Character Interview: Melissa E. Beckwith’s Rhiannon

Fantasy author, Melissa E. Beckwith, invited me into her story world to meet with her character, Rhiannon Kossi. This gave me the opportunity to sit down with the young woman originally from modern day Montana who found herself in a whole different world when she was trying to discover what happened to her mom. She learned a lot more than she ever expected, and this interview explores a bit of it. ‘Kelly’ is written by me, and ‘Rhiannon’ is written by Melissa E. Beckwith. Enjoy!

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Rhiannon Kossi watched as Flath and Teo brought out a table and sat it in a sunny spot of the small opening.  Tim followed behind them carrying two chairs then quickly ran back to camp to bring some refreshments.

“Thank you, boys!” Rhiannon called and smiled up at Flath

“Anything for you, your Highness.”  Flath gave a ridiculous bow then stood up and smiled at her.  A soft summer breeze ruffled his blond hair, his golden panther earring glinting in the sunlight.  She leaned in and kissed his lips.  “Do not linger too long, Greannmhor, we must be on our way north soon,” he said then turned and left to help the others pack up the camp.

Rhiannon walked over to the table.  Tim had put out some hard bread and a little cheese and some sliced apples.  There was a jug there she knew held some kid of dark liquor and two wooden cups.  Rhiannon sighed, no silver tea service here, she thought.  She hoped Kelly would not mind.

Nervously she walked around the table and picked things up then mindlessly sent them back down.  She thought it was odd that The Muse would want to interview her, but ever since she got taken through that darn Tree of Jur and brought into this world, nothing made sense. Oh well, what harm would there be in giving an interview?  Queen Baobh already knew she was in Beaynid with the rebellion and was now on her way north to Ventra, to her people, the Archigos.

Rhiannon looked through the trees for any sign of Kelly, The Muse, and so far, saw nothing.  She turned her face up to the warmth of the sun and took a deep breath.  Soon she would face the Archigos.  Would they even accept her?  With her eyes closed she listened to the sound of the camp being packed away.  She heard men’s relaxed voices and horses off in the distance.  Song birds sung joyfully in the boughs of trees as squirrels scolded each other.

Suddenly she heard soft foot fall coming towards her and Rhiannon opened her eyes.  There was a beautiful young woman standing in front of her with a knowing smile on her face.  She could only be Kelly, the Muse.

Rhiannon held out her hand in greeting, “Hello, Kelly, it’s nice to meet you.”

Kelly smiled as she shook Rhiannon’s hand, but she also gave her a respectful bow at the same time. “So, what am I to call you? ‘Your Majesty’? ‘Empress’? People with titles can be finicky with how others address them.”

“Oh, well, you  can just call me Rhiannon, really.  I’m not sure how all that will go when we finally reach Ventra,”  Rhiannon laughed nervously, “I’m not the Empress yet, right?”  Rhiannon motioned over to the table.  “Here, please set down.  You’ve probably traveled far.  I mean, we are out in the middle of the Alba Forest.”

Kelly followed Rhiannon to the table and sat down. Then she glimpsed around, taking in her surroundings. “It’s quite a pretty place here. How do you like it compared to Earth?” She glimpsed back at Rhiannon.

“It’s different, that’s for sure.  Every decision I seem to make is either life or death.  And I’d kill for a bubble bath right about now,” Rhiannon snickered. Just then Luna, Rhiannon she-wolf trotted up and lay at Rhiannon feet.  “Please don’t mind, Luna.  She comes and goes as she pleases.”  Rhiannon smiled and petted her wolf’s furry head.

Kelly smiled at the beautiful wolf. “She’s lovely. However though, before we start talking about life here and how you’re adjusting, tell me a bit about what life was like back on Earth for you. Where did you work? Did you get a degree? I’m just curious to see how that life may have helped prepare you for this life.”

Rhiannon looked out over the forest basking in the summer sun trying to remember her life on the ranch.  Then she suddenly remembered she hadn’t even offered Kelly anything to eat or drink.  Please forgive my manners.  Would you like something to eat.  I’m afraid we don’t have anything very fancy here.  But we do have some strong liquor.” Rhiannon smiled nervously and cursed herself for not being more outgoing.  How would she ever lead a nation of warriors if she can’t even keep herself under control during a cozy interview with a friendly woman?

Rhiannon quickly poured two cups for her and Kelly and then she took a quick drink.  The liqueur burned her throat and warmed her body.   “Okay, back to the question.  Sorry. I grew up on a cattle ranch.  My father, Peter was a ranch hand working for Daniel Foster.  My childhood was pretty normal.  I went to public school, and though I was mercilessly teased for having darker skin and being the tallest kid in class, I liked school.”  Rhiannon took another drink trying to bolster her confidence.  Why was talking about her childhood so hard?  She started talking again, “I didn’t want to go to college, though  I just stayed on at the Ranch.  Eventually, Daniel’s son, Matthew, and I fell in love and we were engaged.”  Rhiannon smiled at the thought of Matthew and wondered how he had taken her disappearance.

Kelly leaned forward, setting her chin in her palm as she was curious. “And what happened between the two of you?”

Rhiannon was brought back to the present by the sound of Kelly’s voice.  “Oh, well over the winter I started having these really vivid nightmares.  I could really understand them but slowly I just started to feel numb about Matthew.”  A sad look darkened Rhiannon’s face.  “After a while I broke up with him and moved off the ranch.  I started waiting tables.  God, I hated that.”  Rhiannon shook her head and frowned.  “Finally, in the spring I had had enough and called my father and told him that I wanted answers about how my mom died.  I knew all those nightmares had something to do with her.”  Rhiannon shook her head and sighed.  She quickly took another drink from her wooden cup.  “My father finally said he would tell me everything, so the next afternoon I showed up at his cabin but he was missing!”

“And you went to look for him but somehow ended up here,” Kelly assumed with a nod. She furrowed her brows though as she thought back this some more and sat back in her chair. “And now you’re the leader of a rebellion on an entirely different world. How did that happen?” She chuckled, bewildered at the thought.

Rhiannon looked over at the men still breaking down camp.  She saw Flath busy at work and smiled affectionately at him.  She looked back over to Kelly and smiled.  “Well, Flath is leading the rebellion.  He and his men have been fighting Queen Baobh for over a year now.  But I guess me and my Archigos Warriors are their only chance.  That’s why they are taking me north.  I’m not sure if they will even accept me, but I guess they have to…”  Rhiannon’s voice trailed off.  Then she pulled the neck of her tunic open and showed Kelly the bright, red diamond-shaped birth mark over her heart.  “This is supposedly the Mark Of The Empress.  I don’t think they will have a choice since I am the daughter of Sernia, their Empress that was killed when I was six.”  Rhiannon sighed, “But I’m still nervous about being accepted.  The stakes are so high.  Flath and the Rebellion can’t win without the help of the Archigos.”  Rhiannon had a sad look on her face as she looked at Kelly.

Kelly considered Rhiannon for a moment, and then she leaned forward, locking eyes with her. “Going from being a nobody to being an Empress is a massive change. Are you ready for that?”

Rhiannon laughed softly, bitterly.  “No way.”  She shook her head.  “I don’t want it.  But I’ve seen too much here.  I’ve discovered who I am and what my purpose is in all this and it is as The Empress of Ventra.”  Rhiannon ran her hand through her long dark hair and leaned towards Kelly, looking into her eyes.  “I was told about about a prophecy,”  she began.  I didn’t want to believe it.  I fought not to believe it.  But I can’t fight it any longer.  I must take my place in this prophecy and bring an end to Baobh’s rule.”

“But how do you expect people to believe in you and to follow you when you have nothing to show for it?” Kelly lifted her brows as she sat back in her chair. “I’m merely asking these questions to get you to think, so when the time comes, if others ask the same questions, you will have a ready answer. But truly, these people have dealt with their current ruler for quite sometime now. You’ve a complete stranger. What knowledge do you have of the ways of the court? Or all the traditions and rituals of this land?  Has Flath or someone sat you down and given you a crash course?”

Rhiannon’s laugh was bitter again.  “Living here has been a crash course.  I don’t know anything about the way of the court, and even if I learned about things in Sona Tuath, I’m sure things are much different in Ventra.”  Rhiannon shook her dark head.  “All I have as proof of who I say I am is this birth mark,” she put her hand over the birth mark on her chest.  “and the memories I know have of my mother, their empress, and how she was killed by Baobh.”  Rhiannon took a deep breath and patted Luna’s head for reassurance.  “I suppose the Archigos will train me in the ways I need to know to rule their nation.”  Rhiannon got an unfocused look in her dark eyes as she pictured what it might look like in Màrrach, the capitol city of Ventra.  “The problem will be getting them to agree to come down here and fight with rebellion.  You see, the Suens and the Archigos hate each other.”  Rhiannon gave Kelly a direct look.

“Ahh…” Kelly nodded. “Sounds like you have quite a few complications ahead of you. Okay, so…to understand correctly, is Flath Suen? And you technically Archigo? I’m sorry I don’t know the terminology. Consider this a mini-crash course for me.” She smiled at Rhiannon. “I need to understand a little better, so I can ask the right questions.”

Rhiannon laughed and gave Kelly a warm smile.  “Yes, I am, so I’ve been told constantly since I arrived in this world, an Archigos.”  Rhiannon looked back over to Flath who was in an animated conversation with Tim and Teo.  She looked back over to Kelly.  “And Flath is a Suen, yes.  There in lies the rub…”  Rhiannon’s voice faded away.

“Because you and Flath have feelings for each other?” Kelly raised her brows.

A huge, bashful smile crossed Rhiannon’s face.  She almost blushed.  Oh, come on, she thought.  You’re almost 30, what is wrong with you, acting like a school girl. She looked back up to Kelly, still smiling.  “Yes.  I have quite fallen for the rebellion’s leader.”  She laughed quietly.  “The Archigos will have a hard time accepting him, but they won’t have a choice.  After this war is over he’s going to come up to Ventra and help me rule.”  She lifted her chin, almost in defiance, then thought her self silly.  Kelly didn’t care.  She must be practicing for when she had to face the Archigos.

Kelly regarded Rhiannon for a long time, seeing the defiant look on her face. “Want my personal opinion? Marry him before you become Empress. That way the court won’t have any say in who you marry. Once you become Empress, your life is no longer your own. The people and court will dictate what you will and will not be allowed to do. You may think you will be the most powerful person in the land, but…” Kelly shook her head. “You are a stranger. All you have is a birthmark and memories–which may or may not be induced by some magic user. You need them to trust you. So before all that happens, if you and Flath love each other, marry him before all the royal requirements come into play.” But then Kelly shrugged and smiled. “Of course, you may do it however you see fit, but…knowing how royal courts can be…just because you and a few people believe you are the rightful ruler, doesn’t mean everyone will have the same opinion…especially if they’ve been ruled by another by some time.”

Rhiannon took another drink from her cup and set it down slowly, thinking about just how true Kelly’s words were.  She wondered if Flath would marry her now, before they went to Ventra?  She sighed.  It did look so hopeless.  Kelly was right, all she had was this birth mark.  Would her cousin, Shankee, who had been ruling as the proxy empress for twenty-four years even accept her?  Rhiannon looked up at Kelly and smiled.  “You are very wise, Muse.  I think you’ve seen much.”  She smiled.  “You have given me a lot to think about, for sure.”  She lifted her head and laughed, “even more to worry about, too!”

“I’d rather you know the possibility that are ahead of you instead of having you go in with blind confidence.” Kelly shook her head. “Of course, if you marry him now, the court may demand you annul the marriage before allowing you to take the crown. But on the other hand, if you don’t marry him before you take the throne, they would demand you marry other suitors, and if you insist on Flath, they may want you to abdicate your throne. It’s a tricky situation you’re in. If you can get the two different races to come to an agreement and not hate each other so much, then you have a chance.” Kelly then tilted her head to the side. “How do you plan on accomplishing that anyway?”

Rhiannon shook her head.  “It sounds hopeless, doesn’t it?”  She frowned a little, thinking.  “Well, most of the hatred for the Archigos comes from the Seuns within Sona Tuath.”  Rhiannon swept her arm across the opening.  “Out here, further from the castle people seem to be more tolerant.  But I figure that if the Archigos finally rid Beaynid of their despised queen, they will feel enough gratitude to at least start feeling less hateful towards their neighbors to the north.”  Rhiannon took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “Now the Archigos might be a whole different story.  I have no idea how deep their hatred of the Suens goes.  I will have to asses the situation once I get there.”  Rhiannon shook her head.  That seemed like a lame plain, even to her.

“Do you have any idea why the hatred is there?” Kelly lifted her brows.

“Luckily it’s not a long standing hatred, so perhaps there is hope.”  Rhiannon looked out over the forest as a flock of starlings flew overhead.  She slowly gathered her thoughts.  Finally she started talking again.  “After Baobh killed my mother and took her necklace, The Necklace of Verna, so that she could take the throne of Beaynid, the Archigos descended upon Sona Tuath seeking vengeance.  However, with the power of the necklace and the help of Lord Rull, the mighty Archigos were slaughtered.  But not without taking most of the men of Sona Tuath down with them.”  Rhiannon shook her head.  “Even though they were not happy with Baobh, they never forgave the Archigos for that war.”  Rhiannon smiled sadly. That is what I have to overcome.

“Well, since it isn’t longstanding, as you said, it should be a bit easier for you to unravel, but you’re gonna have to sit down and talk with them and not let them leave the table until they’ve resolved their issues. That…that’s not going to be a fun conversation.” Kelly grimaced. She knew how complicated it was with such discussions in her own family, and that wasn’t even royalty or members of a court. She did not envy Rhiannon for what she would have to do.

“However, on to another topic,” Kelly smiled. “How did you meet Flath anyway? And what about him has you so…taken?”

Rhiannon immediately seemed a smile, all thought of bloody wars behind her.  “I had just escaped Baobh’s men, the ones that pulled me through the Tree of Jur, and was wondering around lost when Teo found me.”  Rhiannon turned and pointed over to a stocky man in his late thirties with a shock of bright red hair and a bushy red beard.  She turned back to Kelly.  “Teo took me to Flath who thought I was spy,”  She laughed and shook her head.  “He didn’t know what to do with me.  He took e to the Prophecy Keeper, who happens to be Teo’s mother, and that’s where we learned of the prophecy that says I am supposed to be the one to bring ruin to Baobh.”  Rhiannon got a sad look on her face again.  “It was then that Flath decided he needed to take me to the Archigos so that I could be trained and hopefully lend help to the rebellion.”  Rhiannon leaned in and looked into Kelly’s eyes. “But by that time we were already in love.  However, I still have to go and do my duty,” she said in a forlorned voice.

“Unfortunately duty does take precedent over love at times, and that is difficult. However, if the two of you are committed to one another, and are always honest with one another, you can make it work.” Kelly gave Rhiannon a hopeful smile. “Now though, what about your father? You haven’t found him yet, have you? When you do, what are you going to do? I’m sure you will have many questions, but…he did take you from here to Earth for a reason. Do you forgive him for not telling you everything? Or is that still difficult to accept?”

Rhiannon got a faraway look in her dark eyes.  finally a tear slipped down her cheek.  “I do forgive my father.  He was doing what he thought was right.  He was trying to protect me from Baobh.”  She sadly shook her head.  “We have not been able to rescue him.  Baobh still hold him in her dungeons, hoping to lure my to Sona Tuath.  The only hope I have of seeing my father again is if the Archigos help to overthrow Baobh.”  Rhiannon smiled again.  “And then we will have a reunion and I will finally get to ask all those questions that I wanted to.”  Suddenly Flath called out to Rhiannon, “hurry it up, Greannmhor, we must leave soon!  Looks like the weather is turning.”  Rhiannon waved him away in a dismissive manner.  “Sorry about that, Kelly.  Go on.”  She smiled warmly at the woman.

Kelly looked up at the sky and saw clouds were beginning to gather. She could also tell the time of her interview was coming to a close, so she knew she had to wrap it up.

She smiled at Rhiannon. “Flath is right. I’m going to have to go soon anyway, but one final question, do you miss the simplicity of your life back on Earth? Would you trade one for the other? Or are you very content with the new life you’ve found here?”

Rhiannon looked out again over the Alba Forest and mindlessly stroked Luna fur. Finally she sighed and spoke.  “I do, at times, miss the care-free life I had on the ranch.  But I’m part of something so much bigger, now.”  She looked into Kelly’s eyes.  “I have to avenge my mother and help the people of Beaynid who suffer under Baobh’s rule.”  She got a little smile on her face, then.  “And then there’s Flath, of course.  I’m so thankful I met him.”  She laughed.  “I know, sappy.”

Kelly shook her head with a smile. “Not sappy at all.” But then she sighed and rose to her feet. “I must apologize, but my time here has come to an end. I need to be leaving. However, I appreciate you taking the time the talk with me and answer all my questions. I hope you the best with all your endeavors.” She smiled at her.

Rhiannon stood with Kelly and smiled.  “Thank you for your time, Kelly.  You gave me a lot to think about, and hopefully I’ll be more prepared when I do meet my people in Ventra.  Have a safe journey, friend.”

“And you as well.” With that, Kelly bowed to Rhiannon and then turned and went on her way.

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Melissa E. Beckwith’s novel, ‘The Empress of Ventra: The Sword of Rhiannon: Book One’ can be found on Amazon here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Empress-Ventra-Rhiannon-Fantasy-Romantic-ebook/dp/B01NBNZ6VJ

Social Media

Website: http://www.melissaebeckwith.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/M_E_Beckwith

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMelissaEBeckwith/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/M_E_Beckwith/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-e-beckwith-Author

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109438403164764731559

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Author Interview: Melissa E. Beckwith

I met with FANTASY author, Melissa E. Beckwith, today and had a lovely chat with her. I got to know a bit about the author behind ‘The Empress of Ventra: The Sword of Rhiannon: Book One’. It’s always nice pull back the veil and understand the mind behind the book. As in every interview, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Melissa’ was written by Melissa E. Beckwith. Enjoy the interview! 

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The door chimed when Kelly opened it and stepped into the coffee shop. She looked around and saw a young woman sitting at a table with a laptop in front of her. Kelly smiled but didn’t go to her right away. Instead, she went to the counter and ordered some hot chocolate.

Once she received it, she turned to the table and went to it. “Melissa Beckwith?” Kelly raised her brows then held out her hand to shake. “I’m Kelly. Thanks for meeting with me.” She saw down at the table across from Melissa. “How are you doing today?”

Melissa took a slow sip from her strong coffee. “I write full-time now that the kids are out of the house.  I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful husband who pays the bills and let’s me just worry about my writing.”   Melissa’s lips curved into a huge smile at the thought of her husband of almost thirty years.

“That is fantastic! You are truly blessed.” Kelly grinned at her and wrapped her hands around her mug. “So, when did you first become interested in writing?”

Melissa cocked her head to one side, her long, brown hair falling over her shoulder. With a nostalgic look on her face, she answered, “I started telling stores as far back as I can remember.  Even before I learned how to read, I “wrote” stories in the form of picture books.”  Melissa chuckled softly, “I went through a lot of crayons.”

Kelly’s grin grew. “I was like that too! Did pictures because I didn’t know how to write, but had so many stories in my head!” She shook her head, still smiling, remembering those memories, but then she focused on Melissa once more. “Now a lot of writers have had a love for writing since they were children, but it wasn’t until years later that they actually became serious about writing. Was that the case for you? Was there a specific time when you suddenly just woke up and decided, ‘I am going to be a writer!’ Or did you know since you were a child that you were going to be a writer?” Kelly tilted her head to a side as she watched Melissa.

Melissa looked over Kelly’s shoulder with an unfocused look in her blue eyes.  She finally spoke.  “I always wanted to be a writer.  When I was young I told everyone that I was going to be an author when I grew up.  But some how when children start to grow up they lose that abandon and start getting self conscience.”  Melissa looked at Kelly, a serious expression on her face.  “I was not encouraged as a child to write, in fact I was discouraged.  In my family, people didn’t do that sort of thing seriously.  So I grew up, got married right out of high school and had three kids right away.  I just got busy raising kids and didn’t write much.” 

Melissa took another sip of her coffee and looked down at the floor as if she were wrestling with a decision.  Finally she took a deep breath, apparently making a choice and started to speak to Kelly again.  “I have bi-polar, and it has haunted my life for a very long time.  So much of my life was spend in deep despair.”  Melissa peered deeper into Kelly’s eyes, wanting to say the right words.  “Last summer was one of those times.  However, I just finally made the decision that I would get serious about my writing once and for all.  I had these two finished novels waiting to be edited and published, and darn it, that was what I was going to do.  I pushed aside my crippling self-doubt and just went for it!”

Kelly nodded as she listened to Melissa, and she leaned forward, locking eyes with her. “I am really sorry your family wasn’t supportive of your dreams, but I am glad you circled back round to it, and have managed to write and publish a book.” She smiled at her then sat back once more. “So, tell me about your book. What is it about?”

Melissa leaned back in her chair and took another drink of her hot coffee, her smile returning to her face.  “The Empress of Ventra is really about self discovery and overcoming self-doubt….with a little thread of romance thrown in, just to keep things interesting.”  Melissa laughed and looked out the window.  The sun had hesitantly come out and started to melt the light snow that was clinging to the ground.  She looked back over to Kelly. “Rhiannon Kossi had questions about her past. The answers she received took her to another world and changed her life forever. Suffering from vivid nightmares, she is sure that she’s been lied to about her childhood. Seeking the answers to long forgotten questions, she is mysteriously taken from her quiet, simple life on a Montana cattle ranch and thrust into a new, violent world where she is forced to either fight or die. In her quest for answers to her past Rhiannon must accept hard truths that will forever change the course of her life…that is, if she can stay alive.”

Kelly stared for a long moment. “Wow. That sounds…rather complex.” Then she smiled. “But interesting all the same. I want to ask more about the story and the characters, but I’m afraid if I do, it’d probably spoil it for the readers.” Kelly frowned. That was the part of her job she hated, but then she smiled again. “So, Melissa, how did you come up with the idea for this book? What inspired it?”

Melissa threw her head back and laughed, a couple people near the two looked over for a second but then went back to their conversations.  “I had a dream!”  Melissa smiled and nodded her head.  “It was a very long time ago, about 1999 or maybe 2000.  I had a dream of a woman who gets sucked into another world and has to to all sort of things to stay a live.  Of course over about 16 years I finally polished up the story and wrote it down.”

Kelly grinned when she heard this. “Don’t you just love it when stories come to you in dreams? It’s crazy! You said this was over 16 or so years ago? And you stuck with it all this time? Good for you! Now, there are a lot of other writers who have become discouraged because it is taking them years, maybe decades to write their story. Since you have experience with that, what advice would you give them to persevere?” Kelly remembered her hot chocolate and drank so more. She was so drawn into the conversation, she had forgotten about it.

Melissa scratched an itch on her nose and cocked her head to the side again while she thought. “Well, I spend most of that time learning about the craft of writing,” she said slowly.  “It’s not as easy as it seems to produce a quality, marketable story.  So I would tell new writers to educate themselves as much as they can on the craft of writing well.  Also, read A LOT in the genres you want to write in.  Study the tropes and what readers want.” Melissa stopped and took a sip of her coffee, then started up again.  “And don’t give up.  It takes a long time to learn all this stuff and become good at it.  I would advise all writers to just keep writing everyday.  Give yourself little goals, like 100 words a day, then when you easily meet that goal everyday your self-confidence will grow.  Also, network, talk to other writers.  Writing can be a lonely job, but when you find others who share you passion it’s not so bad, then.  You can learn a lot from your fellow writers.  Just don’t give up.  Never give up.  It’s never too late.  Finish that manuscript, even if you think it’s garbage, do it anyway.  Always finish.  That is another way to build self-confidence.”

Kelly nodded, grateful for her words. “Very true. Thank you.” However, she glimpsed at the clock on the wall and saw the time. She looked back at Melissa. “Our time’s almost up. Have about ten minutes left, so a few more questions. What was your favorite thing about your story as you wrote it?”

Melissa fidgeted a little in her seat trying to get comfortable. “Well, it was very refreshing to write about a strong woman.  I have never considered myself anything resembling strong of independent, so it’s been fun writing Rhiannon.”  Melissa laughed.  “I guess she’s like my alter ego.  Also, it gets more into it in the second book, The War of the Gypsy, but it was quiet refreshing to create a kingdom in which women ruled and men had to follow.”

Kelly smiled. “That is refreshing to see. I’m glad you’ve completed it and published it. That wasn’t easy, and you have done well. Unfortunately though, our time has come to an end, and I have elsewhere to be.” She rose to her feet and reached her hand out to shake Melissa. “However, it was wonderful to meet you and to hear about your story. Keep writing, okay? And keep publishing. You’ve got this.” She smiled warmly at her.

“Thank you, Kelly for spending time with me this morning.”  Melissa grabbed Kelly’s warm hand and shook it.  She smiled up at the woman.  “Be careful out there, there are some crazy drivers in Indiana!”  Melissa laughed.

Kelly chuckled. “Ah, my dad grew up in Indiana, so I’m a bit familiar with it. You have a good day, Melissa! Take care!” With a wave and a smile, Kelly headed out.

Melissa waved and had a content, happy look on her face.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Melissa E. Beckwith’s novel, ‘The Empress of Ventra: The Sword of Rhiannon: Book One’ can be found on Amazon here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Empress-Ventra-Rhiannon-Fantasy-Romantic-ebook/dp/B01NBNZ6VJ

Social Media

Website: http://www.melissaebeckwith.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/M_E_Beckwith

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMelissaEBeckwith/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/M_E_Beckwith/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-e-beckwith-Author

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109438403164764731559

Author Interview: Christy Mann

During this interview, I met with Christy Mann, author of the psychological thriller ‘Death of a Secret’ and got to know more of the author behind the story and what prompted her to write the book. 

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Lounging under a shade on a white sandy beach with white wine in hand, Kelly smiled as the ocean wind brushed against her. This fictional setting was a nice escape from the January weather of real life. Her interviewee specifically requested this, including white wine, and Kelly was more than happy to oblige. A waiter even stood nearby to serve them.

“Your guest, madam,” he told her with a bow.

While Kelly had insisted he didn’t need to bow to her, she had given up earlier on and simply settled in for the experience. When she heard what he said, she looked down the pathway leading to her shade, and she smiled, rising to her feet when she saw who approached. She went to meet her halfway and reached out her hand. “Christy Mann, I presume.” They shook hands, and Kelly grinned. “So glad to finally meet you! Come on, the white wine is waiting for you!” She motioned for Christy to follow her to the shade.

Once they took their seats, looking out over the ocean, and once both had their wine in hand, Kelly smiled at Christy. “So, how are you doing today?”

“I’m fantastic, thank you. This is such a beautiful setting. I couldn’t have planned it better myself. How are you?”  She sipped from the glass and looked out at the waves lapping against the white, sandy shore.

“It’s been a busy day, so being here is actually quite lovely.” Kelly smiled then turned her full attention to Christy. “So, you’re a writer–obviously, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” Kelly chuckled but went on, “When did you first become interested in writing?

Christy looked back at Kelly and acknowledged her question with a not. “I’m right there with you.” She smiled back at Kelly “I really don’t know. It’s just something that I’ve always done. Not in the form of novels and short stories anyway.” She took a sip of her wine. “That was 2009. I started writing this really awful dark fantasy romance thing.”

Kelly smiled then sipped on her wine. “So, was it 2009 when you began to get serious about writing? What prompted that though?”

Christy snickered. “You really want to know the answer?” She chugged the last big of wine in her glass and held it up for the waiter. “Ok. Boredom mostly. It was a really dark time in my life and I was in an acute treatment center for suicidal ideation. I had my laptop and a lot of time to kill. I decided I was going to use the time to write a book. I wrote 37,000 words in a span of three days.”

Kelly raised her brows. “37,000 words in THREE days?? That’s really impressive!” But then she thought about what Christy had said and gave a nod. “So it sounds like you emerged from that darkness as a writer, and that is amazing. Thank you for sharing that with me.” She smiled. “So, what has your journey been like between then and now? You’ve published a book recently, and that’s a huge accomplishment!”

Christy nodded and swirled the wine in her glass before taking a sip. “Yeah, it was rough and I haven’t come near that kind of progress since. I don’t recommend it.” She chuckled. “It’s been a bumpy ride, but writing has gotten me through it.”

“So you’ve published a book? Tell me about it.” Kelly set down her glass of wine. She glanced at Christy with a smile.

Christy smiled back at Kelly and curled her feet up under her. “Death of a Secret. Yep. It’s a dark tale about a young woman who’s life is going along fine one minute and the next, it’s completely turned on it’s head. She tries to pick up and go on with life as usual, but it breaks her on the inside and she goes on a rampage.”

This intrigued Kelly, and she furrowed her brows. “So what’s the genre? And is there more you can tell me (without spoilers!) about what made her life turn on its head?”

Christy chuckled again. “I call it a psychological thriller. It’s missing some of the major aspects of the genre, but it’s the closest fit.” She looked up at the sky and paused for a moment, thinking of an answer to the second question. “It all revolves around her seeing something she wasn’t supposed to and is tormented to keep quiet by Latham. In the end, none of it was necessary and it’s just tragic.”

“That sounds a bit horrific and terribly sad at the same time. Lots of deep emotions to explore there.” Kelly nodded as she reflected on what she learned of the story. “So what inspired the story? Or where did you get the idea for it?” She cast Christy another glance, quite curious.

“Yeah. As proud as I am of it, because it’s finished and it’s a good story, it’s ugly and dark and not how I think my life is or how I think, most of the time. The original plan was for it to be a female serial killer story. It took me two years to finish and it ended up being something so completely different.”

“Oh, and the idea for it? I needed something to do for NaNoWriMo. I wanted something that would keep me interested, so I wrote a bunch of stuff down, picked Female Serial Killer out of a hat, and wrote it.”

“And you did well! Stories have a way of changing from what you expected to something totally different, but I’m sure it’s an amazing story.” Kelly smiled at Christy. “So what are your plans moving forward with your writing career? Are you going to write a sequel? Or write something totally different? Or what?”

“Well, I really enjoy the suspense and thriller genres. I’ve plotted a horror short story series which 2 ebooks have been published of about fog, and I’m enjoying it. I have another novel, Terrible Friend, it’s currently a two parter, that will be out later this year that’s a, I don’t even know what it is right now. Paranormal fantasy I guess?  Demons and magic, and that kind of stuff. Then early next year, I hope to finish and publish that original novel that we talked about.”

“I’m sure you will.” Kelly gave Christy a bright smile. “However though, it is quite unfortunate that our time is up. I’ve had a fantastic time getting to know you and hearing about your story.” Kelly rose to her feet. When Christy mirrored her actions, Kelly shook Christy’s hand. “Thank you so much for meeting with me and answering my questions. I am quite curious which character you will have me meet!”

“I’m looking forward to it as well.  Thank you so much for your time and for asking great questions.” She shook Kelly’s hand and smiled. “That will be Derrick Murphy. I can’t wait for you two to meet.”

Kelly grinned. “I’m sure it will be interesting. You have a great day now! Take care!” With a wave goodbye, Kelly headed back up the path toward her car.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Christy Mann’s novel has, unfortunately, been delayed in its release. However, she has published a few short stories, which you can find on at the following links. Be sure to follow her on social media to receive updates on the release of her book!

Short Story 1: myBook.to/ChristyFogoyle

Short Story 2: myBook.to/Fogoyle2

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christylynharu/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cmannauthor

Tumblr: https://christymannauthor.tumblr.com/

Second Tumblr: https://cmannauthor.tumblr.com/

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/CLMann

GoodReads Blog: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/14430522-the-original-question

<~>~<~>~<~>

Character Interview: Nancy A. Nation’s Susan

In this interview, I had the privilege to sit down with Nancy A. Nation’s character, Susan, and come to understand her otherworldly adventures as well as hopes she has for her future, especially as she continues making pottery. ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Susan’ was written by Nancy A. Nation.

newest-book

A week after Christmas, Susan had agreed to meet Kelly, the Muse, at the local diner in Firth, Idaho. Outside the sky was partly cloudy and a light snow was falling. On a day like today, Bosloe’s cafe makes the best stew. She walked in and asked the hostess for Kelly’s table and spotted her right away. “Hi, are you Kelly?”

“Yes, and you must be Susan.”

Just as Susan was about to remove her sweater the server asked if they wanted anything. “Just hot chocolate for me, Kelly? I’m buying,” Susan responded.

“I already got my hot chocolate, but thanks.” Kelly smiled at Susan as she rose to her feet and shook Susan’s hand before both of them sat down at the table. “Thank you for meeting with me. How are you doing today?”

“I’m fine, thanks. Sorry, I’m late, but I had to get ride with my friend, Nancy.”

“That’s quite all right. Don’t worry.” Kelly brushed it off and smiled at her. “Now, I understand you took up pottery classes. I’ve *always* wanted to do pottery, so what is it like? Do you like it?”

“Yes, it was fun. I thought the process would be messy, but my neighbor convinced me to go with her,” Susan explained.

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “Well, I’ll definitely have to try my hand at it sometime. So tell me, I understand you got involved in investigating a few murders?” She furrowed her brows. “How did that happen? I mean, are you a detective as well?” Kelly was a little confused because the information she had gotten ahead of time had been vague, but that allowed for more questions anyway.

Susan leaned forward. “No, not really, things just happen around me and I just want to find out. Our local police officer tolerates my theories. I’m just an ordinary housewife that gets into the wrong places at the wrong times.”

Kelly raised her brows. “So what have you discovered?” She leaned in quite curious.

“Let me back up a moment. When my husband died, I was, how shall I say, not all there. Maybe it was myself or the people in the other world, Vesda. There those people helped me return to my home and find out what really happened to my husband. Eventually, my friends and I found out he was murdered. Having that solved, me and my pottery classmates walked in on the first murder. A man was head down in a rotating clay bowl. Not a pretty sight.” Susan hot chocolate arrived, and she took a sip.

Kelly grimaced when she heard this. “Definitely doesn’t sound like it.” She shook her head and sat back in her chair, reaching for her cup of hot chocolate on the table. “So this other world, Vesda…tell me about. What’s it like?” She smiled at Susan before taking a sip of her drink.

“Thankfully, it’s gone now. It was an enclosed world run by my little friend and gnome, Hobnobby. Another friend as we were escaping, blew Vesda up. As I was learning pottery techniques, Hobs, as that is what I call him, located a underground fairy world called Bailory. Naturally, he gets me involved after the second murder. Honestly, our little town is usually so quiet.”

Kelly chuckled when she heard this last part. “Aren’t all small towns?” But still, this other world bewildered her. “So….there was another world, but it’s been blown up now? And you’re thankful it’s gone. Was it a bad place then?”

Susan sipped some more from her cup and arranged a napkin under it. “Sort of, I just wanted to leave and get back home. I kept bugging the two scientists who wanted to do other things until one them built a machine than transported us back to my home. Bailory is kind of like Vesda, in the way that the people, if you can call elves and Norse gods people, can’t leave their world.” Susan brushed her short blond hair to one side.

“Ah.” Kelly nodded. She could understand the desire to return home. “So, now that you’re back, are you content? Knowing there’s more to life than just this…world?” Kelly gestured to their surroundings.

“I am but I’m bored. That’s why when my neighbor suggested the pottery class, I jumped right in. At this time of my life I don’t have to work, but I do love to making pies. My other friend from Vesda has a diner down the road and I make pies for him to sell.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. It was hard to find a thrill in a small town after visiting an altogether different world. “Susan, I understand you had a husband who you lost. Now, I understand it may be a topic you won’t want to discuss, but can you tell me what he was like?” Kelly offered a kind, warm smile. “He must have been an amazing guy.”

“He was, he was my rock, my support, my advisor. Unfortunately when he passed, I discovered, like most women in my position, I didn’t know the first thing about electronics, hot water heaters, you name it. All the stuff that keeps a house going. My friend at the cafe, Bosloe, and my friend’s husband next door are always helping me get something fixed. Why just the other day, my hall ceiling fixture fell down. What a mess.” Susan relaxed and took another sip of her drink.I forgot to mention that I miss my Henry.”

Kelly nodded. “And it’s a good thing you do. Shows how much you loved him.” She smiled. “How did you two meet?”

“We met in college, but when he joined the insurance firm in town and I had a little girl, we didn’t get our degrees. Say there’s something I could do. When my daughter, Jan moved out to go to college, Henry and I christened her empty bedroom, if you know what I mean. I have been looking at the packed boxes with his clothes. There’s a chore I don’t really want to do.”

“Because you don’t want to let him go.” Kelly stared at Susan, observing her. She leaned forward. “Susan.” Waiting until she had eye contact with her, Kelly finally went on, “Go ahead and talk. You’ve never going to see me again, and I’m not going to tell anyone what you say, so….whatever you say is safe with me. It’s hard to lose someone that close to you, and it’s hard that life just moves on. I’m sure you hard the phrase now. I’m sure you’re also annoyed with how everyone says ‘I’m sorry’ because it doesn’t change the fact that you lost the love of your life. So…go ahead, vent if you want. Cry. I don’t mind.” She offered Susan a kind smile. “I’m here to listen. Not to judge.”

Susan smiled back. “I’m doing better now, it has been six months since he died. Just the other day, my neighbor wanted to know if there was going to be anything between Bosloe and me. Well, I set her straight. I don’t want to think of that in my life right now. Getting Hobs out of trouble seems to keep me from thinking of the sad times. Ahem, I’m certainly not interested in that little old man,” Susan clarified and brushed her hair aside again.

Kelly chuckled. She could respect that, so she sat back in her chair. “Well then, what are you planning on doing with your future then?”

“Keep up with my pottery, I converted Henry’s old study into an art room where I can relax and read. I even had a wall knocked out to install a large picture window. Going back to college maybe hard as I’m 46 now. I’ll think about that. Occasionally, I still visit Hobs in Bailor. At least that is still there. I forgot, I’m going on a cruise.”

“College is definitely a possibility, and 48 isn’t old.” Kelly smiled at Susan. “My mom would whack you over the head if she heard you say that because she’s much older than that.” Then she heard the bit about the cruise. “Ah, a cruise! Sounds exciting. Are you going to try and travel the world eventually? I mean, after traveling to ANOTHER world, exploring this one won’t seem so daunting.”

“Maybe, what started out as a Christmas gift to my wonderful next door neighbors, backfired on me, when Larry offered me a ticket to join them. Henry and I did a cruise once to the Caribbean when we were first married, but nothing since.” Susan folded the chocolate stained napkin into a smaller square.

“So will you be going alone?” Kelly lifted her brows before taking another drink of her hot chocolate.

“Just with my neighbors as far as I know. Maybe getting aboard a ship will seem normal in my life. The people at the pottery shop and in Bailory were weird enough. We are flying to SanDiego, then flying to Oahu to take the ship around the Hawaiian islands. It should be fun and relaxing,” Susan said folding her hands together on the table.

“Sounds like it.” Kelly then tilted her head as she observed Susan. “Something seems to be bothering you though. Are you nervous about something?”

“I have just never talked to a muse before. Your life must be interesting. I shouldn’t have had the hot chocolate but I’m fine now. What makes me nervous is surprises that I didn’t expect. Like when my husband’s murderer came through my bedroom window. But that was a long time ago.”

“Talking with me is just like talking with any ordinary person,” Kelly reassured her with a kind smile, but then she furrowed her brows when she heard what she said about the murderer. “Okay, now I have to ask, what exactly happened with your husband? Were you there?”

“My husband and his car was forced off a bridge over the Snake River. I had nightmares every morning for a long time. When the murderer forced me into Henry’s study, Hobs and my other friends saved the day. He did it again when one of the bad guys was after us in the old warehouse.” Susan shook her head not wanting to remember.

“Hobs seems to save the day on a regular basis,” Kelly observed with a small smile. “Tell me about him. How did the two of you meet?”

“He was the first one I met in Vesda, and a cranky fellow at that. He thought he was in control of the planet’s machine and didn’t want to leave when explosions were going on around him. I saved him that time. I was curious as to where he was going at nights from my house and while I was at pottery class I saw him walk by the back door. After I found him, I found out that this abandoned building was used as a thieves meeting place. Yes, my friend gave that same look you have, when I told her.”

“So you met him in Vesda? Which means you ended up in Vesda on you own somehow then?”

“Yes, one of the scientists was experimenting and had captured inanimate objects around my home as well as other people’s homes. Then I guess I just disappeared into Vesda.”

“Very interesting.” Kelly nodded when she came to understand better. “What did you first think when you realized you were no longer in your own world?”

“It took some time. I knew I was in what looked like the countryside, but when everyone said to go back and talk to Hobs pointing ahead of my stroll when I just came from behind. It didn’t make sense until one of the characters blurted out where I was. I guess they hadn’t seen a new person in a long time and were having fun with me. I kind of knew about Bailory beforehand after Hobs wanted to know how to destroy a witch. Our conversation was like pulling teeth. he didn’t want to tell me.”

Kelly chuckled and nodded. “I know what that’s like. I’ve endured conversations like that too. If you had the chance though, if Vesda still existed, would you go back to explore it–on your own terms, of course? Rather than abruptly being transported to another world.”

“I really don’t know. I was glad to leave at the time. Maybe there’s another out there somewhere. Uh, no, I don’t think so. Once was enough. Then there’s this new place under Firth…”

Kelly furrowed her brows. “Go on….”

“Well, Bailory is peaceful now. The elves and Nissens are working. The water spirits still try to lure me into their water pond but I know better and maybe I’ll take my other Vesda Friend, Thyla to meet Huldra. They seem alike. I can only think of doing one thing at a time,” Susan replied.

“Sounds like you have much adventure ahead of you if only you choose to take it.” Kelly smiled at Susan. “However though, I have a question that I must ask. I know you only lost your husband six months ago, and you’ve been through much, but…do you ever think you’ll marry again?” She lifted her brows as she observed Susan.

“Not in the near future. How can anyone match up to the man my Henry was? Bosloe is nice but rough and unschool. One of the scientists is a wonderful housekeeper, but he’s dedicated to his friend and their inventions. I was stirred at the Nokken water spirit, but he can’t leave the pond. I thought I had found a kindred spirit in the pottery owner when his wife died but he was definitely not a good catch. So I’ll just relax and see if anything pops up on my cruise. Don’t hold your breath on me.”

“It’s all right to be single. Discover who you are independent of anyone else. You don’t *need* to have someone…especially if you’re not sure you will ever find someone who can stand up to your late husband. So, spend time alone, go out on cruises, have adventures, learn new things, meet new people, and if there is someone else out there, you’ll meet him at the right time. No need to rush or to worry.” She gave Susan a reassuring smile. However, she decided to shift the topic a bit. “Do you have any children, by the way? I think you mentioned Jan…?”

“Oh, Jan is my daughter, the only one we had. She’s in her twenties now and just informed me about her new boyfriend. He looks like a good boy. How it would have been if she had a place like Bailory to visit growing up.”

Kelly smiled at the mention of Jan. “Where is she now? Does she come to visit you at all?”

“She lives in Boise while she’s going to college there and has a part time job. It’s about a two hour boring drive from Firth. When I was in a terrible way after Henry died, she and my sister took turns watching over me with my neighbor doing the same. I love her and she’s just like her dad in the sports she pursues and her curiosity.”

Kelly nodded. “Well, I’m glad she was there for you.” For a moment, she paused, contemplating her next question. She sat back in her chair. “Our time is coming to a close, but we still have time for a few more questions, So tell me, if you could change anything in your life or in your past, what would it be?”

Susan thought for a moment, then remembered her nightmares. “I had one bad dream that I was in the back seat of a car. I thought it was a taxi until the driver turned his head. He was my husband. The man or my husband began to drive across the bridge when I saw a car to my right clip the back fender. I was yelling for Henry to turn with it when I woke up. Yes, if I could turn the clock back I woudn’t let him go to work that day. Unfortunately, the fates to be were already in progress.”

Kelly considered Susan for a moment before nodding. “Without him with you now, you will learn new things about yourself. You will be challenged in ways you never thought possible. And you will always miss him. But there might be another out there for you somewhere.” Kelly glimpsed out the window then back at Susan with a small smile. “I hope you the best with all your endeavors and adventures. Unfortunately though, it is time for me to leave.” Kelly rose to her feet. “Thank you again for meeting with me. This chat was delightful.” She smiled at her.

“Thank you for your time and stop by the pottery shop to see our wares for sale. Bye”

“I’d love that. Have a good day, Susan!” With another smile and a wave, Kelly headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Nancy A. Nation’s novel ‘The Pottery Sale’ is available online. You can find it along with her other books at the following links. Be sure to follow her on social media too!

Similar:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HL2I084     

Deflection:    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PD8LW56

Crossroads:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E9N6FPW                                                     

Found:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B015Y0OS1M

Return:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EP2C47U

Desert:     https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LZ43IQU

Where:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B019S493BU   

Pottery (soon):  https://www.amazon.com/Pottery-Sale-What-Beneath-Urban-ebook/dp/B01N49IECN   

Social Media:

FB:  https://www.facebook.com/anationauthor

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorANation   

Blog:  www.bloggingwrites.weebly.com 

Blog: www.anationbooks.wordpress.com     

Website: www.anationauthor.com

Amazon group page:  http://www.amazon.com/A-Nation/e/B00SUHXM6E    

Smashword group page::  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ANation

Character Interview: Adam Priestley’s Lazarus Sinclair

Earlier this week, I had the honor of meeting with Adam Priestley to discuss his not yet released novel, ‘Lava Lounge Nights’, which is a blend of many genres—sci-fi, romantic mystery and thriller with a futuristic edge. However, in this interview, I was escorted into the story world of ‘Lava Lounge Nights’ and met, Lazarus Sinclair, one of Adam’s characters. ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Lazarus’ was written by Adam Priestley.

adam-priestleys-cover

Kelly was woken by the telephone constantly ringing. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock. It was 4AM. As she answered the phone, a gruff voice she didn’t recognise greeted her. “Ello darling a car has been arranged to take you to the Lava Lounge Night club, the boss Lazarus Sinclair would like a word. His wife went awol last night and the only person he’s prepared to talk to is you. I hope your not a bleedin’ reporter, I take it your not afraid of flying!”

Kelly barely had time to get dressed before there was a knock at the door. She opened the door to a blanket of white. It had been constantly snowing all night. A stranger in a sharp suit and a scar down his left cheek ushered her into the back of a stretched Rolls Royce. She held on tightly. Kelly heard the noise of the hover jets roar to life as the car took off into the night sky.

Kelly was quickly ushered into the club straight up past the punters. A cat like singer on the stage eyed Kelly suspiciously. Kelly’s eyes set on the mighty Sagosian Taunogh standing guard outside of Lazarus’ office. His stag like antlers almost scraping the ceiling. He bellowed down his nose as he saw her approach.

“It’s alright, Tauny.” She heard the gruff voice she recognised from her phone call. “This is Miss Blanchard. Mr Sinclair is expecting her.” Taunogh stood aside to allow Kelly access into the room.

Lazarus sat at his desk looking at a locket as saw the door open he quickly put it back in his pocket. He looked up and smiled as he saw Kelly enter. He steepled his hands in front of him. “Ah, Miss Blanchard. I am so pleased you could make it.”

Kelly greeted him with a nod. “Thank you for the invite. A little more notice would have been nice, but I work with what I get.” She smiled at him then glimpsed around the office. “It’s quite a place you have here. How long have you been running this business?” She raised her brows as she glanced back at Lazarus.

Lazarus smiled. He stared straight at her with his piercing blue eyes. “I’m sorry where are my manners.” He stood up to shake her hands. “My boys can be a little over zealous. i just needed to talk to you. You see I need someone I can confide in, there’s a lot going on at the moment and I need someone outside of the picture i can rely on.” He gestured to the chair in front of his desk. “Please sit down, would you care fior a drink?” He paused for a moment, the muscle in his jaw clenched. “Ah yes you wanted to know how long the Lava Lounge has been mine. Now let me think was it before Italy or after, yes, yes that was it. We, that is Angelica and myself took over the club in 2073 just before little Aaron was born.” He glanced at the holographic picture of his eldest son Aaron sitting on his grandmothers knee and smiled.

Kelly sat when he offered the chair, but she declined the offer for a drink. She nodded when she heard his answer, but the first part of his response had caught her attention. “What sort of things did you need to confide in someone?” She furrowed her brows.

Lazarus sat back down in his chair, pulled open the desk drawer and took out a tumbler of Rybekian brandy. As the dark red contents splashed into the glass, silver sparkles swirled in the light. “All this.” he sighed. “It’s been all over the holovids. My wife angelica disappeared last night.” He started to ramble, the words just falling out of his mouth. “My lovely, gorgeous wife. Some one  just took her, someone.” A hard lump started to form at the back of his throat and he struggled to continue.

Kelly tilted her head to a side as she observed his emotion of the situation. “And yet I understand you were with a mystery blonde last night. Is it an understanding between you and your wife that you have such…entertainment on the side? Or is this unique to last night?”

“Who told you that!” he snapped. “Nothing happened, we’re just friends. I loved….” He stuttered and corrected himself. “I love my wife dearly I would never do anything to hurt her, you have to believe me. I asked you here Kelly because I, I need someone to believe me.”

“Lazarus, let me explain to you how this works…” Kelly leaned forward and locked eyes with him. “Whether or not I believe you is irrelevant, but I do believe that you believe you are right, and I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to make you think, and some of the things you think about and realize might not be something you like, but it’ll be the truth. And the good thing about me is, after today you won’t see or hear from me again, and I won’t be spreading any rumors about you at all. I won’t speak a word of this conversation to anyone, so you can trust me, but I need you to trust me.” She made sure she had his attention before continuing. “You don’t love your wife anymore. I caught the use of past tense a moment ago. When did that change?”

Lazarus stood up and walked to the window, he gazed up at the stars through the glass doors of his office leading out into the hover car parking lot. He sighed heavily, as he glanced back over his shoulder at Kelly. “It’s no that I don’t love her anymore. I will always love her. She is the mother of my children.” He crossed back to his desk and took a big swallow of his drink. The brandy stung the back of his throat. “Okay.” he sighed “So I’ll admit I did have company last night but it’s not what you think and no I can’t name her, it would put her in danger if I did. But I did not kill my wife. You have to understand the stress I’m under at the moment. The club is crawling with filth, all of them certain I have done something.” He paused and glared at her. “Which I did not, no matter what anyone says. I wanted you hear because somebody has to know the truth. The press are going to have a field day with this one. Do you know how many years they have been waiting for me to slip up. Every little thing they are at me like a blood hound trying to get the big scoop and why because I’m a little bit more successful than some.” He sat back down, heavy in his chair. “Do you want to know the real reason i used past tense?” Not really giving her time to answer he fixed her in his sights with his penetrating blue eyes.”Well?”

“Why did you use the past tense?” Kelly raised her brows but listened.

Lazarus sighed, not for the first time that day. He ran his hans through his hair, desperate to have something to do with herself. “Because I think she was murdered, and I think I know who did it!”

Kelly wasn’t surprised by this because he specifically said that he hadn’t killed her, and until that moment Kelly only thought she had been missing. Nevertheless, she nodded and continued to listen. “First of all, why do you think she was murdered?”

“The only possible reason.” He breathed down through his nose. He thought everybody would know. It just made sense to him.  “To get at me. Why else would anybody just grab a mother of two. When the police have had enough of torturing the innocent they’ll realise the same thing.”

“And what has happened to the children? I understand they were with her when she was taken.” Kelly watched him. “Are they home now?”

“No.” Lazarus looked away. “As the police suspect that I am guilty of murdering their mother. They have been taken into overnight care. They said something about safe guarding. What do they need to guard them from. I’m their father.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “And you said you believe you know who is responsible? Who might that be?”

“Thank you, that’s the question I’ve been waiting for someone to ask all day. The person, in fact the only person the police should be talking to right now is.”

The doors to Lazarus’ office suddenly hissed open and Lazarus twin sister, Lydia, walked in. Kelly noticed how identical they actually were, despite the obvious gender difference. They both had the same jet black, hair, mesmerizing blue eyes and thin aquiline nose, That on Lydia reminded Kelly of Audrey Hepburn. “I heard we had company.” Lydia said as she entered the room. She glared at Kelly as she walked across to the desk. She picked up the bottle of Rybekina Brandy. “Bruv, are you drinking again. You know how lethal that stuff is.” She turned to look at Kelly, sizing her up, glaring deep into her eyes, trying to psyche her out. “So who do we have here?”

Kelly just met Lydia’s eyes unbothered, and she even offered her a smile. “Hello, Lydia. I’m Kelly, and your brother was just about to tell me who he thinks supposedly killed his wife.”

“Was he now? Let me guess–Hartman.” She snorted. “You’re going to have to forgive him he thinks everything that goes wrong in his life is Wolfric ‘bleedin’ Hartman.

“If you don’t mind, I would like to hear it from your brother.” Kelly shifted her attention to Lazarus. As long as Lydia didn’t keep interjecting into the conversation, she didn’t mind her presence, but if she started answering the questions and such, Kelly would have to ask her to leave, but she understood the siblings were close.

Lazarus glared at his sister. “What do you want, Lyds, I was hoping for a private conversation.”

Lydia shrugged. “I’m trying to look after you bruv, you know what your like letting everyone in on all the dirty little secrets in your life. Do we even know who this Kelly is, I don’t know her from Eve.”

“Kelly is a friend of mine. Now if you don’t mind I’d like to talk to her alone.”

Lydia glared at him. “No bleedin chance, you’ve got cops all over the place down there and your up here having a nice cosy little chat with her.” She glanced over her shoulder at Kelly, who just shrugged and smiled.

“And yes, Lyds, yes, I do think Hartman killed Angelica. If you don’t mind I’d like to talk to Kelly for a while alone. Now get out.” Lazarus stared at Lydia. “Or I’ll have to get security in here to chuck you out.”

“Fine. but you just watch what your saying and don’t keep drinking that stuff you know you can’t control your moth when your on that muck.” Lydia gave Kelly a dirty look as she left the room. As she got to the door. “Brothers.”

As Lydia left the room Lazarus turned his attention back to Kelly. “Sorry about that, now where were we?”

Kelly nodded. She understood siblings all too well. “Hartman. I understand he’s been a rival of yours for a long time. Why would he take the chance to kill your wife?”

Lazarus sighed heavily and then looked up at Kelly. “Because it’s him, because he can.” He shook his head and reached for the bottle of brandy picking it up. He looked at it before deciding to put it down. “Me and Wolfric go years back, hell, we once even worked together once. Well for his dad anyway. It all used to be hunky dory, we’d hit a few securicor vans, split the dosh and go on our merry ways. then she came on to the scene.” He smiled as fond memories came into his head. “You know whatever he says she was mine first.”

“Sounds reasonable, but…too easy.” Kelly shook her head. “Yes, I know you two have a feud, and I’m sure both of you would like to possibly put the other in the ground—or out of business—but still, I say it’s too easy. You’re the obvious target for your wife’s death, and people would expect you to blame him. As I said, too easy.” Kelly sat back in her chair. “I’m not saying he didn’t have a hand in it, but…I think it’s more complicated than that. Think harder. Think back to the last time you saw your wife, and the last interaction you had with her. Did she let on to anything? Did she seem uneasy about something or someone?” Kelly felt more like a detective than an interviewer, but that was all right. If it opened him up and got her answers as well as possibly brought a bit of peace to him, she was okay with that.

Lazarus sat still for a moment, quietly contemplating what Kelly had just said. “She was at her parents all last week and what with running this place we didn’t really have that much contact. To be honest I didn’t even know she was back in the country until the Police rang. It all came as such a surprise. The only thing I do remember is that before she left she was banging on about some diamonds, called the Kadam stones or something. To be honest I thought she was just dropping hints as to what she wanted for Christmas presents.” He ran his hand shakily through his hair, thinking again. “You do know her mother hates me right. Whether she had an argument with her parents i don’t know but I wouldn’t trust her father as far as I could throw him.”

“I doubt either of her parents would kill their own daughter to get to you. There are other ways to hurt you than killing her.” Kelly pointed out then rose to her feet. “You don’t mind if I meander about, do you? Helps me think.” And she began moving around the room, looking at different things. “These diamonds though…that sounds like a lead. Have you looked into that?” She turned back to Lazarus with raised brows.

“No, like I said I just thought she was trying to give me an idea about what she wanted for Christmas.” He turned to look at her. “Feel free to have a good nosey around, Christ everybody else whose come in here today had. Why should you be the exception?” He looked absentmindedly out of the window again. “I wouldn’t rule her father out though. He’s no saint. Have I told you he once asked me to shoot somebody for him.”

Kelly wasn’t walking around to be nosy. To be honest, her mind wasn’t on what she was seeing but whether many other possibilities. “You think he would have killed his own daughter?”

“Christ, there was rumours he killed his own mother.” He looked at her with a straight poker face. “The thing you need to know about Roberto Accorsi is that he plays from his own rule book and boy does that one hold a grudge. Like I said he once asked me to shoot somebody for him. A business rival I think. I told him straight to forget it. Despite what anybody says i’m not a gangster.”

Kelly turned to look straight at him. “Have you killed anyone before? I’m not asking because I think you’re guilty of this, but depending your answer, I want to make a specific point.”

Lazarus shrugged. “What can I say stuff happens, but I’ve never killed anybody who didn’t deserve it.”

“Now, with that in mind, would you be able to kill your own children just to hurt someone you don’t like?” Kelly locked eyes with Lazarus.

Lazarus looked stunned. “No of course not.” Lazarus laughed. “I see what your driving at but hell I’m not Accorsi.”

“I’m not saying he’s not innocent. I’m merely giving you a different angle to look at. You can’t just pin it on someone you think is guilty.  You need to have people out there digging and trying to find the truth because right now, everyone thinks you’re responsible, so they’re not going to look any further than that.” Kelly stepped up to Lazarus. “But at the same time, you can’t control this to paint the target on someone else’s back. If you want to catch her killer, I suggest your people find the crime scene and work from there. Of course, if the whereabouts of that is unknown, someone needs to go to her last known location and backtrack her every movement. Have you done that yet?”

“That’s the police’s job, but I promise you I’m not exactly going to sit back and let them pin this on me darling, but what can I do I’m just a man in a sharp suit.” He poured himself a large glass of brandy. “You sure you don’t want one?”

“You may be a man in a sharp suit, but you have people, don’t you? Because, like you said, you’re not the kind of man to just sit back. It might be the police’s job, but how much do you trust them–really?” She raised her brows as a small smile tugged at the corner of her lips. “I’m sure they’d just love to put you away, so who’s to say they’re investigating wholeheartedly? Who’s to say they want the truth? Who’s to say they care about it? But you do, don’t you? You want to know what happened to the mother of your children, and you would like to see the person responsible for it punished. So…use your resources.” Then Kelly shrugged as she came around a chair and sat down once more. “That’s my suggestion anyway, but I’m really not here for the investigation. I’m here to discuss you. You said you have children. Tell me about them. What are they like?”

Outside of the room Eddie the gruff voiced man was stood outside of Lazarus office, trying to listen in on the conversation. When the cat like singer sashayed across the room towards him. Her amber eyes sparkled. “Darling, I never had you down as a gossip.”

“I’m not.” Eddie flushed. “But what’s going on in there? First Angelica goes missing, which I’m still not sure she just didn’t run off with another man.”

The cat like Singer glared at him, “Angelica wouldn’t do that. Then the place is crawling with cops adamant that he’s guilty as sin. Then he secludes himself with some mystery girl. I don’t like it I don’t like it one little bit.”

Inside the office, Lazarus smiled. “Oh honey don’t worry I’m not just going to sit here, curl over and die. I just don’t want to get you implicated in all of that.” He shuffled nervously in his seat. “I purely asked you here so that I could give you my side of events. To answer your question about my family. i couldn’t wish for better. I notice you keep looking at your watch when you ready to leave you can, say the word and I’ll have my guys drop you back home or anywhere else you’d like.”

“I have a few more minutes, but yes, I will be having to leave soon.” She smiled and nodded. “But answer me this, Lazarus…is there anything in your life that you would have changed if you could? That you would have done differently?”

“Never let my wife out of my sight.” He sighed. “My poor boys having to grow up without their mother.” He looked down at his glass. “You know what i really don’t need this.” He picked up the glass, walked to the widow and threw it out into the cold night. “I really do appreciate you giving me these two hours.” He said glancing over his shoulder at Kelly. “Especially when everybody else think I’m as guilty as hell. I promise you one thing Kelly I’m innocent and my boys are not going to grow up without their father.” Kelly smiled as she left the room, as she opened the door she almost tripped over Eddie who was still trying to eavesdrop. “Ah Eddie.” Lazarus smiled. “Please be a good chap and make sure Miss Blanchard gets home safely, won’t you?”

“Sure boss.” Eddie grunted.

“Goodbye, Kelly, and thank you.”

Kelly watched as the doors hissed shut behind her, leaving Lazarus alone in the confines of his office.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Adam Priestley’s novel, ‘Lava Lounge Nights’, is not yet published, but there is a taster chapter of Adam’s forthcoming story available on Wattpad: www.wattpad.com/story/85092855-lava-lounge-nights.

Character Interview: Lynda J. Cox’s Rachel

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Rachel was written by Lynda J. Cox.)

Rachel took one last look around the kitchen. Everything seemed to be in order. A bouquet of fresh picked prairie sunflowers stood in a half full mason jar. The counters were wiped down and freshly coated with lemon oil. The floors were swept and even the ash pan on the Hoosier had been emptied. Father was in the study and Ben had promised to keep him occupied while this woman showed up to talk to her. If Harrison could just keep Joshua from running into the house every five minutes, it should be a relatively simple task to talk to this person.

Was it too cool in here with the windows wide open to catch the ever-constant Wyoming breezes? Maybe she should close a window or two down. Should she start a pot of Arbuckles brewing? What if that woman wanted tea, instead? She should have asked. She should have sent someone into town to meet the woman at the train depot. Directions out here usually were composed of “Follow the road to the first fork. At the lightning split Ponderosa pine, go to the west until you come to the stream…” What if she got lost?

Kelly rode through the countryside enjoying the scenery. Being a country girl herself, she appreciated the peace it brought. Soon she came up to the house described, and she dismounted her horse then came up to the front door and knocked then glimpsed around and listened to the sounds inside the house while waiting.

Finally the door opened revealing a woman, and Kelly smiled at her and offered her hand to shake. “Hi, I’m Kelly Blanchard. I trust you are Rachel? I believe you’re expecting me.” She glimpsed around at the ranch again the smiled at Rachel once more. “Lovely place you have here.”

Rachel took the offered hand, surprised at the strength in the firm handshake. “You’re being polite.” She was too aware that even with Harrison’s help, there was still so much to do. The house needed a thick coat of whitewash a year ago. The garden fence had been repaired but everything in it had bolted and gone to seed. “I’m glad you could find the place. Come on in.”

Kelly smiled as she entered the house and took in the comfortable home, and she followed Rachel where she would lead her. “So, my impression is this is a fairly large ranch. Do you run it all on your own?” She raised her brows glancing back at Rachel because that’d be an impressive feat if that were the case.

Rachel gestured to the kitchen table and allowed a small laugh to escape her. “thirty three thousand acres that I tried to manage on my own. That didn’t work. Of course, I didn’t know at the time my father had already gambled half half of it away to Harrison Taylor.” She placed a plate of cookies on the table. “Coffee?”

“Thirty three thousand acres!!” Kelly’s eyes widened when she heard this. “Wow!” She shook her head amazed, and then she sat down at the table and took an offered cookie. At the offer for coffee, Kelly smiled, “if I may have water, I’d prefer that. Thank you.” Then she thought on what Rachel said of Harrison Taylor. “So, why did your father gamble off half the land?”

Rachel opened the ice box and poured a glass. “My father to this day hates losing. He was losing in a poker game and was certain his luck would turn around. He was busted and to cover his bets in that game to Harrison, he deeded half this ranch to him. And lost.” Rachel sat at the table. “Imagine my surprise when Harrison showed up with that deed, some ten years after the event.”

“And what was your reaction?” Kelly smile just imagining it already.

“Anger doesn’t even start to cover what I felt.” Rachel toyed with her coffee cup. “My father hadn’t seen fit to tell me in those years what he did. Harrison’s half brother was lower than what I’d scrape off the bottom of my boot and here I was partnered with him?” She sipped from the cup. “If I could have shoot both of them and hidden the bodies, I might have done it in those first few minutes.”

“Okay, tell me the history of Harrison and his brother. Other than the fact that your father did this without informing you of it, why would you hate them so much?” Kelly tilted her head as she furrowed her brows.

“Didn’t trust Harrison but never hated him.” she smiled. “Which I suppose is a good thing when you’re married to the man. As to Jason…how do I put this in polite terms?” Her gaze drifted to the opened back door. “My son is the result of Jason’s unwanted attentions.”

“I see.” Kelly nodded but then tried to figure out the details. “Okay, so…you weren’t married to Harrison when he came to claim the land, right?” She raised her brows. “Sorry, I don’t understand the timing of things.”

“No, I wasn’t married to anyone at the time, even though my father told anyone passing through that I had married Jason.” A shudder passed over her. “I would have been in jail for murder had he forced me to marry that snake.” the depths of the coffee cup drew her attention again. “And, the funny thing about Harrison claiming the land is he wasn’t here to do that. He was following the best lead he’d had on Jason’s whereabouts. He was going to take him back to Kentucky to face charges for murdering a woman and her two daughters.”

“So, Jason came here, and…that resulted in your son, and then Harrison came around looking for Jason? What happened to Jason then?” Kelly furrowed her brows as she observed Rachel.

Rachel still stared into the depths of her coffee cup. “Jason drifted out here about a year after the War ended. He actually worked for a while for my father. About the time Joshua was born, Jason disappeared. And, almost five years later, Harrison Taylor rode in.” Rachel lifted her head and met Kelly’s gaze across the table. “And before you ask, I had nothing to do with his disappearance, other than to thank the Almighty every night in my prayers.”

Kelly nodded then smiled, “I wasn’t going to ask that, so what was life like before Jason?”

“You’re the first one to not make any assumptions about that.” Rachel leaned back in her chair. “Before Jason, even though my father was a hard man, he was fair. Even though women aren’t supposed to ride for the brand, because I’m an only child and this ranch was supposed to go to me, he allowed it. He made a fortune when I was a child, selling cattle back East and to the Army. He sent me to boarding school, which I hated. I would hide clumps of sage brush in my trunks, so when I got too homesick, I could crumble it up and smell it.” She gestured around the kitchen. “This place, this hard land, is home. My father wanted me to be a lady. I tried. Jason destroyed that.”

There were several things Kelly wanted to touch about, but she wasn’t sure what she should focus on, so she settled on one of the more natural questions. “What happened to your mother?”

“She died of birthing fever a month after I was born.” Rachel never knew her mother, so speaking of the woman presented little heartache. “And, she is the measurement that my father has judged my whole life with. From my earliest memories, I was told ‘Your mother would never do that. She was a lady.’ Or, ‘I want you to be the lady she was.’ It’s rather hard to live up to an ideal that becomes perfected through guilt. My father blames himself for her death.” Rachel stood and paced the kitchen. “When he learned I was in a delicate condition—“ A snort broke from her, ”he was so angry. He called me every name in the book, including a few in Spanish that I could only guess at. I had dishonored her memory. I had tarnished her image.”

Kelly frowned. “I can imagine it is hard to live up to that memory, but since your son was born, has your father accepted him and the circumstances of everything?” Then she had to add, ” And did he even know Harrison was Jason’s brother when he made the bet?” And she also wondered if her father knew that Jason had been responsible at the time of the bet, but Kelly didn’t want to ask too many questions at one time. She still wasn’t sure of the timeline of everything.

“No—to both questions.” Rachel turned to her guest. “My father barely speaks to Joshua and when he does, it’s to criticize everything he does. He still claims that I led Jason on. At the time he made the bet with Harrison, Jason hadn’t drifted out here, yet. I never understood why he hired him in the first place, but knowing what my father was hiding from me about that bet, I can guess he hired him because of his last name.”

“Hmm…sounds like your father carries around a lot of guilt—with what happened with your mother, with the land, and then with you.” Kelly made the mental note that she should talk to the father too—just to see what she could pry out of him, but then she focused on Rachel. “So, then Harrison came along, and you two hated each other, but now you’re married, so things are working out for you two quite well now?” She fixed her gaze on Rachel once more.

Another smile crossed her face. “I never hated Harrison. I didn’t trust him. I admit I was a bit unsettled that he was tracking his own brother to take back East, but I never hated him. I’m not sure how well things are working out, but I think we can make a partnership go. And the marriage…that was his idea, to protect the ranch and keep it intact. We have a completely platonic marriage—my idea—and I don’t think I like my own terms, any longer.”

“You’re married to him out of convenience, but do you love him?” Kelly raised her brows as she sat back in her chair and folded an arm across her body while listening.

“I don’t know.” Rachel sat at the table again. “If I can imagine my life without him, not any more. Do I miss him when he goes into town for the day? Yes. Have I wondered if what would happen between us if we didn’t have a platonic marriage would be different than what was done to me by Jason—every time he’s in the same room with me.” Rachel sighed. “I don’t know if that’s love.”

Kelly took this all in with a nod and considered her words. “And how does Harrison treat Joshua?”

Rachel didn’t even try to stop her smile. “Ever since Harrison’s been here, he’s taken Joshua under his wing. He takes him everywhere with him. Joshua asked me the other day if Harrison was staying. And, Harrison calls him ‘son’ and I don’t think he realizes he calls Josh that.”

Kelly smiled when she heard this. “And that is important to you—very important.” Then her smile morphed into a smirk. “You love him—might not realize it, might not want to admit it, but it’s true.”

“I have never blamed Joshua for his father. I have loved my son from the first moment I felt him move. I carried him under my heart for nine months. What kind of a monster would I be if I didn’t love my son? And what kind of a monster would I be if I ever allowed anyone to hurt him? so, yes, it’s important to me that Harrison treat Joshua gently and kindly.”

Kelly frowned. “I mean you love Harrison. Of course you would love your own son.”

“I’m sorry.” Rachel’s posture softened. “I’ve heard from too many people that I should have just given Joshua away when he was born. My dander just goes up when I think I’m being questioned about how I feel about my son. As to loving Harrison, I’ll have to take your word for it.”

“Oh, no, you shouldn’t have given Joshua away.” Kelly shook her head. “You need him more than you may realize. For instance, without him, it would make accepting Harrison even harder because you would just see him as someone who wants your land. With Joshua though, you can see him as an actual human, and…well, that has a way to sneaking under your guard.” Kelly tilted her head to a side with slight smile. “Would it be such a bad thing if you did love Harrison?”

She heaved a long, deep breath. “I suppose I should tell you the rest of my terms for this platonic marriage or business partnership—however you want to look at it. It’s for a year only, hence my insistence on a platonic relationship. At the end of a year, we decide if we keep the ranch intact or split it and go our separate ways. Or as separate as we can be living on our own halves. So, if I actually love him and he decides to go, where does that leave me and my son?”

“Rachel, does he treat you well? Does he treat Joshua well?”

“I suppose if he was his own son, he couldn’t treat him better. And, he treats me the like the lady my father wanted me to be.”

Kelly nodded but pressed on, “And has Harrison ever hinted at leaving or what life would be like away from here without you and without Joshua?”

“No.” Rachel picked up her cup. “He’s never once said anything about leaving, about coming up with a name for his half of the ranch, or registering a brand—everything I’ve told him he would have to do at the beginning of this partnership.

“Then that’s a pretty good indication that he’s not going to leave.” Kelly smiled warmly as she nodded but then she tipped her head to Rachel. “Of course, caution, in your situation, is prudent, but…” She paused to consider Rachel once more, and then she leaned forward, resting her forearms on the table as she locked eyes with Rachel. “You need to be honest with yourself with how you feel about him—regardless whether or not he leaves. Yes, it’s scary because you don’t know, but once you acknowledge how you feel about him, you then need to be honest with him. And yes that’s scary too, but you don’t want to be rejected, but by everything you’ve told me and how you’ve described him, I don’t think you need to worry about it.” She gave her an encouraging smile. “Wouldn’t it be nice to not have that uncertainty hanging over your head?”

“I suppose.” Rachel drew her hands down the front of her skirt. “I sound so decisive, don’t I?”

Kelly shrugged. “It’s not easy. You’ve been hurt, and you don’t want to repeat that, so it make sense that you’re guarded, and I speak form personal experience with that. I was hurt—not as badly as you, but still—and it took over a decade before I allowed myself to even entertain the thought of love, so…” she nodded. “It’s not easy. You’re trying to run a ranch, and you are trying to protect and provide for your son. You want to be as independent as possible in order to prevent hurt, but…in a way that can be hurting you more especially if someone like Harrison comes along and really cares for both of you. Does that make sense?” Kelly furrowed her brows as she observed Rachel’s face.

“I…I didn’t look at it that way. I don’t want to give up my independence. I’ve fought too hard and for too long to gain it. And, for too long, I haven’t had anyone to rely on. that makes it even harder to be vulnerable–to anyone.” Rachel leaned onto the table. “And, if this talk has brought up hurtful memories for you, I’m sorry. Let me say this. I will think very long on what you’ve said and one way or another, I will tell Harrison how I feel.”

Kelly smiled. “Oh, they may be painful memories, but they put me on the path I needed to be put on, so I could eventually create the life I now lead and find the man I’m now with, so I accept it, and it’s not so painful.” But she nodded, accepting Rachel’s words. “All I ask if you to think on it and be honest with yourself…and then be honest with Harrison.” She paused before adding. “Joshua deserves that much at least.” Then Kelly looked down at her pocket watch and frowned before looking up at Rachel. “My time here has just about come to an end. I really appreciate this conversation, and I do hope you think about what I said. From what I can tell–and I’m good at reading people—Harrison seems like a genuinely caring person…just unfortunately related to a bad person.” Kelly rose to her feet, still smiling at Rachel. “I hope you the best–regardless which way you go.”

Rachel stood and walked Kelly to the door. “Safe travels, to wherever you must go. And, thank you. Sometimes I can be too stubborn for my own good.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that–especially with all your responsibilities.” Kelly nodded as she came to the door. “May you take care, Rachel.” She bowed her head to her then left.

Rachel watched the woman ride away. It had been a strange conversation. She had never confided such intimate details to anyone, not even Fr. O’Cleary in the confessional. But, somehow, talking to Miss Kelly had felt right. And, the woman was correct about one thing. No matter which way this all ended, she had to tell Harrison how she felt about him, about their relationship, and actually making their marriage complete. She owed it to Joshua, to Harrison, but most of all, she owed it to herself. Now, just to manage a way to swallow her pride and defeat her own fears…yeah, and she might as well move the Medicine Bow range aside with wishing.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Lynda J. Cox’s novel, ‘West of Forgotten’ is not yet published, but her other books are! Also you can follow her on social media for more updates!

Smolder on a Slow Burn: https://www.amazon.com/Smolder-Slow-Burn-Lynda-Cox-ebook/dp/B013RJVDQU

The Devil’s Own Desperado: https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Own-Desperado-Lynda-Cox-ebook/dp/B0153Q7NIM

Seize the Flame: https://www.amazon.com/Seize-Flame-Lynda-J-Cox-ebook/dp/B0165X2M6K

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LyndaCox

FB: https://www.facebook.com/lyndajcox

e-mail: lynda.cox@aol.com

Author Interview: Lynda J. Cox

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Lynda was written by Lynda J. Cox.)

Not sure if Kelly was at the ranch house already, Lynda pushed the dually faster than safety would deem prudent on the slick, muddy approach to the old homestead. Just the past weekend, this part of Wyoming had been buried under a foot of heavy, spring snow. A week of sixty degree or better temperatures and most of the snow had retreated to shaded outcrops, the grasses were turning a deep shade of green, but the melting snow made the dirt roads treacherous. The last pasture gate before reaching the house was shut and there were no fresh tire tracks scoring the yellow/brown path through the sage and grasses. Lynda realized she hadn’t seen any tire marks since she turned off Old Gilchrist Road onto the five mile long road leading to the homestead.

She got out of the pickup, opened the gate, and drove over the cattle grate, a chill brushing her with the shade cast by the massive arching wrought iron sign that declared she was on Lazy L property. Getting out of the truck again to close the gate, she paused and tilted her head back, letting the noonday April sun wash over her face. The silence here wasn’t silence. A meadowlark trilled somewhere behind her, the notes like liquid gold. Far off in the distance, high overhead, a hawk’s scream was a muffled “kee-kee.”. Shading her eyes, she scanned the cloudless expanse for the winged predator. It was little more than a small black dot against the azure dome. The wind was a constant voice in this open space…today it was a hoarse whisper through the sages. On the shaded side of the drainage ditch cut along the edge of the “road” the melting snowbanks hissed as they rotted in the bright sunlight.

This empty, seemingly desolate landscape was home. And, less than a mile away was the house she desperately needed to see. Lynda climbed into the cab of the truck, clutched down, and dropped it into gear. When the road swung into a wide arcing turn over an eon’s old, eroded hogback, the ranch house came into view in the small valley below. It was exactly as she remembered it—wide veranda wrapping completely around the home, the massive bay window on the second floor so the home’s occupants could start and end the day with the view of Tableau Mesa supporting the western horizon—the flag pole in the front of the house was a new addition but somehow it didn’t seem out of place to see Old Glory snapping in the stiff breeze with the state flag of Wyoming mounted directly below the American flag. Daffodils bobbed their yellow heads from the confines of flower beds, their only neighbors seeming to be a myriad of white rose cones, protecting the still dormant plants from the unreliability of Wyoming’s weather. That roses could be grown in this semi-arid land still amazed her.

She climbed the wide flight of steps onto the porch and opened the screened back door. Nothing here had changed, either. Though the house now had electricity, provided by a bank of solar panels built directly into the roof and a wind generator which doubled as a water pump for the large trough by the barn, the massive Hoosier stove still dominated one wall of the kitchen. A neatly stacked grouping of wood filled the box next to the black monster. Pine cabinets appeared to have been painted and then a crackling medium had been applied, giving them a very aged look. The counter tops were still pine, multiple coats of resin and knife marks testament to how often they were still utilized. Hard wood floors were grooved and scored by decades of tread and it seemed more than a few pairs of spurs that had been neglected to be removed before entering the house.

“Hello! I’m here,” Lynda called.

Kelly sat at the piano playing it a bit. She stopped when she heard someone approaching the house, and when Lynda announced her presence, Kelly turned on the bench to greet her. “Hey, Lynda!

“Kelly. How the heck did you beat me here?” The sense of deja-vu was overwhelming. The piano dominating the front parlor, the cut crystal tumblers on the side board… “I didn’t see any tire tracks.”

Kelly smirked. “I’m the Muse, remember? I can appear wherever I want whenever I wait. Besides, I knew there was a piano here, and I wanted to play a little.” She motioned to the piano then turned her attention back at Lynda as she rose to her feet. “Shall we take a seat and get started?” They went to sit down, and Kelly smiled at Lynda. “So, tell me a bit about yourself. Other than writing, I’ve heard you work with dogs? How exactly?”

“I show them—on the beauty pageant side. They’re judged on how closely they conform—in that day’s judge’s opinion–to a standard of perfection written by the Collie Club of America and approved by the American Kennel Club. I’m also a western historical writer. I grew up with westerns and John Wayne. And, I have a master’s degree in English.”

Kelly smiled when she heard John Wayne. It’d been a long time since she’d watched those films, but they were always good. “So, I’ve got to ask, do dogs ever show up in your story since you work so slowly with them?”

“Amazingly, not yet. Because each dog has such a unique (and sometimes very quirky) personality, adding a dog to my stories would be the same as introducing a total character. Not fair to the dog to make him/her cardboard and only window dressing.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “That makes sense. I’ve always wanted to add my Doberman into a story but felt it unjust that she’d be sidelined.” Kelly sat back in her chair. “When did you first become serious about writing?”

Lynda crossed the room, and stared out the window at the flat roof of Tableau Mesa dominating the western horizon. “Serious about it? I’ve been serious about it since my first marriage when writing was my lifeline to sanity. I got serious about publication when I started work on my master’s.”

Kelly tilted her head to a side when she heard this. “And you said you write westerns…why westerns? I think they’re pretty cool, but why did they speak to you?”

“I grew up in the west, figuratively speaking.” Lynda hadn’t turned from the window. “I had a steady diet of the old syndicated westerns, my dad was a huge John Wayne fan, and my Grandfather Harris would read me bedtime stories of the Knights of the Round Table.” Lynda turned to the Muse and leaned back against the window sill. “Extrapolating those Knights to the Knights of the Plains wasn’t a long stretch. There was (and still is) a code of honor among the cowboy: Keep your word. Treat women and children as you’d want your Momma or young’uns treated. Listen a whole lot more than you speak.”

Kelly paused for a second, contemplating her next question. Finally, she leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “Okay, I have a question to ask, but before I can ask that one I need to first ask you to tell me about your story.” She smiled at Lynda. “Who are the characters? their conflicts? And such?”

Lynda laughed before she answered. “Which story? Which characters? There are times I feel like I have an insane asylum in my head with all these characters shouting at me to tell their stories. But, let’s go with the story that I’m working on…” She trailed off and took the time to sit on the leather couch. “Harrison and Rachel. They actually have appeared in all three of my published works. Harrison is a deputy federal marshal and the Harrison we see in those three books is mellowed by age and more importantly by his marriage to Rachel. Before Rachel, he viewed the world strictly in black and white, right and wrong. Rachel, on the other hand, knows that the world is filled with more shades of grey than in absolutes. That doesn’t mean she’s without a conscience or morality.”

Lynda traced the stitching in the arm of the couch. “Their conflicts…That’s a bit tougher. Rachel’s terrified of losing two things—her ranch and her autonomy. Harrison wants nothing more than to convince her she won’t lose either if she trusts him.”

Kelly nodded when she heard all this. “Okay, but what’s the main conflict? Is it between them or other people or what exactly?”

“It’s between them.” There was no hesitation in Lynda’s answer. “Rachel can’t trust Harrison and he is at a total loss on how to win her trust.”

Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Hey, can’t make it easy on a guy. That’s totally unfair.” She watched Lynda. “So what inspired this story?”

“A dream.” She shook her head, bemused. “I know, sounds silly, but all I could remember about that dream was a scene that comes midway in the novel. Harrison is a little bit toasted and he’s trying to convince Rachel that with him “no” really means “no.” He has her backed up to the piano, she’s terrified…and when he doesn’t do anything other than draw a length of her hair through his fingers before he leaves the room, she finally starts to realize she might be able to trust him.” Lynda looked out the window again, without moving from the couch. “I woke up with that scene so vivid in my memory and had to write it down immediately. And, the story grew from there…asking myself the usual questions…who the heck were they? Why was she so afraid of that drop dead gorgeous guy?”

“Wow! That’s an awesome dream!” Kelly grinned widely. “Okay, so the question I wanted to ask you earlier but can do so now that I know your story a bit better, how’s this story different than all the other western stories out there? How does it stand out?”

“It’s standard trope.” Lynda shrugged. “But, what makes it different is how I take those standard tropes and add to it. This book is going to be a little darker, I think, than my first three. My last one dealt with spousal abuse, and it’s gotten some good reviews for the manner it was dealt with. Because of Rachel’s past, the issue of rape and the repercussions must be dealt with. It is a tightrope to walk across.”

“It is quite a tightrope indeed, and those are dark topics, but I’m glad you’ve addressed them because I’m confident you would handle it well.” Kelly eased back in her chair. “What has been your most difficult thing to write in this story?”

Lynda stood and walked to the sideboard. She moved a tumbler and then set it back. “Dancing around the rape. I have to tread very carefully or my publisher will reject it. And, because they are established characters in my previous novels, I can’t self-publish their story.” She drew a long breath. “And, that’s not exactly the truth, either. The hardest thing to write has been Rachel’s recollection of her rape. It was as if I was ripping open old, but less than healed wounds.”

Kelly frowned when she heard this. “That sounds very difficult indeed.” Then she shifted to a lighter topic. “And what’s been your favorite thing about writing it?” She smiled when she asked this.

“I honestly don’t have a favorite thing about writing.” Lynda smiled as well. “I love researching–one of the perks of being a history geek. I love creating. I love sharing my adoration for the Old West and for the places that thought process still survives, such as Wyoming with such an independent, pioneering spirit. I love connecting with readers. I love it when a character stops shouting at me to get it right, because I did get it right.”

“Not about writing in general but rather this story. Was there a moment that sticks out at you and still makes you smile?” Kelly raised her brows.

“Nope, because I’m not completely finished with the story. There might be a new favorite moment. As it is, my favorite moment in the rough draft is that moment in the parlor with Harrison and Rachel and he’s just about turning himself inside out to convince Rachel she can trust him to never hurt her.”

“I’m sure that’s a touching moment.” Kelly smiled but then had to sigh and rise to her feet. “Our time’s almost up, but I really do appreciate this time to chat with you, Lynda. Remind me again, do you title for your story?”

“The working title is ‘West of Forgotten’.”

Kelly considered this for a moment but then had to smile at Lynda. “That’s a good title. I really like it! Keep me posted on how it goes, okay? Because I’m sure my readers would be interested in a western for sure! Now though, I guess I should see myself out.” She gestured to the door. “But thanks again for agreeing to meet with me. It was great meeting you.”

“Likewise.” Lynda paused. “I think I’m just going to stay here for a few more minutes.”

“All right. You take care! Tell your characters I said ‘hi’.” With one final wave and a smile, Kelly headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Lynda J. Cox’s novel, ‘West of Forgotten’ is not yet published, but her other books are! Also you can follow her on social media for more updates!

Smolder on a Slow Burn: https://www.amazon.com/Smolder-Slow-Burn-Lynda-Cox-ebook/dp/B013RJVDQU

The Devil’s Own Desperado: https://www.amazon.com/Devils-Own-Desperado-Lynda-Cox-ebook/dp/B0153Q7NIM

Seize the Flame: https://www.amazon.com/Seize-Flame-Lynda-J-Cox-ebook/dp/B0165X2M6K

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LyndaCox

FB: https://www.facebook.com/lyndajcox

e-mail: lynda.cox@aol.com

Author Interview: Laura Hart

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Laura was written by Laura Hart.)

Kelly sat at the edge of the pool and admired the picturesque waterfall in front of her. All around her were forest trees muting any chaotic lifestyle, but sun shone through this clearing, and a breeze passed through as well. Barefoot, Kelly stirred her toes in the water and smiled. It was lovely here—just an absolutely relaxing place for a chat. All she had to do was wait for Laura to show up.

Laura smiled as she headed towards her favorite place to relax and let her creative juices flow, a waterfall tucked nicely inside a thick forest.  She was meeting Kelly here, and wasn’t sure what to expect, but any anxiety about the unknown was overshadowed by the charm of the beautiful day. 

As she approached, she saw Kelly sitting and waiting.  She straightened her posture and walked towards the water confidently.  “Good morning, how are you today?”

Kelly looked up and smiled when she saw Laura. She rose to her feet to shake her hand. “Hey! I’m doing great. How about you?” She motioned for Laura to sit near the water’s edge if she’d like.

Laura sat as she answered, “Couldn’t be better,” as she looked around.  She kicked off her shoes to toss her feet in the water in a similar manner to Kelly’s.  She smiled, with a bit of a questioning look to see what kind of questions were in store for her.  A handful of birds stirred above them and it took her attention for a moment while she waited.

As they relaxed, Kelly smiled, “So, Laura, tell me a bit about yourself. What is it that you do? Are you a full-time writer, or do you have a day job?”

“Ah, it would be so lovely to be a full time writer,” her eyes went to a dreamy state for a moment.  “I would love to just set up right here and spend my days lost in my worlds.”  She wiggled her toes and let the current run between her toes a minute.  “But, alas, I have a full time job and am a full time mom also.  I’m blessed, though, because my children are now old enough to participate in brainstorming and love to contribute when I have the time to create.”  Her eyes lit up as she thought of her kids and her passion working together.  “Of course, as they get older, my hope is that I’ll have even more time to write.”  She laughed a little, nervously.

“Wow, full-time mom and have a full-time job?? How do you even have the time to write??” Kelly raised her brows. She highly admired parents, especially mothers, who wrote. She knew it couldn’t be easy.

“It’s a group effort sometimes.  My kids are 14 and 6.  When they know I am sitting down to write, they do what they can to join in.  They help me build characters, and give me names and scenery descriptions.  My most recent work, my 14 year old is even drawing pictures to go along with it.  We could spend our time watching tv or face down in tablets, but bonding over creating this book is priceless to me.”

Laura thought, she had other works that the kids aren’t part of.  Those have been in the works since before kids were part of her life at all, and she was sure some day she would work on them in detail again…but during this phase of her life, she felt a different piece made more sense to fit into her life, even if she didn’t get to write daily, or even every week, consistently.

“How about you, Kelly?”  She knew this was an interview, but she always felt awkward if she wasn’t learning about the other person also.

“Oh, I’m not married—don’t have any kids.” Kelly shook her head with a smile. “Hopefully one day, but not yet. So have you always been a writer? Or did something more recent spark the urge for you to write seriously?”

“Writing has always been part of me, since I was little.  I remember in elementary school going to Young Authors, and then taking a story I wrote as a child and revising it and growing it to make another Young Authors trip in middle school.  My nose was always in a book … which was a problem only because when I read, I am gone to the world.”  She blushed a little, she remembered how more than once, her mom would have to physically pull a book from her hands to get her attention.  “The biggest problem with being a reader like I am, however, is when you have small kids, reading goes on hold.  It becomes a luxury.”  It was true, she had read so much less because she was afraid of missing things with the kids.  What if they needed her and she was so zoned out they got hurt, or lost?

“I don’t think writing will ever leave my blood.  And I’m thrilled when I get feedback from my children’s teachers about how their voice is great, and how they are reading ahead of their grade levels.  My 14 year old is even in her advanced placement English class.”  Her pride was showing through, and while her kids may never write the same way, Laura knew she was influencing her kids at least a little in that way. “I’m sorry, I know this is about writing, but the kids are such a big part of that now for me.  They inspire me, and help me.  And because of them, one day I’ll even finish what I will consider my masterpiece.”  A branch cracked overhead and she turned a bit to see.  It seemed as if it was simply the wind breaking some dead wood. “Of course, a masterpiece, that’s subjective right?”

Kelly smiled when she heard Laura say all this about her children. “You know, I have to say, I’m glad to see how involved your children are in with your writing. You hear a lot of writers who are parents kinda…get frustrated because they don’t have their time to write. The two lifestyles don’t seem to mix. But you seem to have good handle on that, so good for you. When I get married and have kids, I hope to handle it similarly to how you do.” Kelly locked eyes with Laura and smiled once more.

Then she cast her gaze to look at the waterfall in front of them. “Okay, so…I’m sure you’ve written a lot of stories, but which one would you like to talk about?” She glimpsed back at Laura. “Unfortunately we only have time to hear about one.”

Laura shook her head, “Just remember, when you do have kids, they just like to be involved and heard.  Even if you can’t really use what they give you, they will remember being part of the process and the time with you.  And once in a while, they will surprise you with the most perfect solution to a problem you may not even know you had!”  She fidgeted a little, focusing for a moment on the water.  “As for the story to speak about, I think the one I am working on the most right now is best.  The work is called ‘Hope in Darkness’. It’s just the fairy book when we refer to it in our home.” She cringed a little.  Titling her works was always a challenge.

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “So…I’m guessing it has something to do with fairies or fairytales?” She raised her brows but then smiled encouragingly. “What’s it about?”

She nodded, “Yes, fairies, but there’s a little bit of a twist.  The environment we have set up has a world on many planes.  There are gods who can travel between planes.  One plane had its world set up by a group of gods, who ended up killing each other, save for one who still resides there.  The gods who died still have their essence in that plane, and each god’s essence and magic core spawned into a set of fairies.” Whenever she has delved into her world, she always waits for the odd looks like she’s lost her mind a little. “Anyhow, these fairies can die, and as they die a new one spawns at the source of the god power that they are created from.  The only way to get rid of them completely is to kill the entire set of fairies at the same time, which also destroys the god power associated with it.”

She started to wonder if she was getting to deep in the world creation, but carried on anyhow. “So each of these factions of fairies works pretty independently of each other, and are pretty oblivious to how the other groups carry on in their day to day.  One of these groups ends up inadvertently pulling a human back from the earthen plane which starts the story.” She took a deep breath, glancing at Kelly to see if she was giving the information Kelly was hoping for.

Kelly listened closely to everything and nodded as she kept up with it. “Sounds complex, but you’ve got a good world there!” She offered Laura a warm smile. “So, who are the characters? Their agendas? Conflicts? Struggles?”

Laura’s smile was a little devious at this point, as she went to start on about her characters in specific.  “Tim is our human,” she paused and pondered a second, “but he might not stay named Tim.  I think the kids were changing that.”  She shrugged, it wasn’t important in the long term.  “Anyhow, this human had a rough life.  He grew up with his grandmother after his father killed his mom and went to prison.  Tim lost his grandmother just before he finished high school, and is a very dark individual, he carries a lot of pain with him.”  She felt a little guilty at just how much heartache she was putting this person through, especially by the end of things but she would keep some secrets.

“Tim is completely out of place and lost in the new world, and because of the selfish nature of the fairies, they don’t pay a lot of attention to him either.” She shifted how she was sitting some, turning more towards Kelly and getting more enthusiastic about the conversation. “And, around this time is when we meet the remaining god on this land, currently just called Darkness.  Darkness is so named by the fairies and keeps pretty much to his own castle keep tucked in the rocky mountainside.  The world makes him sad, and he wants to destroy it and begin over with a new creation cycle.”

Kelly listened and tilted her head, trying to keep up with all this. “Is Darkness the antagonist?”

Laura nodded and tilted her head some, “Yes, and no.  You see, Darkness does not have evil motives.  Initially we are setting the book up to see the fairy point of view, get to know the world we are exploring.  Once we get to Darkness, and Tim gets to meet him and learn about him, we will find that Darkness has a lighter name and is a kinder soul.  His brothers and sisters were the other gods who fought among themselves and killed each other.  Darkness never joined those fights and only wanted peace.  We will find that he hurts, and every day on this world that he built with his siblings pains him, and he wants to start over to end the pain … he views the fairies as beings who are blocking the gods from being at rest and wants them gone, as well.  We will start to feel for him, and, as evil as I may be as setting it up this way, I want to make both sides likable and have people torn as to how they want things to end.” She realized that she had been doing some rambling, and it was getting close to the end of their time together. “I’m sorry, I know I ramble on a bit.  Do you have any other questions you wonder about before we have to go?” She was a little sad that other responsibilities of her day would pull her away from the waterfall as well.

Kelly shook her head. “Laura, stop worrying so much about what others think of your story. Don’t worry whether or not they’re going to like it or that you’re rambling or so. I enjoy hearing writers ramble about their creation. I like watching their eyes light up as they talk about their stories. Now though, before we go, what inspired this story? Your children? Or something else?”

“It was something else.  We had some trouble in the family and hard times.  I was in a dark place, and one morning, and I know this may sound crazy to some, but I had a visit from a friend.  She was a friend that meant a lot to me, we had been friends since we were born, almost literally but she passed on a couple years ago at a very young age.  Anyhow, I can’t tell you how I knew that morning that she was there with me, but she was.  And when she left, and I woke fully for the day, the story arch was nearly fully formed.  And my kids are helping fill in the details, and I credit that friend for bringing me inspiration in a dark time.” Tears started to form at the corners of her eyes, but she was smiling.

Kelly smiled when she heard this. “I’m glad your friend inspired such a story for you and that your kids could help fill-in the blanks. Now, complete the story, title it, publish it, and let me know, so I can help share it with the world.” With that, she rose to her feet and offered Laura a hand up. “It was a pleasure meeting with you, Laura. I can’t wait to see which character you’ll have me meet.”

Accepting Kelly’s hand, she rose and shook Kelly’s hand in return before gathering her shoes from the bank.

“It has been a very nice visit, thank you very much for meeting me all the way out here.  I will keep you posted as the book comes to full reality.”

She smiled at Kelly and thanked her again, before she started on her way back to home.  She was going to have to think long and hard about the character; she had thus far thought about having her meet Darkness, but something else started tickling the back of her mind.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Laura Hart’s story ‘Hope in Darkness’ is not yet published, but you can follow her on social media for more updates!

Twitter: www.twitter.com/artamishia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaurasWriting/

Character Interview: Yasmise Jameson’s Marisol

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Marisol was written by Yasmine Jameson.)

Marisol watched the door waiting for Kelly Blanchard to come into the diner.  The rest of the crew was already at the next table. They were meeting for an update on the case.  Louis did not want to talk until they were all here. And Darwin agreed.  Marisol said that she would join them after her interview with Kelly.  The baby started to chirp. She had a happy daughter.  Always smiling (probably gas) she was only a couple of weeks old.  She stared at the door and thought she saw Kelly come inside.  Then she looked at Abdul.  She was still mad at him this morning.  They had a fight prior to coming to the diner. They had been married for 10 years and it had been hard especially with Abdul in prison.  Ah yes it was Kelly Blanchard.  Marisol stood up and said loudly, “I am right here Kelly. I have a menu you can look at and order anything you want.  The studio covers the charge and so does the police department. “

Kelly smiled when Marisol greeted her, and she went over to the table. “Oh, I’m fine right now. Maybe I’ll get a little appetizer, but really I’m here to talk with her.” She grinned at Marisol and noticed the baby near her. “Your daughter? What’s her name?”

Marisol beamed at Kelly.  “Abdul and I named her Mayra.  She is a beauty isn’t she? The food here is good. I recommend the home fries instead of the eggs.”

“Sounds like a plan.” When a waiter came, Kelly ordered the home fries and then focused on Marisol once more. “So you’re married to Abdul? How did you two meet?”

As she sips her vanilla shake, Marisol thought on how they met.  She said, “I met Abdul when I was friends with Darwin. I had been having some legal problems and Darwin was the paralegal at the time.  Part time as an intern.  It was part of her community service deal.  Anyway, she was dating Darius at the time. They took me out to dinner and introduced me to this fine tall black man.  And that was my Abdul.  We started to talk on the telephone and graduated to actual in person dating and then we ended up getting married in secret. I wasn’t pregnant but he was going to prison.  So we decided to get married before he went in. Now we have our little one”

“Very interesting.” Kelly smiled at little Mayra once more before shifting her gaze to Marisol. She knew what she wanted to ask next, but suspected it would be a sensitive topic, so Kelly approached it with care. “But what happened? Why was he sent to prison?”

She shook her head and smiled sadly at Kelly. “Kelly, the stupid man got in trouble.  And yes, I call him stupid for that. Because he is friends with some people who are into drugs.. He thought he could help them out and acted a courier to transport money with an armored truck. The truck got stopped and robbed on the way somehow.   He wouldn’t say that he knew the guy who did it. They got Abdul; on the charge of  drugs on him. 

Kelly shook her head when she heard this. “Well, at least you’re upfront with him and don’t mind calling him out on it.” She smiled at Marisol then saw the waiter bringing her fries, so she sat back and thanked him then tried the food. She nodded at Marisol. “This is really good! Anyway, back to the questions, so I hear he’s out of jail now and is back with the band. Tell me about this band. I don’t know anything about it.”

Marisol cracked up.  She said, “The band is as old as the members almost. They started singing in junior high. A little group at school for events and school dances.  Then moved on to contests and eventually a record deal in high school.  They did it through college. The band is made up of friends, Abdul, Marquis, Marcus, Lou, John and Darnell. They have been friends forever.  The broke up soon after college ended, say a couple of years because of problems of the individual members. And also Abdul went to prison. He was their song writer.  No one else at the time was writing. They all write now. It is how they make their money. The band is at the next table over. Do you want to meet them and the crew, Kelly? I believe Darwin just came in with the girls.”

Kelly raised her hand, shaking her head. “Maybe once we finish here. Otherwise we’ll get sidetracked from the original purpose of our meeting.” She smiled at Marisol. “Now though, you said they broke up, but…obviously they’re back together again.” She motioned to the band. “What brought them back together?”

Marisol tilted her head and thought.  She stayed that way for awhile and the she spoke softly.  ” I think they wanted a comeback album.  And so did Abdul. He wanted to have the band sing his songs and help move his career. He is currently writing songs for a couple of new artists. Not well known. “He got an opportunity to work with a friend out of college who works with the likes of Joe, Sananda and Dr. Dre’s proteges.  So he sent to Marc and Joe a couple of songs that he wrote for the band.  Marc approached Louis and asked him to listen because he knew that they spoke.  Louis said that they were the songs that Abdul had told him about.  They are excellent for the band.  When asked if he could work with and the band could work with him Louis thought and said it might not be a problem.  Approach the band. So he did and now they are working. Sad about the break in and the attack on Marc.  Plus the new single got stolen. “

Kelly furrowed her brows and leaned forward, setting her elbow on the table and her chin in the palm of her hand. “What happened exactly?”

Marisol said, “Well, Kelly, I don’t know what happened.”  She sighed. “I know that Marc was in the studio by himself.  And he had locked up the building when the assailants came into studio and knocked him and stabbed him with a knife.” She stopped and thought for a while.  “All we knew at the time was that Marc had been stabbed.  Then we found out that the single had been stolen. ” “All of sudden the police and Darwin appear. Darwin is their go to for private investigation.  I don’t really like Darwin because she has always been my friend-nemesis.  You have one of those, Kelly?  But I wouldn’t have another person do this investigation. She will treat Abdul fairly. The police have already been around to question him.  It was hard during my pregnancy.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this, but she tilted her head to a side. “So what’s the story between you and Darwin?”

“OH my God, let me tell you.  Darwin and I have a love hate relationship.  I told you I met Abdul through Darwin right?  At the time she was with Darius and I didn’t know that. I thought she had eyes for Abdul but she didn’t.  And he wasn’t my type either.  He was not tall and light skin and built. He was tall but dark skin, skinny and scrawny.”  She looks to the other table and sighs, “Look at him now. Prison huh?”  Marisol thought some more. Then Marisol continues on and says, “When I first the met the band  they had a practice of investigating the girlfriends. So  Darwin got me into trouble big trouble while she did that.  I didn’t appreciate that and had a lot of questions to answer at home and at work. Needless to say I wasn’t friendly to afterwards. But she is an excellent investigator. And she actually did help me out of a situation during the investigation with an abusive boyfriend. Like I said, she got me in a lot of trouble.  Don’t ever get involved with an abuser.  I was about to leave him when I met Abdul.  Back to Darwin, I wouldn’t have any other person/persons of than Darwin and the girls do this investigation.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “Wow, quite interesting! You two certainly have a lot of background together, but you trust her with this investigation? Why?” She raised her brows.

“You would think I would not trust her right?”

Kelly shrugged. “Well…let you said, she got you into a lot of trouble. It’s hard to trust someone who’s done that to you.”

Thinking before she answered, Marisol finally said, “I do trust her because if it wasn’t for her, I might still be involved with that abusive boyfriend.  She got my mother and my friends together to get me into a program that wouldn’t allow him near me. I got housing, a new job, a permanent restraining order, and Abdul.  My mother and family stopped worrying. My health got better.  And I gained a network of friends that helped me out.  Thats the love. The hate comes in because she puts me through hell in the process.  And Abdul and I have been through that for so long. We just want to not have it anymore. We just lost Abdul’s Mom and had a baby. We would like some time and peace.”

Kelly nodded her understanding. “It’s an interesting friendship, that’s for sure.” Then she paused and tilted her head to a side. “You mentioned your mother. I understand there’s tension between you and her, and even maybe between you and Abdul’s mother?” She furrowed her brows. “I’m not sure what the facts are, but what’s that all about?”

“Well you know mothers never good enough for her son.I am always lacking.  When she died, we were arguing the three of us about the baby and responsibility. My mother on the other hand, is worried of a repeat because Abdul has a temper.  But he has never ever hit me and he never will.  And Kelly I don’t doubt that. I have seen him put a fist through a wall and I have seen him bend metal when he is angry; we been in the hospital to because of that; but he will never hurt me.”

“I hope you’re right.” Kelly shook her head, hating the thought of Marisol getting hurt. “Have you, by any chance, taken some kind of self-defense classes though? Never hurts.”

She mimicked kung fu at the table and upset the baby. Mayra starts to cry. she quickly picked her up to settle her down. “I have as of this weekend a brown belt in karate. However they made me register as a lethal weapon because of a fight I had prior to my pregnancy. But now that I am not pregnant I can finish my program. All I needed was to be awarded my brown belt.  I can do that this Saturday.”

Kelly smiled at her. “Good for you! How’s that experience been?” She watched as Marisol calmed down the baby.

“Karate? I liked it. It kept me in shape and it also kept me focused.  It taught me how to control my anger. It helped with work and this situation. I get so mad at the guys because they don’t see the risks to themselves.  And I hate that.”  She started to rock Mayra because she was still fussy. Then she called over Abdul. She said to Kelly, “I am sorry I breastfeed her.  I brought bottles today so we wouldn’t disturb the interview.  I will be right back. I just have to set them up.”

“Sure thing.” Kelly nodded and let her do what she had to do. While waiting, she continued eating the fries.

Marisol and Abdul walked away towards the back booth. She set him up with the baby  and stayed for a bit to make sure she took the bottle. Then she walked back to the booth with Kelly.  Sitting down she said, ” I am so sorry for that.”

“No problem at all.” Kelly reassured her with a smile. “So, I have to ask, how’s life as a mother? Is it what you expected?”

“I love being a mother Kelly. It is the most rewarding experience in the world.  Mayra is growing and she is healthy despite the multiple problems i had during the pregnancy.  She is also the reason I get up in the morning and not mind Abdul’s bad mood or my problems.”

“What’s up with Abdul’s bad moods anyway?” Kelly jutted her chin toward Abdul. “I mean, I understand his friend’s been attacked and such, but…it sounds like it’s more than just that.” She shifted her eyes back to Marisol.

“He is worried about us. About the theft. They are looking at him as if he is the responsible party because it came soon as he brought the single. And his old cronies (translation-criminal friends) also started hanging around the studio more often. So he gets mad at the police. He started boxing to get rid of his anger. “

“That’s one way to deal with the anger.” Kelly nodded. “And his anger does seem quite reasonable. Things sound shady for sure.” Then she paused and happened to catch a glimpse of the clock on the wall and sighed. “Well, Marisol, our time’s almost up. It’s been two hours already, can you believe it?” She shook her head. “But before I go, tell me, what are your hopes for the future? For your daughter, for the band, for yourself, for Abdul?”

Abdul brought the baby back to the booth and gave her to Marisol.  She started to go to sleep so the band didn’t want her over there.  She took the baby and responded to Kelly’s question. “My daughter is the most important  person outside of Abdul and my family as of right now.  Our hopes are the same for the future.  My hope for my daughter is that she grows and develops into a beautiful women with a brain. It is important to have a brain. That she is able to take care of herself and won’t get into legal trouble.  My hopes for the band is that we find out who did this and Abdul is absolved of all the suspicion.  For myself and Abdul, we want to just raise our baby and live our lives in peace. “

Kelly smiled when she heard this. “Well, I hope all those come true, and I hope you the very best. Now though, it’s time for me to leave.” She rose to her feet. “Thank you for meeting with me. I’ve quite enjoyed this conversation!”

Marisol stood up and pushed the baby to the side and promptly got a finger up her nose.  So she pulled the baby’s to her nose and washed off her finger and hand. And then shook Kelly’s hand.  She said “Thank you for the interview.”

She shook her hand. “My pleasure. You take care!” With that and a final smile, Kelly headed out the door.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Yasmine Jameson’s story, ‘Dreaming:  A Music Mystery’ is not yet released, but follow her on social media for more updates!

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Character Interview: N. R. Tupper’s Kai

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Kai was written by N. R. Tupper.)

The overhead lights flickered before finally giving way to the bright light shining through the open shutters. Kai Brecken shivered as she paced the length of the HOPEBRINGER’s bridge. Why had she agreed to this? Battus, she hated this place. Everything about it brought back memories she’d rather not dwell on.

As soon as she entered this ship of demons, she lifted the shutters, opening the windows so sunlight could flood the space. This light was the only comfort this room could provide and Kai didn’t intend to deny herself that.

Outside the windows the blue and green beauty of Egeria still took her breath away, but she knew what waited outside. She knew the danger this beautiful little planet harbored.

As ideas went, this wasn’t one of her favorites.

She continued to pace as she waited for the interviewer to arrive.

Since this wasn’t her first time visiting the HOPEBRINGER, Kelly knew what to expect and dressed in a casual manner. She was much more was a bit more at ease. She knew there was something in the ship, but she didn’t know what exactly, but she made her way to the bridge and cleared her throat to get Kai’s attention. When the woman spun around to look at her, Kelly offered her a smile as she approached her. “Hello, Kai. I’m Kelly. Thank you for meeting with me.” She glimpsed around their settings. “So what history do you have with this ship?” She looked back at Kai for an answer.

Right to the questions. Typical of an interviewer, Kai supposed. She studied the thin wisp of a woman before her and shoved her hands into her pockets. Not that she didn’t want to shake the woman’s hand but it hadn’t been offered and Kai had no idea what traditions this particular woman came from. Some people shook hands, some didn’t. One thing Kai was good at was adapting to whatever culture she was facing.

The question made Kai look around. The history she had in this place wasn’t exactly a history she cared to explore. “My crew and I spent a brief time in this ship. Used it to escape an unpleasant situation. It’s not… my favorite place.” She didn’t return Kelly’s smile. Not that she wanted to be rude, but she didn’t particularly feel like smiling and she’d given up on trying to fake it when she didn’t feel it.

Sensing how her warmth wasn’t really accepted, Kelly nodded and tucked her hands behind her back as she meandered around the bridge. “I understand you rescued each crew member, and that’s how you got your crew. How did you start that endeavor of rescuing such people?”

Kai watched Kelly, blue eyes following the woman closely.

The thing was, this woman didn’t seem a threat so Kai wanted to trust her, but it wasn’t easy to trust. Not even when her instincts told her to. “I didn’t rescue them. They’ll tell you I did, but I didn’t. I merely helped them rescue themselves. Tucker hadn’t needed rescuing, just guiding. Mallik definitely wasn’t the sort to need a hero. Haydn too. If anyone could claim they were ‘rescued’, it was Uri but she didn’t think asking to be given a slave and then freeing that slave was necessarily a ‘rescue’. You spoke to them then? My crew?”

Kelly smiled and shook her head. “Not exactly. I’ve merely heard this. But helping or rescuing…what were you doing when you first encountered the first individual you helped?” She raised her brows as she continued to roam the bridge, her skimming over the desks.

“Surviving,” Kai murmured. When she met Tucker she’d been with the pirates. She’d just been inducted into the Masked Princes, but of course nobody knew. It was bizarre walking amongst those people and them not knowing who she ‘was’. They still didn’t know, not even Tucker. “Tucker was working for the pirates. A good kid, too honest for his own good. He made a mistake, I intervened. He says I saved his life but I didn’t… I really didn’t. After that he started following me around and next thing I knew he was my right hand man.” Kid. Right hand kid. He wasn’t a man. Not even now.

Kelly nodded when she heard this. She took a seat and swirled it around to face Kai. “And who was after that?”

“Mallik. Then Bristol and with Bristol came Haydn and then Uri. That’s the order.” The questions irritated her, though she wasn’t sure why. Well, she did. She didn’t like talking about how they met. She didn’t like being painted like a hero because she just wasn’t. She crossed her arms over her chest, “My crew are a team. We’re a unit. We’re… a family. How we started doesn’t matter. What matters is, we’re together and we’ll always be together. They’d die for me, I’d die for them.” She immediately regretted her tone. “Sorry I just… I don’t like being here…”

“Well, is there someplace else you’d like to go? It’s not like I chose this as our meeting place. I just came here because I was told you would be.” Then that made Kelly think. “Did you choose to meet here?”

“No,” Kai said quickly, “no, no. No. Who would want to be here?” She waved her hand towards the windows, “You know what’s out there! Or… they didn’t tell you?” She shook her head, “It doesn’t matter. Let’s just get this over with. They said if I answered your questions, you’d help me find my sister.”

Kelly opened her mouth to correct her but then decided otherwise. Kai wasn’t trusting her yet, and if Kelly revealed she didn’t know anything about her sister, Kai might get up and leave immediately. That wouldn’t do.

So, she decided to shift topics. “I understand you don’t trust me, and you may not like talking about yourself, but I’d like you to consider this as your one and likely only opportunity to be true to yourself. You can talk honestly with me. I have no one to tell. After today, you won’t see or hear from me again, so you can trust me. Can you do that?” She raised her brows.

Kai closed her eyes with a sigh. Then she nodded, “Yeah. I can do that.” What did it matter if she was honest? It was true, she’d never see this woman again. And it wasn’t like her crew would read the interview when it came out… well, she didn’t think they would. “Sorry.” She ran her hand over her hair and shook out her shoulders to try and relax.”Right. So. Okay. Mallik, she definitely wasn’t rescued. She was with the pirates, like we all were. Thing is, she liked getting into fights. I just happened to be there, I helped, and uh… now she says I saved her life. I didn’t. It was just a simple bar fight. Bristol, she was different. She, uh, she got herself in a real bad situation. The thing is, she’s way too gentle. Way too… pretty. A pirate named Garis had taken her as a…companion. She wasn’t too happy about it but didn’t know how to get away. I talked to Garis, convinced him it was in his best interest to leave her be. It was safer after that for her to stick with me, so she did. Haydn had just escaped from the Alliance when I met him. He was still pretty sick, actually. The pirates would have ate him alive, but Bristol, she found him and she begged me to help. So we took him in and he just became one of us. He’s a badass though, not weak. Not even a little. And Uri was a slave. When I left the… pirates,” she wasn’t willing to say she’d been a Masked Prince, that was too much, “I asked for a gift. They said I could have anything, so I asked for Uri. And that’s how I got my crew.”

“Nice, so what do you all do? I’m assuming it has nothing to do with the pirates, but you’re a crew, so you have to do something.” Kelly sat back in her chair to listen.

“Transports,” Kai answered, “it’s… you know, a living. And when you’ve got a record like we do it’s hard to get other work. Right now we’re trying to earn a ticket, so we can get the bigger jobs. The dream is to be fully independent, no more pirates, no more jail time.” Kai had ceased her pacing. She stood near one of the consoles and finally leaned back to sit on it.

“At least you have something, and you have people you can trust.” The next question Kelly wanted to ask might get Kai to shut down again, but she had to breach it. “What happened between you and your family? And I’m not talking about your crew. Why are you so distant from them?”

Kai visibly stiffened at the question.  She didn’t like talking about it. She licked at her lips and shook her head, “I left them,” she said quietly, “I left them and… you know, they won’t talk to me.”

“Family doesn’t just not talk to one of their own. Trust me, I know. I’ve got a large family and totally understand all the complicated dynamics of a family.” Kelly was thinking of her five sisters and four brothers. “Why did you leave them?”

Kai shook her head, “I was 13. I was a kid. I wanted… things they didn’t want to give me. So I ran away. And, I’ve tried to contact them but they won’t listen. Family shouldn’t just not talk … but they have cut me out so completely… I don’t even know if they’re alive anymore.” Which is why she’d agreed to this interview. She needed to know if her sister was alive… if she was okay.

“It hurts when they cut you off like that, and I completely agree with you that they shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry they did.” However, Kelly wasn’t about to let it go. “Tell me about your parents. Before you left, what were they like?”

“My mother is… was… a gentle woman. She had a rebellious streak but she didn’t show it much. My father was a dick. He didn’t think much of women, really didn’t think much of pirates, he would absolutely hate me now.”

“And siblings?” Kelly raised her brows, leaning forward, resting her forearms on her knees and clasping her hands together.

“Lily is the older of my sisters,” Kai smiled as she spoke, “She’s a real dreamer. She always had her nose in books. She’s the one I thought for sure would find me.” Her smile faded. After a moment she continued, “Dayli was just a baby when I left. But she was a funny kid, always laughing and doing that funny dance toddlers do. You know what I mean? Like, she could feel music in a way we can’t and she’d just jiggle her little body however she could. It was cute… funny. I miss that.”

Kelly chuckled when she heard these fond memories, and she nodded. “Did either of your sisters ever teach you anything–something you may not have realized but have carried with you all this time?”

“To dream,” Kai said quietly, “to always dream. To chase your dreams. To not be afraid…”

“And were you afraid of something at home?” Kelly asked quietly.

“Yeah,” Kai nodded. She sighed and pushed away from the console. This was odd, talking so openly, sharing her true feelings. It wasn’t anything she would normally do. Not even with her crew. “Can we change the subject?”

“Sure, we can change the subject, but that doesn’t mean I won’t go back to that topic,” Kelly forewarned her as she eased back in her chair. “So what happened after you left your family? Where did you end up?”

“I hitched a ride on a transporter and they sold me to the pirates. I spent the next twelve years with the pirates, right up until I gathered my crew and we decided to go our own way.” Kai rubbed at her arms,  “You know, people say the pirates are bad. I grew up being told how evil they are but they aren’t. They took care me, a scared lost kid and sure they were rough and at times scary but they gave me the chance nobody else would.”

“Were you with a specific pirate crew? Or did you float around several crews?” Kelly tilted her head as she observed Kai.

“I moved from ship to ship. Just whoever needed, whenever they needed me. I was a bit of a specialist. I had specific… skills. So if a crew needed those skills, they sent me that way.” That was how she earned the interest of the Masked Princes. “You understand, I can’t talk too much about that. I wasn’t exactly involved in the most… legal activity.”

“Kai, do you have any idea the kind of people I talk to? Several of them were/are serial killers, others are plotting to take over the world, and then there are thieves, and don’t forget the demons, and so on and so forth.” Kelly looked at Kai and shrugged. “You doing illegal work doesn’t really bother me. I’m not here to judge you. Just want to get to know you, and no, I’m not going to let you skim topics.” With that, she crossed her arms because she could be stubborn too. “What specific skills did/do you have?”

Demons? Was this woman nutty? It wouldn’t surprise Kai if she was, although demons might just be some kind of euphemism or title. Her ‘skills’ were not exactly something she was proud of. “In the course of my… training, the pirate who took me on discovered I had a particularly good eye. He trained me to shoot. Special weapons, special circumstances…”  That was a part of her life she really didn’t like discussing. It’s not as if she was proud of how she’d climbed the ranks, or how she’d made a name for herself. Ruthless killer was not the title she wanted to embrace.

“And they made you kill.” Kelly nodded as she came to understand this. She softened her voice. “Do you recall the first kill you had to make?”

“They were not good people,” Kai said firmly, “every one. I made sure of it.” It was how she made it okay, in her head. She wasn’t killing the innocent, or the good. She only killed people who didn’t deserve to live. She was hating this. Every moment of it… but at the same time it was almost a relief to speak it all out loud. She hadn’t told anyone any of this before.

“Still you took people’s lives.” Then Kelly paused as if she realized. “Is that why you don’t feel like you should ever be called a ‘hero’? Because you killed people?”

“I’m not a hero,” Kai repeated firmly, “I won’t ever be a hero.” She paced the length of the bridge, pausing near the windows to look out at the stunning view. She whirled, pinning her gaze on Kelly, “Do you know where she is? My sister? Lily?”

“I understand you don’t like the weight of the title of ‘hero’, but you seem firmly against it—moreso than most people. Why is that?” Kelly asked, knowing she was completely ignoring the question Kai asked.

“Do you consider yourself a hero?” Kai asked. “I’m just a normal person. I’m just some chick who’s out there doing what I can to survive. There’s nothing hero about that. But people keep trying to put that title on me and it’s stupid. I’m just Kai. I’m just me. Everytime I do something good they say: Oh, you’re a hero. No. I”m a human being. I did the human thing, the right thing. I do wrong things too. I’m not some idol. I’m not some statue. I’m just me.”

“And are you happy with who you are?”

Kai paused at that. She hadn’t been asked that question before. She wasn’t sure how to respond. She didn’t answer quickly. She chewed over the question a long while before finally shaking her head.

“Why don’t you like who you are?” Kelly asked softly as she leaned forward, her eyes locked on Kai to catch any and everything she might not actually say.

“I left them behind,” Kai said softly, “I left them behind… I didn’t care what it would do to them, I didn’t care how it would hurt them… I only thought about me and I left them behind.” And now she couldn’t reach them, she couldn’t contact them and she was so scared they weren’t okay.

“If you could go back in time and change it all, would you?” Kelly watched Kai then pressed. “Would you *really* change anything?”

That was the hard part. Because as much as she protested, she knew her presence had changed five very important lives. If she hadn’t left her family, she wouldn’t have met them. “You can’t go back, Kelly the interviewer. You can only go forward.”

Kelly tilted her head to a side, observing the dodge of the question. This time she would let it slid. “So, tell me, who’s Hawthorne?”

Kai’s cheeks turned ever so slightly pink. She coughed, “What? Where did you hear that name? Why are you asking?”

Kelly chuckled when she watched her reaction. “Because I know things. Otherwise I wouldn’t be good at my job. You didn’t mention him as part of your crew, so who is he?”

Freaking Hawthorne. He just had to show up everywhere, didn’t he? She sighed, eyes rolling to the ceiling for a moment, “We met him here. He’s a sneaky Rebel spy. About as trustworthy as a clown. If he’s talking, he’s lying. Far as I can tell.”

“Really? Because I know you don’t think that. You blushed and you smiled when I mentioned his name, so what’s up with that…or would you like me to draw my own conclusions?” Kelly had to smile.

“He’s an idiot!” Kai said quickly, “but he’s useful and…” she paused, coughing softly, “Look. I’m not dead. He’s got good abs… that’s all. That’s it.” She couldn’t even admit to herself that she might like him. He was useful and he worked with them. That’s all.

“Uhhum.” Kelly didn’t sound convinced, but she decided to shift the topic as she sat back in her chair. “You said you met him here?” She looked around at their surroundings. “Describe that meeting to me.”

“We were stranded here together. He was injured, seemed harmless, so we helped him and he helped.” Sort of. In the end he hadn’t been that useful but Kai was a sucker for helping people who needed help.

“Why do you always help people? I mean, that’s great and all, but…can’t it be exhausting?” Kelly raised her brows as she folded her arms. “Why are you so driven to help others?”

“Aren’t you?” Kai snapped, “Don’t you help people when they need it?”

“Sure, but I know why I do it. I’m asking you why you do it. Do you even know why?” Kelly raised her brows.

Kai frowned. It was on the tip of her tongue to say it was the ‘right thing to do’ but that wasn’t it. She did lots of things that weren’t the ‘right thing’. “When I needed it, there were people who helped me. I’m just returning the favor.”

“Do you feel that it balances out the wrong you’ve done in life…with all the different lives you’ve taken. Does it somehow clear your ledger of the blood?”

This woman…Kai’s eyes narrowed. She sniffed, arms crossing yet again. She was just about at her limit. She’d had enough with this truth business. “There is no ledger,” she murmured. But maybe it was true. She hadn’t thought about it before, she just did it… she just helped those who deserved to be helped. She hadn’t considered why she felt compelled to do that. She knew she wasn’t a good person. She knew what she was capable of. But she also knew she didn’t want to be ‘that’ person. Not anymore.

Kelly could tell Kai was beginning to clam up on her again, but they still have some more time left. Kelly intended on using every moment. She leaned forward to lock eyes with Kai. “What are you most afraid of?”

“Spiders,” Kai said with a shrug. And then, and she wasn’t sure why, she answered truthfully, “Hurting people I love.”

“Can you ever forgive yourself for hurting your family?”

Kai’s brow furrowed, her eyes closing for a brief moment. “Could you?”

“It’s not about me, Kai. This is about you.” Kelly shook her head. “You made your choices. Bridges have been burned, but forgiveness is always possible. It might not be easy, but it’s possible. And if I may say so, I don’t think you’ve forgiven yourself for your past actions. Instead, you’ve run from them. Sure, you tried once to reach out to them, but that burned you…and, in a way, justified your excuse never to go home. Yes, they should forgive you as well, but I’m talking to you–not them. If you ignore and suppress it, it will eventually rear its ugly head, and it will be for too strong for you to handle, and it will utterly break you.”

Was this a counseling session? Kai turned away, breathing in deep and letting it out slow as she forced herself to refocus. /Focus, Kai./ “I’m going to find them,” she turned back, “and you’re going to help me.”

Kelly shook her head. “Yeah, I hate to tell you this, but whoever told you that I knew anything about your family–specifically your sister–lied to you. I know you don’t like the Alliance and you despise ‘Comrades’. I knew about Hawthorne, and that your crew thinks of you as a hero. But that’s about all the info I was given prior to this conversation. I’m sorry to disappoint you.” And Kelly braced herself although she wasn’t afraid of Kai.

Anger burned hot in her veins. Kai clenched her hands into tight fists and shook her head, “Oh man…”  Somebody was going to pay for this one. But instead of being angry she found herself letting out a soft laugh, “Well, I should have known. Can’t trust anyone to tell the truth. I should have known better.”

“I’m really sorry about that. I wish I had some info because I would love to help, but…I don’t know anything.” Kelly sighed as she rose to her feet. She knew their time was almost up, but she still had time for a few more questions. “You fight so hard to find her. Are you hoping to restore what you’ve lost with your family?”

“No, I don’t have any interest in what I had with them before. I want to keep her safe. That’s all. If I find her, and Dayli and they’re okay, that’s enough. I just need to know they’re okay. And if they can’t forgive me, maybe they’ll at least let me know they’re safe.” Because if they weren’t safe…well, she would make sure they would be.

Kelly considered her for a moment–so many questions still in her mind, but time was short. She tried to think of what to say. “You may be trying to save them, but when you find them–and I’m confident that you will–don’t push them away, don’t shun them because you don’t like yourself. They are your flesh and blood, and sisters have a very unique bond. I pray you find forgiveness and that you learn to forgive them as well.” With that she straightened and cast Kai a smile. “Well, my time is about up. I will leave you, so you don’t have to put up with my pestering questions, but thank you for answering them.”

Kai nodded, “You’re all right, Kelly interviewer but no offense… hope we don’t meet again.”

She headed for the exit, “Want me to walk you out?”

“I think I can find my own way. Thanks. You take care!” With one final smile, Kelly headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

N. R. Tupper’s novel, TYR, is now available. Be sure to follow her on social media as well for more updates!

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