|Mini-ornament books from a friend! Adorable!|
My first thought in the morning and last at night is the continuing saga of the Covenant Keepers. Three of the books are out, the fourth and fifth are going through writerly edits, but my muse is yammering on about book seven or eight already.
You can't keep a good muse down. Nor can you get any mercy.
All three of the published Covenant Keeper books are stand-alone novels. My favorite part of these books is the heart aspect. Covenant Keepers can communicate without words, heart-to-heart. It saves time and makes dishonesty near impossible. It can also cause some problems.
WARRIOR OF THE AGES
Part-time immortal Kahtar has been around so long he thinks he's seen everything. Once Beth White drags the 21st Century into his life, he realizes just how wrong that is.
Enjoy the following excerpt.
Enjoy the following excerpt.
LIAR, BETH THOUGHT. Despite his bipolar-on-crack behavior, the Zeus-like cop definitely liked her. Granted, he’d thought she was somebody else at first, whoever Clan Huron was. He’d realized his mistake quickly though. Then like a Greek god suffering from a head injury, he’d gone from bad cop to good cop to nutter cop and back to bad in the course of a few minutes. Still. He definitely liked her.
Peeking in her rearview mirror, she watched him stalk back to the cruiser. Boldly adjusting the mirror to get a better look, she bit back a sigh. There was something about him that made her want to like him too, but who could like a whack like that? Starting her car, she kept an eye on the mirror, her hand on the gear when she saw it. A light she’d seen thousands of times in dreams, danced in a brief sparkling column near the back of the police car. She sucked in breath as it vanished. Something tingled through her. Not fear—a thrill. Always, since she’d been a child, she’d known those lights existed. The memory of what they were was elusive, like trying to catch a thought that raced away faster as you reached for it.
The cop pivoted to look at her and their eyes met in the mirror. His were steely, hiding something. They held her gaze a brief second, but that was all Beth needed to see to understand the truth. The Police Chief hoped she hadn’t seen the light. That light meant something had happened, something serious, something he didn’t want her to know about. He wanted her to leave and instinctively she cooperated. Giving him half of what he wanted, she shoved the car into gear and pressed a toe of her favorite lemon colored stiletto pumps against the gas pedal, leaving a spray of gravel in her wake. That cop, however, would quite possibly see her again. She wasn’t going anywhere— Willowyth was right where she belonged. And if that was in his way, that was just too bad for him.
THE OLD GUARD’S second voice seared through Kahtar’s brain. “Honor Monroe critically injured.” Anger and frustration wrestled with disbelief as Kahtar sent a battle cry. Like a wave it moved silently from his mind, echoing towards the consciousness of nearby warriors. It consisted of only one word. Pray. That was where Honor’s only hope lay, in the healing prayers of his fellow warriors. Jumping into his squad car, Kahtar turned it in the opposite direction of the departing Orphan.
Racing over miles of country road, frustration won as his leading emotion. The slow means of transportation the car provided was infuriating, although the speedometer edged into the red zone. Putting miles between the Orphan and Old Guard was mandatory. It would be nothing short of a miracle if Beth White hadn’t noticed the Old Guard shimmering his warning message. For her sake, he hoped she hadn’t.
Scanning the abandoned roadway, and then into the empty sky, Kahtar braked hard. The cruiser’s tires shrieked in protest, leaving a rubber trail the back end spun into the wrong lane. Unpleasant burning smells filled the car as he backed recklessly into the woods, right over weedy shrubs and through bramble, hiding the vehicle out of sight from both road and sky. Turning the key and tossing the door open, he shouted, “Old Guard!” The shimmering column of light appeared again briefly, solidifying into a man that stood considerably taller and broader than Kahtar’s ample mass. His hand grabbed Kahtar’s upper arm, and before the door stopped swinging, both men vanished.
A SHIELDMAIDEN'S VOICE
If there's such a thing as a sympathetic assassin, it could be Carole Blank.
The following is a sample from book two.
WALKING HOME ON Thanksgiving Day, a homeless man approached Carole, wearing what appeared to be his entire wardrobe and a red ski cap. He offered her a turkey sandwich. She gave him a bag of red grapes she’d just purchased, and sat with him while he ate both the grapes and the sandwich. “I’m an outsidie,” he told her cryptically. “I’m just an outsidie.”
“Me too,” she said.
“Me too,” she said.
The man appeared to have taken up residence on a concrete porch with years of colorful old gum stuck to it. Carole settled into the abandoned entryway with him and leaned against a deteriorating old door. Peeling paint broke off where she touched, and she brushed red and green chips off her clothes. The man spoke in a side conversation to someone, though just the two of them rested in the doorway. Carole opened her paper sack and extracted a small container. She began to eat the vegetable and rice mixture with her fingers. Her companion felt his jacket pockets for a few moments and produced a mangled fork. “More civilized,” he told her.
Carole hid a faint smile by sticking her nose in the food and sniffing in the savory scent. A whiff of red pepper shot up her nose, producing a violent sneeze. Sitting cramped on cold concrete, it rocked roughly through her body. She felt a faint popping sensation deep inside her, it didn’t hurt, but she knew her water had broken.
She watched as it leaked through her trousers, a bit trickled a path down her leg, dampening her sock. The reality of having a baby seemed as far away as the rest of the world, despite the inevitable evidence. Turning toward the homeless man who also seemed far away, she asked, “Do you hear voices?”
“Just yours,” he replied. “I’m not crazy. Hey, you’re having a baby.”
“Not until December,” she insisted. She’d done the math.
“I know,” Carole said.
“I think that means its November.”
“I know its November.”
Her damp sock felt warm in her shoe. The man next to her watched the wet stain spreading down her leg, as he popped grapes into his mouth. “I think you’re having a baby in November,” he pointed out. “It’s a long walk to the hospital. You’d better get going.”
Heaving herself to her feet Carole arched her back, rubbing a painful spot at the base of her spine. Fine, if it wanted to come a bit early, just fine. She wondered if Mark and Melissa would mind if the baby had already been born, and wished she’d called today. The homeless man patted his knee nervously, watching her. She told him, “I’m not sick. I’m just having a baby.”
“Don’t have it here!” he protested.
“I’m not. I’m having it in my apartment. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Picking up her bag, a bit more fluid gushed down her pant leg. How embarrassing, like wetting herself. She’d seen this in black dreams. Shoving the thought of black dreams out of her mind, she focused on the fact that having a baby was a completely natural act, even a couple weeks early. The voices agreed with that assessment. “Commonplace. Normal. Not unusual.”
What did the voices know about normal? That thought made her uneasy. On the second flight of stairs, Carole paused, placing a hand on her belly, a whisper of fear ghosting through her. What if this baby heard the voices? What if it saw black dreams too? She shuddered, and more water spilled out of her, splashing on the concrete steps.
She whispered a prayer, “Dear God, please don’t let my baby have this, please.” Ignoring the approval of the voices encouraging prayer, she worried. What would Mark and Melissa do if the baby they adopted heard voices? Would they give it to foster care?
Carole pushed open the door of her apartment and unpacked her bag of groceries: milk, cheese, sunflower seeds, and perfect green grapes. She passed an hour cleaning the tiny rooms, ignoring the voices along with the drops of water dripping in her wake. The apartment was small, just three tiny rooms including the bathroom.
Old and worn, the furnished apartment could never really reach much level of cleanliness, but it had come with such old furniture and kitchen supplies that almost all of it was useable. It didn’t have the modern synthetics and plastics that made the voices frantic and caused shivers to run up her spine. After a few days devoted to scraping old paint away, she’d only tossed out one plastic tablecloth and a pair of polyester sheets, replacing them with natural fabrics.
Carole methodically emptied a dresser drawer, tossed clean towels in it, and put a stack of cloth diapers beside it. After considering for a time, she pulled the drawer free and sat it on her bed. Then she sat on the bed and waited. The pain wasn’t as bad as she’d seen in her black dreams. After reassuring her it was normal, the voices had nothing more to say about her baby or childbirth and never a word about Mark and Melissa.
Closing her eyes, Carole allowed herself to do the forbidden, to revisit her time with Ted. The touch of his heart haunted her. Running her fingertips over her own chest she missed him so much it hurt. The pain from her heart eventually moved down to encompass her stomach, and then wrapped arms around her back and increased so that it took her breath away. She panted, trying to recoup between contractions, and tried not to think.
The honeymoon is freaking over for Kahtar and Beth.
The following sample will show you why.
AS SHE WALKED down the porch steps, Beth went over the picky Covenant Keeper checklist. Nothing from this world in the Arc. Natural fabrics. No nail polish. No watch. Not even the wind-up one. No hairspray or perfume. All white clothing, including underwear, for a funeral. It might or might not be a problem that her skirt had a zipper and she’d worn a nude bra. Beth’s head felt foggy and she wanted to take a nap, not go to a funeral for someone she’d never met.
Kahtar had said she couldn’t worm her way out of any funeral, because clans supported every member. “Pfft,” she scoffed to herself. “Unless your dad is a seeker and you’ve spent the past month barfing your way through every clan function.” Beth doubted any member of the clan would mind if she tossed her breakfast at home this morning rather than in the cave again. Holy smokes does sound amplify in that cave!
Trudging to the tesseract she patted her clothing to make sure she hadn’t tucked her cell phone into her bra strap or waistband. In addition to public vomiting, she’d also recently exposed the clan to ringtones. Forgetting the device in her pocket, the explicit version of Eminem’s No Love had sounded a five minute warning, completely ruining the fact that for once she’d been early.
Her punishment had been to stand outside the cave and apologize to every single member as they left the Glory service. The Mother had suspended the sentence halfway through when Beth had fainted—something pregnancy had done to her four times now. It might have been the most embarrassing moment of her life, but today was young.
Beth double checked the shallow pockets of her skirt before stepping into a wavering spot of darkness next to a bush. In a flash of veined light the tesseract transported her to the Arc. Avoiding direct eye contact with any of the Old Guard standing watch, Beth hurried through the windy doorway. The blast of air blew her skirt up, obscuring her vision and wedging her panties somewhere no cloth had gone before. She wondered if that’s why so few women left the Arc, and realized with the eyes of Old Guard on her she couldn’t fix it.
Beth ran the entire path to the cave without knocking the offending fabric loose. Despite the cold November day, the exertion left her panting. The sound echoed as she descended the switchbacks into the limestone cavern. Several Covenant Keepers turned to look at her and quickly looked away. Instead of being embarrassed, Beth fought the urge to fix her undies right then and there. In the cavern thousands of the clan were assembled, holding candles and chanting a quiet prayer.
Beth couldn’t see where they were getting the thick white candles. Maybe she had been supposed to bring one, or maybe there was a place in the cavern no one had mentioned before. The words to the prayer weren’t familiar either. Beth took an empty seat among a group of kids and remained silent. At the lowest point in the main cavern, the man who had passed on, Gamper Foid, lay on a stone slab in the flickering light, surrounded by his family and hundreds of Warriors of ilu.
From Beth’s vantage point, Gamper looked every day of his age. Kahtar had said he’d died in his sleep at one hundred and fifty-seven years old. It seemed like a nice long life to Beth, but a woman who appeared to be his wife sobbed beside his body. The empty ache in her heart where Gamper belonged drifted over the crowd and Beth felt the shadow of it. Her heart ached in response, and tears filled her eyes.
Someday I’ll leave Kahtar feeling like that and he’ll have to feel it forever. That thought made her heart really ache. The only comfort Kahtar would have when she died would have to come from his clans as he repeated through time, dying and being born again and again, but never again being with the only one who ever knew his secret.
Beth suddenly wanted to be part of the clan bringing comfort to Gamper’s widow. It’s what clans did. She listened closely to the chant of the children around her, and at last was able to join in with the familiar chorus as they knelt. The sound of so many changing position echoed in the vast limestone cavern. Old Guard shimmered brightly, their inner light illuminating the cave, reflecting across stalactites and stalagmites. A particularly brilliant blast shimmered like a drapery of diamonds above Gamper’s body. The glittering lights in the cave felt like a song in Beth’s heart.
Comforted and relaxed at last, she fearlessly shifted position and dislodged her wedgie, watching the lights change. They glittered red and blue like a disco ball, sparkling over Gamper’s family. It really didn’t seem to fit the somber ceremony. The children beside Beth fidgeted, and others began to look around. Beth avoided eye contact, certain the children had noticed her wedgie action. It shocked her they’d misbehave at a funeral; Covenant Keeper children seemed to know the rules as well as the adults. Over the last few months she had often been amazed at how easily the children fell into the routine of cave gatherings.
Near the light show and Gamper’s body Beth at last spotted Kahtar, head and shoulders above the other warriors in his funeral white. Her heart skipped a beat. Kahtar was the reason she endured the rules and strangeness of Cultuelle Khristos. That man owned her heart, and for all his warrior chief bossiness and serious demeanor while with the clan, she knew inside he was kind, loving, and had the driest sense of humor she’d ever known. In the crowd of young warriors he stood apart somehow, a bit weathered, but looking capable enough to lift the marble table Gamper lay on.
The pain of the widow’s grief assaulted her again, and Beth turned her eyes away from admiring her husband and closed them to focus on the hearts around her. She sensed the kids on either side poking at each other and whispering and wondered at their overreaction. It was as if they’d never seen a wedgie maneuver before. Maybe Cultuelle Khristos didn’t get them. Maybe their underwear was magic. Someone grabbed Beth’s arm and her eyes popped open, encountering a glaring young woman. Beth recognized her as a relative of Gamper’s who had been standing by his body moments before.
The murmur of shocked voices around them grew. Beth immediately thought of the last time she’d gotten in trouble and patted her pockets again. Definitely no phone. The woman shook her arm and hissed, “Why did you do this? What did my grandfather do to deserve your disrespect?” She couldn’t believe this was happening because of one subtle tug, but Beth still had to answer direct questions. Having been born with the inability to lie was a nuisance, especially at moments when all she wanted was the ability to disappear. “I’m sorry! It was really uncomfortable. I didn’t think anyone would notice and I didn’t mean any disrespect to your grandfather!”
Kahtar appeared, his bulk parting the assembling crowd. He took one look at Beth and hauled her to her feet. The colorful lights sparkling around the cavern vanished. Beth’s heart sank in sudden understanding as her husband muttered, “The soles of your shoes are colored!” They were worse than colored. They were prisms. It was the designer’s trademark. There was sympathy in Kahtar’s steely eyes as he bent toward her ear, ignoring the growing speculation about the disruption and the hissing comments about orphans. “It’d be best if you go and I’ll sort this out,” Kahtar whispered. “Old Guard? Or walk of shame?”
Beth kept her eyes on his, unable to bear looking at the condemnation of the clan around her. The Old Guard could take her arm and transport her to the cabin under the veil in a split second. She could hide her red face in private there. But the thought of the giant Old Guard touching her again, moving her like light, was more than she could bear. The Old Guard terrified Beth more than any walk of shame. Besides, this wouldn’t be her first walk of shame. After a lifetime of blurting the truth, they were familiar. “I’ll walk,” she whispered. Kahtar’s heart brushed hers with reassurance and admiration. That touch kept her from crying the whole way out.
CLICK BELOW TO ORDER
The Covenant Keeper story came to me during an engineering conference years ago. It arrived in the form of a migraine, Times New Roman font 14 point. Now that's the muse dropping a mega-hint. Get to work, slave! That's how she communicates with me.
When I say muse, I'm talking about the second definition here, but she bosses me around like she's the daughter of Zeus just the same. I hope you enjoy the fruits of her labor as much as I do.