It’s out this week. You can read the first 11,000 words here to check it out. Try before you buy. It is book 1 of 4 so there’s a cliffhanger. Be prepared for lots of unresolved questions.
One vampire, five witches.
- One young woman alone in the world who doesn’t know about her own power.
- Five men who’ve promised to protect her.
- Hot and dangerous from the get-go.
Of all the weird things that happened to me, dying had to be the worst.
Later, it turned out I wasn’t dead after all, and that came as a real shock.
The bare-chested witches and the undead Romanian vampire are all that stand between me and the demons who want to kill me.
Oh, yes, and salt and magic, if you can believe that.
And that was just the start of the craziness.
And did I mention the men’s bare chests?
These guys seem to have a problem with clothes.
Not that I’m complaining.
Sorry, I ramble and digress when the threat of impending death gets too much.
Anyway, three of the guys seem to have the hots for each other and it’s bound to end in tears, but that’s another story. I’ll find out more and let you know IF I survive the night.
EARTH is book one in a sizzling four-book paranormal romance series set in London.
- Witches, magic, and vampires.
- A kick-ass woman at the heart of the story.
- Bisexual characters in a reverse harem romance.
- More explicit MMF scenes than you can wave a witch’s wand at.
- Knife crime and fruit smoothies.
- Hackney in East London.
- A cliffhanger.
READ more: buy it here: https://books2read.com/u/md0MpX
EXCERPT: of Earth: Elemental Reverse Harem Quartet
Globules of saliva dripped from menacing canine teeth. The huge black dogs looked hungry, violent, and much too close for comfort. Heaven knows how I didn’t see them approaching before they were within five feet.
When I noticed them, it was too late. The dog duo rushed forward tugging at the ends of their very long leashes and their warm breaths smelled of raw meat, death, and decay.
I only had an instant to register my distaste before a sudden gust of wind knocked me off balance. It forced me to step back to steady myself. The same blast of air brought the dogs to a temporary halt as if a solid but invisible wall forced its way between us. As a bonus, it blew the stench of their poor oral hygiene in another direction.
The reprieve lasted only a moment before the dogs lunged. It all happened so fast that I didn’t see the dog owners.
My life flashed in front of my eyes, but I never discovered how it ended.
A man stepped between me and the slathering hounds, and not a moment too soon. His hand movements were a blur while I froze, helpless with terror.
The creatures slowly slinked backward, they appeared as stunned as I was, and that’s when I saw each of them had their huge powerful jaws wrapped around what you might call a stick. It appeared more like two giant dogs the size of horses chewing on baby tree trunks.
The man who intervened and cut short my terrifying ordeal altered the course of my first twenty-four hours in London.
“Are you all right?” When he turned to face me he looked about my age, early twenties. I expect heroes to be older.
“I’m fine,” I lied, I was shaken. “No harm done to me, but what about you? What were you thinking? You could’ve been eaten whole.” I talk a lot when I’m shaken. “Did you see the size of those teeth? They weren’t normal. Do you usually step into danger like that? And why were you carrying those logs?”
As if I were the wild animal in need of pacifying, he raised his hand, palm towards me. “I saw the dogs from some distance off, and noticed that you hadn’t seen them. I simply picked up the first things I saw lying on the street to use for defense.” His hands swept the space in front of him as he answered calmly. He didn’t appear shaken at all. Anyone would think battling rabid dogs was all part of an ordinary night out in London.
“Thank you.” Glancing over his shoulder, I expected to see the dogs and their owners, but they’d completely vanished, possibly taking a turn down a side street.
A second figure appeared alongside my savior, but I paid him no attention. “Do you need any help?” he asked.
Still trembling with fear and shock, I shook my head. “No thanks. I’m fine.” Not fine at all.
“We can escort you to the tube or stay with you if you’re waiting for a lift, if you want.” Apparently, these two men were together. “Don’t worry, we’ll make sure you don’t see those hell hounds again.”
Hell hounds? Is that the official name of the breed? Good name. I’d never seen anything like them.
“I’m sure, I’ll be fine,” I repeated like the part of my brain that controlled speech was stuck in one groove. There were no dogs within sight so I readjusted my eyes to focus on the gallant men.
Two sets of concerned eyes watched me. I had the full attention of two handsome men of around my age.
“Really, I’ll be okay. I’m staying in this hotel right here.” I nodded in the direction of the building to my left. We were just a few feet from the door. “I don’t need to go anywhere. In fact, it was just bad timing that I met those dogs. A minute later and I’d have been safely inside.”
At least chatting distracted me from thinking about the lucky escape. And these weren’t just any listeners. They were distractingly hot guys. I refocused again to make sure they really were young, handsome, and gallant. To my mind those things didn’t go together in the twenty-first century, did they?
“We’re staying in this same hotel.” My savior tilted his head and raised his dark eyebrows in surprised. An attractive smile formed on his appealing full lips. Let’s get inside, shall we?”
I liked the way his tongue licked his lips after he spoke and I wouldn’t mind hearing him saying the same thing to me under very different circumstances that also involved licking.
Chivalrously he rolled his arm and bent his body in a slight bow as he said, “After you.”
Another freakish gust of wind blew along the street. I shivered and moved toward the door fishing my key card from my pocket at the same time. It was just after midnight so the outer door was locked, or at least it should have been.
A group of people who were leaving the hotel held the door open for the three of us, making the white square of plastic redundant. The polite action made me wonder how easily people who weren’t guests could just wander into the hotel. It didn’t bear thinking about. And then I stopped thinking about that because the elevator was waiting for us with the doors open.
“We’re on the third floor. You’re welcome to come to our room for a drink if you want some company while you get over the shock,” said a sultry voice as we entered the small square box. His warm breath caressed my ear.
“But I don’t know you.” I hit the button for the third floor.
My brain should have sent me danger alerts about entering a hotel room outnumbered by two strange men. Instead, it occurred to me that being ravished in a hotel room by wild boys was far preferable to being savaged by wild dogs. My erogenous areas tingled with arousal.
“My name’s Charlie,” said the guy with the fast hands. And broad shoulders. And intense dark eyes. “And this is Neal.”
“And we have beer,” Neal added.
Leaning against the wall of the elevator with his thumbs hooked in the top of his low hanging jeans, Charlie flashed a seductive smile. “That’s put us on first-name terms. Let us know if we can do anything else to make you feel safe?”
Undress? My brain flooded with inappropriate ideas before I thought of an answer that I could share.
Neal came up with a suggestion. “You should send a message to a friend to let her know you’re in our room.”
I didn’t have a phone and couldn’t text anyone, but it wasn’t something I’d eagerly admit to. I didn’t want them to think of me as vulnerable, pathetic, or a freak. The fact being, I was the only adult on the planet without a mobile phone. I’d acknowledge the weirdness of my situation only to my closest friends. Me and technology, we didn’t get along. Maybe I should have been born at least a century earlier.
Shrugging, in what I intended as a carefree way, I said, “I’m on the third floor too, so it wouldn’t be too far out of my way to stop by for a sociable drink with you two. And my instincts tell me you’re good people.”
We arrived on the third floor. Charlie led the way, and I followed his swagger along the corridor to their room.
“Malka, it’s an unusual name.” Neal walked beside me. He must’ve noticed that my gaze had been fixed on his friend’s arse, but he didn’t comment on that.
“I guess it might be. I’ve met a few women with the same name while I’ve been traveling, but none in England. The name’s Jewish and means queen.”
“Are you a Jewish queen?”
I laughed. “I wasn’t raised as any religion. I don’t know about my ancestors, I expect they were Christian. I went to Christian school.” And I hoped we could leave my background there. I didn’t like confessing to either a privileged education in an elite private school afforded by only the richest families along with the fact of my criminally absent parents. It was all too out of the ordinary.
“Sounds much the same as us.” Charlie swiped the plastic key card. It didn’t work. He tried it again and then again. The third time brought success, and he switched on the light as he led the way into the room. He sat down on one of the two beds and pointed to the only chair for me.
These dudes were easy to get along with. We had plenty of stuff in common, for sure. They were British, judging by their accents, they were about my age, and staying in a budget hotel at Kings Cross.
At least they had two beds, which was lucky for them.
Betty and I had to share a bed. We’d only pitched up at the hotel a few hours earlier, searching for a room when we were straight off the train in from mainland Europe. It was dusk when we’d arrived, and the hotel only had rooms for two sleeping in the same bed. Still, Betty was my dear friend from school and we’d just spent three years traveling and roughing it together. This wasn’t the first time we’d shared a bed.
“Beer? Or something stronger?” Neal offered. He’d trailed in behind and remain near the door to rummage through their luggage. He held up a bottle and a bottle opener. “We’re prepared for most things, so long as alcohol is required.”
From where I sat, I had a good opportunity to watch him. Neal was just as fit as his friend. Appearance wise, they looked like a couple of magazine fashion models. The sort of guys who could tempt new women back to their rooms every night. Yet, here they were making their way back to their hotel room empty-handed, or they would have been if they hadn’t met me outside. And they didn’t seem cocky and arrogant, which I associated with guys who looked like that.
After kicking his shoes off, Charlie lay back, stretching out on the bed. “Or, if you prefer, not so strong? We’ve got bottles of water.”
A pack of nine sat on the desk immediately beside me, unopened and still wrapped in aqua-blue plastic. I couldn’t miss them.
“I’ll go for a beer, thanks. It’s after midnight. Don’t you think it’s rather late for people to be out walking their dogs?”
“Dunno.” Charlie placed his hands behind his head, which was only slightly raised by his pillow. His T-shirt rode up revealing washboard abs. “I’ve never had a dog.”
In time to rehydrate my drying mouth, Neal handed me a bottle of lager and a bottle opener. I levered the metal top loose from the bottle and handed the opener back. Taking a big glug from the bottle, I downed half of it in no time. “If those dogs got closer without biting I’d have died from dog-breath-intoxication. They should’ve been wearing muzzles. What breed do you think they were? Do you think they’re on the dangerous dog breeds register?”
“I’ve no idea. They were too big to be pit bulls.” Neal perched on the very edge of his bed with his knees wide apart and two beers in his hands, one apparently for Charlie.
“Didn’t one of you mention a dog breed before?” I asked. I thought they’d called the dogs a specific name, but the word had fallen from my memory. They exchanged glances and didn’t answer.
“You know, when we were away we spent many a night telling stories around campfires on beaches.” Neal shifted his weight on the bed. “I’m not suggesting we light a fire in this room, but we could get more comfortable if we put the pillows and duvets on the floor.”
Charlie swung his legs around so his feet were back on the floor. “Great idea, Na—, Neil. more comfortable and closer.” Standing up, he threw his bedding into the pit between the beds.
“I’m all for it,” I agreed. Anything to get off the plastic chair that was designed to be cheap and robust rather than stylish and comfortable. Dropping down next to Charlie, I made myself at home on his pile of bed linen, which involved sitting right up close to him. His arm felt warm next to mine, and he smelled good too.
Before joining us on the floor, Neal got up and gathered more drinks, both beer and water. He put them on the floor at the foot of his bed. “We might need sustenance within arms reach.” Not only was he an attentive gentleman, I decided he was every bit as sexy as his friend.
Charlie leaned forward to accept a beer bottle opened by Neal. “I like the way you’re thinking. Cheers, mate.”
When he sat down opposite me, Neal stretched his long legs out so they were beside me, the other side from Charlie. Neal picked up my feet and carefully removed my shoes, putting them to one side. He placed my feet, still in their socks, onto his lap.
Attempting to control my emotions, I focused on what brought me to their room. “Wouldn’t it be unfortunate to be killed by a dog just a few feet from the safety of my hotel?”
Neal’s fingers pressed firmly against the bases of both feet as he rubbed them. “You were never in any danger.”
How could he know that?
Heaven followed as his fingers worked the souls of my feet.
Instead of telling him how much I liked what he was doing, I said, “Says the man who stood by and watched but did nothing.” Intended as friendly banter, my teasing may have sounded harsh. “Hey, don’t worry. I wouldn’t have saved you from a savage brutal beast either. The man who stepped in front of those dogs needs a sanity check.” I nudged Charlie in the ribs and realized we were actually leaning on one another. “If your friend wasn’t there, I think they’d have had my throat.”
“You do know, hardly anyone in this country dies from dog bites? They were more than likely going to lick you all over before I gave them those sticks to chew on.” Charlie picked up a bottle of water and pushed it into my hands. “Water before more beer.”
I couldn’t disagree with that wisdom.
Neal passed me my second bottle of the amber nectar, again lid still sealed firmly in place. After all the bad stories I’d heard on my travels of drinks being spiked, I certainly appreciated the reassurance of seeing sealed bottles. I felt safe with these guys.
“If there’s any dog who’d want to lick you all over it’s probably my mate sitting beside you,” Neal said.
“Fuck off, Neal. I’m not a dog.”
My heart beat a little faster. I ignored Charlie’s repost and asked Neal, “Charlie’s good with his tongue, is he?”
“If there was going to be any nuzzling involved, I think it’s Ch—, Charlie who’s your man for the job.”
As Neal stuttered, the temperature in the room rose a couple of degrees. I think the air con must have clicked on too as I felt a warm breeze around my neck.
Neal might’ve tapped into my horny brainwaves with his comment, but I could raise the ante.
“Only Charlie? My friend Betty’s gone off to spend the night with two guys she met this evening.” Lucky Betty. “I don’t think one of the guys was going to be left out. In fact, isn’t there a saying, ‘one man’s good and two men are better‘?”
Charlie turned his head towards me, which put his mouth very near mine. “I’m not impressed by a friend leaving you alone in London like that when you were almost attacked and eaten by wild beasts.”
“You just said they were more likely to lick me and hardly anyone ever dies as a result of a dog bite. I was at more risk of being run over by the night bus.” My body might be reacting in the usual way to how gorgeous this man looked and smelled, but the feminist in me refused to let any man tell me women need to take additional precautions for our own safety because we are women. Even if I had enjoyed him being gallant and chivalrous. “Anyway, she didn’t just abandon me. She asked me if it was okay. We were only in the bar next to the hotel. A girl should be able to walk from one building to another, just a few yards, at any time of day or night.”
Having reached the ends of my feet, Neal squeezed my toes. “I agree with you. The streets should be safe for everyone. I’m not so sure about your misquote. Isn’t it from Orwell’s Animal Farm? We read it in school.”
His fingers were distracting, and I wondered what else he could do with them. I had no idea feet in general and toes, in particular, had a direct connection with the clitoris.
“I read Animal Farm at my school too.” Even I could hear that I sounded kind of breathless when I spoke. And it wasn’t George Orwell that took my breath away.
“Then you’re remembering it wrong. It’s four legs good, two legs better.” Charlie’s voice sounded like a low pitched purring lion in my ear.
I felt myself heating up to the core and was aware of things getting wetter.
“Hmm, that can’t be right.” I pointed at Charlie. “You’ve got two legs, and he has two legs. Four’s definitely better. I’ve just been saved from the jaws of death, I think I’m entitled to celebrate the good things about being alive.” I turned my face toward Charlie. His face was right there, next to mine. His cheek felt rough against mine but his mouth when it met mine was something else. He tasted of hot, sexy man.
Even though I was busy kissing his friend, Neal didn’t stop working on my feet. He pulled my toes and twisted his fingers around and in between them, and twisting the cotton sock fabric at the same time. He squeezed my little toe and said, “This little piggy went to market.” Moving to the next tow he did the same. “This little piggy went to school.” And then the next. As he worked through the digits, each squeeze and pull tugged away a layer of my protective inhibitions, took away my breath, and brought me closer to squealing all the way home.
“This little piggy had none.” Neal’s voice sounded sultry.
Pulling away from Charlie, I declared, “There’s no need for any of us to have none.” And I resumed the kiss.
Although this seemed sluttish and forward of me, I felt safer than I ever had. It was like I’d known these guys forever.
I’d grown sick of being careful and boring. I’d done that for three years while traveling in countries where I didn’t speak the national language. I’d come back without a personal horror story about being raped or drugged, thank goodness, but I’d not slept with nearly enough people, in my opinion, and I’d never had a threesome.
Neal didn’t disappoint when his little piggy ran home. Firmly, he stroked his hand right up my leg and the inside of my thigh. The movement was slow enough for me to call a halt if I’d wanted to (I didn’t), but fast enough to be perfect.
Slowly, I slipped backward until I lay on the makeshift mattress of duvet and pillows between the beds. Charlie came with me, his lips sealed to mine in a breathtaking kiss that continued when he was half on top of me.
A warm breeze seemed to whip around the room, it must’ve come in through an open window even though the sound of traffic did not.
Neal moved with me too. He changed position so that he lay next to me. Meanwhile, his hand smoothed up and over my jeans, pausing when he reached the sensitive part at the top of my inner thigh. Thick denim didn’t prevent this from feeling incredible and intimate. His warm hand cupped my crotch. I could feel the pressure of his fingers where it mattered most, against my nub and where I wanted them. He didn’t stop there. His hand continued up, and he popped the top button of my jeans but attempted to disrobe me no further.
I gasped when he tucked his fingers just under the waistband of my jeans and stroked my bare stomach. Instead of going deeper, he drew his hand up under my top until he found Charlie’s hand already cupping one of my breasts. Luckily, I have two.
Neal’s hand worked its way under Charlie’s body until I had the hands of two men squeezing my breasts and teasing my nipples.
I broke my kiss with Charlie so I could turn and kiss Neal, and why not? Neither of the men seemed to mind that they were sharing me so I intended to make the most of it.
I hadn’t figured out where to put my own hands so I decided using them to pop open my jeans and push them down might be a good move. It was already late at night, and I wanted to encourage these guys to get on with things not politely take their time. I didn’t need seducing.
When Charlie realized what I was doing, he sat up. I was too busy with my mouth attached to the other guy’s face to check on Charlie, but the next thing I knew he batted my hands away and took over. He pulled my jeans and underwear right the way down my legs and off.
Bare arousal swept through me. Some of it seeped out on to Charlie’s fingers, which were slipping over my moist folds. “You’re so very wet.” He sounded in awe of my wetness, but the two of them were to blame.
And if he thought that was wet I ought to warn him about the coming flood. There was no way the dam of self-control would stay in place for long. Not when my hands were feeling Neal’s sculpted torso and while his hand taunted my bullet-hard nipple. He turned out to have the physique of a god under his clothes and his kisses tasted of pure sex.
An orgasm very soon was almost guaranteed.
Especially as long as a second equally sexy guy touched me there.
Although I’d have liked more, on the inside as well, Charlie didn’t keep stroking me.
It was too much for my sanity. Didn’t he hear me say don’t stop? The bastard would make me beg.
But no. Before I pushed Neal away so that I could beg, Charlie, pushed my legs apart at the knees.
He slipped his broad shoulders between my knees. I knew my private lady-parts were completely available for his scrutiny and that looking wasn’t all he’d do.
His hot tongue was just what I wanted right then and exactly what I got.
Squirming under his touch, I didn’t want to throw him off, but the sensations his mouth delivered to my clit weren’t the something a woman could stay still for.
I bent my knees and planted my feet firmly on the floor so I could raise my pelvis up toward the source of pleasure. And I held on to Neal as if my life depended on it, kissing him for all he was worth.
Kissing and moaning into his mouth. Thrusting upwards. My juices flowing like he’d tapped into a buried water source and my love tunnel had sprung a leak. My body was doing its own thing, no longer under my conscious control. My brain worked in it’s own mysterious way too.
I was going to fucking come right there and then like that between these two guys who still had all their clothes on and didn’t seem to mind if I used them for my sexual gratification.
Fuck me. Fingers.
I was too aroused for one finger, and I’m not sure I’d have felt it in my channel, which was awash with more lubricant than many well-oiled machines.
Fortunately, he pushed far more than one finger in. I didn’t see, but I’d guess three. And just like that my body contorted, cramped, spasmed, and urged him to thrust in and out.
He did. Good boy. He thrust in and out with his fingers and kept his mouth over my clit and I tried not to thrash about—not too much—through my orgasm.
The air was sucked from my lungs.
I was breathless.
Gasping for air.
Climactic sensations seized me.
Not only did I come, but I let myself go. True and complete release. In a way that I never dreamed possible with men I’d only just met.
I relaxed in a way that was usually only possible on my own. I hoped I’d one day find myself at such uninhibited ease with a lover. Someone I knew well and trusted. It seemed impossible. This level of arousal, of carefree abandon. With strangers. And yet I was there. Living it.
When I came, the men didn’t stop and withdraw from me, like other lovers I’d had.
Charlie slowed his movements right down, and a finger dropped from my pussy but he didn’t pull out completely. He didn’t remove his tongue away from my clit either, not until I pushed him away.
Charlie licked around his own lips before wiping his face on the back of his hand. “You taste magical. I could never get enough of that.”
Neal huffed. “I wish I was in his position, but your mouth tastes amazing too. I’ve wanted to kiss you forever.”
“We’ve only just met.” I ran my hand down to feel the bulge of his crotch. Neal’s dick was hard, thick and long and I wanted it.
He groaned. “It feels as if I’ve known you forever.”
He wanted something too.
I went to undo his jeans, but his hand fell over mine. “Hold on. I’m already on the edge.”
“What about you Charlie? Are you all right down there?” I looked down my body to the other man who grinned back at me looking very pleased with himself.
He gave me a thumbs up sign with one hand. The other was still attached to my do-da. “Hope you’re ready for more.”
“Are you kidding? This is my first ever threesome, I don’t mind if it goes on all night.” So that I’ve got a great story to tell Betty, I thought, but I didn’t tell them that bit. “But I shouldn’t be the only person without pants.”
Two grinning guys shook off their clothes, tops and bottoms. I still wore my top, but I made no attempt to remove it. For one thing, it was a bit breezy in their room, although it had certainly stayed warm enough. And for another, watching the two men strip commanded all my attention.
They had the bodies of supermodels. It was a little intimidating, and I thought I might never get to shag anyone so easy on the eye ever again so I’d better make the most of it.
And then there was the bonus of two men at once.
“If you were happy with what we just did, I’d like to swap positions and taste you.”
Oh, god. Yes.
I expected they’d want to get on with the fucking. Possibly double entry or spit roast. Wasn’t that what men wanted when they shared a girl? And I wasn’t about to say no. I wanted to try those things too, but I’d be more than willing for more pussy-licking and kissing first.
Neal proved as expert at oral and fingering techniques as his pall. Didn’t they say they’d gone to school together? Well, they were outstanding in this lesson.
Speaking of outstanding, while Neal made me come several times with his mouth and fingers turning me into a gibbering pile of mush, Charlie kissed me. I stroked his dick; my fingers only just wrapped around it, it was girthy as well as long.
It was never my intention to make him come too soon, I wanted to suck his dick and feel it in me, but when I came for the umpteenth time he shuddered and jerked too. The wet evidence of his orgasm splattered against me.
Perhaps it wouldn’t take him long to recover?
He used his discarded T-shirt to mop up the mess, and I looked at Neal who had sat up, his eye’s wide and his lips looked full and red.
“Do you guys have condoms? Because I have some in my bag.”
For a moment, I thought I saw a panicked expression flash across Neal’s face, but I must have imagined it. “Do you like sucking cock?” He sounded almost timid.
“Are you kidding?” I wouldn’t say no to anything after what he’d done for me. He didn’t need to ask twice. I got up on my knees before him. My mouth was ready for both of them and I wondered if double-entry oral was a thing.
Much later, in the later afternoon, I was walking along Kingsland High Street when my feet left the floor and I flew backward. I traveled a mere few inches before a plate-glass window halted my momentum.
My brain hardly registered the angry shouting only a few feet away while I was slammed against the nearest vertical surface and held helplessly pinned against the glass by a muscular, mountain of maleness.
It’s a wonder I hadn’t noticed him on the street minutes before he grabbed me. With his wild Viking looks, his long, golden locks, and his great height, he must have stood out from the crowd in the busy London shopping street.
His solid, broad, body pressed firmly against me. His crazy-green eyes, flecked with yellow and gold, gazed into mine. I didn’t see him before but now this man had my full attention.
Making a mental note of his striking features in case I should need to give a description later or pick him out of a police lineup, I concluded my attacker wasn’t entirely unlike a long-haired and youthful Viking Norse God Thor, particularly a version played by actor Chris Hemsworth. Although this stranger’s hair was slightly longer and more golden, strawberry-blond AKA ginger. So the whole Chris Hemsworth connection was more wishful thinking. If any man was going to grab me in the street and press himself against me, I just wanted it to be Chris Hemsworth. Or one of his brothers.
For the briefest fraction of a second, a fantasy about the sexual chemistry between myself and a Thor-look-alike flitted about my brain. It was shooed away by the fact that this man had just assaulted me and it wasn’t over. My feet weren’t on the floor. He still held me aloft and invaded my personal space.
Obviously, he hadn’t read the memo about keeping away from me, the daughter of The Black Widow. A warning that I might be as dangerous as my mother would circulate in East London soon enough. My mother’s nickname didn’t come from the Marvel comics but did come from the spider connection, she acquired it after killing a bunch of men.
It occurred to me that I might want to take full advantage of my anonymity and sleep with all the gorgeous men who looked like Viking warriors while I could before they found out about my crazy mother. A story guaranteed to put any man off me.
Thinking about sleeping with a stranger who’d just accosted me wasn’t my first inappropriate thought of the day. There had been so many, it’s just how my brain worked. It must have been the after-affect of the threesome that started the night before and had continued into that morning. Waking up between two guys on a hotel floor after a night devoted to oral sex certainly inspired sexy mental meanderings.
“Shush,” he whispered in a low voice.
Dazed and breathless, no matter how lewd my thoughts, I certainly hadn’t voiced them aloud.
Gorgeous looks and Scandinavian background notwithstanding, there was no excuse for manhandling me and then shushing me without introductions first.
Winded, gasping for breath, I didn’t call out for help, which would have been the obvious thing to do. Too shocked to fight back, I didn’t attempt to knee him in the groin. It wasn’t an option anyway because my trapped legs were tightly sandwiched between a solid man and shatter-proof glass.
Biting his ear seemed to be the only avenue of attack open to me.
I added earrings to the mental description. Several. All different. All silver. A hoop, a little stud with a red jewel, and one of silver threads fashioned into a geometric shape. I blinked and looked away, unwilling to be reminded of the torture of mathematics lessons due to which I should know the names of those damned figures.
Even though I was held against my will in a vice-like grip, at that point I wasn’t overly worried about my predicament. I felt inexplicably safe. A man couldn’t just accost a woman in a crowded public place and expect to get away with it.
The ginger stranger had a sincere face. He didn’t look like a pervert, if only you could tell, but I couldn’t feel a hard-on pressed against me. And believe me, we were close enough that if he had any erection of note, I’d have known about it.
It was late afternoon. or early evening, take your pick depending on what time of day you get up. I’d not been awake long so I’d opt for late afternoon. The autumn sun had set a while ago, but the streetlights, the traffic, and the shopfronts ensured Dalston was bright and well-lit, busy and bustling. We were surrounded by people.
It seemed like a long while that I dangled there before my mind began to process the events, but it probably took two or three seconds.
“Shield,” he whispered.
Only because Thor held me aloft could I look him in the face, and even consider his ear within biting reach. More importantly, I caught a glimpse over his shoulder.
Behind him, men were passing by. They appeared agitated. The reason for that may have been to do with the man at the center of the group who wore a loud 1970s retro shirt. It wasn’t the dazzling shirt that made me believe he was at the heart of the commotion. It was the fucking huge machete that he waved above his head as if it were a harmless flag or banner on a protest march.
The men were shouting at each other, arguing in a language that I didn’t understand, Turkish, I’d guess, given we were at Dalston and its local population. I couldn’t understand a word of it except for the frequent expletive.
On my travels, I’d discovered fuck and taxi are two words that are the same in any language. These men weren’t hailing taxis.
Thor and I weren’t the only people squashed against the store-front.
We were part of a silent huddle of men, women, and children. Everyone held their breaths as they stood petrified. Using their bodies to hide and protect their loved ones, adults held on to youngsters, burying their innocent faces in clothing so they wouldn’t see.
Turned to the buildings, people stayed still and quiet, trying to make themselves small and invisible. I knew what they were all thinking because I had the same idea. They hoped they wouldn’t attract the attention of Retro Shirt. Collectively, we tested the magic we’d all learned as kids: if we didn’t see him, he wouldn’t see us. By the same token, if we didn’t look at the sharp blade, it wouldn’t find us.
It dawned on me that the huge wall of man-muscle might have just saved my skin. His broad back almost completely shielded my body. He continued to offer protection while, like the other people, he didn’t look back.
Shield? Is that what he’d meant?
I looked beyond my human shield.
Some people were calling out. “He said he’s going to cut his head off,” one voice shouted.
Thanks for the translation but TMI.
Although, even I knew it wasn’t verbatim because I actually heard frequent fucks in every sentence.
No one needs the F word translated. But if they didn’t translate his sentence accurately how much could I trust in the translation at all. If he was just going after one specific person then I needn’t worry. Obviously, I don’t condone his intentions, but at least I didn’t face imminent danger. However, what if I’m going to cut their heads off, or I’m going to cut all your heads off were more accurate translations, minus the fucks. Only slight changes in the words, but quite different meanings.
As things stood, I didn’t know whether we were in danger or who the intended target.
In English, and in an incongruous cockney accent, Retro shirt shouted in my direction, “I’m going to fucking cut his fucking head from his fucking shoulders.”
Plenty of fucks there made him sound proper cockney.
Finally, fear took hold. My mouth went dry and my stomach felt like that sharp blade had sliced through it.
I shut my eyes hoping that he wasn’t focused on me.
And if I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see me.
Yet again I thought, wouldn’t it be great if there was such a thing as invisibility magic and it worked that way?
The ground trembled. That always seemed magical. I’d come to accept that it was only caused by a passing lorry or an underground train. There weren’t earthquakes or volcanoes in England.
I’d only been back in the country of my birth less than twenty-four hours, and it had been non-stop eventful. Savage dogs, my first threesome, machete-man. Whatever next?
When the sound of the shouting moved away, and I sensed the people around me beginning to breathe again, I opened my eyes.
People scuttled away whispering and holding on to their family members.
Thor stepped back and lowered me to the ground.
Not usually stuck for words, I was at a loss after sharing such a scary and intimate moment. I should say something like thank you for protecting me and I liked your big body squashing all my soft bits.
Thor looked all about, up and down the street and across it, everywhere but at me.
He didn’t give me the opportunity to say anything. “Shield,” he said in a low whisper. Then he walked away without looking back. He wasn’t going to disappear into the crowd soon. He was a real-life human Hagrid who’d always tower above most people, and I’ll bet he got fed up with being asked if he played basketball.
Stunned and confused, I stood still and watched him pace off toward Stoke Newington, the same direction as I should’ve been going except I just stood still in a daze. When I felt a gentle hand upon my left bicep, I looked away from him.
“Are you all right?” The young woman of about my age looked vaguely familiar, but I wasn’t sure where from. Not here, that was for sure. I hadn’t been down this road for almost fifteen years.
She had black hair and tanned skin. She might have been Turkish, but I couldn’t assume everyone around Dalston was from that country.
“Yes, I’m fine.” I wasn’t. I was in shock. I needed to work on a better response to such questions if things like this were going to keep happening. “You should check on the kids, not me.”
Of all people, I knew from first-hand experience that children shouldn’t be confronted with the reality of knife crime. They shouldn’t be aware of people being hacked to death, even less see such a monster as that man making terrifying threats.
Realistically, I was the last person who could offer support at a time like this. The event stirred up my childhood memories in a way that I didn’t want to deal with right then.
Though I didn’t actually see the murders with my own eyes, I’d grown-up haunted by stories of people stabbed and decapitated in frenzied knife attacks. It was all too close to home.
Ignoring the woman and everyone else, I glanced back in the direction Thor had taken. He’d disappeared from view. That’s what I needed to do too. Get the day back on track. It was already late enough after last night’s impromptu party.
Incredibly, my threesome buddies hadn’t snoozed after they come for the first time, they’d insisted on sitting up through the night. We’d chatted, and drank, and kissed, and more. When I thought I couldn’t stay awake any longer, one of them would go down on me, an action guaranteed to wake me up. All in all, it passed as a very pleasant night of sleep-deprived torture. It had been well into the day by the time I left the guys and went back to my room to catch up on sleep.
The consequence of my late night meant I had a late check out from the hotel. I then deposited all my worldly goods in a couple of bags in a luggage place next to Kings Cross station. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be staying in Stoke Newington, checking into a hotel in London, or taking off on more travels again.
It all resulted in my trip to Hackney taking place in the evening instead of the daytime as I’d intended. If I’d have been earlier, I would have missed that bit of excitement.
Keeping the children close, many of the adults were scuttling swiftly away. Other people around me were talking on mobile phones, I overheard enough to know at least one person called the police.
There wasn’t anything practical I could do to be helpful by sticking around. I could give a description but other people around me seemed to know the man. I heard them mentioning names in their conversations. There were plenty of witnesses so they didn’t need me. I felt a little useless. And drained.
“Good.” I heard her say as I walked away. I looked back.
She raised a crash helmet and pulled it over her head. It wasn’t a leather jacket she was wearing, as I first thought, but full leather motorcycle leathers.
Her motorbike rested right by where she stood, which was along the path that machete man had walked so she couldn’t have been parked there through the traumatic event.
She wasn’t there when it all happened, yet she’d stopped and spoken only to me.
I need to calm down and take five minutes out. I couldn’t go from this incident directly to face my own past head-on. I shuddered. I didn’t like to think about sharing my former home with a brutal mass murderer, no matter how many years had passed, and no matter that she was my mother.
By luck, I found myself standing outside the perfect place to regroup before making my way back to the house that held so many memories. Needing a drink, I headed into the nearest bar.
My teeth ached. I could almost taste her when she entered the room. She was no more human than I was. Tantalizingly, she walked right up and pulled out the stool next to me at the counter.
“What are the chances?” Of a woman like that entering my space?
I didn’t finish the thought aloud. What were the chances of a witch like that approaching me without trying to kill me as if I didn’t pose a danger?
Yet, here she was, alone and pretty much harmless and defenseless, from what I could tell.
“Pardon?” Sitting down on the bar stool, she turned to look at me directly when asking her question. “Did you say something?”
“I wondered why of all the juice bars in all of the towns in all of London you had to walk into mine?”
Her eyebrows raised in disbelief. “Yours? This is your juice bar?”
“Why shouldn’t it be?” The question was a test. Did she know who I was? What I was? Would she tell me that vampires don’t do cafés, restaurants, and bars?
“You’re about my age.” She shook her head. “I suppose you don’t have to be old to run a juice bar.”
I smiled. So we were going to do this. Pretend we’re both mundane. Pretend we’re of a similar age.
“I’d guess you’re twenty, coming up to twenty-one. And I’m just a tad older.” Tad older by hundreds of years, poppet. And the youth of today don’t say tad, do they? I mentally kicked myself for the error. And they don’t call each other poppet. “And if the Dalston Smoothie Shack wasn’t mine, why else do you think they’d let me sit in the prime seat at bar, here, without a drink?” I waved my hand across the clear countertop in front of me.
The cafe wasn’t mine, of course. I threw out the challenge to test her reaction again.
For one obvious reason I could sit anywhere I damn well wanted. As an aged elder vampire, I possessed powers that witches could only dream of. Powers that should’ve meant she stayed well away from me, if she knew what I was.
I was a little arrogant, I’ll admit it.
“What can I get you?” Chris, the bartender, interrupted our conversation.
“Um, I haven’t decided.” She stared up at the chalkboard beyond him.
Chris reached out to pick up a laminated menu but before he handed it to her, I offered my own suggestion.
“May I recommend the Red Berry Delight?” There were few things lovelier than watching the rich, red liquid wash around lips and the residue settle around smiling white teeth. Of course, I wanted to watch her consume a drink the color of fresh blood rather than something like newly mown grass or, even worse, warm sunlight.
My purpose for visiting the Smoothie Shack was one big ulterior motive. This was the best place to pick up an early evening snack, even for a blood-sucking vampire, because healthy-juice drinkers had the sweetest vital fluid.
I hadn’t expected the scintillating scent of the blood of a powerful young witch to come so close to me, the provocation was almost more temptation than my aged teeth could take.
Merely the smell alone was almost as good as draining the blood of a virgin. You don’t find many adult virgins in East London these days, at least not one without a chaperone.
The last time I stumbled such a delicious smelling stranger was the young, virgin, water witch, Beck Colborn, several years ago, and that was also right here in Dalston. The blood of a virgin witch is hard to resist and in Beck, it turn out he tasted every bit as good as he smelt.
“It’s her first time in this place, Chris, make it a Red Berry Delight on the house.” I worded my order to suggest I was in charge of the place. And in a way I was, it was the natural order of things, powerful vampires in charge. It didn’t matter that I didn’t own the Smoothie Shack, Chris was compelled to carry out my bidding. “My treat. Now, while Chris whizzes up the fruit-filled delight, tell me why you’re here?”
“For a smoothie?” Her eyes examined me intently. “I mean a drink. Obviously, what other kind of smoothie could I mean?” Her cheeks colored a little her scent also gave her away, she was flirting with me, but her heartbeat remained the same. She stayed perfectly calm and at ease. Few witches in her seat would remain so relaxed sitting next to me.
The usurpers, humans and witches together, persecuted my kind because they feared our power. If she were any other witch, she would have recognized me, turned around as soon as she’d entered, and put as much distance between us as possible in the hope that I wouldn’t track her down and kill her.
There were two possible explanations for her composure. Firstly, given her youthful age, she might not yet know about me, or secondly, she didn’t fear me because of who she was.
Possibly, of the two of us, I should be more concerned.
She radiated such energy that I’d rarely sensed before. Before she’d entered the Smoothie Shack, I’d sensed her massive aura moving closer. I’d been aware of her since she’d entered east London.
One day, if she lived long enough, she’d be a powerful woman. A witch of the highest order, I believed. But she hadn’t begun to tap into her potential. I hadn’t felt a presence like her since…, well, I’d never known a presence like hers.
However, after a few moments beside her, I recognized this young witch.
“I mean, tell me why you’re here in east London? Do you live around here or are you visiting someone?” I was certain of the answer. It hadn’t taken me long to notice she looked and smelt like Serina Selby.
“I’ve been traveling abroad and I’ve just arrived back in the UK and I’m on my way to visit my uncle.” She smiled, innocently. “What about you? You have an accent and I’m wondering if it’s from a place I visited. Where are you from?”
“I’m from Romania.” We were doing this. Pretending we were ordinary mundane mortals having a casual chat and knew nothing about each other. I had a story I’d pull out for such chit chat. “My family came here when I was just a child, but I held on to an accent. My name is Varu, by the way, Varu Vasile. And welcome to The Smoothie Shack.”
At that moment, Chris placed the rich red drink before her. “Enjoy. It’s complementary,” he said and ignored me as if I wasn’t there.
If a mundane like Chris had any awareness of the powerful, wild, aura surrounding the witch, it was difficult to tell. Humans sometimes seemed to sense things, but most of the time they were such simple creatures. The way they called themselves rational always made me laugh. And I realized I was showing a smile to my new companion. Teeth retracted.
“I’m Malka,” Malka smiled with a trace of red berry juice coloring her lips.
Malka: I knew it. This was probably not the time to tell her I knew her mother.
I remember when you were a babe in her arms. And now you’ve marched right up to me the same way humans do as if there is no danger at all in approaching an ancient hungry elder vampire.
“Varu? Is that a Romanian name?” She lifted her drink to her lips.
“Yes, short for Varujan.”
It wouldn’t do to have the heiress to the House of Selby mistake me for one of the Turkish mob. I wanted to make it quite clear who I was, and who I wasn’t.
One day she’d be far more powerful than her mother, if Malka lived that long. Although, I didn’t rate her chances of survival all that highly. Firstly, going around London with her aura on display, letting every vampire and demon for miles know what she was, it was like a teenager advertising a free-for-all party on social media. Her aura acted as a calling card to her adversaries.
And then there was the way she casually sauntered up to this particular apex predator as if she had a death wish. If I were any other vampire, she’d be facing her final minutes.
It’s a wonder the Turkish vampires hadn’t drained her powerful blood as soon as she’s stepped foot on Hackney’s pavements. It wasn’t just the Turks who were a threat to her, either.
As we spoke, vampires and witches were probably plotting the downfall of this young upstart at that very minute. If vampires weren’t the masters of concealed movement, I’d probably detect them gathering in the nearby streets, ready to grab Malka. I couldn’t let that happen. The Selbys would never forgive me and they were powerful allies.
I looked at Malka in wonder.
If sweet little Malka pulled her tribe back together and took control of her seventh-fucking-order potential the witches of Summerhouse Road might become the most the most powerful magical coven in all England.
“I could escort you to Stoke Newington if you like. Make sure you get there safely.”
And suddenly I heard her little heartbeat flutter. Sweat broke through the surface of her skin, and I could smell her fear.
A seventh order witch of the House of Selby had entered a room that I occupied, she’d approached me and sat next to me, as calm as you like, no sign of stress. But when I suggested walking her home, she has a melt down as if she’d be safer on her own. Dear Dracula, she had no idea of the order of things in East London, or who her friends were, that was for sure.
“I never said I was going to Stoke Newington.” She raised the glass to her lips and sipped.
Didn’t she? Didn’t she tell me that’s where her so-called uncle lived?
It was possible she was destined to some other place, but she wouldn’t be here on Kingsland High Road if she were going to any other Selby property.
“No, you didn’t.” By the luck of the devil, I had a workaround for this corner I’d gotten myself into. “I’m the one going to Stoke Newington, I live that way. If you’re going in that direction I can escort you is all I meant. Of course, if you’re off to Hackney Marshes then we’ll say our goodbyes here.”
She relaxed slightly. “Do you know, oh hold on, let me check the address again.” She pulled a scrap of paper from her pocket. If I were alive, I’d bet my life she already had that address memorized, she merely carried the slip of paper like a comfort blanket. There was no surprise when she said, “Summerhouse Road, Stoke Newington.”
Of course, I knew it. But I feigned astonishment anyway. “No way. It can’t be. I reside in that street too. What are the chances of that?”
Her heartbeat raced again, and I knew I’d overdone the theatricals and said the wrong thing. Damn it. She thought I’d made it up. I should have told her my address first. From her point of view, it seemed suspicious that I suddenly declared I was going to exactly the same place as her.
There was no digging myself out of this. I didn’t know for certain who she referred to as her so-called uncle. She didn’t have an actual uncle, though I could guess who her mother chose as the surrogate all those years ago.
If I said a mass murderer had lived near me fifteen years ago, Malka would know I referred to Serina Selby. But it was hardly going to reassure her that I was someone safe to walk home with.
“Sorry. Phone vibrated,” I explained, pulling out a mobile phone, I decided to go with a Plan B. “You know how they interrupt all the best plans.” I tapped on the screen, careful to angle it away from her.
“Not really. I don’t have one.”
I jerked my head up. Even I live in the twenty-first century these days. “How do you survive?” I asked in amazement.
“I get by. I’m just unlucky and always manage to break them, pretty much as soon as they come out the box. I’m hopeless with technology. But I’ve found plenty of other things my fingers are good for.” Her eyebrows raised a little and head angled to the side, ever so slightly.
Oh, my. If the young lady’s innuendo was an attempt at flirting, it widely missed its mark. I was too old and too dead to be turned on solely by thoughts of anything she could do with her fingers. Her blood on the other hand, she could get me hard with that.
The phone thing was news to me, I didn’t hang out with witches enough to know how their magic meshed with modern technology. Or perhaps Malka really did have bad luck.
I looked at my phone and focused on my own plan. “Something has come up and I am, in fact, destined in another direction.” I stood, making obvious my intention to leave. “I hope I’ll catch you another time when you’re in Hackney.”
“You’re not going straight home?” The relief in her voice was severely misplaced. I could not let her travel through London alone.
“No.” I’m going to be shadowing you all the way until you are safely on your land. “But it is a straightforward walk from here. You can’t get lost. Straight up that way.” I pointed north. “Turn left at Church Street and then your road will be on the right. I live at the very far end by the cemetery. Feel free to call by any time.”
And with your own best interests and life prospects at heart, you should be begging me to stick close by.
For some reason when he stood up to leave my eyes worked all the way down his body and I hummed my approval. Audibly hummed.
“Hmm.” Yummy. “This smoothie tastes good, by the way. Good choice. Thanks.” I said trying to cover up the fact that I’d been purring. I didn’t know what had come over me. I wouldn’t mind him coming over me, truth be told.
“My pleasure, Malka, I hope to see more of you again soon.”
I’d like that too. To see a lot more of him, of course.
I tried to drag my thoughts back from my mental art gallery of scantily clad men.
It’s not as if he could detect that my panties were much damper now than when I entered the bar.
He couldn’t possibly read my mind. And yet, I couldn’t help imagining he’d given me a knowing wink.
The temptation to turn and watch him leave proved irresistible. I might have glanced over my shoulder, no more than thrice, to check him out.
There goes a man who should have a bright neon warning sign over his head, cute guy alert. He had everything, the charm, the looks, and even his own business. He was just about my age, easy on the eye, and easy to talk to.
He had a strange turn of phrase, he spoke like someone’s elderly grandparent, not a guy of my age. Perhaps that was a reflection of our different backgrounds, I was English, he originated from Romania. It didn’t make sense though, I was the one who’d been brought up among wealthy girls in a stuffy, old-fashioned boarding school, and him? I assume he’d grown up around here, on the ethnically diverse streets of twenty-first-century east London.
Living in the same street as my house, no less.
Go figure. As he would say, what are the chances?
If he really did live at the end of the road, I’d run into him again even if I had to arrange for it to happen—accidentally on purpose. And if he didn’t live there? If he was lying it was just as well I didn’t go off into the night with him.
The sort of strangers who talk to you in juice bars are surely going to be all right? I imagined bad boys hang out where there are drugs and alcohol, not wheat-grass and coconut milk. There was nothing about Varu that seemed dangerous apart from his all too good looks, his perfect complexion, and spiky black hair added to his charming confidence.
I could do with a friend or two like him.
Some hot, charming, young guys to show me the night-life and a good time. After all, we weren’t going to live forever and there were so many men and so little time.
At twenty-one, almost, I ought to get out more. Why not pick up a guy who hangs out at a place serving smoothies? At least he should have a healthy attitude toward life and women.
Much as Mr. Tall-Dark-And-Handsome was a very pleasant and much-needed distraction to the issue of knife-wielding maniacs on the streets, death by stab wounds, and worse, I didn’t have the time to dwell on him or any of the earlier disconcerting incidents of the day. I had a house to visit and my inheritance to check up on.
The berry juice proved an excellent choice. The perfect pick-me-up energy boost and just what I needed before I made my way to the house of my early years. I remembered it though I hadn’t been back since the night my mother was arrested. I was curious to see how much had changed. I’d lived there until the age of seven when I had a brief spell in foster care before being sent to boarding school. Even though I didn’t know my father, and my mother was in prison, my family estate could afford to pay for a private, privileged education.
“Cheers,” I mumbled and raised my glass in a silent toast to absent friends.
My future really hung in the balance.
Going back to the house was the first step in figuring things out.
A blood-red fruit drink and flirting with a handsome guy was exactly what I needed to put myself in a positive frame of mind in order to face my old home. He might not have noticed my attempt at flirting because I hadn’t much practice in the art of seduction.
When your mother’s a crazy mass-murderer who butchered a whole crowd of men, and you spend your formative teenage years tagged as the daughter of London’s Black Widow, it doesn’t do wonders for your dating profile.
As soon as I reached eighteen, I left school, glad to leave behind everyone who knew too much about my history. I’d been wary of getting too involved with anyone while traveling and working abroad where English wasn’t the first language. I’d had fun and experiences, and I’d seen some of the world, but I’d been guarded too.
Refreshed and ready to face whatever I would find at my old home, I drained the glass, left the cafe, and headed north.
The walk to Stoke Newington may have been a mile or more from Dalston Junction, I could have caught the bus, but I covered the ground quickly on foot, and barely noticed the journey as I was lost in my thoughts. Although it was early evening, and dark, London is a twenty-four-hour city and the streets were as busy as day.
It was reassuring to see so many big men in dark uniforms as I walked past the police station, especially after the earlier incident.
When I neared my destination, I became more aware of the people milling about. They seem to back away clearing the path before me as I approached. I worried that this was some figment of my delusional mind and I was going as crazy as my mother. Why would people notice me or move for me any more than they would pay attention to anyone else? It made no sense.
When I reached the junction with Stoke Newington Church Street where I was supposed to turn left and I was within a few hundred yards of my old home, a large figure emerged. I wanted to go west into Stoke Newington Church Street, but he blocked my way so I couldn’t change direction if I wasn’t going to crash into him.
“Keep going,” he said in a low whisper. He turned to walk beside me keeping me heading north. “There’s a riot about breakout back there. It’s too dangerous to go that way. Come with me.”
There was a sincere urgency in his tone and I didn’t doubt him. Why would I? This was the same man who’d previously held me against a shop front and saved me from a possible beheading. I had no reason to fear him and some small reason to trust him.
I sensed that I wouldn’t be able to walk fast enough to walk around him or get away but if I slowed down, he would too.
We walked together quickly.
A sense of urgency rolled off him, so much so it tempted me to run.
We hastened our pace. After we’d covered no more than a couple of hundred feet, he clasped my arm. “We can cut through Abney Park.”
Having not lived in this area since the age of seven, I didn’t know where he was talking about. I’d looked at a map earlier but had no alternative routes committed to memory.
Just after we passed a parade of shops he steered me toward a park that was set back on our left. Impressive stone pillars supported tall black railings and the central gates were open.
“This way.” He beckoned me to accompany him into the park.
Only a short stretch of grass was visible beyond the railings and after that, just a few trees stood out from the dense darkness. I hesitated. It wasn’t the sort of place to enter at night with a stranger. “I’m not sure this is a good idea.”
“Don’t be afraid of what’s ahead,” a familiar voice with a slight European accent whispered in my right ear. “It’s what’s coming up behind you that you need to fear.”
Apart from the giant on my left I hadn’t realized anyone was as close to me. I certainly hadn’t heard Varu approaching. I heard Thor’s heavy footfall to one side, but Varu must have worn some of the latest silent-technology trainers. I had to wonder if I was going deaf in one ear. I could still hear traffic, cars and buses moving along the road, and the wind rustling through the trees.
“You?” I said.
“No. Not me. What’s being me is what you need to get away from.” He grinned as if he’d said something funny and not at all menacing. “We need to move quickly, Malka.” Varu sped up as we enter the gate walking slightly ahead of Thor and me.
A glance over my shoulder confirmed sure enough, there were many people following us. I almost stopped still in surprise, not expecting to see a bunch of emos getting closer to us. They wore big boots with sharp, shiny buckles, studded belts and shiny chains. Their clothing should have jingled as they moved, yet I hadn’t heard them at all. I had no idea how they’d gotten so close without detection and wondered about their footwear.
Suddenly a bright light shone ahead. When I glanced to my side, Varu was holding his phone in front of him, illuminating the path through the park.
Decisively, I chose to trust these two men and go along with their plan despite the fact that approaching dark woods accompanied by male strangers seemed recklessly crazy. Thor had saved me earlier, and I had no reason to distrust Varu.
I practically ran to keep up with the two tall men moving toward the dark forest ahead. “What exactly are we running from?”
We entered through the open gates and walked quickly towards the woods.
“Trouble,” Thor replied.
We didn’t reach the trees before trouble caught up and surrounded us.
We turned, and I gasped. The sudden appearance of the menacing goths seriously freaked me. I had no idea how these people had gotten all around us without me seeing or hearing them approach us. So freaked that I actually felt comforted by the fact that Varu and the Viking-like stranger were either side of me, even though that was a weird coincidence.
A woman moved close to Thor. “Fire, I’ve no quarrel with you, but you can’t keep her.”
Her gaze wandered over him like he was a delicious meal on her plate and she didn’t know which part to bite first. Was she a jilted or jealous girlfriend? I didn’t know the guy, but I felt a pang of jealousy.
Get off my hunky Viking and go find your own long haired love.
Another woman stepped forward. She sniffed the air in a dramatic fashion. “Don’t give her up peacefully. I don’t mind drinking virgin blood.” The goths shared a joke that I didn’t understand. Their humor felt sinister.
Who was she calling a virgin?
I may look young for almost twenty-one, but I’d lost the V-card a few years earlier. Now I did threesomes. Well, I’d done one. Okay, so strictly speaking there was no penetration when I had that threesome but the guys were all into oral and lots of it. That must count.
I had no idea what woman the goth girls were talking about. However, if they referred to me, then they misread the relationship between me and the redheaded stranger.
Ginger Thor took the tiniest step toward Goth girl number one. “You know I can’t let that happen. You’ll have to come and present your requests in the proper fashion.” That was a fucking weird thing to say; sounded a bit like this couple were into BDSM role play.
The other girl sneered, I didn’t blame her.
She was a lanky emo with long, greasy hair and a squashed face. “A race of people who’d stab us in the back while we sleep will not get that respect. You know that. Give her up and we’ll let you live.”
Let him live!
It was laughable. He was twice the size of those nutty women, but they had a backup army of ghostly faced goths behind them.
“You wanna taste me?” Thor stepped toward them. “I’d never give up one of ours to one of you.”
What the fuck did that mean?
Varu stepped closer to me so that his arm rubbed against mine. “Look, Turk, I know you’re not acting for yourself. You’re going to put decades of peace in jeopardy, and for what?” I noticed the almost-permanent smile had disappeared from his face, making him seem much older and serious, for once.
“This isn’t about us, Varujan.” Both women stepped closer.
Silver glinted in a flash of movement so swift that I could only attribute it to Thor after the fact.
Both women crumpled to the floor before I saw the blade, two blades. Beside me, Thor transformed into a terrifying rage. It dawned on me, he was the person with the knives.
I couldn’t bring myself to look directly at the bodies on the floor.
At the same time, Varu urged me to turn and run.
He didn’t need to tell me twice, but I didn’t move, terror paralyzed me. Varu had to pull me to get me started.
“Run, Malka, to the left.” Varu dragged me away and, at last, my legs responded. We made toward the dark trees.
We ran together. I didn’t question it.
There were more goths, emos, punks or whatever they were standing behind the two who’d taken the first hit from the mad man’s anger and I didn’t want to see where that rage would be directed next. I think he’d moved toward them. I didn’t want to consider what would happen if he chased and caught us after we’d seen what he’d done. I didn’t want to be the witness he took down.
I’d been in London less than twenty-four hours and twice seen up close its reputation for knife crime.
Running forward, I went ahead of Varu. I heard no noise behind me, it was as if I was running on my own. I didn’t want to look back, it would slow me down, but I was aware Varu was on my heels because of the light he held and shone on the ground ahead of us so we could see where we were going. The path split in many directions and without hesitation, I went left as earlier instructed. “Run left,” Varu had said.
From further back, I heard more footsteps, so I just kept going as fast as possible.
Varu must have been super fit as he wasn’t even panting, there was no thud on the ground as his feet hit the floor but the light stayed steady as if he was out for an evening stroll.
“You can stop now,” he said after a short distance. He didn’t even sound out of breath.
I didn’t want to stop, but I couldn’t keep sprinting like that and cramp and burning leg muscles left me no choice. I’d be dead if this were the zombie apocalypse, I’ve seen the Walking Dead and I know monsters just keep on going.
Worryingly, I heard footsteps gaining on us, and I had to know. I glanced behind, I made out a large figure at a distance but gaining on us. It could have meant danger. After witnessing the big guy who saved me from a knife attack earlier slicing into two women, I didn’t know what to expect next or who to trust.
Hiding seemed a good plan. I made the snap decision to veer off the path and take cover behind a tombstone. If Varu wouldn’t shine his light on me hopefully whatever trouble followed us would go right past. Varu wasn’t out of breath, he could keep running and lead the big guy away from me.
In the shifting shadows, I weaved between the toppled tombstones, stumbling over soft uneven ground littered with tree roots and pieces of broken gravestones. Of the memorials still standing, they were tightly packed side by side and back to back.
Foolish Varu kept his light on me and followed me. “I’m trying to hide,” I growled.
“Stop. You can stop now. You’re safe,” he said, and I sensed him stopping as the light ceased bobbing about and didn’t follow me.
All before my feet was blackness, I took the final step. I stubbed my toe against something hard and fell on my hands and knees into the black ground. That’s right. Into the ground not on to it.
Around the exposed skin on my hands, the earth felt warm and doughy. It was like landing on a sponge cake that was cooling, fresh from the oven. The force of my landing pushed a hole straight through the slightly firm crust. Immediately, my hands and knees were both enveloped in the mulch mix. Naturally, I tried to push myself up but there was nothing to push against. I hadn’t reached right through the cake mix to the bottom of the tin. Instead, my arms and legs slowly sank deeper into the moist soft ground.
It turned out Varu wasn’t the gentlemen that I’d thought, instead of coming forward to help me out of the mushy earth he just watched me sinking into it before turning to the man who approached him. As I sank faster, it occurred to me that perhaps Varu didn’t actually see that I’d fallen down. He’d turned the torch away from my direction. He probably thought I was hiding. Whereas, in fact, I was falling,
The true extent of my predicament didn’t become clear to me until I was more than half buried in the earth. I could have called out; I should have called out, but my brain froze in fear and confusion.
Within seconds I’d slipped so deep into the earth that only my head rose above the surface. I saw the red-headed murderer approaching Varu. Varu looked at him perfectly calmly.
I kept falling.
Both of them oblivious to me.
My mouth filled with earth when I finally opened it too late to scream.
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