Monday, September 5, 2011

Duke/Viola - Spring 2001

Spring 2001

Muscles tense and right palm curled around the gun tucked into the waistband of his jeans, Tobias Duke ran his left thumb along the front door’s deadbolt. Tiny scratches in the silver finish made it clear that someone had picked his lock. Recently. The wards his grandmother updated quarterly were still intact, so the intruder was human. He reluctantly took his hand off the gun.

Slowly and silently, he unlocked the door. He pushed open the door and crept inside the foyer. The lights were off downstairs. He started towards the safe kept in his office when the sound of running water over his head stopped him in his tracks. Someone had broken into his house to take a shower?

A long, black ribbon curled around the banister caught his attention. He pinched the ribbon between two blue goo stained fingers and held it up. Tiny white skulls dotted the wide ribbon. His jaw tightened as the faint hint of rosemary and sweat.

When he was on rotation, he tended to keep his mental barriers up. The last thing he needed was to be distracted by foreign thoughts when tracking a demon. In the safety of his home, he let his barriers slip and concentrated on the showering intruder. He caught a glimpse of familiar chaos before a wall slammed up between his mind and the intruder’s.

Feminine laughter echoed in his head. “Stay out, you big perv or I’m gonna tell Granny.”

“Viola,” he growled, taking the stairs two at a time. The upstairs guest bath was empty. He rolled his eyes at his own naivetĂ©. Why would Viola bother to use a guest bathroom when his was free?

His bedroom light was off, but the lights in his bathroom were on. He dropped his Tracking pack on the floor beside his bed and stalked to the bathroom doorway. The shower curtain was pulled to one side and two damp towels were piled on top of the closed toilet lid. The back of a purple tank top and a dark auburn ponytail greeted him.

“You’re home early,” Viola observed mildly, not bothering to turn around.

“What are you doing, Vi?” Duke folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the doorjamb. He winced when the door hinge dug into the fresh bruise on his right shoulder. The thought of a hot, steamy shower had kept him going for the last hour of a rough rotation. He wanted nothing more than to pick up Viola by her ponytail and toss her out of his bathroom.

“Cleaning up. I was with Max when the call came in about the four Irgins in the Heights. Since you and Bas were busy with the demons in Conroe, Max and Vic went after the Irgins. Max thought it would be good training for me so I tagged along.” There was a pause as Viola splashed water onto her legs and rinsed her soapy hands. “Man, no one said anything about how foul Irgins are. I don’t think Max is ever going to get the stench out of his truck. I offered to set it on fire for him so he could get a new one, but all that got me was a ten-minute lecture on insurance fraud.”

Duke mentally counted to thirty. It did nothing to soothe his mounting anger. “Viola,” he snapped, “what are you doing here?”

“Cleaning.” She bit her tongue to stop the duh that wanted to follow. Regardless of what her brother and sister thought, she did have a few self-protective instincts. She swiveled her shoulders, careful to keep her face out of view, and pointed at the tattered tights near Duke’s boots. “Turns out I’m not as fast as I’d like to think I am. The cuts are shallow, but the blood was sticking to my tights and it was driving me crazy.”

Duke inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. He reminded himself that his grandmother was inordinately, unexplainably fond of the littlest Ashwood and would slap him silly if he wrung the girl’s neck. He had only himself to blame for his frustration, anyway. He’d forgotten that one had to be very, very specific when dealing with Viola.

“What. Are. You. Doing. In. My. Bathroom?”

“Oh!” Viola chuckled, reached for one of the towels. She spun around and dried her pale legs. Streaks of red criss-crossed her shins. She ducked her head down, refused to meet Duke’s furious stare. “Well, Bas doesn’t ‘xactly know about my little trip with Max and judging by the radio chatter I heard, tonight’s not a good night to tell him.”

“Viola.”

“Sooo,” she bit her lip and flashed him a quick grin, “I couldn’t go home. I thought I’d pop in here real quick to clean up and then head out to the rave on Scott.”

“Viola!”

She coughed. “I mean the study session at Aaron’s. Study party. Promise. Do you have a pair of black socks I can borrow? My boots are downstairs.”

Duke pivoted sharply, stomped into his bedroom. He yanked open a drawer, retrieved a pair of black socks, and tossed them at Viola’s head. “Out, Shortcake.”

“No problemo. Just give me a sec to clean up.”

“I’ll clean up.” Duke’s eyes narrowed suspiciously when she started folding one of the towels. He recognized a stall tactic when he saw one. “Now, Vi.’

She winced at his sharp tone. “Okay. Okay. No need to bite my head off.” She dropped the towel, grabbed her ripped tights, and tugged down the hem of her black-and-silver skirt. “See ya, Tobias.”

Lips pursed, Duke’s arm shot out to block the doorway when she started to brush past him with her face firmly pointed towards her pale toes. “Hold up, kiddo.”

She blew out a heavy sigh. “Talk about bipolar. Stay or go. Which is it?”

“Look at me.”

“Uhh… no. I’m not feeding your ego tonight.”

“Look at me, Viola.”

“No.”

Duke grasped her chin between to fingers and forced her face up. The entire right side of her face was red and swollen. Her lip was split and the bruise had already started to turn purple. “A little slow, huh?”

“Okay, way slow.” Viola shrugged. “I shouldn’t have had that second burger for dinner. Or the shake.”

“How were you going to explain that shiner to Bas?”

“Raves are dangerous. He’d have been pissed and grounded me, but he wouldn’t have banned me from Tracking.”

Duke released Viola’s face. He silently kissed his plans for an early night goodbye. “You need to ice that or your eye will swell shut. Go downstairs and put an ice pack on that. Don’t leave.”

Viola knew better than to challenge the angry glint in his eyes. Duke was one of the few people capable of tracking her when she tried to disappear. She nodded, slipped past him and scurried to the hallway. “Want me to make you a sandwich or anything?”

“Just get the ice and park your ass on the couch. I’ll be down in a minute. We’ll watch SportsCenter and then I’ll have a look at your legs. They should be disinfected. I’m too tired to drive you home, and I don’t trust you with my truck. You can crash here tonight.”

“Thanks, Tobias. You’re the best.” Viola beamed at Duke before skipping to the stairs. The smile slid from her face when his next words reached her.

“First thing in the morning, I’ll call Sebastian to pick you up.”

Sometimes it is Rocket Science snippet

I know, I know. Mistress of Malice and Mercy is what everyone is waiting for, but I've been working like a fiend on Sometimes it is Rocket Science, and I do hope that y'all love this project as much as I do.

Here's a snippet from a mid-book chapter:

“Is Ken sleeping?”

Georgiana whirled around with a hand pressed to the fluttering pulse in her neck. She hadn’t heard Robert’s approach. “Jesus,” she panted, “I’m going to put a bell on you.”

“I’ll leave the collar to the four-legged residents, if it’s all the same to you.” Robert stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jeans and leaned against the doorjamb across from Georgiana.

“I was thinking more along the line of elf shoes.” Her lips twitched. Her eyes fell to his bare feet. “You know, the pointed, floppy ones with the big bells on the curled ends?”

“Perhaps you should get some sleep, Georgiana.”

“Can’t. Things to do.” Georgiana scrubbed at her gritty eyes and rolled her tense shoulders. “Monday and Tuesday I’m booked up with meetings. I need to discuss Hayes with the board. I haven’t looked over Ken’s physics project like I promised. Dan’s coming home soon, and I want to make sure everything’s perfect for him.”

“You need to take a break before you burn out.” Robert crossed the width of the hallway with one step. He cradled her jaw with a warm hand and brushed his thumb across the dark shadows under her eyes. “You won’t do Ken or Dan any good if you make yourself sick. Besides, a fresh mind will allow you to see things with a new perspective.”

Her eyelids drifted closed. She instinctively leaned towards his warmth. The spicy tang of his possibly-pheromone laden aftershave wrapped around her like a thick, downy comforter.

“Take a break with me, doll.” Robert’s voice dropped in pitch and lost the smooth veneer of refinement. The gravelly tone with its slight twang was the voice she remembered from their childhood. “Relax a little. Unwind. I’ll open a bottle of wine. We’ll watch a movie or one of those science shows you set NORA up to record. Whatever you want.”

“Mmm.” The tension built up at the back of Georgiana’s neck and across her shoulders melted like butter in a hot frying pan. Her palms itched with the need to pull him closer and bury herself in his arms. It was easy to understand why he never lacked for female companions.

“What do you say?”

“I say…” Georgiana reluctantly slipped out of Robert’s light embrace and inhaled sharply to clear her muddled head. “I say I need a small glass of Baileys and a slice of chocolate cheesecake.” When Robert’s face fell, she sighed and linked her fingers with his. “There’s enough for two.”

“Thanks, doll.”

In the kitchen, she filled two glasses with ice while Robert retrieved the Irish cream from the wet bar in the formal living room. Rather than divvy up the cheesecake and dirty plates, she left the quarter cheesecake on its plate and handed Robert a fork. The cool, sweet Irish cream was perfect with the firm, decadent chocolate cheesecake.

“Not usually how you spend a Saturday night, huh?” Georgiana dragged a forkful of cheesecake through a puddle of chocolate sauce. She hooked a foot under the rungs of her barstool and scooted closer to Robert. She spun the tablet computer near his elbow around and pressed the button to turn it on.

“It’s no charity gala or champagne-soaked soiree, but it has its perks.” Robert winked, popped a piece of crust in his mouth. His toes slowly brushed across the sole of her left foot. “Especially when it comes to the company.”


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Hope y'all have a great (short!) workweek!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Football party snack

2 parts herb & garlic goat cheese + 1 part cream cheese (both softened) blended & piped in celery stalks = yum. Now I won't feel so guilty for eating a bowl (or two) of chips!