I’m doing a call for beta readers today and posted the general blurbs in a list here. I didn’t have excerpts for all of them so the four that need excerpts are being posted today so people can read those and decide if they want to try the short story.
“Whoooooooo,” Kylee yelled as we inched out of the crowded bar onto the equally crowded sidewalk on Broadway, throwing her arms wide and barely missing smacking a blond stumbling by. “One week down. One to go! Last finals evahhhhhhh!”
Tyler and Kylee got to the bar about an hour later than us but caught up on drinks in maybe fifteen minutes. It took another thirty to get them out so we could put the hop in bar hop.
“I wish I had magic,” I said.
“What?” Cassandra said. “That’s random.”
“You’re lucky. Magic wakes up and there’s ancient gods and magic and people with magic… and magic. I always thought if magic existed I’d… you know, have some.”
“You might have it and it just hasn’t shown up yet.”
“I’ve tried doing spells and potions. Stuff other people have come up with and works for them. I can’t get mine to work. Same exact ingredients and everything.” I pulled one of the vials I’d taken to a friend working on being a witch out of my purse and held it up for inspection. “Want to see my latest one? It’s supposed to make things go boom and nada.”
“Magic has a lot to do with belief. Could be you don’t think it’ll work, so it doesn’t.”
I shrugged, putting the vial away. “It doesn’t work, then it doesn’t work.”
“Maybe you just need to believe in yourself a little more.”
I shrugged and pointed down Broadway towards the karaoke bar. “Wannabe’s next. I need to sing out my stress.”
Tyler swung an arm around me as we walked, no mean feat considering she had about six inches on me and her heels put that up to around ten. “Tell me who stressed out my little Millie. Just tell me who to kill.”
My patent career? Nope, that’s already DOA. Every single firm that didn’t hire me? My lack of magic? “My last two finals? Can you kill a test?” I asked, snorting.
“Yeah, by crushing it!” she said.
We hit a wall of people waiting for the light at the street and Tyler peeled away to look down the street.
Downtown Nashville on a Friday night has its own rhythm, its own life force. I could feel it, that unadulterated energy. It lifted me, made me more than I was.
This, this is why people sang, why they danced. To feel the power of those around them. To share it.
People gushed down the sidewalks both ways, skipping in and out of the line of bars, clubs and honkytonks. Music came out of the buildings’ every orifices, mix and mingling with their jingling beats on the streets.
I giggled. Okay, maybe I was a little drunk after my two drinks. At my size, you can’t drink a lot. It’s a rule or something.
One of the sidewalk singers played a guitar next to the light pole, his case propped open on it and holding a measly smattering of ones. He sang along but I couldn’t understand the words. I moved my hips, swaying and dancing without stepping.
“Pretty lady,” he said with a heavy guttural accent when I met his eyes. I creased my forehead. He couldn’t be talking to me. “Ja, you. You can dance. Can you sing?”
My heart picked up as I studied his face. German. His accent was West German. I’d know it anywhere. Di… my first ex was German. This guy with his long body, high cheekbones, big brown eyes, and guitar could’ve been my ex’s brother. The way he stared me down… like I was the most important thing in the world…
I turned away, tears springing behind my eyes. The littlest things would remind me of my ex. But come on, did they teach them how to stare at girls like that in German schools or something?
“Millie, you okay?” Cassandra asked as the crowd started to move as one, like a giant being we were merely cells of. She grabbed my hand, dragging me with them so I didn’t get lost as the crowd swarmed around me.
Everyone else would move with the crowd, but not me. Because crowds never could make me move like other people said crowds would sweep them along. I’d never been swept by social pressure like that.
It’s what made me different. Ha! No, that was the afterschool special version of me. It was what made me weird.
I didn’t read social cues easily, didn’t always know when people were joking or what they meant, definitely didn’t get boys. And they didn’t care to even try to get me.
Not till Di… him. He’d gotten me. He was weird like me and just made up for it with sheer exuberance and friendliness. Or so I’d thought.
Turned out he got people all too well.
And knew exactly how to play them.
“Millie?” Cassandra asked again, half shouting over the song that was downtown Nashville, keeping a hold of my hand, walking me along like a puppy. “Your aura just went blue. What’s wrong?”
I shook my head. “Mind just went somewhere.”
“Sweetie, I’m psychic, remember? You thinking about a certain ex Tyler’s already offered to castrate for you?”
She just nodded as we hit the other side.
I froze and Cassandra tugged on my arm. “Earth to Millie.”
I couldn’t even look at her. My chest tightened, acid panic flaring through it like a blooming flower. A stab of anxiety I used to get heading to the law school’s functions when I thought he’d be there spreading the acid like fingers over my heart.
Speak of the devil and he really did appear.
My ex stood at the curb, maybe ten feet away, between the flows of pedestrian and car traffic. The girl with him was a blond thing, almost as little as me.
The girl stumbled in her heels, leaning into him and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her close and staring down into her eyes.
Like she was the most im… no, like she was the only important thing in the world.
He leaned down and kissed her, quick and soft. I knew that kiss. I’d felt that kiss.
He pulled the girl in again, full on making out. He’d never exactly been shy about the public displays.
Shocks of electricity zipped up my thighs, making them burn and I tasted metal on the back of my tongue. My brain swam and I backed up, hitting someone and not turning. God, he was going to see me! He was going to see me staring at him like… like…
I doubled over, shocks making my legs shake and dance. My back screamed, like being pinched by a giant between the shoulder blades and stuck in a too tight top at the same time.
Panic made everything from my stomach to my lungs burn. I looked back up at the happy couple. They were still wrapped up in each other. I couldn’t hear anything besides massed music coloring the street.
I couldn’t focus, couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe!
The tightness in my back exploded out in a release almost like a sneeze, or an orgasm. My skimpy, silky clubbing top slipped down my arms and I held it to my chest. Thank god I’d decided to wear a bra even though the straps showed in this top.
I looked around. Nothing was clear over the music sounds but my friends had backed away, people were staring at me. I looked to one side and…
I had wings!
Huge wings, at least ten feet across with fluffy white feathers spread out behind me. They must’ve broken through my top and ripped it.
Someone laughed, loud enough to come over the music. The people were forming a semi-circle now. I think there was screaming. I would’ve backed up if that wouldn’t have put me closer to him.
Shit, what if the strange movement of the crowds finally got his attention and he turned and saw me?
What if he was so wrapped up in the girl that he didn’t?
I can’t deal with this.
Laughter hit my ears again, someone in the crowd inched forward with a cell phone, a big guy pushed his way through, coming straight for me like a bouncer breaking up a fight.
I turned, beating the wings without having to think about it and took off. The people between me and the road backed out of the way and I pumped my wings to get above car level as I flew towards the river, holding my shirt to me like that could preserve any kind of dignity after that display.
I’d been panicking and running from my devil for two and a half years now, anxiety and embarrassment hitting me every time I even saw him, no matter how nice he was. Want and terror always turned me into a mess of emotions whenever he just suddenly popped up again.
Time to step up my shtick, I guess.
Why run when you could fly?