hopefully, FINAL EDITS

I managed to find four wonderful beta readers. Their feed feedback told me what they liked, what caused their reading to stumble, and what area’s of FINDER’S KEEPERS they found confusing. Most importantly, at least to me, they gave me a boost in confidence when that I didn’t even know I needed.

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The first eight chapters have been updated, improved, and rechecked. Some of which, I will be sharing at the end of this blog. My baby is growing, and soon will become a novel ready for the world. I want to share my creation with more people, that will hopefully feel as a few of the betas did. One of the betas wrote that she stayed up late and then finished the book the next morning. Now that is high praise. Finding a few betas, a few strangers, to give you baby over to, is stressful and scary. But in the end, the experience is rewarding no matter what your beta tells you.

Having someone else to test run your work gives you that real world input that everyone needs. You created this novel, you put in the characters with their hardships and joys, Finding out what others have to say helps you grow in knowledge about yourself and your work. For the first time I am enjoying my edit, second guessing myself less and less.

Now, without further ado, here is a SNEAK PEAK of Finder’s Keepers

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Shocking Finds: a Finder’s Keepers novel

Chapter One

Marin Yarthine had trouble containing a childish giggle or two. She had managed to locate an Orion Starbrary Indigo Violet Aura Lemurian Seed Quartz Crystal for her boss. The longest, oddest name for a rock, but Anton had been very specific. Besides, she was the best Finder at Finder’s Keepers, who better to go on this mission.

Okay … so her job wasn’t to actually go out in the field and complete the Finds. Marin knew that she was basically a high paid researcher. She could take a piece of cloth and tell you where it had been, what had been near it, who had touched it, and more importantly … she could visualize where any related objects may be located.

Yesterday, Anton handed Marin an old text book written in something that looked like Latin, and asked her to Find a rare crystal for his collection. The words on the book had been meaningless to her, but once Marin had held the fragile text in her hands, she had known exactly where to go.

Marin had wanted to complete just one mission on her own. She had been prepared to search the dank and cold Kentucky cave systems, not stopping until she had her Find. It was a simple case, with no danger involved. She would never attempt the kidnaping cases, or one of the Finds involving a murder weapon.

Marin had been surprised to feel the newest store in the area, Crystal Sights, pulling at her Finder’s gift. Anton had sworn up and down that the crystal would be hard to find. Aisle six – rare gems and crystals – was not her idea of difficult. In and out, and no one had gotten hurt.

Her aunt, Lindal, refused to even allow her to look at the building as they drove past, and now Marin had been inside and explored.

Marin had completed her first solo Finder’s mission. She had located exactly what Anton needed, and managed to find a crystal of her very own. Not that she believed in crystals and magic. Her aunt had explained how her own ability, to locate the lost or stolen, was the closest thing to real magic left in this world. If Lindal knew that Marin had purchased one of the crystals for herself, her aunt would lose her ever lovin’ mind.

For once in her life, Marin didn’t care. She had felt the heat coming off her crystal, as she held it in her hands. Maybe her aunt was wrong. Maybe the shopkeeper had told the truth, and the fragile but beautiful rock would help Marin to come through her Transition, with more protection and control.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

“Eep!” Marin barely managed to turn her full throttled scream into a small startled cry. She crashed into the small angry redhead, the one suddenly blocking her path, as she cleared the store exit.

Marin snapped her lips together on the urge to ask her aunt questions. Like where the hell she had come from? Trying not to lean away from the look on Lindal’s face, she waited for the sarcasm and disdain to flow. When Lindal waited, glaring in silence, Marin whispered, “I had to run an errand for Anton.”

Lindal’s face brightened to a nice deep red, as she stood there with her arms crossed, her mouth flattened out in displeasure, and her foot tapping out her impatience. “Don’t lie to me, missy. You work in the office, or at home. You do not run around mingling with charlatans.”

Marin waited, her heart beginning to race. She hated fighting with Lindal, and there was no way that this tirade was over. Lindal did more damage with words than lions fighting over dinner. Marin wanted to be one of those people that could take a browbeating with a grain of salt, but she knew that this time wouldn’t be any easier to take, than the other rants spouted during her twenty-one years of life. Lindal’s personality could be vicious, and hard to take, but Marin didn’t have any other family.

Lindal jabbed her dainty finger at Marin, her words hissed with the pressure of contained rage. “Do you want to die like your mother? Do you enjoy making me worry, and endangering your life like this?”

Marin lowered her head and whispered, “If magic isn’t real, then I should be safe enough. This is the only unscheduled stop I made.”

“Don’t back talk me, girl. Magic is for fools. And places like this are for those too weak to hold on to their money, those willing to purchase lies because they are unhappy with the imperfections they were born with. If your mother had stayed home, she would be alive. Instead she was mugged in some back alley, and left to bleed out with the trash.”

Marin flinched, yet yearned to hear more. It was the most Lindal had ever said about her mother, or the events that had lead to her death. Taking a chance that her aunt would continue sharing, Marin asked, “Is there anyway to be safe?” She wanted to ask more about her mother, but feared that Lindal would clam up if she pushed too directly.

“Listen, and listen good. People, those freaks with meddling gift, can see how weak you are. They are abominations, just like you, but can and will plant thoughts inside your mind, and lead you into danger. Everyone has enhanced senses these days, but you are an oddity. Abnormal, just begging for some fool to believe he can steal your curse, and use it for his own plans, by taking your life. The crap sold in places like this will not give you a shield from the evil in this world.” Lindal had explained many times over the years, that Marin had been born without the natural shield that protected a person’s mind.

“But if there are people that can play tricks, put thoughts in your mind, then maybe there could be some small magic that’s real.”

Placing the bag with her new crystal protectively behind her back, Marin fought not to back away from her aunt. The look in Lindal’s eyes told her plainly, that she had pushed too far. Any sign of weakness would light a match to these attacks. “Tricks. Nothing but tricks. Your mind is just too weak to figure them out.”

Marin ground her teeth together and avoided her aunt’s eyes. Feeling her hands tighten around her gift bag, her eyes sought out the parking lot for anything to distract Lindal. Marin needed something for both of them to focus on, so that she could get her impotent rage under control. Getting defensive never helped. The woman looked weak and innocent, but ruled their home with an iron fist, and razor sharp words.

Instead of continuing to explaining all the reasons that Marin had screwed up, Lindal stiffly turned and walked into the parking lot. Apparently her aunt planned to wait for a private moment, in order to vent the rest of her displeasure. And vent she would. Lindal’s stiff movements, and flushed complexion, warned Marin that the conversation coming her way would be one of the worst.

Marin didn’t need the lecture repeated. She had it memorized. Rocks and stones are just that. Real magic didn’t exist. She needed to stay at home, safe, except for work. Blah … blah … blah. But Marin wanted more information. How did ordinary people put thoughts inside someone else’s mind? How did her co-worker’s little boy manage to move objects out of her reach, when Marin wasn’t looking?

Not knowing what else to do, Marin followed Lindal into the parking lot. Lindal would be in a snit for days.
Marin still couldn’t contain the occasional squeal, though she attempted to keep them as quiet as possible. She needed to get her happiness under control.

Luckily, Marin had the entire length of the parking lot, to calm herself down. The lot seemed to have more cars than the entire area of Ashland, Kentucky had residents. Crystal Sights had managed to expand on the word grand in Grand Opening. Marin didn’t relish Lindal’s anger, but still thought that today had turned out better than she could have hoped. Smiling, she glanced around, as she walked behind her aunt, taking in the different types of shoppers.

Marin watched as three little old ladies, climbed out of a bight yellow caddie, their hair ranging from hooker red to bonnet blue. She saw a younger man pulling his reluctant girlfriend – or possibly wife – from the cab of their truck, her very pregnant belly leading the way. The woman was shaking her head, pointing to the insane number of people, still lining up to enter the store. Marin tried to stop herself from bouncing with every step, not wanting Lindal to see her happiness. This was the closet she had ever come, to attending one of the home town events, thrown every spring. Festivals that would only become larger, when summer finally arrived.

Across the street, by the river, Marin could even see the rides and concession stands, being mobbed by crowds of yet more tri-state citizens. So many different types of people rushing around, laughter in their eyes. Even the pregnant woman had managed a smile, once she made it out of the truck and into the man’s arms.

Every squeak of excitement, that Marin neglected to contain, received a reprimanding glare from Lindal. But Marin was too hopeful, to allow Lindal’s mood to kill her happiness completely. Claudette – the store owner – had called the stone a Maturation Crystal. Marin’s fingers still tingled from when she had touched the crystal earlier, giving her hope for her Transition Birthday. Everyone went through their twenty-first birthday hoping that they would have better control of their enhanced senses. Even if her birthday came and went without an improvement, the crystal marked Marin’s first independent action.

Marin wanted to celebrate, not fight. With that in mind, she put on a burst of speed, passing Lindal, as she said, “Where are you parked, Aunt Lindal?” Marin wanted to get in her car, and head for home, before Lindal decided to start listing more ways, that this trip had been a mistake. An evening alone in her art studio, admiring her Maturation Crystal, sounded like perfection.

Marin crossed her fingers that Lindal wouldn’t be as irate as the time that Anton had encouraged everyone, that worked for Finder’s Keepers, to participate in self-defense classes. Marin had been excited. The free classes took place in the gym, off the back of Finder’s Keepers. As far as bosses went, Anton ranked with the best. He even allowed her to compose her Finds at home, in her private studio. The information she came up with helped other Finders on their missions, and working from home kept Lindal from bitching.

Great work hours or not, Lindal still despised the man. Her sneering had managed to run Marin out of more than one room, when the subject of Antonius Slade came up. Especially after the self-defense debacle. Marin had managed to keep the classes a secret for two years, before Lindal found out. And boy was that memorable.

Lindal had found and burned all of the workout clothes, and the fighting stick, that Marin had stashed in her van. She flinched remembering how the blaze had lit up the front yard, how Lindal’s reddened face seemed to match the flames. Lindal had burned with rage, expressing her displeasure by instituting her own version of self-defense classes. Marin rubbed her sore hip, trying to shake off yesterday’s lesson.

Marin had gained a good ten feet of distance from Lindal, before her aunt decided to reply. Reply and reprimand. “Slow down, child. It is rude to run in public. And I took a taxi, so that we could talk on the ride home. Talk and decide what to do about your current attitude.”

Marin stumbled a little, but otherwise didn’t reply. She absolutely refused to allow anything to put a damper on her spirit. As long as the crystal remained in her possession, she could handle any punishment.

Lindal sneered, as she inquired, “Why in the world did you park so far away?”

Marin slowed and turned to walk backwards. She couldn’t believe that Lindal chose to ask such a question. “I had hoped that by parking as far away as possible, I could avoid the humiliating gymnastics needed to re-enter my vehicle. That woman we passed a second ago? She was actually climbing in through her sun roof. I don’t know if this type of place is always this packed, but if so, they need more parking. I was lucky to find a spot, no matter how far away it is. But I admit that I concentrated on the area to the rear of the parking lot. Everyone fights for the ones closest to the store. I swear that broken down Toyota back there was circling the lot when I first arrived.”

Marin watched, as the poor rusted contraption made it’s rounds. She felt sorry for the car, and the driver. Mostly she felt bad for everyone currently being forced to breathe in the ozone killing balls of smoke, emanating from the Toyota.

“Turn around and walk correctly. They can have our spot … once we get there,” Lindal hissed. Her aunt ignored the opportunity to vent some of her rage on the circling motorist. The parking lot had so many cars, that the grassy incline along the edges had begun to fill up with unrepentant motorist.

Marin turned and quickened her pace, as she yelled, “I’ll just air the car out.” They were almost to Marin’s van, which always smelled of oil based paints and turpentine. Mainly, Marin wanted to put off the fight building with each of Lindal’s hissed and clipped words.

“Don’t turn the car on. You’ll-” Lindal’s words cut off with a squeak of pain.

Marin watched her aunt fly through the air and land with a sickening crunch, on the hood of her van, realizing that the frighteningly loud cry filling the air, was coming from her own mouth. Lindal’s body slide to the ground like a rag doll, a line of blood marking her movements along the bright orange paint.

Mere seconds had passed, but Marin felt like she had been frozen to the spot for hours, consumed by her disbelief.

The sound of squealing tires caught her attention, but Marin stood rooted to the spot and continued to scream.

Eventually, the other sounds in the vast parking lot penetrated her haze. One moment she was happy, watching the dozens of other shoppers laugh and dream, of the wonders to be found on this perfect spring day. Now she watched as the only family she had ever known crashed onto the unforgiving asphalt covered lot. The need to complete a mission, or purchase her own crystal, started to feel pretty hollow.

Forcing her way out of her hysteria, Marin snapped her mouth closed and glanced around as she rushed forward. The Toyota she had pointed out to Lindal was moving in reverse, as she ran for her aunt. No innocent circling for that murderous bastard now.

Marin had looked back to Lindal, when her ears filled with a high pitched ringing. She tried to convince herself that this couldn’t be happening. She knew that POS Toyota was to blame, even without seeing the car ramming into her aunt’s vulnerable body.

Marin reached Lindal’s side, attempting to forget about assholes with toxic road rage, so that she could focus on her aunt. As she fell to her knees, by Lindal’s broken body, she heard an engine being revved. She could smell burning rubber, as she twisted to glance over her shoulder. And a horrible metallic noise rent the air, as the Toyota bounced off the lane of cars, and angled in their direction.

Marin sat slack jawed, as she realized that the man had the balls to make a second attempt. The Toyota was scrapping along the nearby cars, hell bent on committing death by rust bucket. She didn’t know if she was more upset that someone wanted to kill both her and Lindal, or that her van was about to be harmed in the process.

Marin couldn’t move Lindal to safety, and she refused to leave her alone. She glanced frantically around, searching for a miracle. Run down, the car may be, but it was still out of her weight class.

Marin twisted back, to face the oncoming vehicle completely, her hands in the air. A plea for mercy? A supplication or a surrender? Marin didn’t know. Time seemed to slow, as the Toyota came closer. She felt her usually denied emotions rush to the surface; her anger leading the charge. She felt the rage heat along her skin begging to be released.

Standing her ground, Marin remained kneeling by Lindal’s side. A blood curdling scream left her mouth, and she allowed her feelings to come to the surface with destructive force, for the first time in her life. In that moment, Marin felt no fear, no shyness. Just rage. A rage that felt at home and welcoming, as it exploded into the air. Even her confusion and denial – those feeling she felt most at home with – had been buried under this red hot feeling.

A jolt of pain, from some invisible force, threw Marin to the ground. Lying on her back, her head pounding, she felt as if the invisible entity flowed from her body and zeroed in on the offending car. Her skin tingling, Marin watched, through eyes of indignation, as the tires on the right side of the car suddenly left the ground. The Toyota was thrown into the air and onto the tires on its left side. The car slid off course, hitting the vehicles on the opposite side of the lane, and continued to tip, until it was rolling away from Lindal’s defenseless body. Crashing into the cars perched on the grassy incline, at the end of the lot, the Toyota rocked to a stop. It had looked as if like the car had been encased in some kind of protective shield, a wavering bubble of air, as it rolled away from Lindal’s position.

Marin shook her head to dispel the insanity. Shields didn’t work that way. Lindal had explained that a shield was an invisible defense, in the mind, to keep out unwanted thoughts and ideas. She felt the back of her head, wondering how hard she had managed to hit the asphalt. Did she have a concussion?

The Toyota slammed off the cars in the grass, tottering back and forth, finally landing in the correct upward position. Marin didn’t know what had just happened, and right at that moment she didn’t want to know.

She took a second to watch, as the Toyota clipped the back of a few cars, and it miraculously sped away.
The smell of burning rubber and the sound of a hanging bumper, creating sparks along the pavement, were the only proof that this nightmare had ever happened. That and dozens of dented automobiles. The way the Toyota had rolled away from them, as if a giant was playing with his Tonka Trucks, would haunt Marin’s nightmares for a long time. She decided that the entire event needed to be firmly placed in the denial area of her mind, as she moved to check on Lindal, and to call for an ambulance. She needed help, and she needed help now.

Kyland Marcuson’s left eyebrow lifted, as he stood staring in disbelief. Seeing a woman with the power to move a few thousand pounds of metal, or even the brutal act of vehicular homicide, didn’t move him. These acts were common place to those of the Supernatural Community. Even the astounding number of people, exiting their cars and the store, in order to stand around staring, left him unmoved. Supes and Norms alike enjoyed a good train-wreck-worthy incident.

After all this time, he had finally found her. Kyland had searched for Marin for twenty years. He had managed to locate her, only to watch as she fought for her life. Kyland shook his head, and allowed the pull of the woman’s essence to lead him to her side. His Queen had given him this mission, saying only that the child would be the one to save them from the Danshue.

Once the Queen vanished, Kyland had made it his sole purpose in life to locate Marin, a small babe he knew nothing about. The end of his journey, and the child was now a beautiful woman, with more questions surrounding her, than answers. Her blonde hair, big blue eyes, and button nose, gave her a vulnerable look. A look that was obviously a lie.

Kyland also felt surprised at the lust tearing through his system. He was here to protect this woman, not bed her. Still, those curves … Marin had to be more than a foot shorter than his own 6’8’’ height, but she was still built like a dream. A dream he wanted to memorize with hands, and mouth, and tongue. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Kyland continued forward.

People stood on the side lines, watching and waiting; afraid to step forward, to help. Kyland pushed and shoved people out of his way, in order to reach the woman he suspected to be the Marin he had been searching for. When he undertook this mission, more that two decades ago, he was told that the child he needed to find and protect would have no real power. Her biggest gift should have been an overabundance of sensitivity. She should have been as close to powerless as she could get, without being human or a Norm. Apparently, some of the important information had been withheld.

On the other hand, Marin had appeared shocked, as she watched the car’s near miss. Maybe she didn’t understand her abilities, abilities that she should be lacking. Kyland could see a slight refusal in her eyes even now, to believe the reality she now found herself in. He had watched as, with the shake of her head, Marin physically pushed away her confusion.

Kyland was close enough now to feel her denial coming from her psyche in waves. Her emotions were so strong, he could barely focus on anything else. He could also see that the Queen had left out a thing or two about the child’s identity, as they discussed this mission.

Damn, damn, damn. Right now Kyland needed to check on Marin, and the woman lying at her side. But he needed to move forward carefully. He didn’t wish to frighten the young woman, especially after she had been traumatized. He needed to save her friend, if at all possible, and slowly build a connection, a bond of trust. If this was the correct person, then … then the future of his people would depend on her. He didn’t understand, not completely, but the Queen had given him a name, a location, and a time frame. He needed to find Marin, somewhere within Earth-side, before her Transition.

Well, if this was Marin, he had the woman/child; he was in Kentucky, so he was Earth-side, just like the Queen’s prophecy; the time frame was the remaining key. Kyland had less than a month left to complete the first step. Hopefully, the rest would fall into place, and by the end of the year, the Queen would be returned.

Kyland had spent the last two decades learning every new medical procedure, medical aid techniques of any discipline, as they were improved on. The Marin he was sent to retrieve had been kidnaped, and kidnap victims were rarely treated well. Why else would she be stolen at birth, unless it was to harvest her power? Supe children could be used as batteries, for the sadistic and depraved. Evil men and women, or Danshue, that seek power above all else and are willing to do anything to obtain it.

Dropping to his knees, Kyland could see that the woman on the ground didn’t appear to be breathing. Time was short, but still he approached slowly. Perhaps the surrounding crowd of useless onlookers had the right idea. If he was correct, the beautiful blonde could toss him across the parking lot, if he surprised her.

“Do you need help?” Kyland slowly checked Marin’s friend for vitals, before tilting the head, to begin CPR. The woman he worked on was extremely small, broken and bleeding. Her flaming red hair seemed familiar, but Kyland couldn’t worry about his patients identity. Not with a confused and wary Marin, watching his every move.

“Please … I don’t know … what to do … I can’t …” Marin didn’t know if she should trust this stranger, this mouth watering man, but she needed help. Lindal needed help. She had already called 911 and told the operator what she could, but now her phone had disappeared. The best Finder the U.S. could offer, and she couldn’t even locate her own cell phone. She held her hand near the side of her aunt’s face, afraid to touch … Didn’t the people in movies always stay on the phone, when they called 911? She needed her phone. What was she- How could she-

Marin couldn’t breathe. She was screwing up. Lindal was hurt. She should have told the operator more. Couldn’t. Breathe.

“Don’t worry. Just take a calming breathe and work with me. I need you to stabilize her head for me. My name is Kyland, by the way, and I will do what I can to help, if you will let me.” Kyland took her hand and it was suddenly easier to breathe. “Can you do that?”

Kyland had a manly beauty, one that sculptors would kill to etch. She found it hard not to stare at Mister Tall, Dark, and Handsome; her eyes continually jumping back to outline his features, even in the midst of her worry. He had to be nearly seven feet tall, and his eyes gleamed like flecks of coal.

When Kyland leaned forward, to recheck Lindal for breath, Marin could see that his eyes were actually an extremely dark gray. His hair fell in a wave of black silk, to his shoulders, and his muscles looked edible in a glowing reddish brown tone.

Kyland had one of those year round natural tans, that women the world over dreamed of. Marin would have assumed a Native American background, but there was just something more, something different, about him.

Marin gave herself a mental shake, to push his looks from her mind, and focused on the woman that had raised her. She would do anything and everything asked of her. She would follow Kyland’s lead and hope for the best.

Nodding her head rapidly, Marin moved to Lindal’s head to do as indicated. She had a purpose. The ambulance was coming, and Kyland would help Lindal until they arrived.

Marin hated the way that Lindal treated her, but she wanted distance and independence, not this. This couldn’t be happening. What if she lost the only family she-

Just as the panic started to take over again, Marin felt someone squeezing her hand. Kyland gave her comfort, as his other hand checked for a pulse.

As the blonde did as instructed, Kyland continued compressions. He couldn’t think of her as Marin, not yet. There had to be another reason for her to look- Kyland took a deep breath, in order to focus on the here and now. He had cleared his patient’s airway, while sending a healing spell into her body. It would help, but weather it would be enough or not, he didn’t know. He had to get her breathing again, if he hoped to save her.

Kyland had done two sets of compressions, and was bending to blow air into his patient’s lung, when the woman took a deep breath on her own. Her eyes snapped open. Eyes that he knew, hated, and could never forget.

“You-” The word slipped out of his mouth, before Kyland could think about stopping himself. He barely managed to cut off his words, before a barrage of her suspected crimes left his mouth.

Well damn. Kyland hadn’t recognized the injured woman with her eyes shut, but he should have. The wrinkles were obviously an illusion, but the fire engine red hair, the small stature … and now, those liquid green eyes couldn’t be denied. Only one person had eyes the shade of mixed 184mercury and vibrant new grass.

Lindal Rencoff. Murder, treason, the thief of power by painful means … the list of her suspected crimes went on and on. Lindal needed to be tried for crimes against the Queen and Fae alike, for being Danshue – a fae willing to lose their soul in exchange for stolen power.

The Queen definitely hadn’t informed him that he would find the woman/child that he was looking for with the traitor Lindal Rencoff. What the hell was going on here? His mouth turned down, Kyland had to fight the urge to wrap his hands around Lindal’s neck.

Every Supe in the Supernatural Community believed that Lindal had been cut down, marked as one of the dead or missing, in the last great war. Instead, she hid among a bunch of humans, with her kidnap victim, a woman the Fae people desperately needed. He roughly ran his hands over his face, and looked to the heavens for some kind of sign.

Kyland’s gaze darted around, to locate any other enemies, but found only curious onlookers, and banged up cars and trucks. He took a moment to decide if he should call in back up or not, as his gaze went back to Marin. Why had he been sent alone on this mission?

To answer that, he first needed to answer one every important question. Did the Queen fear her own people?
The fact that Kyland had been sent on his own, to retrieve someone that deserved an armed escort, was pretty much answer enough. Had the Queen foreseen that she and her entire house would be cursed, and hidden from the rest of the Fae, from the entire Supernatural Community, never to be seen again?

Kyland had been sent alone on this mission, and he had nearly failed. Watching the car closing in, he had known that he would not make it in time. Even moving out of phase – as one with the shadows – Kyland would have been too late. None of his personal magic could have stopped the car from taking the life of the woman he could fell calling out to his essence. He had spent over two decades in search of a poor defenseless child in need of protection, only to find that Marin had the ability to save herself.

The car had been pushed and flipped, as if unseen forces had been displeased. If it hadn’t been for his ability to sense the magic being used, he might have believed the unseen forces theory. After all, he had been told that Marin couldn’t reach, or use, her gifts yet. Damnit. If the power he had felt represented Marin’s untapped gifts, they would all be in a world of trouble if he couldn’t find a way to ease Marin’s power slowly past the whatever had them blocked.

If Marin’s gifts exploded from their containment all at once … more than just her psyche and body were in danger. It would be like the magical version of an atomic bomb. Kyland had less than a month, but eventually time would run out. The block had to be placed over Marin’s psyche, her power. A block Marin’s power had managed to break through, like it was child’s play, only to completely disappear once the danger was past.
Yep. Kyland was in deep, and all out of paddles. This mission became more important with every passing second.

Chapter Two

Her perfect crystal now protected the parking lot of Crystal Sights; Lindal was in surgery fighting for her life; and Marin gazed blankly at the ugliest green wall paper, she had ever seen. Hospital waiting rooms shouldn’t remind a person of moldy vomit. They should be peaceful and comforting. Reminders of the split pea soup incident from the Exorcist was neither peaceful nor comforting. Even a stark white would be more pleasant that the current color palate.

Marin feared that the need to scream and never stop, would finally win out. She wanted answers, while also wanting to forget, but right this second she wanted a nice friendly coat of paint. It would give her mind
something to focus on, while she waited for the doctors to fix her aunt.

Body shaking like she needed a large hit of Meth, Marin pulled her knees up against her chest and rocked quietly in her less than comfortable chair. She glared at one of the chipped areas of vomit-itis paint. It had been hours of waiting with only her headache, stale coffee, and these horrendous walls to keep her company. Everyone else in the room had managed to fade into the background, her mind uninterested in their presence.

The door to the waiting room opened, causing Marin to glare in that direction. A man in hospital scrubs searched the room for someone. His mouth moving. Not that Marin could hear anything over the pounding in her head, that caused her ears to ring. The name tag proclaimed that this was Dr. Criss. He had a nice looking mouth, but the rest of his features remained out of focus.

Marin counted the handful of people waiting for news, shocked to realized that the room held a deep well of silence. Surely there should be something to hear. The quiet murmur of loved ones consoling each other, the drone of the television, or even the gurgle of the coffee pot … but Marin caught nothing like that. She couldn’t even remember if the room had been so full, when she first arrived.

The doctor looked straight at Marin, and walked in her direction with purpose in his posture, and compassion on his face. Was he speaking to her? Her feet dropped to the floor at the same time that her gaze sought out anyone else sitting near by, that could be his intended target. The warring emotions, to get answers and to deny that any of this was real, fought for supremacy.

Marin examined the people sharing the room with her closer. An elderly woman with two small children, sitting to her left, worked to console her youngest child. No more than two, her little face contorted in distress and hopeless anguish, as she sat clinging to her grandmother. Tears ran down her little rounded cheeks. Her face red and body shaking, the child ignored modern rules of society, and expressed her pain the only way that she knew how. It looked almost freeing. And still she heard nothing.

Marin could see a man on a pay phone, another man holding a softly crying woman, and a few teens. But not a single sound managed to accompany their actions. Her eyes took in the expressions of pain and sadness, but her mind refused to allow her to hear their distress. That seemed wrong.

The doctor had nearly reached her side. Marin couldn’t see that as a positive sign. The paramedics had told her that things looked good, the beautiful stranger had promised everything would be fine and then he had disappeared, and Lindal’s breathing had seemed even and controlled when they pulled up to the emergency room doors. Marin just couldn’t see how anything good could come from five hours of uncertainty after all the positive lies.

The doctor stopped in front of her seat. His lips were still moving. Maybe he had a tick or something.

Marin fought the need to smile. The doctor’s brow crinkled, and he reached out to touch her face. Grasping her chin, he turned her head up, but when he moved closer, to look into her eyes, Marin jolted from the chair.

The world was suddenly rent by a mournful cry, a cry that only the young could dare make. Not yet fearful of what others will think, a child will throw her head back, and shriek her pain to the heavens. Marin wanted that freedom. The little girl with the head full of auburn curls, and the extremely healthy lungs, continued to cling to her grandmother. Her pain the first sound to shatter the unnatural silence of the waiting room.
The silence hadn’t been that bad, in a way. Marin preferred the denial.

“Miss Yarthine?” the doctor asked.

Damnit. Marin finally made eye contact with the doctor. She needed to do better. She needed to focus, before she ended up with her very own hospital gown.

Afraid to speak, Marin just continued to stare. Wanting to release her own cathartic wails, she wrapped her arms protectively around her body, and managed a small nod. She felt something touch her shoulder and glanced back in the doctors direction, not remembering when she had turned away. This had to be shock. There was a constant buzz emanating from her temples, and that couldn’t be good either.

Marin’s head felt like a stranger. She could feel this ticking beat, as if her heart had managed to make the climb in to her head. The buzz in her head kept changing. Sometimes, she felt like she had a few bees in residence, and at others she just knew that an angry band had taken to using the space between her ears for practice.

Did that mean she was in shock? Or maybe Marin had managed to hit her head harder than she realized. Someone had checked her out. She remembered-

Smiling kindly and reclaiming her attention, the doctor said, “Your aunt is unconscious at the moment. She hasn’t woken yet so we’re keeping her in the ICU. At least until she wakes. Visiting hours are over until tomorrow afternoon, but I think we can let you can back to see her for a few minutes. Her brain received quite a trauma. All her other injuries appear stable for now, but the brain … we really can’t know more until she’s conscious.”

Marin didn’t know what to say. Her head bowed, and she covered her mouth with a shaking hand. Her knees wanted to buckle. She felt weak as the weight of so much worry lightened. With a barely repressed sob, Marin managed to choke out, “Thank you.” The news wasn’t perfect, but at least her aunt was still alive.

The doctor turned to leave, and Marin followed him and a nurse-type person that had managed to go unnoticed. Somehow managing to find the strength to make her legs steady, as they went down the hall, Marin couldn’t help but feel impatient. She wanted to run, to see Lindal with her own eyes.

Maybe if Marin held Lindal’s hand, felt her precious warmth- Who was she kidding? Marin needed her aunt to open her eyes, and give one of those frosty glares that she had perfected over the years.

Marin’s hand flew up to catch an inappropriate giggle, and the buzzing in her temple started pulsating to a rhythm, but she didn’t care. She needed proof that Lindal was still alive, that her only family member would continue to make her life miserable.

The small room they finally stopped at, sat behind a glass wall, the privacy curtain only partially closed, so that the end of the bed could be clearly seen from outside. The crash cart sitting within easy reach of the door, left a less than comforting ache in Marin’s chest. The sooner Lindal could be moved to a less threatening room, the better.

“Ten minutes. But then you’ll need to come back during visiting hours,” the nurse explained in a firm, but sympathetic voice. The doctor had already disappeared.

Marin could barely hear the nurse’s words, over the sounds of the ventilator and other life supporting machines. She seemed kind enough, but right at that moment Marin wanted to be alone. Seeming to understand, the nurse gave her another sympathetic look, and left Marin to peek around the curtain by herself.

Lindal’s small form, lying quietly in the midst of tubes and wires, barely filled half of the twin-size hospital bed. Her aunt had always been small, barely taller than Marin’s own five-foot-two-inches. In the hospital bed, the force that naturally radiated off Lindal’s every movement became subdued, and her strong personality lessened. Her aunt look abnormally vulnerable.

Rubbing her arms, Marin wanted to take a step away from the unreal sight, instead she forced her hands to tightly grip the foot board. She had come so close to losing Lindal.

The paramedics had arrived quickly, but they never would have made it in time. Marin wasn’t stupid. Lindal hadn’t been breathing, and that had meant one thing, and one thing only. Lindal had died. With only Marin to help her, she would have stayed that way. Stranger or not, Kyland had saved Lindal’s life.

Kyland had come out of no where, and disappeared the same way. Marin shook her head, doubting that she would ever be able to find him, to thank him. On the one hand, some unnamed tension left her body at the thought that she would never have to face him again. Face the emotions he stirred. Still, his absence left a hole in her heart, and a choking thickness in her throat. Which made absolutely no sense. Marin knew nothing about this man. How did he cause confusion strong enough to overwhelm her mind. Confusion, evil confusion. Marin shook her head. The who and where of Kyland were problems for another day. Right now she needed to focus on Lindal.

Marin needed answers. Like why had they been targeted? The parking lot didn’t exactly come up lacking, when it came to vehicular violence victim contenders. There had been a group of at least four women, standing by their cars, chatting. If there was a target more deserving of vehicular rage, it had definitely that group of women. They had finished shopping, and courtesy demanded that their parking spots were to be relinquished as soon as possible. Why not them?

The man – and Marin was only guessing that the driver was a man – had bypassed those without parking lot etiquette and zeroed in on Lindal. If she had continued her slow progress through the parking lot, would Marin be in this horrible room with it’s beeping monitors, bleached air, and sense of waiting, instead of Lindal.

Staring down at her aunt’s unmoving form, Marin tried to find a place to rest her hand. She needed to touch her. She needed to know that the only person willing to take her in, after the death of her mother, was really here and still alive.

“They will find him, Lindal. He won’t get away with this,” Marin made her vow as quietly as possible, not wanting to disturb Lindal’s recovery.

Glancing up to keep tears from falling from her eyes, Marin noticed something swinging off of Lindal’s oxygen line. “What the-” It looked like a BARBIE with wings, perhaps six inches tall. The odd little creature wore a loin cloth and sported some overly obvious male attributes. Was it wrong to be checking out the abs of someone no larger than a child’s toy?

His arms tugged and his muscles bunched, as he attempted to make a knot in Lindal’s oxygen line. His silver skin tone went beautifully with his tri-colored wings – a mix of beige, maroon, and gold. The little man didn’t seem to realize that Marin was staring at him.

“Stop,” Marin shouted. Damn-it, this was a hospital. She needed to lower her voice. She also needed to go up stairs to the psych ward. Head trauma, shock, or hallucinations … something wasn’t right. If she told Lindal about this, her aunt would call her every kind of fool.

Hallucination or not, she grabbed the little man by the wings, pulled him from Lindal’s oxygen line, and tried to speak more calmly. “What do you think you’re doing?”

She finally had her figments attention. A striking, though small, pair of lavender eyes glared at her through overly long sandy brown bangs. On closer inspection, she could see that his hair was actually multicolored. It seemed to go from crystal white sand to bronzed gold.

“Well, answer me. What do you think you’re doing?”

“Waiting for you, of course.”

“What are you?” She was losing it. The buzzing in her temples was increasing. And she was now speaking with a figment of her imagination. Yep. She needed medicated.

The creature put its tiny fists on narrow hips. “A Sprite, of course. Don’t you know anything? I have my work cut out for me.” Now she was being insulted by her imagination. Great.

“Nope. Too Much,” Marin said, and tossed the little man out of the hospital window. She needed coffee. Either that or a large dose of Thorazine.

Chapter Three

The smell reached her first. Marin tried not to gag, quickly covering her mouth with her hand as she glanced around the quiet street, trying to pinpoint the source of the foul stench polluting her air supply. She had never been subjected to anything so horrible in her life. The strength of the odor nearly knocked her off her feet, meaning that the source had to be close.

Behind her, Marin could see the café that she had just left, and little else. A thrift shop and a dollar store stood a few blocks further down the street. If the smell had come from one of those buildings, she would have noticed sooner. The aroma in the café had been wonderful and it had taken over a block before the air around her had lost its caffeinated buzz. Marin was considering turning back and returning to the smell of baked bread and roasted coffee beans, just to escape the repulsive smell.

To her left and right, she saw little shops selling antiques. A few mom and pop stores that were already closed for the night, filled in the rest. And the sound of frog mating came from every direction. Marin should have been surrounded by the smell of honeysuckle, not sewage.

Honeysuckle grew more rampant than most weeds, but the smell brightened a Kentucky night in spring. Or it should have.

Nothing around Marin appeared capable of creating the current stench. The hospital sat in front of her, a few blocks away, but that couldn’t be it. Surely the EPA would have issued a warning by now, if a medical facility randomly produced toxic gas. That only left the kids she watched coming around the corner, between her position and the hospital’s front doors.

A small group of kids turned and headed Marin’s way. Cocking her head to the side, she wondered what they were doing out so late. And not a pair of shoes between them. Odd. Oh, Marin had noticed that people took the returning of hot weather as an excuse to leave their footwear behind, but that was in their own yards. Children did not run barefoot, while roaming downtown Ashland.

Marin cringed, thinking that if they were the cause of the revolting odor, then their parents needed to be shot. Her kinder side wanted to warn the kids, scream at them to run in the other direction, as fast as possible. Especially as the horrible stench continued to grow in strength. Marin could see the headlines now … “Small town overwhelmed by invisible toxic waste. At least six dead.”

Perhaps the kids didn’t notice, but Marin’s overly sensitive nose screamed in pain. She brought her coffee closer to her nose, but didn’t drink. Adding anything to her stomach at this point seemed like an unnecessary risk. Enhanced senses weren’t uncommon. Still, true enhancement was rare enough that most people kept the strength of their senses quiet. Being born without an enhancement meant that you ran the risk of being called plain or average. People like Marin with more than one enhanced sense were considered freaks. But even with her steaming drink pressed close to her face, she felt overwhelmed by the attacking odor.

The café made the best Latte in three states. The person responsible for ruining her beverage, owed Marin a serious apology. Lowering her head, she tried to block out the air born sewage with delicious Latte, wishing that she could rewind to this morning. What good did seeking out a mission to complete, and a birthday gift, really do? She had lost the crystal and could still lose her aunt. This day couldn’t have been worse. The sooner she reached the hospital and it’s bleached halls the better.

Marin suddenly found herself face down on the ground, instead of inhaling her drink and rushing toward the hospital. Her wonderful smelling, yet ridiculously hot beverage had thankfully been thrown away from her body. She rolled over to find herself surrounded by five of the ugliest kids she had ever seen. Their arms were too long, or at least longer than normal, and their legs seemed too short for their bodies. Their ears were large and slightly floppy. The varying degrees of red in their rather large eyes, had to be from contacts. It was not a natural eye shade. And each nose she glanced at seemed to be larger than the last.
Marin ground out, “What the hell?”

Ugly or not, one of these little shits had tripped her. Marin had also located the source of the unholy odor. One or all of their parents needed to be charged with crimes against humanity, and punished for not hosing the little monsters down once in a while. Marin swallowed, did her best to breathe through her mouth, and tried to keep from throwing up. She could only hope that her sense of smell began to fail sometime soon.

Ignoring the children, Marin tried to get to her feet with some dignity. She needed out of the day that would not end. Being picked on by a group of adolescent terrors, had her flinching at how she ranked in the world.

One of the demon children got a firm hold on Marin’s ankle, and tossed her through the air. Okay. So maybe these weren’t children. Unless the local elementary had a problem with steroid usage, Marin felt safe in the assumption that these were not your average twelve year old boys.

The air left her lungs in a rush, as Marin landed with jarring force. Refusing to take in any more of the vile air, she began begging for unconsciousness, just to escape the gag factor.

Finally gasping for any oxygen she could find, Marin tried to figure out what she had slammed into. She knew that bruises were beginning to form, and that something wet ran down her temple. A temple that had exploded into a riot of sound. The buzzing had morphed into an angry rock band persona, and seemed to want out of her mind, as if it could manifest and subdue her angry half-pint attackers.

Lying on a small patch of grass, off the beaten path and unlikely to be seen, Marin did her best to ignore her pounding head and aching body, in order to focus on her assailants. Anton’s free self-defense classes, plus the daily embarrassments from losing to Lindal, flew through her mind. She quickly rolled into a crouch, knowing that the martial arts teacher that Anton had hired would be very disappointed, if he could see her now. Sensei Liu Kuan’s favorite phrase had always been, “Anyone can be a threat.” Staring at five volcanic midgets, she finally understood.

Marin waited for their next move. She noticed that aside from the two carrying batons, that had come out of nowhere, one had a knife. An extremely large knife. The last two didn’t seem to have any weapons. Maybe they would kill her old school, and just beat her to death. Or maybe they were just here as an audience. Like any good blood spot, they were going to watch her get her ass kicked.

The one with the knife came at Marin first. As she dove out of the way, she felt the knife nick her shoulder, having barely missed her neck.

One of the unholy terrors broke the unnatural silence with a hissing snicker. Marin continued to roll, moving in the direction of the baton brothers, hoping to knock one of them to the ground and earn a weapon for her trouble.

As she rolled into a crouch and launched herself at the feet of one of the baton carrying bastards, Marin felt long denied emotions heating her blood, and tingling along her skin. Rage strong enough to take on a life of it’s own, allowed her to forget that her attackers looked like helpless minors. In that moment, Marin wanted to lash out with the intent to do permanent harm. A quiet rage, came out of nowhere, sudden and strong. She sucked in some of the foul oxygen. She was pissed.

A baton came down, barely missing Marin as she quickly rolled away and lashed out with her foot, with all her mite. She heard a satisfying pop and the ugly little man – no way was this a child – let out a high pitched screech, grabbed for his destroyed knee cap, and collapsed to the ground. She continued to tell herself that she didn’t face children, as she snatched up his dropped weapon. It was that or let herself be murdered.

Keeping her body low and loose, she waited for the next attack. She now had one of their batons and four short but freakishly strong attackers to deal with. With a cry of fury, she swung for another set of knees.

Out of the corner of her eye, Marin saw the knife coming her way, but she had already committed to her swing. All her focus was on knee-capping the second baton wielder. These bastards should at least come at her one at a time.

Marin barely felt the pain of the knife cutting across her right side, as she allowed the momentum of taking out the second baton wielder’s knees, to take her into another roll. Baton brothers one and two were now disarmed and moaning with their ruined knees, as the one with the knife came in for another pass.

Marin was getting sick and tired of losing blood. The cutting had to go. At this rate, the guy would eventually succeed in slitting her throat.

Focusing on the knife heading for her neck once again, Marin forgot about everyone else and aimed her baton at the wrist joint. By the scream of pain reverberating along the street, she could tell that her strike was unexpected but successful. If she lived through this, she would have to thank Sensei Liu for the exercises dedicated to joint weaknesses.

Marin could admit that she regularly went unnoticed and underestimated, but these guys should be taking her more seriously. Especially if they planned to kill her. It was only polite. She had always been faster and stronger than most women her size. At 5’2”, Marin’s height was considered below average for a woman, amd her slender frame made her appear so much smaller. Most days she even felt vulnerable. But for the first time in her life, she didn’t. She felt powerful. She felt not only that she could, but that would, use all those hours of martial arts to defend herself.

Having lost his knife, the third guy cradled his wrist and backed away. Marin turned only enough to be able to focus on the remaining men, while still keeping her downed attackers in the corner of her eye. She hoped that the baton would give her the slight edge she needed.

“Well, damn,” Marin hissed.

The last two men were no longer unarmed. Carrying what appeared to be stone clubs that had to weigh at least a few tons each, the last two guys moved together like a pair of evil ugly-assed twins. Marin knew she should have stolen the last guy’s knife. How the hell were they even picking those things up?

Her body tense, Marin’s gaze searched for a distraction, anything to scare them off. That’s when she saw him. Lindal’s savior from earlier popped out of nowhere, running toward the fight. Smiling, she knew that Kyland would be too late. By the time he reached her, she would no longer need the help. Two stone clubs were zeroing in on her body. It was going to be impossible, to avoid them both.

Choosing to focus on the twin to the right, Marin made her move. Throwing up her left arm as a block, she turned slightly and jabbed her baton into the groin, of her target. Picturing the baton going through the groin and coming out the other side, Marin made sure to grunt just as she had been taught in class.

She pushed to her feet as her jab connected, giving it as much force as possible. The man from the right fell to his knees, his mouth open in a silent scream of agony. His swing lost most of it’s force but still connected with her thigh, before he abandoned the fight and doubled over in defeat.

“Son of a-” Marin couldn’t finish her expletive.

The man from her left made up for his twin’s less powerful swing, with a blow that would have taken off her head if Marin hadn’t pushed to her feet, while jabbing the other guy in the groin. The stone club slammed into her chest with the force of a freight train. She flew backward into the man with the damaged wrist.
With a grunt of surprise, the previous knife wielder pushed her toward the feet of one of his friends. By now she really didn’t care which bastard was which, if she had the energy, she would crush them all. Or try.

The last thing she saw as someone’s leg pulled back for a vicious kick aimed at her skull was her savior. She could see that Kyland had found what appeared to be a short sword.

Having lost her baton, she threw up her arm in hopes that it would protect her head, and silently wished Kyland luck. Marin hoped that those stone clubs didn’t crush his sword too quickly.

Refusing to go out like the weak kitten she normally felt like, Marin decided to go for the ankle, when her retched smelling attacker tried to punt her head like a football. Gritting her teeth, she held tight to the large rock jabbing into the side of her hip. Moving as quickly as possible, she threw her arm into the move. The rock strengthened the force of her swing. She moved quickly but not quickly enough.

Marin could hear fighting and grunts of pain, as the foot made contact with her head. The world around her darkened. She allowed herself a small smile of satisfaction, as she finally gave in. She had seen the look on Kyland’s face. These four foot fecal drops were in for a world of hurt. She really hated to miss the show.

The muscles along Kyland’s jaw stayed clenched, as his sword sang through the air, and smoothly separated the last gremlin’s head from his body. Messy business, taking heads, but he had never found a cleaner way to dispatch the smelly little buggers.

Marin remained unconscious and under one of his healing spells, giving Kyland the time he needed to dispose of the bodies. Normally he’d let the Fae Courts decide what to do with the remains, but urgency demanded he move quickly. That meant that he couldn’t wait around for the Earth-side Fae authorities.

Shaking out his clenched hands, Kyland piled the bodies and quickly worked an immolation spell, the flames hot enough to turn bone to ash. Every piece of the existence of the Fae bodies needed to be eradicated. Every Supe child had the laws of secrecy drummed into their minds every day of their lives. The most important of the Queen’s Laws, even after her disappearance.

Twice now, Kyland had almost failed to protect Marin. She had been holding her own at first against the Gremlins, but five more seconds and she would have … He should have killed them slowly.

The small hits acquired in the fight began to ache, but Kyland’s night wasn’t over. Cracking his neck, he gathered up Marin and faded out of phase, traveling at a faster than normal pace. His hands held Marin close as he made his way to his rental – a horrible machine that he hated being stuck inside of.

The tension in Kyland’s neck increased. He placed Marin in the back of the car, before squeezing into the driver’s seat. Why, oh why, couldn’t the rental place have something other than a compact.

Throwing the car into drive, Kyland somehow managed to clip one of the neighboring vehicles, as he pulled his foot off the break peddle, barely tapped the gas. He wanted to glance in the rearview mirror to check on Marin, but thought better of the idea. Every time he turned his head, the car felt the need to go in that direction. He needed to find someone to help protect Marin … someone that could drive.

His mind started reviewing the two attacks, clearly of Danshue origin. That their hunt had begun before Kyland had managed to locate Marin, worried him; the fact that he should have felt a more urgent pull to protect Marin, worried him even more. The blood oath that he had cast, should have made it impossible to be away from her side, while her future was in danger. Constant Danshue attacks constituted danger to Kyland. And the greater the danger, the tighter the bond should have been.

Maybe it was the disbelief of watching Marin first freeze, and then fling, her guide Sprite around, that caused Kyland to miss the signs of an approaching threat. Okay … maybe he was too busy laughing. The look of denial in Marin’s eyes had been so cute; Kyland had forced himself to step away, before he allowed himself to taste her lush mouth. One kiss would never be enough, and a hospital held no romance, when it came to seduction opportunities. Besides, he refused to get distracted from his mission, by becoming involved with the woman he needed to protect.

Kyland had hidden in the waiting room, as he attempted to figure out what he had seen in Lindal’s ICU room. Magic, of any kind, doesn’t work on Sprite folk. He had stepped away for no more than ten minutes, and Marin had managed to leave the hospital and lose him.

The pull of the blood oath was obviously on the fritz, working one minute and silent the next. The most likely reason for the disconnect, was more than likely Marin. More to the point, the blocking spells, he could feel circling her entire essence, had to be interfering with his connection to her. Kyland could feel Marin’s magic, her soul, her entire being blocked from her psyche, the source of her magic. The blood oath’s short circuit, as well as the reason it had taken him so long to locate her, had to be connected to the blocking spells.

Well, he’d finally found her. Now Kyland just needed to keep Marin alive. Somehow.

Chapter Four

The incessant banging had Marin one noise away from tears. The sound had to be worse than a two-year-old, with their first drum set; constant and without any discernible rhythm. Her low and pitiful moan only added to her pain. Each and every sound just piled on top of the painful banging; the banging taking root inside of her temples. She could live with the buzzing, but this off beat band noise had to go.

“Oww,” Marin whispered, wincing at her ability to speak. Being mute sounded like a very good idea at the moment.

Opening her eyes, she received both good news and bad. The cheap motel decor, and her beaten and bruised flesh, said that she still lived. To make matters worse, Marin realized that one of those scratchy motel comforters covered her aching body, and nothing more.

The window’s heating unit, loudly worked to keep the room nice and warm. The overwhelming sound made Marin rethink her stance on heat stroke. Did she really care if she slept in a puddle of sweat? Did she really care if she needed to wring out her hair every few minutes? She could learn to keep the dripping out of her eyes, if someone would just stop the incessant noise. She already had enough going on in her head, thank you very much.

The light fixture, if you could call it that, consisted of one extremely bright bare bulb and nothing more. The air smelled like pine sol and sweat, which was a step up from the reek of the sewage boys. The bathroom door had at least one hinge missing, the carpet sported a sickly shag green color, and the ceiling had water marks on top of water marks. Marin couldn’t see the other half of the room without rolling over, a thought that had her cringing despite the pain it caused.

Marin remembered one of the poster boys for pollution pulling back his leg, to use her head, in order to recreate the proper way to score a field goal. Everything else, like how she got to this crappy motel bed or how she lost her cloths, seemed to be lost in a void of inky blackness.

Licking suddenly dry lips, Marin attempted to ignore the quiver of unease building in her stomach. She was fine and any moment now she would remember all the important facts. Like how did she get here, where had her attackers gone, and most importantly… Where were her freaking clothes?

One step at a time, Marin decided to check the damage to her body, before turning to check out the rest of the room. “Holy hell,” she couldn’t help but whisper, as she peeked beneath the comforter and saw the amazing array of colors, currently decorating her skin.

“Good. You are awake. I was beginning to worry.” A low soothing voice filled the air. But not soothing enough for Marin’s peace of mind.

Marin released a slightly undignified yelp, which only added to the Mariachi band in her head. Quickly pulling the comforter back into place, she clutched the thin barrier to her chest with one hand. Gritting her teeth, Mairn covered her eyes to block the light from the side lamp, as it flared to life. The thing appeared ten times brighter than the ceiling fixture.

“How do you feel?” the musical voice came again.

Marin shut her eyes tightly, and refused to answer. Ignoring her current state sounded like an excellent idea. Going back to sleep and pretending that this day was nothing more than some horrible nightmare, sounded even better.

Apparently, unwilling to wait for her to collect her thoughts, that deliciously deep voice moved closer, and for some reason he wanted more than a face to face conversation. The tugging on her comforter had Marin wide eyed and ready to talk, or more accurately … scream.

“What the hell? Stop that,” Marin shrieked. Grabbing for the horribly thin comforter but making no progress, she demanded, “Is there a reason you’re uncovering me? And where are my clothes?”

“Yes.” That’s all he had to say for himself? Yes? He started running his hands over her exposed flesh. What the hell? He really needed to give more of an answer than Yes, and he seriously needed to stop all the touching.

“What in the hell are you doing?” Marin slapped at his hands and attempted to retrieve her blanket.

“I need to make sure I did not miss any wounds earlier. I had to stitch two of the deeper cuts, but I did not want to move you around too much, once your natural healing kicked in. I was not sure how quickly you could heal with your power still blocked, so I closed the open wounds myself. But the stitches already need to come out. The wound along your chest is slightly red. You will need this ointment in case of infection.”

He was already removing the stitches. Marin let her eyes close to stop herself from staring in shock, and embarrassment. She was sitting here in her birthday suit, allowing this man access to her body, but then, she didn’t know anything about removing stitches.

Marin wasn’t shy about her body, but there was a time and a place, and she didn’t know anything about … “My name is Kyland Marcuson.” Well, that was a start. At least now she had his full name for the police report. “And I have vowed to protect your future.” And back to the land of the unclear, not to mention insane.

“What does that mean, you’re … hey now-” Marin lost her train of thought, busy slapping away his hands again. Really? She was pretty sure that she didn’t need a breast exam. And that had felt way to good for her piece of mind. Jerking the ointment out of his hands, she pulled the comforter back into place. Her eyes cold and hard, Marin could feel the blood in her body beginning to boil, as she hissed, “I’m good here. Hands to yourself.”

Marin found herself frowning, as she shook her head in an attempt to catch her train of thought. “What does that mean? Protect my future?”

“I took a blood oath with your essence linked to it. Now I am bound to protect your future, as if it were my own. And in a way it is,” Kyland explained.

Why were all the good looking ones crazy? Marin leaned as far away as she could. “Uh-huh. We’re connected.” Shaking her head, she added, “Let’s focus on the present for now. What happened to the garbage pail kids?”
She rubbed the back of her neck and tried to move the conversation to something important. At his confused look, she let out a heavy sigh and asked, “Not from around here, are you?”

“I am from Out-realm. I have not been Earth-side, off and on, since the 1800’s. I have been bouncing between here and the different realms, for the last twenty years in search of you. I knew that I would eventually find you Earth-side, but returned home from time to time, in an attempt to gain more information on your origins.”

Yep. Crazy as a loon. Wincing, a pained expression drew her mouth into a flat line, just considering such a travesty.

“I’ll let all that go, since you saved my life. But I really must be leaving,” Marin said, as politely as possible. It was never a good idea to argue with the mentally insane.

Sighing, Marin knew that getting any answer out of Kyland, that didn’t freak her out or confuse the hell out of her, would be impossible. She moved to turn away from the crazy, yet exceptionally put together man, trying to locate her clothes, while still keeping him in the corner of her eye.

What could possibly go wrong next? Car wrecks, hallucinations, toxic-stench laced attackers, and now … insanity from the beautiful. Come, drink the kool-aid … everybody’s doing it. If Marin wasn’t in need of caffeine before, she now required some in the form of an IV drip.

“And you are Marin de Platadreki.”

Marin cocked her head to the side but kept her gaze averted, as she continued to search for her clothes. At least he knew half of her name. On second thought … She hadn’t given him her name, any of it. How did he … “I don’t know any Platadreki. My last name is Yarthine.” When he opened his mouth to respond, Marin cut him off. Truly, enough was enough. She needed some distance and some sanity. And … “Where in the hell are my clothes? I need to check on my aunt. Then I want to go home.”

Kyland sat on the side of the bed, his body relaxed. The calmer he became, the more Marin wanted to throw something at him. “Your clothes were ruined. They were covered in blood and the smell- If you were to wear them, you would find yourself in a bed beside your aunt, before you could blink.” Marin thought it was odd, the way he said aunt, as if he really meant to say bitch, but before she could ask, he continued, “We are quite close to your home. I stopped here, not wanting to go into your personal space, without your knowledge.”

Kyland looked extremely proud of his reasoning, but Marin was getting more upset by the minute. “Let me get this straight. You didn’t feel it would be acceptable to enter my home without permission, but taking my clothes was just fine and dandy?” He just sat there staring at her, waiting. Baring her teeth, she demanded, “Well?” Marin clenched her fists. She could feel her anger getting out of control. What in the hell was wrong with her?

Kyland jolted to his feet. “Ow. You did not need to shock me.”

Glancing around, Marin tried to understand, but his statement was odd enough to bring her rage back under control. “I did no such thing,” Marin refuted. It really was sad to watch someone flying over the cuckoo’s nest.

Kyland could only blink at her in response, but he supposed that answered one question. Marin was completely unaware of her magic. Most likely freezing the Sprite, and flinging the car away, were done on instinct, not purpose. He needed to find out why. Why didn’t Marin know about her abilities and why had it taken twenty-one years for her gifts to surface. Surely she would have noticed that she had magical gifts over the last two decades. Flashes of power, every time her emotions got out of control, would be hard to miss.

“I want my clothes,” Marin hissed.

Removing her soiled clothing had be one of the hardest tasks that Kyland had ever faced. To see all those curves bare, even bruised, had been almost impossible to resist. Nudity had always been acceptable among the Fae. Those with a tail didn’t see the need to wear pants; those with wings saw little need for a shirt; and those with the ability to change shape would rather not rip through their garments, while slipping to animal form.

“I have told you. They were ruined-” Kyland didn’t manage to get any further. The jolt of power, that came his way, knocked him to the floor. Who would have guessed, that such a temper hid within such a slight form.

“Then give me yours.” Marin forgot to hold up her comforter in her anger, not that Kyland was about to complain. She was extremely beautiful. Curves that begged to be touched, flowed with the smoothest skin he had ever seen, and her eyes … He loved watching as the light blue color flashed into brighter blues and greens, minute reds and pinks, and the purest of whites.

With her power riding close, Marin’s eyes were the color of high priced opals. At a glance, and without the added power, her eyes appeared to be a mesmerizing light blue. But at this moment, and in the midst of her anger, he saw rainbow sparks blazing like small prisms within her eyes.

Marin’s height might have been small for a human female; Kyland didn’t know. To him, she looked damn near tiny, vulnerable and in need of protection. Currently shining like a mixture of white and rose gold, her golden light-blonde hair fell past her waist. Exquisite didn’t begin to describe Marin. Even angry, she rivaled goddess potential.

Kyland handed over a pair of his leggings and a clean shirt. When she only stared at him, he turned his back. Not that he had missed even one of those delectable curves, while checking for wounds, but he would give Marin her privacy. Shaking his head, he wondered exactly how human Marin had been raised. Nudity was common place, and a body like hers should never be hidden. “I will check the area while you dress,” Kyland explained as he went for the door.

“Wait,” Marin called out. He turned back with his hand firmly on the door knob. “Check? Check for what?”

“Gremlins, or any other form of attack.”

Eyes widening, Marin held her palm up before turning back to her borrowed clothing, dismissing Kyland and the conversation, without words.

Marin had definitely grown up completely human. All these years, Kyland had assumed that she was being held somewhere, but that she would still know of their world; that she would have see the worst parts of her Fae background, but that she would still be aware. Kyland had gone over and over all the ways to help her accept the beauty, as well as evil she had been exposed to. But Marin knew nothing.

Even worse, Marin seemed unaware of her random power flares. And she had a troubled, yet caring, relationship with a traitor of their kind. He suspected Lindal to be responsible for one of the strongest blocking spells he had ever encountered.

Someone of the de Platadreki line should never have been raised human. Kyland had finally figured out her linage, but explaining that to Marin in a way that she would accept, was another matter. He had enough trouble thinking of ways to show Marin that she had any kind of power. Dangerously trapped power. Working out the hows and the whys of Marin’s kidnaping could barely compare to the danger of dealing with her restrained powers. A Fae bound in human’s clothing. Damn.

The road to the truth would be bumpy and painful. Lindal Rencoff had a lot to answer for. And Marin had a lot to learn.


Chapter Five

“Okay. Where are we? I need to get back to the hospital. I’m thankful that you saved me, but I need to check on my aunt and you need to check out the psych ward.” Marin gave a cheeky smile as she said, “Come on, we’ll go to the hospital together.”

Kyland braced from the unavoidable shock to come, but he refused to lie to her. “We are near your home. And the Gremlins are waiting for you at the hospital.”

“Talk like that will get you committed. Gremlins are movie props and nothing more. A group of thugs, with questionable bathing habits, attacked me. They have been dealt with, and I will watch out for others from their group, in the future. Now … Where are we?” Marin spoke rapidly, as she waved one of her dainty hands through the air.

Kyland shook his head, and opened the passenger door for Marin. She slid into his rental car and he cringed. Kyland couldn’t wait to return the damn thing. But first, he needed to find a way to get through to Marin.
Firmly closing her door, he moved to the back of the car. Kyland was not a Guide, he was a Battle Fae. He could fight her attackers, but explaining the unknown was a different matter.

Hearing a high pitched feminine screech, Kyland raced around the car, heading for his door. Marin started cussing, using language harsh enough to embarrass a sailor on leave. What the hell was happening now?
Wrenching open his door, he mentally prepared himself to do battle in the small, enclosed space.

Seeing her safe and unharmed, Kyland slumped behind the wheel. He chuckled, as he stared at the little winged man, in charge of convincing Marin that magic existed. The poor little guy’s wings looked a little singed.

“Damn, damn, damn. One hallucination in a twenty-four hour period is my limit. You, little figment, must go.”

Marin had her window down, about to fling the Sprite out when, Kyland grabbed hold of her wrist. “Stop. He is a messenger of the Queen’s. If you were not … I mean …” Taking a deep breath, he tried once more. “Let us ask him what message he brings.”

“Only the insane talk to figments of their imagination and I’m too busy to be crazy.” Marin had her arms crossed, a full on pout pushing her bottom lip out. Kyland shrugged in the Sprites direction, and sat back in the driver’s seat. The little guy was on his own.

The Sprite merely raised his chin, and floated into the back of the car. Leaning over to push some of Marin’s hair behind her ear, Kyland whispered, “Just work with me. He is real.” He would have stopped there, but fate was in a foul mood. Looking out the window, Kyland hissed, “And so are they.”

At least twenty Gremlins marched toward them, coming from either end of the street. Attacking again so soon and in such a large pack, felt out of character. They needed reinforcements, but for now Kyland and Marin just needed to run. Cocking an eyebrow, he focused on Marin and asked, “What do you wish to do? Stay and fight, or run?”

Nose crinkling and arms crossed in a clearly incredulous fashion, Marin merely stared at him.

Shrugging his shoulders, Kyland explained, “I thought you wanted me to ask before acting?” Women … no matter the species were impossible to understand. He pointed to the advancing force, and her eyes widened at the sight.

Throwing her arm out and slapping in Kyland’s direction, Marin yelled, “Have you lost you mind? Drive!” A strong burst of power accompanied her reverberated words.

Kyland had to grab the wheel, before the car drove across the parking lot and straight into the motel. He really needed to work on Marin’s control over her power. At her command to drive, the car had sprung to life and indeed begun to drive. Marin, of course, had missed it all. Instead, she continued staring at the approaching mass of Gremlins.

Luckily, he had felt her power and its refusal to be contained. Kyland had felt the resonance of her voice, sensed the strength of her essence. For a split second her gift had pushed itself beyond curses, beyond the block. And then nothing. Marin was back to feeling powerless and human.

It was only a matter of time before her powers broke free permanently. If Kyland couldn’t teach her to manipulate her gifts slowly and one at a time, they were all in danger. Kyland feared that the power he could sense locked up deep within her psyche would, explode without warning, harming everyone in it’s path.

Marin cradled her head, while her hallucination sat on her shoulder. He was surprising hefty for a man of no more than six inches in height, especially a man with fully functional wings. But hallucination or not, his weight felt real enough.

So maybe Kyland was right about the Gremlins coming for her. Though Marin refused to call that mass of unwashed bodies Gremlins. At least not out loud, not without a fight.

“So, we go to my house. We need to call the police.” She felt her hips, searching for pockets that she didn’t have. The last time she remembered seeing cell phone, she was in the parking lot at Crystal Sights.
She looked around her immediate area, before hanging her head in defeat. “I need my cell.”

“You are free now. You will never be forced into imprisonment again.” Kyland ground out, nodding his head as if something finally made sense.

Marin shook her head, not understanding half of what Kyland said, and wishing she could forget the rest. After a moment she understood that this time Kyland had misunderstood. “No- I meant- It’s the phone I can carry around with me. A cell phone or a portable telephone.” Man. Could you say literal. She let her eyes close as she wondered why the crazy man thought that she would ask to be taken to her prison cell. She wanted to see the end of this day, as soon as possible.

“Oh. I do not know if I retrieved anything like that. Before Lindal was taken away, I picked up two handbags for females, and a Crystal Sights bag. They are in the trunk of my automobile.”

“In the trunk of this car?”

“Yes.”

“And your just telling me?”

“Yes.” Kyland shrugged a shoulder and continued to drive down the highway, like a little old man. After pulling out of his space in front of the motel, he had decreased his speed from an extremely dangerous ninety, until he happily drove under the speed limit. He seemed to be making up for his death defying act with snail-like precision.

Unpublished excerpt, Not for distribution outside Author’s Permission © Tracey Clark

14 thoughts on “hopefully, FINAL EDITS”

    1. thanks… it should be out soon, publisher said late fall… I will be sure to update with an actual release date when I have it… lol… may even stand in the middle of town and scream it out for all and sundry… I am just that excited 😛 happy wordage

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  1. Reblogged this on HarsH ReaLiTy and commented:
    I imagine it must feel like a huge accomplishment finishing up the final edits on a book. I wouldn’t know having never written a novel myself, but I can certainly imagine. Best of luck with your book and I think it is awesome that you gave a free excerpt of your work to your readers! Well done! -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here, please visit their blog.

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    1. I will check it out… I am tech lite… 😛 so may take a few tries… and just sit and write 100 words a day at first… she if that gets you to shorts and then novellas, if you still want to pen your own novel… think of it as writing the rough outline of your blog posts… I, and most of the writing community really, will brainstorm with ya… or a family member or friend… happy wordage

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  2. Good luck with your novel. I published a novel 10 years ago with Ex Libris. On a local TV station here in Staten Island, they had this program where people could read what they had written in front of an audience. I did that twice and it gave me great feedback, which, unhappily I ignored.

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    1. thanks for the advice… one of the hardest things I have learned to handle are the feelings that I have with feedback… I had to learn to take a moment, eat some ice cream, rant some, then take a deep breath and force myself to look a little closer, see if maybe they’re right… lol… not fun… I hope you are still writing, thanks again

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  3. Psst. Don’t forget a round with a professional editor. I use and interact with language in ways that beta readers aren’t trained to do (and shouldn’t, since they are beta readers and not editors). I’d love to work with you to make sure the agents see your best work; I see spots I’m itching to comment on and teach you to avoid.

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  4. Oh those beta readers. I hear ya! So scary and exciting to hand your baby over to readers but necessary. They are such a great asset to the writing process. Happy for you to be in the final stages of this project!! Good luck with ‘agenting’ 😉 It can be fun and stressful… but make the choice to make it more fun 😉 Blessings!

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    1. wow… thanks… I will be spending the next two months searching for agent, while finishing these edits and doing first edits on my rough draft of book two… if I still find no traction with the agent hunt, I may self publish for now… I really am horrible at query letters… happy wordage

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