Tiger Lily Cover Blurb

This is the final sketch of the Tiger Lily cover. As usual, Anna Dittmann has done an amazing job.

 

Here is the final cover blurb. The release date for Tiger Lily will be announced soon!

 

When the Siren calls, the wind will follow … and there will always be blood! (Atlantean Proverb)

 

The Atlanteans have co-existed with humans for centuries, but it’s a shaky truce. Dante Dubonnetti, holds his crown precariously with the help of three Siren sisters. With his enemies closing in, and two sisters still unaccounted for, the stakes couldn’t be higher…

 

***

 

LILIAN GALE is like no one else she knows. After fighting to survive, and with nothing but a pair of drumsticks, she escapes London for the sun-kissed dream of California. Pretty soon she falls in with a crew of surfers who aren’t quite what they seem.

 

Under the wing of their sexy, laid-back leader, LANCE McCABE, she pieces together who she is. Slowly but surely, she learns to trust. But he is hiding a terrible secret.

 

At her lowest ebb, a mysterious stranger makes her a once-in-a-lifetime proposition. A seductive man with a heady mix of sinful good looks and even darker magic, he is ready to not only protect her, but satisfy her every desire.

 

Sucked into the Atlantean world where fate decides lovers, magic enters dreams, and a mere kiss can affect her whole future, Lily is trapped in a gilded cage. Even after a daring escape, she finds herself more deeply embroiled than ever before. It’s time to decide where her true love and loyalties lie.

 

But with a kingdom at stake, and a prophecy of spilled blood, does she really have a choice?

 

Hell, yeah! She’s a 21st Century Siren … and never follows the rules!

 

TIGER LILY is Book 4 in the 21st Century Sirens Series.

 

Young Atlanteans – Two Tribes – Part 7

Stephen James is JJ

In a flat in Camberwell, London, UK

 

JJ cracked his eyes open. For the first time the pain didn’t feel like an axe slicing through the side of his head.

 

He remained still for a few moments just to make sure. Then he moved his fingers and then his toes. No numbness, no pain, everything seemed in working order.

 

Now for the real test.

 

Bracing himself for the tidal wave of nausea, he lifted his head slowly from the pillow until he was looking at his toes. He moved onto his elbows.

 

After the initial wave of dizziness the world stilled and there was still no pain.

 

It had passed.

 

The curse of his entire life was over. The severe pain that plagued him for days whenever he lost his temper and used his telekinetic powers.

 

Gaining confidence, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and slowly sat up. He took a minute to let his head adjust to the change of angle.

 

Something rattled in the next room. Someone was home.

 

JJ stood slowly and lurched for a second, grabbing hold of the bedpost. His legs were like jelly and he was as weak as tissue paper. God knew how long he’d been out for. Could have been days.

 

After a moment, he walked unsteadily to the door, opened it quietly and peered outside. He wasn’t sure who was home and whether he could handle talking to them.

 

Just then, Rianna walked from the kitchen and pulled up sharp. “JJ! … You’re awake.”

 

He smiled a little at making her jump. “Sorry … how long have I been out?”

 

“Two days.”

 

Not bad. He popped his eyebrows. It had been as long as a week before when he’d really lost it.

 

“I’ll make you a hot sweet tea,” Rianna said, turning back towards the kitchen. “You must be dehydrated.”

 

JJ followed her. “Where is everyone?” He had no idea what time or day it was.

 

Rianna looked up at the plastic wall clock. It said 4 o’clock. “They should be home from school soon.”

 

She pored two cups of tea. “Come and sit down. You look a bit shaky on your feet. Then you can tell me all about it.”

 

JJ sighed and followed her into the living room. Memories were coming back to him thick and fast. Filling him with a progressive sinking feeling that he was not going to escape a grilling.

 

They both sat down in the living room, he on an armchair and she on the sofa.

 

“We’ve got about fifteen minutes before the kids get back. I wanted to thank you privately for what you did.”

 

His eyebrows popped again. It wasn’t what he was expecting. He smiled wanly. “Didn’t really think much about it.”

 

“Doesn’t matter. You were brave. It wasn’t your battle and you bought me some time. Can’t thank you enough.”

 

He put up a hand to stop her. “Please … it’s OK.” A wave of hopelessness washed over him. It wasn’t OK, although not in the way she was thinking.

 

“What is it, JJ,” she said softly. “Look, you don’t have to tell me, but it helps sometimes, you know.”

 

JJ took a deep breath and looked into her eyes. She was looking at him so kindly, but she had no idea. There wasn’t a whole lot she could do. Shit, there wasn’t anything anyone could do. Nevertheless, he felt he could trust her. “How do you know my dads?” he asked, looking up through his eyebrows.

 

A smile instantly transformed her face. “Oh yeah. I know both your dads from years ago.” She leaned back into the sofa with a sigh. “A pair of real heartbreakers. I used to work in a small club in Soho. We all adored your dads – particularly Jay. He kinda looked out for us all. He lived close by,” she tacked on slightly embarrassed.

 

JJ wasn’t stupid. He knew where his dad’s hotel was, and what the bars were like around it.

 

“They were well known on the club circuit – real celebrities. But we always knew there was something different about them … something ….”

 

JJ remained still and looked her dead in the eye. “Something what?” he sad flatly.

 

Rianna sighed deeply. “We were never sure exactly. But you kids have it,” she said, nodding. “I knew straight away.”

 

He held her gaze for a long moment, then looked around him. “How come we’re here … now?”

 

“Dante contacted me last year.”

 

JJ frowned. Last year was way before they ever got expelled.

 

Rianna read the confusion on his face. “Jay looked out for us, but Dante … well, we had a bit of a thing back in the day.”

 

His eyes widened in shock. It was the last possible thing he expected her to say.

 

She held up her hands. “Nothing serious, I promise. And it didn’t go on for more than a few months. You couldn’t even count it as a relationship. – Just when he was in town. That type of thing,” she rambled, assuming he disapproved.

 

JJ shrugged it off. It was a surprise, yes, but it was none of his business really. Knowing what he and Xavier were like, he guessed his fathers weren’t much different when they were younger.

 

“He kind of kept in touch ever since.”

 

He studied her face and felt quite sorry for her. She was backpedaling in the hope she hadn’t offended him. The truth was, he seriously doubted whether Dante had gone behind his mother’s back.

 

Rianna seemed to read his mind. “No, nothing like that. There was only one woman on both your dads’ minds. We all knew that.”

 

He guessed by the wry smile, that she wasn’t the only person his dads had had flings with. It must have been hard for her or anyone else knowing his mother was with both men at different times. They would never understand what had happened. That it wasn’t his mother’s fault. Costing her dearly with a lot of heartache. And he wasn’t about to discuss it with a stranger.

 

Rianna did seem like a really nice woman, and didn’t push it any further. “Thanks for taking us in,” he said eventually.

 

She smiled in relief that he wasn’t angry with her. “No problem honey. I was glad to be able to give something back to your dads for everything they’ve done for me over the years.”

 

JJ stared at her again. He wanted to scan her brain to find out exactly what his dads had done for her, and how much she actually knew about his race, but decided against it. The process could be painful for the subject, and he couldn’t risk sparking off his migraine again. He opted for the old fashioned way. “Did they ever … you know, explain anything to you?” he said, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees.

 

Rianna looked him steadily in the eye. “They didn’t need to, honey. I saw things no one could explain.” She continued to look at him with meaning.

 

JJ studied her intently. He could see what Dante had seen in her. She was making this whole thing a lot easier for him. “What about the others … Dwayne, Patrick and … ?“ he said, letting his voice trail off.

 

“Latitia?” she finished for him. Then she shook her head. “No honey, but I’m gonna trust that you know they are my babies, and I want them to be safe … you understand?”

 

He nodded thoughtfully. He knew exactly why his dads trusted this woman. “Of course.” It was a bargain on a need to know basis, and he accepted that.

 

Just then, the front door rattled and opened with the crunch of keys. With the sudden barrage of noise and voices, their little heart to heart was at an end.

***

 

The kids blustered in waking the little ones who’d been napping. Soon the small flat was full of people with the volume switched up to maximum.

 

JJ smiled to himself. He kind of liked it.

 

It didn’t take long for them to realize his bed was empty and pile in to the living room where he was still sitting. Patrick and Dwayne marched straight in and loomed over him.

 

JJ didn’t move a muscle – although he was ready for any trouble. He looked up at them through his eyebrows and waited.

 

Patrick just nodded and put out his hand. “Dunno what crazy-assed shit you pulled, mate, but I’m glad you’re on our side.”

 

JJ held out his hand slowly and they shook. Then his eyes tracked to Dwayne. Patrick nudged him, and he nodded once in agreement but didn’t say a word.

 

JJ nodded back. It was an unspoken truce and they weren’t giving him the third degree. He was grateful for that. Rianna’s voice rose over the din from the kitchen, and their attention was soon on something else.

 

JJ’s eyes found Xavier who rolled his. He instantly understood. Xavier too had powers, but kept his firmly under wraps. It always looked like JJ was bragging or showing off, but that was never why he acted out. Xavier was about the only person who knew and understood why. His best guess was that he had the hump as he had no intension of hanging around there and didn’t want JJ getting too comfortable.

 

And lastly, there was Latitia. She was standing just inside the room looking on quietly. The look in her eyes said it all: Pity. How he hated that.

 

Thinking she somehow had a right to put her two pence worth in, she walked over and stood right in front of him. “Got a minute?”

 

He almost laughed, and frowned up at her. “Why?”

 

“I’d like to talk to you in private.”

 

“You’re alright,” he said, blinking slowly and looking away. It was brutal shutting her down like that, but there was no way he would go there now. She knew too much about him already. He felt exposed and he didn’t like it. Rather she hated him than this … soppy compassion shit that was coming off her in waves.

 

“So you’re … you know, OK?” she stammered, shifting her weight uncomfortably.

 

JJ nodded without looking at her. The ‘pissed off ‘ look he wore was more about how he was hurting her than being impatient with her – which he was sure she thought.

 

“Asshole,” she said under her breath, as she turned on her heel and stomped from the room.

 

Mission accomplished. He laughed on an exhale with no real mirth. Equilibrium was restored with her at arms length. There was no point in letting anyone close enough to get burned, because when he went down they most definitely would.

***

 

Later that evening, JJ managed to get a minute alone with Xavier in the bedroom. “What have I missed?” he asked, flopping down into his bunk..

 

Xavier climbed the ladder and moved onto his own with a creak. “Not a lot. Alexia is getting too close to that Dwayne. She sloped off to lunch with him yesterday.”

 

JJ sighed and absorbed the information. He weighed up all the angles and the pros and cons. It probably wasn’t a good idea for her to get close to anyone, any more than it was for him. But there was no doubt Xavier was too protective of her. If he didn’t start letting her breathe they could have more to worry about than Dwayne. “I think Dwayne’s OK,” he said, thinking aloud.

 

“He can’t keep her safe,” Xavier spat, leaning over the side of the bunk to glare at him.

 

“You gotta let her have a life, Xav. She’ll only fight you … surely better the devil you know,” he finished wearily.

 

Xavier relaxed back down in his bed and was silent. It went on for so long that JJ thought he was actually considering what he’d said.

 

“No one’s coming for us, JJ,” he said.

 

JJ didn’t answer right away. So the penny had finally dropped – that they were completely alone there. It made sense then, why he was holding on to Alexia even more tightly. “I know,” he said, eventually. The conversation he’d just had with Rianna went through his mind again. The way he’d cut off Latitia.

 

He closed his eyes suddenly hating himself. “This is our life now, Xav. Gotta get used to it.”

 

“It’s OK for you. You’re blue-eyed boy with Rianna and you’ve already got your feet under the table with Latitia.”

 

JJ let out a blast of air. “Noooo, not going there.”

 

Thankfully, Xavier didn’t answer. He knew him well enough to know something had changed and didn’t push it.

 

“Come on … there must be someone you have your eye on?” JJ said, putting his forearm across his eyes. Xavier was quieter and more serious out of the two of them, but he was a good looking kid and got just as many girls interested in him as he did.

 

The silence that followed piqued his interest, and he dropped the arm from his eyes. “Well?”

 

“There is this one girl.”

 

JJ smiled. He’d kept that quiet. “Who?”

 

“I don’t know her name. I managed to knock her dinner all down her yesterday,” Xavier said, not able to keep the laughter out of his voice.

 

JJ grinned. “Nice … made sure you’re on the radar then.”

 

They both laughed just like when they were kids getting into trouble over something.

 

“Guess she wont forget me.”

 

JJ stopped laughing. “Make the most of it, Xav,” he said quietly to himself. Latitia came to mind again. He squashed it instantly, not sure why she was bugging him.

 

“Yeah,” Xavier said, “Keep your bloody hands off, JJ.”

 

He laughed. “Get a move on then Bro … I’m getting bored.” He wasn’t sure what made him say that – probably because it was their usual MO. But in reality he had no real desire to steal Xavier’s girl.

 

He felt Xavier shuffle in the bed moodily. “She’s mine.”

 

It gave JJ pause for thought. Xavier must like this one.

 

Let the games begin …

***

Copyright T Stedman 2017

 

Young Atlanteans – Two Tribes – Part 6

young atlanteans

PaigeKim Noorda by Sarah Maingot is Paige

 

Xavier found himself alone at the table with Latitia. She really was hot. He totally got what JJ saw in her. It even crossed his mind to go for her himself, but that would be repeating history. It had been a pattern between him and his brother since they’d become old enough to care. But she wasn’t really his type – not really. And he didn’t plan on hanging around long enough at this school for his usual fights with JJ. Then Again … it was their ticket out of the last school.

“Will JJ be Okay?” Latitia asked, interrupting his thoughts.

Xavier looked at her with heavy lidded eyes and could hardly bother to reply. She was hooked already. “He’ll be fine,” he said on a bored exhale.

Latitia narrowed her eyes. “What’s the deal with you two?”

“Don’t worry about it … we’ll be out of your hair soon.” He wasn’t being particularly friendly, but it was easier than going into the whys and wherefores of who and what they were.

“We’re not stupid you know,” she said getting angry.

Girls like her were used to boys crawling all over her. Xavier just smiled and searched her face. “Aren’t you?” he said with a chuff of laughter. “And yet we’ve been here all of forty eight hours and JJ has you in the palm of his hand already.” He finished laughing as her face changed to outrage. It didn’t hurt to hamper JJ’s progress a little. But he wasn’t under any illusions. One or the other would have her; it was just a matter of time.

“You prick!” she growled furiously.

It any made him laugh harder.

At that point her brother Patrick came back from the counter with a tray of food and sat opposite him. Xavier smirked at Latitia, deciding to leave her alone a bit. It was boring tormenting her any way and his eyes strayed to the rest of the room.

The dinner hall was now full. Alexia had been a long time. “Was Alexia with you in the dinner queue?” Xavier said, suddenly sitting up straight alert in his chair.

His eyes went to Latita who was now smirking. “Well posh boy,” she said, her eyes glittering. “Looks like Dwayne and JJ are peas in a pod,” and widened her eyes in mock fright.

Xavier seethed. He hated that she was right. While he’d been busy tormenting her, Dwayne had used the opportunity to get Alexia away from him.

“Where has she gone?” he demanded, looking daggers at Patrick.

He just shrugged. “Dunno … probably gone down the High Street.” And he continued as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Well not in his world. Xavier’s brain raced. She was away from him, god knows where, with only a Human to protect her. He seethed again that his father could have done this to them.

“Whatsup?” Latitia said, clearly enjoying herself. “’fraid Dwayne ‘ll get his grubby palms on her?”

“Latitia!” Patrick said, with a look of apology directed at Xavier.

Latitia just smirked back into her chair satisfied that nothing more needed to be said.

“She’ll be fine. He’ll look after her.” Patrick said, looking him directly in the eye in all seriousness.

Xavier acknowledged him with a small nod, but he wasn’t happy at all.

Patrick finished eating and pushed his tray aside. “You know it would help us if we kind of knew what we were dealing with?”

Xavier studied the boy for a long moment. He was sincere enough, and probably a good kid. But he couldn’t handle the truth – not yet anyway. “Like what?” he said lightly, looking around him, knowing his avoidance would piss the boy off.

“Well for starters, you’re obviously not from round here?” Patrick said.

Xavier narrowed his eyes. “We’re not.”

“Where you from?”

Patrick was trying to be as up beat as he could to put him at ease, but Xavier was not comfortable with where the conversation would inevitably go. “Ireland.”

“Aaand!”

Xavier didn’t answer. Just gave him a blank look.

“Look … you’re living with us. You’ve obviously got a few bob – if the presents from your dad are anything to go by, and what was last night all about?”

Aaand there it was … Xavier sighed deeply. It was bloody typical that this shit was left down to him. Just as he was about to fall into the practiced spiel about JJ’s migraines when Patrick cut across him;

“Before you say a load of bollocks, lets cut the crap, okay? We all saw JJ did something to that bloke – don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful. Don’t you think it would be fairer, and safer to let us in on it a bit?”

Xavier laughed and wearily shook his head. He actually liked this kid – and he didn’t take to people that easily. “What ever you think it is, you’re wrong, okay.” He sighed worn out. “You have no idea what you’re dealing with.”

He flashed a warning look at Latitia. “You have nothing to fear as long as you don’t piss us off.”

“Who, JJ you mean?” Patrick said.

“Any of us.” Xavier directed his look straight at Latitia so she got the point – hoping she would join the dots.

Latitia narrowed her eyes. “Dwayne,” she said, more to herself.

Xavier raised his eyebrows in surprise. “She’s cleverer than she looks.”

With impeccable timing, Dwayne and Alexia walked back into the dinner hall. Xavier checked his watch just as the bell rang. They’d been out for the whole of lunch. Where the hell have you been? He projected after standing up and roughly grabbing her wrist.

OW! Out to lunch, she glared back at him.

They glared at each other inches apart.

You went off on your own to the middle of god knows where. Have you taken leave off your senses?

It’s okay, Xav, I was with Dwayne. And she raised her arm showing she still held onto Dwayne’s hand.

He laughed out loud at the ludicrousness of the situation.

The other three were watching them closely with their mouths open.

“You all saw that, right?” Patrick said, to his brother and sister.

Latitia and Dwayne both nodded.

Xavier sagged. Shit! In his anger he had just had a telepathic conversation so obvious that the three Johnsons, who were already majorly suspicious, had clearly seen and worked it out.

The second bell sounded saving him. He tutted loudly and yanked her away from them by the wrist he still held. Nice one, Alexia!

What did I do? She whined.

Xavier took a quick glance over his shoulder to see the three gob smacked Johnsons standing shoulder to shoulder watching them go. They needed to get out of there.

“Oops!”

Not paying any attention to where he was going, he slammed straight into a girl. Not just any girl, but the one that stuck in his memory from yesterday.

Her tray with dirty plates and cups clattered to the floor. Alexia tutted and took the opportunity to skulk off. Deciding to let her go, he bent down and helped the girl pick up the pieces.

She looked him straight in the eyes then. They were big and blue and honest, but something in them told him she was sad – no more than that, dissatisfied, determined and strong. Never had he had such a powerful impression from a human before, not with only the slightest touch.

Picking up the last broken piece, he made sure his finger touched hers. Yes, it confirmed in one second everything he’d just thought.

She snatched her hand away from his as if she’d got a static shock from him. Then she looked embarrassed. Her peachy clear pale face went a rose pink, and looked beautiful against the blond of her hair tied back in a neat ponytail. She wore no make up at all, he noticed. She didn’t need it. “I’m sorry,” he said, his voice gone suddenly croaky.

They slowly stood and he put the piece of cutlery in his hand on her tray.

 

As soon as he spoke, Paige felt her cheeks go red again. This close he was the most beautiful boy she had ever seen. Like model beautiful times a hundred. Those green eyes that were so green they didn’t look real. Soft black curls of hair reaching his shoulder. Literally no one wore their hair like that – not around here any way. And his uniform, up close, she could see it was the right colour – navy blue like everyone else’s, but the cut, the material, and the buttons, to a girl whose mum moonlighted as a seamstress, made it clear they were hand made. The boy looked like he walked out of the pages of vogue or something. And she knew, she bought it whenever she could just to see how the other half lived.

And when he spoke, he voice was raspy and so well spoken she almost swooned.

“That’s okay,” she heard herself saying after way too long. Then felt idiotic when she flushed red again.

“Here,” he said, passing her what looked like a real square hanky.

A little confused at first, she realised to her horror, when he pointed at the front of her cream coloured top, a trail of ketchup all down the front of it.

She nearly died a thousand deaths; she was so embarrassed in front of this demi-god, vision of beauty. It didn’t matter that it was his fault that it had happened in the first place, all she could think about was that he could see her like this, and needed to get away from him as fast as she could.

Instead of taking his hanky, she side-stepped around him and slammed her tray down on a table. Then ran out of the room, barely containing her tears before she escaped the burn of his eyes in her back.

Copyright T Stedman 2016

 

 

 

 

Young Atlanteans – Two Tribes – Part 5

young atlanteans

DwayneDwayne (Model Unknown)

Young Atlanteans – Two Tribes – Part 5

 

Alexia and Xavier went to school with the others the next day. JJ was still out for the count, so they left him. Xavier explained to Riana it was normal and she arranged for a day off, just in case.

 

The completely new world left Alexia feeling bewildered and following Xavier from class to class in a daze. The previous night’s events proved they weren’t getting out of there any time soon.

 

Every time her eyes strayed from her books, Dwayne was watching her closely. The heat of his gaze made her feel uncomfortable. To make matters worse, she couldn’t be sure any longer whether he liked her or wanted to probe her about JJ.

 

The morning passed agonizingly slowly, until it was lunchtime at last. The five of them sat down at one end of a trestle table in the school cafeteria. After five minutes of silence, Dwayne stood up scraping his chair. “I’m getting some food, anyone want anything?” But his eyes were directly on Alexia when he said it.

 

Xavier’s eyes burned on her in a silent warning, making her face heat in anger. There was no way she was letting him play dad with her here, her life was bad enough. “I’ll come with you,” she said standing up, flashing Xavier an angry look. Xavier’s eyes narrowed back at her. She didn’t need skin contact to know he meant to have the chat with her when they were alone. But she’d heard it all before and it was boring.

 

Leaving Xavier with a final glare, her stomach fluttered when Dwayne gently touched the small of her back to guide her towards the food counter. As they neared, Dwayne leaned down to her ear. “What say we get out of here?”

 

Alexia’s eyes flashed to his in shock. He was smiling wickedly with an adorable dimple in each cheek. After a moment to settle her butterflies she glanced over her shoulder at Xavier. He was saying something to Latitia and still looking moody.

 

“Quick, before he sees!” Dwayne said.

 

She swallowed and gave him a single nod. Dwayne wasted no more time, grabbed her hand and pulled her through the queue to the other exit to the left of the serving counter.

 

“Where are we going?” Alexia said, having to run along next to him to match his long strides.

 

“I know a great little fried chicken place,” he said, at the crossing just outside the school gates.

 

“Oh,” she said, coming to a standstill and frowning up at him. “I can’t eat meat.”

 

His eyes narrowed, then he nodded. “Veggie eh?” … er, let me think …”

 

The beep of the crossing sounded and he pulled her across, forcing her to run again. “Noodle bar?” he said, as they reached the other side.

 

Now they were a little way away from the school he slowed down so she could walk. She shrugged. “I can try them.”

 

Dwayne smiled down at her, as if he was a little puzzled with her answer, but didn’t want to push it. “Well, you don’t know what you’ve been missin’”

 

A smile crept across her face with a warm glow spreading inside her as they looked at each other. This boy made her feel in a way she never had before. He made her feel brave. Here she was away from her brothers on her own for the first time, and she was actually enjoying the freedom of it. Never really analyzing it before, it dawned on her that there were loads of things in the world she’d never tried.

 

For the first time the embers of excitement fired up in her stomach. About living in Camberwell, that dingy flat, being here walking along with a cool boy who looked like something out of a rap video. Instead of being trapped, a feeling of liberation began to creep over her.

 

All too quickly they reached the little noodle shop that was more like a canteen. It was tiny with three trestle tables like the ones they had at school, with a Chinese looking chef and young girl serving. It was quite busy even though it was early lunch and only just after twelve. Sweet spicy unusual smells filled the room and made her stomach growl. She’d skipped breakfast that morning.

 

Dwayne ordered two bowls of a steaming hot soup and they went and sat side by side on the long bench that ran the length of the long table. Looking at the bowl he placed in front of her, all her new bravado disappeared. There she was in a place you could hardly describe as a restaurant, with a strange but hot boy, and something in front of her she had no idea how to eat. Thinking that perhaps she should treat it like spaghetti, she looked around at the other people. They all seemed to be eating something different.

 

Dwayne got up again and went to a small Island at the edge of the room, and came back with a plastic spoon, a lump of wood wrapped in paper and a serviette.

 

Okay … She took it from him gingerly, put the napkin in her lap, and used the spoon to taste some of the clear liquid around the noodles. It was a tiny sip and tasted like nothing she’d ever tried before. It was sweet with an aromatic tanginess that wasn’t unpleasant.

 

Alexia became aware that Dwayne’s eyes were on her the whole time.

 

“Good?” he asked, and smiled. His eyes were soft as if he knew she was sampling something for the first time.

 

She nodded shyly, her lips curling into a small smile. Then watched as he picked up the lump of wood, ripped it from its paper envelope and twisted it in two with a snap. Holding them easily in one hand he plunged them into the mass of noodles and pulled out a bundle. She watched enraptured as he adeptly used the sticks as a pincer, easily picking up clusters of vegetables and noodles and bringing them to his mouth.

 

Dwayne paused when he realized she was watching him. Suddenly embarrassed, she quickly looked down at her own bowl.

 

“You really haven’t eaten noodles before have you?”

 

Alexia looked back at him nervously, but he was smiling. Shaking her head a little and feeling heat flood to her cheeks, she returned to scooping the liquid of her soup in her spoon.

 

“Here,” he said softly, and scooted a little closer to her on the bench. He reached for her sticks and broke them in the same way he’d done before. “These are chop sticks … you’ve never seen them before?”

 

She frowned. “Kind of.” They weren’t like the ones here. One of her aunts had been brought up in Japan and she vaguely remembered seeing her cousins Dannon and Keifer eating with something similar.

 

“Where you been livin’ princess … locked up in a castle or somethin’?

 

He was grinning at her again. She smiled wryly. It wasn’t so far from the truth. The thing was, there wasn’t much call for chopsticks at the palace of Murrtaine where she had spent most of her childhood. Completely submerged in water, everything was different. A pang of longing hit the centre of her chest for her safe and familiar former life. “Something like that.”

 

Dwayne was holding out her chopsticks for her to try.

 

Alexia took them from him with a huff and jabbed them into her pile of noodles. Spiking a huge bundle, she brought it to her mouth and pushed the whole lot in, biting off the ends. “Mmm,” she hummed, unable to close her mouth properly.

 

Dwayne burst out laughing. “Not like that, you nutter.” He reached over and closed his hand around hers, placing the sticks in the correct way between her fingers. She swallowed, acutely aware of his closeness. The now familiar warm feeling vibrated through her from his touch. Her cheeks flamed and her heart hammered. She prayed he couldn’t hear it.

 

“Like this,” he said softly next to her ear, and moving his fingers on hers so the sticks moved like tweezers.

 

It felt as though her insides melted. His voice was like a caress that moved through her body lighting it up all the way down to her toes. Seeming oblivious to the effect he was having, he gently guided her hand to the food, gripped a small amount of the noodles and lifted them from the bowl. “See?”

 

Alexia couldn’t move. His cheek was so close to hers she could feel the warmth of his skin. Afraid to breathe, let alone speak, she wondered if he too was aware of the silence and sudden charged atmosphere. It felt like a moment – one of those on a film when the two teenagers kissed. Her chest was rising and falling in anticipation.

 

Instead, he came to his senses and released her hand, drawing away to resume eating his food. Even with his dark skin she could see the blush in his cheeks.

 

It was confusing. She felt suddenly foolish thinking he would kiss her and fumbled again with her chopsticks. Letting out a long breath to steady her nerves, she arranged them again in her hand like he’d shown her. Then she haltingly managed to get some food into her mouth. Strangely, she felt a real sense of achievement, and forgetting her embarrassment, she couldn’t help grinning to herself.

 

Dwayne was looking at her and smiling again – the previous awkwardness suddenly gone. They then ate their food in companionable silence.

 

When they finished eating, he ordered a couple of cokes and passed her one. “What’s with your brother?”

 

Alexia nearly spat her drink and was suddenly alert again. It was only a matter of time before one of them questioned her about JJ.

 

“He watches over you like a Rottweiler.”

 

She let out a breath and relaxed a little, pushing her finished bowl away from her. Pleasantly surprised he meant Xavier. “He’s a bit protective, that’s all.”

 

“That’s all?” Dwayne laughed, but was studying her.

 

He was confusing, She darted a look at him, aware they were sitting very closely again.

 

“Look, you can trust me okay? he said, his eyes meeting hers. His voice was almost hypnotic in its softness. “We’re kind of brother and sister now.”

 

She searched his face; surprised at the feeling of disappointment in the pit of her stomach. Was that how it was between them – brother and sister?

 

They held each other’s gaze for what seemed like a very long time. His eyes were deep and honest – mahogany brown. This close she could see they had small flecks of fire in the irises. She’d never seen eyes like them. Dark pools a girl could lose herself in.

 

His lips parted slightly while she studied his face, and couldn’t help wondering how the softness would feel pressed on her lips.

 

“Have you got a boyfriend some place?” he asked.

Her heart began to beat at the very forward and not at all brotherly question. She swallowed hard, frowned and shook her head.

 

The beautiful smile he beamed transformed his face. He was so cute she couldn’t help smiling back.

 

Without pushing it, he changed the subject, instantly lightening the atmosphere. “So where you from?”

 

Xavier had ordered her to say nothing, but she figured it was safe to say; “Ireland.”

 

He looked surprised. “You don’t sound Irish?”

 

“Oh, how do I sound then?” she said a little puzzled.

 

“Posh!” he said laughing.

 

She couldn’t help laughing along with him, and he bumped shoulders with her playfully. He really was easy company. It made a real change from the dark intenseness of JJ and stifling protectiveness of Xavier. “We don’t mix much … you know, went to school out of the country.” She averted her eyes before she gave away too much.

 

“And you ended up at Marcus Garvey,” he said, with baffled amusement all over his face. Then he shook his head. “What did you do to deserve that?”

 

Alexia laughed at his mock-horrified expression.

 

“Must have been bad, man.”

 

“We got expelled from our last school,” she said giggling along with him.

 

He laughed loudly then. “What all three of you?”

 

She laughed, nodding. “Well, it was mainly my brothers … I kind of got the blame for making it worse.”

 

He nodded with an amused frown. She could tell he was puzzled but didn’t ask for more details, and she was grateful. Instead, he changed the subject. “Listen, I’m DJing at the youth club at school this Friday night. Wanna come?”

 

She brightened immediately. “My mum is a DJ. We used to play with her decks as kids,” she said animatedly.

 

He was genuinely surprised and looked impressed. “Really … what music she into?”

 

“Oh, she played House Music mainly … before she met my dad. In you know, places like Ibiza and the Ministry.”

 

His eyebrows popped. “Serious?”

 

She nodded.

 

“And she taught you?”

 

“Yes … well I can do it, but not as good as her.”

 

He nodded sagely. “I think I found myself a new partner.” He grinned and bumped her shoulder with his again. “So you’ll come?”

 

Her heart sank suddenly, guessing Xavier’s response.

 

Seeming to read her mind, Dwayne began to stand up and held out his hand to help her. “Don’t worry, we’ll invite the Rottweiler. And if anyone misbehaves, JJ can zap them with his x-ray mind warp shit!”

 

She laughed loudly then, and stood up as well. Her heart fluttered as she nestled her hand in his. He held it all the way back to school and she let him.

 

***

Copyright T Stedman 2016

Young Atlanteans – Two Tribes – Part 4

youngatlaneansJJ tattoedJJ is growing up just like his dad!

 

The four huge vampires sat parked up in the blacked out SUV. They’d been watching the flats. One picked up his phone. “Dante?”

“Keenan … everything okay?”

“Yeah, we’re outside the place now. Two local characters have gone in. What do you want us to do?”

There was silence for a beat. “Watch … do nothing yet. I want them to handle it themselves. I don’t want them to assume we’ll bail them out every time they mess up.”

Keenan wasn’t sure, but Dante was the king. So with a deep sigh, he agreed, and clicked off his phone, throwing it on the top of the dashboard.

Dante had really lost it this time. Keenan was a prince of the Santalini royal family, revered as the special forces of the race. He was also mated to the queen’s sister. They’d been brought up in a place just like this and knew how dangerous it could be. Life was cheap, and spoiled mollycoddled kids like Dante and Jay’s, could be easily crushed like bugs. They were mad leaving them here like this.

“They’ve been a while,” Reeve his guard mate said, interrupting his thoughts.

Keenan nodded absently. Those two low-life’s had debt collector written all over them.

 

 

Latitia watched in horror as the bald one walked forward forcefully, lifting JJ off the floor by the neck, and smacking him against the wall. It all happened so fast.

JJ’s face went red and his hands held the man’s wrist to try to pull him off. His feet were three or four inches off the ground. The other boys all shouted and went to take a step forward, but the bald one held out his other hand and shouted; “Keep back or I’ll snap his neck!”

Everyone was forced to watch as JJ went lip in the man’s grip. The man’s partner smiled smugly as if it was a normal day’s work for him. Xavier watched nervously, and Dwayne and Patrick caught Riana in their arms before she made matters worse.

“Now listen, you little shit. You’re gonna have five hundred quid for me same time every week. You understand?”

Latitia was watching JJ frantically, hoping he’d just agree to end this nightmare, but apart from being red at the lack of air, he seemed relatively relaxed in the guy’s grip. He’d completely stopped fighting.

Then she wasn’t sure what happened exactly. The guy holding him began to shake his head. Then he seemed to stagger forward, loosening his grip enough for JJ to slip down to his feet on the floor. JJ’s face started to return to normal. An awful noise started to come from the man’s throat as if he was in agony.

His friend went to take a step forward. “What the …?”

Xavier moved for the first time and barred his way. He shook his head. “Leave them.”

It all felt so surreal like a dream, as if Xavier knew what was happening, and JJ and the thug were just having a private chat. But that definitely wasn’t the case. JJ hadn’t spoken a word, and still held the man’s forearm while he released his throat and doubled over in the middle. Then holding his arm, the man gently eased down onto the floor until he was laying flat on his back staring up at the ceiling.

Xavier went to JJ’s side and touched him gently on the shoulder. “Enough JJ.”

JJ still hadn’t let go of the arm that held him, and blood began to trickle from the man’s nose, and down the side of his cheek.

Everyone had witnessed something, but none of them were sure what it was.

Riana hitched a breath and covered her mouth with her hand. The guy’s partner looked uncertain and agitated. “What yah done to him?”

“Stop now,” Xavier repeated, quietly.

But JJ appeared fixated on the unconscious body at his feet.

Then from nowhere, Alexia pulled JJ back by his free arm breaking his stare and forcing him to let go. He blinked appearing to wake up from a trance.

The other guy was now looking like a trapped animal, not sure what to do. JJ turned to face him, now breathing as if he’d been running. “Take him! And have the final bill next week.” His voice was cracked and dry, as if it was a strain speaking.

He stooped and struggled to pick his partner up, not allowing his eyes to leave JJ for more than a second, and hefted him over his shoulder with difficulty.

Dwayne held the door while he went out as quickly as he could stagger, and shut it and locked it after him. Latitia slowly put the little one’s down now it was safe.

JJ staggered and held his head. Xavier and Alexia rushed to him and got under each of his arms to take his weight. Before they led him away, JJ looked up and found Latitia’s eyes and held them for a moment. It was a look that held such sadness, like an unspoken apology. And somehow she knew it was for more than witnessing what happened.

Her hand went to her throat as a trickle of blood ran from JJ’s nose.

Riana saw the same thing, and ran to him, grabbing some tissue quickly from the loo. “He’s bleeding. Let’s get him straight to bed. I’ll phone a doctor.”

“It’s okay,” Xavier said. “It’s a migraine. He’ll be okay after he sleeps it off.”

Latitia swapped a look with both her brothers who were following the scene as closely as she was. They raised their eyebrows at each other; none of them sure what they’d just witnessed.

 

Keenan stepped out form the gloomy stairwell into the path of the two men he’d seen going into the flat. Except this time, one was carrying the heavy weight of the other one in a fireman’s carry. “Need a hand, mate?”

He stopped in front of Keenan abruptly.

After a darting look he cast his eyes down to avoid conflict, and went to step around him. “Nah, it’s alright.”

Reeve stepped out from a doorway blocking his way again.

The bloke sagged knowing he wasn’t getting out of this easily. He slowly let his partner down till he was lying on the floor at his feet. “What do you want?” His eyes were flat, waiting for the inevitable violence.

“Your pal don’t look so good,” Keenan said, flashing a look Reeve’s way. He understood, and bent down to put two fingers to the side of the unconscious man’s neck. He nodded. “He’s alive.”

Keenan put his attention back on the man in front of him. There was no point in wasting time asking what they were doing at the flat; he’d seen his type a hundred times. It was however, intriguing how a woman and a bunch of kids managed to incapacitate a grown man built like a doorman. “What happened to your friend?”

“Walked into a door.”

Keenan didn’t miss him tensing and ready to fight. He could smell the spike of adrenalin and his fear. He smiled and took a step into the guy’s space to intimidate him. At almost a foot taller it wasn’t hard. The blood that washed over his eyes and flash of elongated fang made his eyes widen and any bravado disappear.

The bloke visibly recoiled. “Look, I dunno what happened. There was a kid up there. One minute Steve ‘ad ‘im by the throat, the next he doubled over like he’d snuffed it. That was it … no one done nothin’”

Keenan frowned slightly. “Which kid?”

“I dunno … some blond posh kid.”

Keenan was beginning to lose patience. “And that’s it?”

“Look, what do you want?” the bloke said, mirroring his impatience.

Keenan answered by taking another step closer. “You don’t go back there, okay?” he said in his most quiet and reasonable voice.

The bloke was already shaking his head. “Look it’s not up to me, mate. They owe money.”

Keenan relaxed his stance slightly. The bloke was shitting himself more about the consequences of not going back than he was of him. He was just the messenger and if he didn’t go, someone else would be sent anyway. It was better to deal with someone he knew.

“Did she pay today?” Keenan asked.

The bloke looked uncomfortable. “The kids paid.”

“How much?”

“Five hundred quid.”

Keenan quirked an eyebrow at the amount of cash the kids had on them. “How was it left … apart from the obvious,” he said, bobbing his head at the body at his feet.

“Steve told ‘em we’d collect the same amount next week. The kid said to come back the once for what they owed. That was when it kicked off.”

Keenan exhaled loudly. The boy was so like his dad; it was untrue. He narrowed his eyes on the bloke. “This is what you will do. When you come next time, you’ll come alone, and you’ll come here but you won’t go to that flat … are we clear?”

The bloke frowned. “Yeah, but what about the money … how will I find ya?”

“I’ll be around. Don’t worry ‘bout a thing.” Then he let a swirl of blood into his eyes as a reminder. “You’ll get the money from me. But don’t get greedy.”

The bloke went to stoop to pick up his partner, but Keenan reached out a hand to stop him. “And you won’t say what happened up there … just make something up,” Keenan finished with a polite smile.

The bloke frowned slightly as if to say he didn’t much know what went on anyway, but nodded.

Reeve helped him put his partner back across his shoulders. With a furtive last look, the bloke couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Keenan watched him leave while he put his phone to his ear.

 

Xavier helped Riana put JJ to bed with a cold compress on his forehead and a bucket next to him in case he was sick. They drew the curtains and left him in peace and went back out to the hallway. The others had gone.

“Will he be okay?” Riana whispered.

Xavier nodded. “He’ll just sleep now.”

Riana still looked concerned. “I won’t pretend to know what just happened, but I’m grateful, okay … to both of you.”

Xavier smiled wanly without answering. The least said the better. He walked into the living room where everyone was sat in stunned silence. Even the little ones were subdued and looking at everyone to gauge whether they should still be scared. Dwayne was holding a cold flannel to his eye and cheekbone.

He walked in awkwardly and sat on the sofa next to Alexia. “I want to go home,” she whispered.

Xavier just patted her leg. He didn’t want to upset her with his disturbing realization that they really were on their own here. No cavalry was going to gallop in and save them. Their father’s message had come through loud and clear; they had to grow up.

The embarrassing silence seemed to go on forever – even when Riana brought them all a cup of hot sweet tea for the shock.

“Is someone gonna address the elephant in the room?’ Patrick said, in amazement.

“Dwayne!” Riana said, flashing him an angry look.

He frowned like he couldn’t believe no one else was asking the same thing. “In case you didn’t just see what I saw, but a bloke the size of a brick shit house just keeled over in our hall, with just a look from the boy wonder in there.”

“We all saw, Patrick,” Riana said in her strict parenting voice trying to shut him up.

“JJ done something to him … we all saw it,” he persisted.

Xavier felt Alexia look at him fearfully. All the children of sirens had strong telekinetic abilities; partly due to genetics, and partly because they were brought up closely with the Murrs – the purest family of their race.

But JJ was an anomaly. With the weakest bloodline, as his father was human, he seemed to have the most developed mental abilities out of all the offspring, and had them since he was really small. No one could ever get in his head if he didn’t want them there, and he could easily control things around him. The problem was that his gift came at a price. Whenever he used it aggressively, as he’d done today, he always suffered a terrible backlash effect. Normally in the form of a debilitating migraine, it could put him out of action for days. “You’ve got a vivid imagination, Patrick,” Xavier said. “The guy must have had a stroke or a heart attack.”

Dwayne looked exasperated. “But we all saw …” He looked around at the others for backup.

“Leave it Dwayne,” Latitia said, coming to Xavier’s rescue.

But the look she gave him told him she didn’t believe him for a second. Without saying anything else, she got up and left the room.

 

Latitia closed the door to the living room and padded over to the room the boys shared. Quietly opening and peering inside, it was quiet and almost dark – Just a blue gloomy light coming in through the curtains, as it was still light outside. Holding her breath, she crept in and closed the door. Then she tiptoed to the bed next to the window and could just about make out JJ’s still form, lying on his back with a blanket over him.

She knelt down next to him. He was fast asleep but still frowning as if in pain. The compress had slipped off and lay on the pillow next to him, so she folded it into a nice oblong and put it back across his forehead.

His arms were outside of his blanket resting by his sides. A golden bangle about an inch wide circled his wrist. It was the first time she’d noticed it. It fit so snugly she wondered how he ever got it on and off.

“Who are you?” she whispered.

But his chest continued to rise and fall peacefully. In fact he seemed a lot more comfortable than when she first came in.

He’d confused her and intrigued her from the moment she clapped eyes on him. A good looking teenager who appeared confident and wealthy, but underneath he was harbouring some tragic secret. She saw it in his eyes tonight. There and then she made up her mind that she had to get to the bottom of who he was. He’d proved tonight that he was most definitely not an average boy.

 

Young Atlanteans – Copyright T Stedman 2016

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