Monday, April 8, 2013

Guarding the Line ~ Chapter 3

Welcome back! At 5-1, my Braves are off to a great start, sitting atop the National League East. I got to listen to a couple of games while I worked on the edits for Carmine Club this past week, as well as edits on Immortal, a vampire thriller I'm editing for author Kim Faulkes

The problem with sharing your head with the universe was, the universe had little regard for traffic rules, much less the consequences of showing you a place you were destined to go when you were doing eighty-five miles an hour on the busy by-pass around the third most populated city in America. Glaring in exasperation at the faded red bricks on the front of the building she’d seen in the gazing ball as the structure flashed by on her left, Verity slapped the small lever to activate her right turn signal. Trying to scoot her car in between a tractor trailer and a pickup in time to dive off the exit ramp was futile. The man driving the pickup flipped her the bird. Hello, Atlanta. The tea was sweet, the accents slow, but give a human male here a damn truck and he seemed to think the vinyl-clad front seat was a throne and the interstate his kingdom.
“Asshole.” The next exit was two miles ahead. Huffing, she slowed enough to merge right, falling in behind the older Chevy. Few adorii lived in Atlanta, explaining why more pickup drivers hadn't been turned into one of the trees these dude's favorite garments mocked. A tan and white pit bull hung his head over the tailgate. Drool splattered her windshield. Glaring at the tight choke collar around the dog’s neck and the leash attached to the toolbox lining the front of the bed, Verity’s temper flared. “May the Goddess seek a kinder master for your pup, and in her wisdom, make you unable to get it up.”
She doubted her impromptu curse would have any effect on the redneck poking along at fifty-five miles an hour. A call to Animal Control might be more effective. For the pit bull, anyway.

She didn't question why the shop was still lit this time of the evening, two hours after the closing time painted on the door. Peering between the faded trio of painted balls on the dirty glass, she spied a clerk. The door opened when she tugged on the handle.
“Just closin’ up. You can look around, though.” The man's grayed head remained bent over an old-fashioned brass cash register. Verity stepped over grass-crusted weed eaters and power saws, uninterested in the spinning racks of second-hand DVDs. The jewelry case held a wide array, but her gaze was drawn to a faded velveteen-covered tray filled with white and yellow gold bracelets. Lying atop an open slot in the back, she spied a gold circlet too wide to fit into a slot.
The shop proprietor slammed the resister drawer closed. Verity tapped the glass when he turned. “May I see that one please? The wide one, at the back?”
“Interesting piece. I never could figure out what this was. It might be an infant's bracelet, but if you look close, one edge is lined with small tines.” His heavy key ring jingled while he paged through the large selection, but another sound rang inside Verity’s skull. Impatience made her shift from foot to foot. It seemed an hour passed before he placed the object in her outstretched palm.
Verity held the weighty item close to her face, squinting in the dim light, trying to read the elaborate carvings. She doubted this human could ever guess what the band was designed to do. She had no desire to enlighten him. “How much?” Slowly turning the band, frustration made her fingers stiffen, causing her to nearly drop the piece. The letters were recognizable, but the words they formed made no sense. She couldn't interpret the phrase or name, but her heart rate increased. The metal felt too warm to be of this world, far warmer than the air in the chilly pawn shop. Could the clerk not feel the unusual heat?
She’d never seen a fidelis ring before, but she’d heard many whispered stories about them. Humans had once shackled the loins of their women to ensure faithfulness. The adorii princesses of old had these bands made for their consorts once they were betrothed. Refusal to don the fidelis ring was grounds dissolution of the engagement, or grounds for divorce after the union. To her eye, it appeared the weight alone would combat a full erection.
Though she could see no hinge, she knew the item bore a hidden clasp, opened only by an incantation. The ring didn't interfere with the male organ’s basic functions, but she could imagine the small barbs sitting just below the cock head  waiting to impale any man trying to have sex while wearing it, and only the person who'd bespelled the ring could remove it. rubbing her thumb across the shot, sturdy teeth, Verity shuddered, feeling sympathy for males who’d been trapped in a far more barbarous manner than any animal.
“Eight fifty,” he stated.
Without hesitation, she ceased her scrutiny of the ring, disturbed by her find. Why she’d been guided to a cock piece was a mystery she had little inclination to solve. Perhaps knowledge of the ring’s whereabouts was all that would be required of her. Verity dropped the fidelis piece onto the old man’s hand wordlessly, suppressing a shudder. A sense of unease slithered up her spine, watching him bounce the circlet in his open palm. Owning the cruel thing felt wrong, but leaving him in possession of the ring made her equally uneasy. Artifacts belonged in their normal realm.
She’d let the Fates decide. She had every dime of her savings with her, but had only two hundred dollars to spare. Sliding the bills from her back pocket, she laid them on the counter. Her heart hammered, watching the clerk’s watery brown eyes move from her cash to his merchandise. Her offer was far too low. He could scrap the ring for far more… but why hadn't he? The object was useless to a human. The ring’s only value in this realm lay in the gold. In the adorii realm, the pretty bauble meant a life of indentured servitude.
 “With tax, that’ll be…” he tried.
Verity shook her head, extending her hand with reluctance. He dropped the ring into her palm and swept her cash off the counter.
 “Gonna try it on?” Sarcasm dripped from his tone.
“I know it fits,” she replied, shoving the ring into the front pocket of her jeans and hurrying out the door. She didn't want to think it might have been made for a male in her family line.  
Out on the sidewalk, she hurried around the corner, breathing a sigh of relief when she saw the rims were still attached to her car. Her visit to the pawnshop had been brief, but in this neighborhood, a car could be stripped in the blink of an eye by those who made a living dealing in stolen car parts. First, she locked the ring in her dash, glad to have it out of sight. With a twist of her key, the big motor roared to life.
A half hour later, when she pulled into a different parking lot, it was fully dark.Verity eased the car into a parking space in front of what might’ve once been an old dry cleaning establishment.  Rather than ‘One Hour Martinizing’, the neon sign in the front window advertised tattoos. Twisting around despite the twinge of pain, she rooted in her back seat for a pair of sweatpants, an old t-shirt, and a robe. With her items clasped to her chest, she hurried inside, shoving her purse over one arm.
A bell on the door tinkled when she stepped inside, but the huge man she’d come to see lay sprawled on a cracked vinyl sofa leaking urethane foam. Easily more than six-four from his boots to the top of his bright red hair, the tattoo artist overwhelmed the shabby love seat.
“That new baby must be kicking your ass, Thane.”
He opened one eye to glare at her. “Who knew something so small could make so much noise?”

 She laughed as he sat up and scrubbed his hands over his eyes.  “Birth control is widely available, so I hear.”

“Yeah, yeah. I swear, Vee, I’m thinking about getting snipped. How long is this gonna last?”
 She placed the jewel case holding the computer disc into his outstretched hand. “In one way or another, until you’re dead, I hear. You ready to get started, or do I need to buy you a power drink first?”
He scrubbed his face with freckled hands.“Yes, Miss Slave Driver, I’m ready to get started. Damn, I used to be a bad ass. Now my life is full of pushy women. I got your stencils ready, and I’m almost awake. Cleared my schedule today, except for one VIP customer. I decided to let him roll in, just in case you decide to puke, pass out or quit. My money’s on all three.”
She fished the thick stack of cash out of her purse and fanned the bills. “We could bet the whole amount. If I sit still for the entire thing, and don’t wuss out like you seem to think I’m going to, my tat’s free. Deal?”
He eyed her confident expression. “Hell no, something tells me I’d lose. And frankly, I need the bucks. Kid keeps going to the doctor.” She watched him count the bills. Twenty-seven new one hundred dollar bills would pay a lot of pediatrician's bills. “Perfect, I’ll get Averill to do your paperwork when she gets here. Let’s go, girlfriend. I know how long you been waiting for this.”  Rising from the sofa, Thane detoured behind the counter to put the money in the safe before following her to his work space. 
She'd already shucked off her sweater and jeans. Standing in front of the mirror, braiding her hair to keep the mass out of his way, Verity saw the revulsion on his face, he couldn't hide fast enough. You’d think an old motorcycle gang member would be used to looking at scars. He’d seen the damage as they’d discussed her tat, but only in sections, not all at once. The ink was to be her way of taking back control, her way of turning ugliness into something beautiful.
“Uh, sorry,” he mumbled, realizing she’d caught him staring by looking in the mirror. “As soon as I get these stencils placed, you can put on your robe. Or I can work around it now if you like. The bra’s got to go, though.” His voice shook. “It’s not much, but at least the motherfucker left your face alone, Vee.”
She ignored the last comment. “Got over being shy a long time ago. You might as well get a good look at what you've got to work with.”
The former Hell's Angel enforcer turned away, picking up the spray bottle containing liquid soap and a disposable razor while she tried to get her anger under control. She needed his skill with a tattoo gun, not his pity. It was unbearable to dwell on the idea a man who’d once led such a rough life was revolted by the sight of her scars.
Who would want her now? She'd never been a candidate for an adorii mate and the Triscaro had rendered her unfit for a human one. Standing rigid while Thane applied her stencils, Verity bit her lip till she tasted blood.


To be continued April 15. If you missed the first episode, you can read it here.

Thanks for dropping in. Now, come with me and check on the other two Baseball Babes, to see what Jennifer Simpkins and Kathleen Grieve have in store this week


  1. This has taken an interesting turn. Wonder what will be next. I hope he is skillful with the tattoo gun speaking from experience! LOL

    1. this is an experiment in turning loose the muse. I intended to re-wrote an old manuscript, but's horrible, so now, we're in who-the-heck-knows mode. No brakes used, all season idea how this will end.:p

  2. This part in the beginning is too funny.

    "Hello, Atlanta. The tea was sweet, the accents slow, but give a human male here a damn truck and he seemed to think the vinyl-clad front seat was a throne and the interstate his kingdom."

    And how sad for her. My heart really goes out to her for all she's went through.