No, I’m not dead.

Okay, I know it’s been a while since I posted and all I can say is I’m sorry. I have been up to my neck in home improvement projects. Sanding, staining, painting, I’ve been doing it all. The good news is my den walls look great. The bad news is once I finish painting the living room and hallway we’re laying new hardwood floors. Which I guess technically that’s good news too. Or, at least it will be good news once we’re finished and I have new beautiful floors. Until then I’m kind of stuck in slow-mo as far as writing goes. I’ll tell you, I would much rather be writing than renovating. But I did bring a gift as a way of saying stick with me and you won’t be sorry. This is the first chapter of my new book, the Fabled. I know it’s not what I had originally planned but it’s funny how spending countless hours doing menial tasks like running a sander over wood walls will give you needed time to think about important things. One of those things was the Fabled series. I have the outline for Fable City completely written but something keeps holding me back from writing it. I finally figured out what. I had completely thought up the story line for what was supposed to be the second book in the series and I realized it was the book I wanted to write first. I think it’s because the main character, Sunny, really speaks to me and will not let me be.

So, in an attempt to keep my sanity for a little longer I started writing the Fabled. (yes, I know that’s the name of the series but it’s also going to be the name of the first book in the series.) The prologue I posted the other day will still be at the beginning of the book and here is the first chapter for your viewing pleasure. I’m also planning on posting more excerpts from this book as I write them. Please, keep in mind that this is the first draft so some things might be tweaked slightly before publication.

Thanks, Sara

Chapter One
“Dream a little dream”

“Sam, hurry up. All the good looking guys will be gone before we even get to the club.”
I opened the door to the bathroom and looked at my business partner. “I didn’t realize we were trolling for men. You said we would just meet for drinks to unwind after a busy day.”
“We have been busy. Do you know how many small businesses fail because the owners didn’t take the time to set them up correctly to begin with? A lot I can tell you that. And what’s a better way to unwind than to sit back, drink a few, and admire some good looking fellows?”
I smiled at her. I always did like to people watch. I was actually pretty good at guessing something about them. Either what they were there for (sometimes that one was too easy) or what they did for a living or just something about their personality. My ex-friend back home used to tell me it was my sixth sense. That was before I found out her and my husband had been meeting up every time I was out of town for a romp. Needless to say, he’s not my husband anymore and she’s not my friend. Guess my powers of observation only extend to strangers.

Karen reached out and grabbed my hand. “Come on. I can tell your thoughts have gone south so let’s get out of here.”
I couldn’t help smiling at her double entrendre. That I live in Florida made her statement mean something else. Perhaps it was the affair that made me seek business opportunities elsewhere or maybe it was just fate that I ran into Karen just as she was ready to leave the publishing house she had been with for years. We started talking and before you could say “Bob’s your uncle” we had started our own small publishing company in Vegas since that’s where K was from and she was the one with all the publishing knowledge. I was the asset that was able to speed read through dozens of books a week and tell which ones had the possibility to become bestsellers and which ones would bomb. While K was the one that met with the clients and filed the necessary paperwork.

After only six months in business we already had three authors on the bestsellers list. That fact alone was bringing in business like you wouldn’t believe. This trip had been to take care of the final touches of our shared business. And to celebrate our striving business.

At the club (which looked more like a bar to me) there were several middle aged people like ourselves sitting around having drinks. K found us a table off to one corner because she liked my ability to guess people as much as I liked guessing them.
“What about that guy over there?” K pointed to a man across the room who looked to be in his late thirties.
“He’s looking to cheat on his wife.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, besides the light colored ring around his finger where he normally wears his wedding band, see how he’s looking around. He looks desperate. He’s drinking too much which means he’s nervous and he keeps running his hand through his hair which is starting to thin. That means he’s been stressed quite a bit recently and marital problems is the number one cause of stress in middle aged men. Also, judging by the timid nature he’s exuding I’d say he’s looking for a woman to take control of the situation.”
“So you’re saying if I walked over and told him to get in my car for some quality time of domination, he’d be my bitch for the night.”
“Pretty much. If you’re into that kind of thing.”
“No thanks. I like my men, men.”
“You and me both.”
She laughed as did I. The thought of K as a dominatrix was funny. She just didn’t look the part. She was only five two with light brown hair and eyes. Her small frame and delicate features made her look almost pixie-ish.

As we sat there people watching what appeared to be a woman walked into the club and headed for the bar to order a drink.
“What about her?” K asked me.
I looked at her and raised a brow. “That’s a man.”
She looked at me then at the woman then back to me. “What makes you say that? She’s not really tall or big boned.”
“First, she has an Adam’s apple. That’s a dead giveaway. Second, it’s in the brow. I’m not one hundred percent sure but I would be willing to put money on it.”
“Really?”
“Yep.”
About that time the woman’s eyes met the man’s and they shared a look. She took her drink from the bartender and walked over to the man’s table. Even though we couldn’t hear their conversation, she obviously asked him if she could sit and he told her yes. She had a seat and they were instantly engulfed in conversation.”
I looked over at K and raised my brows. “Looks like cheater might get more than he bargained for tonight.”
She pulled her eyes away from the couple and when she looked at me hers were wide. I started laughing and she joined me. The thought of what’s going to happen when that “woman” takes that cheater to her place was hilarious. That’s what he gets for cheating on his wife. Then again, he might actually like it. If so, I feel sorry for the wife. It’s bad enough to be cheated on without the other woman turning out to be another man. Even though I felt bad for her the thought made me laugh harder.

By the time I finally gained my composure a man had joined our table. He looked to be in his mid-twenties with black hair and eyes so dark brown that they almost looked black. He wore a gray t-shirt, dark jeans, and a black leather jacket and boots.
“Roman, I didn’t know you were going to be here tonight,” K said to the man.
“I hadn’t planned on it either. Who is your lovely friend, Karen?”
He had been looking at me while talking to K. I don’t know what his interest is. I am at least fifteen years older than him and although I’m not ugly I’m certainly not the best looking woman while he on the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see on the cover of a magazine talking about the hottest men in America. He would probably be toward the top of the list too. Those dark eyes made me think wicked thoughts and I’m ashamed to say he had a starring role in all of them.
“Oh, this is my friend and business associate, Samantha Wilson. Sam, this is Roman. He’s a friend of mine.”
I bet he is. Even though K is my age she likes to look at and even date younger men. Personally, I wouldn’t date anyone that wasn’t at least in his forties. I mean, how could I bring a twenty-something year old man home to meet my kids who are almost the same age?
“Hello, Roman.”
“Samantha. What a lovely name.”
“Everyone calls me Sam.”
He frowned. “Do you prefer to have a man’s name?”
I shrugged. “I like it.” And, I don’t really give a fuck if you do or not. That’s it Sam. Stick to your guns. You don’t need some child telling you what name you need. Even if he is the nicest looking guy you’ve seen in a while.
“I think you are definitely too feminine to have a man’s name.”
I looked at K and rolled my eyes. She was looking strangely at Roman then at me and back to him. I brought my brows together in a typical “what” expression. She shook her head slightly.
“So, what do you do at Karen’s business, Samantha?” Roman asked as he took a seat at the table uninvited.
Apparently, he thought he had the right. I’m sure with his good looks he was used to getting anything and anyone he wanted.
“Actually, Sam owns half of the business,” Karen interjected.
“Really. Attractive and successful. What a combination.”
Okay. So this guy must have a thing for older women. It’s time to nip this in the bud. Even though my inner libido is begging me to indulge him I don’t have it in me to lead someone on. I know there is no chance I would ever be in any kind of relationship with him and I wasn’t looking for a one night stand.
“I’m sorry Roman but me and K were kind of in the middle of something so if you don’t mind…” I let it hang.
He looked shocked. I looked over at K in hopes she would back me in getting rid of him and she looked almost worried. Did she think he would get mad because I’m not interested in him?

After a moment he seemed to snap out of his shock and instead seemed confused. “I apologize. I didn’t realize I was intruding.” He stood up. “I hope you both have a wonderful evening. Karen. Samantha.” He nodded to each of us as he said our names. Then he walked over to the bar and had a seat on one of the stools.
“Wow. I’ve never seen him act that way about a woman before,” K said as she stared at his back.
“You mean you two weren’t involved.”
She looked at me. “No! I told you we were just old friends. It was never anything like that.”
“Oh.” Old friends? From when? When he was a toddler and she used to babysit him?
“Weren’t you attracted to him?” She asked me.
Hell yeah. I shrugged to play it down. I really didn’t want her to think I was some kind of cougar. “He’s good looking sure. But he’s way too young for me. Could you imagine me bringing him home to meet my kids?”
“You could just have a fling with him. You’re halfway across the US from your kids. They’ll never know.”
“Ugh. I would feel like a cradle robber. No thank you. I think I’ll stick with men my own age.”
“He’s older than he looks you know.”
“If you tell me he’s my age, I’ll be asking what the name of his plastic surgeon is because his work is totally worth the money.”
She laughed. “No. I guess he doesn’t look our age. Maybe it’s just that he’s an old soul.”
I raised a brow.
“Well, one things for sure. He was totally smitten with you. I wonder what he’s going to do about it.”
“There’s nothing he can do.” Oh, if only I had known. It turned out there was a lot he could do.

The next morning I stood outside the building in which K had leased an office for our publishing business. It was a new twelve story building and looked sleek and expensive. Which was why K chose it. Image was everything and she couldn’t very well meet clients in her kitchen. Or, at least that’s what she told me when she rented it.

I entered the building and walked to the wall of elevators on the other side. As I stood waiting a man took up waiting beside me. The elevator dinged and both of us entered. He reached forward to push the button for his floor then turned to me. I saw he had already pushed the tenth.
“I’m getting off at the tenth as well,” I told him.
He nodded with a smile then stood toward the back of the elevator. He could have been the older brother to Roman from last night. Same dark hair and eyes, even the mouth looked just as kissable. But this man was probably twenty years older. He looked at me and, catching me checking him out, smiled again. I suddenly felt nervous so I decided to talk. It’s what I usually do.
“So you work on the tenth floor?”
“Yes, I recently moved my practice there.”
“So you’re a shrink?”
His smile grew. “We prefer clinical psychologist.”
“Sorry, didn’t mean to be rude.”
“On the contrary, it’s nice to find someone who isn’t afraid to tell me what they really think. Have you rented an office as well? I didn’t think there were any more available on my floor.”
“My business partner rented one a couple of months ago. I’ve been out of town and this is the first I’ve actually been able to get here.”
“That explains it. I’m sure I would have noticed if you had visited before.”
The elevator opened on our floor and he reached forward to put his hand in the doorway allowing me to exit first. I stepped off and he took up step beside me as we walked down the hallway. He stopped at the first door and I saw “Dr. Alexander, Ph. D.” on a plaque beside the door.
“This is me,” he said.
“Well, it was nice to meet you Dr. Alexander.”
“Please, call me Roman.”

*****

My face was vibrating. I tried to swipe it away and only managed to move the vibration to my chest. What in the world was that? I opened my eyes. I was laying on my stomach in my bed and the vibration was my phone. As I evaluated what was going on my phone stopped vibrating then immediately started again. I climbed up to my hands and knees then sat back on my heels while answering the phone.
“Sunny Dubois.”
“Hello daughter. I am sorry to wake you but I have a case for you. If you’re up for it.”
Is he kidding? “As long as it doesn’t involve handing out tickets for misdemeanors you found your girl.”
He laughed. “Oh this is most assuredly not a misdemeanor case. A dead Vampere was found in the middle of the street in Dallas.”
“In the middle of the street? Was he killed there?”
“That would be for you to determine but my sources say no. Calvin is currently on his way so we will learn more once he conducts his evaluation.”
“Alright. I’ll get Tristan and hop a portal.”
“Very good. The local police are being taken care of but I would like as little exposure as possible.”
“I’ll do a quick look-see then we’ll bring the Vamp back for further examination.”
“That sounds like the most feasible plan. Be well, daughter.”
“You as well, father.”

I hung up then called Tristan.
“Hey mom. ‘Sup?”
“Meet me on the corner in five minutes.”
“Whoa. I’m kinda in the middle of something.”
“Duty calls son. In less you’d rather sit this one out.”
“It’s a real case? No baby shit?”
“If you’re not at the portal in five minutes, I’m leaving without you.”
I hung up. He’ll be there. He’s been an actual enforcer for almost six months now but has been on probation which has consisted of only handling misdemeanor cases. As his partner that meant I have been stuck working the same cases. Boring doesn’t begin to describe it. But I knew I would have to do it when I first agreed to let him become one of the council’s enforcers. My one concession was that he work as my partner for the first year as enforcer or until I thought he was ready to be on his own. He was my only child after all.

I threw on my clothes and grabbed my phone before leaving my house through the garage. Being able to bring my car will make getting around Dallas easier. Or I hope it will. When I reached the gate I entered the code and held my hand to the monitor until it was accepted and the gate began to open. Tristan was standing on the other side. I stopped and he got in.
“Nothing like giving me advanced notice.”
“Sorry if I interrupted your nightly romp. Next time I’ll leave you to your women and go by myself.”
“Now, let’s not get hasty. I don’t give you grief over your relationship with Doyle. I was just asking for common courtesy.”
“Doyle’s and my relationship isn’t like that. It’s merely a trade-off. I have what he needs and he takes what I can’t otherwise get rid of.”
“Yeah, you’ve told me before but I tell you that he wants more than that from you.”
“We are both contented with our current partnership.”
“No, you are content. He would rather it be more permanent. And, wouldn’t you prefer a more stable relationship. You know with a man. Not Doyle.”
“I have two stable relationships with men currently and believe me when I say it’s more than enough.”
“I was referring to an intimate relationship with someone that isn’t related to you.”
“Why, so I can break up with them and find a new one every other week like you.”
“I can’t help it that women can’t be more understanding when I tell them I can’t tell them what I do for a living and that I work seventy plus hours a week.”
“And what was your excuse before becoming an agent of the council? Oh yes, now I remember. You didn’t want to be tied down to just one girl.”
“I didn’t then. Now I wouldn’t mind a relationship but being called in the wee hours of the morning to go do something I can’t share with anyone kind of puts a damper on my possible dates. I had to practically throw this one out the door while she was, uh, less than appropriately dressed. She actually accused me of being married. She thought my wife was on the way home.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “You should have told her your mom was on the way home.” I chuckled. “As far as work goes, I notified you thirty seconds after I was notified. Would you like me to ask Lucian to call you first next time? I’m sure he would love to hear about how important your time is and that proper notification should be given prior to you doing your job.”

“Ugh. Don’t tell grandfather. The last time I complained about something he spend two hours lecturing me about the proper behavior of young men and how I was failing.”
I smiled at him. “Just be lucky he wasn’t the one to train you in becoming an enforcer. Trust me, no one knows how to exploit failure like Lucian.”
“All I can say is better you than me.”
“Is that any way to treat your mother?”
“Hey, he’s your father.”
“And, your grandfather. I think a little one on one time with dear old gramps would do you good. I’ll be sure to schedule your next training session with him. Of course I’ll be there for moral support. And to watch.”
“You’re sadistic. You know that.”
“Mwah ha ha. How did that sound? Villainous enough?”
He rolled his eyes. We pulled into the park on the corner and made our way around to the fountain. It was built just inside the tree line and was surrounded by woods on three of the four sides. Many thought it was to give one the peacefulness of the forest and running water at the same time but the Fabled had built this fountain as one of many portals around the globe. Essentially the portal was closed unless someone with magical power decided to use it in which case there was a failsafe cloaking spell that would activate as soon as the portal was made active.

As we approached the fountain I sent out my magic to open the portal and thought about where I wanted to go. All of the portals were inner-connected and every major city in the world had at least one. Most of the larger cities had several. Dallas was no exception and it had three that I could remember. I aimed for the one that was closest to the coordinates the council had sent to my phone. I could see the slight shimmer around the fountain and knew the portal was open so I drove through.

We came out at the end of an alley in central Dallas. I hit the GPS on my phone and followed the directions to the street I was looking for. We were in the middle of the industrial district and, even at five o’clock in the morning, there was traffic and people everywhere. This wasn’t good.
“Damn, no wonder the council is involved in this one.”
I nodded. “Even if this Vamp was killed in self-defense, the killer will be put to death for bring attention to our kind.”
“The cardinal sin,” Tristan joked.
I quickly parked and started toward the dead body and our medical examiner Calvin.

“Hey Cal.”
“Hello Sunny. Tell me, what do you see here?”
“I’m going to assume you mean besides the obvious.”
He nodded. The obvious would be a cluster fuck. We were standing in the middle of a crowded street. There were at least four wizards holding a ward around the crime scene which was causing the cars and people to divert their course. Luckily, there didn’t seem to be much backup as far as the cars go but we need to get out of here quick.

I concentrated my attention on the body. He appeared to be in his mid-twenties. That didn’t mean much as Vamps go since they could change their age at will. They couldn’t actually change their appearance just make themselves younger or older depending on what they wanted. It was because of the magic that kept them immortal. Blood magic was easily manipulated if you knew how. It was always working to keep them eternally young anyway so it made sense they could use it to look younger or older. I once met a Vamp that appeared as a child and liked being that young. Personally, I think that’s creepy but to each their own.

This vamp was good-looking with blonde hair and light colored eyes. They were probably blue at one point but had a white haze over them now. He had a swimmer’s build and was at least six feet tall. It didn’t surprise me that he was attractive. As the only species of Fabled that are made instead of born it is quite common to find them the cream of the crop, so to speak. I mean, who wants to turn some short, balding accountant into a vampire and then have to spend all of your time with them for the next couple of centuries. From what I’ve learned about them all vampire sires treat their creations as sons or daughters and dedicate the time after their rebirth to teaching them everything there is to know about being a member of the Fabled. I guess it made sense because the sire was responsible for them and if they screwed up, the council wouldn’t hesitate to eliminate them to prevent exposure.

I continued to evaluate the dead vamp before me. He was laying spread eagle in the very middle of the street. No doubt he was placed here. The thing I didn’t see was an obvious cause of death. Vamps, like all Fable, are hard to kill. Usually decapitation or destroying the heart were the only two sure fire ways for immediate death. This guy didn’t appear to have a scratch on him. As I inspected the body for wounds I noticed there was a sheen of liquid on his skin. I checked the face and arms. All visible skin seemed to have it covering it.
“Why is he sweating?” I asked Cal.
“That is not perspiration you see but condensation.”
Condensation? That means he’s cold and it was definitely becoming warm out here on this early spring morning.
“He was refrigerated?”
“Frozen. Look at the eyes and when I took his internal temp a few minutes ago it was only forty-six degrees. Without being able to open him up I would guess that was probably the cause of death.”
“Freezing won’t kill a vamp. Until someone managed to freeze him and keep him frozen until he ran out of magic.”
Cal nodded. “That is what I’m thinking.”
“So someone locked him in their deep freezer until he died?” Tristan asked.
“No. He could have broken through something that flimsy. Even an industrial freezer wouldn’t have held him,” I said.
“Not unless it was lined,” Cal said.
“With silver. That would mean the killer planned this out.”
“If that’s how he died. I won’t know for sure until I get him back to my lab.”
“Take him but leave the spell casters for a few more minutes. I need to see if I can find anything left by the killer.”
Cal nodded then held out his hands and the body lifted off the ground and became invisible at the same time. He started for a van and the body followed. I looked at the asphalt where the body had been laying. There was a wet spot the size of the corpse where it had been laying.

I knelt down, put my hand to the ground and sent my magic out in a radius around me. My magic mixed with the energy in my surroundings and I pulled it back to me absorbing it. From it I could get snatches of what took place here. I saw Cal standing over the body, then the casters spreading out, then a human standing over the body screaming, then finally a black van and two people dressed completely in black pulling the body out of the back and putting it in the middle of the street. Their clothes were nondescript and they had ski masks over their faces. They took the time to place the body in the center of the road and it took both of them pulling on the legs and arms to spread them out. As they returned to the van one stayed behind to look at the body. The other waved his hand for him to come on. That was the only clue I would get. On the palm of the one man’s hand was a tattoo. An odd place for a tat and an even odder design. It was the symbol Caduceus. You know, the winged staff with the two serpents entwined around it. The US medical corps had adopted the symbol like a hundred years ago but it was originally the sign of Hermes, the messenger for the Greek Gods. Why would one of the killers have it tattooed on his hand? Was he a military doctor or did it stand for something else.

I stood up and turned to Tristan. “Come on. I’ve found out all I can here.” I turned to the caster closest to me and nodded. He returned a nod and as one they dropped the ward. Just like that cars started driving down the street and people stood at the crosswalk ready to go once they saw the green man. I started for my car and Tristan followed. Once inside I turned to him.
“What do you know about the symbol of Caduceus?”
“Uh, not much other than the basics which I’m sure you already know.”
I nodded. “I think we need to find out what organizations are currently using that symbol. Other that the US military of course.”
“The killer have that symbol embroidered on his shirt or something?”
“Tattooed on his hand. It was the only clue I picked up. Other than an unmarked black van.”
“Yeah, let’s go with the tattoo.”
I smiled.
“I can start calling around to local shops to see if they’ve done the piece recently while you check out the symbol itself.”
“Good idea.” It wasn’t much but it was better than nothing.

Spread the Word!

Sara

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