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 Six – Mecca, Part Two
Mecca clawed herself up from her memory-dream, hot tears burning down her cheeks. Memories of her kidnapping piled back into her mind, and dark despair flitted around the edge of her consciousness like a moth against the glass of a streetlight.
She opened her eyes. A young man sat in the chair nearest her bed, watching her. When she looked at him, her belly flip-flopped. In her ears, the drumming of her heartbeat played a thick beat.
What the hell? He barely looked fifteen and a skinny fifteen at that. But in a few years, with his fine blond curls and deep brown eyes, he would be hot. No doubt.
The classical beauty of his features drew her. Concentrating on him let the terror of her memories fade. She was glad to embrace whatever the electricity was — it made the memory dream go away faster. She pushed the awfulness to the back of her mind and concentrated on the beautiful boy in front of her. She didn’t usually go for pretty boys, but he seemed to be an exception.
Yet, if it had been a taste in her mouth, his energy, it would have tasted sweet and savory at once, but with a terrible bitterness below the surface. Strange and unbalanced. Like Hayden’s had been. But she couldn’t help staring at him. He drew her. Just like Hayden had. Strange.
Mecca flushed and looked down. She pushed away the warm feeling that gathered in her. It scared her almost as much as the restraints around her legs.
Her wrists were still cuffed, but the cuffs were no longer fastened to the side rails directly. Several inches of chain on either cuff gave her a much wider range of motion than earlier. She could move her hands nearer each other, but they remained about five inches shy of touching.
As she tested the movement, he spoke. “It’s only so you can read through the papers she left for you.” His delicate, almost feminine voice had an oddly formal air. It sent tingles over her skin, which she didn’t understand.
He rose from his chair, his movements graceful; he reminded her of a dancer — beautiful, fluid. She couldn’t take her gaze from him. After retrieving several folders from the table, he brought them to her bedside and laid them on her lap.
“Emilia felt you might find these of interest.”
She couldn’t place his slight accent. He moved back to his chair and settled down into it, his dark eyes still watching her, making her self-conscious. She finally tore her gaze away and looked down at the papers and folders on her lap.
Aside from her strange attraction to this man, her head felt more clear than before. She thought about her run-in with Hayden. She had rescued the last remnants of someone’s soul from him and, in the process, killed him. They wanted to know how in a real bad way.
She shuffled through the papers as she considered her situation. For the first time, they wanted her to stay awake for more than a few moments. She planned to use it to her advantage. She had to get out of here.
She looked again at her restrained arms. What if I could get him over here to touch him? Could I kill him the same way? Or at least put him down for a while. Worth a try. She looked at the boy with his ivory skin.
“Could you fix these cuffs? They’re cutting into my wrists.”
He regarded her for perhaps two seconds. “No.”
“Because they don’t need to be adjusted. You should read the papers Emilia left.”
“Well, I have to go to the bathroom.”
“You’ll have to wait.”
“For William. Or I can put you back to sleep.” He looked pointedly at a medical cabinet across the room.
She wouldn’t beg him. She turned to the papers.
What if he wasn’t one of those creatures?
The question struck her out of the blue. Maybe she had to wait for Will because they didn’t trust this guy could handle her. Didn’t trust that he couldn’t keep her under control. He was so young, so small. Maybe they thought she could overpower him. She easily had about forty pounds on him. She couldn’t help peeking at him sidelong.
“If you’re not going to look through those, there’s no reason to keep you awake, Ms. Trenow.”
A jolt jerked through her belly when he said her name.
What the actual hell was going on? She tried to read his face but met only a bland expression. He pointed to her lap, and she felt drawn to the papers there. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, confused by the last few minutes. What is it about him?
She decided to ignore it. If she couldn’t figure him out, she’d pretend he didn’t exist. She turned her attention to the folders she’d only shuffled around before. Emilia had said that the website mentioned only three women, but that they’d found more.
Dread settled in her belly when she thought about what that seemed to mean. She still couldn’t believe it. She wouldn’t.
Mecca opened the first folder. It was like rubber-necking on the highway. She didn’t want to see it, but she couldn’t help herself. On top rested a photocopy of a marriage license between David Brynn, age 19, and Adele Cooper, age 31, married in Orange County, California. Nested beneath, she found copies of the newspaper wedding announcement — there were his eyes again, an article about the new Cooper Exhibition Room added to a museum and other articles extolling the new Mrs. Brynn’s generous nature.
The final article, dated two years after the wedding announcement, concerned the woman’s untimely death. Mr. and Mrs. Brynn returned from a two month long holiday in South America, cutting their trip short by a month, when Mrs. Brynn caught some illness while in Brazil. She died within a week. Her distraught husband became a hermit, never leaving the house and taking no outside calls. He eventually moved away from California, citing his inability to cope with his loss. Doctors never isolated the cause of death.
A handwritten note on the bottom said that no further activity under the name David Brynn could be found a year after her death.
Mecca fought tears as she closed that folder and laid it aside. She opened the next: a marriage license for David Marsden, age 23, and Carol Dodson, age 45, married in Pima County, Arizona. Underneath the marriage license laid a death certificate for Carol Marsden. Cause of death: Undetermined.
Mecca’s heart ached and her mind whirled. When she’d printed out that web page, she’d hoped that it wasn’t her dad. Maybe her eyes had played tricks. But if all of this was true, her dad was a murderer. A murderer. He’d used the Gift to kill those women. How else could they have died?
And that meant that he’d been lying to Mecca since the beginning. The Gift hadn’t skipped him. Not at all.
Her heart broke. She had never suspected he would lie about that — or anything. Growing up, she’d always trusted his word. Now, she didn’t know whether she could. Her belly felt leaden. She wouldn’t be able to move right now even if she weren’t attached to the bed. Her entire body seemed frozen.
He’d always said the Gift skipped over him, that it had gone to his brother, Ken. When he’d trained her in how to control it so she wouldn’t accidentally drain someone, he’d always said he knew how it worked because his father trained him along with Uncle Ken, not because he had it.
She couldn’t see any other explanation for those women’s deaths though. For someone who didn’t know about the family Gift, the women’s deaths would always be a mystery.
But she knew.
Check out #Jivaja for #FreeFictionFriday! From in Chapter Six: For someone who didn’t know about the family Gift, the women’s deaths would always be a mystery. But she knew. Click To TweetShe thought about all the things he’d taught her: how to control her power, how to be careful and only use it in large groups, so that no one person would bear all the drain. He taught her how to take only a little and only when she needed it.
Bitterness washed over her. She sighed.
“Not particularly light reading, is it?”
She’d forgotten about the man-boy sitting the chair, and his words startled her. Had he been watching her the entire time? She didn’t respond, only looked at him.
“I imagine he did it for the money, wouldn’t you say?”
The lilt in his voice edged into Mecca’s mind. Her belly did another flip. “What interest do you have in my dad? Why did you do all this?”
She hoped the anger in her voice would hide the fear in her heart. She wasn’t sure it had.
He stood and smiled, his lips curling back, exposing small, square teeth. She’d half expected fangs to protrude from his jaw. Again. The idea of vampires had crept into the back of her mind again when she hadn’t been paying attention.
Even without fangs, though, the smile looked feral. She suddenly realized that he looked ancient, as if thousands of years hid behind his eyes.
“Come now, Mecca.” Honey-voiced now as he stepped to within a foot of her bed rail. “We can’t give away all the answers.” He chuckled, dry and deep in his throat. “How was that for a movie villain? Was I convincing?”
A terrible thought struck her. Emilia may be her enemy and might be the more immediate threat, but this man… She could taste the danger around this man. Though he looked like a boy, he wasn’t. It would be naive to think he would be easy to overpower. She’d begun a dance with a tiger.
“What’s your name?” she asked. She heard another soft, rumbling chuckle as he crossed his arms over his narrow chest. The gesture made him seem bigger. Or perhaps it was her shift in perspective. When he didn’t answer, she added, “You know my name. It’s only fair.”
“I suppose that’s true. Though nothing is fair in this life, of course.” He raised both brows and offered that smile again. “My name is Claude Kassinzi.”
“Okay, Claude.” The name slipped along her tongue sweetly. She ignored that sweetness as much as she could. Dipping into her reserve of bravado, she put aside the betrayal she felt about her father. “So one of your guys died. Emilia told me. He a friend of yours? Is that why you’re here?”
“No. I didn’t know him.”
“Then what’s the big deal? People die all the time.”
Claude sauntered around her bed. Predatory. “Yes. People do die all the time.”
She narrowed hr eyes. How much could she get from him? “But not your kind of people.” She paused, her fingertip playing with the edge of a folder. “So your friend didn’t make the regular meeting of the fanged folk, and you want to know what the little black chick had to do with it?”
Amusement flickered in his eyes, and he laughed, loud and throaty. She would have expected his laugh to be more like a twitter. Another deception.
“You could say that,” he said. “We do not die easily.”
“Who is we?”
He didn’t respond right away and when he did, it wasn’t to answer her question. “You must understand, Emilia will find out what she wishes to know.” He glided back to his chair and settled into it. “It is only a matter of time. And that is something we have in abundance.”
“I guess that’s true, if the stories are right.”
“Stories?” He looked openly puzzled.
He laughed once again, this one closer to the twitter she’d originally expected. “Yes, well, you wouldn’t want to assume to know everything about us based on those.”
“So you’re vampires?” What a surreal conversation. She just asked a fifteen-year-old boy if he was a vampire.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Everyone knows vampires don’t exist. How could they? They’re dead.”
“But you’re not human. Or not people?”
The calculated gaze he laid on her felt like a heavy blanket. After he’d studied her face for a moment, he responded, “Not as such, no.” He smiled at her and her belly wriggled again, but then he shifted his gaze to the door.
Mecca wasn’t surprised when it opened. Emilia entered, dressed in a silver ball gown with a light, sheer wrap. Will followed, still in scrubs, and closed the door behind her. Rectangular glasses sat on the bridge of his nose.
“Claude,” Emilia said, “you will be attending, yes?”
He shot Mecca an enigmatic smile, and then stood. He bowed at the waist and extended a hand, palm up, to Emilia. She slid her own into it, her olive skin dark against Claude’s porcelain white.
“You look stunning, as always,” Claude said. “And yes, I shall attend.” His lips brushed her knuckles before he straightened and released her hand.
“Will is staying with our guest tonight, so you may leave to prepare, if you wish.”
“Very well.” Claude turned to Mecca and inclined his head. “Good evening.” When she made no reply, he gave an amused snort, and then slid past Emilia and Will.
“He seems very theatrical,” Mecca said, when Claude left the room. Now that he was gone, she felt like punching him.
Emilia chuckled as she took a clipboard from the table. She glanced over it, before handing it to Will. “Give her another hour to read. Then she sleeps.”
“What is it you’re afraid I’m going to do?” Mecca lifted her cuffed wrists to the extent of the attached chains and shook them. She pulled against them with all her strength. Adrenaline pulsed through her. “You’ve got me shackled to the damned bed! Why do you feel the need to drug me too?”
Emilia barely glanced at her before she returned her attention to Will. “Let me know if anything changes.”
Will nodded again.
Emilia strode to the bed, sparing a brief glance at the folders lying on Mecca’s lap. “And what do you think of the results from our little information-gathering spree?”
“All very interesting, though I don’t see what use it is to you.”
“I know you’re not that stupid.” Emilia’s jaw tightened. She crossed her hands over her chest; Will seemed to fade into the background. It was a startling effect, but not quite to the level of Claude’s. Mecca wondered if they drugged her more than just to make her sleep.
“I’ve handled you with kid gloves so far, but that courtesy is coming to an end soon. When you’ve finished reading those, you and I will have a very long talk. It will be in your best interest to be honest with me. And then I will ask you a very important question.” Emilia gave her a pointed look, and then turned and left the room with a clacking of heels.
Mecca wanted to come off the bed at her. What a bitch.
Will checked Mecca’s I.V. bag. “You should tell her what she wants to know.”
“Why would I do that?” Mecca drew in a long, quiet breath and worked on stilling her anger.
“Because she’ll have the information whether you want her to or not. It will just be easier on you if you offer it.” Now he checked the rubber tubing, following it down to the butterfly portal on the top of her left hand. His fingertips grazed along her skin, and he smiled at her.
Mecca grabbed Will’s wrist with lightening speed. She shot her energy out, ready to rip away the stolen human life.
His Cavern slid on top of the reality her eyes showed her. There were no tendrils holding the golden light. The light suffused the entire area.
The warmth of his Cavern startled her.
She gasped and jerked her hand away. “You’re human!”
“Yes.” Will stepped away and marked something on the clipboard. He didn’t look surprised, but the downturn of his mouth told her she disappointed him.
“You can help me. We can escape together!” Hope burned in her. “Get me out of these cuffs, and we can go. Quick, while they’re at their party.”
Will sat in the chair and settled an ankle on the knee of the other leg. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Where would we go?”
“Anywhere. Once the sun comes up, they won’t be able to look for us. We’ll find a safe place.” She shook her shackled wrists. “Come on!” She could find her dad. As much as his past made her sick, he would know what to do now.
“What does the sun have to do with it?”
“They can’t go out in the daylight.”
Confusion slid across his face. Then he laughed. “You think they’re vampires?”
Now Mecca felt stupid. Of course vampires in real life sounded ridiculous. She knew that. But it also seemed like the only plausible — “plausible” being relative — idea, even with Claude’s warning not to believe what she’d heard about them.
She didn’t say anything. All the excitement about possible escape had drained from her.
Will leaned forward and touched her forearm with his fingertips and then withdrew. When he spoke, his tone was gentle. “I can understand why you might think that. I thought it at first too. Much of what became vampire legends came from us trying to understand what we saw them doing, being. That’s my idea, anyway. They’re not dead humans. They’re like us, but different. They’re called Visci.”
Visci. At least now she had a name for them.
Will watched her and his grey eyes had gone tight, his jawline rigid.
“I’m not releasing you. There would be no place to go. Nowhere to hide. We would both be back here by tomorrow.”
Mecca shook her head. There had to be a way.
“You don’t understand them. I do. We wouldn’t win.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Of course I know that. I’ve been with them a very long time. I know their relentlessness. We wouldn’t be gone twenty-four hours before they’d have us back in here. And then I’d be chained right next to you.” He leaned back in the chair. “If they even let me live.”
“You can’t have been with them that long. You can’t be more than a few years older than me.”
Will looked at her over the glasses perched on his narrow nose. “You ask too many questions. You have less than an hour. You should use it wisely.” He turned his attention to the clipboard on the table. Dismissed.
“Why do you stay?” Being dismissed didn’t mean she had to accept being dismissed.
The muscles in Will’s jaw tightened. “Where would I go? I wouldn’t survive a year without them.”
“Why does it matter? Read your papers. Consider your conversation with Emilia tomorrow, and think about your own situation. Mine is none of your concern.”
Mecca opened her mouth and then sighed. Will’s posture told her he wouldn’t answer anything more. Not yet, anyway. She thought he wanted to. Maybe the questions she asked hit too close to home. Maybe she hadn’t found the right question yet.
Will might be persuaded to help her escape, but it would take time. But how much time she had, Mecca didn’t have any way of knowing. She shuffled through the papers on her lap without really seeing any of it. She had to find a way out.
Escape wouldn’t be easy. She had no idea where she was being held. Was she even still in Atlanta? Only one door into or out of her windowless room. And Will had used a keycard to unlock that door. She couldn’t even see a way to get out of her bonds by herself, and none of those guarding her seemed easily out-smarted. They — the Visci? — had left only her hands and her head bare and they avoided getting too near, either. They feared her, but not tons. At least they remained wary of her touch.
“Why did they kidnap me?”
Will cocked an eyebrow. The sharpness his voice held earlier was gone. “Because you killed a full blood. I would have thought you knew.”
“But how did they know? Do they have some weird telepathic thing where they can see what happens to each other?”
Will laughed. “No, no. Don’t be silly.”
“That’s sillier than the existence of blood-sucking…whatever they are?”
“Point taken.” He studied Mecca for a long moment. His gaze made her flush. Not the tingly feeling that confused her when Emilia or Claude spoke to her. This seemed more normal. Like she was crushing on him. Come on, Mecca. No time for Stockholm Syndrome.
Will shrugged. “Hayden Anderson became something of a black sheep in these last few years. He didn’t attend councils. He didn’t show up when summoned. He would come when he wanted to come, never when required.” He paused and noted something on the clipboard. “He started killing people he shouldn’t have been killing.”
Mecca reined in most of her questions, settling on only one, in case he didn’t continue to feel forthcoming. “They can only kill certain people?”
“Not so much. More precisely, there are certain people they are forbidden to kill. And as I said, Hayden rarely obeyed orders. He began feeding on, then killing, the children of people in high places.”
“And Emilia was afraid it would call attention to them.”
The corner of his mouth quirked up. “No, not at all. Haven’t you yet wondered why in all the time you’ve lived here, you’ve never noticed them before? Why you’ve never heard in the news of any bodies found mysteriously drained of blood?”
Vampires, but not vampires. They don’t fear exposure, yet certain people remain off limits. Why? “It’s not the Visci” —the name sounded strange on her lips— “being protected,” Mecca thought out loud. “It’s the humans. But the powerful ones.”
“Well, the families of the powerful ones.”
“Because they could be sure of cooperation if the powerful people knew their families would be spared. Or the opposite is likely too. Their families would not be spared unless they cooperated.”
Will inclined his head. “Just so.”
Mecca paused again, still thinking aloud. “Because it’s easier to control a city if you control the most powerful within it.”
“Hayden killed two college kids. One, the son of a city councilman, the other, the daughter of a state Congresswoman. Emilia and the Elders ordered Hayden be monitored.”
Mecca tried not to gasp. The man by the Dumpster. She’s totally forgotten about him! It all clicked.
He saw everything. He saw her discover what Hayden was — or, rather, what he wasn’t: human — and he saw Hayden wither away to a skeleton. He must have cleaned up the remains. That’s why she and Dad didn’t find any body or even traces of a crime scene.
“Why didn’t they stop me?”
“Why would they? You took care of a difficulty that would have been very sticky for them. When you intervened, they no longer had to worry about convening the council nor about passing judgment on him. You became a very convenient wrinkle at that moment. Now, you’re not quite as convenient.”
“So they want to know how I did it. Why? To use against each other?”
“Perhaps. They sometimes have problems with rogues like Hayden. And there are other factions, so a power like yours might prove useful.”
“Factions? Like political.” They had an entire society set up, just underneath the human one. Crazy.
“Why are you sharing with me like this?”
“Because in the end, it doesn’t matter.” Will smiled again, showing straight but lightly stained teeth. “When you meet with her, either you’ll agree to whatever it is that Emilia wants, or you won’t. If you do, you’ll learn all this on your own anyway. If you don’t, you won’t be in a position to do anything about it.”
The timer beeped and startled her. Dread crept along her skin. Will moved to the locked medicine cabinet in the corner.
“Don’t put me to sleep yet, Will. Please. You don’t have to.” Her pleas did earn a pause, but only momentarily before Will began filling the syringe.
“Sorry. You heard Emilia. An hour to read, then to sleep. It’s your own fault you didn’t read. Though you may wish to jump to the end and read the seventh report.”
“Seventh? Emilia said there were six previous women.”
Mecca flipped the first six folders onto the floor beside her bed and looked at the last one on her lap. She didn’t want to open it, but already Will was putting things away in the drug cabinet.
Like the others, a marriage license sat on top of the pile. David Trenow, age 39, and Teresa Stone, age 25. Her mother. Mecca stared for a moment and then turned that sheet over. The next page contained a simple typed report on her parents’ marriage, including her own birth and her mother’s cancer.
It concluded that “although Teresa Trenow’s illness cannot be directly attributed to David Trenow, neither can the woman’s death be positively attributed to the cancer itself.”
Mecca squeezed her eyes shut.
Tears threatened to tumble as she leaned back against the pillow.
Ringing clanged through her head, shaking her brain. She barely heard Will approach the bed. It only took a moment for Mecca to feel the weight of her eyelids. This time, instead of fighting it, she ran to it, embraced it and fell, grateful, into the darkness.
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