They ask… Is there a book or a series that gets you all hot and bothered? A hot couple or hero/heroine that makes you all melty? Are you left wanting more or completely satisfied after your read?
Amy Lane’s Little Goddess series immediately came to my mind. I love, love, love these books. I ordered the first book, Vulnerable, from Amazon in 2009 and had to order all the sequels available at that time Wounded and Bound. Since then Amy has released the fourth book, Rampant and some companion stories too. *sigh* I am so in love with Cory and company. So in love with them that I’ve bought this series multiple times, in print for me and a friend and in ebook too.
I asked Amy if she would be my second ever interview for The Book Tart and she graciously said yes! She Rocks! She also gave me a yummy excerpt from Vulnerable. It’s the scene when Cory meets Adrian. *daydreaming* OK I’m back! And as an extra bonus she also is letting me share a short story (click here) set in The Little Goddess world too! I <3 Amy!
The prize for this hop is an ebook of Vulnerable.
(if you own it already, then another title from her books )
Entry form and the link to the other participating blogs is at the bottom of this post.
This contest runs from July 18th, 12:01 am EST to July 22nd, 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter and contacted via email and on The Book Tart and will have 48 hours to contact me regarding their choice of ebook from Amy.
The Little Goddess series is Urban Fantasy… on the steamy side. Corinne Carol Anne, or Cory, is working her way through college on the night shift at a stop & rob. <g> She discovers that some of her clients are supernatural beings. As she opens her eyes to the paranormal , she also opens her heart and falls in love… With Adrian. Yumm! He’s a vampire with so much heart, you can’t help but fall for him like Cory.
I immediately related to Cory. She’s snarky and vulnerable and felt so real to me… I want her for a best friend. I have revisited her world multiple times over the last few years and still enjoy her journey, from an insecure, self-conscious girl who didn’t really know herself, to the strong, passionate, powerful woman she’s become.
The storytelling is unique. It switches perspective from Cory and other main characters like Adrian and Green… What can I say about Green? He makes me melt! He is the leader of the fairy hill and protects and heals those under his care. The way he loves Cory and Adrian is so passionate and strong. These books make me laugh and cry and take me on a sensual, passionate, exciting roller coaster of a ride. The characters and their adventures stick in my mind and heart long after I’ve put the book down.
I love how Amy Lane writes! Her stories can be heartbreaking, but they ultimately are about love and compassion. They are stories about the families you build with the ones you open your heart and life too. The Little Goddess series is populated by fairies, vampires, and weres, oh my but it has a very grounded, realistic world building that always makes me feel like I could drive to the Sierra Foothills of California and find Green’s Hill.
Amy is now a multi-published author of various genres. Her self published works include the urban fantasy The Little Goddess series and her fantasy Bitter Moon duet. She writes contemporary and fantasy m/m romance under Dreamspinners Press and Riptide Publishing and her Little Goddess spinoff series Green’s Hill Werewolf menage for Torquere Press. I have watched with pride as she’s found a wider audience and eagerly read everything she writes. I even stalk her blog and have done that since 2009… I’m a lurker though <g> I enjoy her gift with words and her snark and the way she looks at the world.
And I am beyond thrilled that she agreed to an interview! So here goes….
INTERVIEW WITH AMY
ME: Hi Amy! Thank you! Thank you for stopping by my little corner of the web. I am ecstatic! (isn’t that a great word? It’s fancy for happy lol) I will try to contain my fangirl-ing… but I adore you. I ordered Vulnerable on a whim in 2009 and am so glad I did. I fell in love with your books and have eagerly read everything since then. Your books have become some of my favorites. I re-read them and own multiple copies of some… I love your characters and the emotion you fill your worlds with and how important families, born or made, are in your stories. I have an autographed copy of The Locker Room that I won from your blog, on a shelf in my living room and the gorgeous yarn with colors that reminded you of Cory and Bracken is still waiting for me to find the right project… I WILL make something with it… eventually… and send you a picture I love yarn. I have a lot of it…
Amy: Ohh… look at all the purty colors… *pets * I love the purty colors… *stares at yarn, hypnotized*
Me: Let me get this pile of yarn off my virtual couch and move the pile of books so you can take a seat.
Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Something with an umbrella in it? Since you just got back from vacation in Hawaii… I love Lilo and Stich… Can we talk story?
(Yes *nodding head* I stalk your blog, No! don’t leave!)
Amy: No, no, I’m not worried. A diet coke would be fine… where did you say the exits were? Excuse me… gotta tell my husband my last reported location… I mean, you know. Make a call.
Me:*snicker* *hands Amy a virtual soda*
I’d love to “talk story” and hear from you a bit about The Little Goddess series… How did Cory and company come to be? You have self-published this series and I know it’s been a labor of love.
Amy: Well, Vulnerable started out as a project for my graduate course in creative writing. I was going for my MA in the subject, but I dropped out when I realized that my kids still needed me at home, and basically I was getting the degree for vanity. The final project for the degree was a full-length novel, though, and in my spare time, I started working on Vulnerable, taking the original story and making it longer. I drew a lot from my experiences working through college, and basically being in many positions where people were more likely to judge me on my oddness than on my intelligence. (I am exceptionally odd. That is no lie.) When it came time to pit Adrian and Green against each other (because I had originally planned a love triangle) suddenly their chemistry became too intense—and too tender—for them to be antagonists. I think that’s one of the things that made this book so special to people. It literally took the ideas of kindness and moral non-conformity and made them human and not dirty or manipulative.
When I finished the book, I showed it to my husband who said, “Yeah, let’s self-publish it. We can give copies to your relatives, it’ll be awesome.” In a million years, we did not expect so many people to love it. I think if I had known that, I would have seriously paid that professional editor so many people have recommended. (Sometimes nicely, and sometimes not so much!) I honestly didn’t expect anyone but my friends to read it. I’m continually surprised that strangers read my work.
Me: It’s on my Keeper Shelf!
Oh! I wanted to mention that we share a passion for hot boys fighting evil! <g> I love Supernatural too. Just last week I introduced my friend and hair stylist to the show and we watched the first episode together. I’m a big Jensen fan, have been since Dark Angel, though I admit Jared is hot too. Can you believe it’s been on the air since 2005? Have you been watching since the beginning? And what other shows are you and the fam addicted to? I know we both have little ones around and my favorite cartoon right now is Phineas and Ferb. “Gitchie-gitchie-goo means I love you” is my ring tone!
Amy: Supernatural is one of those shows that has marked my children’s lives. (The first show was Friends, which my teenagers can still quote from.) When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter I started watching Supernatural, from episode one, and I loved it, hands down. When I was teaching I used it to teach everything from story archetypes to plot arcs to the American Romantic Hero and other heroes in the archetypal progression. Joss Whedon is also good for this—Serenity is a top-notch movie to teach about heroes, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is family comfort cinema. So is How I Met Your Mother, The Closer, and Leverage. My youngest uses Sam and Dean to help scare the monsters out of her closet and my oldest kids will watch anything with a smart script and engaging characters. It has always struck me as funny—my former colleagues used to really disdain television but I’ve always found that the really great episodic TV has showcased everything that storytelling is about—character, dialog, relevance, morality—the list goes on. You have to be careful, and use your teachable moments, but studies have shown that people who engage in fiction are more empathetic and make better intuitive leaps than people who feed themselves strictly on non-fiction, and I firmly believe that encompasses all media, from graphic novels to movies to, yes, television!
*notes that Kat is edging away now and eyeing her yarn nervously * *smiles *
And it’s fun to watch, too!
Me: lol *sees Amy get worried* No, I got off the couch to grab my Serenity graphic novels… See? Your in good, geeky company.
Are you working on a knitting project that you can share a picture of? I admire that you can make socks! I’m still intermediate level and mostly make scarves. Have you made anything from the Knitting for Nerds book yet?
Amy: LOL—alas, no, although my daughter REALLY wants me to make her the Brown Coat from Firefly that we found in that book! I can show you two things—one is a shawl that I’m making for (gasp!) myself—it’s got beads and this yarn that the rest of the world probably sees as garage sale but that I’m totally in love with.
The other is half of a pair of baby socks that I’m making for my husband’s friend from work.
A. A full sized bedspread made for Mary Calmes, because I bet her I would win nothing in the GoodReads awards and she told me that if I won more than three awards I would have to make her exactly that—a full sized bedspread.
B. A sweater so I can publish the pattern with Stanley’s story in A Knitter in His Natural Habitat. Jeremy’s story had fingerless mittens, and I had a go-to pattern and a BUNCH of samples for that one. Stanley’s story needs a pattern—I think Chicken’s sweater is going to be it!
Me: Oooohhh! Pretty-pretty! The shawl will be gorgeous! And I’m so amazed at how tiny the socks are.
I have watched with pride as you’ve become a multi-published author by a variety of publishers. It just makes me excited that more people get to read you and that you can write full time! Can you tell me about your upcoming releases and what you are working on now?
Amy: LOL—well, on July 27th, I’m going back to my roots a little. I’m going to be part of an anthology called The Three Fates, along with Andrew Grey and Mary Calmes. The idea was that each one of us would tell a story that involved the Three Fates from mythology. What was funny was that each one of us went a different way with the mythology—and we did it completely independently too. Andrew went Greek, Mary went Egyptian, and I went Norse—so I could put in Thor and Loki, actually, ‘cause I like them! So the result was, I got to write a very long novella (nearly 50K) of urban fantasy, and that is my favorite genre, whether it’s m/m or any other combo, so that’s fun! After that comes my Bruce Springsteen inspired novel, Mourning Heaven, which was essentially written while listening to the Magic CD. It’s painful. You don’t realize how depressing Bruce is until you sustain him for nearly 60,000 words, I’m sayin’!
As for what I’m working on now? It’s steampunk, and I’ve been calling it Steampunk Batman, but that’s only because it’s a revenge hero scenario set in a steampunk world. The real title is Under the Rushes, and like A Solid Core of Alpha, I think the alternative reality is freeing me up to do some dark, painful, twisted stuff. *grins wolfishly * I like it!
Me: Amy, it has been a pleasure visiting with you! I am so happy to share my passion for your stories on my blog and give away a Little Goddess book to the winner of the Hot Summer Nights Giveaway Hop.
(good luck everyone)
((((hugs))) hon~ Now go forth and write!
(((hugs back))) My pleasure, sweetheart—I sure have appreciated your support and enthusiasm and genuine kindness all these years. I love that you’ve followed me through genres—that makes me really greatful and really proud!
Now, I’m off to do what I’m told! Sally Forth, and into the writing breach, my friends, I have characters to torture!
Excerpt from Vulnerable
Where Arturo was Latino and lovely, Adrian was… my God, how do I describe Adrian? His hair’s white-blonde—Nordic looking, right? Six feet or so, (goodness and glory, must they always be tall?)—and wiry, with a face so fine and sharply featured he looked like he’d been carved from ice. He had Roderick Usher hair, gossamer around his face like a spider-web I could pet, and his eyes were blue. Autumn-sky blue. That kind of blue that needs gold to set it off, but silver to shine by itself.
He came in frequently, always with a flavor-of-the week. He was pale and looked strung out in an appealing I can stop when my angst evaporates kind of way. I found out later that this was an act. It’s easier for a vampire to fit in with humans if he looks doomed. He talked with a British accent and looked as though he had no way of making a living but leeching the substance out of whoever offered up their resources to him. He wore a shiny black leather jacket that went well with the motorcycle and treated his flavor-of-the-weeks like shiny toys that he’d give away when their batteries died. He was bad. Not good bad. He was frightening and attractive and a little bit evil. He was bad bad.
A month before the night Adrian first spoke to me, before Arturo called me on being rude for not making eye contact, I would have wasted all that beauty by looking exclusively at his lace-up boots and his tight black jeans. But I didn’t want to be rude anymore, so when he put the money in my hands for his usual pack of gum I looked him in the eyes and smiled.
He stopped dead in his tracks, grabbed my hands, and leaned over the counter. I should have been scared. I should have reached for the .22 and held it under his chin, right? I was tough. I’d been working graveyards for over a year. We’d been robbed twice, and one of those times I’d fired that gun over the head of an escaping thief to get him to stop before the cops got there. I should have been scared, but his eyes were just so lovely that I couldn’t look at them enough, and then what scared me was that I wasn’t terrified.
I closed my eyes, swallowed, and then recovered my smile. “Did you need something else, sir?” I asked, my voice like silk on raw wood. He blinked lazily, leaned and smelled me. Really—like Hannibal Lector, smelling Clarice through the glass—put his nose in the air by my neck and sniffed.
“You don’t smoke?” He made it a question. An odd, awkward question, but I answered it.
“Nope. Too bad, hah? It would go with the image.” I was babbling. I had just gotten used to Arturo—I certainly didn’t expect this other non-human man-god to chat me up out of nowhere.
He sniffed me again, smiled a languid smile that didn’t quite show his teeth, backed up a little and nodded towards his flavor-of-the-week—I’d seen this one before. She was a pretty town-girl who wouldn’t be pretty after she got married at twenty and started squishing out puppies. If I were not very careful, I could be just like her. I nicknamed this one Cherry Ice-cream because she always wore red, but looking at her now, I remembered that I knew her from high school —Kim something or other. She was wearing a red party dress this night, and the fluorescent lights with the red dress did not do good things for her skin tone—she looked almost green. “That one smokes. Not a good… taste, you know?”
“Wow,” I said, feeling more and more of the tough chickie coming back now that he’d backed away a little.
“Wow what?” When he spoke his eyes were half closed, as though he scented my words, too.
“Wow– that was way too much personal information from someone whose name I don’t even know.”
He extended a lean hand, with a better manicure than I will ever have. “I am Adrian. No Rocky jokes, please.”
I didn’t want to shake his hand, but Arturo’s words about rudeness still jangled on my nerves. Smoothly his fingers slid over mine, and my hand felt both cool and warm at the same time, like I’d slid it into water just a little to warm for a swim, but perfect for a summer bath.
“Cory,” I told him.
Again, that smile that didn’t show teeth. “That’s not your real name, is it luv?” he said.
“What is it about you guys and my name?” I asked, frustrated. ‘Cory’ had been my name to my parents and through nearly fifteen years of public education, thank you very much, and now these jokers wanted to quibble with my identity like the last nineteen years of my own work didn’t mean a damned thing. Besides, Cory was a boy’s name. A tough name. Corinne Carol-Anne? It sounded too much like someone I didn’t know how to be.
His eyebrow arched, and I noticed that the hair of his eyebrow was only a little darker than his skin. Just one more thing on the laundry list of loveliness, I guess. “You guys?” He asked. He still had my hand in his, and suddenly his flesh was cold, and then so was my hand. I didn’t like his voice now, I realized. It froze my breath in my jaw and made my teeth hurt.
“Arturo,” I hissed, and I could swear my breath frosted as it emerged from my stiffened lips. “He asked me my name and he didn’t like it when I said ‘Cory’”.
Adrian’s hand warmed as soon as I mentioned Arturo’s name. “Arturo,” he echoed, in a beige voice.
“Yeah—he comes in every night… in fact…” And the thought made me relax again, which was probably a mistake, “In fact, I’ve seen you two together…”
He dropped my hand abruptly, captured my gaze easily, and I wondered if he could read the bumps on the back of my skull, he was looking so hard into my brain.
“Yeah—Arturo & me are mates, of a sort.” With his name out there a third time the whole of my entirely platonic encounter with the not-quite-human man flashed through my head on fast forward, and Adrian cocked his head like he was viewing the film and reading the subtitles to make sure he caught everything. After an hour, or a second, or a year taken out of the ticking of the loud clock on the sterile white wall of the mini-mart, he smiled again, a full-fledged smile this time. I had to blink twice before I accepted the fact that his eye-teeth were very, very sharp. Ohmigod— had he really read my mind? Had I just let a vampire roll my mind? No. Couldn’t be. Danny would commit me if I ever told him this.
I swallowed, loudly, and I think he heard me, because his smile both widened at the ends and narrowed over the middle, so I could only see those remarkable teeth protruding a bit over the lip. Cherry Ice Cream walked over in this moment and pouted, pulling at his elbow. He gave her a dark look, and she subsided, looking as though she would cry, then he turned his frightening focus back on me for what felt like another full, breathless moment. Good God, why doesn’t he make human men that beautiful? Is it because humans already procreate like hamsters, and more beauty would only make it worse? Everything in my body, parts I don’t even have names for, tingled when he looked at me.
His final smile was dazzling, and I felt my face go slack with the force of all that preternatural charm. “What color is your hair, really, Corinne Carol-Anne Kirkpatrick? What color are your eyes?”
“Red-brown,” I rasped, then, embarrassingly, “And the eyes are septic-tank green. The brown’s a contact.” I was suddenly so scared I could taste my heart beating in my throat. He licked his teeth as though he could too, and smiled that heavy lidded, sniffing smile.
“Sounds… delicious,” he murmured, “You should let me see you sometime.” Then, too quickly for me to draw back, he pulled my hand to his mouth and touched a pointed tongue to the center of my palm. I gasped, audibly, and snatched my hand back.
“I’m not a snack-pack,” I said, trying for anger.
He met my eyes, and they were just as beautiful, but not as scary. “No, Corinne Carol-Anne Kirkpatrick. You’re really quite a dish.” And then he was gone, Cherry Ice Cream trailing behind him woefully.
He came in the next night, around 2:00 a.m.—sans Cherry Ice Cream—and bought a 32 oz of diet coke, which he never drank. He then proceeded to chat me up for about an hour. It was hard to talk to him. He was beautiful—and I’m not. He had that accent, with exotic British expressions like ‘luv’ and ‘bird’ and ‘is terrific’, which did funky things to my knees, and I knew that my voice was sharp, often shrill, characterless NorCal, and that I frequently used outdated expressions, like “dude”, “ as-if”, “whatever”, and “like”. And, to make things even more awkward, he had this look in his blue-sky eyes like there was something crucial he needed from me, and I would never ever see what it was.
But talk to him I did—I told him about school.
“I don’t understand,” he said bluntly, when I talked about getting out of the California foothills and going someplace big and exciting and new. I was working on a paper at the time, and I found my fingers stilling on the keyboard. I looked at him with humor, and exasperation.
“Haven’t you ever felt trapped?” I asked. “Haven’t you ever felt like your whole life was one little tiny dust speck in the Universe, and if you fought hard enough you could make it the whole Universe?”
His face twisted, then, clouded, and I don’t know what he was thinking and at the time I was glad that I didn’t know because that kind of pain made my palms sweat.
“Yeah,” he whispered, “I know that feeling.” He swallowed then, shook his head, blinked his eyes, and whatever it was he’d been seeing before disappeared. “But not here,” he added. His usual self-assurance slid back in place, and I was left shaken by what lay within this man-god, and was never revealed.
At that moment, Renny and Mitch came in. I’d just seen their giant tabby cat act a few nights before, and I was waiting for something in me to recoil from them, because now I knew they weren’t entirely human. Didn’t happen. What did happen was that both of them looked at Adrian and smiled, a warm, genuine, if deferential smile, and then they… well, they bowed.
And Adrian bowed back.
I was pretty sure my chin hit the counter. Then things got weird. Renny turned to kiss Mitch on the cheek, and then grabbed Adrian’s hand and took him outside. My head swiveled, and if anything, my jaw dropped lower when Adrian stopped her short and looked deliberately at me. His face was changing. His teeth grew, his forehead grew, and his eyes began to whirl. Renny closed her eyes, smiled, and raised her chin. They were close together, like family, not lovers, but then Adrian met my eyes and lowered his head to Renny’s neck and even that changed. Adrian sunk his teeth slowly into the sleek, white flesh above the tiny girl’s carotid, and he began to suckle. Renny made a groan that I could hear through the bombproof Plexiglas and gave herself to the feeding, writhing against Adrian without inhibition.
I felt blindly behind me for my high backed swivel seat because my knees were going to give out, there was a horrible, empty ache between my thighs, and I couldn’t look away to save my life.
“Christ Jesus,” I blasphemed, and I heard a feral, hungry noise close to me. I spared a glance sideways, and I could see Mitch, holding the flower he habitually bought for Renny with rolled pennies, and staring out the window with adoration and naked desire.
“It’s something, isn’t it,” Mitch growled next to me.
“This flower’s better, Mitch,” I said automatically, reaching for the special flowers I bought just for the two of them. I had already taken the price tag off, which was good, because Adrian’s feeding was nearing its completion, my panties were flooded and I still couldn’t look away.
“I love it when he feeds from her,” Mitch continued, as though relieved to have someone to tell.
“How can you…” I couldn’t even finish asking the obvious question—how could he bear to watch the woman he loved writhe and moan in the arms of another man.
“She’s totally turned on when he’s done,” Mitch said wolfishly. “For that matter,” he admitted, “so am I when he’s done with me. It’s a vampire thing.”
Okay. I could believe that. Finally, after the mind roll and staring curiously at his teeth for the last hour, I could believe that.
“Why do you feed him?” I asked hoarsely. Mitch handed me four rolls of pennies, and I mindlessly put them in my drawer. I would be two dollars over at the end of the night and have no idea why.
“We’re were-cats,” he said simply. “All were-animals answer to him. Something to do with the change in our bodies—it cleans out our blood, replenishes it quickly—and makes us in tune with the vamps. I think it’s the Goddess’ way of taking care of both us—it’s damned hard to drink us dry.” He smiled, a sexy, assured smile that suddenly made me see what Renny had apparently seen since the third grade. “So we feed them. And care for them. And in return, they protect us.”
He looked up to where Adrian held the limp and laughing Renny in his arms and lapped casually at the blood on her neck. The wound was already closing, I saw, but it was a tender, almost brotherly gesture, and my brain was knotted from trying to wrap itself around the relationships of vampires and their dinner.
“Why…why him?” God, I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t stand. A little voice in my head was screaming for Adrian to touch me just like that. Another voice was saying that if he ever touched me, at all, I’d melt into a puddle and die.
“Because he’s our leader,” Mitch said, as if that explained everything, and then, with a wholly sweet smile, he ran outside, swept Renny up into his arms, gave a perfunctory bow to Adrian and scooted her out to their old four-door Nissan. After which, I presumed, he would hustle her home and they would mate like lemmings.
Adrian stood outside the Plexiglas after they were gone, and looked at me with a combination of yearning and fear. I looked back, with probably the same expression, and then he turned and vanished into the night.
A week came and went. Then a month or so. The day I usually dyed my hair came and went as well, but I let it pass by. I still saw Arturo every night and now, at different times in the morning, I saw Adrian too.
He made it a point to say something nice to me, every damned time. Often he’d make small talk, try and get me to talk about my family and my dreams and stuff. Sometimes—well, most times– it even worked and we’d go on for hours, but I told myself it made my skin itch. I know what I look like. I know who I am. I’m an average looking, averagely intelligent woman from a lower-middle-income family who grew up in a hick town. There is nothing exotic about me. I have never been out of my state, much less my country. All I know about the world I have learned from books and my imagination is so dim that I didn’t know a six-foot plus elf until he’d damn near bespelled me. My one chance—my only chance—of becoming anything interesting, anyone exciting, is to get the hell out of the Sierra Foothills and see what is out there. If I wasn’t going to put out for any of the other town guys who came in every so often just to see if I was easy, I sure as shit was not going to let someone who had done more, seen more, than I ever would convince me that he saw something in me that was at all ‘special’. If I did that, I would get sucked right into this teeny-tiny world that I was struggling too hard to get out of. One night I told him point-blank that he didn’t have a chance.
I had seen him earlier that night, rough-housing with another elf who was trying to pass for a townie. I might have bought the disguise, but as Adrian held the much taller, dark-haired man in a playful headlock, something about the way they were touching each other caught my attention. In a scant heartbeat, the other man’s dreadful mullet melted away, as well as the saturnine lines around his mouth, and although I never got a good look at his face, I could see that he was gold and silver, with a waterfall of onyx colored hair trailing down past his hips, almost to his knees.
And the touch—it was supposed to be that rough, testosterone laden, who-gives-a-fuck kind of beating the crap out of each other that really confident men do with masculine grace, but when my heart lurched into my throat, I could taste something more in the touch. It tasted like Adrian feeding from Renny. It tasted like Adrian feeding from Mitch—which he had, come to think of it, made a point of letting me see. Adrian’s hand in the other man’s hair was casual, knowing, sweetly intimate. These two people had known each other for a long time. And they had known each other often.
I swallowed hard, waited for the knowledge that Adrian had slept with this man to destroy that nascent desire that had been growing in the pit of my stomach since Adrian had first walked in to the Chevron station.
In fact, the idea that Adrian had sustained a relationship that lasted longer than a week and continued with respect and admiration made the attraction burgeon uncomfortably under my ribs. And with the attraction came jealousy.
I watched, fighting the swelling in my gut as his friend looked at me from outside, nodded in my direction, and raised his eyebrows at Adrian’s happy nod. He looked at me again, and his eyes widened, and he nodded again, this time thoughtfully, and then disappeared abruptly. I mean, in the blink of an eye disappeared. Nope, I thought, trying to get a handle on my anger and dismay, definitely not human.
“Was that Green?” I asked Adrian abruptly when he came in. He had mentioned Green often—‘I need to ask Green’, or ‘Green told me’ tended to pop into his conversation like a ‘Steven Spielberg’ would fall out of the lips of the key grip on a movie set. Green was someone big. Green was the person Adrian looked to, when all the shape-shifters and vampires looked to Adrian. Green would need to be called in to check me out, I thought, to make sure I was good enough for everybody’s favorite bad/good man-god.
He looked surprised that I would ask. “Not at all.” He shrugged. “That’s Bracken—that’s my mate.” I had to struggle with that for a minute, because he meant mate in the British sense of buddy, and I had seen, with my own eyes and that weird sense that had been plaguing me since Arturo touched me, that mate took on a new meaning with the two of them.
“And Green?” I asked, still trying to straighten out how Adrian related to the world.
“Green’s more than my mate,” he said bemusedly. His eyes took on the haze of hero worship. “Green’s my savior, luv. He’s my resurrection, my redemption. No Green, no Adrian, right?”
I swallowed, hard. Wasn’t that how I felt? No degree, no Cory? I’d just disappear, the nameless gas station clerk for the rest of my life? “There’s more to us than that,” I whispered, wanting to touch him and resisting the urge. “There has to be.”
There was a quiet then, in the station, which didn’t sit well with either of us. Adrian had entered happily, and I’d come at him all bitchy, and now neither of us knew how to be.
“You’re letting it grow out,” he said after a moment, pulling his careless, jovial smile out of my frightened whisper. He brushed pale fingers along the ends of my awful hair. “It’s looking nice, luv.” And strangely enough, I believed that to him, the black ends and the weird roots of my hair really looked better than the dye itself. I should have known then that I was lost, but I never go under easy.
“I bet your eyes are lovely too,” he said, putting his finger under my chin and trying to get a fix on their color. My eyes looked swampy, like the quarry by our house in the spring. Even my mother couldn’t get a fix on what color my eyes were. I looked away from his Autumn-sky loveliness and didn’t let him see them —but I hadn’t worn my color-only contacts for days, either.
It was inventory night and I was counting Cheetohs, so I had the excuse of staring at my clipboard avoid his gaze. To his credit, Adrian wouldn’t let me get away with it. Everywhere I looked, to the side, to the clipboard, to my shoes, Adrian was there—fingers on my chin, hand on my shoulder, pretty, plaintive blue eyes hovering in front of me. But, then, so was the vision of Adrian and every beautiful, preternatural person who had ever walked in my station.
“Go away, please, Adrian.” I said after a moment. “When I’m done with this I’ve got a paper to write.”
He blew a pink bubble of gum through those extremely sharp incisors, which is no mean feat. “Why do you do that, Corinne Carol Anne?” he asked after a moment. “There’s a whole world beyond your books.”
“Yep, and I’d like to see it someday—school is my ticket out.” Without looking I could tell Adrian had moved from in front of me to behind me, so close I could feel his breath on my neck. He smelled like bubble-gum and leather and something coppery that I couldn’t place—and a little of were-cat and masculine cologne. Huzzah for Adrian.
“That’s not what I meant.” He shook his head. “I see students all the time—they use books to open up their world, not shut it out.” He touched my hair again as he said this, and I made a vow to dye it just as soon as I got home. I had a smorgasbord of feelings swirling around my stomach like fog, and I found that the one the surfaced when I lowered the clip board and finally turned my gaze to Adrian was anger.
“Maybe the world expects more for those people than it does for me,” I snapped and turned back around to finish my inventory.
“Well maybe you need to find someone who expects the world for you, babe.” Adrian said, and it sounded so plausible, so sweet, and I just wanted to cry.
“What are you doing with me, Adrian?” I asked, finally meeting his eyes. I was miserable—I wasn’t even smart enough to go to college, or so my parents and my friends and my teachers told me, and here was this man-god, telling me that I had the world at my feet. And I just wasn’t worthy enough to take it. “I mean, really.” My eyes started to tear, and I had to look away. “You’re gorgeous —I’m sure half the state is lining the block to blow you—and you’re here with me, and I’m too plain to fuck and too ordinary for food!”
I was barely over 5’2”—to me, 6’ was hella tall—I’d said that whole speech to Adrian’s chest because I didn’t feel like tilting my head back. It doesn’t matter–I can’t imagine that the choices I made later would have been any different if I’d seen the devastation in his eyes at that moment. I don’t know if there was a force in the world that would have changed Adrian’s choices for him.
There was another silence, then, and I felt like complete crap. This vampire… this man had been nothing but nice to me, ever. I was pretty sure he’d given up Cherry Ice Cream—and probably even onyx-haired god—to come in and chat me up. And I’d been a complete bitch. I felt worse than crap. I felt like a maggot—of course he wouldn’t want me. I was not only stupid and plain and ordinary—I was mean. What he said next didn’t help my guilt any, either.
“How do you know the world isn’t wrong, luv?” he asked gently, as though he were asking himself the same thing. “How do you know the only thing keeping you from being extraordinary is the way you see yourself?”
I stood there with my heart beating in my chest, wondering if I should respond to that. He was really a vampire. I had seen him feed. He could smell my blood as it coursed beneath my skin—he told me once that he could even hear my heart beat in my chest from outside the store, and know that it was mine. Could he really see things in me that the rest of the world missed? Or did I just need a few more hours of sleep?
I finally looked him in those Autumn-sky eyes, not sure what I was going to say. “I’m sorry,” I said simply, meaning I was sorry for what I had said.
I don’t know if that’s what he heard, and before I could gauge his odd and vulnerable expression, Arturo walked in, looking pissed off. He said Adrian’s name shortly, sharply, and as he turned away, I could swear the look on his face, finally, was regret.
The two man-gods had a whispered conference back by the beer cooler, and I studied the inventory as though my life depended on it, listening intensely the whole time. Phrases filtered to me over the vague buzz of the stereo I kept on after twelve, things like “innocent”, “susceptible”, “untapped power”, “not your place”, and “can’t exploit her.” These were mostly from Arturo, who appeared to dominate Adrian with both age, an extra four or so inches in height, and, something like authority. Did night creatures have a pecking order? If so, Adrian’s rank in the pecking order sat somewhere under Green, and now, apparently under Arturo.
It looked almost like a conference between a teacher and a student, or a boss and an assistant manager. I wondered when Adrian would get promoted, and if I’d still be working in this little gas station on the edge of nowhere when he did. Or maybe it wasn’t a supernatural thing at all. Maybe it was just the same street gang leadership that popped up all the time—the meanest and most amoral sons of bitches rise to the top. But Arturo had been nice to me, and so, for that matter, had Adrian. And they were both, obviously, other than human, and this must mean more than just “back off from the ugly little gas station clerk”. When Adrian began to defend himself I forgot that I ever had any doubts.
“Fascinating” and “free will” came first, and finally, most clearly, “I won’t stop courting her because it’s not like that at all.”
There was a frustrated silence, and then Arturo asked clearly, out of the blue, “Is that your handiwork out by the blackberry bush?”
I finally looked up and saw Adrian looking surprised and horrified and–hurt.
“God and Goddess, Lord and Lady, NO, Arturo.” And then he did a curious thing—a thing that cemented his identity with me forever. He dropped to one knee, lowered his head over it, and bared his neck. Right there by the beer freezer, three feet from the slurpee machine. His elbow brushed the rack of Fun-Yuns as he did it.
Arturo stared in pained astonishment, and when he spoke, his voice was hoarse. “Get up, Adrian.”
Adrian raised his face to a man who was obviously a superior of some sort. He had a look that was both raw and defensive on his face. “I fancy myself a lady killer, Arturo—not a killer.”
Arturo looked away, unable to meet his eyes. “I believe you, but you will still need to answer to Green”
Adrian looked stricken, but he nodded his head in acquiescence, then stood up to his full height and walked out of the store. I heard the motorcycle revved to a maximum rpm and the peel of rubber as he shredded out of the parking lot. I said a quick prayer that he would drive safely— the roads out here are still curvy, in spite of renovation, and there are still one-lane bridges that people speed through in big step-side pick-ups. So I said my prayer, and then wondered who would listen to and answer a prayer for a creature of the night.excerpt from Vulnerable used with authors permission
Amy Lane exists happily with her noisy family in a crumbling suburban crapmansion, and equally happily with the surprisingly demanding voices who live in her head. She loves cats, movies, yarn, pretty colors, pretty men, shiny things, and Twu Wuv, and despises house cleaning, low fat granola bars, and vainglorious prickweenies. She can be found at her computer, dodging housework, or simultaneously reading, watching television, and knitting, because she likes to freak people out by proving it can be done.
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