Friday, February 19, 2016

The Story Behind A Northern Gentleman by Lane Everett

The very first thing that came to me about this book was the title. I was sitting on a train, probably reading, when I started toying with what I thought could be some good titles for a book. When I hit on “A Northern Gentleman,” I asked myself what that book would be about - and immediately I knew that for the book I wanted to write -- as in, the story that I wanted to tell because it would be a story that I would want to read -- a book called “A Northern Gentleman” had to be about someone from the South. And since so much of American history, to me, is about the story of westward movement, I knew I wanted to send that character on a westward journey.

Fairly soon after I’d settled on a title, the pieces of an epic journey started falling into place in my mind. Almost immediately I had a sense for the places I wanted my main character to go and what I wanted him to do in each of those places. I say “what I wanted him to do” because from the start I knew that the story that I wanted to write had to be action-oriented. I dislike reading about what people think. I love reading about what they get up the courage to actually do.

So I decided to create a character and send him on an action-packed journey.  Physically, he’s traveling across late 19th century America by train.
That felt right to me. Afterall, the story first came to me when I was riding on a train and there’s something romantic and all-American about train travel. Maybe because I’ve always loved American history and train travel is such an important part of our country’s history.

The story is about another type of action-packed journey, too, though. That’s the emotional and psychological journey that the main character, Drucker May, takes in search of something -- something meaningful to do with his life. That element of the story was very much inspired by my own wrestling with the question “what should I do with my life?” and the conversations that I’ve had on that topic with friends and peers who are asking themselves the same thing.

It took me several years to write A Northern Gentleman. I took a long break (four years off!) while I explored other ways to spend my free time. But I kept coming back to this story because it was a story that I wanted to tell. And, I found out, it was a story that resonated with a lot of people -- especially those who are asking themselves what they should be doing with their own life, as well as those who enjoy living vicariously through a character who finds the courage to drop everything and go off in search of the life he’s supposed to lead, all the while having a lot of fun doing it.


Though it took me years to get from that first moment of hitting on a title I loved to holding the finished book in my hand, I’m so glad I stuck with the writing process because the outcome was a story that I wanted to read as much as I’d wanted to write, and that’s great motivation for anyone who wants to write a book. 



About The Book




Title: A Northern Gentleman
Author: Lane Everett
Publisher: Senior Prospect Publishing Co.
Publication Date: July 15, 2015
Format: eBook / Paperback (US Only) / PDF - 298 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction


Buy The Book: 

Discuss this book on our PUYB Virtual Book Club on Goodreads 


Book Description:

Handsome and quick-witted Drucker May is miserable in the privileged life that he leads working at a bank in Atlanta. So he runs away. He wants to find what it is that he’s really supposed to do with his life and he wants to have a good time doing it.

Because the year is 1890, the people who he meets after he leaves Atlanta have no easy way to find out who he really is, allowing Drucker to reinvent himself in each stop that he makes along the way to California. As he travels, he explores late 19th century America as well as his own identity – both real and mistaken – all while solving a mystery, falling in love and getting caught up in a wild west caper gone awry.

This story isn't just a rollicking ride from one town and one mistaken identity to the next, though. It's the tale of a man trying to strike a balance between his responsibility to his family and his desire to be his own man. Alternately moving and laugh out loud funny, A Northern Gentleman chronicles the adventures that unfold when one man decides to leave his boring desk-work behind to seek out the life he's meant to lead and to find that special something that his life has been missing.


Book Excerpt:

I. Atlanta


Chapter 1


There’s a photograph that’s kept upstairs in the same wooden box that holds the invitation to Grandmother’s wedding and some yellowing stationery that is all but illegible, and an election-year button that used to be blue and bears a name that used to be important. The photograph is black-and-white and there’s an inscription on the back of it, in looping longhand, in dark ink. Five words, each character tied together by a dragging pen as their author noted what the photo captured: Atlanta Southern National Bank, 1890.
The picture is a portrait, though there’s no one in the photograph. There’s a desk, but no one sits behind it. There’s a window, but no one looks through it. Instead, what must have been the golden light of a low and setting sun streams through the window onto the lonely desk. And somehow, though the sloping curves of human flesh are absent, and in their place only the severe angles of lifeless wood appear, the photograph becomes a portrait nonetheless. A portrait that, even without eyes or lips or teeth, captures the stilted smile of capitalism begging the question of the hour: Isn’t there something more than this?
The desk didn’t always sit unmanned, and to glimpse this particular photograph is to witness a ship without its captain. With a broad body of dark wood, the desk was itself both ocean liner and iceberg. It was a vessel on which one could have enjoyed a comfortable cruise up the corporate ladder; yet, simultaneously, it formed a ruinous blockade against all that stood beyond the door. And though its home in the office of the vice president of Atlanta Southern National Bank should have made it a vehicle of transport to the highest ranks of economy and society, to its owner it was a slave ship.
When the desk belonged to Atlanta Southern National Bank’s vice president, Drucker May, the desk sat squarely in the middle of an office that was regal in its d├ęcor. A green rug lay underfoot, gold cresting marked the line where wall ended and ceiling began, and a garish bronze sculpture of a tufted eagle perched above a second doorway.
In an office quite remarkable for its ornamentation, that second door was perhaps the most notable sign of prosperity. Though the door itself was unembellished, confederate in its colorlessness, its value was inflated greatly by a single fact: it led directly to the bank president’s adjoining office, which was twice the depth, thrice the length, and many multiples as lavish as its neighbor. The desk there was no dowdy brunette, but rather a brilliant blonde, painted in gold leaf, and more like a banquet table than a workstation. Next to it, Drucker’s mahogany steamship was reduced to tugboat. It was as if the bank’s own vault had been emptied and its content melted and molded into the shape of a desk, behind which sat the bank’s president, a king on his throne, presiding over business.
Daily, the door that joined the offices would swing open, and the booming voice of the bank’s president would rouse Drucker from his daydreams. The accuracy of a clock could be measured against the precisely timed roar that each day at half past one prompted a dozen bankers to rush to the threshold of the ornamented office. Drucker was among the crowd, though he was never the first to arrive, which the president was pained to notice every time.
This daily assembly was brief and usually followed by a demand that some item or other that the president had misplaced be found before the hour was up, inevitably prompting a scramble.
The lengthier congress would follow each day at three. One financier would read aloud from the newspaper. Another would recite notes from a pad—covered in his own scribbles—on the availability of silver or the latest blustering of William Jennings Bryan, at which all in attendance would groan in unison. No matter how little there was to say, the meeting would always manage to drag on for an hour.
For Drucker, the afternoon assembly was a prime opportunity for him to do what he was best at: daydream that he was somewhere else. As his eyes wandered to the windows, his thoughts drifting in the same direction, he would lose himself in a world where the memories he had mingled with the ones he had not yet made, where he could be anyone, do anything, live anyplace. Though he was careful to keep a straight face so as to appear engaged, in his mind he was running, arms flailing, through a meadow of tall grasses, never looking back as the banality of a life spent behind that wooden desk grew smaller and smaller in the distance behind him.
Outside the boardroom’s window, the sun shone brightly over Atlanta’s verdant Peachtree Street. There was one tree in particular that had the same branch structure as the one Drucker used to climb as a boy, when Atlanta was nursing its burn wounds and the talk of rebuilding, like the lemonade he would gulp on blistering afternoons, was endless. These days it seemed that the only thing endless was the daily midafternoon summit, and so Drucker allowed himself to drift back into the comfortable memory of what it felt like to perch in the highest branches of the tree.

***

“Drucker!” The voice was sweet but sharp, the last syllable pronounced fully, unlike when his mother called his name, dropping the final ‘r’.
“I brought you a glass,” called Lucy.
“Just one?” asked Drucker, looking down through a leafy web of foliage below him.
“Yes. And a peach.”
“Throw it up here,” instructed Drucker. “The peach, not the glass,” he added slyly, “I’ll have the lemonade when I come down.”
Even through layers of leaves and branches he could see her frowning. “Ten minutes,” she sighed. “Or I’ll climb up there and get you. Your mother wants you to know that dinner is at six, and if you’re late, you won’t be served.”
Drucker reached out his hands, beckoning for her to toss up the peach. Lucy was more than a governess to Drucker. She was an ally and a friend, and he had no doubt that his mother had instructed her not to give him the peach, but she had snuck it to him anyway. “Toss it,” he urged. “C’mon, toss it up here.”
Toss she did, but the arch of the fruit’s trajectory was short of where Drucker could reach, and Lucy threw up her arms, waving him off from the catch. “No, no! You’ll fall!” she called up to him as the peach thumped back into her outstretched palms.
“Aw, Lucy,” he teased, “I thought you could have thrown it better than that!”
“You know I could have thrown better than that.”
“Or forgot that you couldn’t throw it better than that,” he taunted from a dozen feet off the ground.
The playful exchange delighted nine-year-old Drucker, who prided himself on keeping pace with the twenty-six-year-old blonde who had lived upstairs for as long as he could remember. Drucker considered her a best friend, and it had never occurred to him that she felt any different than he, or that the fact that she was paid to look after him was the reason they spent their days together. Though to his mother she was one among a crew of employees who flitted about the property, gardening and cooking and generally serving as directed, to Drucker she more than took the place of the sisters and brothers his parents never gave him, and she lavished on him the attention and affection his parents similarly failed to provide.

***

A slap on the table ceremoniously ended the meeting. The men rose to their feet and shuffled papers and murmured to one another, their voices blending into a single sustained note. It was not unlike the drone of the meeting itself, which was little more to Drucker than a continuous low-pitched whine.
Back at his desk, Drucker eased into his chair, reclining for a few moments before hearing footsteps approaching his door and, on cue, straightening his spine. He glued his eyes to the front page of the newspaper that lay across his desk. Not a sentence was familiar, though the meeting had been dedicated to hashing through each and every headline.
“Hello, Drucker. I’m sorry to interrupt.”
Drucker looked up from his display of feigned diligence. The interruption was, in fact, not an interruption at all, as the scene in which Drucker was consumed by work was no more than a show, performed for the benefit of his one-man audience.
“I just spoke with Hank,” continued the bank’s president before Drucker could get a word in, “and I’m more than a bit concerned. Another five accounts have moved over to Georgia Consolidated Bank, and Hank expects the Langdons will move most of their assets by the end of the year. That damn bank hasn’t been operating six months, and already we’ve lost a dozen of Atlanta Southern’s…” he hesitated, grasping for the right word.
“Richest sons of—” Drucker tried to offer.
“Beloved patrons,” the bank’s president cut him off, giving Drucker a stern glance.
Drucker smirked but returned to the question at hand. “Five more accounts,” he mused.
“Since March, no less. At this rate we’ll be sucked dry in a matter of months,” the president replied, gravely.
“Well,” said Drucker, feeling apathetic, “I’d say it sounds as if this calls for a detailed discussion in tomorrow’s afternoon meeting.”
Sarcasm was always lost on the bank’s president. “Forget the meeting,” said the president, waving a dismissive hand. “This is a project for you.”
He looked down at Drucker’s desk, which was artfully staged to look like the station of a diligent worker. “You’re very busy, I know, but we’ll just have to find someone else to take the rest of this.” He motioned toward the stacks of financial records and yellowing newspapers on Drucker’s desk, all of which had been carefully arranged to look worn out from frequent and heavy use.
Drucker admired the scene he had crafted. “It is tiring,” he said. This was the truth. He couldn’t fight the sedative effect that all things banking had on him, even the relatively exciting prospect of the bank’s demise.
“Good then, it’s settled,” said the president. “You’ll be in charge,” he added, gaining momentum, “of making sure that Atlanta Southern doesn’t see the—suffer from the—well, that we don’t…” Momentum halted. He stammered through a long sentence that ultimately went unfinished.
“To be clear,” said Drucker, “you’re telling me that you’ll give all my work to someone else in exchange for me coming up with a plan to stop our accounts from moving to our competitor?” It suddenly occurred to him that this was a disadvantageous trade. He had made a practice of doing practically nothing all day, and suddenly here he was being asked to barter it away for a nearly impossible task.
The president nodded. “Precisely. This will look quite good for the board review, too.” It was widely known that the president intended to step down by year’s end, and the board would soon be appointing his replacement. Despite Drucker’s lackluster performance at every element of his job, the president threw the full weight of his portly existence behind the naming of Drucker as his successor.
“Or, I suppose, it could look quite bad for the board review. That is, if Georgia Consolidated continues to steal our customers,” Drucker replied evenly.
The president cringed deeply. “It could, yes, if you fail. But if you fail, I suppose we all shall. And if there is no bank for me to preside over, there will be no bank for you to preside over.”
A glum thought, but for some reason it delighted Drucker. “Well, when you put it that way,” said Drucker, “you give me no choice.”
Another glum thought, but for some reason it delighted the president. “Good, then it’s settled. I’ll tell Hank. I’ll tell him I’ve put you in charge, and that Atlanta Southern is in good hands.” He paused to consider his last statement and then added without humor, “It’s sink or swim now, Drucker, but you’ll keep us afloat. Won’t you?”
“Yes,” said Drucker quietly. “Of course, I will, Father.”


About The Author






Author Lauren Tanick Epshteyn, using the pen name Lane Everett, has nurtured a life-long love of the written word. At 10 years old she knew that someday she wanted to be a New York Times best-seller. A voracious reader, Lauren loves American Historical fiction, making it easy and interesting to research the 1890’s for her debut novel A Northern Gentleman.

The novel follows Drucker May who abandons his privileged life, embarking on a series of adventures allowing him to reinvent himself at every stop while searching for the life he’s always longed for and discovering the man he’s meant to be.

Her writing has been formed through writing education attained through Brown University (Providence, RI) creative writing courses, plenty of writing on the topic of American Government during her undergraduate education at Georgetown University (Washington, DC) and plenty more writing on the topic of American Business History, her chosen field of concentration for her MBA at NYU (New York, NY).




For More Information:
Author Website
Author.LaneEverett@gmail.com 

Virtual Book Tour 











Friday, February 12, 2016

The Story Behind Unawakened by Trillian Anderson

The Inspiration Behind Unawakened

When I initially created the Dae Portals series, I went on a week-long rampage with a pen and a notebook, jotting down the concepts for twenty-four books. I didn’t know it would be so long when the inspiration for Dawn of Dae hit, but as I kept writing out the ideas, the stories focusing on Alexa and her friends kept coming.

I could have stopped earlier, but I didn’t… and I’m glad for that.

Unawakened takes place a few weeks after the events of the Dawn of Dae, and Alexa has begun truly adapting to the new circumstances of her world. She is beginning to learn the truth about who—and what—she is. She’s also learning to discover herself and the things that are important to her.

In so many ways, Unawakened was inspired by human nature and the resilience of people, their differences, and the things that make humans, well, human.

In Dae Portals, Alexa is one of the few true humans left in the world. She hasn’t met another unawakened yet, and she’s beginning to understand what it means to be so different from everyone else. The unknown is now her reality, and it’s one she adapts to the best she can.

I don’t want to run the risk of spoiling anything for readers, but there are many different influences in this book, ranging from political curiosity to the conflict of real and fantasy religions. I asked myself many ‘What if’ questions while working on this title. Half of my notes are tentative answers to these questions and my speculations about the unknown.

That, in itself, has served as a great deal of the inspiration for this book. I love speculating. I love trying to think several steps ahead of now. I also love trying to pursue the consequences of things, especially the little things I really don’t expect to blow up in my face. When they do, I always learn something.

I like learning things. I also like laughing, giggling over the insane, and the absurd.


That’s part of what has made writing Unawakened so fun—and so difficult. The inspirations for this book are as varied as the nuances I pursued while writing it. I hope I never lose that sense of wonder and discovery while I continue working on this series.



About The Book



Title: Unawakened
Series: Dae Portals Book 2
Author: Trillian Anderson
Publisher: Bright Day Publishing
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Format:  eBook  / ePub / PDF - 305 pages
ASIN: B017WHH9EI
Genre: Urban Fantasy


Buy The Book:


Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club on Goodreads



Book Description:

In order to restore peace after the Dawn of Dae, the United States has declared martial law. Enforcing the militant regime won't be easy, and a new policing force of dae and their bonded humans has been mustered to keep the populace under tight control.

Alexa wants nothing to do with the government, its army, or the special forces meant to keep rebellion at bay, but she has a choice: do what Kenneth Smith wants or die a quick death. As one of the unawakened, she has no chance of infiltrating the police on her own. Forced to partner with Kenneth's dae, who dislikes her almost as much as she dislikes it, her life hinges on how well she convinces others she's a big, bad monster just like them instead of an ordinary human woman.

Working for the police is no easier than dealing with Kenneth's work. During the day, she's a part of the law, but at night, she's a tool of crime and war. It's only a matter of time before she's caught--or fails her mission and is killed by her drug-dealing boss.

If she wants to live a free life, she'll need to take care of Kenneth once and for all. Since he won't listen to reason and let her go, she's determined to buy her freedom with his death.

Unfortunately, Kenneth isn't the only problem in her life, and unless she does something about Rob, she'll lose the independence she fought so hard for. Worse, unless she's careful, he'll make her like it...


Book Excerpt:


Chapter One


Three months after Kenneth Smith had tried to kill me, I returned to his home with a katana and a gun. I wore the sword as a message and a promise I wouldn’t go quietly if Kenneth or one of his other hounds tried to kill me again.
The gun would be how I kept my lethal promise, and its weight in my shoulder holster reassured me. Despite the early winter chill, I left my leather coat open so I could reach my Beretta if I needed it.
I likely would.
Violence I understood, and I found the presence of both my weapons comforting. The day was ripe for bloodshed, and my sword and gun wouldn’t help me against many of the magical dae, but I did my best to ignore that fact. It hadn’t been so long ago the bonded had been regular humans without the strength and power the magical dae gave them.
Humans remembered the purpose of a sword, and the dae bled when cut. The problem was getting close enough to kill them before they killed me.
The sunrise painted the eastern sky in red and gold, and while I wanted to find somewhere quiet to watch it, I didn’t dare. I had a limited window of opportunity to act, and I couldn’t afford to waste it.
Before the Dawn of Dae, the early hour wouldn’t have been so peaceful, safe, or quiet. The emergence of the magical had turned sunrise into one of the serene parts of the day. Many of the dangerous dae were returning to their homes to sleep while the more cautious and mundane remained indoors.
In an hour, the city would awaken. I wanted to be done with Kenneth Smith so I could get on with my life, not that I was sure what sort of life waited for me. While I hadn’t been expelled from college, classes hadn’t resumed, and no one was really sure if they would.
For the moment, education came second to restructuring society. The police and military ruled in a state of martial law implemented at the government’s decree. Despite the chokehold on the population—or because of it—things were slowly returning to normal. Most businesses had reopened, and life went on. Most of the bonded and their dae had adapted to their new partnerships and circumstances, although there were still those like Arthur around, who wanted to use their newfound powers to control, destroy, or change the world.
Dae like Arthur, ready and willing to use their powers to get what they wanted, frightened me far more than I wanted to admit. With Rob’s help, I had no scars from my time in captivity—not visible ones, at least. Some of the wounds the fire breather had inflicted on me wouldn’t heal, not until I saw to Arthur’s death myself.
I’d let Rob and Colby help. They deserved satisfaction, too. Before I could hunt Arthur, however, I needed to deal with Kenneth Smith once and for all.
I reached his street, and it didn’t surprise me to find Kenneth’s favorite bitch, Lily, waiting on his doorstep. Unlike me, she held her gun out in the open, and the instant her gaze settled on me, I understood her silent message.
One of us would walk away alive. The other wouldn’t.
I smiled. Lily’s challenge changed nothing. Kenneth Smith would fall, and if I had to take out his favorite bitch first, so be it. Business was business.
We had never liked each other anyway.


Lily watched me approach, and her eyes caught my attention. Before the Dawn of Dae, they had been blue, accenting her porcelain skin. The emergence of the dae hadn’t been kind to her, graying her complexion and turning her irises a burning orange.
Passion, love, hatred, and anger gave fire breathers their strength; that much I had learned from Rob. Lily fidgeted, flexing her left hand. A thin coating of yellow fur sprouted over her skin.
I sighed, well aware of the lethal combination of werewolf and fire breather. In a way, I had hoped Lily hadn’t bonded with a dae, although the development didn’t surprise me very much. People like me, the unawakened, were few and far between, and most dae didn’t know what to make of us.
I didn’t know what to make of us, either, which didn’t help matters any. I’d yet to meet someone like me, someone who lacked a dae to teach them the new ways of the world.
“You shouldn’t have come back,” Lily said, and flames crackled in her voice.
Why did she carry a gun? I considered her weapon; it was an antique, far older than my Beretta. Rust marred its surface. It was the type of weapon Kenneth liked, so old the government didn’t view it as too much of a threat. If the authorities found it, the deteriorating state of the pistol would convince most it wasn’t a real danger to anyone.
Kenneth, thanks to his rank, would probably get away with having it, as long as no one found any ammunition to go with it.
I knew better, though. Maybe the gun appeared damaged beyond repair, but if Lily cocked it and pulled the trigger, I’d die all the same. Kenneth didn’t keep useless things around, people included.
Lily’s gaze lowered to my katana, and the woman smiled. “That won’t save you.”
“Nice to see you, too. Is Kenneth around?”
“You won’t be seeing him.” Lily’s smile widened, and she fiddled with the hammer of the pistol. “I’d be happy to leave a message for you, though.”
I glanced in the direction of Kenneth’s house and smiled for the hidden cameras. “Yeah, I have a message you can give him.”
“Oh?” Lily adjusted the grip on her pistol, her thumb poised over the hammer, although she didn’t cock it.
In addition to the cameras, the front of Kenneth’s house was wired with microphones, so if my boss was watching, he’d get my message loud and clear. I matched the woman’s fake smile and crossed my arms over my chest. I slipped my right hand beneath the leather jacket Rob had given to me.
Lily’s posture remained relaxed, and her thumb slid away from her pistol’s hammer. “Well? What’s your message? Tell me and leave. You don’t belong here anymore.”
Escaping Kenneth Smith wasn’t so easy, and Rob had told me my boss wanted to speak with me. Rob hadn’t been happy about relaying the message, either.
The next day, he had disappeared.
If Kenneth Smith was behind Rob’s vanishing act, I’d do a hell of a lot more to him than kill his favorite bitch. I’d ruin his wealth and reputation before I murdered him and his dae.
In a way, the Dawn of Dae had been a blessing in disguise. I had Rob, and I had Colby. Maybe my future was uncertain at best, but I no longer needed Kenneth to survive. New paths had opened to me.
Lily glared at me when I remained silent. “I’m not letting you into the house.”
“Are those Kenneth’s orders?” I tilted my head to the side. “I was given a message he wanted to see me.”
“I’m not letting you into the house.”
Two could play the repetition game, and I had no intention of losing. “Are those Kenneth’s orders?”
“Are you deaf? I’m not letting you into the house. I’m giving you one chance to turn around and walk away. I’ll shoot you and throw your body in the river. No one will miss you.”
If I turned and walked away, she’d shoot me anyway; I saw her desire for my death in the way she smiled. We had been on neutral terms for a long time. When I made her job with Kenneth harder, I bribed her, but because of my stubbornness and my inability to sleep with our boss, she had many reasons to hate me. Just hearing my name was probably enough to anger Kenneth since Rob had stolen me from him.
I preferred to think I had stolen Rob with no intention of letting the dae escape me, but that was another matter entirely. My sometimes roommate, frequent lover, and partner-in-crime wouldn’t be happy when he found out I had gone to see Kenneth alone.
The remorse of killing the woman would hit me later, but such was life on the fringe while working for the elite. Kill or be killed, and I had no intention of dying quite yet.
After several months of waiting for my broken ribs to heal, my patience with Kenneth and his operations had grown thin. I pulled my gun out of its holster, took aim, and before she could do more than gasp and flinch, I fired.
Lily crumpled to the sidewalk, twitched, and fell still. I waited until her blood stained the ground around her before stepping to her body, gun ready in case she decided to get back up.
Even the weakest of the dae and their bonded had ceased decaying to ash last month. Rob had sounded both pleased and annoyed by the development. I touched my fingers to Lily’s neck in search of a pulse.
She was already cold, as though all of the heat had been sucked out of her body right along with the fires that had burned in her eyes. Her blood stained my hand. Some people loved to kill, but I wasn’t one of them. I couldn’t even force myself to look at her. I swallowed several times so I wouldn’t throw up, rose to my feet, and headed for Kenneth’s door.
It opened before I had a chance to knock. Kenneth scowled at Lily’s body before turning his attention to me. “Was shooting her necessary?”
“She would have shot me if I had turned around, and she wasn’t letting me in.”
“All I have to do to lock you away for a long time is make a single call and inform the police you shot someone,” my boss hissed through clenched teeth.
“And I’ll tell them she’s a fire breather who was armed with an illegal gun. She threatened me.” I stowed my Beretta, pulled out my wallet, and flipped it open so Kenneth could see my concealed carry license. “Unlike her, I’m allowed to shoot people who threaten me, Mr. Smith. Rob told me you wanted to speak with me?”
“Come in, Collie.” Backing out of the way to give me space to slip in, he shut the door behind me and gestured to the basement stairwell. “I’m surprised you came.”
“Rob approved of our meeting.” Rob hadn’t been happy about it, but if he thought it was important enough to involve me in Kenneth Smith’s dealings once again, I’d listen—and look for a way out of working with him permanently.
“He has you eating out of his hand,” Kenneth snarled, stalking me down the stairs to his basement lounge. I flopped on the couch, propping my booted feet up on the antique coffee table. If Kenneth noticed the fine leather, I hoped he would wonder if I had purchased them for myself or if Rob had acquired them for me.
While Rob had made the purchase, I had paid the dae back for the boots by doing tedious paperwork for him—one of the few activities I could manage while my concussion and ribs healed.
Working with Rob had a lot more perks and a lot better pay than dealing with Kenneth. Whatever he wanted had to be important if Rob wanted me to deal with him again.
“So what? Business, Mr. Smith. You need me for something, else you wouldn’t have talked with Rob. I just killed your favorite, and you’re ignoring it. What do you need me for, what’s my pay, and when do you need it done?”
“As astute as ever. Very well. I’ve gone over the documents you provided, and I want you to sniff out Terry Moore’s associates, including the dean of your college. I also have a second job for you, if you’re up for the challenge.”
Dean Lewis had been paying Terry Moore to murder women while they were under the influence of Kenneth’s drugs. Not only had Terry murdered them, he had raped them, and the drugs had ensured they enjoyed it right up until he had killed them.
The thought of killing again didn’t enthuse me, but I was prepared to make an exception for the dean of my college. I still had the video evidence, hidden away where no one would find it without my help. I still had a copy of them on my personal laptop, too, waiting for me to delve into their horrors in search of answers. I didn’t need them anymore, though. The videos’ content was seared into my memories, and I woke too often from nightmares where I was one of Terry’s victims.
Sometimes, Terry became Arthur in my nightmares, and those were the nights I woke up drenched in a cold sweat. The dreams had gotten worse since Rob had vanished, as though his presence in my bed somehow kept them away. A few times when I had woken up from nightmares and Rob had been there, he chased them away and replaced my fear with more pleasant things.
“You’re asking a lot,” I grumbled.
“You’re the only one I have in a position to get what I need from him.”
I frowned, leaning back and stretching my arms along the back of the couch, positioning myself so Kenneth got a good look at my Beretta. “Likely true. What do you need me to find out?”
“First, I want you to find out what he was having Terry Moore do with my drugs. The earliest invoices were dated a week after I supplied him. Seems like too much of a coincidence to me.”
“I see. I guess I need to know what the drugs do. You gave me a brief summary of the effects. They can’t be detected on the current tests. They’re mild. But what do they actually do?”
Kenneth smiled, but there was nothing friendly about his expression.
I tensed, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw something dark coming towards me. I whipped my hand to my gun, but Kenneth’s dae was faster. He caught my wrist, yanked my arm back, and before I could even scream, he jabbed a needle into my arm.
Kenneth had moved while I was distracted by his dae. He clamped his hand over my mouth to keep me quiet. I thrashed, but the two didn’t release me until Kenneth’s dae pulled the needle out and tossed the syringe on the coffee table.
A few smears of red lingered in the barrel, and I trembled, remembering what the drugs had done to Terry Moore’s victims.
“I don’t know exactly what they do. That’s not my problem, Miss Daegberht. It is, however, now yours. I expect a full report when it wears off. Don’t worry. Jacob will take you home so you don’t have any unfortunate mishaps on the way. I’ve been told by reputable sources it takes about twenty minutes to kick in, no matter how it’s taken.”
Kenneth pulled his hand away from my mouth, and I realized he was wearing gloves. I shuddered.
Had Rob told them about my allergy? To cover my growing fear, I snapped my teeth together and sat straighter. “You son of a bitch.” I rubbed where I had been stabbed with the needle. Kenneth’s dae had also been wearing gloves.
At least I wouldn’t have to deal with an allergic reaction in addition to being drugged.
“You should be happy, Miss Daegberht. This is the good stuff, the stuff you couldn’t afford even if you wanted it. You’ll finally have the perfect high you’ve been searching for all this time. Don’t think I hadn’t noticed you wanting another hit, no matter how good a job you did fighting it.”
“Give me a reason I shouldn’t kill you right now.”
“You’ll die, for starters. You’d probably be dead before you could pull the trigger. Don’t kid yourself. You won’t do it. You only killed Lily because she always had what you wanted. Take her home, Jacob. No side trips. However appealing she might be to you, she’s off limits—for now.”
I spat curses at him and reached for my gun. Kenneth’s dae grabbed my arm and hauled me to my feet. In spite of Kenneth’s estimate of twenty minutes, the drugs were doing something to me—something that made it difficult to resist the dae.
“Oh, and another thing, Miss Daegberht. It should wear off in about twelve hours. If my understanding of the drug is correct, I recommend you stay home. Do try not to forget to write notes on the drug’s effects. It may be important for your research later. We can talk more about your job after you’ve recovered. Perhaps I’ll come visit you a little later tonight, once you’ve gotten accustomed to the drug.”
There was so much I wanted to tell him, but my tongue refused to obey me. My arms and legs were no better. Kenneth’s dae dragged me towards the stairwell, and I stumbled along with him. By the time Jacob got me into Kenneth’s car, I could barely stay on my feet, let alone fight him. Had Rob set me up? If so, why?
When the first tingling wave of the high hit, everything narrowed to the sensation of my clothes caressing my skin, the leather rubbing against me, and the pleasure of even the lightest touch.


The initial surge of the drug’s influence subsided by the time Jacob dropped me off in front of my apartment, although my skin’s hypersensitivity to touch remained. The dae leered at me, leaving me with zero doubt of what he had in mind for me.
I liked when Rob looked me over head to toe, but Jacob doing it sent chills through me. I scrambled out of the car, backed out of the dae’s reach, and slipped my hand into my coat for my Beretta.
“You don’t want to do that, Miss Daegberht.”
“Oh, I do,” I replied, although I didn’t pull out the weapon. “If he even thinks of backstabbing me again, I’ll start sending his hounds back to him in pieces, and I’ll take out his most useful ones first. Lily was just the start. No more tricks. If he really wants my help, he better get his head out of his ass, because right now, I’m not feeling very benevolent. I may decide Dean Lewis might be interested in knowing Kenneth Smith is gunning for him.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“I wouldn’t? Are you so sure about that? I would, Jacob. I would, and I wouldn’t even hesitate. He broke his trust with me. If he’s stupid enough to think I’m going to just accept his attempt to kill me was a part of the work, he’s mistaken. He can also expect a hefty bill for this… stunt.”
Maybe the drug made all of my nerves sing, but once the initial surge of pleasure had faded, it hadn’t affected my ability to think. It didn’t smother my anger, either. I closed my fingers around my Beretta’s grip, wondering if I could get away with leaving another body lying around for someone to find.
With the emergence of the dae, bodies were plentiful and few seemed to miss the dead. Given time, once friendships and lives were rebuilt, people would miss those who were gone, but the world was currently inhabited by the strange who were also strangers. For all the dae often took on monstrous forms, they were still a lot like humans.
They only cared for those with close ties to them, ties most hadn’t had time to form.
“I’ll make certain he is aware of your opinion.”
“My opinion is non-negotiable, Mr. Jacob. Perhaps this will wake him up to reality: I’m tired of being stepped on. If he even thinks of trying to ruin my schooling, remind him if I can go behind his back and get admittance into Bach studies, there’s a lot more I can do, too.” While some of my speech was bluffing, one important fact remained: I had leverage on Dean Lewis and Kenneth Smith, if I could figure out the best way to use it. “Ask him if he wants me on his side, or should I have a talk with Dean Lewis?”
“Are you threatening him, Miss Daegberht?” the dae growled.
“I don’t make threats, dae. I make promises. Remember, he backstabbed me first. If he hadn’t sabotaged my gear, he wouldn’t be in this position right now. Get the fuck out of my sight. You and your pathetic master sicken me.”
I turned and stormed to my apartment building. If Jacob said anything, I didn’t hear him over the bang of me slamming the front door.




About The Author


Opener of Portals. Urban Fantasy Author. Mistress of Giggles. Warped Sense of Humor.

Trillian Anderson is, like so many of us, a figment of someone's imagination. She was born somewhere in the United States, loves to travel, and has no scruples about moving to new and interesting places around the world. She loves fantasy fiction of all types, but holds a special fondness for urban fantasies, epic fantasies, and stories capable of capturing her imagine.

Most of all, she enjoys grabbing a flashlight, hiding under the blankets, and pretending she's asleep when she's, in actuality, reading a beloved book.

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