Chimera

Chimera.jpg

The following preview is of “Chimera”, the third chapter of TIMELESS KEEPERS, the newly published third volume of our quantum fiction/magic realism quintet, THE TAMMABUKKU CHRONICLES.

https://www.amazon.com/Timeless-Keepers-Tammabukku-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B07YRTNCJ7

While my personal life is serene, aspects of my professional life have become maddening. On the surface, Cressida’s fixation on me makes no sense unless she’s the ultimate masochist. I believe her obsession is a continuation of my karma with her as Nathara, and the beings that empowered Nathara’s dark schemes are the same ones empowering her as Cressida. She believes she’ll win—she always did—and draws her strength from users and profiteers who support the lies she tells herself. I threw the torn pieces of her vulgar photo in the fire when we got back to Beak’s End, and have managed to burn the image out of my mind. For an infinitesimal second, her body, or more specifically that insatiable look in her eyes, did evoke the unbridled carnality of Vericus. Nathara was once my partner in debauchery, and even though I would have preferred to keep those memories buried deep in my psyche, it seems they have to be brought to the surface one last time to confront and discard.

Gino investigated and found out Cressida was having an affair with one of the record label executives and he believes that’s how she got hold of the label gift wrap. She’s one of the most seductive recording artists in the world, but when I look close, I see her starting to fray around the edges. To the world, her image is impervious and cold, seemingly devoid of emotion except in her scorching songs. Apart from me, that is. When it comes to me, she is emotional even to the press. Fans on both sides don’t know what to think, as she consistently implies there is something between us while I tell the truth. She hints I have a dark side that the world doesn’t see and that my marriage is in trouble. After I turned down her “reconciliation offer” to sing “Chimera” live with me in Los Angeles during the tour, she snarked about me to the media.

Rumors, which have been since traced to her camp, circulated that she’d likely join me for either a Madison Square Garden or Wembley concert. She was livid when my backup singer, Nevaeh, who sang the song in every city along the way, sang it with me at the Garden as well. Cressida made it known that she’d be in London at the time of the Wembley shows, but Nevaeh also performed the song there. Julian remains one hundred percent behind me. Cressida tried to seduce him, too, but he didn’t go for it. Gino loves Cressida’s voice but never liked her as a person, calling her an accident waiting to happen. The record label construed my feud with Cressida as a personal grudge and was not pleased, but they changed their mind after the “gift” incident.

I tried to take the gentlemanly route, saying I’m in love with my wife and monogamous, but Cressida took it as a challenge, promising heights of pleasure I couldn’t conceive. Her lack of respect for Lia and unrelenting selfishness disgust me. This is worse than anything I went through with Madison or any other girl. It’s more than lust, the obsession to win, or the lure of forbidden fruit. Over and over, she tries to cast lust spells on me, but instead of resulting in arousal, they only deepen my revulsion. I sense the same thing happened with Nathara, but not at first. There was a time she had Vericus under her spell.

Sabre implied that one of the reasons his relationship with Cressida was short-lived was her involvement with the darker aspects of the occult, which he hates. He admitted that although he’d been hotter than hell for her, something about her made him feel tainted. I understand what he means. The energy behind those misfired spells Cressida tried to put on me resulted in erotic dreams that left me feeling soiled and violated. Cressida tries to burrow her way into that part of my brain like a tick, convinced she’ll eventually reach her intended destination.

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Alchemy

Alchemy2

Darling, good morning.
Our arms are empty of each other for a moment only. How beautifully you turn…
your mouth tilts to let my kisses in. Lie still… we shall be longer.
We need so little room, we two…thus on a single pillow—as we move nearer,
Nearer heaven—until I burst inside you like a screaming rocket.
Then we are quietly apart… returning to this earth. 

The following preview is from Chapter II of TIMELESS KEEPERS, the newly published third volume of our quantum fiction/magic realism quintet, THE TAMMABUKKU CHRONICLES.

https://www.amazon.com/Timeless-Keepers-Tammabukku-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B07YRTNCJ7/

The distant sound of our living timekeeper chimes four in the morning. I have no wish to extricate my body from David’s. Knowing the dreaded alarm is set for three hours later, I want us to remain one for as long as possible.

The January freeze penetrates our bedroom—the Yorkshire winds are gusting. The day I couldn’t bear to think about has arrived. I’ve gotten used to David being away a week or two, but four months… I’m sinking, overwhelmed with melancholia. Ambrose and I had discussed this subject and, feeling my pain, held me tightly, saying no one could be more empathetic about missing David. I could have joined Oblivion on tour, David wanted me to, but it seemed I’d merely be tagging along. I’m needed at Beak’s End and have a full work schedule myself.

We have foiled our enemies’ attempts to penetrate our protective shield, and during our Christmas visit with Ambrose last month, we shook off the last remnants of the Elestren nightmare. Ambrose told David to remain vigilant while he was on the road and cautioned me not to let emotions get in the way of what I must do.

David and I call our romantic history with Ambrose our spiritual ménage a trois, and can’t help but wonder what the dynamic will be like when we’re reunited in this life. We believe Sophia is out there somewhere in our present as well, and I yearn to be with her. The four of us are a spirit quad, and it is my belief we’re coming together again to do what is needed to open the doorway to ascension.

Day is breaking. Oblivion will fly to Miami from London late this afternoon, and their world tour will officially commence. For four months they’ll tour the U.S., Canada and Europe, before ending the first phase in London at Wembley. Since the demand is high, every concert was sold out within an hour of tickets going on sale. Adriana plans on seeing Julian when her work schedule permits, but I can’t think about that yet, as I have to focus on my own career. David will be home for a three-month break at the beginning of May before the tour resumes in early August.

Sensing that David is leaving, Dmitri restlessly paces the bedroom before settling at our feet with a whimper. He and I will commiserate when David is away, as we did when I was Cecilia, and Daniel was gone those long months at boarding school.

That wicked alarm goes off, but I press snooze so David and I can lie in each other’s arms. He has no choice but to soon get on his feet, as the limo will be here in an hour, and quickly showers, dresses and brings his bags downstairs. I make coffee, but don’t drink any as I’m tense enough already. David drinks a few cups while I sip kava kava tea. Since he isn’t driving, he takes hits of weed. When he hands the pipe to me, I’m afraid of magnifying the wrong mood, but he assures me it will help and he is right. I realize that I have forgotten how to be happy alone. Yes, I love David beyond measure, and while it’s normal to miss him, it isn’t healthy to grieve when he’s working.

The limo driver calls to say he’s approaching the front gate. As David and I embrace at the door, I dig my nails into his leather jacket. He implores me to stay in the foyer and not go outside on this frigid morning. Taking a deep breath, his hand reluctantly cracks the door open. “Share any little thing that strikes you, Shekinah. The small things are what I love most.”

Laughing through my tears, I joke, “Bartholomew knocked over the vase at the second-floor landing again… I bought watercress and arugula at our favorite organic produce stand in Thornton-le-Dale… Dmitri chased another squirrel…”

“That’s exactly what I want to hear—it will bring me right home. If I had it my way, you’d be with me on this tour. It was your choice not to go.”

“We talked about this. It’s something I have to do. I’ll be okay.” He touches my cheek and walks out the door before the tears welling in his eyes start falling. As he walks towards the limo, I keep reminding myself this is necessary for both of us, as I have an overwhelming urge to run after him and shout, “I’ve changed my mind!”

After the limo disappears from sight, I try to meditate, but find it exceedingly difficult to clear my head which is at odds with my heart. While I’m feeding the animals, David messages that he opened his book and found the sticky note with the serch bythol I’d left on the page with his bookmark. He reminded me that our separation is only physical. Yes, it’s only physical, but it hurts like hell.

Baptism By Fire

Baptism By Fire Bird

The following preview is of the first chapter of TIMELESS KEEPERS, the newly released third volume of our quantum fiction/magic realism quintet, THE TAMMABUKKU CHRONICLES.

https://www.amazon.com/Timeless-Keepers-Tammabukku-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B07YRTNCJ7/

While “Mrs. Graeber’s” idiosyncrasies remain the topic of conversation, Tom’s eyes are riveted on Ambrose. I excuse myself to the bathroom and when I come out, Tom is outside the door looking at me with an expression that conveys what he’s going to say.

“Fynn Calhoun from California? That’s a good one! The man in the other room is Ambrose de Ripariis! I’ve seen like a dozen photos of him. What’s going on, Dave?”

I attempt a casual laugh. “You’re right—Fynn could be Ambrose’s doppelganger.”

Tom gives me an eye roll. “Give it up! A doppelganger is an exact lookalike—not the same freaking person. And that man is no ghost—even by the lively standards we have around here.”

I sigh. “I’m not going to insult your intelligence, Tom.”

“You mean you’re not going to insult it any further.”

“None of this was designed to insult you—I promise.”

“Abigail knows the truth—I can tell by the adoring way she looks at him. For Christ’s sake, he’s her great-grandfather and, apparently, he was once her father, too! Why am I the only one out of the loop?”

“I didn’t plan this! I found out you guys were coming up a few hours ago.”

“I got news for you—when you have houseguests who died a century ago, questions are bound to be raised! Abigail sensed something was going on. She dropped everything to come here this morning.”

“Abigail has great intuition. I prepared her when you went to the farmhouse to change. You can imagine the emotional impact this is going to have on her.”

“Ambrose is time traveling, isn’t he?”

I take a deep breath. “Yes.”

“And it’s my hunch it’s not the first time that’s happened.”

“Your hunch is correct—it also happened two days before Lia and I got married.”

“Shit! I knew he was—or I guess I should say is—a powerful Occultist, but sci-fi flicks and Gravity Falls aside, I thought only people in secret government programs could do this.”

“Governments hide the knowledge that belongs to everybody. Humans have infinite potential. You know what the inscription of this house is.”

“I feel like the odd man out. Abigail knows more about your life than I do and I’m your brother! Why tell Tom? He’s only going to make some stupid joke.”

“I was waiting for the right time to talk to you.”

“When was that right time going to be? All I ever hear from you is ‘soon’, ‘another time’ and ‘later’. Stop trying to protect me! Mom knows that Ambrose is here. The expression on her face when I saw her at the farmhouse makes sense now. It reminded me of how she looked when Nathaniel was around.”

“Nathaniel was here, too.”

He throws his hands in the arm. “I should have known! What is it with Nathaniel and Ambrose? I’ve heard of being attached to your house, but this is ridiculous.”

“They’re not here because they miss Beak’s End, but because they miss us!”

Tom shoots me an ironic smile. “And to think it was only four-and-a-half years ago when it was not such a lovefest with Nathaniel.”

“The root of all that was love—that’s what hurt Nathaniel and me so much back then. Those aspects of the summer of 2012 feel so distant now.”

Not seeming to know what to reply to that, Tom changes the subject. “Mom saw Nathaniel, too, didn’t she?”

“Yes, but he’s gone now. We had an emergency. That’s why they were here.”

“What kind of emergency? Is it about what happened with Graeber?”

“We’ll talk about it…”

“Let me guess—later. I’m sick of later, Dave! I’m worried about Mom. It took her so long to recover from Nathaniel’s last departure.”

“Mom’s stronger now and wide awake. She’ll be fine.”

Tom puts his hands on his head. “What a day! On top of everything else, Abigail and I met this weird woman at a roadside market outside of York who asked us for directions to Kirkbymoorside.”

“If she was weird then she must have been going to the Peacock house,” I joke. “They live outside Kirkbymoorside.”

He laughs. “Believe me, that didn’t go past me! The creepy thing was, as I was giving her directions, I had a feeling that she only asked for them to get our attention. She didn’t look or sound strange. In fact, she was well-spoken, polite and fashionably dressed. It was the way she felt. She was fixated on Abigail and me. The market was full yet she seemed oblivious to everyone but us. We quickly paid for our stuff and left, but as we were pulling out of the parking lot, we saw the woman standing across the street. There’s no way she could have left the market and crossed the street without our noticing. We were so shaken that I weaved out of my lane and almost collided with a produce truck! I swear Dave, Abigail gripped my thigh and snapped me out of it, but if it had been a nanosecond later, I don’t think we’d be talking right now. The driver of the produce truck thought I was drunk! I kept driving because I didn’t want to pull over near the same place we saw her. Abigail and I were shaking so badly. She said she couldn’t even scream and didn’t remember grabbing my thigh.” 

Inis Sui

Scarborough

They took a walk along the promenade, retracing their footsteps of that long ago day which in some ways didn’t seem that long ago.

The following preview is of Chapter XVII of INNER MAGNETS, Volume Two of our quantum fiction/magic realism quartet, THE TAMMABUKKU CHRONICLES. In this chapter, the now married protagonists David and Lia begin their honeymoon by going to Scarborough, a town of many memories for them. In this scene, a mysterious girl seems to be stalking them, but are her intentions bad?

Link to the first two books: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079VV7NM1/

The night air became chilly so they returned to the marina and anchored the boat. At the same time, an old fisherman was docking his boat, and he nodded to them. They exchanged a few pleasantries and since the fisherman didn’t have a clue about David’s celebrity, and those were the people David enjoyed speaking with most, they began chatting. The fisherman said that he was a descendant of the family whom the town was named after. “There’s something I want to give to you,” he told them and went on board his boat. David and Lia looked at each other wondering what the old fisherman was up to. Upon returning, he handed David a small Scarborough flag with the family coat of arms. The flag bore a shield, a lion, and three castle towers which closely resembled three chess rooks. They thanked him and then spoke about the ghostly phenomena of the area. David told him about the intangible square shapes they had seen on the horizon. The man looked at David with curiosity and said, “Perhaps they were only for you and your wife to see.” They spoke a few more minutes about Scarborough’s ghosts and the town’s long history before bidding one another goodnight and heading to their car.

As David was opening the car door, Lia again had the sense of being watched. David felt it too, but when they looked around, they saw no one.

When he got in the car, he didn’t start driving immediately. “I don’t see her, but I can feel her, and she doesn’t feel like a fan. Why is she tailing us like this?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t feel anything dark,” she replied and then noticed someone moving between the cars. “Look! There she is—by the Mercedes. She must have been squatting down and stood up for a moment. She’s crouching down again. It’s the same girl in the dark hoodie.”

David hesitated before putting the key in the ignition. “A voice is telling me that we should find out what she wants.”

“It’s telling me the same thing. I think she knows we saw her.”

“Okay then,” he said, starting the car. The girl stood up again but panicked and fell back against the car she was standing next to, and the alarm of that car went off. The girl appeared overwhelmed by the noise and bolted down the road. Lia knew that David could catch up with her in a second, but he didn’t speed up. “I don’t want to add to her trauma,” he explained. “Even from a distance, I recognize that look of dread on her face. I think the noise triggered some kind of an episode.”

They saw a beat-up old Volkswagen Bug pull onto the road with a lurch and take off. “There’s something about her…” Lia whispered.

“Yeah, I feel it too. I think she dropped something over there,” he said, stopping the car. When they got out, they found a pack of tissues and a business card lying near where her VW had been parked. Picking up the card, he said, “It’s for a Nepali café in London named Dhoka.”

Lia looked at the green and gold card. “I don’t think her dropping this was an accident.”

“Well, on her part, it probably was. Something bigger is going on here. Do you know what that word means in Nepali? I know your parents have an affinity for the Nepali-Tibetan culture.”

Shaking her head, she Googled the name. “Doorway—Dhoka means doorway.”

“Look! Our names are on the back of the card!” he exclaimed, showing her, “and not just David Pierson and Lia Bailey, but Daniel Orlov and Cecilia Ley. Our honeymoon information is also here: Grand Hotel, Scarborough, Suite 703. September 7, 2015.”

They looked at one another at a momentary loss for words. “Our honeymoon information wasn’t divulged anywhere. Cecilia Ley’s name was in a few of my blog entries before I removed them, but I never mentioned the name of Daniel Orlov.”

“I know—this is connected to something other than the blog. The restaurant is on Portobello Road and the name of the proprietor is Tika Vidyadhar.”

Lia handed him her phone. “There was a recent article and photo about the restaurant in Metro. It’s dark, but the girl standing by Tika could be the same girl. It says the photo is of Tika Vidyadhar and her daughter, Abigail. Should we call the restaurant?”

“If she shows up again, then yes.”

“Do you think this is connected to the gift from Ambrose?”

She could see something click in his mind when she mentioned Ambrose, but then he dismissed it. “If that’s the case, why would she watch from a distance and then bolt? If she had something to give to us then she’d leave it.”

“Maybe the card is our present,” she shrugged.

“Well, that would be another bend in time since Dhoka wasn’t around in the 1890s—the card says ‘Since 2007’. If we don’t see her again, we’ll swing by this restaurant when we get to London. We’ll be there several days after we return from Russia. Let’s stop talking about this, Shekinah—we’re on our honeymoon.”

The owner of the Mercedes must have finally shown up, as the sound of the car alarm stopped. After David and Lia got into their car, they saw the North Yorkshire police drive by to check the neighborhood.

Love Again, and Remember

Love Again and Remember Mirror

Love is the door to all dimensions

 

The following preview is of Chapter XVI of INNER MAGNETS, Volume Two of our quantum fiction/magic realism quintet, THE TAMMABUKKU CHRONICLES. In this chapter, David and Lia at last have the wedding they have wanted for over a century, since their names were Daniel and Cecilia.

Link to the first two books: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079VV7NM1/

After the wedding rings are removed from Dmitri’s blue velvet box, they read the verse they selected for the giving of the rings:

I take you my heart
At the rising of the moon
And the setting of the stars.
To love and to honor
Through all that may come.
Through all our lives together
In all our lives,
May we be reborn
That we may meet and know
And love again,
And remember.

The good Reverend Sykes pronounces them husband and wife. When David is told that he may kiss the bride, as usual, he has a hard time stopping. “I’ll never stop kissing you, Shekinah,” he whispers into her ear. Their recessional song, which at first sounds to me like the French national anthem, begins playing, but then it becomes a different song and the words so aptly state that “All You Need is Love”. The bride and groom have known this for a long time. Smiling, Ambrose motions me to open the chapel door. There is a slight gasp when the door inexplicably cracks open, but a roar of laughter and excitement erupts when Angharat’s magpie flies into the chapel.

The bride and groom hug and pose for photographs. David and Lia can now see Ambrose and me. In this atmosphere of ultimate bliss, tears well up in my darling girl’s eyes. A feeling of euphoria fills my soul. In a sense, I have waited for this day as long as they have. Among those in their time and place, only they can see me, and only the groom can hear her whisper, “I love you, Papa.”

David’s mouth forms the words, “I miss you, Merlin.”

Both in earnest and in jest, I reply, “There are no words to convey how much I miss you as well, Little Prince.” David laughs at the all too familiar appellation.

Theresa’s eyes never fail to know where I am, yet it is best if she does not actually see me today. I sense the familiar spirit of David’s grandfather whom I knew quite well when his name was Cassius Gemellus, but he is not aware of my presence.

Ambrose and I are not in the same dimension. I cannot help but notice that he looks almost the same as when I saw him last. I realize that he is projecting into the future from that time without physically materializing in the present. As we look at each other, a wellspring of emotion overwhelms me. There is nothing but love between us—there was never anything but love. All those tricks my mind played on me once darkness entered—what a fool I was! I missed him more than I could even bear. I am enormously grateful that the river I feared had dried up, keeps moving forward despite all the twists and dams it has encountered. Moreover, I am forever beholden to him for making such a prodigious effort to be with David and Lia. We had almost all the knowledge in place for time travel, but the missing link was provided by his motivation to see the two of them together again and living this moment. Love is the door to all dimensions.

Time and Space

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The meaning of life is in constant motion forward – Emile Zola

The following preview is of Chapter XV of INNER MAGNETS, Volume Two of our quantum fiction/magic realism quintet (recently decided as such), THE TAMMABUKKU CHRONICLES. This is a pivotal chapter in the story, as it is the formal debut of major character, Ambrose de Ripariis, in INNER MAGNETS and the beginning of the portal storyline. This excerpt is in the POV of Ambrose.

Link to the first two books: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079VV7NM1/

The throbbing in my body evokes a sensation I had forgotten. While this is not the first time I have traversed time and space in human form, it is the first time I have done so as Ambrose. I am standing in front of the old silver scrying mirror. Once my vision clears, I see myself and David reflected in the glass. Turning around, I see him asleep on the chaise longue on the other end of the room. My heart begins to race. As I speak directly into his mind, a smile forms at the corners of his mouth. Such a balm to my heart! My soul is at ease knowing the old communication system remains eternally open.

I feel the pulsating energy on the other side of the mirror. The proximity makes this room conducive to meditation and introspection—it was designed to stimulate clairvoyance and prepare one for what lies beyond. This was my room as Aloysius, the other was Sophia’s. I have sorely missed being here. The situation between Nathaniel and I has kept me away from Beak’s End for several years. Of course, in David and Lia’s time frame, that was well over a century ago. I feel Nathaniel’s presence, and I am certain he has recently been here. This is the Nathaniel that I love, unlike the disturbing vibrations I have felt from him for so long. This was also Nathaniel’s room of predilection, and he always sensed there was more here than met the eye. Cecilia tapped into the vibration already in infancy. I remember how those dark blue eyes of hers would penetrate the scrying mirror, trying to discern what she sensed behind it.

Having regained my equilibrium, I am able to think of time from David and Lia’s perspective, even though for me it is the year 1899. Being physically here helps me to intuit their present reality. Beak’s End is full of guests, many of whom are core members of my soul family. This is where my heart yearns to be—not the anguished time in which I am now forced to live. Tapping into David’s psyche, I feel how this room is his island of tranquility amidst all the bustle leading up to the wedding.

David stirs. Silently, I speak his name. His body springs from the chaise longue, and it takes him a moment to be certain he is not dreaming. In the candle glow, I see that his eyes are pale blue. Not Daniel’s hazel eyes, but the eye color of Vericus. His face is still a poet’s face, thinner and more mystical than Daniel’s. The many scars that lay beneath the surface, and the dreams that have broken and died, give it a special beauty. He is mine, however, thus I am biased.

His undiluted joy echoes mine. My soul has had every kind of experience in this earthly dimension, but only love takes us to the next. He walks over to where I am standing in front of the scrying mirror. He has to touch my hair, my face and my clothes before he is convinced that I am truly here.

“A strikingly handsome gentleman dressed in a silver silk waistcoat, billowing white silk shirt and black trousers stands before me. I haven’t seen him for over a century, yet he hasn’t aged a day. His golden blond hair, with those rebellious locks that fall around his forehead hasn’t turned gray, his dark gray eyes still have that magnetic gaze, his fair complexion is as luminous as ever, and he remains the dearest friend and brother this man has ever had. But why do I see the traces of tears?”

“We shall cover this shortly. The tears have dried as I am presently filled with joy.”

“My senses are being flooded with memories and emotions. I don’t yet know how you are here, but I am grateful that you are. I love you beyond limits, Ambrose.”

“For us, there are no limits. Whatever we would name, it would yet be more, to quote Shakespeare.” We fall into each other’s arms. I wish to capture this moment for eternity. Our thoughts are as one. I feel his fear of losing me again, of losing Lia, of losing what we work so hard to build in this mortal life. Like me, he always felt everything too deeply to ever be completely at home in this world.

“Never leave,” he whispers. “I’ve had enough partings. I don’t want to be without you.”

“We will be together again soon, and in the meantime, take comfort, like I do, that it is impossible for us to be parted in the real sense.” His eyes tell me that love is still heavy for him though he has come a long way. We have all been brutally torn apart from those we love more times than we want to remember. I have been assured that I will be there to help him take flight when it comes time to depart this earthly dimension for good. I believe that is a privilege I asked for long ago.

Inner Magnets

Hinterlands

“Our inner magnets are invariably guided by love.”

The following preview is of Chapter XIV of INNER MAGNETS, Volume Two of our quantum fiction/magic realism quartet, THE TAMMABUKKU CHRONICLES. In this chapter, David and Lia’s wedding day grows closer and closer, and we see her relationship with David’s family and other loved ones. The character introduced in this scene is not one of David’s loved ones, however.

Link to the first two books: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079VV7NM1/

One afternoon in late July, when David and Lia were riding the motorcycle on the road to Kirkbymoorside, they passed a faded Victorian manor house which he’d always thought exuded a cold and disturbing vibration. Today the mansion was even more unsettling than usual. As they passed, a hulking Stuart Peacock, a descendant of the Peacock clan so reviled by the Leys and the Graysons, was on the front lawn, chasing a kid on a scooter off the estate. They could hear him screaming at the frightened boy for encroaching upon private Peacock property.

“This is the old Peacock estate alright,” she sighed. “A century later, and the Peacocks are still sour and grimacing.”

“Every time I see that glowering face I want to puke,” David snapped. “It’s the same expression that I remember George having.”

“I can’t say he looks like George, who was plump, round-faced, puffy and pasty with reddish hair and wide-set eyes. This guy is slender, long-faced and a dirty blond with close-set eyes. He’d have decent enough features if they weren’t perpetually set in a grimace.”

They pulled over at a local market to get water. “I’ve seen Stuart Peacock several times in town. Every time he sees me he glares like he did just now. I heard he’s been complaining to the townsfolk that rock musicians bring in the wrong element. Philip Sykes told Stuart off one day when he declared that only another evil warlock would buy the house of Nathaniel Ley. Stuart went on to say that the area had suffered enough because of depraved Occultists, and residents shouldn’t accept this so readily. He actually claimed that Nathaniel and I must be working in tandem from separate dimensions. I’m hardly surprised. This nitwit is the descendant of old George, who hated Daniel beyond measure for supposedly stealing Cecilia away from him—as if you can steal someone who was never yours in the first place.”

“I would love to have been a fly on the wall when George Peacock came to Beak’s End to ask for Cecilia’s hand in marriage. I don’t know how he ever thought he’d get past Papa, but George Peacock brought delusional to a new level.”

“I noticed that Stuart Peacock wasn’t giving you any dirty looks. I’m sure he was thinking ‘what a terrible shame it is that such a comely lass fell victim to that evil rock star warlock who’s in cahoots with Nathaniel Ley’s ghost.’”

“And now you two ‘depraved evil warlocks’ are going to lead poor uninitiated me down the path to Hell.”

“Ah, yes, the Devil’s Mass will take place in the hidden room next Friday the 13that midnight. Lucifer just texted—Beelzebub and Belial will be joining us. Maybe Veronique will make the absurdity complete and appear with a bloody butcher knife.”

Lia did a fake shudder. “Is that when you’re going to sacrifice me on the altar?”  

Giving her a wicked grin, David replied, “If I ever put you on that altar, I guarantee you won’t be feeling any pain.”

“I like the sound of that,” she purred. “The altar is one place we haven’t tried yet.”

Just as he was about to respond, Stuart Peacock drove by. He glared at David and looked intently at Lia, the latter causing David’s fists to clench. He couldn’t help laughing when Lia said, “It seems the Peacock men are as pompous and pissy as they ever were.”

“Yeah, and they still look like sunburned Pillsbury Dough Boys with a stick up their ass.”

Lia snickered. “Only George Peacock could believe Daniel was the only thing standing between him and wedded bliss with Cecilia. Maybe old George has been reborn—who knows?”

“Then he remains as big an asshole as he ever was. A new edition of George Peacock—our rebirth is complete. Seriously though, I’m sensing he’s someone other than George. Stuart is just one of George’s wretched descendants. It must be in their DNA to be gaping anuses.”

“Gaping anuses? I haven’t heard that one for a century.”

“If that cretin looks at you again, I’ll corroborate his worst fears, and ask Nathaniel to help me. Papa Ley will always be up for kicking Peacock butt. Peacock bashing was a rite of male bonding for him and Daniel—a shared visceral loathing that transcended all reason.”

Lia shook her head. “I can hear Papa and Uncle Ambrose laughing, and I’m seriously disappointed in all three of you.”

“Sorry, Shekinah, we can’t take the high road all the time,” he retorted, knowing she was kidding. “Something about this guy irks the shit out of me—beyond the fact he is a Peacock and bad mouths me all over town.”

“The three of you thought the Peacocks were worse than the bubonic plague.”

“And we were right. The assholism of the Peacock men outlived the plague.”