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Jivaja: Chapter Two, Part One

Welcome to Free Fiction Friday! Every week, I’ll be posting a scene or two (in order, of course!) from my book, Jivaja. If you want to read along, just come on back every Friday!

Some scenes will be shorter, several hundred words. Some will be a thousand or more. Read them in order though, otherwise none of this will make sense!

Follow along as Mecca, a young woman with a Gift for manipulating human life force, runs head-first into a shadowy vampire-like society that discovers her power and wants to use her.

If you missed any parts, head over to the Jivaja Table of Contents to get caught up!

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Chapter Two – Claude

 

The young Visci half-breed male— smelling of a sweet, rotten scent, much like day-old milk — who showed Claude into Emilia’s quarters had been more interested in his telephone than in courtesy. But there was no accounting for manners.

Emilia’s rooms encompassed half of the lowest level of the sub-basement in her compound. Situated at the end of an extended hallway, it would be defensible in case of a breach; Claude felt sure that Emilia had installed escape tunnels leading from her rooms to a safe location. He would have, in her shoes. Good defense means nothing if one is trapped like a rat in a corner.

Claude crossed the threshold into Emilia’s quarters and the door closed behind him with a muted click. Rich moss-green carpet swallowed his footfalls as he made his way through the small ante-chamber to the main living area. The scent of cinnamon incense caressed him.

Emilia’s love for all things aged and European showed in her design tastes. The Queen Anne style writing table that flanked him on the right held a pale cream colored porcelain pitcher beside a chipped washing basin, both settled on a lace table runner. A tapestry on the opposite wall displayed an English fox hunt with braying dogs, noblemen and pretty women riding side saddle. Claude had always found Emilia’s affection for European history charming.

Through an open archway, he entered the sitting room. The green on the floor gave way to a thick, merlot carpet, which accented russet walls hung with various light colored paintings framed in dark woods. Emilia’s passion gave way to practicality with the smoke grey, leather sectional in the corner and the glass-topped desk which faced the room near the far wall, flanked by two ultra-modern chairs.

Emilia sat at the desk, glow from the LCD computer monitor highlighting her almond skin tone. When she looked up at him, Claude saw the girl he’d taken from a battlefield in what is now Cambodia. Her face, her expression when she smiled, those were the same.

But her eyes had changed. Darker now. Harder, perhaps. Claude supposed he’d done that to her.

“Thank you for coming,” Emilia said as she rose, a smile spread across her face. “Things have gotten complicated and I am eager to have your counsel, if you would stay for a bit.”

Claude affected a short bow. “I am happy to assist.” The conflict between the pure blood Visci and the half-breeds roiled below the surface of every interaction these days, in every city he’d visited, so Atlanta seemed no different. It had only been a matter of time.

Commotion just outside the arched doorway caught both their attention. A tall, thin man bustled through, followed directly by the rotten-milk half-breed, who sputtered apologies to Emilia.

“What is going on?” she said, moving from behind her desk. “James?” She stared the new arrival down, but to his credit, he did not fluster under her gaze.

“My apologies for bursting in,” James said, tilting a nod in Claude’s direction.

Claude could detect no scent coming from him, though he was a distance away. Pure blood? Interesting.

“You need to hear what happened to Hayden.”

Emilia waved a hand of dismissal to the half-breed from the doorway and he stepped back, a scowl on his face.

“All right,” Emilia said as she leaned against the desk. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Who did Hayden kill this time?”

Claude didn’t know who this Hayden was, but listened with interest. James shook his head, but seemed unable to talk for a moment. When he finally did speak, it came out all in a rush, with barely any breath between words.

“He didn’t kill anyone. Someone killed him.”

“What?” Emilia rarely showed excessive emotion, but the surprise traveled across her features for a moment before she regained control. “Was it Visci? A pure blood killed him?”

James shook his head. “I don’t know what she is. But she isn’t Visci.”

This conversation had gotten exponentially more interesting.

“Then how?” Emilia asked.

“He was at the college campus, down at Little Five Points. He hunts — hunted there pretty often. He liked the college kids.”

“Yes, yes, I know.” Emilia waved her hand. “Go on.”

“He was in the coffee shop and had zeroed in on one girl. He’d targeted her before, several times, actually, but she always shut him down.”

“Who is she?”

“I don’t know. She’s a student — she’s always in one of the coffee shops, working on things — light-skinned, African-American, young. I’ve been in the same room with her too and I get why he wanted her. She pulled at me, but I have no idea why. I suppose that’s why he kept going back to her every time he saw her.”

“But this time, she accepted him.” Emilia’s jaw had tightened and set in a hard line.

“She let him walk her to her car but then… Then…” James looked down and Claude realized suddenly that although James might have been a full blood Visci, he was very young. That made him wonder who the boy’s parents were. Who had been lucky enough to procreate without a human? Claude would have to make inquiries.

“Enough with the theatrics,” Emilia said. “What happened?”

“He went to feed from her and when he leaned in, he died.”

Emilia caught Claude’s gaze for a moment and the exasperation evident in her tone flashed through her eyes. She looked back to the young Visci in front of her. “James, I swear to you, if you don’t tell me what happened, you’re going to be an offering in the Maze Gathering, rather than a potential contestant.”

“Yes, I’m sorry. When he went to feed, she grabbed his arm and he just suddenly started withering. He tried to pull away, but not until he was too weak to do it. It’s like she was sucking everything out of his body and he just shriveled up and died.”

Something in the back recesses of Claude’s mind pinged on James’s words, but he set aside the strange memory-like feeling for now. He’d search his past later. Now, he wanted more information, and he hoped Emilia would ask the questions he wanted answers to.

“I don’t understand,” Emilia said. “What actually killed him?”

James shook his head, but didn’t respond immediately. Claude wondered whether James feared for his own safety because he was unable to answer. When James did find his voice again, he said, “I don’t know how she killed him. There was no blood, and I saw no injury when I retrieved his body.”

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“What did you do with it?”

“It’s still in my car. I thought you would want to see it.”

“Yes. Take it to the medical suite and we’ll see what we can make of things.” Emilia moved behind her desk again. “You can go. You did well, James. Thank you.”

James furrowed his brow and shifted his weight from one foot to the other and back again. “There’s something else.”

Emilia looked up from the paper she’d lifted and begun to study. “What?”

“She saw me.”

Claude could all but feel Emilia’s temper, though her face remained stoic. She’d always been hot-headed, but it seemed she’d finally learned to control her immediate outbursts.

Likely a skill learned as she solidified her hold over Atlanta. It’s difficult to govern Visci effectively without a huge measure of self control.

“Go on,” Emilia said, her tone quiet and calm.

“She saw me, but I think she was terrified. She ran in the direction of the university.”

Claude wondered, briefly, whether Emilia had misgivings about having heard all of this news with him in the room. He had the sort of feeling that created something like a live wire beneath his skin, as if he had information that he didn’t yet understand, but that would be indelibly useful in the future.

“Is there anything else?” Clearly, Emilia was ready to dismiss James. Her attention returned to the things in front of her eyes, though Claude was sure that she didn’t even know what she looked at.

“No, Lady.”

“Very well. Please take the body to the medical suite.”

“Yes, Lady.” To his credit, James left on silent feet.

When he closed the door behind him, Emilia raised her gaze to Claude. “I’d like to postpone our discussion until tomorrow. I have a few things that I must address.”

Claude tilted his head in a respectful bow. “Of course. As you wish. Please send for me at your convenience.”

She gave him a smile and for barely a moment, he saw the girl she had once been — slow to smile, but with a twinkle when she did. “I’m glad you’re here,” she said.

“It is my pleasure,” he replied. “Until later, then.”


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