I’m about midway through a stand-alone title set in the same city as my book “Mirror, Mirror.” In fact, Sam and a couple other characters from Mirror make cameo appearances. It works for the story and is fun for me, so why not?
I haven’t settled on a title yet, but the working title is “Guardian.” It’s a fallen angel redemption tale, told from alternating POVs… quite a few POVs at that! Currently I’m up to four main POVs as well as a couple shorter chapters told by minor characters. Yikes! This is also one of the first times I’ve tried writing first person male perspective, so I’m spending a lot of my writing time on reworking and editing to make sure each character’s voice rings true.
Today, I thought I’d share the first couple chapters. They’re from the POVs of my two main characters Jocen and Shea. Hope you enjoy!
As a concept it is fluid, infinite, ever changing. There are sayings about it such as time marches on and time waits for no man. Mankind measures their lives in neat bricks of it, laments the passage of it, and worries there is never enough of it. But when time is all you have you realize it is truly meaningless.
For ages all that has existed for me is frozen, stagnant time. It spreads bleak and black toward nothingness. The sun never shines in my realm and I find I miss its warmth, its comings and goings to mark the days. I sit alone in darkness, waiting for those brief times a traveler comes to me. One would think a visitor should be a welcome respite, but for me it is only torment.
Most travelers find their way to me on roads of their own choosing. Lost souls are never happy to see me and with my remaining gift I am made to feel the hatred in their hearts. I have become almost inured to it in my time here. A fair few, however, are blameless and they are always the most difficult. The torment of the innocent, lost here only because of the way in which they were taken, is almost more than I can bear.
It is my duty to escort them across this realm; innocent or tainted, all must traverse these nightmare caves and desolate plains to the place of their final rest. I am forced to feel the weight of their emotions every step of the way. Father was certain to leave that much of my power intact. Heightened even. Such is the nature of my punishment, but it was not always so.
My name is Jocen. Once I could count my place among hundreds of brothers and sisters; now I stand outcast and alone. I was a Guardian, an angel assigned by God to watch over mankind. It was a sacred duty, one I performed with great pride from the day Eve bore her first child. Mankind is special, afforded great gifts and liberties by our creator, but among their gifts are also many weaknesses. Their bodies are fragile, their lives easily ended, and they are so readily swayed by temptation. That is why our guardianship is so important.
Although the path of a man’s life is laid before his feet by our Father at the time of his birth, he may encounter many pitfalls along the way. Hazard might come in the shape of a beautiful woman or as a shady, sure-fire business deal. Or perhaps only as the whispered words of a man’s subconscious, that part he calls id, pushing him to selfish ends. We Guardians are the flip side of the coin: the voice of reason urging virtue or caution.
In some instances, a man’s heart is beyond evil’s grasp. This is when Lucifer must send forth his agents in a more direct attack. Accidents and murder, many a senseless death, can often be traced back to their malevolent influence. Here we become the nameless stranger, the good Samaritan in the black of night holding out a hand in aid. We cannot keep such a form for long, so after pulling our charges from the brink of disaster we fade into the background, unseen once more.
I was good at what I did and perhaps that was the first step toward my downfall; I was prideful. But that is not the only reason for my punishment and exile. My true crimes were much worse. The least of which… I fell in love.
Chapter Two- Shea
I should know. I fall in love often and quickly, just never with the right guy. Whoever thought up the concept of love was crazy. Either that or a masochist. Love is torture. Problem is, I don’t do single well.
In my teens and through college, there was a different boyfriend for each term. Sometimes not even that long. My roommates always wondered why I bothered with campus housing or apartments. It wasn’t like I was around much, I was always staying over someplace else. In my mid-twenties, I fell madly in love with a man I thought was the one. It lasted three whole months and established a pattern for the years to come.
If I had to use just one word to describe the men I loved it would be spectacular. Spectacularly handsome, spectacularly caring (about themselves) and spectacularly (un)motivated. It’s just that I couldn’t see it until my life was so thoroughly entwined with theirs that when I finally pulled my head out and left, it was like starting over from scratch. Aside from the clothes on my back and in the trunk of my ridiculously ancient car, I didn’t own much of anything.
For the past week I’d been crashed at my friend Missy’s. She let me stay after I left Frank, my latest disaster. Couch surfing was no big deal when my friends were single, in fact it was kinda fun… but it gets awkward when husbands and kids enter the mix. I didn’t have many single friends left. Missy wasn’t married yet, but her boyfriend seemed like a nice guy and I knew, when my next relationship went south, I probably wouldn’t be able to call on her for help again.
It was Friday night and it had been a long, rough week. I needed a night out. When I asked Missy she just smiled and said I should go on without her. She said that since she knew her couch would be free for the night, she was planning on having Jim over and they were just gonna stay home and watch a movie. I laughed and told her she was a wet blanket, but to enjoy the couch and I’d see her in the morning. With any luck, I’d be staying someplace else anyway. She just shook her head and told me to be careful.
“Careful?” I scoffed. “Where’s the fun in that?”
I changed and headed for Uptown. The pulsing lights and pounding music of the dance club were a balm to my soul. Bodies swayed all around me, tan limbs covered in a light sheen of perspiration. I joined them, letting the music sweep me away in a heady current which made it easy to forget my troubles. Somewhere in this writhing sea of bodies I hoped to find a kindred spirit, someone else seeking comfort, if only for one night.
After expending some excess energy on the dance floor, I made my way to the bar. I hated it when people drank themselves stupid, but there was something to be said for a little liquid fortification. I asked Tommy, the bartender, for a shot of courage and he just winked at me. He’d set up enough drinks for me over the past couple years that he could tell what I was in the mood for just by looking at me. I asked him one time how he did it and he told me it was all about how I dressed.
Tonight I wore low-slung jeans and a tight, black sequined top that showed just enough skin that it bordered on over-sharing. I guess that warranted a shot of tequila with a beer chaser, ‘cause that’s what Tommy put in front of me. I smiled and nodded my thanks. Who was I to argue with an expert?
“I hear you and Frank called it quits?” I nodded, not really in the mood to talk about it. “So,” Tommy continued, “should I tell the guy at end of the bar he’s got a shot? Your drink’s on him.”
I let my gaze wander to where Tommy had indicated. There were a few guys milling around in the general area but none of them seemed to be looking my direction. “Which one?”
Tommy chuckled. “The one trying to play it cool. He’s got his back to us right now, but I think he’s got a bead on you in one of the mirrors.”
I thought I could see one of the men watching me, just like Tommy had said, and smiled to myself. “Thanks Tommy. I’ll take it from here.” I gave him a generous tip before he moved down the bar to fill another order.
I couldn’t really see the guy’s face, but what I saw so far was promising. Wide, muscular shoulders encased in crisp, gray cotton, a long back and narrow waist. He had dark hair, admittedly a weakness of mine, trimmed neat. Well, I’d come looking for a good time and I certainly wasn’t going to find it perched on a bar stool all night. I downed my shot, took a quick sip of beer and headed his direction.
If he was watching me in the mirror he sure could’ve fooled me; he actually jumped a little in surprise when I leaned in and put a hand on his shoulder so I could speak right by his ear. “Thanks for the drink.”
“Excuse me?” He seemed genuinely confused.
I nodded my head Tommy’s direction. “The bartender said you bought me a drink.”
Realization dawned; Tommy had set me up! He saw this guy, knew he was my type and that Frank and I were quits, so he gave me the incentive I needed to talk to him. “I’m gonna kill him,” I snarled, deathly quiet.
Tall, dark and handsome smiled, his confusion quickly replaced by curiosity. “I take it your bartender friend lied to you?”
“Looks that way.”
“Well, don’t kill him just yet.”
“I’d like to thank him.”
“Smooth,” I laughed.
He tossed his head back and joined me in laughter before flagging Tommy down. There was a mischievous glint in his dark eyes. “Can I buy you a drink,” he asked, “for real this time?”
I nodded, extending my hand in introduction. “I’m Shea.”
Tommy refilled our drinks, a guarded smile tugging at his mouth, but he didn’t say anything to either of us. Perhaps that was best; we were so wrapped up in each other I doubt we’d have even heard him if he spoke.
I learned Ethan was relatively new in town. He said he worked in advertising and had just been hired on at Nike. I asked him how he was liking Portland and he said, “Much better now.” I preened under his obvious flattery.
When we’d finished our drinks, Ethan gestured toward the dance floor. I let him take me by the hand and lead me into the mass of bodies where he claimed a small square of space and pulled my body close against his. He swayed slowly, despite the pounding beat of the music, his hands splayed widely across my lower back and warm where they touched my skin. Ethan held my gaze intensely and I thought I could discern several tantalizing thoughts flickering in the depths of his dark eyes.
I have no idea how much time passed like that, but we eventually made our way back to the bar. When Tommy set up our drinks this time he shot me a meaningful glance and leaned in to whisper, “You’re looking awfully cozy.”
I turned and placed a quick kiss on his cheek. “Yes. I am.”
“Be careful Shea,” he whispered, rolling his eyes as he walked away.
What was with everyone saying that to me? First Missy and now Tommy? And where did he get off? He was the one who’d pointed me in Ethan’s direction, after all! Feeling suddenly reckless I turned my attention back to Ethan and gave him my best come-hither look.
They want me to be careful? I’ll show them careful.
Stepping close, his voice so low it was almost a growl, Ethan said, “I’m going to kiss you now.”
“What took you so…” Anything else I might have been about to say didn’t matter any more. His kiss took my breath away.
So, whadya think? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. The good, the bad, the in-between… Let it flow!