fiction

The Last Superhero signed copies giveaway winners!

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It’s December 22 and two people have won signed copies of The Last Superhero! Yay!

So, drum roll please!

Rafflecopter Winners(Rafflecopter won’t let me embed the widget on my wordpress.com blog so I had to do a screencap. You can check the widget here.)

Poiboy and Tenzin, I’ll be emailing you shortly for details. 🙂

Everybody else: thanks for participating and don’t feel bummed if you didn’t win, I promise there will be more surprises coming in the next few months!

Woot!

The Last Superhero – How it came to be

TLS Twitter HeaderIt may sound absurd but don’t be naïve. Even heroes have the right to bleed.

Back in 2008-2009 I had an idea for a story focusing on a retired superhero. Songs like 3 Doors Down’s Kryptonite and Five for Fighting’s Superman inspired me to create a superhero character exploring a more intimate, human side of it. That’s how Steven S. Waldorf came to be. The last superhero to roam the Earth.

My friends and family liked the idea and a first draft was born. A first draft that was passed around and read and edited and I thought I had it so I started posting chapters on my Tumblr.

That was when one certain person told me to stop and rewrite the whole thing. To say I was angry is an understatement. If so many people liked it why couldn’t he?

Still, I do listen to this one person I shall not mention by name since he’s old and wise. I stowed the manuscript and waited, not for the world to change, but for my world to change.

Four years and a couple of books published later, I decided to revisit this story, rewrite it from scratch. My world has changed considerably. I’ve been married for 10 years and life has given me a bunch of lessons about love, family, friendship, and loss. All this, of course, spills into my writing and what was once a novella has blown up into a 93k words novel with not only science fiction elements but fantasy and thriller too.

THE LAST SUPERHERO was reborn with a vengeance. A story that has lived inside me for years grew to what I believe is its full potential.

So, what’s the story about?

An aging superhero marked by rejection and tragedy meets a young woman that will put her life on the line to save him from his nightmares. Literally.

Steven S. Waldorf is the last superhero to roam the Earth. He’s been living in seclusion for 28 years and only now is coming back out into the world. Giana’s a twenty-nine year old woman trying to keep it together while searching for a way to get out of a rut. They meet one night when he saves her from getting mugged and that sparks a relationship between them that will throw her right into the center of his continuous unknown-to-the-world torment.

See, Steven’s got the power of telekinesis and can project fantasies into people’s minds, this last one being his most controversial power and the culprit of his torment.

But you’re going to have to read the book to know more about it.

I like to call it a sci-fi fantasy story for the non-sci-fi fantasy reader. It’s, above all, a love story between two people who’ve been through a lot and are able to find solace in each other.

Roles are switched, and it’s the superhero the one that needs to be saved from his internal battles. It’s a psychology thing, using Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego theory and research on dreams from people like Carl Jung.

The writing style

Last year I published a short story called At the Corner of Mars and Neptune (FREE 11/25-11/26 2014). I’m going to steal Stacey Cochran’s term and call it a noir romance. With it I wanted to try out a looser type of writing than the one I use on The Caregiver Series, a more poetic one, resembling how I talk to myself (yeah, I do that… a lot).

Knock. Knock.
He looks at me. I look at him. We both know.
I stride to the door faster than he can reach an outstretched hand to me.
Turn the doorknob, hold my breath.
Open the door and the punch lands square on my face.
“Hey!” Noah exclaims.
I’m on all fours, trying to get up, when a foot kicks me to the side.
“He’s clear!” I shout when I see John closing the distance. “Don’t hurt him, he’s got nothing.”
“He’s a cop!” He’s pointing a gun at Noah’s face. “What the fuck is wrong with you, bitch? Bringing cops in here?”
I have to get up. Noah’s holding his hands in the air—so policeman of him. The pink straw pointing at his face, as if it was looking at him and telling him: you’re fucked.
“Leave him, John. He’s leaving now.”
“He better.”
“Go fuck someone else, John.”
“You,” he turns to point the gun at me now because I’m on my feet again, “stop fucking around.”
“I never fuck around.” I push the gun barrel out of my sight. “I said he’s leaving.”
John lets a couple of beats pass. Like techno, just the bass of his chest marking each one. He lowers the gun, turns to Noah. “Next time I see you ‘round here Imma a pop one in your skull, you fucking pig.” And exits like he’s some kind of warrior, looking down at us, flexing his chest muscles so he looks bigger.
Noah runs to me, checking my face. I slap his hands away.
“Go. Before he comes back.”
“Your cheekbone is busted.”
I touch it with my fingertips. Yeah, it’s open. “Whatevs. Just go before he comes back and kills you.”
“Meet me tomorrow. Ten. You know the Greek restaurant a couple of blocks from here?”
“Yeah.”
“There.”
“Okay.”
He gives me another look, his eyes stray to the place in my face sporting the open wound. Go, I mouth, shoving him out the door and locking it. Locking him out. Locking me in. And I don’t know why but I’m silently praying he makes it out in one piece.
~ At the Corner of Mars and Neptune – Chapter 3
That story got some nice praise from readers and fellow authors so I decided to give it a shot with this book too and was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked.
I park in front of his house and turn the car off.
Shiver again at the thought of that cop.
I’m not telling Steven. No.
Deep breaths.
It’s early in the afternoon and I don’t know why I’m doing this, but I need to see him.
And I’m out of cigarettes.
He ain’t got a phone so I can’t call him up and say ‘hey can I come over?’
So I get out of my car, walk up to the gate, and search for something like an intercom or even a bell.
Nope, no such luck.
Gate’s locked and the path to the door is pretty long.
How tall is this wall?
Do I really want to see him that bad?
Ponder.
Use the padlock, tap it on the gate a couple of times.
No answer.
I am not shouting his name and I am not honking either.
I’ve climbed walls before. And this one’s got some sturdy looking ivy branches.
Grab one, wrap it around your wrist, pull on it, think it’ll hold.
And it does. It will.
Move the fuck over Tarzan, ’cause here goes Jane.
Just like one of those rock climbing walls people are so amused by, only this surface’s flat and slippery, and I’m not wearing a harness.
Some small scratches on my hands and I’ve made it to the top.
Who’s awesome, eh? Who’s fucking awesome?
Get off before someone drives by and sees you straddling the top of the wall like it’s a horse.
Grab some branches and lower yourself.
Easy. Easy.
They say it’s the climb, man, but going down is nerve-wracking sometimes.
Crack.
Crap!
~ The Last Superhero – Chapter 8
I thought my editor would hate it. The style, the story, the characters, everything. Until she read it and told me “I can honestly say the most compelling story I’ve read in longass while has been yours.” That made me feel somewhat better. Here’s to hoping you all enjoy it as well.

Meet the Characters: Armand Sayer

“Even the strongest and wickedest of us need to find solace.” He whispered, as if not to disrupt her peacefulness. “And I won’t let anyone destroy ours.”

Armand Sayer

Born in London, England, around late July 1948 (don’t have an exact date but he’s a Leo) which makes him 65 years old at the time of book 2. Fathered Briony with his first wife, Marie. I haven’t come up with too many details about his upbringing but it’s mentioned that he comes from an upper class family. No sad or troubled past here. Went to Oxford, where he met business partners Rhys Owen and Eamon Rooney. He got into drug dealing like anyone else enters a business and that is the reason why he conducts it as so. His two closest allies in London at the time of the series are Max MacGowan and Rafael Cisneros.

More than try and come up with details about Armand, I’d like to tell the reasons behind the character. With Armand I wanted to create the kind of bad guy every woman would fall in love with. He’s loving, caring, charming, he’d be the kind of guy you’d bring to your mother… if he wasn’t a drug lord. And that’s the thing about him that I like the most, that he deals in a world ruled by coldness and violence but hasn’t let it turn him into a cold-blooded monster. He’s nicknamed The Beast because of how ruthless he is, however, his inner circle knows how much of a softie he is on the inside. Which is exactly what Scarlett needs. A man that understands her line of work and can love her without trying to change that.

Also, it was what people like George, Ollie, Bradley, and Cat needed. Armand has been a guardian angel for them; someone that has come to their lives in order to rescue them from whatever mess they were in and give them a second chance. All of Armand’s men are loyal to him thanks to this, the fact that he’s been there for them when they needed him.

When it comes to family nobody feels as strong about it as he does. Maybe Vincenzo Pietri does, but that won’t be explained until Book 4. 😉 The biggest dilemma in Armand’s life was the fact that Marie didn’t approve of his business and that went on up until when Scarlett came in and dragged him into her own mess. And it is that same love he’s expressed towards everyone around him that makes him follow her and try and fight the fucktards wanting to hurt her.

In summary, Armand is the villain we all hate to love because he has so many redeeming qualities even I forget he’s a drug lord every now and then.

Want to know more?

You can read THE CAREGIVER (Book 1 of The Caregiver Series) for free at The Caregiver Series Blog and Wattpad, or get it from Smashwords (free), Barnes & Noble (free), Kobo (free) and Amazon (99 cents).

TORN (Book 2 of The Caregiver Series) is available through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will be available mid-January through Smashwords and Amazon (the rest of the retailers will come later).

Meet the Characters: Scarlett Lang

I’d been wanting to write about the characters in my series, The Caregiver, for some time now, although I believe it’s a little too early to do so, don’t ask me why (maybe it has to do with the fact that I refuse to think of myself as an author). However, The Beast (Book 3) will be released into the wild soon and I thought it would be nice to give you some inside info about the main characters in the series (I may get to the secondary and tertiary too because I love them all so much).

Consider this something in the likes of loose character notes because these people tend to take matters into their own hands most of the time, leaving me as the mere channel through which they tell their stories.

So, let’s get this party started with the protagonist:

Scarlett Lang

Born and raised in Miami, Florida, USA, around March 1981 (don’t have an exact date but she’s an Aries) which makes her 31 years old at the time of books 1 and 2. Granddaughter to Adrian Lang, daughter to Daniel Lang and Margaret Lang. Became an orphan after her parents’ murder at 12 and went to live with her grandfather up until she was 17, when she married Xavi Pontevedra and moved to Puerto Rico. She didn’t become an active hit woman until after that marriage ended (only lasted a year) and she was taken under Rafael Cisneros’ wing back in Miami (right around 1999 – 2000). Rafael Cisneros was the one who coaxed her into becoming a nurse, all the while employing her as hit woman and helping her become the well-known assassin she is. Cisneros’ half-brother, Roberto, is another main character in her personal history, turning from childhood crush to lover around 2002 and keeping an on and off relationship with her until she’s offered the Interpol position within The Filius Project in 2005. The Gibraltar mission takes place in 2007, the Sayer mission in 2012.

      I wrote a post about face claims on my Tumblr and put up a collage with pics of the men in the series because it’s been so much easier to find male actors to fit my characters than female ones. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and like to think of every female character as an extension of myself, although the male ones are also extensions of myself… Or maybe it’s because I’m so jealous of them I can’t even… Emotions aside, I picture Scarlett a lot like actresses Emily Hampshire, Jemima Rooper, or Suranne Jones.
      I didn’t want to make her a sex symbol, nor a masculinized woman. A friend once commented on how much she liked to read scenes where Scarlett’s in a room filled with men and not have the situation turn into a sexual one (she was mainly referring to this vignette). Scarlett’s confident about herself and her abilities to the point of not having to prove them to anyone. And she prefers shirts and trousers rather than dresses, but I want to believe I’ve given her enough emotional balance to say she’s not a man with a vagina, or a woman with a dick, whatever rocks your boat. There is a lot of sex in Scarlett’s past. Part of it is revealed in Book 2, but Book 3 shows a tad more, and the possible prequels I’m working on thanks to the vignettes do have a heavy sexual component. There is the subject of BDSM, nevertheless, this is no Fifty Shades. I just wanted to show a female character that can walk into a dark alley and, although she’ll be scared shitless, can deal with the situation should she get mugged. And that, of course, enjoys sex as much as the next guy without feeling guilty about it.
      Also, I like that she’s got body issues like any other woman, to the point of even mentioning the fact that she can’t wear a gun between her thighs because she lacks the coveted thigh gap. This is also a loaded weapon in the hands of the wrong people. In Book 2 her new superior, DS Ethan Young, uses it when he tells her “I wasn’t aware that the Sayer mission was a deep penetration one. Romulus assured me you weren’t a honeytrap. Seeing you now I can tell what he meant. However, I know he was aware of the fact that Sayer was never a shallow man, unlike his colleagues.” The bastard. She may seem unfazed right then but, believe me, that kind of talk does hurt. And then he goes into slut-shaming mode in Book 3 and will keep it up in Book 4 because he’s a dickhead like that.
      Scarlett isn’t a complicated character, at least from my point of view. She’s pretty simple and even though she thinks she’s got a hold on life, she doesn’t. The situation she’s in is what’s complicated about all this and she’s trying to figure things out as well as she can. She’s made a lot of mistakes (haven’t we all?) and will keep making them until the day she dies.
      She’s no Cinderella. She’s a hit woman, for fuck’s sake. And even when she’s been dragged into this whole Filius Project shit, she’s never stopped being one of the best assassins in the world, which translates into a lot of money in the bank and a lot of traveling around. This being said, she’s no poor girl falling in love with a filthy rich prince. As a matter of fact, she may be one of the few that can look a drug lord like Armand in the eye when it comes to both nerves and financial stability. She doesn’t need anyone giving her anything, to the point where, in Book 3, she’ll be the one gifting Armand some pretty cool and expensive stuff. She has a life apart from him and his people and a lot of it will come to the light in Book 3.
      Even though she could be, she’s not alone. There are some revealing scenes in Book 2 where readers learn how Scarlett was abused as a child. This whole sad, dark past subject worked itself into the story. It was never my intention to do that but, somehow, it fit. However, this doesn’t mean she’s lived a secluded or estranged life, quite the contrary, she took it to herself to surround her persona with friends and allies that, although work related, regard her as part of their families and will do everything they can to help and protect her. Many of them don’t know what actually happened in her past (hence Bobby Cisneros’ reaction when it’s revealed) even when her grandfather, Adrian Lang, was also their acquaintance, yet that didn’t stop them from adding her to their circles. There’s Eliza Pontevedra too, who lived such abuses in tandem and acts as a sisterly safe haven when the past comes at them in waves. Then, when Armand comes into the picture, we can all see how she wins over his people and manages to bend them for her own purposes.
      “You seldom kill for your own benefit, Scarlett.” When Han, the Chinese Dragon Head, said this while I was writing Book 3 I had to pause and think for a while. There’s a scene in Book 2 where Scarlett has a bit of a breakdown after a very tense moment between her, Adrian, Bobby, and a very concerned George. But when Han spoke those words it all became so clear. Scarlett’s a hit woman. This means she’s paid to kill people that other people want dead, not her. Now the tables are turned and she’s finding out how different it is when you’re killing people you want dead yourself. It’s a whole other game she’s entering and it will prove not to be as easy as she thought.
All this said, I want to add that there’s a bigger character arc in the works between the vignettes/prequels and the books already in the series. This can be seen already in the vignettes (another one of those things that’s come as a surprise while writing them). The Scarlett pre-Gibraltar mission is very different from the post-mission one in a lot of ways. I like to think the pre-mission Scarlett would’ve never thought of getting married again, not even remotely, much less let herself get caught up in the illusion of planning a wedding and a happy ending kind of future…
But you’ll have to read Book 3 to know what happens with that!

Want to know more?

You can read THE CAREGIVER (Book 1 of The Caregiver Series) for free at The Caregiver Series Blog and Wattpad, or get it from Smashwords (free), Barnes & Noble (free), Kobo (free) and Amazon (99 cents).

TORN (Book 2 of The Caregiver Series) is available through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will be available mid-January through Smashwords and Amazon (the rest of the retailers will come later).

On how Romulus convinced Scarlett even further

[Crossposting from thecaregiverseries.wordpress.com]

I was all comfortable and relaxed at a table inside the hotel’s restaurant reading the morning paper and sipping coffee when the billowing of a black coat and the agitated tones of a male voice interrupted my concentration.

“There you are!” Romulus was rushing to my table. “I’ve been looking all over for you!”

I put down the paper the moment he stood next to my seat, waiting for something.

After not obtaining a reaction from me, he lowered himself and kissed my cheek before unwrapping his scarf, taking off his coat, and joining me in the seat across.

“It’s six in the morning. I expected to find you still in bed.”

“You took my other key.”

“I did.”

“You weren’t planning on staying the night so I thought I’d get an early start.”

“Ready to order now?” A waitress stood by our table.

I was quick to recite my order. Romulus hesitated when she turned to him.

“Go on. It’s on the agency.” I encouraged him and he ordered something for himself.

An uncomfortable silence fell upon us after the waitress left.

“I thought you’d be… tired.” He said, taking the discarded newspaper to glance at it.

Tired? Not so much. My wrists sure didn’t like being handcuffed for as long as they were subjected to and my buttocks still stung a bit –he sure liked whipping that leather belt– but I couldn’t say the whole act warranted the tiredness required for me to sleep all through the night, though. It warranted me other things. Things I didn’t feel like discussing at the moment.

“Insomnia.” I blurted. “Hits me every now and then. Had I popped one of my pills I would’ve been out the whole day and missed the trip to Spring Gardens.”

“Pills? You mean sleeping pills? Aren’t you a bit too young for that?”

“The sooner the better for the pharmaceutical companies.”

“Maybe I could be of help?” There was that smug smile again. “Maybe I wasn’t rough enough for your liking?”

“There are only so many things one can do in a hotel room before they call security.”

“I have a flat.”

“No.”

“It isn’t mine,” he hissed. “A friend is renting his old flat and I thought maybe you’d be interested.”

“I’ve already got a list of apartments I’ll be checking out. I’m planning on buying one this time. Never been fond of landlords.”

Our food arrived and I hastened to start on mine.

“Are you nervous?” he asked.

I kept my head low so I could roll my eyes without him noticing. “Not at all.” I put my fork down. “Look. Last night was nice.”

“Nice?”

“Yes, nice. But it doesn’t change anything.”

“That was never my intention.”

“Then what was your intention?”

“I wanted you.” He paused to stare into my eyes. “I couldn’t care less about you signing with the project or not, it’s inconsequential to me. They’ll be the ones missing out, not you.” He stirred, doing that lean-closer-to-me move of his. “I liked last night. Didn’t you? I think we got along pretty well.”

It wasn’t out-of-this-world-great but it wasn’t bad either. He had what I called the Two S’s. Sexy and strong. “We did.”

“I’ve followed your career for a very long time, Scarlett. I know about your ex-husband and your association with Madame Beatrix. I’ve been to her clubs and they are topnotch.”

“Do your colleagues take part in these practices too?”

“No. They don’t.”

I picked up my fork again. “Okay, let’s make this clear. Judging by how things developed last night I can tell you’re not trained in BDSM.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“That you’ve visited Beatrix’s clubs once or twice doesn’t make you an expert.”

“Maybe you can teach me, then.”

I looked at him from under my eyebrows and even the chewing wasn’t enough to make him stop smiling.

I was about to change that. I was getting myself into something I wasn’t completely sure about and needed to keep the upper hand somehow. If only with him.

“I don’t mind starting an affair with you but would prefer we keep it private, even more if I were to sign that contract and become an employee under your supervision.” The smile was fading by now. Good. “We negotiate a contract that will specify boundaries. Meet at undisclosed locations. You don’t come to my place, I don’t come to yours. We’re never seen in public together other than during activities concerning our work relationship.”

“Wait.” He shook his head.

“What?”

“Where’s the sentiment in this?”

“Sentiment?”

Uh-oh. I’m not dealing with a sentimental little kid, am I?

“Does it surprise you that much that someone just wants to be with you? Plain and simple?”

Huh?

“I’m sorry. Was there supposed to be any sentiment in this? I gave you what you wanted.”

“And what was that?”

“To fuck the new recruit. Now you can walk into your office with your chest all puffed on the knowledge that you had me before anyone else there.”

“God, Scarlett, no!” he exclaimed. “What the hell are you going on about?” Then took a deep breath. “I-”

Oh don’t fuck with me!

“I researched you, Moretti. You’re divorced with three children from two different women. You have been to Beatrix’s clubs more than once and actually got your ass kicked out from her Frankfurt one.”

“That was a misunderstanding.”

“Everything in life is a misunderstanding.”

“What do I have to do to prove to you that this is not what you’re thinking?”

I cleared my plate, pushed it to the side, and was about to say something when he crossed me.

“Has it been that bad? That awful? To feel unappreciated for so long?” He wiped his mouth with the napkin and set it aside. “You’re young, skilled, clever, yet I can bet my life no one has ever told you these things to your face. There’s a loneliness that is only felt when you’re in the company of others. You keep yourself busy with work and have only pursued relationships that you knew wouldn’t give you what you really wanted, that would leave you as empty as you were the moment you walked into them.”

Now he was getting on my nerves.

My mobile vibrated in my pocket but I kept my sight locked on Romulus’ because I knew who it was. The only person that would be calling me so early, probably locked inside a bathroom so his pregnant wife wouldn’t hear him.

“I’m not saying I’m what you’re looking for. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I’m just asking for a chance to show you that it’s not all angst and hardship. That there’s fun to be had.”

He smiled. Wide.

I couldn’t help the slight tremor that took me over.

“When I met you in Miami I told you if you signed with us I’d make it worth your time. Sign or not, I’m keeping that promise.”

“Are you?”

He twisted away from me, reached out to the unoccupied table behind him, plucked a flower from the arrangement it held, and presented it to me.

“To the very last second.”

I took the flower and held it to my eyes.

The mobile ceased vibrating.

And so it began.

——————————

Go to: The Vignettes

On how Romulus convinced Scarlett to sign the contract

In The Caregiver Series we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord.

This vignette takes place before Book 1, after Vignette #3 & #5

Read Vignette #1 , Vignette #2 , Vignette #3, Vignette #4, Vignette #5

Book 1 is FREE today and tomorrow! (Nov 1 & 2)

Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Detective Inspector Romulus Moretti awaited Rafael Cisneros’ and my arrival at Heathrow. Our flight was delayed by a couple of hours and even when I called him to tell him we could hail a taxi when we got there, he insisted on picking us up himself, no matter how late it got.

It had been two weeks since our meeting in Miami and we’d kept in touch both by phone and email. He was more than okay with me asking questions and wanting more information, and he answered every one of them with enough detail to make me feel better about this.

Only thing was, I preferred his written answers. Our phone calls were lengthy. Too lengthy. And strayed towards more personal subjects every now and then.

I must confess there was something about him. Something I still couldn’t pinpoint and that made me feel a little queasy.

It’s probably that he’s a cop. I kept telling myself. Even if you’ve always dreamt of becoming one you have to accept the fact that you were raised not to trust them.

Baggage claimed, Cisneros lead the way to where Romulus was waiting with his police officer stance and a smug smile on his face.

“Cisneros.” They shook hands before Romulus turned to me, his smile softening to an almost tender one. “Miss Lang. Welcome to London.”

The moment we stepped out into the cold my stomach started doing somersaults. This was it. The one opportunity I’d been waiting for my whole fucking life. The chance to put my past behind and start anew. Bonus points for it to be in a different city also.

“Are you hungry?” Romulus asked as he held the passenger door of his car for me.

I stared at him for a bit longer than normal. “A bit.”

That was, apparently, the answer he was waiting for because he grinned and said, “There’s a pub near the hotel you’ll be staying. We could go there.”

Did I fail to mention he booked a hotel room for me? I always stayed at Cisneros’ while in London, yet he wouldn’t have any of that. I wasn’t in a position to protest, nor did I want to start an argument with the one that was only a John Hancock away from becoming my boss, so I said yes to that.

And yes to leaving Cisneros at his house before heading for said hotel.

And thanks but no thanks when Cisneros reminded me he and Bobby were only a call away if I needed anything.

What could happen, really? It wasn’t as if I hadn’t killed men double Romulus’s size.

We were off and the first thing Romulus did was sigh.

“What?” I asked.

“Rafael is always so stressed. Pissing himself all the time.”

“Only when there are cops around. Ever been to one of his parties?”

“No.” He drawled. “He’s never invited me to one. Are they any good?”

“Good? They’re the best. Nothing but champagne and cigars.”

“You smoke?”

“Depends on the occasion.”

A sideglance, a cocked eyebrow. I was getting some signals from this guy I didn’t really know how to interpret.

Or was it that I didn’t want to interpret them at all?

I wasn’t a naïve little girl. I knew where this could go if I let it.

Getting a good look at his hands I noticed he didn’t have a ring, nor did his ring finger show a lack of sun exposure over the last knuckle.

“Do you have any children?”

My inquiry took him by surprise, to the point of making him scoff. “Yes. Three.” I nodded, letting him be consumed by his thoughts about why I brought that question up, when he asked back. “Do you?”

Didn’t he know everything about me already?

“No.”

Now he nodded and said nothing more.

It takes two to play this game.

“Here we are.” He announced once we arrived at the hotel.

He took my luggage, checked me in, and escorted me to my room. “Everything’s paid for and if you incur in any other charges during your stay the agency will cover it.” He stood by the closed door while I inspected my surroundings.

“I haven’t signed anything yet.”

“It’s a risk we’re willing to take.”

I swung my bag over the bed to cover what my eyes were doing, which was studying him. He looked more relaxed than at the airport, although his arms were crossed over his chest.

His looks were more than agreeable, I must confess. A strong build, sweet dark eyes, and the grays in his hair really suited him.

“Do you need anything? Should I come by later?”

“Nah, it’s okay.” I glanced at my watch and it was late, but not too much. “Is that invitation to the pub still on?”

“I can give you some time to deal with the jet lag.”

“Nothing a couple of pints can’t take care of.”

He sent me a half-grin, uncrossing his arms and turning for the door. “I’ll wait in the lobby.”

I stared at the door as it shut behind him and didn’t notice I hadn’t moved until my mobile vibrated inside my jacket’s pocket. Bobby. I wasn’t picking that call up so I texted him I was okay before checking my makeup and heading down to where Romulus was waiting for me.

We walked over to the pub, sat at a table away from the windows and were quick to start on our beers, and plates of chips.

“Tomorrow we’ll visit Spring Gardens so you can meet your coworkers, get acquainted, see the premises.”

“And what is this about? Getting acquainted with the boss?”

He leaned back in his seat, giving a look around before staring straight into my eyes. “I know you’re not used to having someone supervise your work. I promise not to be the obtrusive kind.”

“What do you know about my work anyway?”

He pushed himself forward, elbows on the table, and drew his face as close to my side as he could. “I know all I need to know: that you’re the best. And, between you and me, I believe that, very soon, you’ll be surpassing your grandfather. A great feat for a 24-year-old.”

“You said my contract would start and end with you.”

“It will. You’ll work under me since the moment you sign to the moment you call it quits. In the rare case that I may have to be the one who ceases to work with the project, you’ll be free to decide if you want to stay working with us or not.”

“Us. That’s something you still haven’t explained.”

“You sure ask a lot of questions.” He was resting on his arms over the table now. “I wonder if you’d be so eager if it were you on the other side.”

Some guttural cat-like sound threatened to come out of my lips.

“Try me.”

He ordered another round and waited until we were served.

Ready. Steady. Go.

“Last job.”

“Two weeks ago.”

“For whom?”

Raised eyebrow. “A friend.”

“Where?”

“Monterrey, México.”

“Any other jobs in your agenda?”

“Not yet.”

“Do you have a concealed weapon with you right now?”

“Yes.”

“Is it the one you used for that job?”

“I use rifles for my jobs.”

“Who was the unlucky bastard?”

Pause. “A shop owner.”

“Shop? What kind?”

“Pawn shop. Arms trafficker.”

“How did you kill him?”

“Waited until he got into his car and shot him in the head from a building across the street.”

“Witnesses?”

“Nope.”

“How did it feel to pull that trigger?”

“Like always.”

“And how is that?”

I leaned over the table to join him midway. “Better than sex.”

“Is it?”

“Very.”

“I beg to differ.”

“Then you’ve never had a rifle in your hands and a target in sight.”

“I have.”

“Then you know it is.”

“I find many differences between both acts.”

“Like what?”

“I’m the one asking the questions.”

I sat back, my eyes not leaving his, and raised my hands to my sides.

“Shoot me then.”

“No.”

“Oh. Forgot you London police can’t walk around with guns.”

He pushed back the side of his jacket, reaching for something in one of his trouser’s pockets.

A pair of handcuffs.

And set them on the table between us.

“I don’t think I’ll need a gun when it comes to you.”

I sipped from my beer.

He tapped a finger on the metal contraptions, a half-grin etched on his face.

“I don’t think so either.”

When I went for the handcuffs he snatched them. “Not so fast. You sign the contract first.”

“So they sent you to dine me and wine me while sweet talking me into signing?”

“None of that. I’m just trying to make the process smoother. Everybody’s scared you’ll refuse our offer.”

“I should. Not only am I not used to being supervised, I’m not used to people denying me of what I want.”

He pushed the handcuffs to me as he gulped the last of his beer. I hastened to do the same, taking the cuffs in my fist and following him out of the pub and back to the hotel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Liked this vignette? Then you’ll love the books!

Book 1 is FREE today and tomorrow!

Check out Book 1’s Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

The Caregiver

Available here: Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

The Last Superhero – Chapter 3

This is a WIP. Unedited, unbetaed, raw stuff. I’m also posting it on Wattpad.

Read Chapter 1, Read Chapter 2

Chapter 3

It’s one of those days when you don’t want to see anyone but you have to, because you have to go to work and run errands and talk to people.

Top it off with the fact that I was running late and you can see the picture.

Daphne had opened the shop.

That bookstore.

The only constant in my life, having been established by my mother before I was born, and the one thing that I was now carrying like deadweight wherever I’d go.

Landlord’s being an asshole again.” I say once I walk in, my eyes on the two coffees I’m carrying, my mind replaying that scene between Mr. Brownstone and me when he knocked on my door to remind me my rent was late, yet again. “He won’t leave me alone.”

Giana?”

I got you coffee.”

There’s someone here to see you.”

I look up and see him. Steven.

I don’t need this. I really don’t need this.

Hi.” He says all shy and charming and innocent like.

I can swear he even looks younger than before.

I give Daphne her coffee and offer Steven mine. “I can get another one.”

No, thank you. I already had my dose.” A smile.

Daphne scurries away and I’m left with Mr. Stalker.

Whatever. “Join me in my office?”

He steps aside for me to cross the store and into the back room we call the office. It’s more of a closet or a cupboard than an office but it works.

He sits on the red armchair facing the gray desk inside the green walls. My mother has something for colors.

What brings you here today, Mr. Wal- Dennis?” I stutter, my hands busy unwrapping my scarf.

Are you okay?”

Don’t answer my question with another question, that’s rude.

Yes.” No. I’m not. Nobody cares. London bridge falls every fucking day.

Problems with the landlord?”

I scowl. “He’s a moody old perv.”

What?!” He’s outraged.

Oh no, no, don’t go thinking… It’s just that he’s… He’s always wearing these old, stained clothes, and he sputters when he talks, mostly when he’s angry. The spit sometimes pools in the edge of his lips…” I almost dry heave to that.

And I’m behind on my rent and he’s kicking me out but I’m not saying that to his face.

He cocks his head to one side. “Would you like to take a stroll with me? Take your mind off it a bit?”

I sip from my coffee. I just got here and shouldn’t leave. At least not with him.

Then he’s looking at me, pleading. This isn’t so much for me as it is for him and I’ll be damned if I ain’t got a thing for pleading souls.

I wrap the scarf around my neck again and this time he leads the way out of the store.

Daphne sends me a questioning look that I respond with a mouthed ‘I’ll be back’.

There’s a moment of hesitation when Steven hits the sidewalk. He’s unsure, thinking it twice.

Would the park be okay?” He asks.

The park would be fine.” I say.

And we’re off.

He walks with purpose, as if not to be distracted. I fight to keep up with him.

Where is he taking me?

Has he changed his mind and is going to murder me?

There’s a lake in the park and heaven knows I never learned how to swim.

I’m not going to hurt you.” He says once we reach the entrance.

I open my mouth to protest. I know he’s not a bad person.

I know you’re not a bad person.”

His eyes change and I see him bite the inside of his cheek as we walk into the park, every step taking us farther into that area where the trees grow thicker and the crowd thinner.

Less witnesses.

Dear Mom, I’m only acting on what you told me so many years ago. Don’t take it on me if this fails.

What are you thinking that is making you frown so hard?”

You wouldn’t believe it.”

Try me.”

We reach the lake inside and I’m glad to see there are people on the other side. It’s a large lake, but a scream would make it to them. I think.

My coffee secured in my hand, tell him something I’d never told anyone.

My mother, she told me about you.”

Did she?”

Yeah. She used to talk to me about you when I was little.” Sip from the coffee and yuck, it’s cold already. Wipe my mouth with the sleeve of my coat. “You saved her once from falling off a cliff.”

He raises his eyebrows and it’s clear he can’t remember. It must be awfully hard to remember so many people, so many faces.

She told me you were a good man. Misunderstood, but a good man nonetheless.”

His eyes are on his shoes, his hands buried in his pockets.

Misunderstood.” He whispers. “Maybe. But I’m not a good man, I’m not a good person.”

You saved me from getting mugged, that gives you some good-guy points in my book.”

For the first time I hear him scoff. “Good-guy points. That’s new. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened to you were I not there. It’s not easy to talk your way out of a robbery, much less when it’s a junkie.”

I’ve been there before and managed to convince a couple of them to desist.” I turn my sight to him and, oh, he’s amused. “I wanted to be a psychologist.”

Wanted?”

Yes. Wanted. Couldn’t afford it.”

Blergh. I feel like shit every time this subject comes up.

He doesn’t say anything.

Anyway. Thank you for being there that night.”

I start back for the trees when he touches my shoulder and I’m compelled to turn around and face him again.

His hand travels upwards, to the side of my face.

I see him so clear all of a sudden. He’s smiling and says, “Don’t go.”

How can I not stay if he’s looking at me that way? Fuck. Can’t deny the fact that his features are more than agreeable, I’d even say he’s quite handsome.

Or is it the light? It’s such a beautiful day.

I like to come here.” He’s contemplating the lake, some deep, sad longing in his eyes. “It’s one of those places that makes me feel better, lighter, as if the world were still a nice place to live in.”

I stand beside him and, dammit, it feels so nice.

How long have you been hiding?”

Twenty-eight years.”

That’s a long time.”

It is.”

Ever feel lonely?”

All the time.”

I bet.”

I bet you don’t know about that.”

Now it’s my turn to scoff. “Watch out, mister. There are many of us lone wolves roaming around.”

How come?”

How come what?”

You’re… young.”

Is that a compliment?” He cocks an eyebrow at me. “I like to think I still haven’t hit my prime.”

Hmm.”

What’s made you come out of the cave after so long?”

He ponders, brushes the grass with the sole of his shoe. So pretty, so green. “It was time I did.”

Good enough.

And when was that?”

A month and a half ago. Still trying to get used to it.”

Do you still use your powers? Apart from saving damsels from getting mugged?”

That was the first time I used them in a long time, hence the huffing and puffing afterwards. It takes a lot of strength to do what I do.”

I thought it was an asthma attack. My mother gets them every now and then.”

Where is she? Your mother?”

In Spain visiting my father and, in the meantime, the Madrid Book Fair.”

I sip from the coffee and, as I swallow it, I let its warmth envelope my insides.

Oh.” He says.

You know, about that night with the thief, I’m of the thought that people meet for a reason, that nothing’s random.”

You believe us two meeting wasn’t a random thing?”

No. I don’t.”

Good.” He’s facing me now, a smile on his face, a sparkle in his eyes. “I’d like to think that too.”

Why are you being so charming all of a sudden?”

Because you need a friend.” He takes a breath, filling his lungs with the oh so pure air around us. “Maybe we can have that coffee tomorrow?”

Sure. I always get mine from that coffee shop on the corner from the bookshop.”

Perfect. I’ll see you there tomorrow. Around eight?”

Yeah.”

Another smile and, is that my heart fluttering?

What I do feel all of a sudden is my feet hit the ground and I have to step back to keep my balance.

Steven’s hand is retrieving in front of my eyes, curling his fingers away from my forehead.

What the fuck?!”

He’s walking away.

Hey!” I feel the coffee in my hand and it’s cold as cold can be and the air doesn’t smell as pure as it used to.

I search for him, but he’s disappeared into the trees.

Goddammit!” I cry, frustrated.

Stupid me forgot his most controversial superpower: the ability to project fantasies into people’s mind.

Bastard!”

Hurling my already stale coffee only contributes to my anger as I encounter a Do Not Litter sign that makes me squat to pick it up and throw it in the trash before exiting the park swearing there’s smoke coming out of my ears as I go.

The Last Superhero – Chapter 2

This is a WIP. Unedited, unbetaed, raw stuff. I’m also posting it on Wattpad.

Read Chapter 1

Chapter 2

It’s a week after the incident and I’m chatting with Daphne –my right-hand, store clerk, and all around guardian angel that has worked here for free for far longer than I care to admit– about hair colors. She’s punk and has purple and white streaks in her hair and keeps trying to convince me about dying mine any color I choose from the rainbow.

I’m trying to run a bookstore.” I reply.

Well, it’s not my bookstore, it’s my mother’s, but I’m the one that runs it for her thanks to people like Daphne that believe the written word isn’t dead.

Anyway, that’s another story.

Blue would look perfect on you.” She says, eying the customer that’s just walked in. “It might help us attract a younger crowd and less of those.” She nods the customer’s way.

I give a fright jump.

Oh fuck.”

What?” Daphne frowns. She doesn’t know.

She doesn’t know the old dude’s back and he’s here to kill me.

He glides through the bookshelves, like some cat.

Shit.

I’ll be outside.” I say, rush through the back door.

He’s on my tail and I hear Daphne trying to stop him.

He steps out and finds me.

I just want to talk.” He says, closing the door on poor Daphne.

It’s okay, Daph, I’ve got it!” I cry, praying it makes it through the door seams and to her. Address him, “you don’t want her calling the police.”

He opens the door again and there’s Daphne holding her mobile to her face.

It’s okay.” I tell her, my arms crossed over my chest to hide my trembling. “He’s a friend of Mom’s.”

Oh.” Daphne lowers her phone.

I’ll be back in ten.”

She shuts the door.

This is it. This is where I die. Next to the dumpster. So classy.

Please make it quick.” My voice quivers, breaks. “And don’t let Daphne see my dead body, she’s squeamish.”

What?!”

Look, I didn’t tell the police it was you, just some Good Samaritan that then ran off. The surveillance cameras haven’t worked for years, so there’s no evidence.” It’s difficult to speak but I push through, at least let me explain myself before he kills me off.

His brows furrow, every time a little deeper.

The guy’s in the hospital. He has no family or anything so no one will miss him.”

He’s breathing hard.

And I think you should know I’m an only child and this bookstore is my mother’s, so maybe you’d like to dump my body somewhere they can’t find me.”

What the fuck are you going on about?”

You’re here to kill me, aren’t you?”

I’m not.” He looks around, exasperated.

What are you here for then?”

He brings his hands to his head. “This is fucked up.”

No shit.”

I’m not here to kill you and it wasn’t my intention to injure that man.”

It’s not like you haven’t done it before.”

His stare is so intense I step back and bump into the wall behind me.

What do you know about me?”

I feel my knees buckle, lean on the wall to remain vertical.

That your name is Steven Waldorf.”

What else?”

That…” Should I say it? He’s pressing me with those menacing hazel eyes… “You’re the last superhero to roam the Earth.”

His face falls for a second before he steps back, away from my quaking self.

I know too much and now he knows I know and he’ll do to me what they do to all the people that know too much.

I’m not here to kill you.”

I brave a glance at him and he’s standing next to the dumpster, his head down.

You’re not?”

No, I’m not. What made you think that?”

Apart from all the glaring and the sneering?” And the fact that I witnessed you almost murder someone.

He runs his fingers through his graying hair. “Look, I’m sorry I was rude to you.”

Are you even real?”

Of course I am.”

And you are Steven Waldorf.”

I go by Steven Dennis now.”

Oh.” A pause. “You’re supposed to be dead.”

Yes. And I would appreciate if you didn’t tell anyone that I am not.”

Okay.” Sure. Or you’ll kill me. I get it.

He’s about to say something but it dies in his throat. His face’s softened and, giving him a second look, he’s not that old, or bad looking.

It takes a depraved mind like mine to think such a thing in a moment like this.

Something drives me to talk, maybe it’s that same thing that made me get out of the car and read the plaque.

Step closer to the boogeyman so he can slash you straight.

Were you looking for something? Is there anything I can help you with?”

Now he softens further and there’s the ghost of a smile on his lips.

I came to buy more books.”

Okay. Follow me.”

Don’t touch him in case he’s startled and then kills you.

We walk back into the bookstore and I signal Daphne that all is okay. She gives Steven an ‘I’m watching you’ look that he doesn’t notice.

He’s got superpowers, yes, but not all of them. I think there’s a rule about that, you only get one or two, not more. He’s got telekinesis. It explains why the hobo flew through the air, he pushed him with his power.

We’re in the poetry section and I try to interest him in some crime novel that just came out.

Don’t read crime.”

Of course you don’t.

A long, elegant finger settles on a particular poetry compilation that happens to be one of my favorites and pulls it out.

The guy seems to know. “Great choice.”

Is it?”

One of my favorites.”

I’m regarded with a quirked eyebrow and a satisfied nod.

I must ask…”

No questions.”

And here I was thinking he’d softened.

Why am I following him, I don’t know.

Well, maybe because he’s the last fucking superhero in the fucking Earth and, right now, I’m the only one who knows he’s still alive.

When I turn around he’s staring at me.

Can you read my mind?”

That makes him burst in laughter.

Not funny.” I give him an about face and his hand lands on my shoulder, startling me.

Sorry.” He says.

Daphne’s checking on us from a distance.

It’s okay.”

Got any naughty thoughts you don’t want me knowing about?”

Is that humor? Must be.

Maybe.”

That amuses him.

I’m taking this one but only because you said it was your favorite.” He hands me the book.

One of my favorites. I’ve got many.” I lead the way to the register, where Daphne’s sitting.

She’s quick to slide off the stool and run for cover.

Then I shall come back for the rest.”

Am I getting hit on by a man twice my age? From murder to flirting. This is new and unheard.

He’s smiling, it makes him look less menacing. Almost nice.

Apart from the murder thing.

He pays, I bag the book, give it to him.

What’s your name, by the way?”

Giana.”

It hits him, something, don’t know what, then says, “Beautiful.” And it’s as if it physically hurt him.

A slight bow and he’s out. Out the door but not my mind.

What did he want?” Daphne approaches me.

I don’t know.” Is my reply and I have to shake it off. “I’m getting lunch.” Hit a button on the cash register and see there’s not enough.

I’ll get it.” She pats my shoulder and is off the same way Steven was seconds before.

I bend over and hit my forehead on the counter.

Fuck everything and everyone, dead, alive, or about to die.”