Wild Rosegarten, Chapter 1: Part 2

Over the next few weeks, I focused solely on the tasks at hand, which were regular trips to the grocery store and clearing houses along the roads we needed to take to get into the city. There weren’t many nests left, as vampires tended to form widely scattered small groups around large cities, but we knew Benoit’s would be an exception.

Justin and I spent our afternoons scouting for houses using electricity or with tinted windows. Then, we came back at midmorning to hunt and loot. Once the job was done, we returned to our house, trained, and jogged. Then, near sunset, we went back out for more surveillance, gradually widening our search area. It was a good routine—one that I could enjoy for the entire winter and one that kept Justin from having time to talk to me about his feelings.

My father was more convinced than ever that, if we found another group of free humans and solid intelligence, we had a chance at taking out Benoit. My part in that effort was to visit Human Foods on Wednesdays. While I shopped, Justin and Robert canvassed the area around the old governor’s mansion. In the role of friendly house servant, I cautiously pumped Mark, and any other customers who could carry on a conversation, for information about Benoit and his supporters. It was slow going, especially since I tapped out Mark after two visits.

At night, the family sat around in the living room, sharing meals that came mostly from cans. We whispered to each other about any gathered intelligence and poured over maps of the city.

My father was anxious for action. Still, he was a good leader. He wouldn’t ask people to fight without thorough knowledge of what we faced.

As with any decent sized group of humans, opposing sides formed. The fighters wanted to fight, and the hiders wanted to hide. Not everybody can fight, and I certainly appreciate the ones who work to make a house our home. The mixture can be good, but it often made my father’s preferred democratic decision-making tedious.

Then, one Wednesday in mid-November, I met Travis, an escort for one of the mindless drones Benoit was in the habit of sending out for groceries. He was tight-lipped at first, but after I flirted with him a bit, he loosened up some. That night, over a meal of red beans and rice, I told my family what I’d learned.

“I didn’t pressure him about numbers because I figured it would look suspicious. I just hinted that I’d heard good things about the living conditions and treatment of slaves. I don’t know why, but once he thought I was interested in new ownership, he went on and on about all the amenities living there would offer.” I shuddered. “Anyway, according to Travis, they live in one of those huge houses near Myers Park, on the golf course, off Magnolia.”

“They’re close, south instead of east,” my father said. “I assumed they’d go for the governor’s mansion.”

I shrugged and then remembered no one could see me in the dark. “The house on the golf course is probably bigger,” I reasoned. “Now that we know where they are, we need to be more careful about taking out nests.”

“Hmm. You’re right,” Justin remarked. “We don’t want to draw too much attention to this area if we plan to stay here.”

“Just in case, we should start scouting for a new house,” Robert said.

I heard a round of groans from the group. We just moved in, lucky to have found a house with working water, and it was getting colder every day. No one wanted to consider spending months in the woods scouting a new house.

“I think we’ve been careful enough,” I said.

“We need to be prepared,” Robert reminded us. “This would be a big move against them. Huge.”

Chatter continued for some time, and I found my mind wandering. I thought about Travis’ description of the Benoit feeding rotation. The idea of offering myself to a vampire to feed on me twice a week turned my stomach. When he’d suggested that I might qualify for a breeder or consort, I’d had a hard time stopping myself from crushing his windpipe and ramming his nose into his head. With violent thoughts clouding my mind, I got up and left the room.

As I walked toward the stairs to the basement, Justin grabbed my wrist and pulled me into his room. “What’s this about, Justin?” I managed to ask just before his lips fell on mine. After a solid minute of kissing, I said, “Well, I see.”

“Wednesday is my least favorite day of the week.” He kissed me again and rubbed his hands down my sides. I didn’t really know how to respond. I felt like this was an overreaction on his part, but I was wary of pointing it out to him. No matter how much I didn’t want to, he was making it hard for me to avoid hurting his feelings. He hugged me close and said, “I can’t pretend not to care.” With our bodies pressed together, I could tell he was aroused.

“I don’t expect you to, and I do care. Just don’t expect anything else.”

Justin cupped the back of my head in his palm. “I want you by my side every night.”

“What you want isn’t what’s best for all these people. You should think about that. This was fine when it was just sex, but now I know you can’t let it be. Not after what you said.”

I pulled free of his embrace, went back to the room where I slept, and curled up on my bedroll. I couldn’t afford to care much more for any of these people than was necessary to keep them safe and alive. So what if my heart grew a little colder each day? Caring made you weak, and weakness got you killed. I saw it first hand, many times. I didn’t want that for Justin, or anyone really. I had responsibilities and duties that few women, free or not, had pressing down on them, and I didn’t need someone’s heart added to them.

When I awoke at dawn, I dressed for training and went out the back door and up the path to the clearing. The clearing was tight, surrounded by trees, so that it had to be close to noon for any sun to reach the ground. The overcast sky indicated rain was on the way. It was chilly, so I made sure to stretch before I did any strenuous exercise.

I tumbled and practiced attacking with stakes, the easiest weapon to make and resupply. Not that a stake through the heart is a sure thing. In my years, I’ve learned that very little is effective at hurting or killing vampires. No classic symbols of faith and protection work, but sunlight does just fine and anything else that causes rapid amounts of blood loss or serious amounts of bodily damage. My method of choice is beheading, when I have a sword.

Since I no longer had a sword, I made do with knives and stakes. As I flipped and rolled, I drew stakes from where I had hidden them around the clearing. I leapt, bringing the stake down on the throat of my imaginary opponent, and then spun to stab the one at my back. I scrambled toward a group of bushes and snatched the stakes there. Taking one in each hand, I executed a series of punches and kicks, focusing my mind on each muscle and my timing, speed, accuracy. I did a dive roll and hurled one stake at a tree. Bull’s-eye!

Something blurred in the corner of my vision. I whipped my head in toward it, toward the edge of the clearing in the deepest shade. The something had been pale.

Stake ready, I crept over to the area. I could take a lone vampire, but this one—and even though it was daytime, I knew it was one—had the advantage of seeing me first. I couldn’t risk that it would report to its nest, so I went after it.

This one was hard to track—leaving few signs of passage. I went along as quickly as I could, sticking to the shadows, as I knew it would. It was on the run, and the further I got from the clearing, the more I realized that I was unlikely to catch up to it.

Deciding that it would be smarter to report to my father and begin packing than to keep going this way, I stopped. I gave the forest one last scan and then turned for home. That’s when it grabbed me from behind, pinned my arms to my sides, and wrapped its hand over my mouth. My scream made a pathetic woof sound into its palm, and the air made my ears fill painfully.

So, this was the end. I took a deep breath, braced for the bite, and hoped it would be quick.

END Ch1P2

What’s Next for Camellia

I’ve begun writing again here lately and writing in general again. Dusting off the folds of my brain to get them creating again. In the back of my mind (or in a crevice), I keep wondering what to do with my Camellia series. It was published. It’s unlikely to ever be published again unless I do it through Amazon or something similar. All the rights are mine now. I can do whatever I want with it. After thinking on it for a day, I decided to publish half chapters here.

I plan to rewrite some things, just to make them less trigger-y. I was going through some things when I wrote the first three novels, and my writing was one way to work it out. I’m not changing anything that has a trickle-down effect on the story. The events stand, just the details will be fewer. Even so, forewarned is forearmed, right? If you choose to read, there will be violence, death, foul language, drinking, gratuitous sex. It’s basically vampire porn, just so you know what you’re getting. If that’s not your thing, that’s quite alright with me. If you choose to read, thanks!

Apex

He considered himself no different from cats or orcas – animals that enjoy toying with their prey before delivering it unto Death. Like them, he used only the weapons nature gave him, and he didn’t always eat what he killed. He considered most of it practice, a honing of skills and body.

He watched an episode of Blue Planet that showed a pod of killer whales stalking a blue whale and its pup, taunting the mother, nipping at the babe. When the pup was exhausted, they toyed with the mother until she could no longer defend her offspring.  The orcas circled and jabbed, like a pack of boxers, and when they finally separated mother and child, they killed the pup but ate only its cheek meat – the choicest cut, so to speak. After the orcas left, the mother whale swam around the pup for hours, nudging it.

The unspoken questions were obvious. Were the orcas evil? Did the blue whale love her pup? He knew such questions had no meaning in nature. He wondered where humans got off thinking they could be evil or just or loving. Just because they believed they had souls, because they thought themselves civilized with advanced language skills, they were somehow better and accountable to the notions of morality and decency. Ants were civilized, and they sure as hell didn’t have ethics. Mounds often went to war with one another. Yes, he knew it was bullshit.

When he killed, it was because it was in his nature because he was of nature and not bound by a fabricated sense of right and wrong. When he killed his own kind, it was no different than the male dolphin, orangutan, or lion that slaughtered his competitors’ offspring and mated with as many females as possible to increase the odds of leaving a significant genetic footprint amongst the species. What he did was normal, and those who said differently were kidding themselves.

New Inkshares Project

I’ve queried and pitched and pitched and queried. So, I’m trying something new.

I actually love this novel I’ve written, and I think you will too. Check out the summary and partial first chapter. If you like what you read, and you’d like to read more (and preferably the whole thing), please follow and pre-order. It can happen if I get enough support from those of you who like me and/or what I write. And, if it’s not your bag, baby, that’s cool too.

Here’s the link: SOUL SEARCHING

Thanks,

Beth

Where the Wild Things Hunt

Shadow stood on the edge where the dormant grass met the rip-rap-covered bank.  In the bay, the water gently lapped against grayish rocks.  Rusty water, made less inviting by the bright sunlight.  Through oval glasses he didn’t need, he stared at the ferry as it approached the docks.  He’d been compelled to wear them, putting on the face of an intellectual.  People stereotyped glasses-wearers as geeks, nerds, and squares long before Velma began single-handedly solving mysteries for the gang.  He could play off that for the day.

Looking to his left, Shadow recognized the teenaged boy sitting on a tripod stool in front of an easel.  He knew that the boy painted ocean scenes in watercolor, all the same shade of blue but with different concentrations of the color.  Several empty tubes of acrylic lay scattered around the boy’s feet and on the easel two cups – one for water, one for paint.

The boy moved the brush over the paper with inhuman speed, starting in the upper left and working his way to the lower right.  He didn’t wait for it to dry.  As soon as one was finished, he flipped the paper over the top of the pad to reveal a fresh, white sheet.  Always intrigued, Shadow walked over to stand behind him and watch as the boy transferred the world onto paper.

“Sea, sea, sea, sea,” the boy murmured over and over as his arm jerked and hitched.

Shadow couldn’t understand how such uncontrolled movements made something so beautiful.  The result was a surprisingly realistic rendering with exquisite detail to the tiny crests of waves.  For only a moment, he took the pad from the boy and flipped through the paintings.  As he flipped, Shadow saw the nebulous blob that marked the position of the ferry make steady progress toward the dock.

“Sea, sea, SEA, SEA.”  The boy grew increasingly agitated.

“Yes, I know,” Shadow said to him and returned the pad.  “It’s the only thing you see clearly.”

“Sea,” the boy sighed and resumed painting.

Shadow took the ferry to the island.  It was a small boat, and the waves were rough, but since the trip was uneventful, he tuned out for a while.  He never noticed the young woman, no more than twenty, staring at him with large blue eyes rimmed with black liner.  She longed for a hat as she fought to keep her pageboy-cut hair out of her eyes.  Eventually, she settled for holding each side of her hair in her fists.

Beyond the draw of a handsome face, she marveled that Shadow’s hair hardly moved.  The wind picked up only a few strands and twice saw him scratch at the stubble on his face.  Other than that, he didn’t move, and she wondered how anyone could be so still for so long.  She thought that, if he embraced her, her ear would rest just over his heart.

On the island, Shadow stared into the forest while the others set up camp.  The young woman spoke to him, and he greeted her, letting his eyes pass over her face to record it for future reference.  Her eyes, hope and good will seemed to arrow out of them, and he wondered if other things – hate, fear, lust – would also come through them, not only transparently but forcefully so.  He gave her a half-smile and a half-laugh, which she returned with a wide, guileless grin.  Clingy, he thought and walked away from her to the main tent.

Fourteen feet-by-fourteen feet, the tent stood in a patch of evergreen needles just large enough to contain it.  Two adjacent sides had both the flaps and screens unzipped and tied open to allow easy access.  A long table and several camp chairs were already set up, along with two laptops, a scanner, and a printer.  Shadow gave the equipment the same treatment he’d given the young woman.

“You can try,” he said quietly and left to set up his own tent.

He was up, sitting in a chair in the main tent and listening to the night.  A man’s scream cut off abruptly.  Snapping, snapping, rending, gurgling growls of satiation.  More screaming.  His lantern was on, and soon, the surviving five people clustered in the center of the tent, looking to him to know what to do.

“Did you see it?” one horrified man asked of Shadow.  “It was eight feet tall!”

“Furry, too?” Shadow asked, his smile haunting his face again.  He stood and turned up the lantern.  “With lower tusks, large black eyes, and a nose that’s almost comically human.”

The man poked his head out of the flap of the tent and never had the chance to scream before the snarling thing outside batted his head off his shoulders.  His body dropped to the ground, and the young woman, beyond terror, darted to Shadow’s side.  She tucked her head under his arm and dug her fingers into his shirt.

“What are they?”  Her skin was cold, and she quivered with the rush of adrenaline.

“Wild,” Shadow answered.  When the beast poked its head into the tent, the young woman looked up at him, searching for an answer, for deliverance.  Shadow passed a hand over her short, soft hair and removed his glasses.  “Hungry,” he added.  As he breathed warm air onto the lenses, the beast leapt.

In case you were wondering…

As it stands now, there will be nine books in the Camellia series. Book five should release October 1, 2015, and then there may be a lull. The sixth and seventh books have been accepted for publication, but they have to wait their turns through the editing process. Still, they are coming. Once I finished book nine, I will submit both it and book eight.

For those of you who read my books, I hope you enjoy them, and I would greatly appreciate any reviews you might give on your site of choice.

–Beth

Five Star Reviews of WILD ROSEGARTEN (Book 1 of the Camellia series)

Coffee Time Romance…

Delane wrote: “Wild Rosegarten is an outstanding example of poetry in motion. The amazing writing flows through the thrilling life of humans and vampires fighting for freedom; and age old struggle. The characters are uniquely interesting and offer perfect opportunities for a fuller series of stories for the future. There is never a dull moment in the writing of Ms. Bishop, and I look forward to reading more of the Camellia series.”

I am excited to say that the reviewers at Coffee Time have asked for the other published books in this series to review. I love making readers happy!

Goodreads…

Julea wrote: “It has taken me longer than it should have to write a review for this book. I really have no words to accurately say how much I enjoyed it. I can say after reading book 1 I’m attached to another series.

You can’t help but get attached to the force of nature slayer Camellia or the people who surround her. Camellia is no damsel in distress and is one kick a** woman.”