Monthly Archives: April 2022

Convenient Targets (Journal Entry #112)

There were eyes on us. I have not forgotten that Cormac and Theo have been watching me this long. The mere idea of it disgusts me. I feel like a pawn upon the chess board of my own life. 

I am sick of feeling this way.

My sisters came to visit. Of course, my Julea found my new MacBook. I lied, told them that I had done a favor for the head of the Black House and he repaid me with the computer. 

I then had to explain what that favor was. 

Fortunately, little Alleah interrupted at just the right moment.

I didn’t have to tell them the entire truth at all.

Something…something doesn’t feel right, right now. I know that sounds crazy, but there is a charge in the air that wasn’t there before. 

I can’t put my finger on what it is. It is probably from the goddess being amongst us now.

She has been kept busy with making reparations with the Wolf god. Trying to fix what the two of them have broken with their bitter arguments that have cursed us all.

Sometimes I struggle with the anger towards her. I will freely admit it.

I am never going home.

I told this to my sisters, once Alleah was snuggled in my bed, napping. She was a bit too old for naps, but she always had liked curling up like a little kitten. Especially in a hotel bed. 

She, like many other young girls, imagined life in the resort to be so romantic. Complete with a wealthy Rajni to love you forever.

It was more filled with danger and sadness now than anything.

“There are problems arising,” Kellis warned me when we had a quiet moment alone, after the rest of my sisters left. “Some in the House of Black are blaming the Woald for the death of that little bastard.”

“But we did not do it.”

“No. But that doesn’t matter. We are Woald. We are convenient targets. You shouldn’t forget that.”

“I won’t.”

“There is something else. Something with the Dhar’s heir, Jierra, and the male she has been mated with. And the goddess and wolf god. Something…is changing. I just don’t know what it is.” Kellis hugged me quickly. “Watch yourself. It’s…dangerous now. In ways I can’t put my finger on. I don’t want to see you get caught in the middle of it.”

“I won’t. You have my w-w-word.”

Blood on my hands (Journal Entry #111)

I’ll admit it, after that, I burst into tears. Coty promptly lit into Theo after that, ripping him up one side and down the other. Even Cormac looked uncomfortable—and guilty—at the things his female’s cousin had to say. 

But Coty effectively chased them away.

Then she sat there and put one arm around me until I stopped crying. “I’m sorry. I-I-I…I know he is just trying to keep me from getting my hopes up. I could feel his worry and concern.”

“But it was a completely boneheaded thing for him to tell you. Not much better than we got two days ago, either.”

She had already told me that she and her sisters had been informed of the same thing. 

None of us…are going home. “We’re going to be stuck here forever.”

At least…until death finally caught up with me. With Coty.

I had two choices now. 

I could just hide myself away in this hotel and hope I prolonged that inevitablity. Or I could do something worthwhile with my time. Make a difference.

Do something important. Something…like… Change things somehow.

“Come on. I want to figure out what is going on with Evalanedea while I am still alive to do something about it.”

She whooped quietly. “I guess we could go ask your new boyfriend why he wants you to stay away from anything to do with it? You can tell him thank you for the laptop. That one there…it didn’t come cheap.”

It was a brand new MacBook. I knew how much those things cost. It was far out of my budget. “I don’t know if I can accept it. It’s so expensive.”

“It was a gift. The way I see it, the guy broke into your room and scared you. He did owe you something for that, right? It’s not like you’re a paid lady, being kept by the hot guy or anything, after all.”

I still didn’t know what to think. And this wasn’t something I could ever tell my sisters about. Although…they would see the computer eventually when they visited. “I…don’t know…”

“Look…you can always give it back later? I know that if a seriously hot guy gave me something like that…I’d probably have his vampire babies willingly. I mean…wow. That is some apology.”

“But is it for him breaking in here…or something else? I mean…”

“What?”

“The only one who would be allowed to kill Olietus Black without the council’s approval…is Equan Black.”

“You think he left here last night and tracked the little asshole down?”

I nodded. That was exactly what I suspected.

If it was true, did that mean I had Olietus’s blood on my hands?

I just do not know.

Then again…if it had been Nalik Black, he was well within the law to mete out justice like that.

Even if that was one law that I would never be ok with.

Whoever had killed Olietus, had doomed the youth’s mate to an eternity alone. I never would have wished that on another.

I said a quick prayer to the goddess. A prayer that Nalik Black had not stained his own soul on my account, last night…

I am not going anywhere… (Journal Entry #110)

“Wh-what note?” I looked for one. I didn’t see it.

Cormac dangled a white piece of paper in front of my nose. “Care to tell us what it means? Or who wrote it?”

I grabbed it. Read it quickly. I am sorry about last night. Please accept my apologies. As for the computer, time to bury the old dinosaur. Use the new one wisely—and don’t go getting into any more trouble. I’ll be watching you.

“I-I-I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. I had a minor…exchange with someone. Who saw fit to apologize. Not exactly a high crime.” My cheeks burned when I remembered his lips on mine. 

“Is it? Then why is it you spent the evening alone last night? We’ve checked the cameras. You were alone all night.”

No, I wasn’t. Not all night. But how had he masked his presence?

And…why were they so concerned with who I was with?

“M-m-maybe, I was speaking with someone online?”

“We checked that, too,” Cormac said.

“What about a phone call?” Coty asked, sarcastically. “You got her bugged?”

I looked at the two males and knew that was exactly what they had done. 

“You’ve been spying on me this en-en-entire time?”

Why? Why did I matter to them so much?

“What is going on that you think I’m involved in? Th-Theo? Tell me.”

My cousin looked at me, his eyes cloudy. Theo’s eye-sight weakened more each year. Eventually he would become completely blind. 

“Olietus Black was killed last night. Inside the city limits.”

I gasped. “I thought he was in Texas.”

“He was supposed to be. But he came back. At the exact wrong time, apparently,” Cormac said. 

“I know he w-w-was after me, but what does his death have to do with me?”

“The Dardaptoan symbol for the law of vengeance was burned into his chest, Jume. And he was draped with a yellow Woald hasha,” Theo said. “Do you know who did this?”

Only very particular members of each House had the right to evoke that kind of…law.

The equan of each House could use it against any of his House he felt had transgressed in an unforgiveable manner, at his own discretion. And his top two enforcers could act on his orders. But only with strong justification.

And only with permission from the high council could one from another House, even an equa or equan, invoke it against anyone from another House.

This type of punishment was the…highest punishment possible. 

It condemned a Rajni to a lifetime alone. That was never taken lightly. 

I shook my head. “No one of the Woald House would do that in my name, Theo. My equa, I am not even certain he is aware of what has happened to me. Anyone else who would care…would not be allowed to use that mark. I do not know who would do this.”

“Who gave you the computer, Jume?”

“Why does that have anything to do with what happened to Olietus? It was just a…male…that I know. He-he-he snuck in here last night so we could…talk. That is all. And he kissed me. That’s all. Nothing nefarious.”

A lie. I was standing there lying to Theo and Cormac Jareth.

To protect the one male who could have killed Olietus Black with impunity.

Nalik Black.

It had been Nalik Black. I am sure of it.

“If you are lying to us, there will be consequences,” Cormac said.

“Would you believe me, even if I wasn’t? I know that you do not trust me. Even though I worked for you faithfully for five decades, cousin. Tell me this—why? Why is all of this happening to me? Can you see that? If not…then please leave. Coty and I were on our way to lunch now.”

Theo wrapped his hand around my arm. “Do not ever forget…you are in this hotel for a reason. Someone paid Olietus to kill you. We have yet to find out who. Don’t ignore the threat.”

“I just want this to end, Theo. I just want to go back to my home. Is that too much to ask?”

My cousin surprised me when he pulled me closer and hugged me gently. “I know. And I know how hard this has been for you. But Jume, you must know by now…you are never going home again.”

What is going on? (Journal Entry #109)

I told Equan Black everything that I could remember about what had occured with Olietus Black. He was infuriated that such an assault was kept secret from him.

I did not envy Theo when that male caught up with him. After he left, after another warning to stay out of this thing involving the world of the goddess, I lay in my bed for hours. 

I was far too churned up to sleep now.

When I had fallen asleep, I hadn’t exactly expected to wake with the most powerful Dardaptoan in existence looming over me.

I definitely hadn’t expected such a male to kiss me!

But that was the least of what was keeping me up. 

Something was going on within the Black House. And Theo hadn’t trusted the Equan with that knowledge enough to clue him in on what had happened with Olietus.

Why?

What was Theo involved in? 

Or was it Equan Black that I should be the most frightened of? 

He hadn’t exacty harmed me when he kissed me. 

He could have. He is a very strong, powerful, dangerous male. If he had truly wanted to, he could have harmed me in many ways.

But he hadn’t.

He had come to warn me instead, perhaps?

I had distracted him with the discussion of Olietus, I suspect. Angered him.

I did not know what the result of that would be. Most likely he would rip into Theo for not sharing information pertaining to his House, and that would be that.

Unless it angered Theo.

Then…I suppose I should be ready to deal with my dear cousin from that.

I told my new best friend and favorite accomplice—adventures with Coty were hilariously fun, I have discovered—about my midnight visitor as soon as I could.

Coty just stared at me. “So how did this guy get in? And…is he a good kisser? He looks like he would know exactly what to do with a woman.”

“I-I-I suppose. I have only kissed four other males a handful of times.” And five males total. Three of them in the last handful of months.

What was I turning in to? 

“Wow. You are so virginal. How not fun. You’re almost seventy, lady. Haven’t you wanted to…get down and a dirty with a vampire?”

My cheeks heated. “I-I-I would have, if one ever offered. But until recently, I spent most of my days in Theo’s office. Or with my family. I haven’t spent much time with males. Not since…”

“Since?”

“I was told that I do not have a mate, Coty. No male really…wants to be with a female like that.”

“But why?”

“Our culture is mate-based. And without a mate…I am most likely fated to die without ever…I just…males have never really been interested in me.”

“Well, apparently at least five have. Next guy to kiss you…do yourself a favor…have a little fun, ok? Life is too short not to. Well, if you’re a Boltier sister, anyway. Not all of us are going to live forever. Then again…maybe we will. Who knows?”

Coty had a rather fatalistic attitude that I did not always understand. 

We were discussing whether we were going to heed Equan Black’s warning, when heavy knocking came at the door.

I looked at Coty. She had a wary look on her face that told me she sensed whoever was on the other side of that door wasn’t necessarily friendly.

I pulled in a breath and stood. 

I opened the door.

To see Theo there, an angry look on his face. And a delivery package in his arms. 

Cormac Jareth stood at his side.

He looked at Coty. His female’s cousin. “Scram, kid.”

“Hell, no.” Coty stepped up to my side. “It’s Jume’s suite. I’m not going anywhere.”

“It matters not if she’s here. She doesn’t have the information we need,” Theo said. He sat the package down angrily. “This was on your door frame, with a note to you attached.”

Equan Black, Again. Something…isn’t right. (Journal #108)

“Maybe it is you I am looking for?”

“Do not toy with me, Equan Black. I do not like it.” I did not know where this bravery was coming from. Stupidity?

Being fed up with being a captive in the hotel? That was a strong possibility.

Being powerless? That was a feeling I have had far too often lately. 

My gaze landed on the scar bisecting his face. He would understand that. 

I had heard Theo say Taniss had kept Equan Black for weeks thirty years ago. While he tortured and killed the Equan’s brother and young sister. 

I can only imagine the horror. 

Compassion had me acting a bit bolder than I probably should have. I stood.

I wasn’t lost to exactly what I was wearing, either. It was warm in my suite, I wore nothing more substantial than polyster short pajamas in Woald yellow. 

And I had lost the elastic at the end of my braid.

My ridicuously wild hair was all over the place. I pushed it aside quickly. His eyes watched me, then darkened. His face tightened. 

“You are quite a breathtaking looking little creature, aren’t you? I don’t remember you being quite so alluring those days in Theo’s office when our paths would cross. Too bad. But then again…I have heard of your remarkable…change.”

He stood. Towered over me. He was far more formidable than Tol or Wiac, or every one of those Jareth brothers.

Then his hands were around my waist. Holding me still. At least I think it was his hands keeping me from moving—it might have been the power thrumming around us. One hand trailed up, to tangle in my hair. He tilted my head back.

I thought about protesting but…well…I just couldn’t. 

There was something about the male’s eyes that prevented me from moving even a muscle.

Pain. Longing. For something I did understand.

Connection to another being. That’s all it was.

A longing to matter to someone. If only for a moment.

“Equan Black?”

I whispered the male’s name, my hands on his broad chest.

His other hand came up to brush against my lips. “Were it even just four months ago, I would have amused myself with you. But now…now, I cannot. Who knew a female with wild curls, foolish bravery, and a too-sweet soul would be enough to captivate me now.”

He stepped back, almost reluctantly. Or so I’d like to think.

I am not exactly a femme fatale. Or a demon temptress. Or a more base enchantress like some of the Caeruleus Fae are known to be. 

I am just me, Jume, after all. 

“Stay out of this business of Evalanedea. It is far too dangerous. You and Boltier’s green-eyed little whelp are not powerful enough, nor strong enough, to fight those involved in this.”

“My people were said to be Evalanedean. Not Dardaptoan. The Woald legends…” I looked to where my notes had been neatly spread out over my small desk. In rows I most definitely had not arranged them in.

“Some say they are mere myth, little kitten.” He was still standing so close…

In that moment, if I was type of female to have random affairs, I would have actually considered something more with this male. 

I was feeling something from him now. Something he probably didn’t even realize he was feeling.

Loneliness. Hurt.

So deep that very few others could ever understand it. 

“I do not believe they are. My-my-my mother told me they were real. And that…that…that…one day, our world would know it.” And that I was to be brave if Evalanedea ever came to me. 

That I would be well. 

That the goddess would always protect me in the end. Because I am Woald.

Well, I’ve told you my feelings about the goddess before. 

“See to it that you are not the one to bring that news.” I thought he was going to go, then.

But…

He moved quickly. 

His hands cupped my cheeks. And he pressed his lips to mine. Just for one lightning fast moment.

When he pulled back, he had a mocking smile on his lips. “That answers my question. Yes, had I stumbled into your little adventure even a mere four months ago, before those damned Tanisses and Boltiers invaded this place, we…would have enjoyed each other.”

“S-s-sure of yourself, aren’t you?”

I have known of this male for fifty years. I had served him coffee and cookies on many occasions. Yet now he noticed I am alive? Why?

Had that much about me changed?

“At my age, you’d better believe it. Stay out of this, girl. The house of Black. It is filled with some seriously dangerous assholes. And I am cleaning house.”

“Like Olietus?” This was that evil male’s cousin. And surely Theo had told him of what Olietus had tried to do. 

“What about that little shit? I heard he is in Texas now.”

“But will he return and try to kill me again?”

His face darkened. His hands tightened. When had they slipped around my waist? I found myself pulled right into his hard chest. I just gawked up at him like an idiot. “Tell me exactly what you mean, kitten. Everything.”

“W-w-why?”

“Because this is the first I’ve heard of it.”

I just stared at him. This was the head of the Black House. “Didn’t Theo and Cormac tell you?”

Nightmares at Night (Journal Entry #107)

“What are you about, female?” A dark voice said, jerking me from my sleep two nights after Coty and I escaped to the nearby library. 

I tried to scream, but a hot male hand covered my mouth before I could. 

There was enough light from my laptop monitor—which I had definitely powered off before going to sleep—to outline the male who stood there.

To…highlight…his scar.

“If I lower my hand, little Jume, will you refrain from screaming? I mean you no harm…for now.”

I just nodded. I didn’t know what else to do. 

Nalik Black, the most dangerous Dardaptoan to have ever existed, was in my bedroom.

As Coty would have said, I was probably toast. He had the Jareth brothers beat by a long mile. His hand slowly lowered. 

“W-w-what do you want?”

He…was the head of the House of Black. If there was a threat against the goddess from his House—he could be behind that. 

I had considered it before. 

He pulled me up into a seated position. “Tell me what you heard that day.”

“W-what?”

“I know you are more intelligent than that fool Theo realizes. You know something about what is happening now.” He reached out a hand. My bedside lamp lit. He hadn’t touched it. I know he hadn’t.

This was a very powerful beast. “I-I-I overheard someone from the Black House speaking of E-Evalandea.”

“A land you should know nothing about. Tell me, how is it that you do? Only a select handful of hunters have ever seen that place. Of those only two are living.”

“A-a-are you one of them?” I could scream, hope one of the sixth floor guards would hear. Or Wiac.

How had Equan Black gotten past my guard?

Various scenarios of danger played out in my head.

And…I could not read this male. Not even a little bit. 

He shook his head slowly. “No. But the knowledge of them has been passed down…to only me. Evalandea is…not to be spoken of. By anyone. So tell me…how is it that you know of it?”

“H-h-how do you know that I do?” I challenged him—probably like a total idiot. “Have you been spying on me?”

“Of course. I find you very…intriguing, little kitten. And I heard what you and that Boltier’s daughter were speaking of. I know…you know more than you should.”

“I am going to go to the goddess. Soon.”

“Sure you are. I know you went to that magic circus act cousin of yours. And he dismissed your concerns.” His mouth twisted wryly. “There’s a lot of stupidity within the upper ranks of our Kind right now. It’s best you and your young friends remember that whenever you are having these little adventures of yours. It is not safe for a defenseless little female now.”

I’m not exactly weak and defenseless—then again…compared to him, I most definitely am. I tried not to let that terrify me.

“Someone might…break into my room, perhaps?” Maybe I have grown a bit too bold—or maybe stupid—in my enforced ‘vacation’ here at Hotel Dreadanos—to challenge him as I did. But…enough was enough. “This is starting to become a problem a-a-around here.”

His mouth twisted into a smirk. “So I’ve heard. You are far more…courageous…then you appear at first, aren’t you, little Jume?”

I am smaller than the average Dardaptoan, but I’m right in the middle for the rest of the Woald. Why did he feel the need to point it out?

“How should I-I-I know how I appear at first. I know you have been in my computer. Did you find what you were looking for?”

He snorted. “Hardly. That computer is as much a dinosaur as I am. I couldn’t even get it booted up.”

That was because it took a good ten minutes for the old Mac to load. I resisted smirking at the far-too-handsome, too arrogant, too frightening Equan. But it…took every bit of self-restraint I contained.

Coty must have been rubbing off on me.

“S-s-so what exactly is it you are l-looking for?

One hand rose to cup my cheek. I pulled in a breath.

What was he planning to do to me now?

I did not trust any warrior of my Kind now. I probably won’t ever again.

The Darkness in Us…Hurts…(Journal Entry #106)

I had thought she had plans with her twin sisters, who were around the same age as my Julea. “I thought you were busy today…”

“The twins are otherwise occupied. Faith is helping the Lycurgus healer friend of hers again, and Einsley…well, Emily took her today. She’s using Einsley as a personal assistant, I think. So…they’ll each get paid for doing something.”

Coty hated that she wasn’t contributing to her own keep. Hated it immensely. But…the head of the resort’s IT department refused to even consider allowing a daughter of Albert Boltier work in his department. Not that he allowed many females, but…his cousin had been killed by Coty’s father.

It was understandable that he would be grieving, but…I cannot judge Coty based on her father’s actions.

I do not believe in sins of the fathers being revisited on the male’s daughters.

That was not how a Woald was taught.

We valued each of our family for their unique skills. We judged them on their own actions. And no one else’s.

I don’t know when our people became so dark of the soul.

I have seen the goddess now. She embodies love and acceptance, hope and light. 

Yet, I do not often see these things within my own Kind. 

It…it hurts me to my soul to see how dark we have become.

Anyway…

Evalanedea. I suppose it is finally time I write of this place that apparently only the Woald still remember.

Some of my family has said that the blood of Evalanadea still flows—but only in the veins of the Woald. Some say we female Woald are often smaller than the rest of our Kind because most of our DNA is still of the old world.

And we are just not the same as the Dardaptoans who came after our House was formed.

Our House is the oldest known House to be formed by the goddess Kennera. Other familial legend says…we were never formed. That the Woald line is far older than even the goddess’s. That it is she who was modeled after us, and not the other way around.

I just…know…that there are many of my female Woald cousins who have something extra now. Something that others of our Kind do not have.

But that is a closely held secret.

I cautioned Coty of that as I explained to her Woald history.

I can trust her. I sense that to my very soul.

Coty and I—we are connected somehow. And I just know that we will be for life.

Some day.

It is just a matter of time.

What Next? (Journal Entry #105)

My newest quest kept me busy for the next several days. That, and Alaun had started a new book about humans being captured by Dardaptoans and becoming mated. Gee, wonder where she got her inspiration for that!

Coty and her sisters—the ones who remained in this world, anyway—had told me all about what was going on in the dining room.

Come to find out, it was the same evil Jareth who had caused me so much trouble.

Well, she was fired, and actually arrested! For theft from the Sebastos House, apparently. She’ll spend six months in jail.

I can’t say that I mind. She was a real prune of a female.

Her Rajni isn’t very happy, right now.

He made actual threats against Coty and her family. Said they would get what they were due before too long.

It scared them all.

Coty especially. She was standing close enough to the male that she could sense that he meant it. 

This place…it isn’t safe for them. We both know that.

She knocked on my suite five minutes ago. 

Now she sat staring at me. “What do we do next?”

The Woald… (Journal Entry #104)

“So… what’s with this Evalanedea?” she asked after we set the room service cart and our empty dishes out in the hallway, where a server would retrieve it and any others used by the sixth floor ‘guests’.

I closed and locked the door, ensuring the latch was secured.

Something just told me it was needed. 

Especially tonight.

“My mother told me that my great-grandmother was one of the original Dardaptoans to come to this world. She served the two goddesses, and when… war… came to the goddesses world. They killed all in their families and they were alone. The druid goddess… she lost eleven sisters. But the Dardaptoan goddess… no one knows how many she lost that day.”

We looked at each other for a long moment. We each had six sisters. Six sisters we would die for in an instant. 

To lose Kellis or the rest to a war…

“Go on, Jume. We need to figure out why the dudes said Evalanedea needs to fall. So… does it really exist?”

“My mother said it did. Said she had some… family heirlooms… that were from Evalanedea. But others… the learned of our Kind. Scholars… they say that it doesn’t. I asked Theo once… and he told me there were some things I am not to know… until it will be time for me to know.”

“Well, that’s helpful. What did your mother say?”

“She said… well, they were mostly stories…”

“About?”

“The goddess, she took the souls of some of her lost sisters—the ones she could gather as they fled, the Woald right at her side to witness it all—and hid them. Within the different worlds, where they could be safe. And… she sent a Woald sister with each soul. To hide it. Until the s-s-souls could be retrieved, and set free once and for all.”

“So, how could they be retrieved?”

“No one knows. That was a secret that died with the Woald sisters tasked with each soul. No one will know… until it happens. But since so many of our Kind discount the Woald… the legends are held within the Woald now.”

“Why do the vampires not like the Woald?”

“Not that we are unliked. We are just… some myths say the monster who brought the war cursed us. We are hard-workers, and many appreciate that, though. But we are one of the smallest Houses in the city. We are definitely one of the poorest. Each House, each family within that House… we pay five percent of our income in tribute to our Equan and Equa, who use four percent of that to govern our House appropriately. Or to provide for those who need it occasionally. Another two percent of our income goes to the Dhar and his family.”

“This is on top of regular taxes? I mean, y’all hide among the humans, right?”

I shook my head. “Somehow… we are masked, as long as we stay in this city. We aren’t issued social security numbers in our hospitals. Our births are never recorded. We are isolated and protected here.”

“I’m surprised you don’t have concrete walls surrounding this city. A big ‘Keep Out, Vampires Within!’ posted every five feet or something.”

“We used to. Back when it was first built, and the humans came closer, but now… We have guards out, at all times.”

“Welcome to Dardanos, the gilded land of the vampires.”

“Yes, that’s exactly what it is.”

“So… if most of the vampires don’t even believe in this place, who is this guy who wants to see this entire world fall? Why would he want that?”

I just shook my head. “I don’t know. But Theo says… most of those with dark souls want a handful of things: power, money, sex, recognition, or vengeance.”

“And all of those things can make a man—vampire, whatever—willing to kill to get them,” Coty said. “Let’s hit the books. See if we can even find written proof this place even exists. We can start there.”

I grabbed the first brown leather book and a notebook.

No time like the present. 

Evalanedea existed. Now I just had to prove it.