My longtime readers should know by now that I love the mini-fiction events; a glimpse into the world, a story by a beloved side character, or an introduction to never before seen action – I love it all and can never get enough.
I hosted the first Rust City Book Convention here in the Metro Detroit area, and to help spotlight the authors attending, I came up with a fabulous new feature series – Hidden Treasures. I had asked the #RustCity16 authors to write a story, featuring any or all of their characters as they discover a new bit of treasure – i.e. at a flea market, up in the attic, tomb-raiding, etc – and I still have a few left that didn’t get posted before the event.
The cobblestones in front of the old place were no worse for wear as we sidestepped empty spaces and dragged our wheeled luggage toward the lopsided wooden stairs. The air smelled of honeysuckle and the moist sweet-grass I still remember sucking between my teeth as a small child. It was my grandmother’s place and my mother had decided to move back in once she was done with pack life. I couldn’t say I blamed her considering every few years or so, the entire brood would pick up and move to friendlier terrain after some pack member cut their teeth on a asshole in whatever town they’d been residing. It was a sad life as a lone wolf, but being on your own could offer stability and independence. Things we typically weren’t supposed to desire.
I got lucky. My bond had formed early, even younger than my parents’. I’d met Kayla and she was the one. So, introducing her to my mother should have been a breeze. It wasn’t going to be. First, she was a halfling – demon and human. Her kind had murdered my father. I guess we were even since her father was a real shitstain and we’d made damn well sure he was out of her life, for good. Regardless, my mother wasn’t keen on their kind and for good reason.
The next bad news was we’d decided to move away when college ended in a couple of years. My mother had made it clear that my place was with her. We’d need to convince her to come with us. Both were two big assed pills to swallow.
“You gonna knock on the door or are we standing here all night,” Kayla asked. I turned around to face her and I’ll be damned if she didn’t take my breath away…again. She’d been stealing the air from my lungs since the first day I’d seen her at a frat party. Her dress would have made me buy ten of the same kind just to see her walk around in it again.
“I don’t think she’s home…,” I said, trying to recover before she figured out I went pretty stupid around her.
“You didn’t even knock,” she giggled. Her teeth were straight, white stunners.
“Didn’t have to. Super sense of smell, remember?”
“Ah, yes. Another trait I wasn’t blessed with.”
“So long as you know who’s the boss around here,” I said. I reached for her and rested my hands on her hips, her slim waist exposed with the half tank and cutoff jean shorts she wore. I wanted to take her full lips that she twisted with contempt.
“Tsk,” she sucked air through her teeth, “you ain’t the boss of me.”
“We’ll see about that. C’mon. I’ll show you around.” I pulled the luggage to the close to the screen door and grabbed her hand before heading off the porch. “I used to play in these woods when I was little. My mother used to get after me for being gone way past bedtime.”
She giggled, probably at the thought of me being scolded. Most people didn’t give me too much grief. Whether they knew what I was or not.
I walked around the side of the house through overgrown lilac bushes and a rose bush that climbed nearly as tall as the wooden house along ivy covered trellis. I steered her toward the bench in the back yard, not daring to trudge through the thick grass to the woods. I was bound to be rough terrain and I wanted her to look as pretty as she did when we’d arrived to meet my mother.
She sat back, her long brown legs shining in the hot Georgia sun. I watched her, taking my seat on the bench and leaning against the wrought iron back. “You like it?”
“I do. It’s really quaint.”
“Yeah, I loved visiting my grandmother. She moved here after my grandfather died. He built this place in 1847.”
“How old was your grandmother when she passed?”
“Two hundred and six. She was pretty young. She was destroyed when their bond was broken.”
“I can imagine,” she said. After a moment, she sat up in her seat. “What’s that?” She pointed across the yard. I followed the direction and saw it too. A small leather bound journal wrapped with raffia.
“Hmmm,” I said, heading over to pick it up. There were weeds and dirt hiding half of it. I kneeled over to pick it up, catching a whiff of mold and earth. It must have been there for some time. The pages were weathered, nearly brown from dirt and rain.
To Save a Life.
The words scrawled on the bottom corner were the only ones, so I had no idea who it belonged to. It had to be someone in my family, but who? Not only had my uncles and aunts lived there, but a host of other passing packs had held up for refuge when they were being hunted.
I walked back over to Kayla, handing it to her. “It’s a little weird. Old, for sure.”
“Should we open it?”
“Definitely.” I motioned for her to unwrap the faded straw-like ribbon wrapped around it.
She peeled it away, gently spreading the spin and read over the pages. “It’s a spell book,” she whispered.
“That’s really strange then. My family doesn’t usually mix with witches.”
“You do,” she snipped, in her way.
“Yeah, but I’m more progressive than most.”
“There’s a spell to change someone…” Her eyes clouded over with the look of fear and curiousity. “Halflings.”
I knew my eyes were wide and confused. “Kayla, don’t read it,” I said, pulling the book from her hands.
“Why not, Mitch?” Her tawny eyes shined as she looked up at me.
“Because reading the spell could…”
“I know what it could do.”
“But, why would you want to change?” I searched her face, sure I was jumping to random, stupid conclusions. Her eyes told me I wasn’t.
“If I were human, you wouldn’t be so worried about me meeting your mother.”
“Chances are, if you were human, I wouldn’t have bonded with you. Hell, maybe not even met you.”
“Don’t get upset. It’s just something we should think about.”
“Kayla, you and I being together has changed my life. Not you as a human. Not you as a demon. It was both of those things. Your kindness and being so fierce…I love all of it. I don’t want you to change. Yes, it’ll be hard introducing you to my mother. She’s not really big on demon girls. But it’s something we’ll face together. I don’t want you to change, anymore than you should want me to change.” Before I could stop myself, I ripped the book in half, then again and flung the pieces across the yard.
“Well, that was really barbaric.” Her eyes were free of concern, a brief moment of levity passing through them. I’d seen it before when she’d gotten the better of me.
“I guess. I just wanted to drive home to point. Probably got a little carried away. But, I want you. Just you. Not some altered state or half the woman I fell in love with. I want you.”
I looked around at the scattered papers strewn across the yard.
“Now, who’s going to clean that up,” she asked. Her voice was hinted in laughter, but her eyes were brimming with tears.
“I guess we’ll do it together. Like everything else. For the rest of our lives.”
Meet Aliza Mann!
Born in Athens, GA and moving to Detroit, MI at an early age, Aliza Mann has always been inspired by the written word, people and the world. With an emphasis on urban fantasy and paranormal romance, Aliza creates worlds with Alpha men (mutants, aliens, werewolves or vampires) and the strong women who make them come undone. Her vivid characterizations and gift for dialogue make her a fan favorite.
Don’t miss your chance to meet some amazing authors at Rust City Book Con next August! Come join us in our celebration of all things genre fiction in the Motor City! Registration for #RustCity17 opens later this fall!