Hi everyone,first of all I'm sorry to everyone who have waited for this post or for another post for this month-long-anniversary celebration, and especially to Ms. Jenna Bernel for Bookshelf Confessions wasn't able to feature her on the promise date. She's a wonderful author who have lots of good books, we actually made a tour for her last April-May 2013 here
When I Grow Up
I've had magic on the brain since before I can remember. I grew-up on a bluff with no neighbors and there was a park surrounded by nothing but forest a block away from our house. It sits at the peak of the bluff with this amazing overlook that made you feel like you were on top of the world. I would often go there to read under the giant trees or play fairy-princess and a bunch of other make-believe games. Many days were spent concocting spells using leaves and berries, and pretending that it was my own little world filled with magic. In my mind the unicorns ran wild in the forest of trees that glowed, and there were exotic flowers blooming that no one had ever seen before with a sky of stars that shined brighter than any other place outside the lights of the city. I can't believe all of these years later that park tucked in the forest would have made such an impression on my imagination. It was that special private place that helped shape my future with the written word and had an influence that left a need to tell stories of alternate worlds, secret undergrounds, and mythical creatures. As time passes as with many things in life, my secret spot where you would once be hard pressed to see another soul for hours has been discovered, and people are now flocking to this little gem. I was recently informed that a Girl Scout troop was also inspired by the space because they built little fairy houses along the tree-line and continue to return to play fairy-princess in their forts. I'll be visiting soon to see the fairyland for myself and I smile ear-to-ear just thinking of it. I guess they too can see what I saw, and I hope the park brings many children inspiration for a future filled with magic and imagination like it did for me.
I live tucked along the bluffs in the Midwest, spending my days lost in the world of fantasy. When I’m not writing, I’m reading and drinking way too much caffeine to satisfy my love of both.
Daniella Madison's existence teeters on a wobbly tightrope, and at any moment the wire could snap. Each time she travels to The Basement, she knows she's risking her life, but the reward is worth it, to be a slayer in the purest sense. With the help of her partner, Eli, she is on a mission to find her next target, but Daniella's efforts come to a starling halt, when the darkness of underground finds its way into the sun.
When Alec, the only other day-walker she's ever met, walks into her high school, Dani feels as though the rope was cut beneath her feet, and she'll quickly plummet to her death. Alec claims he wants to protect her from the highest order of their kind, but Dani is not so sure and questions his intentions, trying to understand his sudden presence in her human life. Against all logic Dani finds herself inexplicably drawn into his alluring gaze, but she knows he can't be trusted and struggles to keep her secrets safe. Dani leads a double life that was never meant to intertwine. The real question is, can she trust herself to stay strong as her two worlds collide, spinning her life out of control, and the lives of the people she cares for most, completely out of her hands
Chapter 1: The Basement
I sat patiently on the barstool as the scenery unfolded before me, seemingly unimpressed with the strobe-lit room. Although I've trained myself to look expressionless, my insides coursed with adrenaline, contradicting my appearance. It was difficult to hide it because on these nights, I was practically illuminated internally from the thrill of power flowing through me. My stomach clenched with twisted excitement as I allowed myself to take in their scents and listened to their pulses running hot and flowing fast as they danced, distracting my attention from the heavy beat of the mixed music. The flashing lights and glow sticks streaked across their faces, revealing their carefree expressions as they gyrated in harmony, completely oblivious to the reality that they could easily be the next victims. They were like glittering sparks, twirling around in the middle of this graying, abandoned warehouse, unwittingly about to catch fire until there was nothing left of them, but a pitiful pile of ash.
I casually look over my manicured nails while scoping out the room. I couldn't help closing my eyes and taking another deep breath as my instincts begin to consume me. When I release this side of me, emotions quickly fade and my heightened senses dominate my judgment. As I take in the sweet, sticky, sweat-laden air, I'm instantly enticed by the different hints of sunflower, nutmeg, and an array of other spices pouring from their veins, asking for a taste. I continue to breathe in the mixture of aromas, telling me that Fall is near as I wait for Eli. I'm rapidly finding it difficult to think clearly. I snap my eyes back open, holding my breath. If I rely purely on instincts in this state of mind, I could be in trouble, and fast. I have to stay focused. My life depends on it.
My focus is the only thing that keeps me alive in the city, because its surroundings have a way of making me hazy if I allow it, owing to their design. Chicago holds many secrets, as do I to say the least, and that is exactly why I'm at this pop-up club tonight. It's operated by a very exclusive circle with certain parts accessible by invitation only, and for one night only.
Tomorrow it will revert to its run-down, burnt out condition, and no one will be the wiser to the events that occurred here, just the way they like it. Next week, the secret club will be in another bad neighborhood, in another abandoned building where you invariably have to be on the list to go beyond the dance floor and into The Basement. And for this particular kind of Basement, I always have an invitation.
When I was first approached by a member, I was shopping in a boutique down on Michigan Avenue. He walked right up to me while I was inspecting a cashmere sweater, deciding if I liked the neckline. I'll never forget the way he pulled it down slowly from my view with his index finger, like he was opening a curtain, only the feature of the show was his flawless, breathtaking face.
He looked like a teenage model who had just stepped out of a magazine spread, but when I caught his scent and realized what he was, I assumed he was much older than he appeared. The striking mystery man didn't say a word, but handed me a dark maroon token and gave me a hint of a smile while scanning my curves. His smile would make any hot-blooded girl's stomach do a soft roll of pleasure. I was impressed by his day-walker ability, which is very rare, but I took his luscious leer more as an insult, as if I were a hooker who had just agreed to take his hotel room key. In his dreams.
He turned to leave, but suddenly did a sharp one-eighty, startling me backward, as he gently cupped the small of my back to recover my stumble, and pulled me in close as if we were going to dance. He swooped down to nuzzle my neck, while taking a single inhale of my perfume with callous disregard that he was a complete stranger to me. He spun out, and quickly walked away from our intimate embrace before I could punch a hole all the way through his stomach. I was so stunned by his brazen approach that I didn't move for five minutes after he disappeared into a sea of clothing racks. Sometimes I still wonder if that was one of his Gifts, and if he had temporarily paralyzed me, because I'll never admit that I wanted to stand there and absorb his intoxicating cologne until I had committed each fragrant note of beach air and ocean to memory.
The token and the arrogant Adonis remained in my thoughts for days. The maroon disc that looked like a custom made poker chip was adorned with a single black mark, our mark. This intrigued me to the point of insanity, and even though at the time, I didn't mingle with our kind, I had to know what it was for. After many nights of troubleshooting, I realized it was an invitation. I managed to finally find an address and date on the back, which could only be seen under black light. Figures.
I smiled to myself, realizing it was past the one year anniversary of my first time. I should have made a cake or something. Maybe blood orange batter with a cherry-infused icing would have been the appropriate confection for the occasion. Yes, that's exactly what he smelled like. He was special, and what started it all. After our encounter, something truly amazing happened. Through the darkness, I saw an opportunity, and finally a purpose. I had struggled for so long to come to terms with what I am, and on that fateful night, I found a place where I belonged. At The Basement, I discovered something that allowed me to be myself in a way that I never could be otherwise.
Another spike of adrenaline rushed through me, and I knew it was time. I wished Eli would hurry up because I could feel myself losing control. I unclipped my clutch to double check that I had my token, now feeling anxious to move into the next room. The bartender saw me open my clutch and nodded in my direction, waiting for me to scream my drink order over the music, but I waved him off. I don't scream. I locked eyes with him until I could feel the amethyst color of my irises begin to brighten in a manner that only our kind could detect. My gaze sent a shimmer of subtle light over his face, and I knew I had him. I curled my finger, from his direction toward mine, and he obediently walked over to me, leaning over the bar where I sat, waiting desperately for me to whisper something, anything into his ear.
"It's not polite to ask a lady to shout over this horrendous crowd, you know?" I lilted quietly in his ear.
"Of course, you're right, I'm sorry. Please, can I get you a drink? Free of charge for your troubles." He scanned his eyes across my features in that all too familiar fashion, and I had to fight the urge not to gouge them from his head, since in all fairness, I started it. I wasn't thirsty right now anyway, at least not for anything he could serve me.
"I'm not particularly thirsty, but thank you for renewing my faith in mankind. It is so nice to know we still have gentlemen such as you left in this city." I kept my gaze softly fixed on him as I reached out and brushed my metallic fingernails down his stubbly cheek.
"Now promise you will treat all of these young ladies in here tonight as kindly as you have me." I gave him a hint of a smile, and he vigorously nodded as if the faster he agreed to my commands, the greater his chances were with me.
"Quit playing with the help, Dani. We have business to attend to," a familiar voice said from behind me. As he came into my peripheral vision, my smile bloomed. He smelled just like blood oranges mixed with cherries. He shoved the guy off the barstool beside mine, taking it for himself, and the collared-shirt college boy stumbled back, hitting the floor with Eli's effort. The surprised partier quickly hopped onto his feet and puffed up his chest, readying for a fight. I had to suppress the urge to laugh and was tempted to shove him too, just for my own amusement.
"Walk away," Eli said, looking into the guy's eyes, and the Trance instantly took over. I could see the amber glow on the guy's overly fake-baked face, which matched Eli's hazel-colored eyes. He immediately obeyed Eli's command, and turned on his heels, walking into the swirl of writhing bodies that blurred into a single slow motion blob on the dance floor.
"That was rude," I teased, breaking my gaze from the bartender, not that I really cared. The stubble-faced bartender stood there like a clueless idiot, staring blankly at me for a few moments, blinking his way back to reality, and no doubt, forgetting why he was in front of me in the first place. He quickly walked off, looking embarrassed, to serve some other party girls who were waving bills and boobs around for his attention. Thanks to me, they wouldn't be losing their voices tonight, but if they had a nip slip because of those strings, which they masqueraded as tops, that was all on them.
"I don't care if it's rude. I'm so sick of these wannabe frat boys getting in my face at The Basement, while I have to act like I couldn't snap them in half with one punch. The next one to wear on my nerves is getting his Polo-wearing-ass kicked," Eli said with a snort.
"Come on, Eli, you know the rules. What's bugging you?" I asked rhetorically because obviously, something was bothering him. Eli was usually the epitome of cool and collected, especially at the club, so his mood was certainly unusual.
"I just saw Audrey on the surveillance camera," Eli stated bitterly.
"Audrey? Your ex-girlfriend, Audrey?" I asked, and he nodded with a tight jaw. I vaguely remembered meeting an Audrey a few months back, but he hadn't talked about her since, so it's not like he was still super attached. Then I slowly looked over my shoulder and realized what he meant. We only had surveillance in one place. She was in The Basement. I sighed, unsuccessfully trying to extract a genuine emotion of caring, which right now became difficult for me. I dug deep and "played human" the best I could for a moment, placing my hand on his back to convey my sympathy.
"I'm sorry Eli," I said quietly.
"Goddammit!" His emotions were slipping, which was a huge Eli no-no when we were on a mission. Now he was breaking his own rule. A little show like this was the quickest way to get our asses fried. He needed to remain a shadow around here. If we were discovered, there were other back rooms we could be dragged into that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with. In his frustration, he angrily pounded his fists on the bar top. He hit the bar so loudly that, because of his strength, I feared it might shatter beneath his touch. I swiftly grabbed his hands to stop the second splintering result. Some eyes wandered in our direction since the sound managed to even overpower the music. With my hands cupped over his white-knuckled fists, I squeezed them furiously tight, my way of telling him to shut the hell up and relax, before dropping them in his lap. It was important to stay under the radar here. They didn't tolerate any of their rules being broken. I pulled his hood further over his head after it slipped slightly back in his outburst. I'd seen unpleasant fates play out for those caught breaking the rules, and we risked that every time we came here.
I surveyed the room, making eye contact with any lingering stares until each face held a familiar purple glow. “You saw nothing. If asked, you won't even recall seeing a handsome guy with short brown hair at the bar tonight; now go dance," I said under my breath, and the glow fell away from their faces as the few witnesses mindlessly walked towards the dance floor with no recollection of why they felt the urge to do so.
Eli looked at me with a lopsided grin and said, "Handsome guy, huh?" He looked more apologetic for the outburst than flirtatious, so it was hard to take the comment seriously. I brought my silver-tipped fingers to his cheek and smiled, tracing them down the length of his neck like I was searching for a pulse to feel beneath my fingertips.
"I forgot to say, oh so ruggedly delicious too," I purred seductively until my eyes began to brighten. As the shimmer washed over his chiseled face, he laughed, pushing away my hand.
"Don’t even play that game with me. You know that crap won't work." He was smiling wider now.
"But you already said the help was off limits, so who else am I supposed to play with?" I said, pouting out my lower lip with a look of disappointment, which only deepened his smile, letting me know that I had successfully cheered him up the best way I knew how. He loved knowing my Trance still didn't work on him, and he loved it even more when I reminded him of it.
"Well then, let's go find you a playmate," Eli said, wagging his eyebrows, and I bit my lower lip while nodding excitedly.
"Ready?" Eli slid off the barstool, which groaned with relief from his muscular build, and offered his hand out to help me. He is a true gentleman, and never needs prompting, like the bartender. I took his hand with a small smile and steadied myself, stepping off the stool until I felt grounded in my sky-high heeled boots. Not that I needed Eli's help for balance, but I accepted his gesture anyhow. He rested his palm on my hip and dipped his head down to my ear as he handed me the wallet size photo.
"It's the usual set-up in there. There's an exit connected to the last of the private rooms, on the right hand side of the hall, that opens into the alley. I'll be waiting whenever you're ready. Remember, Dani, forever grateful." Eli gently squeezed my hip where his palm rested on my mark. The warmth of his skin radiated against the seal that changed my whole life as he stepped away from me.
That's what he always said to me, "forever grateful." It was his way of reminding me why I was really here tonight, and to ensure I didn't get carried away. Eli was the first one I ever turned, and now he was my partner and dear friend. When I thought of what we'd built together, I knew there was no going back. This was my life now and who I am. As a safety precaution, we couldn't be seen together mingling, let alone touching, in case I was ever discovered. So I quickly grabbed my Dior clutch from the bar, and Eli swept back into the darkness of the club to wait for me on the other side.
When I reached the opposite side of the dance floor, leading to the small discreet opening of the pitch-black hall, I took a moment to memorize the face in the snapshot Eli gave me before crumpling it up and stuffing it in my purse. The dark, curved hallway on the opposite side of the bar looked deserted and hazy. Even though bursts of strobe light reflected from the dance floor, the bits of flash seemed swallowed up by this corridor, as if no amount of fluorescence would ever be enough to transform it from anything but obscure.
As I ambled down the hallway, the lights gave way completely, leaving nothing but blackness ahead, probably to scare off any drunken, curious humans who dared wander down here without an escort. My body responded to the opaque darkness accordingly and my eyes properly adjusted so I could see more clearly, as if it were dusk instead of midnight. My heels clicked against the cement, creating an echo to warn the bouncer of my approach. I reached the end of the hall at the foot of a staircase and immediately caught the scent of his presence at the base of the steps, guarding the door. Judging by his aroma, he was Gifted like me. We always smelled of rose water, but he was definitely no Infinity, as the rose water was too weak. He probably had some super-strength ability, making him the honored candidate of the 7th Circle, assigned to watch over their club door like a trained dog.
I was halfway down the staircase when I saw the enormous man, standing forebodingly in front of a steel door. His pupils were so large from the hours of standing there with his night vision that they looked like black lava rocks, seemingly capable of burning a hole through you if you stared too long. His lips crept into the slightest smile when he took a breath, a confirmation from the usually emotionless bouncer about what I'd heard: that his boss loves having Infinities at her club because it drives up membership. Without a word, I opened my clutch and flashed him the maroon token. I returned the token to my purse, and even though my scent alone confirmed it, they were quite strict about protocol here. I lifted up the silky material of my blouse just enough to reveal the mark that sat right inside my hipbone.
He nodded with approval, stepping aside to let me pass, while not so subtly peering straight down my blouse. He used his height to take advantage of the view of my cleavage, and almost snorted when he deeply inhaled my perfume. I officially lost my patience. I snapped my neck up and hissed, my fangs descending from my canines, sharp and gleaming white in the reflection of his onyx eyes, ready to rip him to shreds. He knew the rules, and that I was, without question, an Infinity.
I'd learned a lot about the rules of our kind by frequenting these seedy establishments, and that stranger in the boutique who so blatantly nuzzled my neck was the last to do so without my permission. I didn't invite this mammoth pig's attention, and I was no blood whore to be gawked at with his disgusting snout. He stopped his breathing and shifted his eyes immediately to the ceiling in embarrassment, no doubt combined with the valid fear of being reported. As a bouncer for The Basement, he was probably not used to this kind of confrontation. Maybe most girls would have ignored him. Normally, I would have too, but I was in no mood to be tolerant of seasoned Neanderthals tonight. In fact, I was tempted to rip off this vamp’s head in order to ease my temper.
"Sorry madam, please proceed." The towering bouncer said, opening the door and still looking at the ceiling while holding his breath. I retracted my fangs, giving him a good glare before deciding to let it go. I kicked my heel up and slammed it against the steel door, leaving a dent in it, instead of his face. The red lights washed over me when I stepped into the second hall, and he quickly shut the door behind me, obviously relieved I was out of his over-gelled hair. My eyes adjusted once again onto the door bearing our mark at the end of the red-soaked hall. I walked slowly toward it, my blouse swaying from side-to-side as I dragged my fingers along the rough texture of the peeling wall, getting into the headspace for using my favorite, but most dangerous Gift.
This Gift required a significant amount of energy, and I already felt exhausted tonight. A part of me wondered if I would have the strength to go through with it. I took a few deep breaths, letting the heat of my tingling power blanket me. I could feel my amethyst eyes shining from within, without restraint or concealment. It was then that I felt my strength and resolve again. "This is your purpose," I whispered quietly to myself, knowing I was ready to change someone's life tonight, forever.
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