more specific?”

“The guy. From the library. The librarian.”

“Oh! Mr. Button-down beard man of the title-reading?” Wyatt redoubled his efforts. “Where? I don’t see him. Is he near the scary guy with the tattoos and the beard?”

“That’s the thing.” Jeremy swallowed. “I guess now I know why he always wears the long-sleeved button-down shirts.”

“What?” Wyatt turned back to him. Then it clicked. He looked across the street again. “No way. Him? But… He looks like… I mean…” He tilted his head. “Are you sure that’s him? I mean, a librarian? That’s… That’s a biker.”

As they watched, a pair of women walked up to the man in question, arm in arm, and tapped his shoulder. They spoke for a few seconds, and then he nodded, turning to follow them.

The snug black shirt the guy wore had a skull on the back, half made up of words.

Across his broad back, the shirt read, “Librarian: The hardest part of my job is being nice to people who think they know how to do my job.”

Wyatt turned to Jeremy.

“Okay. I guess that is him. Dude. He’s scary.”

“You think?” Jeremy could think of a few different words.

None of them were “scary.”

*

It had started with the beard. That was always a weakness, but that wasn’t the only thing. Jeremy had liked the way the librarian smiled. And he did smile. Genuinely, and kindly. Also, he quietly read out the titles as he scanned them, which was not only kind of endearing but he did it carefully, so no one else would hear but whoever was checking out the books. It was almost a whisper. When Jeremy was second in line, he’d enjoy just listening to the low rumble of the man’s voice, but he never made out the words.

And the librarian wore glasses to work—but not to Pride parades, apparently—and as Jeremy approached the desk, he had a silly thought about a kind of Clark Kent persona thing going on, except instead of a blue suit with an S, if the librarian ripped off his shirt he’d reveal all that ink and…

Was it hot in here?

The button-down long-sleeved shirt in question was brown today. Like his eyes. And his beard.

“Hello,” Jeremy said, nearly choking on the word.

“Hi,” the librarian said. They didn’t wear name-tags, and Jeremy had never quite gotten up the guts to ask him his name, and since they usually had less than a minute of interaction at the end of each of Jeremy’s visits to the library and the librarian already knew Jeremy’s name because it was on his library account, it wasn’t likely to happen.

So, the plan.

The stupid, stupid plan.

The librarian gave him a little frown.

Right. The books.

Oh this was such a stupid plan.

Jeremy put them down, carefully. Checking for the hundredth time he’d gotten it right.

“Okay,” the librarian said, dropping to his low whisper. He scanned Jeremy’s card, then started scanning the books. As always, he read the titles in his sotto voice.

“Happy People Read and Drink Coffee.” Beep.

“How Do You Like Your Coffee?” Beep.

“Coffee Date.” Beep.

“Sure,” Jeremy blurted. “I’d love to.”

The librarian blinked. It was the first time Jeremy had ever seen him look anything other than professional and kind and sort of Zen. He looked up.

“Did you just..?”

“I did,” Jeremy said. “Or, technically, you did. I just accepted.”

The librarian let out a little laugh.

“Smooth,” he said. He didn’t seem freaked out. Or offended.

“Do you like Bittersweets? In the Village?”

“Yeah,” the librarian said. His smile was a full on grin now. “I do.”

“Are you free Saturday, maybe?”

He rubbed his beard. “I am.”

“Okay. Saturday. Eleven?”

The librarian nodded.

Jeremy picked up the books. “Before I go, can I, uh, return these books and get something I actually want to read?”

 

Monday Flash Fics — Falling

I often dream in short story, and the picture for this Monday Flash Fics prompt reminded me of a recurring dream I’ve had a few times, about waking up in the same place I fell asleep, only not quite. I flushed it out into a spec-fic piece.
Monday Flash Fic

Falling

I jolt awake, and do the thing I always do: reach out a hand to see if he’s there.

He is.

The warmth of him is always a comfort, even though the rest is completely unknown.

He’s awake, too.

“Are you okay?” Emmitt says.

There’s a sadness in his voice, and hearing it tells me he knows.

It’s a relief. And it’s frightening. I can never decide if it’s kinder to him when I end up in my little cottage alone, or when he’s there and has no idea, but this time? He knows.

There’s guilt when I touch his skin, but when he kisses me, I’m so grateful. We both pretend there aren’t tears.

*

In the morning, I get up before he does, and cook a simple breakfast while he sleeps in. The smell of coffee brings him into the little kitchen. He’s wearing cotton pajama bottoms, and nothing else, and my eye is drawn to a tattoo over his heart. Six words.

In Every Way, In Every Time.

He catches me looking, and smiles just enough for one dimple to show. “When there was a month, and we thought maybe that meant it wasn’t going to happen again.”

“Ah,” I say, and nod. That month was the longest I stayed anywhere so far. I’d been alone that month, every new realization in that cottage a new sorrow, and I’d hated it. Even teaching had barely helped, though I’d gone through the motions at a job that was otherwise nearly indistinguishable from my own. I’d also wondered if that was the end of my journey. I’d prayed not, fiercely, every night. I’d begged to fall again, sometimes out loud before finally, mercifully, falling asleep. “Did I get a matching one?”

He nods. “You did.”

I serve, and we eat a quiet breakfast. It’s a habit I’ve started after each trip, and I wonder how many times he’s had breakfasts like this.

“So,” I say, once our plates are empty and I’ve filled the sink with hot water. “How’d we meet?”

*

This version of Emmitt and I met the way my Emmitt and I met: a faculty meeting. I’m a physicist again—most of the time, it seems, that’s how my life unfolds—but as this Emmitt tells me of our early days together, there are differences. We hit it off at the faculty meeting, swapped numbers, and went on the same first date: a movie, but in this iteration, the movie wasn’t one either of us enjoyed. Instead of a round of drinks after and falling into bed in this very cottage, we went on more dates, took more time.

He’s a history professor again—most of the time, it seems, that’s how his life unfolds—and that’s useful. As the first day passes, and he walks me through photographs of his history with his Felix, I ask questions of things in the background. Like the flag on Parliament Hill.

It has two blue fields instead of red, and instead of one maple leaf there are three leaves on one stem.

“The Pearson Pennant?” he says, and launches into a story about the three final choices for the official Canadian flag.

“So I guess you don’t sing ‘The Maple Leaf Forever.’”

“It’s ‘Leaves.’”

“That makes sense.”

*

The cottage itself, the little building I inherited and loved and have lived in all my life is almost the same. The roof has its slight sag. The yard walkway is made of the same stones. The garden is slightly different—apparently, the original version of me didn’t care for flowers nearly as much as I do—but inside, if I ignore the photographs of a life that hasn’t quite been mine, it could pass as my own.

I once joked, to my Emmitt, that the cottage would outlast everyone and everything.

School isn’t in session, so we spend the day together in an awkward dance of getting to know each other and old habits we’ve had for over a decade. He smiles the same way. I touch the small of his back the way he likes. I have a slice of a German apple cake I’ve never had before but Emmitt tells me is a favourite, and it becomes one.

Finally, as the sun is going down, something we watch together on the bench in the yard, I ask.

“Have you met him? The one who…did…this?” I need to find a better way to say it, but I’ve yet to think of one.

Emmitt shakes his head. “No. Though one of you told me you’d been working on a theoretical version of what it was he did.” He eyes me. “There are journals. But… he didn’t have a solution.”

Neither do I. But, this other might have had a piece to the puzzle I don’t. This is the third me I’ve heard of working on the problem. “I’d like to read them.”

“Of course.”

*

A week. I’ve read my own notes in my own handwriting and there were a few things I hadn’t considered. Physics is physics, but when you’re dealing with infinite permutations, there’s always something new to consider. Whichever Felix out there it was decided to punch a hole in possibility and hop through, I wonder if he realized he’d displace the rest of us. I can’t imagine doing this to myself on purpose, but at the same time, I’ve woken up in this cottage alone, and found condolence cards. Emmitt will be missed. Emmitt was a joy. Our deepest sympathies on the loss of Emmitt.

Would I care what flag flew over Parliament if got Emmitt back? Even if he wasn’t my Emmitt, but an Emmitt in a world similar.

Even if he was an Emmitt I stole from some other me?

That’s the worst part. Maybe I can imagine. Maybe it’s too easy to imagine. I had a whole month in a world like that, where even knowing he wasn’t my Emmitt was barely enough to get through it.

I add notes to the journal, a few new numbers and ideas. It’s not enough, but it’s also not the first time I’ve done this. It might not be me who solves this particular problem. Any Felix will do. There’s a way to send us all back where we started, and slam the door shut forever. There has to be. Even him, the one who set this all in motion.

There’s no locational drift, and that’s one point every version of me who has left notes agrees upon. Stay at the cottage. If we stay where we began, at the cottage, our chances improve.

Of course, he must know that, too. Maybe he’s left. Maybe that’s why we’ve never found him?

There’s no way to know. Just like there’s no way to know why he keeps punching a new hole, and making us all fall through.

The bedroom in the tiny cottage is almost entirely filled by the bed. I slide in beside Emmitt, and kiss the back of his neck. We settle down, warm, and like I do every night I sleep in this bed that is mine and isn’t mine, with a man I love in every way, every time, I hope that if I fall again, I’ll land where I belong.

*

I jolt awake, and do the thing I always do: reach out a hand to see if he’s there.

 

Tinder — A Flash Fiction Draw Challenge Story

Here’s my entry for the first Flash Fiction Draw Challenge (the post for the original January draw is here, and a round-up post for all the stories I’m aware of that were written is here). In case you didn’t know about this challenge, there’s a video here explaining (and showing the first draw), but the quick version: I used a deck of cards (three suits) to randomly put together a genre (in this case: Fairy Tale), a location (in this case: a prison) and an object (in this case: a tattoo machine) and challenged anyone who wanted to play to write something over the next week, with a maximum of 1,000 words.

My resulting tale was “Tinder,” a queer re-telling of the “Tinderbox” fairy tale, by Hans Christian Andersen.

Flash Draw with Words


“Tinder”

It’s one thing to be poor, another returning from the king’s army poorer still. That was me, before I found myself in prison, awaiting the gibbet.

*

Before I’d heard of prophecy, I’d served my term in battle. I fought witch flameborn beasts as well as any, my survival as much luck as skill, my wounds clear enough proof.

No soldiers escorted me. Wounded, I was sent home without coin for service, instead “rewarded” with freedom, a limp, and terrible memories.

I encountered the witch before I’d made it to my king’s land. We eyed each other, but I bore no armor, and she no flame.

“You’re no soldier,” she said.

“No longer. You don’t fight for your emperor?”

“Were you free to choose to not fight for your king?”

I laughed. “My service…ended.”

“Usefulness, more like.” I noticed only two fingers on her left hand, and her thumb but a stub.

A witch unable to strike a match would ignite no tattoos.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Hm.” She cocked her head. “You have the scent of prophecy.”

“If you say.”

“Come. I have work. Treason, but it pays more than you can use, if you’re wise.”

I was a man unconcerned with kingly approval.

I went.

*

The split in the huge tree was ink black.

“Inside are three beasts. Guardians. But you are not marked as a witch?”

I had no tattoos. “No.”

“Bare your skin for the dogs, show them. They won’t stir. All I ask for is the tinderbox within. It will allow me magic again. The coins you may take.”

*

Three dogs, though “dogs” does no justice. The smallest with eyes wide as saucers, its body scaled to match. Ink black, they guarded three piles of coins; copper and silver and gold, each dog larger than the last.

I gathered the coins first, then the tinderbox in my paltry rucksack. When I took the tinderbox, the three beasts faded. Last I saw their eyes: the largest’s wide as a tower window.

The witch watched me dress.

“The tinderbox?”

I gave it. “I hope this restores your life as these coins might mine.”

“I half worried you would keep it. Or harm me.”

“I’ve learned witches wish to protect their land and emperor.” I spoke treason.

“You don’t know why you fought, do you?”

I didn’t.

“Prophecy. Your king’s son is locked away because the king fears the emperor’s soothsayer.”

I did know the Prince never left his tower. But not why.

She drew a deep breath, and put a hand in her robes. I tensed—betrayal?—but she gave me a vial.

Ink.

“In thanks,” she said.

*

The ink became three dogs etched round my neck by a woman with eyes like the witch and an accent to match. Many escaped war by becoming smaller, hiding among the shadows of the city, out of view of the castle.

The sting of her needles, the thrum of her odd device driving the needles still comes to me some nights when I dream.

*

Without work, the coins I’d gathered went. None offered work to a man as scarred as I. It didn’t matter I was strong, I was a reminder of a war they chose to believe would never reach them.

I walked the city, circling the castle, hoping to find something.

I looked at the tower and remembered the witch’s word: prophecy.

*

Summoning the first dog was an accident: a rare cigar to warm a cold evening. A spark touched my dog low on my neck. Had I worn a shirt, or the match been easier to light, it might never have happened.

The dog crouched low before me, ready to obey.

“Fetch,” I said, not even sure what I intended.

It returned with the prince.

*

He was handsome, schooled, had soft hands, and though he was afraid after the dog drew him through shadows to my rooms, he savoured his brief respite from his tower. We spoke.

Then didn’t speak.

In the morning, he told me of the prophecy that birthed war: the king would beget a son who cared nothing for princesses, who would fall for a man with no work.

I struck many a match on winter nights, and was much warmer for the prince’s company.

*

They found us, eventually. What trickery, magic, or simple deduction I’m unsure, but when they came, there was no escape. To my surprise, my cell was as large as my cheap room, and the cot as comfortable, but I wasn’t allowed cigars, and had no way to barter.

No prisoner is given the simple pleasure of a warm fire.

My former soldiering meant nothing—I knew of the prophecy.

For that I would die.

*

Beyond the gibbet, I see my prince. The king has made him come, of course. To watch as the king would defy prophecy. The proclamation calling for my death is made. I step up to my place.

“Will we grant last request?” The prince’s voice is loud in the nearly empty square. There are few here. The king, queen, prince, and two jailors. Also the black hooded man who will end my life. Is this born of a fear of the king: what if I spoke? What if I told?

The king eyes his son with fury. It’s a soldier’s right.

“Your request?” the prince asks. His eyes are misery.

“A cigar,” I say.

*

The dogs spare the queen, who faints dead away as the first beast tears her husband’s throat. The guards take longer. The black hooded man falls last.

None here learned to fight flameborn beasts.

The Prince’s hands shake while he undoes my binding. The cigar smolders at my feet. My neck burns where I twisted as it was brought to my lips.

“Now we run,” he says.

“Did your prophecy say how this ends?”

He only smiles.

We run.

*

I wonder if anyone will tell our tale true.

Likely not.

 

 

Friday Flash Fics — Inspiration

For Friday Flash Fics this week, I saw this image and immediately thought of both a character (and type of creature) I hadn’t yet introduced yet into the Triad universe, but also Mackenzie Windsor and part of her back story that comes to light in Triad Soul. So, of course, spoilers for Triad Soul in this one. And once again I went way over word count.

Flash Friday

Inspiration

Mackenzie picked up the cup and took a sip of air. It was empty. She sighed, put the cup down, and picked up the small teapot.

It was empty, too.

“Would you like more hot water?”

Mackenzie glanced up. It was the man she’d bought the tea from, and he’d come out from behind the counter, and there was no sign of his apron. She blinked at him. It took a second to find her voice. “Sorry?”

“More water?”

It took her longer than it should have to process. How long had she been here? She was the last customer, she realized, and half the tables had their chairs stacked on top of them. She’d been working on ideas for hours.

Getting nowhere.

“You’re closing,” she said.

“I’ve got stuff I still need to do. And you look like you’re working on something important.”

His kindness in his voice, a soft patience she wasn’t expecting, hit too close to home. Her eyes filled with tears, and she couldn’t blink fast enough to stop them.

“Oh, hey,” he reached out one hand, but it hovered just an inch or so from touching her.

“It’s okay,” Mackenzie said. She lowered the book she’d been searching, and closed her laptop, just for something to do. She wiped her cheek then took a deep breath.

“Let me get the hot water,” he said, and he turned to do it before she could say anything else. She let him, deciding that more Lady Grey might be just the ticket. She felt like she was on the edge of a solution, but kept missing it by just a breath.

There has to be a way.

He brought the water, and refilled her tea pot. He’d rolled up his sleeves now, and she saw an eclectic range of tattoos on his right arm. A mask. A feather. The Millennium Falcon.

He put the chairs on tables while she drank the tea. Between sips, she gathered her books back into her messenger bag and, finally, slid her lap-top in as well.

“Can I make a suggestion?” he said again, when she stood and looped the bag over her head.

She eyed him. He was handsome, in an ever-so-slightly coiffed way that made her think he spent more time preparing his look than he wanted anyone to know. Short hair, artfully tousled. Just enough scruff to be almost a beard.

“Sure,” she said. Because if you’ve got some spell or crystal I’ve not thought of, I want to hear it. I’m starting to think nothing short of a philosopher’s stone is going to save her—and it turns out no one’s even sure if those exist.

“Get out of your head. Stop thinking. Drift. Let your mind wander.” His voice was charming, and gentle, and she would have given anything to slap his face, hard.

“My sister is dying and there’s nothing I can do about it.” The words came out in an angry rush.

He’d been wiping down a counter. He threw the towel over one shoulder. “You’re used to being able to fix things.”

She stared at him. I can make bodies heal overnight with a touch. I can make crystals dance. But not cancer. “Yes.”

“Come dancing with me.”

She opened her mouth. Closed it. “Does this routine work for you often? Find women in a bad place and swoop in and offer your best Dr. Phil?”

He shrugged. “I don’t meet wizards very often.”

Mackenzie held out one hand. Her magic moved beneath her skin, strong and solid and ready for her. If he was going to throw down, she was very much indeed in the mood to break his face.

He held up both hands. “Not looking to fight, flick. Was thinking dancing. Get you out of your head. My name’s Leo. I promise, I’m no threat.”

“You’re not an incubus,” she said. “Because I’m so not into you right now.”

He rubbed his chin. It was adorable, and really worked for him, and the move only conjured more annoyance. Nope. Definitely not an incubus.

“There are demons, and there are demons,” he said.

Mackenzie swallowed. “Dancing, huh?”

*

In the morning, she checked her phone. There was a text from Matthew.

Your mother did check in with me. I covered for you. You were fast asleep when she called, in case she asks. I don’t suppose you’ll tell me where you really were?

Mackenzie’s thumbs hovered over the screen. Finally, she tapped a reply. Just needed to get out of my head.

She heard him come back into the bedroom. His apartment wasn’t big, but it had been close to the club where they’d danced. And she had indeed left all her worries about her sister to the side, just for a night. No thoughts of magic, no notions of spells, no catalogs of stones and crystals known for healing properties. Nothing that might fight cancer. Just music, and movement, and a really cute boy who’d had even more tattoos once his shirt had come off. And green boxers with a repeating cannabis pattern, apparently.

Out of her head indeed.

“You okay?” he said. He leaned in the doorway, watching her. He’d slept on the couch, and had given her his bedroom.

“I needed that,” she admitted.

He nodded. “I could tell. Now. You fed me, how about I feed you?”

She sat up in the bed. In her T shirt and underwear, she should have felt exposed. Instead, she felt oddly calm. “I fed you?”

He shrugged. “You have a great imagination, and you were working on your…problem…for hours at the café.”

“And that fed you.” She’d knew there were demons who could feed on things other than lust. Incubi and succubi were the most common, at least in most of North America, but there were others. Wrath demons—furies—fed on anger.

He nodded. Okay, he really was cute, and if she’d been in a better place emotionally, she’d totally go for that whole rumpled and adorable thing. Also, he had a Mockingjay tattooed on his shoulder, and who didn’t love Katniss?

“If it helps,” she said. “I’m a big fan of bacon.”

“I wasn’t thinking that kind of food,” he said. He tapped his temple. “I was thinking maybe inspiration.”

Her heart shivered in her chest. “What?”

“I’m not saying you haven’t thought of everything. Maybe you have. But…” Another shrug. “Maybe I can jog something loose you didn’t consider.”

“Yes,” she said. “Please.”

He sat with her on the bed, looked down, and when he looked back up, his eyes were the liquid black of a demon. It should have made him terrifying. He was a creature who fed on human emotion. Maybe not lust and not wrath, but something. At least he wasn’t a vampire, she thought, remembering something she’d been told about how vampires found the taste of wizards to be something of a delicacy.

No, she wasn’t afraid of Leo. Instead, Mackenzie felt a sliver of hope.

He touched her hand.

And just like that, Mackenzie had a terrible idea.

She couldn’t save her sister’s life. There was no magic, no crystal that worked in the face of cancer. Healing spells sped up the body’s restoration and growth, but cancer was growth gone wrong. There was no magic to hold it still, no spell to force the body to stop growing. There was no way to stop time.

At least, not with magic.

Mackenzie leaned back on Leo’s bed. His eyes returned to the hazel they’d been at the café. His smile was amiable, gentle, and maybe even a little shy. “You thought of something.”

She nodded slowly. She had a tonne of research to do. There had to be a way to make sure this could work without her sister losing all of her magic in the process. But first? First she had a really big problem.

“I don’t suppose you know any vampires?” Mackenzie said.

 

January Flash Fiction Draw

Happy New Year, everyone!

So, as I mentioned a week or so ago, I decided to throw together a Flash Fiction Draw challenge once a month, patterned after the NYCMidnight Flash Fiction contest I entered a couple of times. I didn’t like the two day limitation (or, less, really since I’m not one to stay up until midnight to find out my assignment), so I figure giving a solid week to put the three pieces together would be more fun.

So, I sat down and did the draw. I even made a video of it (you can go check that out on my Facebook page if you want).

The chart from which the draws were made was this:

Screenshot 2017-12-19 10.22.17

And the result for January? Three of clubs, eight of diamonds, and two of hearts. Which means anyone who wants to play along is going to write a flash fiction piece of 1,000 words within the following guidelines: a fairy tale, involving a tattoo machine, set in a prison.

I can’t wait to see what you all come up with, and if you’re willing to share, by all means drop by my Facebook page above on the 8th, or here, and link back to your pieces.

Most importantly? This is supposed to be fun and inspiring, not hard work that leaves you feeling frustrated or angry. If it’s not working for you? Don’t sweat it. There’ll be another challenge next month, from the remaining twelve items on the list.

Which I just realized I said wrong on the video, because there were thirteen cards in play for each suit, not ten. Sheesh.

Flash Draw with Words