Rowan: Branch 1 of the Tree of Life
Lion shifter Adrian and vampire Simon are best friends and business partners. When they discover Rowan, each wants her for his own. Rowan does her best to dissuade them, for a supernatural matebond means the end of her freedom.
Then demons begin hunting sidhe and Rowan is a prime target. She agrees to exchange her freedom for survival. But which male will Rowan accept? And can she survive when one of them dies in a battle to keep her?
My nostrils flared as I caught an unusual scent. I looked below and saw a small group walk beneath my position on the catwalk thirty feet above them. I inhaled deeply, letting the scent roll over the back of my tongue. It had been several years since my last encounter with one, but I knew the odor of a vampire when I smelled it. My eyes narrowed as I tried to discern which of the group was the vampire.
In one way, the movies and television studios had something right: vampires blended in with humanity exceedingly well. Most realized that immortality did not preclude the necessity for making a living. As with all races, there were those who became wealthy and those who lived on the poorest fringes. The smart ones did not flaunt their wealth and attract publicity.
It was somewhat more difficult for sidhe to mingle with humanity. That inner glow had to be tamped down with a tightly held glamour.
One thing movies and television did not have right: cities were not infested with vampires and there wasn’t one hanging about every street corner. True, they tended to live in cities—that’s where most of their prey lived.
I caught the scents of at least two wereanimals as well, but I couldn’t distinguish which animals from among the olfactory cacophony. My eyes followed my nose to alight upon gorgeous Hammer Allencamp accompanied by a tall, sharp looking woman. She looked like arm candy, but her shoes were low-heeled and strapped securely to her feet. Ah, tonight’s date was also tonight’s bodyguard. I sniffed delicately. She was were, but not a wolf. Perhaps some sort of cat, I mused idly. After the string of violent attacks on Hollywood celebrities over the past several months, I wasn’t surprised that the usual number of actors and actresses swelled with personal protection. The last brutal attack had occurred only two weeks ago and, according to news reports, the police still had no leads.
The groups proceeded onward and outside and I lost interest. There was intricate machinery to disassemble, wiring to unravel and coil, and other paraphernalia to take down, pack up, and return to the shop. It would be a late night for all of us and I made sure that my employees knew two things: first, that they all had Monday off, and, second, that there would be a little extra something in their paychecks at the end of the month. I found that appreciative rewards of time and money did much to secure employee enthusiasm, loyalty, and productivity.
In reasonably short order, we had our equipment and leftover supplies tidily loaded in three vans and were driving back to the building that we simply called the “shop.” It was where we designed and built sets, where I concocted some of the secret substances that resulted in some of our more spectacular special effects, where a secretary kept the paperwork in line, and where we entertained clients. The small laboratory for concoction was my sole demesne, off limits to everyone else.
“We did a terrific job tonight,” I said after we unloaded everything and put it away. “And I’ve got some good news. Bertie Pendergast told me that we’re on the shortlist for the new Camelot trilogy with Derek Wolfe and Hammer Allencamp. Tom Halloway is also interested in signing us on for whatever his next production is.”
I waited while the news sank in. The Camelot trilogy would be, by far, the most ambitious and recognized project yet for our little enterprise.
“If tonight didn’t impress them, then nothing will,” Bobby, one of my best staffers, said. At fifty years old and a veteran in set design and special effects, his opinion counted highly.
“The glitter rain really got their attention,” enthused Tonya, an enthusiastic newcomer to the industry. She had some interesting ideas that deserved attention and development.
“An excellent job all the way,” I complimented them. “Let’s close up shop and enjoy what’s left of the weekend.”
They understood the dismissal. I locked the doors behind us and we accompanied each other to our vehicles. I rode an aluminum alloy bicycle. Cars are largely made of steel, which means iron, which means that they’re toxic to me. The ride in the van from the theater back to the shop had been an exercise in pain and control.
“Let me give you a lift,” Bobby offered, gesturing to his SUV that I liked to call a suburban assault vehicle.
“No, thank you,” I replied pleasantly. “I’m only a mile away and I need the fresh air and exercise.”
He shook his head, muttered something about me being a health nut and the air in Los Angeles not being fresh at all. I laughed. He drove off. I mounted my bicycle and pedaled away.
Riding a bike at night in Los Angeles wasn’t the safest way to travel, even for a short distance of a mile. To me, distances were elongated in cities. So I dodged traffic and worked up a light sweat, and attracted the notice of one of the city’s many, many thugs. Maybe it was the skirt that made him think a lone woman was an easy mark.
I smelled the iron of his pistol before he drew it. I smelled the hatred and violence and chaos of his soul before he shouted at me to get off the bike. The lead bullet would hurt, but it wouldn’t kill me. But there was no one around and I am bain sidhe or “dark spirit.” We have tasted death and our healing skills are constrained by that lingering knowledge. And, unlike pure, “white” sidhe, bain sidhe are warriors.
So, feeling irritated for having my successful evening interrupted and now feeling dangerous for being irritated, I got off my bicycle and stared at the young thug who thought to rob me of money or worse. He grabbed my upper arm and marched me into a dark alley. His sweaty skin reeked of drugs and poor hygiene.
“Don’t make this mistake,” I warned him and let myself glow slightly.
“Shut up, bitch,” he growled and forced me against a brick wall.
“You had your chance,” I whispered as he groped at my breast and shoved a denim clad knee between my legs. I unleashed the glow, which momentarily blinded him to the razor sharp claws that extended from my fingertips and sliced his throat with one fast swipe. Oh, did I mention that sidhe are considerably stronger and faster than humans?
And then I had my second encounter with a vampire that night.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.
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