Well this one is going to be a long one, so I'll keep this bit short. I had a light bulb moment earlier (yeah, I hear you laughing :)), and I realised that not everyone has Facebook. So while posting the first chapter of Angel's Blood there, it didn't guarantee that everyone who wanted to could read it. So my answer? That's easy, it's to put it on my blog for you guys who don't have a FB account.
So take care guys,
Tavi stood with her arms wrapped around her waist trying to stop the shivering as she stared down into a large rectangular hole in the ground. Her eyes felt hot, dry, and scratchy, she had a lump in her throat that threatened to choke her and in her chest was a raw ball of pain that just seemed to continually grow. She wondered if that hollow nothingness would swallow her whole before she’d finally be able to allow herself the time to cry, and decided that may have been a good thing right about now.
The weather over the past few days seemed to mirror precisely the way she felt, it was cold, grey, and miserable. The only thing missing was the feeling of emptiness that she felt etched deep into her very soul, though the sky managed to let the tears fall that she hadn’t been able to release as yet.
She watched as the shiny dark oak coffin was lowered slowly into the waiting cold, damp ground, and shivered. Her dad was gone; he was never going to come back to her. What was she going to do without him? What could she do?
He was a great man her father, and a wonderful dad. Oh, she knew he wasn’t her biological father, she’d known it from the very beginning, but that hadn’t mattered to either of them. The bond they’d shared had been unbreakable; they’d never left each other’s side, until now.
Her breathing hitched painfully in her chest adding to the knot that was already there. Maybe she would cry now she thought, but her body fought it, automatically dragging in deep breaths. She fought back her choking fear of being left all alone in the world, it wasn’t fair, and she’d had everything that mattered to her taken away from her. Why? Hadn’t she suffered enough already? It was an uphill struggle not to allow herself to cry, not yet anyway, she couldn’t afford to give in to that much emotion just yet, she may just drown in it if she did.
From as far back as Tavi could remember there had always been just the three of them, Tavi, her mom, and her dad. Her mom had died when Tavi had been ten years old, when ‘they’ had come and torn their lives apart. Her mom had stayed behind to fight on that long ago awful summer night, giving Tavi and her dad the time they’d needed to escape.
They’d lived in a small cottage on the outskirts of a town that Tavi could no longer remember the name of. It had been her dad’s house long before her mom had moved in and given birth to Tavi, but it had always been home to both of them. It hadn’t been very big but they’d loved it. There had been a good sized kitchen diner, with a small sitting room looking out over the front yard which was filled with flowers her mom and dad had spent hours planting. There had been two bedrooms upstairs; the larger one her mom and dad had shared, the smaller one, which was right next door to a family bathroom they’d all used, was hers.
Her mom and dad had spent years digging out a tunnel under the house, clawing through rock and clay, dragging out the rubble in sacks and spreading it around the surrounding area. They were careful not to leave any noticeable mounds to be seen and recognized for what they were, knowing that one day they would need the escape route while still holding on to the hope that they wouldn’t. Eventually it stretched from the damp musty old basement of the house to the cover of the woods just over the hill nearly half a mile away, where the exit was cleverly hidden by natural wild brush and overgrown weeds her mom had strategically planted.
Her dad had held her hand firmly in his that night as they’d run through that tunnel as fast as they could; he’d never slowed down, not even when Tavi had been screaming at him to go back for her mom. She’d fought him every step of the way, trying to yank herself free of his grip, dragging her feet, she’d even screamed at him, accusing him of not caring enough about her mom to go back for her, even though she knew at the time she’d said it that it wasn’t true.
He had stopped then, and turned to face her looking her directly in the eye, “It’s because I care so much about your mom that I’m not going back Tav. She told me that if we ever had to use the tunnel I was to take you and get out of here, she told me I wasn’t to go back for her no matter what. She made me promise Tav, because you are so important to her. Don’t you think I want to go back? Don’t you think I would if I could? I love your mom Tav, with all my heart, which is why I’m doing what she’s asked of me.” His voice had been gravely, husky, filled with raw emotion.
She’d stopped struggling then and looked into his face for the first time since they’d started running; she’d had to swipe her sleeve across her face to clear her blurry vision of the tears that had gathered there before she could see his eyes. He had been crying too, he’d looked as unhappy, scared, and helpless, as she had felt, and that frightened her more than anything else could have.
She’d wanted to know who they were. Why had they come to their home? What had they wanted? And why had her mom made her dad keep such an awful promise? There was so much she’d wanted to ask her dad, but she couldn’t seem to get any of the questions to pass her lips, all she’d been able to do was open and close her mouth like a guppy, unable to make a sound, it was as if her mouth hadn’t been connected to her brain anymore.
Her dad must have understood what her problem had been and said, “We need to keep going Tav, I know you’ve got questions and I’ll try to answer as many as I can, but not here, and not now, okay?” He’d looked her straight in the eyes pleading with her. “Please Tav, I can’t lose you too and break my promise to your mom to keep you safe.”
Her dad’s usually strong voice broke on the last word and fresh tears had filled his eyes, it had been all Tavi could manage to do to nod her head in agreement, she still couldn’t speak, her body had been so cold she’d trembled; she’d had to clench her teeth together to stop them from chattering. Her dad had turned then, and holding her hand in a vice like grip took off running again, pulling her along with him, taking her to safety just as her mother had asked him to.
She and her dad had been on their own after that for just over eleven years, and that had been just fine for both of them, they’d had each other and had become closer as the years had passed. They’d never spent too long in any one place and certainly not long enough to make any real friends, but that was fine they didn’t trust easily anyway.
Tavi had never been to school so had never made friends with anyone her own age, or done anything that anyone her own age had done and taken for granted, not that it had worried her any, she’d enjoyed the life she and her dad had led. Her mom had home schooled her when she’d been alive, they’d had daily lessons which her mom had made fun for her, and her dad had taken over the task later after her mother was gone.
A smile slipped past her lips as she remembered her father’s teachings, then was gone like a ghost disappearing into the shadows when she realized those lessons were gone now for good. They’d never sit down together again.
Her dad hadn’t taken over the same type of lessons she’d had from her mother, he’d told her that she already knew as much of those type of teachings as she needed to. Instead he’d taught her about survival, how to move around without drawing attention to herself, how to disappear and change her appearance if she needed to. He’d given her shooting lessons, hand gun, shot gun, and rifle, he’d also taught her hand to hand combat with, knives, a short length of pipe, and of all things, a sword.
She was now an expert marksman, she could hit any target she aimed for moving or not, she could hold her own against a man her dad’s size at hand to hand combat, and she could hit anything she aimed for with a throwing knife easily. Her dad had told her he’d wanted to be sure she could defend herself if ever the need arose, but she’d loved the time spent with him during these lessons, after all they were his specialties…..had been his specialties.
They had both known that she’d had an advantage over other girls her age and size, after all she was a werewolf like her mother had been.
Her mom had been pregnant with Tavi when she’d met Owen, she’d always said they’d had an immediate connection and they’d both felt as though they had known each other forever. He’d also known what she was before she’d told him so she hadn’t needed to hold anything back, she’d said she hadn’t wanted any lies or half truths to come between them, she’d told Tavi it was so Owen could make an informed decision as to whether he wanted to be involved with them or not.
Owen had laughed when her mom had told her this, saying it was so she could scare him away because she’d been taught that the only person she could rely on was herself and had wanted to be the one making all the decisions. He’d told her trying to frighten him off wasn’t going to work, that he wanted to stick around for her and her unborn child, and he’d never regretted his decision for a minute.
It still surprised Tavi even now how her dad had taken it all in his stride, it had never bothered him at all that they had been different, he’d loved them anyway. He’d always said that they had been brought into his life for him to love and protect, though it had almost driven him insane that he hadn’t been able to protect her mother in the end.
When he’d begun to have doubts about what he’d done that night he would look over at Tavi, nod his head slightly then carry on with whatever it was he’d been doing, it was as if she was a solid reminder to him that he’d done the right thing and that she needed him now more than ever before.
Tavi had been so deep in her musings that she almost jumped a foot off the ground when the priest that had been standing with her touched her arm lightly, then scolded herself that her dad would have been as mad as hell that she hadn’t been fully aware of her surroundings. She could picture him frowning at her and almost hear his disapproving voice in her head as he reprimanded her, “I taught you better than that Tav.” He would have been annoyed and he would have been right.
Her eyes met those of the priest, his were a rheumy but warm honey brown, she could see his kindness shinning behind them as he spoke softly to her. “Maybe you should head home little one, the weather is turning nasty and I don’t think your dad would want you standing out here in the cold and the rain.”
It was only then that she realized how cold and wet her face and hands really were, forcing her to look down at herself to see patches of damp along the sleeves of her jacket from where her hands were clenched tightly together in front of her. She couldn’t help the shiver that raced through her at the sight of the blue tinged wet skin of her hands
The old priest, who she thought must be in his seventies at least, was no more than five foot four, maybe five. His hair was mostly white with small clusters of dark grey threads running through the sides sticking out over his ears, hanging just over collar length it gave him a slightly rumpled and rebellious look.
His name was Father James and she’d met him about half a dozen times or so, which wasn’t that bad when she thought about it, they’d only been living here for just over four months. He’d been good to them, he’d never pushed for any information and never tried to push his beliefs on them, in fact he’d been very welcoming to them from the beginning.
He reached out and caught her clenched hands in both of his, she was surprised to feel the warmth of them against her own, hers were so cold they were numb, they had been since her dad’s death two days ago. Two days ago, she thought, it didn’t seem possible that it had barely been forty eight hours since she’d found her dad.
She had tried to warm herself by having a hot shower and lying under her quilt on the small sofa in front of the fire, but none of it worked, she had begun to wonder whether her hands and her body would ever feel warm again. Maybe she needed a human touch to feel any kind of warmth, she mused, but she had no-one now to feel that again, not with both of her parents gone.
For the first time in a long while she was scared, scared of the future and what it may hold for her and scared of being alone. She’d always been able to rely on her father to ease her fears and take control, he couldn’t do that for her anymore.
When she’d been scared as a small child, her mom would lift her up onto her lap and rock her back and forth, all the time rubbing her hand up and down her back to gentle her, making her feel safe and secure. After she’d died her dad had taken over, he’d put his arms around her and pull her into a hug, where she could burrow into him, rest her head against his chest, and just listen to the strong steady beat of his heart. He would run his hand from the back of her head down her hair over and over again, soothing her fears away with his complete and utter love for her. They’d both always made her feel that she was loved, safe and cared for, and she knew she was never going to have that feeling of safety, or the security of a parent’s unconditional love ever again, and it broke her heart.
“There’s nothing more you can do here little one, but if you’d rather not go home just yet can I interest you in a cup of hot tea or coffee back at the rectory? It’ll get us both out of this cold rain.” Father James asked her, continuing to rub her hands with his, as though he thought he could infuse hers with some of the heat coming from his.
She realized he was right, the rain had gotten heavier while they’d been standing here and they were both steadily getting soaked. “No thank you father,” Sending him what she hoped passed for a small smile. “I’ll be going on home now, but thank you for your kind offer, and I really appreciate what you’ve done today for my dad. I know you don’t know us well and we haven’t lived here long, but your kind words meant a lot to me and I know they would have meant a lot to him too.”
“We are all God’s children and deserve to be sent home to the Lord with a kind word.” he said, smiling gently, “Your dad left a wonderful legacy to the world he’s left behind you know.”
The comment surprised and confused her. “What do you mean? What legacy?” What did Father James know? There was nothing he could know surely, she thought, a shiver of apprehension running through her, they’d always been so careful.
“You Tavi,” he answered her, putting her mind to rest. “You’re his legacy, everything he was, he taught you, passed himself on through you in a father daughter bond. He was very proud of the young woman you’ve become, and he loved you greatly, he will always live on in your heart. And one day you’ll pass on some of what he taught you to others, then he’ll continue to live on through them too, that way he’ll never be forgotten or truly gone. Every day something you do will remind you of him and you’ll remember him with love and affection, that’s a great legacy to leave behind Tavi.”
What a nice thought to leave her with, she thought as she nodded. “He’s the best man I’ve ever known, he’s been my hero my whole life, I can only hope he passed on even a small amount of who he was to me. He was a wonderful dad, my best friend too; I’ll miss him with all my heart.” The heart that felt too heavy to bear in her chest right now, weighing her shoulders down in a slump. “Well I’m going home now Father, out of this rain as you must too, and thank you again for today.” She gave him a small smile and turned to go, knowing she needed to get moving. She’d already packed to leave, her dad had always said when something big happened, or her chest felt tight, it was time to move on, this time it was both, she’d only stayed around this long because she’d wanted to give her dad a decent burial.
Father James stood watching her as she walked away, saddened by how vulnerable and alone she looked, like a lost child. “Good luck to you Tavi, wherever you may go, and may the good Lord watch over you.” he said quietly.
He knew she wouldn’t stay around now, she had no reason to. He watched her navigate the wet grass carefully back to the narrow stone pathway, he really did wish her well. She and her father had kept pretty much to themselves since they’d moved into his parish, oh, they’d been to some of his services at his small church in the centre of the village, but they hadn’t really mixed with the rest of his parishioners. They’d shopped for their groceries in Ruby’s, though that wasn’t unusual as Ruby’s was the only store for miles around, and they’d both been polite, had even made small talk to anyone who’d tried engaging them in conversation, even when some of those people had so obviously been prying for information about them, and even then they had never been unfriendly or nasty.
To a village this small two strangers were big news, everyone wanted to know about the father and daughter who had moved into the small cabin in the woods nearly a mile and a half out of the village centre. Where had they come from? Where was Owen’s wife, Tavi’s mom? But they’d never given anything away. The villagers, although curious, never had a bad word to say about either of them, and many of them would have attended the small ceremony for Owen if they could have, but Tavi had asked for it to be a private affair and the villagers had conceded, not wanting to cause her any more of the pain or distress they could see so plainly on her young beautiful face.
He wondered now if he should have warned her that the villagers would arrive at church Sunday with all sorts of food, pies, soup, even casseroles, for her to take home, it was the only way they felt they could be of any help to her at all. No, he answered himself, it would be pointless, he had a feeling that Tavi would be gone by the weekend anyway, in fact he’d be surprised if she wasn’t gone by tomorrow.
He sighed and turned to make his way back up the hill to his small home “My Lord God,” he prayed, “please watch over that young woman in her hour of need and in the time to come, I’ve a feeling she will need your help to stay strong.” He hoped with all his heart he was wrong but he had a feeling, and his feelings were hardly ever wrong.
Tavi walked to her dad’s jeep, it was a small four wheel drive, it was matt black and little bit battered, her dad had liked it that way, he’d said that with the way it looked it wouldn’t draw any unwanted attention, his only concern was the engine and how it ran, he always kept it in perfect condition.
She took out her car keys not noticing her hands had started to shake until she tried to get the key in the lock, fumbling for a moment until she managed to unlock the door. She climbed inside the jeep feeling like she was dragging a world of extra weight along with her and slammed the door shut behind her. Her hands, that tried to grip the steering wheel to try and stop them shaking, were still tinged blue from the cold, they were so numb the joints of her knuckles protested being forced to wrap around the wheel. Giving herself a minute for her fingers to thaw she let her head fall back against the rest and let out a long steady sigh, she had to pull herself together and get back to the cabin to pack the jeep up if she wanted to be ready to leave first thing in the morning.
Pushing herself up in the seat she tried to jab the key hurriedly in the ignition, missed, and dropped them in the foot well. She scrubbed a hand down her face and cursed as she bent to retrieve them, this time taking the time to be more careful and managing to finally get the engine started. Placing the jeep in gear she slowly pulled away from the small broken pavement and started to make her way back to the cabin she’d shared with her dad.
It didn’t take long to drive through the village and out the other side, the trees and overgrown hedges on either side of the road passed in a blur of greens and browns, her mind going round and round in circles as she tried to keep her focus on getting home. Home, she thought, she didn’t have a home now with her dad gone, he’d been her home, it hadn’t mattered where they’d stayed as long as they’d been together. She felt the familiar burn at the back of her eyes that had been her constant companion for the past couple of days.
She still couldn’t believe how her dad had died, he was always so careful, she knew anybody could take a fall at any time; all it took was a slip of the foot or a stumble, but her dad had been so sure footed it didn’t make any sense to her. He was used to living outside in wide open spaces, whether it be in sunshine, rain, even snow in some of the places they’d stayed, so how could it have happened? She’d found him at the foot of the hill at the back of the cabin, yes it could be difficult to climb sometimes, but they’d climbed worse and in far worse conditions, it didn’t make any sense at all.
He had been lying in an awkward position across the bramble bushes just below the rocky ledge they used to sit on in the early mornings to watch the sun come up. His limbs were splayed and dangling off the thorn riddled bushes, his head was thrown back twisted at an unnatural angle to face the cabin, his eyes had been wide open staring sightlessly towards the back door. His clothes were dirty and torn, consistent with taking a fall, he had a nasty looking gash that had bled heavily on his forehead, and a goose egg sized lump on the back of his head, his hands had been scratched and grazed, and his body had sported some really big bruises.
She’d thought his injuries very severe for such a short fall, but the local doctor, who also did the autopsies for the small village they’d been staying in, had said he’d died from one of the severe blows to the head during the fall, that had wrenched his head back severely enough to break his neck. He’d explained to her that sometimes even experienced climbers could fall; all it took was one mistake and a bad angle on landing, or coming into contact with a hard surface awkwardly on the way down, all of which could prove enough to cause severe paralysis, even fatalities. Yet she still found it hard to believe of her dad, getting up on that ledge for him was the same as someone else climbing a flight of stairs. It just didn’t sit right for her, and it niggled at her even more now.
Tavi pulled up at the end of the short walkway to the front of the small stone and wood cabin and parked. There was no smoke coming from the chimney pot on the roof today, she’d forgotten to light the fire again and that meant the cabin was going to be cold. Despite the coming of summer, springs icy breath still chilled the air in the evenings, though it didn’t really matter to her, she was only staying one more night anyway.
She got out of the jeep and headed up the overgrown path to the front door, not noticing the long wet grass slapping against her legs leaving pieces of itself behind stuck to her trousers and boots.
The cabin itself wasn’t very big; it had a small living space with an open stone fireplace on one wall, which was the only form of heating the small cabin boasted. There was a pull out sofa bed situated right in front of the fire to gain the most heat, it wasn’t comfortable but they had used worse. Just in front of the window was a rickety, scarred old table with two wobbly chairs where she and her dad had sat to eat most of their meals together, there would be no more of those either, she thought grimly.
There were three doors off the main living area, one lead to the kitchen, which was tiny and why the table was in the living area, it consisted of a small wood burning cooker, a cupboard of pots, pans, plates and utensils, and a small larder just inside the back door. The second door led to an even smaller bathroom, that held a plain white toilet and hand basin, there was no shower or bath because there hadn’t been the room, it wasn’t much but they’d managed. The last door led to the only bedroom, it held a double bed, a half sized wardrobe and a chest of draws, above which hung a small but clean mirror.
Her dad always insisted that Tavi have the room even when she offered to share or take turns using it, he’d insisted he was comfortable and just fine on the pull out in front of the fire, but she knew better, it was because he wanted to be their first point of defense if someone managed to get in the front door, he’d always been very protective of her. Although the cabin had been small and basic they’d been happy there, until now.
As Tavi walked towards the porch to climb the two steps to the front door she hesitated, something was wrong. She took a few steps back towards the jeep trying to figure out what that something was, the door was shut, as were the windows, she hadn’t seen anything unusual or heard any strange noises, but she just knew something wasn’t right, she could feel it in her chest, tight, panicky, troubled, she kept moving backwards. Her father always told her to trust herself, he had trusted her instincts on more than one occasion and she was going to listen to them now.
She twisted on her heal and ran back to the jeep; she jumped in slamming the door behind her and in one smooth movement starting the engine at the same time. She shoved it in gear and spun the jeep around in a tight circle, wheel spinning away as she shot off back in the direction she’d come from, the whole thing taking no more than a few seconds.
Once she had total control of the fishtailing vehicle, she looked in the rear view mirror and saw a man standing on the front porch of the cabin. From what she could see from this far away, he was dressed in blue jeans partnered with some sort of dark jacket. He had short dark scruffy looking hair, and although she couldn’t make out the color of his eyes from this distance she swore she could feel them boring into the back of her head.
To be honest she wasn’t altogether sure that she wanted to be close enough to him to find out their color. There was something about him she couldn’t quite put her finger on, and that freaked her out. He just stood there looking relaxed with his shoulder propped against the door frame and his arms crossed over his chest, his head was cocked to one side and the small smile on his face as he stared after her almost made him seem happy with her reaction, and that alone made the small hairs on the back of her neck stand on end.
Her heart felt like it was trying to pound its way out of her chest, adrenaline flooded her system making her breathing choppy and erratic, and the palms of her hands were damp on the steering wheel. She didn’t waste any of her movements they were all sharp, precise, doing just what needed to be done to get away fast. Her father had always told her to never let fear or panic over-rule her thought process, it could cause her to make a mistake, and mistakes cost time, and lost time could cost her her life.
Who was he? What did he want with her? Why was he waiting for her inside the cabin? Why today? The questions came to mind thick and fast, if he’d waited until tomorrow she would have already been gone, and she would have had all of her and her dad’s things with her. Now she’d never get them back, not that there was all that much to begin with. Luckily for her, she and her dad had a habit of keeping all their important things in the jeep ready for a quick move, and that specific habit had come in very handy today.
She turned her attention back to the road in front of her, trying to get her pulse to slow down and her breathing to even out, she wondered where she would go now and what she would do, the gas tank was full, as always, so she wouldn’t need stop for a while at least.
South, she thought, somewhere warmer, maybe it would chase away the chill that seemed to have burrowed down deep into her bones and all but frozen her mind. She shivered, so much was happening so fast, too fast really, not giving her time to slow down and plan her movements from here on out. She refused to let her mind pick at the reasons why porch guy had stood there watching her drive away, she wasn’t going to let herself go there right now, her mind was too scattered with everything else that had happened, without him being in there too. She knew she’d have to consider it eventually, and she would, but she needed to try and stay calm right now and focus, and thinking about him wouldn’t help her achieve that particular goal.
That decided she just drove, clearing her mind and concentrating only on the familiarity that driving afforded her. She ignored the passing scenery keeping her eyes fixed solely on the road ahead of her, losing herself in the monotony of driving the jeep, she had to, otherwise she might fall apart and she couldn’t afford for that to happen until she found somewhere safe to stop.
I am a wife, mother, and grandmother, and I live in Wales in the U.K.
Sallyann Phillips is an IASD member.
Check out their website for a wonderful choice of Indie authors for you to chose from.