Well, job hunting is evil. That is my official statement. On a happier note, I am almost done with the first draft of The Merchant of Death. I can't wait to get a preview put together for everyone, but that is still a while away. Soon I will need to start the editing and revising process which is evil.
Well my editor and I have been working very hard on creating second editions of my published works as well as getting new content ready for everyone. He has guided me toward two new stories that will be added to Cursed. I can't wait to get them out to everyone. So as a special thank you, I am going to give you an excerpt from Cursed - Demon Gold. Enjoy and tell me what you think!
3 the Demon Gold!
about a year before Hunted
The sun streamed through the swaying leaves of the weeping willow in Raisa’s backyard. As she sat under the tree, Raisa could feel the warmth of the rays as they bathed her red hair. She considered herself a normal 17 year old American girl despite the craziness and Romanianess of her family. Raisa placed her book on her lap and lifted her head toward the sun. She sighed as she felt the heat of the sun dance across her skin like fire. She had loved fire ever since she was a little girl. Raisa walked from her peaceful spot toward the dark and foreboding house. The gothic inspired Victorian was not only her home, but the last place on Earth she wanted to be right now. She decided she was not going to spend her one and only senior ditch day hiding in her backyard from her crazy Romanian family.
Raisa entered the house and moved through the darkness of her parents’ Dracula-inspired décor; the halls were hung with strange tapestries and gargoyles flanked the stairs, the floor was cold stone, and the walls were covered in blood-red paint. She checked the clock on her phone; she was expecting a call from her best friend, but these days he seemed to be distancing himself from her. She knew it was because, come fall, they were both going to separate colleges. It hurt her to think of losing the only stability she had known.
She heard her twin brother’s car squeal as it pulled out of the driveway, causing her to look out one of the front leaded glass windows as he tore down the street in his new convertible. He was the favorite because he was a male. Males were important in her family even through it was obvious to her mother that her intelligence far outstripped that of her brother’s. Raisa shook her head and turned away from the window. She wondered why, if her twin could act normal, why couldn’t her parents? Her brother did seem to be cut from the same cloth as her father and uncle – the cloth of stupid. The men in her family made foolish mistakes: deals with the wrong people, ignoring the obvious, and underestimating her and her mother’s worth.
Raisa moved back down the hall toward the kitchen. She stopped briefly to look at the tapestry in the hallway which listed all the marriages and dowries exchanged for Vladimir women; all the way back to Vlad the Impaler. Her father always talked about getting her brother a six goat wife and getting Raisa married off as soon as possible so they would have the goats to get her brother the wife he didn’t deserve. In her parent’s home village you couldn’t do better than a six goat wife. She shook her head and wondered why the dowries were always goats. Despite all the times her mother had explained it, Raisa still couldn’t figure out how to assess a “goat value” for a person, as if cashmere, milk, and meat were worth anything in America, let alone a living, breathing goat. Raisa’s parents were immigrants from Romania with strong accents, and they still lived by many of the old traditions, including life-long arranged marriages, in which women were treated as little more than breeding stock. Raisa was proud that, unlike women in the Mother Country, she had choices and options, despite what her parents expected of her.
Raisa picked up her cell phone and dialed her best friend Damian Cardone, but unfortunately, his sister picked up. She really wished he had a cell phone because his sister could not take a message to save her soul. So, Raisa hung up the phone and walked to the refrigerator where she noticed the dreaded calendar. The calendar had two functions, but the one that haunted Raisa was the ever growing list of suitors her parents kept inviting over for dinner. Her parents were so determined to get a marriage contract by her 18th birthday that they had even tried to get Damian to marry her last week!
Even though her birthday was still several weeks away, her father had already started to ignore her since she had refused to take a husband. Instead he focused on her brother. She resented this since chances were good that, on her birthday, she would also be gifted with the magic; she would be a witch. Raisa laid her head on the cool stainless steel refrigerator and sighed out of annoyance. All her father talked about was how her brother would be the greatest witch in the family, and come hell or high water she was to be someone’s good wife. Of course, it was at that moment the shadows in the house seemed to converge in the kitchen, forming an outline of a man. Then her father walked out of those shadows carrying a large burlap sack.
The windows in the kitchen were wide open, and Raisa noticed the neighbor working in the yard. She shook her head. Her father was risking exposure of the magical community by entering the house that way in broad daylight. He refused to use the altar room in the attic, which would have kept prying mortal eyes from seeing his uses of magic. Instead, he blatantly showed off by appearing in the kitchen. Raisa had always thought that it was unfortunate that his side of the family was the magical side, since they never seemed to use their magic for anything besides getting into trouble. At least her mother had the common sense to keep the family’s magical differences hidden from the neighbors. Raisa was glad she had inherited her mother’s common sense and wished her brother had as well.
When her father, who owned a real estate firm, proclaimed he had had the best sale of his life; Raisa did not even bat an eye. Every sale was always the biggest sale of his life. Usually it meant he sold another over-priced home to a poor immigrant that couldn’t afford it. It was not until her mother walked into the kitchen and her father dumped a bag of gold onto the kitchen counter that she had reason to take notice. The minute she laid eyes on the gold she knew something was wrong. She had seen this gold before in one of the books in the family’s magic library. Raisa had been reading and studying the magic she couldn’t yet practice for the last four years.
“Is sure this real money? Look like funny money, kind that have sweet in it?” Raisa’s mother said in her thick Romanian accent.
“Is good money. Man across street, new to country. He have no credit but lots of gold from home. So he give gold, and I sell house across street to him. Is good deal, I tell you is so,” her father proclaimed.
“Did you go to bank, and see if good money?”
“No, we go tomorrow. Open new account and then we can finish bathroom.” Raisa shook her head as her father said this. There was nothing wrong with the bathroom; it was just out of style. He was always trying to outdo the neighbors’ homes. “I promise you new bathroom when I sell, so now house sold so we get bathroom. Is all good, yes?”
“Oh, yes is good deal then. I want granite counter in bathroom, and marble tile like in kitchen. I get what I want?” her mother asked, while pointing at her father with the spatula that she always carried on her. That spatula had collided with her father’s head more times than it ever did with a frying pan.
“Of course, is promise?”
Raisa looked over the gold which had runic symbols engraved on it. She then noticed the smell of acid slowly filled the room. She worried that her father had done it again, and by the look of the money he had.
“Dad, what did the man look like?”
“What it matter, he have money, I sell house. What I care that he keep hood on?” her father confidently proclaimed.
It was late May in Chicago, so Raisa knew something was seriously wrong if someone was wearing a hood in this weather.
“Dad, isn’t bargaining with a demon against the Magical Codes?”
“Of course it is! I make mistake when I bring mother to country. I not know it was demon transportation that get us here. The counsel usually take away power for that. I lucky to only get warning.”
“Well then I suggest you give the gold back now,” Raisa proclaimed.
“Why is daughter so stupid?” her father yelled to her mother.
“Cause is your daughter. Take after you and brother, Jerry!” her mother shouted back.
“DAD!” Raisa yelled. “That is demon gold!”
“What you mean is DEMON GOLD? I warn you, your witch family would ruin children and now you bring demon gold into house!” her mother bellowed as she threw her hands into the air.
“What daughter know? She no witch yet! I tell you is just money from African country,” her father yelled back.
Raisa walked from the room as her parents began to discuss the situation by her mother’s favorite method: Smack and Scream. She reached the book shelf and pulled down the volume on demon currency and brought it back into the kitchen. Raisa opened the book to the appropriate page and laid the book on the counter in front of the gold. Her mother quickly grabbed the book and looked at the gold before reading the passage on the cursed currency. Demon gold always carried a curse for the human owner, and she watched as her father’s face fell before her mother’s spatula connected with the back of his head.
She then shoved the book into her husband’s face, hit him, and continued her rant.
“Not only do you bring demon gold into house, but you bring CURSED DEMON GOLD! This gold can no be given back and it can only be touched by demon. Bank no take evil gold, stupid husband! If you keep daughter around since she is smart like mother and listen to wife more you no get taken by Demon Neighbor.” Her mother’s eyes got extremely big as she looked down the hall toward the house across the street, “Now we have demon neighbor! What happen to value of house with demons all over the neighborhood? What we do now?”
Raisa’s father dropped the book on the gold and backed away from his infuriated wife. The last time he saw this kind of fury from her was when he let Raisa and her brother go to the pool alone in the second grade. Raisa’s brother had almost drowned in the diving well since neither of them knew how to swim. Of course, Raisa told her mother the whole story when they got back home. Raisa’s mother broke a spatula on her father’s head that day.
Just then, Raisa noticed smoke rising from the pile of gold as it ate away at the cover of the book. She quickly grabbed the book and saw that the cover looked like it had been eaten by acid. Raisa backed out of the kitchen with the damaged volume. As Raisa placed the volume away she noticed her brother and a friend heading up to the house through the large glass front windows. She quickly bolted to the front door.
“Hey guys, what are you doing here?” Raisa asked. She gave a pleadingly look for her brother to understand why now was not a good time for a visitor.
“We came to play the new game,” her brother’s friend said.
“Oh damn, mom dropped the game system into the mop bucket. It’s dead, much like Dad is going to be in five minutes. Maybe you should go to his house and play,” Raisa said, as she stared at her brother.
“Rai, what is the big deal? Mom doesn’t go into my room. The system is fine,” her brother said.
“Oh, I don’t think so. Did you see dad sold the house across the street? The buyer was from down under.” Raisa’s eyes dropped to the ground and back up as she said that. “You know Dad just loves his deals with special immigrants.”
“No shit! He did it again?” her brother asked.
“To say the least, makes you wish it was just another suitor for me doesn’t it?”
“Hey dude, let’s hang later. Now is not a good time.”
He quickly dispatched his friend by letting him drive the convertible home instead of walking. Raisa and her brother entered the house to find a visitor sitting in the living room. The woman lounged in a high back chair with her legs crossed. She looked over at the twins with a knowing smile.
“Well it is a pleasure to meet the young Vladimir twins. We have high expectations of you two when, or rather if, you manifest your powers on your birthday. We hope you will make better use of your magical gifts than your so-called role models have. Thankfully, I am here to see your father and not you two. Hopefully, someone in this house will have learned from his mistakes,” the tall and lovely woman spoke before she rose from her seat.
She adjusted her glasses over her frozen blue eyes and brushed the loose waves of her highlighted blonde hair behind her ears and back towards her bun. She wore a white polo and khaki pants, but carried herself in a way that told Raisa and her brother that she was of more importance than her father could ever hope to be worth. She was a guardian; the magical equivalent of a cop. They both took a step back as her eyes continued to evaluate them.
“I suppose a formal introduction would be appropriate wouldn’t it?” She surveyed them over her glasses. “I am Amanda Windstrom of the Counsel Guard, and I am here to meet with your father regarding the entertaining little sack he brought home. I would suggest you two make yourself scarce for the next hour or so.” She spoke with soft tones despite the obvious gravity of the situation while she gestured them towards the stairs.
As she entered the kitchen a hush fell over the room. The twins snuck back down into the dining room where they could listen and watch the scene in the reflection of the large gold inlaid mirror. The Guardian Amanda approached her father and then raised her hands snapping the crimson kitchen curtains closed. The room took on a blood red hue as she surveyed the scene. Then a ball of glittering light appeared next to Raisa’s father before it turned into Uncle Jerry, his business partner and brother.
Raisa’s father began to stumble over his words which made Raisa smile. He had met this woman during the first demon incident when they arrived in this country. Amanda smiled while she situated herself on the far counter so she could see both the men and the gold. Raisa’s mother froze was in place by the terror of the scene. She knew seeing this woman again could not lead to anything pleasant.
“You may be seated,” Amanda spoke.
She watched them from over the rim of her glasses. Once the men were settled, a piece of parchment appeared in the woman’s hands just as Uncle Jerry had appeared in the kitchen.
“As previously cited, the business known as Vladimir Real Estate, comprised of the Misters Vladimir, have violated Section B of the Code of Consorting which states: No individual will enter into a deal, agreement, pact, contract, or other binding work with a species of malicious intent that may negatively impact the mortal population. This violation occurred at approximately 3pm Central Standard Time in the United States, State of Illinois, Town of Arlington Heights in which a contract was entered between Vladimir Real Estate and a Demon of the Drakton Clan. In which contract, said demon was able to acquire a place of residence in the vicinity of mortals in exchange for a payment of Demon Gold. The Counsel of Wise Ones has determined that this sale of property was in direct violation of the Code and, along with a previous citation, the Counsel has chosen to strip the male Vladimirs of their magical abilities, including all magical skills and practice, until a time that the Senior Mr. Vladimir is able to remove the cursed objects from his home by returning it to demon society without the aid of magic.” Amanda spoke with a solemn face.
Uncle Jerry quickly grabbed at the Guardian’s hands and fell to his knees.
“Please lovely lady of the counsel. I know not of demon, no take magic from me, please. I not know, I swear,” Jerry howled with tears brimming.
“Unfortunately, it was a joint business deal and a signed contract is a signed contract.” Amanda spoke without any concern or compassion in her voice. “Additionally, a task force has been dispatched to exterminate the demon before further injury is inflicted upon the neighboring populace,” Amanda sighed. Raisa could see the annoyance in her eyes before she spoke again.
“There is still hope; just find a way to get rid of the ‘Demon Gold’ and your powers will be restored. Of course I doubt you will be able to execute that.”
For the first time in Raisa’s life she saw a lone tear trail down her father’s cheek. The grief was written all over his face as he accepted the vial of Power Stripping Brew with a shaking hand from Amanda and drank it down. A golden glow rolled around both Mr. Vladimirs and trailed from the home. Raisa smiled and walked from the room.
* * *
The days that followed were difficult for the household. After Guardian Amanda left Mr. Vladimir took the spatula from his wife and tried to push the gold into the bag that it had come in. The harder that he pushed, the gooier the spatula became as it melted. Raisa had to open the windows to air out the smell of burnt plastic.
Mrs. Vladimir even tried by taking a trowel from the garden to push the gold into the bag. Raisa held open the bag for her mother, but the moment the trowel touched the family’s shame it rusted away. Raisa and her mother ran into the yard coughing from the smell of the rusting iron. Mr. Vladimir entered the kitchen and saw the rusted trowel; shook his head, and went down to his basement office.
Raisa’s mother brought food for him down there for three days until he told her he was retiring. After that, he was forced to leave the basement to find his own food since it was obvious she was not going to get her new bathroom, and it infuriated her even more that she now had a ruined kitchen.
Raisa began to feel sorry for her parents, so she tried using the bag itself to scoop the corrosive metal from the counter. She placed the opening of the bag over the gold and tried to slide it into the bag. She found that she could not move the gold. It was like it was glued to the counter. Raisa’s brother, on the other hand, sat at the kitchen table with a sandwich.
“Rai, I don’t know why you are trying to help. Magic only seems to get dad into trouble.” He pushed his shaggy hair under his hat.
“You don’t have to listen to Mom screaming all day about how Dad ruins everything,” Raisa said.
“Please, that isn’t anything new. It’s better than hearing her talk about you finding a husband. Just be glad they don’t know how to use the internet yet. Knowing Dad, he would find us mates online or something.”
“God, do you have to bring that up? Mom tried to get me to marry my best friend, Damian, again last week. She is under the impression from Dad that he could get a herd of goats somehow.”
Raisa threw the bag over the gold and stormed out the room. After that, no one moved the bag from that spot, since it hid the gold from their mother’s view.
Finally, excitement filled the house on the day of the twins’ birthday. Raisa could see her father’s spirits lift as he sat at the kitchen table. They were having a summer’s breakfast when a letter burst into flame above the table and floated into Raisa’s hands. It stated that she had been accepted into Hecate’s Academy of Magical Arts and Sciences. Her father snatched the letter out of her hand so that he could scan it.
“Where is brother’s letter? It only talks about daughter,” Raisa’s father asked her mother.
“I no talk of witch stuff,” her mother stated as she looked over at the counter.
“Is supposed to come when boy turns 18. He come out first, so he should have letter. Son, where is letter?” the father asked.
Raisa looked at her brother. He grabbed the letter out of his father’s hands. His eyes glazed over as he looked at Raisa’s letter. His hands began to shake as he balled up the letter and threw it at their father before he stormed out of the room.
“Dad, he isn’t a witch,” Raisa stated.
Her father’s face fell, “Son is no vitch?” He looked to his wife, “Is your family fault!”
“My family fault? I not the one dealing with demons!” her mother screamed before throwing an apple at him.
“Retard son is your fault. I tell my mother you is no good wife. Now look, I no get witch son,” Raisa’s father yelled back as he ducked the flying apple.
Raisa walked out the room and saw her brother sitting on the steps of the house. She opened the door and joined him. He looked over at her; she saw that he had been crying.
“Raisa, its dad’s fault right? There is nothing wrong with me?” he asked.
“I think you got off lucky. They can’t expect you to be anything but yourself now.”
“I don’t know why you aren’t a witch. It just happens sometimes, but there is nothing wrong with you other than our gene pool.”
“Your right I guess, but it doesn’t matter Rai, ‘cause I am leaving. I can’t stay here and listen to them call me a ‘retard’ because I am not a witch.” She hugged him as he finished.
“Where will you go?”
“Well I applied to a few mortal colleges. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a witch after growing up in this house.”
Raisa hugged her brother again before she went into the house. She walked up stairs and into her room. She picked up the phone and began to dial her best friend when she realized that she couldn’t. He was not supposed to know that she was a witch; it was part of another magical rule: The Code of Secrecy. That is when Raisa realized that her father just took away her best friend and brother in one stroke of stupidity. As she ran down the stairs, Raisa realized that everything had changed for the worse. Touching the front door, she wanted to ensure her father wouldn’t make another magical mistake that could further ruin her family.