Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event with Tawdra Kandle
Coastal Magic Featured Author Tawdra Kandle brings us a special holiday short, connected to her Recipe for Death series. And whattaya know… book two in the series, Death A la Mode, is out TODAY! *dances* In addition to finding story inspiration in this creepy-cool stone stairway, she’s been inspired to offer up a giveaway, as well! Check below the story for details.
“That was one of the best dinners I’ve ever eaten that I didn’t cook.” I dabbed my mouth with the linen napkin and sat back in my chair. “But now I don’t think I can move.”
Lucas smiled as he sipped his wine. “Good news is that you don’t have to move far. Aren’t you glad now that we decided to get a hotel room for tonight?”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. You were right. I just hope Makani’s not giving Mrs. Mac any trouble. Normally I wouldn’t worry, but with tonight being Halloween, he’s going to be crazy.” My dog was normally pretty chill, but dozens of trick or treaters set him on edge.
“I warned her about letting him get hopped on sugar. I think he’ll be safe.” He reached for my hand then jerked upright, away from me. “Shit. Shit. Jackie, I’m sorry, but I’m being summoned to a Reckoning. I need to get some place private to transport.”
I sat up, too, and pointed to the back of the courtyard where we were eating. “There’s the alley we cut through on our way here. Now that it’s dark, you’ll probably be safe there.”
“Okay.” He stood up, pushing back his chair, and leaned down to kiss my lips quickly. “I’ll get back as fast as I can. Are you all right to walk to the hotel by yourself? If you feel uncomfortable, call a taxi.”
“I will, but don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” I lowered my voice. “When your boyfriend’s a vampire slash death broker, you don’t spook easily.”
Lucas rolled his eyes, but he didn’t have time for anything else. As he jogged away, our waitress approached the table.
“Everything okay?” She frowned at the back of my departing date, probably thinking I’d been ditched.
“Yep!” I gave her a bright smile. “My boyfriend . . . uh, his job sometimes calls him away.”
She nodded. “He’s a doctor?”
“Something like that.”
I paid the bill and left, wandering down the narrow side streets of St. Augustine. I’d been here before often enough that I knew my way around this part of town, the old city across from the Fort. The shops and cobblestone streets were familiar, though tonight they seemed just a little spookier, a little more mysterious than they usually did.
After all, it was Halloween.
I knew I should go back to the hotel and wait for Lucas. Reckonings, where he was required to determine the final destination of just-departed souls, could move quickly or take hours, depending on how much of a fight the advocates for light and dark put up. But the idea of sitting in the room by myself, channel surfing, sounded too pathetic. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to wander a bit.
The streets and alleys were crowded, with more people wearing costumes than not. Sometimes it was hard to tell which ones were children and which were adults. I paused outside the spice store, watching the parade of witches, ghouls, monsters and vampires pass, amusing myself by picking out which ones really existed—to my knowledge—and which ones did not.
I startled, glancing around, but the voice seemed to drift by me, as though it had floated in on the sea breeze.
Jaaaaackie . . .
A shiver of dread gave me goose bumps. I was about to push off the wall and head back toward the hotel when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I froze as a strong sense of déjà vu swept over me. Not long ago, I’d had an encounter with Veronica, the mysterious woman who’d apparently changed Lucas into a vampire. I hadn’t known who she was at the time, but ever since, I’d been a little jumpy, seeing creepy vampires around every corner.
Wheeling around, I relaxed when I saw a tall blonde woman I didn’t recognize. Not Veronica. She stepped back when she saw my face.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought—I was meeting someone here, and I thought you were her.” Her eyes narrowed. “Are you all right? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“At least a dozen of them.” I pointed behind me at the costumed people, grinning. When the woman only tilted her head, frowning, I shrugged. “You startled me a little. I thought you were someone else, too.”
“You look as though you could use a drink.” She hesitated, as though debating something as she glanced over my shoulder. “Come on. I know a place where—well, just come on.”
She grabbed hold of my hand and hauled me down the road a little. Apprehension prickled at the back of my neck as the woman kept looking behind us, as though she saw something I couldn’t.
“I’m Jackie, by the way.” I trotted to keep her from pulling off my arm. “And um, my boyfriend is expecting me back at our hotel. I really should—”
“I’m Eva. And he’s not back yet.” She scowled. “Damn it. Here.” She pulled me around the corner, and suddenly we were on damp stone steps that led up a narrow passage between two imposing walls. The moon shone through the wispy clouds, illuminating Eva’s face. She had an almost other-worldly sense about her, an elusive something I’d seen in our friends Nell and Rafe. And when I’d mentioned Lucas, she’d replied, He’s not back yet.
“Who are you?” I meant the words to sound like a demand, but they came out as a whisper.
She flicked a glance at me. “I’m a friend. And you were being followed. Don’t worry. I won’t let anyone hurt you. I know where we can go to be safe.” She shot me a half-smile. “But you’re going to have to trust me.”
Without waiting for a response, Eva took off up the steps, and I had no choice but to follow her. The passage turned to become a long hallway bathed in pitch-black darkness. I kept moving, groping along the wall until I heard a creak and dim light shone through a rough-hewn wooden door.
Eva slipped through the opening, standing back to let me in before she closed the door behind us. I heard muffled noise below us.
“Where are we?”
“Nowhere you’ve ever been.” She beckoned me forward. “We’ll be okay if we get downstairs. I think, anyway.”
We crept down a winding iron staircase, and the hum of voices and laughter swelled. At the bottom of the steps, Eva paused and glanced back at me.
“We’re going into a bar now. It’s called Spellbound, and you’re going to see some, uh, interesting types here. Don’t talk to anyone unless I say, don’t make eye contact, and stick close to me.”
“I thought you said it was safe.” I wasn’t feeling particularly reassured.
“It is, relatively speaking.” Her lips quirked into a sardonic smile. “You’re going to learn, probably sooner than later, that there’s no place truly safe.”
When Eva had said I’d see some interesting types, I’d pictured a typical bar scene. And in some ways, I wasn’t wrong. But as we darted between groups and wound our way to the bar itself, I began to suspect some of these people weren’t dressed in costumes. They looked eerily real. And some of them stared just a little too long as Eva and I pushed past.
“No eye contact,” she muttered just before she pushed me forward to the bar. I caught myself with both hands and glared at her.
“Eva, what the hell?” The man behind the counter was huge, and instantly I thought, Viking. He crossed his massive arms over his chest and stared down at us.
“Soren, not now. I was looking for—well, it doesn’t matter at the moment. I was supposed to meet someone, but then there were demons after this one.” She pointed at me. “I didn’t have anywhere else to bring her.”
He raised one eyebrow. “So you brought her . . . here?”
She scowled. “It’s Halloween. There’re all kinds of humans in here.”
“Fine, but what’re you going to do with her after midnight? And don’t even think about throwing down with any demon types in my place. Not tonight. Any of them followed you in here and go after her, I’m kicking all your asses out the door.” He let his eyes fall almost shut. “Unless you want to make it worth my while not to do that.”
Eva growled under her breath, and I could hear the frustration. I licked my lips and stood taller, beginning to creep away.
“Listen, why don’t I solve everybody’s problems by going back to my hotel? My boyfriend’s probably freaking out waiting for me.”
Both of the blondes turned as though they’d forgotten about me until I spoke. Eva started to reply, but Soren interrupted her.
“I have a better idea. Why don’t you just come back to my office? I can protect you . . . in privacy.” He smiled at me, and the light glinted off dangerous white teeth. A chill ran down my back.
Eva sucked in a breath, but before she could say anything else, a hand closed around my arm. “Jackie. Thank God.” Lucas folded me into his body, and I sagged against him in relief.
“How did you know where to find me?” My words were muffled against his chest.
He sighed. “It’s a long story, but basically, this was a set-up. I could tell from the beginning something was wonky with the Reckoning. The advocate for the dark kept hemming and hawing, long after I knew what the outcome would be. Finally, the advocate for light accused him of stalling, and we managed to find out what was going on.” He looked grim. “The light advocate told me where you would be.”
“Eva saved me.” I glanced at her over my shoulder.
Lucas’s arms tightened around me. “Thank you.”
She shrugged. “Right place, right time.” Her lips pressed together. “But I need to go. There’s someone else I’m supposed to be with right now. You got this?”
“We’re good.” Lucas nodded.
Eva started to leave and then stopped, looking back. “It’s coming. It’s getting closer. You’re right the hell in the middle of this, and there are forces that would do anything to stop you. You need to know that. There’s no such thing as safe anymore.”
With that, she turned and disappeared into the crowd. Lucas watched her go and then took my hand.
“Let’s get out of here.”
We threaded our way through the crowd and out into the uncertain darkness.
To go along with our story, Tawdra is offering a signed copy of Death Fricassee (paperback) to one lucky reader! Let’s talk ghosts, shall we? Have you ever felt or seen one? Leave a brief comment letting us know if it was a good or not-so-good thing for you to enter to win. And, you can talk more about it WITH Tawdra, and other Featured Authors, at the 2016 Coastal Magic Convention!
All giveaways this week last from their posting date, through November 1st. Winners will be chosen and notified by email on Monday, November 2nd. All giveaways will be fulfilled by the author. You can find the kickoff post for this year’s Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event HERE, for a listing of all of this week’s participating authors, many including giveaways. Good Luck, everyone!!