Monday, June 30, 2008

Magical Fantasy Novel-Dragon Domain: An Excerpt

Dragon Domain--Book Two of the Dragon Clan Trilogy (978-0-9798406-1-6) Cheyenne and Celeste came to Coyote Springs to save a child; instead, Cheyenne found a home. With the help of their new friend, Jane, they created a spiritual sanctuary. But when Celeste stopped running, her past caught up with her. Dominic arrived with promises of love and passion. Instead of love, he reawakened Celeste’s dark side, turning her against those she loved the most. With the aid of the dragons, Cheyenne was barely able to ward off their first attack. With each soul they bound to them, Celeste and Dominic’s greed and hatred grew until they would not settle for less than totally destroying Cheyenne and all she loves. How do you protect yourself from someone who knows how to steal your soul?

For a moment, Jane remained in that in-between stage between sleep and wake. Before opening her eyes, she mentally checked her body for stress points. She wasn’t looking for anything specific. It was more of a vague feeling of her energy being off. In the past, she had been able to ward off physical annoyances by just checking her energy before becoming fully conscious. Her left side seemed a bit numb, most likely from sleeping in the same position too long. She usually didn’t move around much when she slept in a strange bed. It made Maxie crazy. He said it was like sleeping with a corpse. Thinking of him suddenly brought back the anger and sadness. Part of her loved him. Yet there was something that kept her from committing to him.
She drifted downward into her body. Opening her eyes, she stared at the orange and white striped sheets. An instant later, the pain hit. Starting at the base of her skull, it raced over the top of her head, grabbing her cheekbones, trying to flip them over. She moaned and rolled onto her back. Closing her eyes, she tried to force herself back into the upper realms, where she could balance whatever was out of kilter. The throbbing continued, preventing her from concentrating. Don’t fight it, came the thought, just allow it to pass through you. Keeping her eyes closed, she breathed deeply in through her nose, allowing the pain to flow over her like a wave on the shore. The pain lessened, only to be followed be a second then a third wave. She rolled over, ducking her head beneath the pillow and holding it tight trying to block the pain. Images appeared in her mind. She didn’t understand. It was the farm. A thin dark mist hovered around it. It reached for her. She retreated. It followed. Lightning flashed up from the ground. The mist scattered and recollected itself around the house. Just as suddenly, the pain dulled to a throb. Carefully she opened her eyes. Unsure of what she should do, she pushed the pillow away and slowly lifted herself to a kneeling position. She looked around. The room hadn’t changed, yet it was different. It was the smell. Ozone. She was more confused than ever.
Sliding off the bed onto her feet, she put on the short robe Raven had left at the foot of the bed. She tied the belt and opened the door. Continuing down the hallway, she stopped at the archway.
Raven was lying on the couch, a cloth across her forehead and eyes. In spite of the warmth of the room, she hugged her favorite comforter to her chest. She shivered beneath it.
The sun streamed into the room. From her perspective, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Raven shouldn’t be having a sinus attack. Yet, Raven was having what she would describe as a four-alarm attack.
Creeping further into the room, she noticed the broken teacup on the kitchen floor. Its contents spilled among the shattered pieces.
“Good afternoon.” The voice came from the couch.
“What happened?”
“Something blew through.”
“I don’t know. I heard you scream once. Then I got hit.” Raven lifted one end of the cloth to look at her. “My shields didn’t hold. “
“I set up temporary barriers myself last night.”
Raven recovered her eye. “I know. It didn’t help.” Her voice was a combination of bitterness and anger. “I got images of darkness around the farm.”
Jane didn’t know what to say.
“It was an evil I haven’t experienced before.” Raven waited.
The unasked question hung between them, testing their friendship. Jane swallowed hard, not wanting to hear what was coming. Carefully she knelt and picked up the pieces of the broken cup. “It was your favorite.”
“Forget it!” Raven snapped. Her hands covered her face. She moaned in pain.
“I’m sorry.” Jane couldn’t move. She felt responsible, but she didn’t know why. “I don’t know what happened.”
“Celeste happened.”
“Why do you assume--”
“Because it’s the truth!” Raven’s voice quivered with pain and anger. “Just like Cheyenne has been trying to tell you.”
“She doesn’t have any proof.”
“But she does.”
“Why didn’t she tell me?” Jane snapped back and instantly regretting it. The dull throb sharpened into to stabbing pain behind her eyes.
“She tried to.” Raven emphasized each word. “You wouldn’t listen.”
If Raven was right, this was all her fault. Jane dropped the pieces. “She was just jealous...jealous because she didn’t have a man in her life. That’s all.”
Using one arm, Raven lifted herself into a sitting position. “Both Cheyenne and I fully dedicated the Samhain after she got the farm. She has no interest in dating or mating. Her total focus is on her spiritual path. Just like me.”
“I didn’t know.”
“There is a lot you don’t know.”
It wasn’t possible, Jane thought. She’s just trying to bait me. Cheyenne would have told us. Such radical commitments were never made lightly. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Fine. Believe what you like.” Raven tried to stand, but as quickly sat back down. “It’s your rude awakening. “
“I thought you were my friend.“ Her voice sounded whiny, but Jane didn’t care. Since she started on the investigation, they had spent many hours together not only talking about the case but their lives as well. Raven was the only one who truly knew who about Maxie. She had always been open and honest with her, yet Raven chose to keep the most important aspect of her spirituality a secret. It wasn’t rational, but suddenly Jane felt betrayed.
“Could you put more cold water on this?” Raven held up the cloth. “And put the start the water for tea.”
Taking it, Jane silently walked into the kitchen, doubt rapidly growing within her. She ran the water and saturated the cloth. Wringing the excess off, she returned to the living room and gently covered the prone woman’s eyes. Raven murmured something. Jane didn’t understand. Briefly stroking the black mane, she turned and returned to the kitchen.
Could she have been wrong? But about who? Celeste or Cheyenne? Which one was lying? The past few months they hadn’t been as close. But all relationships change. Without growth, there would be stagnation and death. She filled the kettle and put it on the stove. It didn’t make sense. Nothing did. Not any more. Pulling down the herb jars, she placed them on the counter and took the mixing bowl off the shelf. Taking a pinch from the spearmint and chamomile, she ground the leaves between her fingers, allowing the pieces to drop into the bowl, and resealed the jars. A year ago, they had been planning an expansion of the classes and greenhouse. The classes had remained very popular in spite of the House of Christ. The few rented cottages supplemented the farm income. In fact, Jane admitted to herself, Cheyenne’s herbs were the only stable income they had. How did they become so dependent on her?
Across the room, the kettle began to bubble. She filled the tea balls and put them in cups. Nine months ago, she had taken a leave of absence from the TV station to help Celeste with the classes. They had built the web site. It was beautiful with pictures of the farm and information about Dragon Herbs. Both of them taught classes online. Cheyenne was too busy with the greenhouse and herbs to do more than teach one class. They were busy, tired and happy--a true team, each using their own particular talents for the best of the whole. Within a month, Dominic arrived.
The kettle whistled. Startled she grabbed for it and turned off the burner. Filling the cups, she watched the steam rise, carrying the scent of the herbs. She breathed deeply. For a few moments, her mind quieted. The tree outside had a bird’s nest safely tucked in one of the branches. From her perspective, she couldn’t see if it was inhabited. Elsewhere, birds sang. Traffic rolled to and fro on the street. People living their own lives. Were they happy? Or sad? A bit of both, she thought. Did they feel what happened earlier? Or was it hidden from them like a rude surprise to be sprung on them when it was too late to do anything? She returned the kettle to the stove, the contents still rumbling with the heat. Steam continued to rise from the cups. It was fascinating how the steam formed shapes and patterns. Sometimes, she just wondered why. She didn’t expect an answer. It was just something to occupy her mind, to keep it from asking questions she didn’t want answered. Dangling the tea balls by their chains, she watched the water color. It was such a simple thing. Judging the tea to be strong enough, she dropped the balls in the sink and picked up one of the cups.
Raven was still lying on the couch, the cloth over her upper face. With, her black curls fanned out on the pillow; she looked like she was posing for a centerfold. A chicken pox scar on her left temple was the only blemish on her otherwise smooth skin. How old she was, no one really knew. Some how Raven had always been able to dodge the question. She seemed in her late twenties, very early thirties. Yes several of her commits gave the impression and the ages of her two sons made her somewhere in her late forties. She had two sons by two different men. One she chose to marry, the other was a good friend who for one night became more. Now divorced, she had her own home, her own money, her own path to follow. Her children were a source of pride and pain. The eldest chose his father over her; the rules weren’t as strict. She shared custody of her youngest, but his primary residence was with his father. She loved him enough not to bounce him back and forth between the two homes. Some on the farm thought less of her for not having her sons with her while they were growing up. They didn't she wasn’t maternal enough to worship the Goddess. Her attitude was “whatever”, using the familiar hand gesture. It was something Jane had always admired about her.
Bending over, she placed the cup on a coaster and slid it within her reach. Raven didn’t stir. Sometimes sleep is the best medicine.
Taking her own mug out the back door, she sat on the steps. The shadows kept the cement cool, but soon they would creep back toward the house with the turning of the day. Protected by only the thin robe, her butt and thighs quickly felt the cold. Standing, she walked down the path into the sunlight. It warmed the back of her head and brought a smile to her lips. Mentally, she thanked Ra for putting his loving arms around her. The cup was hot in her hands, but the steam no longer rose from the liquid. She took a sip. It was good; lemon would make it better. The scent made her nose tingle.
The shadow of a bird flew across the lawn. She looked up. It was a jay. Ever present, ever watching no matter what the season. Some people didn’t like them at their bird feeders. Jane liked their tenacity and their ability to adapt to whatever life presented to them. They were character traits she wished she possessed. Sometimes she felt as if she had no control over her life that she was always reacting to someone else’s game plan.
Looking back over her thirty-six years, Jane realized that most of her life she did what was expected of her. It was like she checking off chores on a list that someone else wrote for her. Her thirty-seventh birthday was nearly four months away and she still didn’t know what she wanted to be when she grew up. She no longer had a clue how to fill the rapidly growing void in her. For a while, the television station gave her a purpose, then it was helping Celeste and Cheyenne. She was tired of playing peacemaker between them, yet she wasn’t brave enough to confront them.
She sipped the cooling tea and continued to walk down the path, taking the left fork toward the swing. Sitting, she swiveled, crossing her legs and tucking her robe down between her thighs. Pulling on the support post, she started the back and forth motion. Closing her eyes and leaning back, she allowed the rhythm to comfort her. It reminded her of how her mother rocked her as a child when the monster in the closet wouldn’t let her sleep. Her mother had been dead for many years, but remembering her joyfully brought her back. A smile crossed her lips. She released the need to think beyond the motion. Alternating between shadow and sunshine, she enjoyed both. Her other senses filed in the blanks left by her voluntary relinquishing of her sight. She allowed the sensory information to pass though her without keeping note.
Somewhere close by a vehicle drove up and parked. Moments later, the swing jolted to a halt, spilling the tea into her lap. Her eyes snapped open. Maxie stood in front of her. Angrily she jumped to her feet, the spilled tea running down the front of the robe to the ground. She tried brushing it off before more could soak in.
“I thought you heard me.”
“Does it look like I heard you?” Jane snapped. “Look what you did to Raven’s robe!”
“Sorry okay.” He snapped back.
“Will that get the stain out?” She allowed her anger to flare. It was how she felt-angry and very much put upon.
“I’ll buy her a new one. Just get off it.”
“Get off it?” Her voice rose to a shriek, sending the birds, resting in the trees, into to flight. “I’ll get off it, you and the investigation!” She spun on the balls of her feet and headed toward the back door.
He grabbed her upper arm and yanked her toward him. “You listen-”
That was enough. She allowed him to spin her partially around. Using the momentum he provided, she flung her free arm around. The heel of her hand landed firmly on his chin. Stunned, he released her, staggering backward. Her robe slipped off her shoulder, opening at the front. She ignored it and stepped into a defensive stance.
Holding his chin, he glared down at her. “I could arrest you.”
“Really officer. On what charge?” She no longer found him cute and cuddly, fun to talk and make love with; he was just one more needy person. She met his eyes. They were angry and demanding. Last week, even yesterday, she would have given in and apologized. But not today. “On what charge?” She repeated.
“Striking an officer!”
“An officer who over stepped his bounds.” She countered.
“Just get dressed. They expect us at the station.”
“I quit.” It wasn’t a decision she consciously made. The words surprised her, yet at the same instant, a heavy weight was lifted from her heart. She knew it was the right thing to do.
“We don’t have time for this!”
“I do. What you do-I don’t care.” She spun and rapidly continued toward the house.
“You can’t!
Suddenly he was in between her in the back door. “I won’t let you ruin this!”
“Just what don’t you want ruined. The investigation or your sex life.”
“What ever bug flew up your ass last night--just get over it! Just get your clothes, we‘ll talk about it at home.”
“I’m not going with you.”
“Just do it!”
A breeze bellowed the robe open further. The sun warmed her breasts. He could arrest her for indecent exposure. “No!”
Taking a deep breath, he clenched and unclenched his fists. “I love you.” His voice was calmer, but the anger boiled just beneath the surface.
“Really sounds like it.” The back door swung open and Raven stepped out. “Who could resist such loving words?”
“It none of your business!” Maxie growled.
“It’s my yard, my house, my guest, and my business.” She matched his tone.
“How quick the bigotry rears its ugly head. Just yesterday we were good friends.”
“Raven’s not a--”
“Don’t explain!” She walked down the steps. “Get lost or do I make a phone call to your supervisor? I’m sure she’d be real interested in this conversation. “
“What about your secrets?”
“Secrets? I don’t have any secrets. My life is an open book.” Raven smiled nastily. “You are the one who broke the departmental policy.”
“Jane doesn’t work for--”
“But I do!” Raven firmly planted her fists on her hips. “You have invaded my privacy. You have made sexual comments.”
“Jane this isn’t over!” Snapping around heal to toe, he marched back to his truck. The engine roared to life and leaped backward. The tires screeched and he was gone.
“Gee that was fun!” Raven reached out and closed the opening of Jane’s robe. “You keep flashing my neighbors and poor, old Mr. Radcliff is going to have a heart attack and the brat boys next door will have accidents in their drawers.”

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