Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Samhain Short

There are a few spoilers in here, though I tried to keep them mild. This happens pretty much a year after the events in Inheritance and Reclamation. Enjoy :)


The house flickered with eerie lights as I pulled my minivan into the driveway. I wondered if the effects were intentional since it was Samhain. It was just after six and almost completely dark. Every other house I’d driven by had already lit their pumpkins to shine into the night and ward off spirits. But most of the world celebrated Halloween, and the day was all about candy for them.

I glanced back to the two carriers strapped into the second row seats. My babies both mumbled intelligible things and moved their little fingers. At almost seven months, Mizuki and Sakura were quickly outgrowing their baby stage. Mizu was sitting up and rolling over often, on the verge of crawling, and Kura was fighting hard to not fall behind her big brother. I could put the two together on a play mat for hours and they’d entertain each other. It was often how I worked, only interrupted on occasion by infectious baby laughter, which had the rare power to make me smile.

They kept me going. Without the twins I wasn’t sure how I’d wake up each day.

I put the car in park and stared at the house. It’d been awhile since I’d actually gone inside. Hanna and Ally had bought the mansion late last year with my mother, and Hanna and my older brother, Jamie’s help. It had been a fixer-upper, now it was grander than the Rou Mansion. South of the Twin Cities, the nearest town was nearly an hour drive, but it had thirty acres to run on, and I spent a lot of new moons here recently, running through the thick brush and ancient trees.

The main door of the house opened. Hanna stepped onto the porch. She was dressed in a black dress that swept her ankles and had a pointy witch hat on her head.  “I guess they are waiting for us, babies. Let’s go celebrate the harvest.”

I got out of the van, walked around the side, and then stripped off my coat and threw it on the passenger seat before opening the door to free my babies. Mizu’s eyes were wide.

“What, you don’t like it?” I asked him as I twirled in my catsuit. It was molded brown leather custom ordered from a cosplay website. With a few minor modifications, including a dark green leather kilt to hide anything the suit showed off since there would be kids around, the outfit was perfect for the mini-mask that Hanna was hosting. “Daddy’s a tree. Can’t you tell?”

My hair was green, and I’d spent about twenty minutes weaving paper leaves into it. I’d styled it up so it would be out of the way and not a tempting handle for small grabby hands. Both babies had watched me play with the paper leaves with fascination on their faces. The fact that I’d made them from the brightest fall colors possible probably helped.

Mizu squinted his eyes, and then sneezed.

“Oh goodness, we better make sure you’re bundled up.”

I crawled inside the van to unlock the babyseats and stepped into a pile of leaves. “How did those get in here?” Had I left the door open? The leaves crunched beneath my feet as I kicked them out the door. “Earth just follows us everywhere, doesn’t it babies?”

The twins were dressed as pumpkins. Matching orange jackets, though the jack-o-lanterns on the front were different, thick gloves and a brown stem hat that covered their ears, made up the outfit. Once they were both unstrapped, I double checked their zippers and ties. Everyone was in place. Time to go inside, couldn’t avoid the crowd forever.

“Look at our beautiful babies! Oh Ally, come look!” Hanna squealed as she came around the car to help with the carriers.

Ally, her spouse, stepped out of the house looking like Marilyn Monroe, blond hair teased up, and frilly white dress. Two seconds later she too was squealing over the twins and talking baby talk. Mizuki and Sakura could reduce anyone to single syllable and high pitched tones in half a heartbeat. “Their costumes are great, Sei! Perfect.”

I’d been working on the costumes for weeks.  Hanna had asked me a million times if I just wanted her to buy them something cute and simple, like a lion or those weird penguin suits. But I’d been adamant. My babies were going to celebrate Samhain the right way.  Costumes were handmade, candy simple, the night begun with lighting candles and ended with blowing them out.

Jamie, my older brother stepped out of the house, he was dressed like a giant teddy bear, pawed mitts and all. Kelly, his lover and my best friend, came down the steps behind him dressed as hockey player, though instead of ice skates he had roller blades.

“So this is what you were working on,” Kelly said. He kissed each of the twin’s foreheads. “Making them perfect little pumpkins.”

“Press their tummies gently, right where the nose is,” I told him.

Kelly pressed Mizuki and a pale glowing light poured through the little pumpkin.

Hanna squealed again and turned Sakura’s suit on.

“Had one of the IT people at work help me with that part,” I told them all. “But it’s LED so it’s safe and won’t burn out.”

“That is amazing, Sei.” Jamie whipped out his phone and began taking pictures.

“Oh I have to get mine too!” Hanna rushed back into the house.

Ally took Kura out of her seat, and I got Mizu. Hanna came back out and called, “Everyone pose with the twins.”  I let her snap a few pictures.

Mizu yawned, and Kura snapped her lips wanting her nook. I had them in the pocket of my kilt, but was hoping to keep the kids awake a little longer by holding on to them.

“They twins are already sleepy,” I said, though they’d had a nap today. Hanna had talked about taking them trick or treating. I had protested briefly, but as long as we did the normal Samhain stuff, I didn’t care if their momma wanted to walk them around and gather candy they couldn’t eat anyway.

“Dinner should be ready,” Hanna said as she led us inside. 

“Seiran,” my mom called as we walked in the door. She was positively glowing with happiness as she crossed the room and kissed me lightly on the cheek before bending to kiss each baby. Mizu opened sleepy eyes and reached for her. She took him from me with an ease of movement only a mom could have. Kura made sleepy noises, but looked pretty comfortable in Ally’s arms. “I hope you’re hungry. The soup should be ready.”

I followed her toward the dining room. The harvest theme ran through the house. She always hired professional decorators to make it memorable, but this year’s design was simpler, less commercial Halloween and more true Samhain. Maybe that was Hanna’s influence. The double glass doors from the dining room where open to let in the brisk air of the evening. Two tiny pumpkins and one larger one sat on the end of the table. My mom went to the door and shut it, closing out some of the cold and immediately the warmth of the fireplace eased some of the shivering in my bones.

“The big pumpkin is yours. The little ones are for each of the babies. I thought you might want to light them before dinner,” my mom motioned to the chair on that end of the room. I took Mizu from her as I made my way across the room. His eyes were all over the bright orange blobs on the table. The past few weeks, each time we’d gone to the grocery store I’d pointed them out to him and Kura. I’d even taken them to a tiny patch that a co-worker had so they could touch the leaves and take in the bright colors of the fall.

The large pumpkin was carved with in intricate tree spanning almost the full length of one side and was duplicated on the opposite side. My name was written in the base of the tree in large letters. The two smaller gourds were similar, only instead of a large tree, they were little seedlings, sprouting out of the ground, each of the twins’ names carved into the tiny stalk.

Baby fingers on my cheeks brought me back into the now as I realized tears were falling from my eyes. Mizu’s little fingers reached for my hair on one side, and touched my face on the other. “Sorry, baby. Daddy’s okay. Just tired.” I glanced up around the room and realized that other than immediate family, no one else had entered the dining room with us. When Hanna had said it was a small party, I figured she would have invited some friends from work.

Everyone had taken their seat and was waiting for me it seemed, to light the candles and get on with it. “Sorry, everyone.”

“No worries, Sei. Do you want me to take Mizu while you light the pumpkins?” Ally appeared at my side, and held out her arms. I let her take him. Jamie handed me a lighter stick. I flicked it on, opening my pumpkin first, and reached inside to light the little white wick.

The candle inside roared to life, casting the flickering shadow of a tree on the wall. When the two smaller pumpkins began to glow too, I felt a little lighter hearted. It would all work out. Sure being alone sucked, but I was really only as alone as I wanted to be. Everyone in the room was more than willing to come when called, whether it be for baby patrol or just a last minute movie night. I stared around the room at my family and really loved them for being there. Even though there was an empty chair beside me, I didn’t feel as though he were far away. Maybe since this was the night of thin veils he was here somehow.

That was just wrong. He wasn’t dead. He was just sleeping, I reminded myself. Even if I couldn’t feel him in my head.

My eyes went blurry again. Damn tears. But then there were waiters bringing out bowls of pumpkin soup and slices of the cornbread I’d been craving all day. Hanna and I set up the twins in their highchairs. I was used to my food being cold by the time the kids had eaten, but the waiters didn’t even bring our bowls until the twins had finished their pumpkin soup and were gnawing on pieces of bread. Both were my recipes, and I could feel the warmth of having them served for the holiday spread through me.

Jamie cleared his throat as I was pushing my bowl aside. When I looked up all eyes were on him and Kelly.

“Kelly and I have talked about this for a while.” Jamie looked at Kelly who nodded. “And we wanted to announce this tonight, not to take away from the holiday, but as a symbol of upcoming growth.”

I blinked at them. Were they saying what I thought they were saying?

“We’ve decided to have a baby.”

The room sat in dead silence. Jamie smiled at me. “You’ve shown us how much we really want our own, Sei. We want our babies to grow up with yours, so Kelly and I are in the process of choosing a surrogate.”

“Will she be a witch?” My mother asked.

“Only if she gives up all rights to us,” Kelly replied. “The baby will be ours. In fact my older sister has volunteered to donate a few of her eggs, so the baby will be part me, part Jamie.”

“A water-earth mix?” Had that ever been done, I wondered? Would the baby inherit water since that was the stronger element? Baby. There would be more babies. I burst into tears.

Jamie was at my side rubbing my back in an instant. “I didn’t want to upset you. We were going to wait. But we really want our baby to be close in age to Mizuki and Sakura. We just don’t know how long…”

I let myself fall into his arms and just cry it out. I was happy for them. Really I was. My babies would get to play with their babies, and they’d all get to grow up in one big happy family. Only Gabe was supposed to be there too.

“It’s probably the best time for this then, too,” Hanna said, as she adjusted Kura’s baby bib nervously. “Ally and I want all of you to come live with us. Permanently. The house is big enough, and we’re planning on adding on. In fact we’ve got an indoor pool scheduled to be installed this coming spring. Jamie, Ally, and I have been renovating. Making private spaces for each of us, with enough shared space to keep the family together.” She motioned to me. “We redid the entire basement. So it’s got enough room for you and the twins, and Gabe when he wakes up, and a kitchen and a library, so if you want to be alone, you can be, but you don’t have to be.”

It was all too much at once. My head was spinning. Mizu was nestled in my mother’s arms, and Ally was cleaning up Kura with a damp rag.

“I—” But I didn’t know what I wanted to say. For months I’d been juggling my job, my kids, running Gabe’s businesses, and taking care of his home and my own. If I got rid of the condos, or even just closed them up for a while, maybe it would be one less thing on my plate. Kelly was never at our place. He was always at school or with Jamie.

“We’ve got the babies, Sei,” Hanna told me. “If you need to go for a little while, it’ll be fine.” Everyone was nodding in agreement. My whole world was unraveling, had been for months, but here they all were, united, wanting to help. It just made me want to cry again.

“How about I drive? You look a little shaky. Maybe talking to Gabe will help,” Kelly offered.

“But they babies-”

“Are fine. They have plenty of family to take care of them. Tanaka and Ally can put them down for the night. You know there are jammies here, and I bet you have nooks in that fancy pocket on your kilt. You’ll have to tell me where you got that, by the way, ‘cause I want one.”

I dug out the nooks, and wanted to protest, after all it was Samhain, but my head was still swimming with the craziness of too much change at once. How did anyone become equipped to deal with this sort of thing on their own? Or were we born with the ability, only to lose it when we found someone to depend on? I kissed my babies and headed for the door, thinking maybe it was okay to talk to him tonight, avoiding him for months meant I’d earned it, right? It was okay if he didn’t respond. Sometimes the therapy was all in what I let go of rather than held on to.

Kelly’s new car was much smaller than the minivan. I knew it was big enough to hold the kids, but I’d never been a passenger in it before myself.  The car steered nice, and didn’t smell like babies, which just made me sad.

“If it’s too soon, Sei, just tell us. We can wait a little longer. Both Jamie and I will understand.”

I shook my head. It wasn’t fair to them, and wasn’t my decision to make.

He didn’t say anything else for the rest of the drive. The cemetery that we entered had a special code lock for it to keep vandals out, especially on a night like tonight, Halloween, Samhain. That and the darkness often made people stupid.

The gate opened by itself, very high tech, and we passed through without incident. He steered us down the narrow road past above ground mausoleums that didn’t often decorate Minnesota cemeteries. But this wasn’t a normal cemetery; the walls surrounding it where fifteen feet tall, four feet wide, solid concrete, security guards with vicious dogs walked the ground carrying high powered rifles, and the decorative tombs where just another barrier.

We were checked by another guard who let us park and escorted us to a giant white mausoleum. It was plain other than the heavy-duty mental door that the guard had to open with a half dozen physical keys. “We’ve had no activity,” the man told me.

I just nodded. Kelly gave me a tight smile. “I’ll wait out here. Take as long as you need.”

Inside the tomb it really was just a set of four walls, one with a door, and a dirt floor. I knew the heavy concrete of the mausoleum went down several feet into the earth. The only way in or out was the door. That was all security, for him and for anyone who happened to be around when he finally did wake up.

The floor was dirt. This time of year it felt cold, but the ground recognized me. I could feel him down there, an almost foreign object to the subtle stillness to the earth. He was a misshapen pebble, in the grander flow of a river, that just seemed unwilling to move. The mound that once reminded me he was there had settled a little.

“Hey, Gabe,” I whispered to him opening the bond between us. As always I felt nothing, just that endless void that couldn’t tell me whether he was still there at all or not. “I miss you.”

I drew in the dirt, re-carving my name and his together in a heart. Then I added Mizuki and Sakura to the list. “Your babies need you. I need you. But I suppose you know that.”

Gabe was a vampire with more than two millennium of life lived. He’d warned me when we first met that sometimes things happened. Sometimes the pressure and memories became too much. I’d known only vaguely about Redouts, and what they were. I knew vampires could go to ground, sometimes for years, even centuries. I gulped at the thought of that.

I suppose I never thought that Gabe, who had always been a rock of strength and stability, would have to take a time out. He’d been prepared, as he was for most things, but only for a few weeks. Not the nearly six months he had already been gone. Accountants and lawyers came to me for decisions, all while I juggled two brand new babies, a fairly stressful job, and the responsibilities that came with being the Pillar of earth.

“It was really crappy timing you know,” I told him and sat down on my ass in the dirt, back to the wall. “You could have waited for the twins to be a few years old. Or maybe even out of college first.”

But it really wasn’t his choice either. I remembered the expression on his face that day, the pure blood lust that turned his eyes glowing red and skin ashen. In all our time together, he’d never shown me that side of himself. Sure I knew subconsciously it was there, all vampires had it, but Gabe just always seemed so human to me. I think that’s why it hurt more when he was suddenly staring at me without recognition, like I was food. I’d been so afraid, fearful for the twins that I’d taken them and left. When Jamie arrived later that day to tell me that Gabe had gone to ground, I’d shrugged it off, thinking it would only be for a few days at most. How stupid I was. I hadn’t even had the chance to say goodbye or tell him that I loved him.

“I wish I could at least hear you in my head. Feel your mind or something. Anything other than this endless silence.” We sat together for a while, and I remembered how he’d always massage my hands. Sometimes he’d just hold me for hours and neither of us would need to speak. If it weren’t so cold I might have been able to imagine him holding me.

“I saw Sam last week. He’s doing good. Happy, I think. Hart’s been taking good care of him in your absence. That was one thing you didn’t plan for.” I wondered if he’d gotten so comfortable with his life that he’d forgotten to change his plans when Sam had been brought over. I certainly couldn’t have mentored a new vampire for any length of time. If Max Hart hadn’t stepped in to offer sanctuary to Sam, the Tri-mega would have taken him. I didn’t want to think about what Tresler would have done. Sam had gone through enough crap in his short life.

I rose to my feet and dusted off my pants. “I have to get back to the twins. You should see them. They’re growing so fast.” I knocked on the door and it was opened by the guard who let me out. Kelly hugged me, and together we walked back to the car.

“I’m happy for you guys,” I finally told him when we were back on the road. “Excited for Mizu and Kura to have a new playmate.” Worried about the pressure that would put on Kelly who was in college fulltime, struggling through the magic studies program that I’d barely just survived. “Are you sure you’re ready for it though?” He was so young.

“Yeah.” Kelly reached over and grabbed my hand, squeezing it tightly. “I’ve had your babies as a trial run, you know. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having is. And I want you to know, Jamie and I have already said yes to moving in with Ally and Hanna. With all of us in one house, there will always be a babysitter available. Even if I just need some time out to do a term paper or something. I just feel like it’s time for our family to grow, and this baby will knit us closer together. Maybe even make the time go faster while we wait for Gabe. I miss him, too. Probably not like you do. But he was a friend. A good friend, and now there’s just this hole where he was.”

I stared out the window, not wanting to delve back into that pain. When I’d called one of the Tri-mega, Tresler, he’d said that vampires took more time based on their years, and since Gabe was over two millennia old, he could be out for years. Not good news for me. Facing being a permanent single dad was terrifying. I could give up full custody. Hanna and Ally could take them every other week or something. But did I really want the kids to be yoyos? No, I wanted them to have a stable home where they were loved no matter what. I guess that’s why the house really made sense. Of course Hanna would think of something like that, though I bet she had a lot of encouragement from Jamie, who was the king of bringing family together.

The house was mostly dark when we pulled into the drive. We’d been gone a little over three hours. I wondered if the babies were in bed. Had Hanna taken them trick or treating? Inside the house, we passed the dining room where the pumpkins still flickered, waiting for me to blow them out.

“Jamie’s downstairs in the new nursery with the babies,” Kelly said looking at his phone. He must have text him.

“I’m just going to blow out the candles. I’ll be right down.” I crossed the room and pulled the lid of my pumpkin and huffed a good breath to snuff the flame, then did the same for each of the smaller ones. A tiny thought to Gaea about the upcoming season and I was free to find my children. Kelly led me to the stairs, and I followed him down. Though the space was larger, it looked a lot like Gabe’s condo. The kitchen was bigger, and there were more doors leading off the main living space, but the layout and furniture were almost exactly the same.

Jamie stepped out of the third doorway on the right, easing the door shut behind him. Kelly moved passed me to hug him and deliver a kiss. I left them to it and went to check on my babies. The room was huge. Cribs on one end of the room just a few feet apart with a changing table in between, and on the other end was a king-sized bed.  There was also an oversized walk-in closet, an attached bathroom with a giant glass shower and a separate Jacuzzi tub, and a door that lead off to the library. The anime picture of two men kissing that had been in Gabe’s condo, hung over the bed. I hadn’t been to Gabe’s place in months. It hurt too much, but having that picture made it suddenly feel like home.

I changed out of the costume and into some jammies before grabbing a brush and letting my hair down. It took about ten minutes to get all the leaves out, and then brush it smooth, but since I didn’t hear anything other than baby sighs from the other side of the room, I took my time. When I finished, I headed over to check on the twins. Kura was sound asleep, nook in her mouth, looking like the angel she could be. Mizu had his nook, and his eyes were sleepy, but open.

“Hey, peanut. You should be sleeping.” I rubbed his cheek gently with my finger. He grabbed at me like he wanted to be picked up, so I gently lifted him and carried him with me over to the plush armchair between the cribs and the bed. I rocked him for a while, watching those sleepy eyes grow heavier. Just before he dozed off, he reached one little hand up and caught a thick hank of my hair. I felt warmth tingle through my scalp, and suddenly a bunch of colorful leaves fell around us as though we were sitting under some giant oak.

I blinked down at my little boy, shock and wonder coursing through me all at once. The use of power had been so subtle I had barely felt it. Most children didn’t come into their power until puberty, many not until much later, which was why the levels testing was done in college. If Mizu could already pull leaves out of nowhere as easy as breathing, what did that mean for his power as he got older?

A moment of panic grabbed me. Equality among witches was still in the early stages. Sure men were being admitted to programs and tested, some even hired for Dominion work. But a newborn with Pillar level powers?

My mother would want him accosted deep into the Dominion, powers bound, hidden from the world at large lest he hurt someone. Even Hanna might believe that would be for the best. My powers hadn’t really started developing until I was in my late teens. It was likely the abuse Matthew had inflicted on me had delayed my development, but I couldn’t recall anything like this. My mother would have freaked and probably had me sacrificed “for the greater good.”

Kura would be treated as a princess, Mizu a leaper. Sweet Gaea how could this be so unfair? Could Kura do this stuff yet? Would she ever?

I could always bind Mizu’s powers myself, just temporarily. All the research I did for work had to be good for something. There was probably a spell that could bind them until puberty or maybe until he felt ready for them. But would that ever happen? Even now I could barely contain the power that flowed through me. Ever connected to the earth, it was a constant well of energy. What if I’d had since birth to control this? To learn about what I could do?

Gabe would encourage me to take this on and train Mizu. But I couldn’t be with him every second of the day. If my mom saw, or if Hanna saw, what then? He was too young to know that he should be hiding.

I frowned.

Hiding. I’d been doing that my whole life. That wasn’t something I wanted for my children. They shouldn’t have to live in fear. They should be free, happy, and accepted for who and what they are. Was I, or was I not the most powerful earth witch on the planet? Well, apparently not including my son. I sighed, brushed the leaves off, and continued to rock him gently.

A quiet knock came on the door before Jamie stepped inside. He glanced from the cribs to me in the chair and then blinked. His expression told me he was forming questions and answers in his head before he could think to speak them. When he eased himself onto the arm of the chair to look down at my sleeping son, there was a strong set to his jaw. He picked up a bright red leaf and twirled the stem between his fingers. “Mizu?”

I just nodded.

“What are we going to do?”

“Raise him.”


“He’s a baby first. My baby. And I am Pillar of earth.”

Jamie ran his fingers lightly over Mizu’s head, brushing the little red-gold curls that had begun to grow. “I don’t want him to have the childhood you did.”

“He won’t.” Of that I was adamant. I closed my eyes and pulled the earth in its ever sweeping motion over us, giving us peace, and settling my mind briefly in two worlds instead of one. Green fields and lush plants overlaid the room. A man with bright red hair and dark cinnamon-colored skin pushed through the brush, and then paused to bow before me.

“Master,” he said.

“Seiran,” I corrected him. “Bryar, I need you.”

He rose from his bow. “On my way.”

I shut down the other side, blinked away slightly blurry vision and glanced at my older brother who seemed to shake himself out of a dream.

“I’ve never been this close while you’ve done that before. How did you ever come back from there? It was so beautiful.”

But all I could do was smile at my sleeping baby. I’d seen them grown bigger than they were now, knew they would need me. No amount of offered peace could be enough to keep me from them.

A flash of red zipped across the room just seconds before the red haired man appeared before us.

“Hey, Bryar,” Jamie greeted him.

Bryar just nodded in acknowledgement. His normally wispy green clothes morphed into a pair of jeans and an oversized sweatshirt. I always marveled at the pure magic thing he was. So much more subtle than anything I could do and less destructive too, most of the time.

I got up from the chair to put Mizu back to bed. Once he was carefully set in his crib, blanket snuggled over him, I turned to them. “Bryar, I want you to care for Mizuki and Sakura. Train them. Help ease the transition of their powers.”

The man blinked his large cinnamon eyes at me, understanding coming almost instantly. “They have powers already?”

I motioned to the leaves that Jamie was scooping up into the garbage. “I think because he saw leaves in my hair earlier, when I took them out, he thought they should still be there.” He’d also watched me spend a lot of time putting leaves in my hair for dinner. Maybe that’s why they ended up all over in the van. Was he trying to help? A smile stretched across my face. My baby, I was so proud of him, not because he had power, but because he was beautiful, he was mine and he was already thinking of others. And Kura too, even if she never developed a lick of power, I’d love her more than I would any female in the world.

“Can you start training them already? Even this little?” I asked Bryar.

He shrugged, “Sure, we train our own babies from birth. Can’t be that much different for a human baby, right?”

“Just don’t take them through the veil please.” I might be able to waltz back and forth unharmed, but I knew the average person could go crazy just from a glimpse of the peace. Raw power was unpredictable at best, lethal at worst.

“Your little one may do that all by himself,” Bryar pointed out as he examined my kids in his very not human way. Bugs and fairies just had no personal space. “You want me to room here somewhere? There’s nothing green.”

“I can fix that,” Jamie said and disappeared through the doorway only to come back a minute later with a huge potted bonsai tree he’d been working on. “I’ll set up the light lamp later. But at least this way you can be close to the kids and still be comfortable.”

“Wow.” Bryar’s face split in a huge shit-eating grin that only he had mastered. And without any warning he was suddenly a ladybug. He crawled around the mossy rock/dirt mix that made up the bonsai’s soil.

I stared at my brother over the top of the plant. He carefully put set it up on the top of the armoire, out of reach of small grabby hands, and yanked me into a rib shattering hug.  “We’re going to be fine. The kids will be fine. Everything will work out.”

“I know,” I told him. With or without Gabe I was going to be the best damn father I could be. Papa bear and mama bear all in one. I smiled, feeling a little giddy by the idea of showing my mom what else she couldn’t control. Perhaps the Rou legacy would change now. After all, the future never had brighter prospects than my beautiful twins.


Don't miss Ascendance, the fourth book in the Dominion series released from Dreamspinner Press on November 7. Ascendance

Friday, October 26, 2012

Inventing Creepy Crawlies: Meet the Jackal Wraiths

“What happens if they catch you? There’s really no way to fight them?” There had to be a way. Everything had a weakness.

“No. They can only be diverted if stronger prey calls to them.” The old woman glowered at him. “Attend to me, and you had better etch my warning into your bones. They hunt in mated pairs and cannot be fought. Once they have a taste of your soul they can follow you anywhere. They slip through cracks in time and show up where you will be. They prolong the hunt purely for the pleasure of the fear it raises in their victims. And once you’re done, once you’ve fought and run past any strength left, they divide you between them and devour you. Is that spoken plainly enough?”

* * * * *

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Reviews and Life, Read More!

I have a normal day job. Writing right now is a part time gig, though it really takes more time and I get paid a lot less than I would if I really had a part time job. It’s more for enjoyment I think than anything else. So of late I’ve been working through some issues with reader reviews, wondering why they matter. And as much I want to ignore them, they do matter, not to me so much, but to other readers.

Those of you who know me, know I’m an avid reader myself. I don’t post written reviews for most anyone’s stuff. There are several reasons for that:

First, for some reason people take my opinion really seriously just because I’m a published author. Mostly if it’s not a hundred percent positive review. People get upset if they get three stars. Hey three stars means I liked it. Very few people get five stars from me, like one in every forty books I read. Same goes for four stars, you have to make me really love your characters to get that rating.

Second, people take too much stock in individual ratings. If I wrote some big long spiel about how the book was so great except for this one scene, what does the author who reads that review focus on? That scene of course, and not in a way that has them thinking “well how can I improve this,” it’s more like a “woe is me.” How do I know? Cause I do the same thing. It’s human to have a hard time taking criticism. Even four years of creative writing classes in college can’t take away all the sting.

Third, sometimes what I have to say really isn’t all that nice. Yeah, I try to be neutral, but really, we all read stinkers from time to time. My tastes are also not the same as other people’s so just cause I don’t like it doesn't mean someone else won’t. I don’t like anything with BDSM in that goes further than a slap and tickle. Slave and master really irritates me, so when I find a book that I’ve picked up falls into that range, I just don’t rate it at all. There’s no reason my distaste for a genre has to affect how some other reader may or may not pick up a book. I also don’t like books with too much sex, and in the m/m genre it’s really hard to find books that don’t have too much sex. People use sex to fill up pages instead of plot. Those books get a lower rating for me even if I’d normally give them four or five stars because they have good characters.

Reading, just like writing is subjective. In college my professors would go on about the hidden meanings in books. Which always annoyed me to no end. Why can’t we just enjoy a book for what it is? The escape to another person’s life. I don’t have much for hidden meanings in my books. I write what I enjoy and hope my readers will enjoy. I get annoyed when readers take my time for advantage. It takes months to write a book, sometimes years. Authors make way less than minimum wage on each book. It’s more like $.50 a book, even less if you calculate all the hours put in for writing the book, editing the book, marketing the book and answering emails to the publisher. However we do put our heart and best work into each story. At least I do.

In the beginning I read reviews from readers, now I don’t. You don’t have to read my books if you don’t like them, but I will still write what I enjoy and remain true to each character. I also will continue to ignore comments from other readers when I choose a book to read. Since I read 4-6 books a week, I read a lot, in all genres.

So I say think a little harder next time you’re writing a review. Are you writing mean just because you had a bad day? Did you not like the book because it wasn’t the characters you’re used to from the author? Or was there some other detail that biased your opinion?

Why do I bring all this up you ask?

Because I want all of you to read more. Expand your knowledge not just of the genre, but of everything. Knowledge comes from books as well as the world around you and knowledge is power. I see people saying they won’t read from a certain publisher just because they read a bad book once. I’d never read again if that was the case. What a tragedy that would be. Come on, we all read Twilight. We all liked the first book and probably hated the rest. Does that mean we won’t ever read another book by Little Brown? Unlikely since they’re in the top five publishers in the world!

There are plenty of uneducated people out there voicing their opinions on everything from who should win the election to who gets the right to have sex. If you live your life judging others without being smart about how you come to those opinions why would anyone pay attention to you?

Thursday, August 16, 2012


On Tuesday, Xara shared with us about near death experiences. So today I am sharing flash fic about a near death experience. WARNING: This has some graphic moments so if blood squicks you out, beware.

Once more I found myself staring down at the post card in my hand. Ever since I found it shoved in the back of that book I haven’t been able to keep it out of my mind. How could someone, some stranger, know the deepest fear in my heart? 

So there I was. The rich colored leaves of autumn crackled under the seat of my jeans as I settled on the ground with my back leaning against the cool stone. In the summer, when the weather did not require so many layers of clothing, I could feel the words carved into that small monument of rock and grief through my thin t-shirts. But then, in the fall, all I felt was the cold seeping in through my jacket. As I sat there staring, a crisp breeze swept its way through the grave yard and I was transported.

The postcard that inspired the story.

That day had been a day like this one in many ways. The breeze was the same, and the leaves. But it was different in the most important way, that day we had been together. The grounds crew of the university had raked all the leaves from the commons into giant piles and it seemed like the perfect beginning of Thanksgiving break to throw ourselves at the piles with abandon after escaping our last class. 

After a brief but fierce battle amongst the leaves we found ourselves laying on our backs, staring at the brilliant blue sky, surrounded by a riot of leaves. In that moment, we’d felt like the only two people in the world. I’d reached over and taken hold of his hand, needing to touch him. We’d laid there like that for a moment that seemed to last forever, happy and flushed, the connection of our love stronger than I ever could have imagined.

Until, only a year later, we were 
ripped apart. How could I have known? Such a tiny thing, a few cells stacked up against each other. How could a few unruly cells shatter that bond? And another year later, found me sitting there, staring at a post card that screamed my soul to the world. 

Tears rolled quietly down my face as I remembered the feel of your fingers entwined with mine, the warmth of your hand, the brilliance of your smile. And even as I remembered, the fractures within me pulsed and ached as if I had shoved a finger in a new wound. I was afraid because I knew I could not live like that. No one could survive when they were that broken inside. But if I let go of that smile, those fingers, who would remember?

As I sat there, in my despair, I cried out in a prayer. Not to any God, because what God would I want to talk to? The one who let you die? One who made you sick? One who left me all alone? No I cried out in prayer to you. Help me. Help me. Help me. Over and over again, it became my mantra, consumed me until there was nothing else in me.

As my prayer overflowed my being a quiet calm descended over me – not a calm in which pain dissipated and peace settled but a calm in which the pain was so great that all else fell to the wayside. I savored the sharp heat that emanated from the base of my wrists as I watched the blood burst forth in the wake of my razor. I was mesmerized as I watched pools of red flow from me and soak into the grass.

Finally, the last of my false warmth was eaten by the cold ground and I hurt no more.

I nuzzled into his chest as I slowly woke up. I always woke up before him but I loved to be the one to wake him up so it worked out. His arms tightened around me and I snuggled closer. His hips started slowly rocking against mine and I smirked to myself. Gently I began to untangle my arm from his hold in order to wake him up properly but I was stopped dead in my tracks as a fierce pain shot through my arm.

My vision whited out and I bolted upright in the bed as I clawed at my arm unable to comprehend the agony blazing forth from my wrist into the rest of my body. Tears streamed down my face and sweat poured out of me. It felt like the pain had to end or my heart would seize in my chest.

Torturous moments later, I felt cool hands take my arm and soothing lips kiss it. Slowly, relief spread from those kisses and for a moment I was nearly giddy from being painless.

“Shhh. It’s okay.” He whispered as he wrapped his arm around my back. I looked at him and then looked down at the arm he was still holding in one of his hands. I was shocked to see a vertical slice up the entire forearm. Muscle and layers of skin lay open and raw. I felt gorge rise in my stomach at the mutilation.

All I could think was Who did this to me? And as I was about to open my mouth to ask, it all came rushing back in – the cancer, his death, my unending pain, blood in the grass.

I turned to look into his eyes, bright blue and sparkling with love just like they always had been. “I did this.” I whispered.

With aching gentleness he cupped my face in his hands and brought our foreheads to rest against each other. “I know.”

The sorrow in his voice sliced through my soul and I couldn’t stop the tears flowing down my face. “I’m so sorry.”

Tears were streaming down his face as well when he replied softly, “Me too.” And finally, for the first time in over a year, we were wrapped in each others arms, complete. I let the joy of his touch wrap around my heart and fill my soul.

I was jerked suddenly from our embrace when a shock shot through my body. It should have been painful but the time for pain had passed. I looked up, confused, and asked, “What was that?”

He was quiet for a moment and then replied, “You died in the cemetary. But the groundskeeper found you and called an ambulance. They’re shocking you to get your heart beating again right now.”

I felt my heart speed up as panic washed over me. “NO! I can’t go back.” I grabbed his arms and prepared to fight not to let go of him. Another shock rammed its way through my body.

Without forcing me to release my hold, he twisted so that his arms were wrapped around me and his head settled on my shoudler. “But you have so much life left to live.” His words were barely audible as he spoke them directly into my ear.

I shook my head, “I don’t want to live it without you.”

“I’ll always be with you.”

I gripped him tighter. “Not like this.”

“No, not like this.”

After a moment, he leaned back and looked me in the eyes. “What about the people who will miss you?”

I wanted to ignore the question and stay lost in his eyes but as I continued to stare they began to reflect scenes I recognized. A paniced woman grabbing her keys and racing to the door, tears streaming down her face – my sister. A man rushing through the doors of the emergency room, strain in every line of his face – my best friend. A woman, rocking and praying and holding my hand as I lay silent in a hospital bed – my mom.

These were the people I had left by the wayside, ignored in my grief and still they loved me. “I don’t want to go back,” I protested again, but with less strength this time. Another shock rocked through me and I lost the last of those future reflections.

“It’s time now.”

I stared at him, trying to memorize his features once more, remember forever how he made me feel. The shock came more quickly this time and I could feel this reality slipping away. I had one more question – “Why did I get to see you?”

He grinned, “Because the Almighty Beloved knew I was what you needed.” He paused. “And because I’m the only who could ever talk a lick of sense into you.”

Another shock.

I leaned forward with the last of my strength and kissed him fiercely. “I love you.”

Another shock.

A bright light began to take over the bed we had been sitting on and he stood to walk back into as I was being pulled back into my reality. The last thing I heard before I smacked back into noisy chaotic world surrounding my body was a whispered, “I love you, too.”

When I woke up I found myself in the middle of the final future reflection I had seen. My mom was holding my uninjured hand and praying quietly to herself. I squeezed her hand and she looked up. A look of undescribable relief and love took over her face as she gasped, “Oh thank God.”

2 weeks later

I was still in the hospital but now I was out of the medical unit and in the behavioral health unit. I looked at my shrink and for the first time since his death, I felt like talking. It felt like a brand new beginning when I took a deep breath and said, “I want to make sure I remember him. Can I tell you about him?”


Kathleen Hayes

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stay Away from the Light

Somewhere, a man is jogging. His heart seizes, and he collapses. A reckless driver decides that text just can't wait until he gets where he's going, and he drifts across the double lines into oncoming traffic. Your cat chooses now to finally fulfill his mission, so he rubs against your legs at the exact second you take that first step down the stairs.

On the way to the hospital, each of these patients' hearts stop. They are dead—for a few seconds, or minutes, even. Doctors work frantically to revive their hearts during those precious moments of twilight, the wavering between life and death.

The white light, growing brighter as you traverse a dark tunnel. The visits with long-lost relatives, or complete strangers. Watching everyone attend to your body without you having any connection to it. Complete and total peace.

The near-death experience (NDE). The stories become legendary. Some people say they talked to God, or Jesus gave them a guided tour of the afterlife. People watch the operations being performed on their bodies, or sit with their loved ones as they pray for them. Others report darker, more frightening apparitions. Not everyone has an NDE, and no two afterlife experiences are alike, but the basic traits are similar.

Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel conducted a study of three hundred forty-four patients revived after a cardiac arrest. Only sixty-two of those studied reported signs of an NDE. While none reported a negative experience, of those sixty-two, only thirty-four had positive emotions associated with their NDE.

What leads to someone having an NDE? Well, beyond a heart that stops beating and starts up again? A recent study of fifty-two heart attack patients revealed only eleven had NDEs.

The patients' religion, gender, age, race, or even the amount of time it to revive them had no bearing on the likelihood of a near-death experience. Near-death experiences appear to be a world-wide phenomenon. Given the lack of single identifying characteristics of those experiences these images, it seems neither nature nor nurture have any bearing on someone's afterlife visit.

Is there a medical explanation behind these metaphysical experiences? Has science found a common denominator? Is it because neurotransmitters in the brain are misfiring, or an excess of carbon dioxide gasses in the bloodstream? The study mentioned above did find elevated levels of CO2 in the eleven patients that reported NDEs. Of course some scientists point out that high CO2 levels are what cause cardiac arrests in the first place, so the levels will be high in all the patients, including the small percentage of those reporting NDEs.

Post-traumatic care reveals that medications are not inclined to induce these visions. Dr. Ring concluded anesthesia is more likely to cause a person to forget these occurrences. Is it possible everyone is having these experiences, but they can't remember them afterward? The effects of a near-death experience can be produced by certain drugs in the arylcyclohexylamine family. By reproducing the effects in a controlled environment, have scientists negated the possibility of a more spiritual explanation of near-death experiences?

The nature of the NDE makes it impossible to prove or disprove their link to a higher calling. Everyone experiences it differently. It becomes a part of them and affects every decision they make for the rest of their lives. 


Saturday, July 14, 2012


Everyone is afraid of something. It's not always rational, in fact most time the fear makes no sense. I've been through a lot of fears in the past few months. First I went through my first surgery ever, then recovery, and now I'd say my biggest fear is never being normal again.

Most of us admit to bigger fears, heights, snakes, spiders, the dark, but how many of us truly admit to those inner fears? I think most everyone is afraid of not fitting in, of not finding love, of never being good enough. These are the reasons that the paranormal genre is so popular. We live out all our fears, even the ones we don't mention, through these books.

I recently read a high fantasy short by Megan Derr, and thought, now here's the truth of fear of acceptance. The main character is rejected for being different, so he does something he knows is very dangerous to try to win acceptance. In the end he is truly accepted for having that difference, finds love even, or the beginnings of it.

Being a reader as well as a writer I'm always searching for the best multi-faceted stories. Deep of character is breed by what they love, hate, and fear. Sure vampires and werewolves can be scary. Serial killers, and fire are scary, but even in a genre where the monsters are often the norm, the more silent fears are more intriguing. If the character can over come that obstacle, not only will they win against the bad guy, but they evolve into a better self. That is something to not be afraid of.

What do you fear? And do you admit to those baser fears?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Reincarnation and Past Lives

The notion that souls can be reborn has been around for as long as the idea of an afterlife.  I suppose some might consider them mutually exclusive, but I believe in both.  I’m used to contradicting myself.  Reincarnation, from the Latin word incarnationem meaning “entering the flesh again,” is a theme in the next novella that I’m writing.  There are lots of neat things going on in there, Ancient Greek warriors, curses from a goddess, statues coming to life, and reincarnation.

Many scientists call it junk science since it can’t be proven, but it seems to me that a lot of that science that is “proven” is debunked later on when new data or better theories come by.  Plus, I think some things need to be taken on faith.  Just because it can’t be proven doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t exist.  There have been studies of children speaking of other lives that have been connected to past events that they should have no knowledge of.  Of course, I’m a firm believer in children being far more aware and elemental then adults.  They’re much more open to the unknown.

I’m halfway convinced that I was either strangled or hung in a past life.  A friend theorizes that maybe it was both, that I had died that way in multiple lives.  Wearing a turtleneck makes my skin crawl.  I love the look of choker necklaces but I gag when I try them on and have to tear them off.  I also love scarves, but I can only wear them for short periods of time, very loose otherwise I’m overcome with too many images of other ladies coming to a bad end.  It’s a phenomena called soul trauma, the body remembers what the soul endured. 

A friend of mine who’s Buddhist told of something similar with reincarnation in her culture that plays right into my story.  They believe that the people connected to you are part of your past life and that it’s a cycle of debt that keeps you together.  Another term for it is soul grouping.  

In Make Me Whole, Dexios and Lykon have broken their vows to each other so they are reborn again and again trying to make it right so they can be reunited forever.  Dexios has been turned into a series of statues by the goddess Cythera, forced to wait alone with empty arms.  As the modern incarnations of them start to face their fears, bit by bit the statues become whole when Lykon joins Dexios.  If they fail, the statues revert back to their lonely existence and they’re forced to wait for another generation.

It has been so much fun working on these guys and the story has grown far beyond my initial idea.  I’ve enjoyed talking with people about their various beliefs in reincarnation and past lives.  Has anyone else had similar experiences like the soul trauma or any other stories to share about their own beliefs?  Please share them with me.