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Author Topic: Six Green Candles first chapter- Adult Urban Fantasy  (Read 1393 times)
MorganTaylor
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« on: February 23, 2018, 07:01:50 AM »

I appreciate feedback!


Chapter 1
   The early afternoon sun was shining through the fern that decorated my office, casting a shadow on the paperwork I needed to finish before the day’s end. So far, I had succeeded in folding the perfect paper airplane, become an expert in the history of chewing gum, and taken an awkward head-on-desk nap. The nap left my muscles angry and I stood facing the window, massaging my neck and rolling my shoulders, trying to relieve some of the tension.
When the cramps receded, I plunked back down in my seat and stared at the screen saver for a few moments, captivated by the different abstract shapes that were changing and taking form. I rubbed the smoothness of the blue lace agate that was hanging from a chain around my neck, welcoming the feeling of tranquility it brought. I wiggled the computer mouse and checked the time: two o’clock. Man, this day is dragging. I picked up my coffee and spun my chair around to waste more time staring out the window.
   I was grateful to be in an actual office this time, and not a tiny cubicle across from Bryce, who had a horrifying smoker’s cough and doused himself in cologne that smelled like something a fourteen-year-old would use to cover up body odor after gym class. Or Becky, who chattered nonstop about reality TV and which fashion designer was kicked off and how she “just didn’t think the dress was all that bad.” I rolled my eyes and took a sip of coffee, horrified to find that it had gone cold. I closed my eyes and felt the storage of energy I had within myself, sending a trickle of it through my arms and hands, into the mug to reheat the coffee.
   Most humans thought Witches hovered over cauldrons all the time, but really we just used our energy manipulation to do things around the house the lazy way. We did a lot of things manually, but give a Witch a lazy out and they’ll take it. Since I only used a small amount to reheat the coffee, I didn’t have to consciously refill my storage of energy. My body would do that on its own throughout the day, siphoning energy from the earth. Walking outside was a fairly efficient way to refill it quickly. If I had done bigger magic, I would have had to consciously pull from the earth to replace it. Trying to function properly with depleted levels of energy is miserable.
   Witches naturally had a large storage of energy, but whatever we used had to be replaced. If a Witch did too much little magic, the output and influx of energy could result in fatigue or an imbalance. It was better to do small things and let your energy balance out normally before performing anything else. Granted, our energy didn’t take long to replenish, but it was best not to chance it. If a Witch needed to perform big magic, it was best to swell your energy reserve and take just a little more than normal. It can cause a head rush, even if done properly, which is why we work on it in school from a young age, so no one fries their synapses trying to move a school bus as a prank.
   I took a sip of the now steaming brew.
   “Blegh!” I dumped the remains in the fern. No matter how many times I tried, rewarmed coffee, whether by  magic or microwave, never tasted quite as good as a fresh pot. It was a shame, really.
   I gave a sigh and stared down into the empty cup. I swirled the remaining drops around in the bottom and debated whether or not I wanted to procrastinate further and make a second pot. Instead, I begrudgingly spun my chair back around and placed the mug out of my way. I rifled through the stack of paperwork that I needed to sign and file. Everything had already worked its way through the proper channels and I had the glamorous job of file clerk. I was eternally grateful that tomorrow would be the last day I’d have to stare at the rows of filing cabinets that lined the walls. Monday morning, bright and early, I would start with another department. Since I would eventually take my father’s place as head of the supernatural government, he wanted to make sure that I had a crash course before I began my time as his shadow.
   “And apparently that crash course went all the way down to file clerk,” I muttered and signed.
Of course, I attended college to get a Master’s degree in Political Science, but “nothing compares to real-world experience.” Or at least that’s what Dad said. Since we weren’t elected officials, he wanted to make sure we did everything in our power to be well-educated and not rely on “because I’m royalty and I said so.” Thankfully, everything wasn’t solely on our shoulders and we had a cabinet that aided in our rule. Having two governments functioning simultaneously hadn't always been as easy as it was now. Through much trial and error, the human and supernatural governments had perfected the system of checks and balances that were today’s law.
   The human government was based in Washington, D.C., and we supernaturals chose a much different location for our capital city of New Haven. Since we needed to be closer to nature and didn’t much care for the concrete jungle of the big city, we nestled ourselves in the deep South. Tennessee, to be exact. Both capital cities had consulates for official government visits, and I had been to D.C. numerous times. The traffic was nuts. If I had to deal with it on a daily basis, I’d probably go mental. I dug in the back of my brain for a religious phrase about patience that I had often heard from humans: something to the tune of never praying for patience, because God wouldn’t give you patience, but rather an opportunity to be patient.
   I finished signing the last stack of papers for today. 
   “Damn.” I shook my aching hand. I couldn’t sign the papers with magic, but I could certainly file them that way. “You know where you need to go.” I waved my hand to the papers and they dispersed, sliding themselves down in the appropriate files.
   “Thank the gods.” No new tasks had been emailed to me and I was finished thirty minutes early.
   I quickly packed my laptop and grabbed my purse, hurrying out before anyone caught me with something else that needed filing. Emmett was standing just outside of my temporary office, leaning against a wall with his hands in his pockets. As a Werewolf, he was bigger than most guys, which meant he stood heads above me. He had short black hair, but not buzzed, and he kept his face clean-shaven. His eyes were a deep brown, almost black, and he had a boyish grin framed with dimples that made most girls weak in the knees. 
   “Isabo McCleod, skipping out on school early. Naughty, naughty.” He grinned and pushed himself off the wall.
   “Are you kidding? My hand is killing me. I couldn’t take another minute. I’m probably going to have to spend the weekend icing it. I may even become dependent on pain potions.” I closed and opened my hand, trying to work out the cramps.
   Emmett chuckled at my theatrics. “If I let you become dependent on pain potions, then I wouldn’t be doing my job very well, would I?”
   Emmett was my bodyguard, so it was his job to make sure that no one harmed me and that I didn’t harm myself. Thankfully, the former had never happened and I wasn’t known for being an overly clumsy girl. For the most part, he just escorted me from place to place and hung out with me wherever I needed to be.
   Emmett and his dad had moved into our spare living quarters when I was four and he was seven. His mom had decided to trade his dad in for a younger model, and Steve was having trouble adjusting to life as a single dad. Steve was Dad’s best friend from high school, and had been a high ranking officer in the military before Dad offered him the job in the Secret Service. Living with us made Emmett the unofficial third child and Dad made sure he had all the opportunities that my brother Baxter and I did. When I turned eighteen, Emmett decided not to reenlist in the army, and instead became my bodyguard.
   We fell into step as we left the building and walked across the government campus, making our way to our living quarters, which Emmett referred to as “McCleod Manor.” The different branches and buildings of our government sprawled over quite a large expanse of land and we followed the sidewalk past trees whose leaves were beginning to turn yellow. It was early October, and since we were in the mountains, there was a definite snap in the air, promising a cold winter. Despite our geographics, we were still in the South, so there would certainly be some warm winter days, too. It was a joke in the South that you never knew what you would need to wear for the Solstice--flip flops or a snowsuit.
   Our home was a traditional southern plantation built in the nineteenth century, although our land never saw a crop. It had been remodeled to hold five separate modernized living quarters. One for Mom and Dad and one each for me, my brother Baxter, Emmett, and his dad. We stepped into the vast foyer and walked under the gargantuan crystal chandelier that hung like an inverted wedding cake. Mom tended to be a bit...extra in her decorating. The chandelier and gold filigree balustrade illustrated that. Around the top of the wall almost to the ceiling were the royal portraits of each ruler since the beginning. I looked at the place that my portrait would go and hoped my painter would be kind. 
   My heels sank in the plush burgundy carpet of the stairs and we ascended to the second-floor landing. My apartment was on the second floor at the top of the stairs. Emmett’s apartment was directly to the right of mine, and we parted as he went to his own door. I punched in my access code and scanned my handprint, waiting for the light to turn green.
   “I’ll be over about six?” he said.
   “Sounds good,” I said, closing my door.
   Tonight was the annual celebration of the peace treaty between humans and supernaturals. We signed it in 1789, right after George Washington took office, and we named our royal family. There had been a little tension recently between humans and supernaturals, with a  serial killer making their rounds, and I hoped tonight would help show our solidarity.
My tabby, Trixie, came bounding down the hall, meowing loudly.
   “Oh, goodness. Do you need attention?” I crooned, dropping my purse by the door and scratching behind her ears.
   To the right was my entertainment center, and I hit the power button on my stereo. A blast of eighties hair metal filled my living room. I kicked off my shoes and moon-walked back through the dining room that took up the left half of the open living room and dining room combo and spun around in the doorway to my kitchen. We’d have food tonight, of course, but the food at these types of functions was rarely filling. I concentrated energy through my hand and waved it towards the box of Fruity O cereal in the cabinet, brought it down, and poured a heaping bowl full. I gestured to the fridge, and brought out the milk, pouring just enough to wet the fruity rings. I hopped up on my cabinet, and pulled my feet up, resting the bowl on my knees as I shoveled in the sugary goodness. I bobbed my head to the music and sang a few bars, hitting every note flawlessly.
   Someone knocked at my door and I called for them to come in. 
   My brother, Baxter, and his boyfriend came in, bickering.
   “Can you settle a domestic dispute, please?” Fabien asked, crossing his arms and giving Baxter a side eye. Fabien was shorter than Baxter and had a mop of dark curls sitting on top of his head. He had a full beard covering his smooth milk chocolate skin.
   “Oh, conflict resolution, my favorite.” I swung my legs down and kept munching my cereal. “Hit me with it.”
   “Well,” Baxter began, “Fabe thinks I should wear the mauve vest with the grey suit, but I think it looks better with the navy.” Baxter handed Fabien the grey jacket and held up the mauve vest between the grey and navy.
   “Hmm.” I scrunched my nose and eyed the choices. “Well. As much as I like to prove Baxter wrong, I think I’d go with the navy.”
   “Thank you, Bo. I knew I could count on you to make the right choice,” Baxter said.
   “I’ll remember this.” Fabien narrowed his eyes at me.
   They left the same way they came in: arguing. I smiled and shook my head. I finished my cereal and hopped off the counter, turning the stereo off and heading down the hall and through my bedroom to my bathroom.
   Sitting at my vanity, I plugged in my hot rollers and turned the music back on. I had long ago put the kibosh on having a hair and makeup artist for events. I either looked like a televangelist’s wife from the eighties or like I had just stepped off the Mayflower. I took a cotton pad from my top drawer and began to remove today’s makeup. I’d want something with a little more oomph than my daytime look, and it was easier to start over. Once my face was clean, I checked the curlers and began putting them in my deep red hair.
   I used a rich taupe eyeshadow on my lid and a sharp winged liner for a little dramatic flair, punctuated with subtle falsies. I fluttered my lashes in the mirror, giving a few flirtatious glances at myself.
   “Fabien was right, these are insane.”
   After applying foundation, I had a few more minutes to wait while my hair curled, so I began to gather my clothes for the evening. The Treaty Celebration wasn’t as formal as some of our other events, but it wasn’t T-shirt and blue jeans, either. I concentrated my mind on the deep emerald green dress in my closet, and beckoned it to me, draping it over the bed. It was a floor length dress, fitted at the waist and flowing out from the hips in a cascade of chiffon. I knew the skirt, which had a few subtle sequin flowers appliqued towards the bottom, would swirl and flow when I danced. The top was a simple boat neck, with the chiffon creating a rippled texture. Baxter had helped me pick it out, as well as the nude pumps to go along with it.
   Since the bottom of the dress was flowy and loose, I opted out of wearing constricting undergarments. I glanced at the clock and saw that I only had fifteen minutes to get dressed and do my hair. Damn. I hurried back to my bathroom quickly took the curlers out and gave the curls a tousle.  I flipped my head over and gave it a mist of hairspray for volume. My hair was long, so the curls would settle and become loose waves. I pinned the sides back and gave a final spritz. I slid the sides of my tiara into the hair I had pulled back, securing it with bobby pins.
   It was was one of my smaller tiaras and sat lower to my head than the others. Even though it was smaller, it wasn’t any less intricate than my larger ones. The gold metalwork intertwined and doubled back on itself in an impossible pattern, with diamonds and pearls worked in. As I moved my face from side to side, the diamonds twinkled, sending the light dancing across my walls. Being royal had its perks.   
I was stepping into the dress when I heard my front door open. Emmett. He had let himself in, as usual. I closed my eyes, and pictured my zipper, bringing it up my back to close the dress. I chose the jewelry set that Baxter had given me for Solstice last year from my jewelry box on my dresser. The earrings were teardrop shaped pink moonstones encased in delicate weave of rose gold chains. The pendant on the necklace was a larger version, with small pearls at each joint of the chains.
   Emmett was sitting on the couch with his feet propped up, flipping through channels.
   “What do you think?” I asked, giving Emmett and Trixie a twirl.
   Emmett gave a thumbs up and Trixie ignored me. The doorbell rang and I opened the door to let in my boyfriend, Todd.
   “Traffic is nuts out there. People are already out drunk and celebra- Wow. You look incredible,” Todd said, giving me a kiss.
   “I owe it all to Baxter, he picked it out,” I said. 
   “I’ll be sure to let him know he did a good job.” This time, the kiss was deeper, softer.
   Emmett cleared his throat.
   “Emmett.” Todd crossed to the couch and shook his hand.
When Emmett stood, he towered over Todd, who had a medium frame, with a stocky, muscular build. His hair was dark and kept fairly short, and his beard was dark and well groomed. We met when I was doing my rotation in Human Relations, and tomorrow was our six month anniversary. Todd was a human and was the head of the department. As the liaison between the supernaturals and the humans, it was his job to make sure the human press was present at press conferences, he negotiated with human news stations to schedule interviews, and he organized other appearances made by the royal McCleod family. Anything that dealt with humans, Todd was the guy.
   “All right, let’s roll.” Emmett opened the door for Todd and me. We descended the stairs into the large foyer and out the back door, where an official car was parked and waiting for us. The event hall was located closer to the front gate, and I certainly didn’t intend to hike all the way across the grounds in heels. Todd opened the car door for me, and I slid in while he crossed to the other side and Emmett sat behind the wheel.
   We pulled under the awning in front of the hall and an attendant opened the door, extending his hand.
   “Your Highness.” He bowed as he helped me from the car and I nodded my thanks. I stepped out into camera flashes surrounding me. It was a public event, so they had every right to be here, no matter how annoying they may be. I was glad for our paparazzi laws, though, which prevented them from photographing the royal family anywhere but at an official appearance. My name was called from every direction, but I didn’t dare stop, for fear of being stuck here taking pictures for hours.
   Emmett tossed the keys to the valet and Todd offered me his arm. I held on tightly, hoping I didn’t trip. That would make an excellent front page. I waved for a few photos, then tucked into the relative safety of the event hall. There was already a swarm of people there, and I had a feeling Mom would chastise me for being late, even if it was only by a few minutes.
   “Her Royal Highness, Isabo McCleod, escorted by Todd Walsh.” We were announced to the party and everyone bowed. We continued in, followed by Emmett.
   My eyes locked on the gentleman standing at the bottom of the stairs holding a tray of champagne, and I knew that’s where I wanted to be. He bowed as I took a flute. The table beside him had a few hors-d'oeuvres and I crunched into a bruschetta. A tray of shrimp cocktail passed us by and caught Emmett’s attention.
   “I’ll be right back.” He followed the tray. There were enough guards to ensure my safety without him for a minute. If I had to guess, half the attendants were undercover guards. 
   I spotted Dad standing by a table and began weaving through the throng of people towards him. He was in his mid-fifties, but looked young for his age, despite the salt and pepper of his curly hair, which was encircled with his simple golden coronet. His green eyes still had a spark of youth, and he could run a mile in record time. His skin had an olive hue, and I was eternally jealous that I was stuck with Mom’s paleness.
   “Todd.” Dad extended his hand for a shake.
   It took a while for Todd to stop bowing every time he saw Dad, Baxter, or Mom, but he finally managed.
   "Where’s Mom?” I asked, scanning the crowd for her.
   “Flitting about, fussing over everything, I’m sure.” Baxter walked up. “What even is this?” He picked an hors-d'oeuvre off a passing tray and sniffed it.         
   “Don’t let your mom hear you talking about her food.” Dad took a bite of the mysterious morsel. “She spent weeks planning this menu.”
   “I think it’s a stuffed mushroom,” I said, chasing it with some champagne. It didn’t taste bad, of course. It was just tiny. A tray of microscopic quiche passed by and we all snagged one. Todd managed to palm two.
   “We’ll go out for burgers afterward,” Dad whispered, conspiratorially. “Mmm. It’s good, though.”
   “Did you guys taste the shrimp cocktail?” Emmett walked up, holding ten of the tiny cups that had once held the crustacean, swimming in a tomato-based pool.
   “No, someone had just taken the last one when I got to the tray,” Baxter said, sipping champagne and looking away.
   “Oh.” Emmett looked at his haul.
   “I think everyone is enjoying themselves.” Mom made her way through the crowd and over to us. 
   “As much as one can enjoy a stuffy treaty celebration,” Baxter murmured.
   Mom had her soft brown hair in an elaborate updo, with one of her more ornate crowns. The deep purple of her gown complimented her light skin and blue eyes.
   “May I have this dance, madam?” Dad kissed Mom’s hand and bowed.
   “Certainly.” She curtsied, and Dad swept her off to dance.
   “Todd, the head of Supernatural Affairs wants to speak with you,” a man that I recognized as someone who worked in Todd’s department came up to whisk Todd away.
   “If you’ll pardon me, I must go schmooze.” A quick kiss and he left to talk business.
   “I see more shrimp cocktail.” Emmett made a beeline for the man who was escaping with the tray.
   “Care to dance?” I asked Baxter.
   “Sure.” Baxter set his empty glass down on a table and took mine, setting it next to his.
   We blended into the crowd and began to dance.
   Bax and I were twins, but I was older by two minutes and our law stated that rule was passed to the oldest child, regardless of gender. While I was an average height, Baxter was on the tall side. We were both sturdily built, with the same dark brown hair, although I had decided to become a redhead some years ago when I was in Spain for a semester. What began as caving to peer pressure resulted in what seemed to be a permanent change. We both had the same sprinkling of freckles across our cheeks, below Dad’s emerald green eyes, though mine had more gold flecks than Baxter's. All these features were settled on the round face shape we got from Mom.
   “I’m surprised Mom didn’t break out her robe, considering she wore her fancy crown,” I said.
   “Must be at the cleaners,” Baxter said.
   “Where’s Fabien?” I asked, forgoing a subtle transition.
   “Uhhhh.” He tried to avoid looking at me.
   “He couldn’t make it?” I offered.
   “Not exactly.”
   “You didn’t invite him.” I narrowed my eyes.
   “No, I didn’t invite him, all right?”
   “Why?” I knew they had been together for at least a few months and I had brought Todd.
   “I just didn’t, okay?”
   “Baxter,” I drew his name out.
   “Because Mom and Dad don’t know. I haven’t told them. Because I’m chicken sh**, is that what you want to hear?”
   “Oh, you’re not chicken sh**. But I also think you’re unnecessarily worried. They’re not going to care, I’m telling you.”
   “Yeah, well, it’s still making me nervous,” he snapped.
   “Clearly.”
   An increase in noise and chatter near the door told us that the President had just arrived. We’d have to greet him, so Baxter danced us off the dance floor and we met Mom and Dad at the bottom of the grand staircase. The cameras were clicking rapidly as he came through the crowd and bowed to us. We returned the gesture; Dad shook his hand, pausing for official photos. Once the formal greeting was out of the way, we began to say hello and speak to one another. President Smith had been in office for five years, so he wasn’t a stranger to us.
   “How’s that golf game going, old man?” Dad asked, passing him a champagne flute, and they began conversing about swings, bogeys, and other things I wasn’t familiar with. The two of them laughed like old friends.
   The First Lady, Elaine, had always been a quiet soul. Her mahogany hair was perfectly coiffed and so stiff that it moved with her when she turned her head. I pegged her age at around mid-forties and judging by the placement of her eyebrows and overly opened blue eyes, she was fighting it.
   “One more face lift and they’ll be on the back of her head,” Baxter mumbled behind his glass.
   I snorted, quickly stifling at the reprimanding glare from Mom. 
   “Bless her heart.” I moved over closer to her, and she gave an apprehensive smile.
   Elaine was sweet, but sometimes sustaining a conversation could be like pulling teeth. She had always been nervous at the larger functions, and not exactly friendly at the smaller ones.
   “How’s the new puppy adjusting to White House life?” I asked, remembering seeing the newest addition on the news. It was a Border Collie, and they had named him Bailey.
   “He’s good.” She smiled and looked away.
   “Okay,” Baxter mouthed, raising his brows before turning up his champagne. Dad and Smith’s conversation had moved on to winter vacations.
   “Are the kids getting along well with him?” I tried again.
   “Oh, yes.” She turned down an hors-d'oeuvre and continued to stand there as though she was waiting for the bus.
   Well, damn. I gave Baxter a “help me” look, hoping he’d give it a go.
   “Walter! How are you?” Baxter practically ran away to the imaginary Walter, abandoning me to the painful conversation.
   Traitor! I sighed and drained my champagne. “If you’ll excuse me.” Using the empty glass as an excuse to escape, I joined Dad and Smith, who were in a heated debate regarding the best slopes in Aspen.
   “I’m telling you, John, it’s Breckenridge, hands down,” Smith said.
   On second thought, arguing about ski slopes didn’t appeal either. I scanned the room for Todd, spotting him with Emmett, eating a shrimp cocktail. They were standing an awkward distance apart, not speaking. Maybe I could talk Todd into dancing. He looked terribly bored.
###
   The night passed in a blur of small talk and champagne. Emmett, Baxter, Dad, Todd, and I were sitting on the tailgate of Emmett’s truck, eating our drive-through cheeseburgers and fries beneath the stars. The temperature dropped when the sun set, so we had changed into warmer clothes after the party.
   “Thanks for abandoning me to Elaine.” I ate a pickle that had fallen out of my burger.
   “No reason for us both to drown.” Baxter sipped his milkshake.
   “Yeah, she’s not exactly a fount of conversation, is she?” Dad asked.
   "She’s hot, though,” Emmett chimed in.
   “If you’re into that sort of thing.” I pulled the sides of my face back, mimicking Elaine’s obvious facelift.
   “Beauty fades, stupid sticks. Remember that,” Dad said. “Marry someone you can talk to until three in the morning and not get bored. That’s where love is, the midnight conversations and the days when you don’t look your best.”
   “Lucky for me, I always look my best,” Emmett said.
   “Even you, Emmett, sometimes wake up with eye boogers and breath that would kill a horse,” I said and I knew it to be true. He had slept in my apartment more than once.
   Baxter slurped his shake, and I polished off my burger.
   “Speaking of midnight conversations,” Dad said, “I need to hit the hay.” He checked his watch.
   We gathered the trash, and I carried it to my apartment so Mom wouldn’t see any evidence of our late night burger run.
###
   The next day was Friday, which concluded my week of being tormented by filing paperwork. After I was done, Emmett and I paid Dad a visit in his office. As we walked up the brick steps to the Alastair Building, named for the first ruling king, one of the Secret Service men entered a code and scanned his badge to let us in.
   “Thanks,” I said.
   This was one of the more modern buildings, built with the most up-to-date security systems. Up the steps and at the end of the hall to the right were the two large oak doors that led to Dad’s office. Two of Dad’s guards, Steve and Bill, were standing guard on either side of the doors. Lydia, Dad’s secretary, was seated at her desk to the left. I waved at her and she smiled back.
   “Hey, guys,” Steve, a mid-fifties Were, still in excellent shape, greeted us as we approached.
   “Hey, Dad,” Emmett said.
   “Hey, Steve,” I smiled at him.
   He opened the door for us and we stepped into Dad’s large office. He was sitting at his desk, situated in front of a huge window. “How did it go today?” He stopped writing and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. He had loosened his tie, which meant his day had probably been stressful.
   “Well, it went, and I’m glad it’s over. All that paperwork made my eyes cross.” I tossed my purse in one of the chairs in front of his desk and crossed to his fish tank that was tucked in the built-in shelves on the right-hand wall. I lifted the lid and dropped in a few flakes. Mr. Peepers, a Father’s Day present, swam to the top and greedily gulped the flakes. I leaned over and watched as the dark purple and blue fish darted back and forth with his full belly. I smiled, wishing my life was as simple as eating and swimming. But I knew that was nothing more than wishful thinking. As soon as I took Dad’s place, my life would only get more complicated. I sighed. I had it easy now.
   “Get used to the paperwork, that’s always going to be there.” Dad held up the stack of papers he had been working on.
   “Maybe I’ll just hire someone to sign my name.” The fish swam in and out of the diver’s helmet in the corner of the tank.
   Dad laughed, and it was a familiar, comforting sound.  “I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought of that,” he said.
   The intercom on Dad’s desk beeped, and he pressed the button to speak.
   “Yes, Lydia?” Dad said.
   “Sir, Detective Montgomery is here to see you. He said it’s urgent,” Lydia’s voice came from the speaker.
   “Yes, yes. Send him in.” Dad sat up in his seat.
   Detective Montgomery was part of the Supernatural Bureau of Investigation, and their headquarters was located on our campus. He thanked Steve, who was holding the door open for him. Dad stood to shake his hand. Detective Montgomery was in his early thirties and stood roughly the same height as Emmett, who was a few inches over six feet. His hair was a mousy brown and was longer than one would expect from a detective, brushing the collar of his shirt. He had a strong, chiseled jaw that was covered in stubble. I could tell he was muscular beneath his suit and crooked tie, but he was built leaner than Emmett was. Then again, most men were smaller than Emmett.
   “Your Majesty.” The detective gave a bow to Dad, repeated the gesture to me, then turned to shake Emmett’s hand.
   “Have a seat.” Dad sat back down. “What’s the news?”
   “Well, I think it’s finally hit the fan.” Detective Montgomery unbuttoned his suit jacket and sat in the chair next to Emmett. “There’s been another one. It’s all over the news, and the President is making a statement in the next few minutes.”
   Another one. I gripped the agate around my neck, and used it as a focal point as I breathed and tried to calm my runaway heartbeat. Why can’t we stop this?
   Dad took his remote from his desk drawer and turned on the TV that was above the fish tank. He clicked through the channels until he found a news station. The reporter’s voice filled the space.
   “Yet another murder was reported a mere hour ago, and the President announced he would be making a statement regarding the latest travesty. We are streaming live as we wait.” The screen changed to a press room, filled with various government officials milling about, and droves of reporters fighting for the best spot in the room. The noise of voices and the occasional camera clicks blanketed Dad’s office.
I felt pity for one more family that was having to identify the body of their loved one and plan a funeral. Even though it was selfish of me, I was glad that my family wouldn’t be hurt by the killer. All the victims had been human, and each murder had implicated a different one of our races.  The first few looked like they had been committed by Witches, but the next one was an Elven curse, and they seemed to be different from then on out, ranging from Weres to Vamps and back to Elves again. It didn’t take us long to realize they were connected, considering the same message of “One by one” was left at each crime scene. My stomach churned, recalling how the message was left. It usually involved body parts. The relief at being safe didn’t cover the anger I felt at having someone out there killing innocents. It had been three months, and all of our suspects had been a dead end. It seemed as though the well had gone dry, leaving us with no one currently in custody. 
   “An hour ago? Doesn’t he at least want to wait for the body to get cold before he holds a press conference? What solid evidence could they possibly have?” I sat on the edge of Dad’s huge oak desk. I may have felt pity for the family, but I was a little nervous that he was so quick to make a statement. None of us knew what was about to be said, and I felt my adrenaline rise.
   “We didn’t find the body, and we weren’t contacted about it. We didn’t even know there had been another one until someone wandered into the breakroom. I’ve called and called and called the human police and I get nothing. I came to you first before I just went to their precinct uninvited,” the detective said.
   “Let’s hold off and make sure we know what’s going on before we bust up in the human precinct. Though I don’t think it bodes well for us that we didn’t get any sort of official communication about this.” Dad removed his reading glasses and tossed them on his desk. “Merlin’s beard, this is like waiting for bad news from the doctor.”
   Dad’s speaker beeped again, and we all looked at it with dread. “Yes?”
   “Todd is here to see you as well,” Lydia informed the room. While I was excited to see him, I didn’t know if I was excited to hear what he had to say.
   “Send him in, then call Grant and have him assemble everyone. Have them meet me here immediately.” Grant was his current co-commander. Baxter was shadowing Grant while I shadowed Dad.
   Steve opened the door to let in Todd. He first went to shake Dad’s hand, then kissed me on my cheek and stood beside me, with his hand at a respectable place on my back.
   “We can’t see through you, Todd. Your parents weren’t glassmakers,” Emmett said, trying to lean back and see the TV that Todd was blocking.
   “There’s nothing going on, you’re not missing anything.” Todd moved to the windowsill behind Dad’s desk and I joined. Now that we were sitting behind Dad and he couldn’t see us, his hand had dropped down to a less respectable position on my hip. 
   “Anyone else feel like we’re heading for the guillotine?” Todd asked. His job had gotten a thousand times harder in recent months.
   “Yes.” My stomach was trying to escape through my throat as we waited for what President Smith had to say.
   “Like Marie Antoinette,” Detective Montgomery said.
   “Without the dress and powdered wig,” Emmett replied.
   “I don’t know, Em. I think you’d look cute in the dress,” Dad said, smirking.
   Our attention was pulled back to the reporter as she announced the President was about to take the stage. My stomach doubled its efforts to escape, and my agate was slick with sweat from my palms. I gestured at Emmett to toss me the tablets I had in my purse for just such an occasion. They were in a small side pocket with nothing else so I wouldn’t have to rifle through all the junk every time I needed one. He pitched the small bottle up and over Dad’s desk and I caught them, dumped one out in my hand, and chewed it. It tasted terrible but quickly calmed my nerves. Mom always called me a nervous nelly, and it was true. I tried not to pull a face at the lingering taste. We could put a man on the moon, but couldn’t make an antacid that tasted good.
    It had taken Mom’s help and at least three months of experimenting to mix the antacid with a nerve potion and turn it into a tablet form. It was freshman year at college and a vial of the potion I usually carried busted in my purse.
Unfortunately for me, the potion that calmed my stomach had a wretched odor, so it cleared the lecture hall, and that was the day we began trying to somehow get the potion in a similar form to the human antacid tablets.
   “President Smith is now entering the conference room.”
   What had been constant chatter in the press room was replaced with a frenzy of camera clicks and flashes as he ascended the stage.
   Todd kissed me on my temple, and I took a deep breath. Here we go. I licked the powder that had been ground into my molars and wiped my palms on my skirt.
   President Smith cleared his throat and waited for the commotion to die down.
   “Good evening. For the last five years, I have vowed to do everything in my power to ensure that our country was safe from all threats, foreign and domestic. It seems as though a threat I never anticipated has broken my wall of protection and for that, I’m truly sorry.” His eyes watered, and he paused to take a breath.
   “As much as I wish this wasn’t the case, we are raising our security to Level One. We will continue to operate as normal but under an increased state of awareness. There will be an increase in security, for safety precautions, but this shouldn’t affect your everyday life. It is my hope and my prayer that together, we will solve this, and end this terror. Thank you all.” He stepped off the stage.
This had never happened in all of my twenty-five years. I had to remind myself that I couldn’t eat the entire bottle of tablets. Logistically, I knew that Level One was nothing more than a formal recognition of an issue. Gastrointestinally, it felt like the end of the world.
   The detective’s phone ringing filled the silent room and I jumped at the sudden noise. I sat on my hands to stop their trembling.
   “Montgomery,” he answered, standing. His jaw clenched as he listened. “Damn it.” He threw his phone, shattering it against the door. He turned back to us, red-faced. “He’s pulled our jurisdiction. Somehow he convinced the courts to transfer it to him, claiming this is human territory, even though the crime was likely committed by supernaturals.”
   My eyes widened.
   “That means we won’t get the evidence first. We’ll comb the cold site, that’s the best we can hope for,” he said.
   
   We were all in deep sh**.
« Last Edit: February 23, 2018, 02:26:51 PM by MorganTaylor » Logged
scarlett25oh
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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2018, 01:11:27 PM »

      I enjoyed this! The more I read, the more I liked it. I thought the premise was smart and the descriptions were well done, especially the line about the mom's decorating being a bit much. I didn't finish the chapter, I stopped after the MC's return home. The first time I read through the beginning portion of the chapter, I was caught off guard by the introduction of the MC"s supernatural abilities and then a second time by her status. It seemed like it came out of nowhere and I wanted to be given a little more of a hint before those facts were dropped. I worried I could be wrong about that, since I read it late last night so I looked at it again this morning. The second time I read through the beginning portion I already knew those facts going in and it made me really like it more than the first read. For that reason, I think adding some hints before revealing the character's powers and status would help the piece. I think that's what you were trying to achieve with the coffee being reheated but I needed the hints before I became immersed in a real world setting with the MC at her desk and spinning in her chair. I also had a hard time picturing the government complex when the southern plantation was introduced because like the character's abilities and status, I didn't see that coming.  I also think it might be worth dropping the MC's name and description somewhere closer to the very beginning.
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JBeachum
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« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2018, 11:19:40 PM »

I like the description and the world-building, but I read the chapter and nothing really happens until the end. I lost attention and had to start over because most of the chapter is exposition. You could probably cut everything before the final scene and be fine. It could be put in a later chapter or could be broken up and used throughout the first part of the book to build the world. World-building in fantasy is extremely important, but it's best when it happens over the entire course of the book. The STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE series is really good about this; you don't get a good sense for how the world really works until well into the first book (and really into the second one). If you feed us a little bit at a time, it'll keep us reading. If we get it all at once, we lose interest.
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