In the Shadow of Death: Chapter One

<<<<<< GO BACK to Prologue

In The Shadow

TRIGGER WARNING:  Drug abuse and mentions of sexual assault.

ICYMI:  In the Shadow of Death: Prologue

Chapter One

“Scarlett!  Open the door!”   David Bradford shouted through the door, this time loud enough to attract attention from the old lady waiting for the elevator.  This was not how he had planned to spend this morning, but he’d been trying to reach Scarlett for several days and nothing.  Not that it was unusual.  Like most of his clients, Scarlett was a free spirit and would often just go off the grid for days or weeks at a time.  Of course, unlike most of his clients, Scarlett was a loose cannon.  Behind the door, it was just as likely that she would be lying in a pool of her own vomit having overdosed on pills as it was that she was standing in front of a canvas with her iPod blasting in her ears.

“She keeps a key under the mat, son,” the old lady finally said, the annoyance clear in her jagged voice.  “Why don’t you use it instead of disturbing the whole building?”

David smirked, bending down and retrieving the key.  When he pushed it into the doorknob and opened the door, there was a discouraging silence.  He peered inside a little, but the chain was still latched.  He had to push his shoulder against it a few times to break the chain lock and heave it open. “Goddamnit, Scarlett.  Gay boys shouldn’t have to break into women’s apartments,” he called into the room.  No response.

He could smell the scent of alcohol all over the ruined apartment.  Empty wine bottles, newspapers, books and food dishes were strewn everywhere and the air was thick.  David shook his head, stepping carefully around the debris as he made his way into the living area.  Stacks of canvases, some painted, some still white, blocked the windows making it dark in the room despite the early morning sun.  Her obsession was evident everywhere.  She was surrendering to her own madness, it seemed.  The dark angel, staring down at the world below.  Even if he wasn’t the subject, he was always there.  The paintings had grown in scale and twisted beauty in the last couple of months.  And though they were like nothing he’d ever seen, David began to fear that the art world would be disturbed by them.  And that meant that she would be written off as a kook and never sell another piece. Not while she was alive, at least. He walked around the couch and saw Scarlett lying on the floor at the foot of an unfinished canvas.  “Scarlett!” he exclaimed, rushing around the clutter to kneel beside her.  He touched her face, feeling that it was still warm and seeing the gentle rise and fall of her chest calmed him somewhat.  “Scarlett, honey, wake up,” he sighed, hooking his arms under hers and trying to pull her to a sitting position.

“Leave me…” she slurred, her head lolling to one side as David propped her against the front of the couch.  Her eyes opened and focused on him briefly and he could see that her pupils were shrunken and unresponsive.  “David…” she said before closing her eyes again.  He slapped her lightly on each cheek, trying to get her awake enough to stand on her own, but she only groaned.  He sighed again, pulling her into his arms and lifting her body.  “Bitch, if you puke on this suit…” he murmured.  Sadly, this was not uncommon in his dealings with Scarlett.

Carrying her through a maze of wine bottles, he finally made it to the bathroom.  Setting her down in the large porcelain tub, he turned the shower on, letting the cool water rain down on her, uncaring that she was still fully clothed.  When she got like this it was the only thing that would work.  With a heavy sigh he sat down beside the tub.  He could only hope that the cold water from the shower would bring her around and he wouldn’t have to resort to the emergency room.  Scarlett Munro was an up and coming artist—the last thing he needed right now was her unconscious face slapped on newsprint.

A cough and sputter broke David’s reverie and he sat up to see Scarlett shaking the water droplets from her hair and face.  “What the fuck, David?” she growled.

“Well look who’s awake?” he replied, pulling a towel from the rack behind his head.  “I thought I was going to have to call an ambulance this time.”

“You should have just let me be,” she replied, wiping the rough terrycloth across her face.  “I’d have woken up eventually.”

“Jimi Hendrix said that too, I think,” David mused, putting a hand on her arm to pull her forward a bit.  “Come on.  Let’s get you out of these clothes and wash you off a little bit.  You look like hell.”  Scarlett stared at him, her eyes still bleary with the after-effects of her latest bender.  He pulled his suit jacket from around his shoulders and threw it over the toilet.  “Don’t look at me like that.  It’s ok.  I’m gay,” he said as he rolled up his sleeves.  After a few moments, she allowed him to help her out of the soaked tee-shirt and jeans.

David knelt by the tub, using a washcloth to rinse warm water over her body, washing it clean of what was at least a few days’ worth of stink.  Scarlett was silent, letting her friend cleanse her as the effects of the alcohol and pills slipped from her brain, leaving only a dull ache behind.  “How long was I out?”

“No idea, darling.  But I’ve been trying to reach you for three days.”  Leaning over her, he pulled the shower nozzle down and began running warm water over her hair.  “When your voicemail box was full, I decided I’d better come check on you.”  He nudged her shoulder, pushing her forward and scrubbing her shoulders and neck with the loofah.  “So when were you planning on stopping this?”

“Stopping what?” Scarlett asked.  Her voice sounded tired and disinterested.

“Doing this to yourself.  I mean, I get the whole ‘I must suffer for my art,’ bullshit, but honey this is a bit extreme.  Even for you.  One of these days you aren’t going to wake up from this.”

“That’s the idea,” she replied, picking up the shampoo and squirting a pile into the palm of her hand.  “Maybe I’m just wanting to see how far I can go.”

“Don’t talk like that,” David said, picking up her hand and holding it in his.  He tried to smile, but he caught sight of something strange.  Thin streaks of red snaked over the top of her thigh.  Some of the scars were fresher than others and some were quite deep.  When Scarlett noticed him looking, she pulled away, trying to hide.  “What happened?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…” she started, but he dropped her arm and gripped her knee, holding it in place as he examined the thin cuts.

“The hell you don’t,” he said angrily.  “You’ve been cutting yourself too, huh?  Is this something new in your repertoire of self-destruction or is this just the first time I’ve seen it?”

“Look, David… you’re my agent.  I don’t see why you even care,” she sighed, pulling away and standing up.  “It’s my body. I’ll do whatever I damn well want.”  As she stepped over the side of the tub, she stumbled, nearly falling to the tile floor before David caught her.

“I’m also your friend, Scarlett.  I hate seeing you like this.”

“I hate being like this.”  She looked up at him, her eyes glistening with tears.  “You think I like feeling this way?”  Suddenly her façade of stoic indifference melted and the tears tumbled over her cheeks.  David embraced her tightly, letting her cry against his shoulder.  She had cried many times.  It seemed to be a symptom of her addiction, but never had she felt so cold.

“Alright, sweetie,” he said, pulling a towel down off of the rack and wrapping it around her.  David walked her clumsily into the next room, sitting down beside her on the bed and holding her tightly against him as her sobs came in shaking heaves.  He rocked her back and forth, letting her tears wet the light cotton of his shirt.

“Scarlett, maybe it’s time that you go and see that doctor I found…”

“No,” she barked, sitting up quickly and backing away, wiping her tears with the back of her hand.  “They can’t help me.  Nothing will help me.”  He stared down at her silently, his heart feeling heavy and sore.  Scarlett obviously believed that she was just a damaged person and that nothing would ever make her right again.  Her art, which had always seemed to work as some kind of salve for her mind, had become dark, reflecting the storm of unstable emotions going on in her head.  He just didn’t know what to say to her anymore.

David had been Scarlett’s friend when she was still scribbling graffiti on the sides of buildings.  It was rare that she ever opened up about her childhood traumas.  A few details here and there about a drunken mother and a handsy stepfather were as far as she ever went.  He’d always been able to talk her down from the ledge but these days it was getting harder and harder.  Worse yet, lately her behavior had become erratic.  At first he’d just assumed that she was high, and being an art agent, he was used to dealing with cokeheads, meth-addicts and junkies, but this was very different.  Her actions were self-destructive and near-suicidal.  As if she were just waiting for someone to show up and save her.

After a few moments, she spoke again.  “Did I ever tell you about the angel in my paintings?”

“No.”

“I saw him when I was twenty-one.  I overdosed on morphine and heroin at a party…”

“What the hell kinds of parties did you go to?” David asked, the corner of his mouth quirking in a sarcastic grin.

Scarlett chuckled.  “The kind where twenty-one year old girls are hopped up on drugs and date raped in the corner.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway.  I guess I was looking for an escape.  Maybe I wanted to die.  Whatever it was, I had been drinking wine laced with morphine or something and then some guy gave me a syringe full of heroin.”  Scarlett pulled the towel tight around her body as she lay down across the bed.  “It was first and last time I ever shot up.  Have you ever done it, David?”

“Never.”

She smiled.  “At first it feels so good.  Like you’ll never be sad or hurt again.  God, I remember that feeling.  I was floating, a spirit looking down on my physical body.  I didn’t want to go back, I just wanted to stay there.  Floating high above and watching.  The world was just this beautiful thing, all colors and wonder and light.  And then I saw him.  This form appeared,   shadow and smoke in front of me.  At first I thought it was just a hallucination or a dream.  There was a man kind of just… floating in the air above me.  At least, I thought he was a man.  He had these wings… God I know it sounds crazy, but he had these wings that just furled out behind him, kind of ghost-like.  He was all dressed in black, even his blonde hair seemed completely devoid of color, but his eyes.  His eyes had this silvery light.  I thought he probably just knew everything about me in that split second that our eyes met.  And I felt so sad that he was seeing me this way, this broken little girl, and I wanted to cry and beg his forgiveness.  But he looked at me and sort of smiled and I knew then he was an angel.”

Her eyes looked past him, her voice trailing off, over David’s head, and away to something unseen.  “So what happened?” he asked.

“He kissed me.  And then he was gone.  Next thing I remember I was waking up in a hospital bed.  My mom was standing over me crying.  I didn’t even care, I just kept looking for the angel.  Praying he hadn’t been a dream.  Of course, he wasn’t, but I kept waiting.  Peeking around corners, staring at the ceiling at night.  I thought that maybe after seeing what I’d done, he’d just decided not to bother.  So I tried to make up for it.  I thought that maybe if I was a better person that the angel would come back.  He’d save me this time.  I quit using, I actually went to school, I tried to play the part of the perfect daughter.  Hell, my pervert of a stepdad even left us.  And for a while everything was better and I just knew my prayers had been answered.  But my mother went back to the bottle.  My stepfather came back and was the worst he’d ever been.  So then I thought, maybe if I was bad, really bad and put myself in situations like before, that he’d come back.  I mean, that’s how he came before, right?”  She paused and pulled the blanket over her shoulder, snuggling against the pillow sleepily.  “But he never did.”

“Scarlett… I think you need some help.”

“No doctors, David.  Please…”

“We’ll find somebody that can help you, I promise.  You can’t just keep this up…”

“A doctor will just give me pills.  Make me numb.  Maybe I’d lose him.”

“Maybe you need to,” David sighed, standing up with an exasperated sigh.  “If you’ve got a guardian angel that’s standing by and watching you kill yourself with drugs, booze and cutting, then he’s not a very good one.”  Scarlett rolled over, turning her back on David and the conversation.

Spying her cell phone sitting on the nightstand, he grabbed it and programmed an alarm. “Look, I’m setting your alarm to wake you up in a few hours.  I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for the last three days to tell you that I’ve found a rather unusual patron.  Assuming my continued procrastination at setting up a meeting hasn’t scared him away.”

Scarlett sat up and stared at David, her stringy wet hair going in all directions.  “A patron?”

“Yes.  You remember what that is.  Someone who pays you to create a specific work of art.”

“I know what it is, dumbass.  Who is it?”

“Raze Constantine.”  He raised his eyebrow, waiting for her reaction.

“You’re kidding,” she said, her mouth hanging agape.  “The billionaire, Raze Constantine?”

“Well I haven’t seen his bank statement, but I’m going to assume yes.  No one else would have a name like that…”

Scarlett leaped out of bed, nearly losing her towel in a comic fashion.  “Raze Constantine is probably the richest guy in Europe, nay the entire world!  What in hell does he want with me?”

“I would think he wants you to do some kind of painting for him.  All I know is that he tracked me down and called me personally to find you.  His exact words were, ‘Miss Munro or no one’.”  David went into his breast pocket and pulled out a plane ticket.  “He also sent this for you.” Scarlett jerked it out of his hand and examined it carefully.  David braced himself for the exclamation that was surely coming.

“David!  This ticket is for this afternoon!”

“I said I’d been trying to reach you for days…”

“I can’t possibly go to…”  She paused, looking for the destination on the ticket.  “Does this say London?  As in London, England?  Like… in Europe?”

“That’s the one.”  David wandered over to the closet and began pulling things out.  He pulled out a dark sweater and threw it aside, wrinkling his nose.  “Everything in your closet is so dark.  You need some color.”

“Thanks, Mom,” she replied with just enough sarcasm to elicit an exaggerated sigh.  “I can’t go to Europe this afternoon.”

“Why not?  It’s not as if you have some pressing engagement.  You’re an artist for God’s sake.”  He pulled a suitcase out of her closet and began tossing things into it carelessly.

“Well… I’m…” She stammered.  “I just don’t think I’m up for this, David.”  He turned to see her reach for a small pill bottle on her nightstand. “And I’m in the middle of a project right now.  You know I don’t like to stop in the middle of a painting.”

With a lunge, he knocked the bottle from her hand, scattering tiny white pills over the hardwood floor beneath her bed.  “You don’t like to stop when you’re in the middle of a bender,” David snapped.  “I’m your friend, Scarlett, but I’m also your agent.  And if you keep going on like this you won’t sell anymore paintings…”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that if you don’t get your ass on that plane this afternoon and leave all this…”  He indicated the mess in which they currently stood. “I just can’t represent you anymore, Scarlett.  It’s too much of a risk.”

Scarlett sighed.  “Look, David… if this is some kind of tough love thing…”

“I can assure you that I’m quite serious, love.”  He picked up the wastebasket in the corner of the room and swept the amateur pharmacy off of her nightstand into it.  She followed him around the apartment, watching him pitch pill boxes, wine and liquor bottles into the trash.

“You win, David. You always win.”  Scarlett sighed, leaning heavily against the wall.

“I know.  By my watch you have about four hours to get packed and to the airport.  Do something with your hair.  You look like hell. Oh…” He reached into his pocket again and found a slip of paper with the address of a hotel in London. “I’ve already made your reservation and paid in advance.  Just go in and tell them your name.”

“You aren’t going with me?”  Her eyes widened and for a moment Scarlett looked utterly terrified.

“I’m afraid I can’t go on such short notice. I do have other clients.”  He bent down and continued picking up trash, holding it carefully between two fingertips as if it were a disgusting bug.  “I don’t have time to go running off to London playing nursemaid to you.”

“You’re such a pain in my ass.”

David looked at her with a comic twist of his lip.  “It’s my lot in life.  I’ll be back in a few hours to take you to the airport,” he said, making his way to the door with his load of garbage.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> GO TO Chapter Two

Spy-Craft, or How I Got On a Watchlist

books-read-literature-bookshelf-161877The Phoenix Rising series is a supernatural spy thriller with a romantic thread. It follows the adventures of Macijah “Cage” St. John and his plucky partner and librarian, Phoebe Addison. Think James Bond meets Romancing the Stone… with vampires and zombies.

I’ve always been a lover of spy novels and movies. I think the first movie I was ever just crazy about was A View to a Kill, the quintessential 80s Bond film (Fun fact: Cage St. John is named after Bond’s alias in that movie— James St. John Smythe!). So I’ve always wanted to write a book that had an Ian Fleming, espionage-y feel to it. The only problem is, you have to know stuff to make it authentic. And trust me, anyone who has ever met me knows that I’m not cut out to be a spy. I’m loud, clumsy, and I giggle too easily when I lie. So needless to say I had to do some research. And boy was it interesting. Both for me and The Powers That Be watching my internet usage at work. So here are some sites I found…

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espionage

Wikipedia is always good for a few hours of procrastination. You can follow links there forever. BUT, make sure you check them out before taking their words as gospel. Use those footnotes!!

MI:5/ MI:6 (SIS now) Websites:

https://www.mi5.gov.uk/espionage

https://www.sis.gov.uk/

These sites are particularly useful in my case just because Cage is former MI6 (now called SIS). It helped understand their protocols and the language.

MI6: The Home of James Bond 007: https://www.mi6-hq.com/

Your source for all things James Bond. This site is just fun if you’re a fan of the Bond universe. Plus it has links to great source material.

Spywriter: http://www.spywriter.com/terms.html

Spy novelist Jack King has compiled a list of espionage terms on his website that proved most useful.

Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/intel-glossary-2014-7

I was surprised to find this little gem on the interwebs, but the article is actually quite good.

These are just a few of the sites and articles online that I used (we won’t even talk about all the stuff about different types of guns and the physics of firing a bullet), but there are tons. So even if you aren’t a writer, you can sound really cool on your next date…

 

Naked_home

CLICK to PREORDER!

COMING APRIL 2017— NAKED, Phoenix Rising #1

Following a brutal act of vengeance, MI:6 agent Macijah St. John is left grieving for his slaughtered family and agrees to participate in a secret government experiment that gives him a magnificent and terrible power.  Now he’s a mercenary spy that solves problems for the right price.  His latest job puts him in the path of the greatest catastrophe yet—a librarian.

Phoebe Addison’s life is a disaster. Crippling debt, a non-existent social life, and being the town librarian is hardly the glamorous existence she’d always dreamed of. But when her sister Jessica, an interplanetary archeologist, gets herself involved with a psychotic billionaire bent on world domination, Phoe is about to get more excitement than she bargained for.

In the Shadow of Death: Prologue

In The Shadow

In the process of trying to be better about my blog, I’ve decided to start a serial novel that is exclusive to the blog. Just for you, my faithful readers. I hope it’s as entertaining for you guys to read as it is for me writing it. Now, fair warning— this is NOT, I repeat, NOT a final draft. At some point in the future, I’ll be doing a full edit and collecting it into a single volume for publication. But I hope it will be fun for you anyway!

WARNING:  There is drug use in this prologue.

********************************************

I was first visited by the angel shortly after my twenty-first birthday. At first I’d thought he was just a wisp of my cigarette smoke, swirling through the room like the rest of the phantoms that haunted me in the alcohol haze. Once a princess, then spoiled and fallen, I had given up on living so young. Drowning my guilt and sorrow in a bottle of wine before the first twinges of puberty. He came closer and his ethereal body lacked substance. I reached out to touch him, but he faded. Only the cool breath of wind left in his wake, but the silhouette of his iron colored eyes remained. Every time I closed my eyes they were there until I began to believe in his reality. I rose from the couch, frantic as I looked around, wanting to see him again.

“Did you see him?” I asked, my voice breathless and wanting.

“Who?” some homely girl answered, sounding nearly asleep. I think her name was June.

“The man,” was all I could muster, pointing into the darkness. There was nothing there of course. Only a dingy little room littered with trash and human wreckage. We were all young and soulless, taking in reefer, opium, cocaine—anything that made us feel alive. Poor little rich kids, desperately afraid of not being misunderstood, we took comfort in our emptiness.

My secrets were much deeper.

My heart sank as I realized that he was only a hallucination, conjured by the mix of morphine and wine. “Come to the bedroom, Scarlett,” a voice whispered and my grief was so all-consuming that I just took his hand and followed him.

“Jace, that’s your name, right?” I slurred, watching him with detached indifference when he stood over me disrobing. His skin was pale, his frame so thin and frail. “You’re pretty,” I chuckled.

“Yeah,” he grunted, pushing his jeans down, his erect penis popping out and pointing at me like an icepick. When I saw it I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I had never seen one up close before and it seemed to be this strange being with a consciousness of its own. When I saw his face melt with humiliation, it only made me laugh harder. “See something funny?” he said, his voice crackling with feigned severity.

“No,” I replied, biting the inside of my lip to stifle more laughter.

His expression softened and he climbed into the messy bed on which I lay. It was little more than a mattress on the floor, stained and tattered with a few blankets and pillows tossed on top. His curly hair was dark and messy, falling over his beady eyes. He thought it made him look mysterious, but it was really just to hide the beaky nose in the middle of his face. “Just relax, baby,” he said. “Let’s get you out of these clothes.” I started to hesitate, shaking my head, dazzled by the way the lights seemed to shiver with every movement. And then he showed me the syringe. My eyes locked on it, wanting the anesthetic relaxation. “But don’t you want to try some of this?”

Jace held it up in front of me, just out of reach so that I had to sit up, crawling towards him as he beckoned me forward. Just as I reached him, he put his arm around my waist, pulling me into him. I could feel his cock, hard between my legs when he kissed me. But all I wanted was the blissful retreat he held poised between his fingertips. His tongue sneaked between my lips, probing clumsily. He tasted of beer and weed. I wrinkled my nose, pulling back a bit. “How about we try some of that,” I whispered. He smiled and obliged me, pulling my arm straight and tapping the vein with his fingertips. My heart beat fast in my chest. I had never done anything so hardcore and I was almost afraid, but at the same time fascinated. I turned my eyes away as he slipped the needle under my skin.

At first it was cold, then hot. So hot it burned as the drug rushed through my veins, leaving a numb sort of bliss in its wake. I sighed, relaxing against Jace. My body was limp as he undressed me, his grin fading in and out. The cold air rushed in as my body was exposed, the nipples that capped each breast bristling and swelling uncomfortably. As I watched him, he moved in slow motion, his hands running over the sharp angles of my ribcage. I closed my eyes, feeling disconnected from my body and hovering just above. I just lay there, completely unaware, until I saw him again. The iron eyes of the angel seemed to materialize before me, just out of Jace’s line of vision. I picked my head up, willing my eyes to focus.

“Where you goin’, baby?” Jace hissed, pawing at my breast.

“Do you see him?” I whispered, pointing over his shoulder and shifting out of his grasp. The angel materialized, perched on an empty shelf behind Jace, his body formed in a shimmer of smoke from the cigarette poised between his fingertips. I squinted, not believing what I was seeing. He didn’t look like any angel I’d ever seen before. Not that I’d seen all that many, but I was pretty sure none of them wore black denim and leather. He stared at me with a bit of indifference and then looked away, taking another draw on his cigarette and blowing the smoke in a smoke ring that circled around his skeletal wings.

“What are you talking about?” Jace said, heaving an exasperated sigh and looking over his shoulder. “I don’t see anything.”

The angel offered a smug grin and flicked the dying ember to the floor where both the flame and his form disappeared. “He was there…” I whispered, the drugs working themselves through my system and pulling me farther into their blurry embrace.

“Just relax, girl… nobody’s around to see,” Jace said. I could feel his hands everywhere, sliding over my thighs and dipping between them to grope sloppily at my sex. Poor thing. He was trying to arouse me, but I barely even felt him. My body could only respond to the random flashes of light and sensation that managed to break through the fog. “Goddamn, girl. You feel good.” His voice sounded so far away. I was drifting further into darkness, feeling my body slipping away faster and faster. Oddly enough I didn’t care. I was floating high above, looking down. Maybe if I flew high enough I could touch the dark angel.

I hovered there, for how long I couldn’t fathom, until I heard Jace’s voice again. He was screaming. I looked down and he was crouched over me. He pulled my body to a sitting position, shaking me and slapping at my face. “Wake up, Scarlett!” he shouted, still sounding so small. His voice tickled lightly at my ear, but I paid it no mind. I was becoming intoxicated with the freedom that had suddenly been thrust upon me.

“Turn back.” A low voice caressed my senses and I knew it was him. The dark angel from my hallucination. Only he wasn’t a hallucination. He couldn’t be. Now as I lay there on the edge of consciousness I could feel the warm humidity of his breath on my neck. I reached out for him, but my arms were so heavy. I blinked my eyes slowly and saw Jace run from the room. He screamed for help, but he would be too late. My life was slipping from my veins. In another moment it would be gone. I closed my eyes, floundering between consciousness and oblivion. I could hear my heart beating, the slow cadence beginning to fade along with the shallow breath that pushed out of my lungs. I couldn’t breathe, but I chose not to fight. I wanted to die. Death would be a sweet release from all the pain of living.

“Open your eyes,” the angel commanded, his voice sharp, almost angry. I struggled to open them, staring sightlessly into amber pools of fire. “I will not take you,” he whispered, then covered my mouth with his own. I could feel his lips, powerful but gentle, moving against mine, teasing them open with gentle sweeps of his tongue. I resisted, but he was relentless and finally I felt his fingers grip my jaw, holding my mouth open as he breathed into me. My soul began to descend, floating back to my body with a dizzying rush. I gasped, my lungs swelling with the precious life force, given back to me by the angel. My heart began to pound, beating so hard in my chest that I wanted to cry with the dull ache. “Stay with me,” he beckoned, holding me close for another moment. And then he was gone.

I nearly died that night, just after my twenty-first birthday. No doctor could explain how an overdose of morphine and heroin had just disappeared from my blood. They wrote it off as a seizure, watched me overnight and sent me back to the atrocity that was my reality.

Every night I prayed for the return of my savior, but my prayers fell on the deaf ears of my drunken mother, or became lost in the groans and growls of my stepfather as he raped me again and again. Yes, my secrets were much deeper.

After a time his memory faded until I began to believe that my angel was no more than a hallucination. It was easier than the truth.

I was forsaken. The angel was gone and I never saw him again.

Got #Free Stuff?!

See y’all, I am doing better on this blog post thing! I am trying to be a better hostess. The topic today is about free stuff. We all love free stuff, right? I mean, who doesn’t like getting something for nothing? And I don’t mind giving stuff away. For example, all of my work with Little Red Hen Romance is available on Kindle Unlimited for free. We also do a lot of free promotions on those books too. It’s  good way to thank your readers and entice new ones. This month, I decided to try something new with Instafreebie. I’m trying to grow my newsletter to keep all you Belles informed about my new releases plus keep you up to date on appearances, what I’m reading, and all sorts of other shenanigans.

The newsletter is called The Hell’s Belles and it comes out at the beginning of each month. In every issue, I’ll feature news, my recommendations in “What Is Lexx Reading?,” writing tips, and hopefully share some questions and answers from all of YOU! I’d also like to feature some free reads that you can download straight to your device to help you escape on your lunch breaks and commutes. So if you’d like to sign up, just follow this link:

https://www.instafreebie.com/free/bfwiS Unmasked Free3_kindlespecs

It will take you to the sign-up page where you can get on my mailing list AND it will give you a copy of my erotic short, “Unmasked” in whatever format you like (pdf, mobi, epub). So what have you got to lose? I promise your info won’t be sold and you won’t be bombarded with “buy my shit” messages in your  inbox every day.

I look forward to seeing you soon!

 

#COVERREVEAL: NAKED, Phoenix Rising 1

ICYMI, this winter I became part of the #BoroughsPublishingGroup family! After so many years of trying desperately to find a home for my paranormal espionage series, Phoenix Rising, the folks at Boroughs decided to give it a chance! I’m oh-so-excited for you guys to meet shapeshifting superspy Cage St. John and his partner and librarian Phoebe Addison. This book is a cross-genre adventure that combines elements of romance, suspense, espionage, and the paranormal. I’ve described it as James Bond meets Romancing the Stone… with vampires.  And zombies. And dragons.  You just have to read it to believe it!

Following a brutal act of vengeance, MI:6 agent Macijah St. John is left grieving for his slaughtered family and agrees to participate in a secret government experiment that gives him a magnificent and terrible power.  Now he’s a mercenary spy that solves problems for the right price.  His latest job puts him in the path of the greatest catastrophe yet—a librarian.

 Phoebe Addison’s life is a disaster. Crippling debt, a non-existent social life, and being the town librarian is hardly the glamorous existence she’d always dreamed of. But when her sister Jessica, an interplanetary archeologist, gets herself involved with a psychotic billionaire bent on world domination, Phoe is about to get more excitement than she bargained for. They’re on the run with no one but each other. Totally NAKED.

COMING TO AN ONLINE BOOKSELLER NEAR YOU ON APRIL 13, 2017!! Pre-order it 3/3o!!

 

Naked_home.jpg

Available on 4-13-17!!

What’s Going On With Lexx?

Greetings everyone! It’s been quite some time since we talked. See what happened was, I normally updated my blog at work when there was nothing else going on. Then, several months ago, “The Powers That Be” decided that we needed to lock down the internet to save bandwidth. They nixed WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, and lots of other sites. Hence, my blog fell by the wayside. But don’t worry, I’ve resolved to fix it and get myself back on a schedule. In the meantime, I’d love for you all to visit my new website at:

http://lexxxchristian.wixsite.com/alexandrachristian

It has news, appearances, book info, and you can sign up for my newsletter, “The Hell’s Belles.” Each month I’ll feature authors, give updates on events, share writing tips, and give away free books! So basically, I’m leaving my blog here to be my heart and my website to be my head.

So what’s been going on? A lot! As you guys who read the blog regularly know, I’ve been trying to sell my book about the shapeshifting superspy for YEARS. Well guess what? I just signed a 4 book deal with Boroughs Publishing Group to release my new series, Phoenix Rising, starring the incredibly sexy spy, Cage St. John. The first book, NAKED, will release on April 13, 2017!

Also, y’all know about my obsession with Sherlock Holmes right? Well it finally paid off! I’ve just signed a contract with Falstaff Books to produce 4 novellas starring Dr. John Watson. In the novellas, Watson will find himself in situations most dire where he’ll need to rely on his wits to escape monsters lurking in the underbelly of Victorian London. And he might even get a little help from his friend, Sherlock Holmes.

So I’ve been super-busy lately! But I also feel super-lucky. I do hope you guys will keep coming back!

I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me: A #HoldOntoTheLight Post

holdontothelight-fb-banner

My post is late. It isn’t surprising. I’m always late. I’m one of the world’s greatest procrastinators, but this time it really isn’t my fault. You see, I had a really tough time coming up with something to write for the #HoldOntoTheLight campaign. I don’t identify myself as mentally ill. Nor am I a survivor of domestic abuse, severe bullying, or sexual assault. In fact, friends in college used to tease that I was so well-adjusted that that in and of itself was neurotic. I even have imposter syndrome ABOUT having imposter syndrome. I’m always afraid that I am inadvertently inflating my own little issues and thereby cheapening someone else’s struggles. “I’M FINE” is a particularly favorite mantra. Then something happened on Sunday morning and this post hit me like a lightning bolt.

Sunday morning I was having a perfectly normal conversation about my niece with my sister. Apparently, there’s some conflict between the teacher and some grading policy—blah blah blah—it doesn’t matter. Being a former classroom teacher, I was offering suggestions as to why the grading policy worked out that way and perhaps everyone should just calm down. “It’ll all work out in the end.” Then the conversation took a more aggressive turn and my devils’ advocate position started to close in until I felt that I was two feet tall and being pummeled with sticks. So I just stopped talking. I was irrationally angry and nauseated at the same time. Then later, I was depressed. I spent the whole day either sleeping or being weepy—completely wasting my Sunday. Bummer.

It didn’t occur to me until later that maybe I’d just had a PTSD panic attack.

I always get the question, “Why don’t you teach anymore?” And I always make up some long, noble answer about not believing in the education system anymore. Or sometimes I say something joking and flippant like, “I like being able to go to the bathroom whenever I want.” But the truth is, and it’s really hard to admit, I was bullied out of it. Don’t get me wrong, I never really felt that teaching was a permanent career for me. I got my teaching certificate because my mom and dad wanted me to “have something to fall back on.” So I’d been considering getting out of it for a long time, but in my last year, some things happened that made up my mind for me.

At the very first open house I should have known this person was going to be a problem all year. She flat out told me at this first meeting that she wanted her child in another person’s class. I’m not sure why: my test scores were good, my students had always been happy, I was tech-savvy, and my class was heavily arts-integrated. But she had been told that this other teacher was the bee’s knees with all the best students (they did tend to give me rowdier kids because my classroom was more active) and it was a smaller class and she wanted her child in that class, NOT MINE. Remember, this was the first time this woman met me. But I reassured her that her kid would be happy in my class, went over all my policies, and I thought she left happily. Weeks go by. Her child is a delight, but talkative. I mean, she’s seven—all seven year olds are talkative. She’s a smart little girl, but not a prodigy or anything. I think we’re all having a great year. Then when the first mid-semester report comes out, this woman blows into my room like a hurricane, complaining that her child got an S instead of an E (in primary school we gave Es (excellent), Ss (Satisfactory), and Ns (Needs improvement)!!! An S!!! Her child wasn’t an S! Her child got all Es in 1st grade!! I spoke to her calmly, showed her all of her child’s work and explained the grading policy AGAIN. I also said that if it would make her feel better, I’d send her child’s work home weekly instead of bi-weekly as I had been doing for the last TWELVE YEARS of my career. Again, she was grudgingly satisfied and left.

All was well until just after Christmas. I remember it extremely well. It was the Wednesday after we’d come back from Christmas break. I was happily walking down the hall to the ladies’ room when my principal caught me. She asked me about the student with the nutty mom. How was she doing? What was her reading level? I answered her questions, still oblivious to any problem. She went on to say that nutty mom had been to see her and was very unhappy with me as a teacher. That I never sent home any graded work and that her child was failing and it was all my fault. I was flabbergasted and caught off guard. I explained that I was sending home graded work regularly and that the only reason I hadn’t in the last couple of weeks was that it was Christmas vacation! The principal, nodded and said that’s what she thought (at this point I assumed she was still on my side). A few mornings later, I come into the office to sign in and the principal catches me, beckoning me into her office. She then proceeds to rake me over the coals (with the door to her office open with teachers and students rushing by) about this child’s work. The nutty mom had faxed her copies of all of this graded work (I might add that she had picked and chosen the things that served her case) where the child had made a grade less than what she thought it should be. There was also a math test from before Christmas that had I had mistakenly left out of their graded papers before Christmas (the child had made what equated to an A). Apparently, I should have just thrown the test away rather than sharing it with parents because this was all the evidence she needed to determine that I wasn’t grading papers and keeping track of progress. At any rate, the principal scolded me like a child in her office for about twenty minutes over a policy that was GRADE LEVEL-WIDE and neglecting to consider that I was a TWELVE YEAR VETERAN TEACHER. But apparently my judgment didn’t matter. I was then told that she “just didn’t know how to defend me” on this and that she would set up a conference with this parent and keep me posted. I left her office crying.

Fast forward a week or two. Nothing else had been said about the incident, no contact had been made from nutty parent, so I’m hoping that it’s all blown over. I’m walking down the hall after having taken my students to P.E. class. The school secretary rushes up to me and says, “You have to get up to the office RIGHT NOW for your conference!” Naturally I’m surprised. I didn’t have any conferences scheduled that day and no one had told me about any meeting. The secretary notices my stunned expression and says, “that nutty woman is up there and Ms. So and So wants you to bring the kid’s portfolio and your grade book.” I almost threw up right there. I was blindsided. No one had said anything to me about this meeting. At all. I go into the meeting alone, sitting on one side of the table where nutty mom and her husband and my principal are all facing me. What transpired was a forty-five minute session wherein my principal scolded me in front of these people. I wasn’t allowed to defend myself, so I just sat there silently. Feeling about two feet tall and like I was being pummeled with sticks. When it was over, I picked up my class from P.E. and tried to pretend nothing was wrong. Another week later, the principal came in during my planning period to tell me that she was moving the kid out of my class. That I had made her parents feel that I didn’t care about their child’s education and moving the child would be in her best interest. All I could say was, “Whatever you think is best.”

For the rest of the year, I avoided the office. I made copies after school when I knew the principal would be gone. Every time I saw her in the hallway, I’d keep my head down and pray she didn’t stop me. I started getting sick before school. I cried often. The kid that got moved from my class came to see me every day, hugging me and saying she wished she could come back. I hid in my classroom. Every time I had to go to the office, my heart would pound in my chest and I’d break out in chills. Meanwhile, I asked the new teacher how my former student was doing and her comments were exactly the same as mine. I began counting down the days until I never had to darken the doorway of the school again.

I left my twelve year career with no plan whatsoever (not wise, btw). I thought about applying at another school, but the thought of going into the classroom again was sickening. And still is. I miss the children. I miss my old friends and the community that I just don’t feel part of anymore. But I still dream about sitting at that conference room table, alone and feeling worthless. I don’t miss that. And I’ll never be in that position again.

I never considered the fact that I had PTSD from that experience. Isn’t PTSD something that only happens to soldiers and abuse survivors? It never occurred to me that well-adjusted, boisterous, always in control Lexx would have PTSD from being bullied by two small-minded idiots. As an adult. And I think that if I had actually done anything wrong in that situation, I’d be over it now. Sometimes I second guess myself and think that maybe I did. Maybe I wasn’t doing enough for that child. Maybe I should have tried harder. Maybe I was just overly-sensitive. Maybe.

But one thing’s for sure. I’m still shaking while I write this. I still cry when I try to tell someone about it. I still feel like a failure sometimes when I think about it. And the other day when I was talking to my sister about her child’s teacher, I was right back there. Feeling just as small and powerless as I did that day. Will it ever go away? Will I ever just forget about it? I don’t know. But maybe me telling you all about it is the first step to getting over it.

Maybe.

****

#HoldOntoTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

 Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Home for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOntoTheLight, find a list of participating authors, or reach a media contact, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/276745236033627/.