Friday, April 7, 2017

#FlashFictionFriday! Not in Kansas Anymore by @LSJRomance #Shifters #Romance

Not in Kansas Anymore

by London Saint James

Oregon – Gold Mining Territory - 1924
Casten

I stared up at the full moon—big and bright—as it lit up the sky, casting my long shadow across the crop of trees edging the bluff like old sentinels with their branches outstretched wide. Weary to the bone, I rolled my shoulders, listening to the sounds of the night and pushed back the vacant sensation in my soul.

The unmistakable sound of a twig snapping had me instinctively sniffing the air. By the cloying scent, I knew who approached.

“Leave me be, Celesta,” I grumbled through gritted teeth.

“Sneaking off? Father won’t be pleased,” my half-sister said in a soprano voice as cold as ice.

I wasn’t sneaking, though I was leaving, heading for the one place my human mother had called home.

“What I do and where I go is none of your concern,” I said. “And I don’t care what does or doesn’t please our father.”

“You’ve always been a sniveling bastard, hiding behind Neeta as if she could protect you from yourself.”

I turned to face my sister. “Go away before things get ugly.”

Her silver lamé tunic-style evening dress shimmered in the light of the moon. And her dark, bobbed hair flirted with her sharp cheekbones.

I tightened my jaw. “Go back into town and seduce some poor, unsuspecting man.”

She circled me—one, long fingernail tracing across the shirt covering my shoulder. “You’re weak, brother. I’ll never know why Father didn’t rip your throat out the day you were born like he did your mother's.”

I growled, clutched her by the throat, and squeezed. “Shut up!”

She grinned, bearing her fangs, and wrenched herself from my hold.

It was too late. I couldn’t hold him back. My body shook and my gums burned as my incisors broke through the tender flesh and descended. “Get away from me before I hurt you.”

I let loose of her and shoved her back.

Celesta sniffed, indignant. “Hurt me? That’s laughable.”

My fingernails bent back, allowing my claws to come to the fore. “Run!” I snarled.

She turned from me, unconcerned.

I leaped and tackled my bitch of a sister to the ground. Unlike me, she instantly shifted into her wolf-born form, biting as the dress she had on fell from her animal body—taken by the breeze. It caught and dangled off a tree limb, fluttering as her teeth sank deep into my flesh.

I yelled out in pain, voice quivering into the tones of a yelping wolf as my ears tipped and stood to black points.

The sleeves on the plaid shirt I wore tore before it shredded as my muscles rippled and bones cracked, reforming me.

Snarls, growls, and more chomping bites echoed in the night.

My trousers tangled into the jumbled fight as my body contorted and tumbled with hers.

I kicked.

Celesta flew up from me and landed on all fours as I rolled and stopped in a crouch, stomping the ground with my massive paw.

My ears went back.

We ran, head-on, set on a collision course with each other. When we crashed, it became a blur of viciousness, flying gray hair, black hair, and blood glistening in the moonlight until I gained the advantage.

Teeth to my sister's throat, she relaxed, lifted her hind leg, and bared her soft gray underbelly.

Letting loose of her, the she-wolf scrambled back.

Still worked up, I paced, predatorily, eyes more than likely glowing with the night shine of my animal until she bowed her head, an acceptance of my dominance.

The beast growled low in my throat. Hackles up.

I hated him. I hated myself. I hated my pack. Celesta. Our father. We were all abhorrent creatures.

Lowering my head, I rammed forward, pummeling into Celesta’s side. The sound of her ribs cracking followed by her yap of pain gave the beast and me satisfaction.

We’d blindsided her while she had submitted, something we shouldn’t have done, but I didn’t expect to see her tumble over the edge of the rock face.

Realizing what I had allowed my hatred to do, I took over, transformed back into my human-born state, scrambled to the edge, and saw Celesta clawing at a small patch of dirt on a thin ledge—her hind legs kicking in open air.

“Change!” I yelled, going to my knees, bending and extended a mangled arm out for her.

Blood slid down my forearm in dark rivulets and dripped from my fingertips.

Celesta shifted—her nude, female frame battered as she reached for me, grunting, then wrapped her fingers around my wrist.

“Come on.” I tugged until she was safely on the rocky protrusion. “You can jump up to me from there.”

She stared up at me, silver eyes narrowing, and yanked.

Caught unaware, I went over the edge, body flying past her, listening to Celesta’s cackling laughter as I headed for the boulders below…

****

Present Day - Laissez les bons temps rouler
Adeline

My hand shook as I lifted the newspaper I’d folded into a neat rectangle. Promptly, I re-read the classified ad I’d circled while eating Beignets in the French Quarter.

Full-time assistant wanted. Room and board supplied. Apply in person.

Nervous, I stood outside the ornamental gate and stared at the huge, white, antebellum mansion. It sat nestled just beyond a circular courtyard and flower-filled garden.

I double checked the address in the ad with the street address.

The Garden District. This is the correct location.

I glanced up once more at the stunning home and shoved the paper into my oversized shoulder bag before quickly taking inventory of myself. I had on a sensible white blouse, a tan skirt, and had rolled my long, strawberry blonde hair up into a tidy and efficient twist.

My brow crinkled when I saw a wrinkle or two playing across the front of my skirt, mocking me. Wrinkles were only one of the hazards of wearing cotton garments fresh out of the dryer from the craptastic laundry mat I frequented. Little lint balls of fuzz were the other, but thankfully I had picked all of them off before putting the skirt on.

Smoothing my hands over her hips, in an attempt to tug out those telltale signs I didn’t actually own an iron, I straightened my shoulders. I might not look like I came from the hallowed halls of an Ivey League establishment, but figured I could pass as a lowly assistant.

Taking a deep breath, I opened the gate and walked down the cobbled path. The smell of roses and jasmine played on the breeze as morning birdsong flitted through the trees and butterflies bounced on air.

Standing on the massive porch that wrapped around the front of the mansion, I about jumped out of my skin when the wooden screen door shot open, hit the wall with a thwack, swung back toward the frame, and made a clatter-tap.

I took a step sideways to avoid being run over by an upset woman who came out with her arms flailing in the air—raven-dark hair flowing down her back and ruffling in the breeze. I couldn’t catch all of what the woman was saying other than, “I quit!”

Caught on the porch, and unable to look at anything other than the scene taking place, I stared at the woman’s striking features. She was pissed off, with her lip curled up in a snarl and her chocolate-brown eyes glittering in apparent anger.

“El hombre está completamente locos!”

The exotic woman huffed past, hopping down the stairs, stubby heels clicking on cobblestones, still mumbling in Spanish as she headed for the gate.

“Don’t pay no mind to, Maria,” a deep male voice said in a drawl.

It wasn’t the Cajun French or Louisiana French accent I had come to appreciate since being in the Deep South, but a voice laced in a southern accent all the same.

Twirling around to face the open front door, expecting to see a stately man standing in the doorway, I saw a pale, shirtless man with strong, broad shoulders and a smooth, well-muscled chest—the screen door propped against the footrest of his wheelchair.

As he rolled himself out he said, “She’s a bit temperamental.”

He maneuvered the chair and stopped dead center in front of me, only he didn’t immediately look at me. His focus stayed on the woman named Maria.

Once Maria was off the property, the man’s muscles seemed to relax. He placed his hand on his forehead then ran his fingers through his shoulder-length, black as night hair, momentarily freeing the features of his highly chiseled cheekbones. Despite his washed-out pallor, the scruff on his jaw, and the fact he was confined to a wheelchair, he was devastatingly handsome.

I figured him to be in his early thirties, even though there was something about him that said he was older.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Have I come at a bad time?”

He waved his hand dismissively, making his beefy bicep flex. “Now is just as
good a time as any.”

“Oh. Um…Okay.”

The strap on my bag was beginning to slide down my arm, so I grabbed it and yanked it back in place none too gently.

The man chose that moment to pay attention, turning his head toward me, slowly, giving me a narrow-eyed stare.

His shoulders stiffened.

His nostrils flared.

His jaw tightened.

I squirmed and had the crazy impulse to run.

Two seconds later his brow smoothed. He briefly closed his eyes, and when he reopened them, his celestial blue gaze started at my head, trailed down my frame, rested on my sandal-covered feet, then returned to my face. “I’m Creed. Casten Creed. And you are?”

“Adeline Wilson,” I said, voice quavering. “I’m here about—”

“The job,” he said abruptly.

“Yes, sir.”

“No need for ‘sir.’” He did a fancy wheelie and turn. “Can you get the screen door for me?”

I reached for the handle and tugged, opening it.

“Much obliged,” he said then rolled his chair into the house.

I wasn’t sure if I should follow or not. He hadn’t actually invited me in.

“Don’t just stand out there gathering flies,” he said. “Come on in. And make sure to shut the front door.”

“Sure,” I muttered, scrambling to catch up to him.

When I stepped inside the foyer, I’m sure my eyes went wide. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to see, but it wasn’t antique paintings of nude women. And it wasn’t one or two aged boudoir images, but scads of them hung on the wall in gilded frames.

“The door,” Casten reminded.

I quickly turned and closed the heavy door. “Got it.”

Mr. Creed rolled himself down a hallway, me tagging along. We passed a fancy elevator next to a grand staircase.

Captivated by my surroundings, I paused. Two carved, life-sized wolves were seated on the floor, positioned on either side of the banister posts. I took in their workmanship. The detail.

Aware this wasn’t a sightseeing trip, I started walking again. I’d fallen behind. Putting some pep in my step, I caught up and trailed behind my hope-to-be employer, finally bringing my attention to where I was going before I bumped into him.

“Where are you from?” he inquired.

“Kansas.”

“Hm…”

It was quiet for a moment.

“Why have you come to New Orleans?” he asked, turning into what looked to be a library.

I couldn’t tell him the truth so settled for, “It was a spontaneous decision.”

He gave a wicked sounding chuckle, making the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. “Well, Dorothy, you’re sure as shit not in Kansas anymore.”

~~~oOo~~~

About the Author:

r: London wrote her first short story in the second grade. Her teacher informed her parents she had a big imagination, and as far as he was concerned, having a big imagination wasn’t necessarily a good thing, so she placed her vivid characters, her childhood stories, along with her imagination on the shelf, where they would wither for a while. After all, she needed to grow up and do the “sensible thing.”

Life moved on, London grew up, and the sensible thing earned London a degree in Psychology. She took a serious job in the real world, doing serious things and being a responsible adult, although the need to be a little irresponsible crept in. As a result, she started scribbling again.

Happy to find her imagination was still alive and kicking, she decided to pursue writing, walked away from doing the sensible thing, took on the world of the written word, and has never looked back!