Author Archives: Niki Savage

The joys of sleeping on a recliner

Some of the best naps I’ve enjoyed have been on a recliner, specifically the one I normally use when I write. A few years ago, after the second operation on my right knee, my orthopaedic surgeon suggested to me that sitting at a desk with my knees bent at ninety degrees might not be the best option for me. Being a writer, which normally would involve sitting at a desk, I thought about this for a while, and came up with a great solution, which resulted in me buying my first recliner. Of course I wasn’t trying to write while in a reclined position. What I was really interested in was the front part of the recliner that elevated my feet, which kept my knees in a slightly flexed position, just as my doctor suggested.

I also bought one of those laptop stands with the cooling fans built in, so that I could rest my laptop on my thighs. And that’s how I’ve been writing the past couple of years. Of course the best benefit of writing like that, is that even with the backrest of the recliner in the upright position, it’s really comfortable. This can present a problem at times, because sometimes, when I’m really thinking deeply about what’s going to happen next, and I get into a bit of a dreamy state, I drop off to sleep.

The advantage of that is that it allows my subconscious to come to the rescue and supply me with the next part of the story, and it’s really great when that happens. If not, I’ve lost an hour or two of the day, oops. I think that part of the reason why I fall asleep is that I’m constantly running in the red when it comes to sleep, so any time I get too comfortable I run the risk of dropping off.

Why am I running in the red, you might ask. Well, to summarize, somewhere around the age of thirty five I developed a fear of sleeping. That was when, for some inexplicable reason, I started waking up at three in the morning, in the middle of a fight or flight reaction. Medically it’s called a panic attack, or an anxiety attack, but basically it’s the result of a massive release of adrenalin while asleep, and boy is that a nasty way to wake up. You’re filled with intense fear, except that there nothing there to be afraid of, your heart is hammering, you’re hyperventilating and shivering and consumed with an insane desire to go outside and just run. From what? There’s nothing there. But try telling your body that.

Of course all medical technology could offer was sedation, which didn’t work, mainly because I found that while it could dull your senses, it didn’t take care of the panic, and I hated not being in control, so I gave that up after a short while.

Sleeping became a problem, but by resisting my body’s desire to sleep, I inadvertently stumbled onto the solution. By going to bed at three in the morning, I avoided the panic attack and normally slept through until eight, by which time the house was normally so noisy that it was difficult for me to continue sleeping. So that’s five hours at least. Certainly better than nothing, but an hour in the afternoon is often irresistible.

And what do I normally do until three in the morning? I watch TV, read, work on my latest manuscript, or just wander around the house. Being a bit of an introvert (more than just a bit), I’ve grown to relish the silence in the house while my family is sleeping, and quite frankly, after ten years it has become a habit.

But let’s get back to the fact that I’ve had some of my best naps on a recliner. Just an update to my post, “Disappointed“, I did finally have my knee operation on February 18, when all my blood levels were back to normal. I then had to wait a few months for my knee to heal before I could have my shoulder fixed up. And all that from one misstep off a ladder? Freakin’ unbelievable. Anyway, before I went to hospital on May 28 for the operation on my left shoulder, I wondered to myself how I would sleep for the six weeks that my arm would be in a sling. And then I remembered about my recliner, and how it would probably be a great idea to sleep on my back in a slightly raised position.

My mind made up, a few days before my operation I bought a new recliner for my bedroom. Of course my kitties all had to test drive it first, but when they realized that I was giving them my bed, with the electric blanket permanently switched on, they decided I could have my recliner.

We got here first!

We got here first!

And wow, I wish I had realized before how comfortable this would be. I used to wake up in the morning feeling as if I was broken, mainly due to five heavy kitties piling onto me the minute I got horizontal, twisting my body into all kinds of unnatural positions. Just try to imagine having traction that’s pulling in five different directions all at the same time.

I found there are two advantages to sleeping on a recliner. Firstly I’m held in position very securely, so no chance of turning onto my side by accident and hurting my shoulder. And because I’m sleeping on my back, no sleep wrinkles from mashing my face into a pillow. What a bonus, I look younger already. ;) I’m seriously considering continuing to sleep this way even once my shoulder is healed, which could take a while. Even though I can stop using the sling in about two weeks time, I’m still looking at a few months of physiotherapy before this arm will be anything close to fully functional.

But I know the burning question here is whether I’m able to work on the next Blackstone book while my shoulder is healing. Well, for the first two weeks after the operation my left arm was completely out of action, and I spent my time watching TV and listening to music and reading and trying anything that kept me from going out of my mind. Yep, I hate being helpless and the truth of the matter is you need two hands for just about everything.

Accepting help from my family for things that I took for granted was difficult for me. One weekend we went to my brother’s house for a barbeque, after my sister had helped me dress, my mother had tied up my hair and my father had laced up my boots. And at the barbecue my sister casually leaned over and cut my meat into small little blocks that I could just pick up with a fork. Yes, that’s love and I felt about five years old. Ugh.

Anyway, those of you who want to know what was wrong with my shoulder. In the fall that I described in the post, “Disappointed”, what had actually happened was that I had torn my bicep tendon and injured my AC joint, which is a little joint on the top of the shoulder that helps with the rotation of your shoulder. Anytime you reach across your body, let’s say to put on your safety belt, you’ve used your AC joint. And if you reach up for something above your head, your AC joint is at work again.

So anyway, after the operation my doc said that he had managed to repair the tendon successfully, but he’d had to shave away a lot of bone to get my AC joint functional again, which in fact had already been compromised even before I fell. According to him it was one of the worst cases of shoulder impingement he had ever seen, which explained why my left arm had been practically useless before the operation. Basically the narrowing of my AC joint, combined with the injury sustained in the fall had trapped the tendons of my shoulder resulting in pain and reduced mobility.

I remember even while finishing Somali Sunrise that I had been in intense pain from my shoulder, and had to take regular breaks because my chest muscles kept cramping. Oh, the pain of creation. ;)

The good news is that by the third week after my shoulder operation I was able to get back into a regular schedule of writing. I managed that by propping my elbow up on the arm of my new recliner, thereby supporting my shoulder, and then releasing the clip of my sling so that I could rest the heel of my hand on the palm rest of my laptop. From there it was easy for me to reach the keys of my laptop and type quite comfortably without straining my shoulder or upper arm at all. I include a photo for illustration.

Yoda keeping watch and editing as I write. LOL.

Yoda keeping watch and editing as I write. LOL.

Of course, Yoda, one of my kitties, decided that she would help to keep my arm steady by providing support. She’s such a little darling and guards me day and night. I think she senses that I need a little extra help at the moment. And of course we enjoy wonderful naps together.

But I’m quite confident that I’m on schedule to publish the third Blackstone book by December. And as always, I’ll announce it here first.

Crossfire: Somali Sunrise

Crossfire: Somali Sunrise is now available at AmazonSmashwordsBarnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple. I would like to thank everyone for being so patient and supportive these past months, and I hope you’ll enjoy this latest offering in the Driftwood Trilogy.

Image courtesy of 123rf.com Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

First three chapters of Somali Sunrise

I had promised a few readers a while ago that I would put the first three chapters of Somali Sunrise up here on my blog as a teaser. So here it is, edited but not yet completely polished. Enjoy!

Crossfire: Somali Sunrise
By Niki Savage
Copyright 2015 by Niki Savage

This publication is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Niki Savage.

CHAPTER ONE

Nancy watched bubbles rising above her head as she rose slowly to the surface. A meter above, she could see the pink flippers of Peter Coleman, the owner of the yacht that had brought them there. He kicked gently to keep himself afloat, waiting for her.
She broke the surface of the water, and spat out her mouthpiece. “Wow, that was incredible,” she said, pulling her diving mask downwards and tucking it under her chin.
Peter turned to her, shaking the water from his shaggy blond hair. “I hate to say I told you so. Not many divers know about this reef.”
Nancy smiled, and turned to swim towards the ladder hanging off the stern of the yacht. “I agree, that reef we dived yesterday felt a little crowded.”
Peter followed, kicking easily to keep up with her. “There’s another reef further up the channel. I’ll take you there tomorrow.”
Nancy handed her diving goggles and scuba tank to a crew member’s waiting hand, and allowed him to help her onboard. Once on deck, she shook her shoulder length blonde hair vigorously to rid the strands of water.
She sensed Peter behind her, and felt him unzipping her wetsuit. She started stripping off her wetsuit as she turned around to return the favor. But the expression on Peter’s face froze her hand in midair.
Nancy felt as if the air around her body had turned to treacle as she fought to turn back, to see what had provoked such an expression of horror on Peter’s face.
A gasp flew from her lips when she saw her six-year-old son, Daniel, his little face pinched into an expression of extreme distress. The cause of his distress was the black barrel of a big pistol pressed against his temple. Peter must have sensed the muscles in her legs tensing for action, because he wrapped a brawny arm around her waist, and lifted her off the deck, preventing her from rushing towards her son.
“Shh Nancy,” he whispered. “Be very still.”
She tried to bring her rapid breathing under control as her gaze focused on the face of the man who held the gun to her child’s head. He was tall and slender, with terrible scars on the left side of his face and neck. He wore ill-fitting clothes one might expect to see on a homeless person, and was too dark to be Mozambican. She noticed several missing teeth as he grinned triumphantly at her, but the rigid scar tissue on his left cheek didn’t allow much movement of his skin, giving him a lopsided appearance. “That would be most unwise,” he said, shaking his head from side to side. “Your friend is giving you good advice.”
Now Nancy looked beyond his ragtag appearance, and saw his dark eyes glittering shrewdly. This man was in charge, she realized, and fought her urge to attack him. From her days on the road as a trauma doctor, she had come face to face with enough killers to know that this man wouldn’t hesitate to make good on his threat.
She glanced at the other people on the deck. Apart from the two crewmembers who worked for Peter, she saw at least eight members of the man’s party. Some had covered the lower half of their faces with scarves, but all had the same gangly build, and the same ragged and ill-fitting clothing that their leader wore. All had automatic weapons, held at the ready, just in case threatening Daniel’s life didn’t have the desired effect.
Peter spoke behind her, assuming command. “What do you want from us?”
“I’m taking command of this yacht. My men will lock each of you in your cabins for the rest of the voyage, and then you will be held hostage until your families pay the ransom we demand.” His English was good, but he had an accent Nancy couldn’t quite place.
“What’s our destination?” she asked, trying to moisten her lips.
The man laughed. “The port of Eyl in Somalia.”
Nancy swallowed hard at the sight of Daniel’s distressed face. How could she persuade this man to give her son back to her?
Two armed men prodded the two crewmen in the direction of their cabins, leaving Peter and Nancy on deck, watching the man who held Daniel hostage.
Nancy stared at her son, trying to reassure him without speaking, and apologizing at the same time for placing him in harm’s way.
Then it was Peter’s turn. Nancy watched with growing alarm as Peter walked ahead of his captors to his cabin. She felt vulnerable without his secure presence next to her, and without him holding her back, she had to fight her impulse to run to her son and crush him in her embrace.
But Daniel took matters into his own hands, taking advantage of a moment of inattention from his aggressor to wrench free and flee towards her. Nancy scooped him up in her arms, cradling him protectively as he squirmed, trying to get closer to her.
But she had just a few seconds before he was ripped from her arms again. She tried to grab him back, but the man had already lifted him high, out of her reach. Danny screamed, kicking at the face of the man who held him, catching him a glancing blow on his already scarred cheek.
The man swore in an unknown language, and flung Danny towards the hard deck. The boy landed with a thud, and lay still for a few seconds, clearly winded. Nancy took a step in his direction, but stopped in her tracks when a bullet slammed into the deck just a few inches in front of her right foot. She screamed in despair, torn between helping her child and trying to stay alive.
Danny slowly pushed himself to his feet. He wiped his tears away in a childish gesture, but when he looked at her, his green eyes were wise beyond his years. “I’m okay, Mommy. Don’t worry.”
And at that moment, in his eyes, she saw Karl. “Thank you, Danny.” She looked at their kidnapper, who stood with his weapon ready to kill or maim. Drawing strength from her son, she straightened up. “We’ll cooperate. Please don’t hurt us.”
The man flashed his lopsided grin. “We don’t want to kill you, but if you force us, we will wound you, and here in Africa a bullet wound can turn bad very quickly.”
“I’m a doctor,” Nancy said. “It would be to your advantage to keep me healthy, so that I can help the others, and any of your men, if necessary.”
He seemed to consider that for a few moments. “You’re right. But to make sure you obey, I will keep your son with me.”
“No!” Nancy shouted without thinking, but then she took a deep breath and calmed herself. “It would be to your advantage to keep me healthy and happy, if you want my cooperation.”
“Okay, the boy stays with you, but if you give me any trouble, I will take him from you and drag him behind the yacht, understand?”
Nancy nodded, nauseated by the image created by the pirate’s words.
Danny ran towards her, and hugged her legs tight. She stroked his copper red hair. “Thank you for being so brave, sweetheart,” she said softly. “Everything will be okay now.” But she knew it was a lie. They were in trouble, deep trouble. She reached up and fingered the little silver cylinder that hung from a fine chain around her neck. As always she drew strength from the gesture, and straightened her back as she looked at her captor. “Can we go to our cabin, please?”
The man nodded, and gestured with the barrel of his weapon.
Nancy picked Danny up and hugged him to her as she headed for their cabin, uncomfortably aware of the gun barrel pointing at her spine.

* * * *

CHAPTER TWO

Nancy opened her eyes slowly. Above her she saw the light fitted to the low ceiling of the cabin. She focused on the light, trying not to remember the events of the previous afternoon.
But the memories forced themselves into her consciousness, and she sat up quickly, taking deep breaths, fighting her anxiety. And she had reason to be anxious. Though nobody had come to their cabin during the night, she had heard angry shouts at odd intervals, and through the thin cabin walls, had heard the unmistakable sound of fists on flesh, and voices screaming, and objects crashing to the floor.
It had sent chills down her spine as her imagination supplied her with horrible images to match the sounds. She had remained sleepless for most of the night, cradling Danny’s sleeping body in her arms, wishing that she had left him behind with her aunt, who had been more than willing to look after him for two weeks. But somehow returning to Mozambique with her copper haired child had felt right.
In her silly fantasy world she had imagined running into Karl on one of the many beaches, though she had no reason to expect that he would return to Mozambique. Or that he was even still alive. Perhaps her precious little boy was all that remained of the man she had loved. And the thought brought tears to her eyes, just like so many times before.
Danny stirred, and lifted a sleep tousled head. “Mommy, why are you crying?”
She blinked her tears away before turning to him, forcing a bright smile. “Sometimes grownups get sad for no reason, baby. I’m just a sentimental fool.”
“What does senti…mental mean?”
She smiled again. “Well, like crying about sad movies, and sad books. Lately I’m very sentimental.”
He hugged her tight. “I don’t want to be sentim…mental, ever.”
She hugged him back. “Don’t worry, baby. You’re strong and brave, just like your daddy.”
He frowned. “Where’s my daddy?”
Nancy took a deep breath as she tried to negotiate the minefield she had created for herself. “Your daddy had to go away for a very long time, to save the world.”
“Like a superhero?”
“Mmm, yes, a bit like a superhero.”
“But when will he come back?”
“I don’t know.” She shook her head hopelessly. “He’ll come when the time is right.”
She wondered when the time would be right to destroy the fantasy she had created in her son’s mind. It was a story she had fabricated after he had returned from preschool one day and asked, “Why don’t I have a daddy?”
She had tried to create a favorable image of Karl for her son, and it had evolved into a superhero story. And even though in the last year she had tried to tone it down, he refused to let go of the fantasy. It had become part of his identity.
“Is Daddy like Superman?” His green eyes glowed with excitement. “Or Ironman? Ooh, that would be so cool. What’s he like, mommy.”
She sighed, choosing her words carefully. Danny watched far too many comics. How could she tell him that his father is…was…a ruthless mass murderer? “Um, he’s more like GI Joe, my darling.”
“Yes, keeping the world safe from baddies,” Danny said with a triumphant smile. “I love my daddy.”
Nancy forced a tight smile. She should have told her son from the start that his daddy died before he was born. Why had she encouraged the fantasy? But she knew why. In her mind she had her own fantasy, where Karl returned to tell her that he had given up his life of murder and mayhem to settle down with her. Perhaps that’s why she couldn’t tell Danny that his father was dead, because then her hope would be gone too.
Danny prodded her arm. “Mommy, are those men outside baddies?”
She nodded. “They’re very bad people, the baddest ever. But we must listen to what they say, so that they don’t hurt us.”
“Like yesterday?”
She gathered him in her arms, knowing that he wanted to be a big boy for her but he felt just like a baby in her arms. She held him tight, knowing in that instant that she would do anything to protect him.
“Mommy! You’re squashing me.”
She let go, but not before giving him a tickle. “I can’t help it. I love you so much I want to eat you up, a little bit at a time.”
He giggled. “Starting with my toes?”
“Yes, and specifically with this foot.” She reached for his right foot, and he scampered across the bed with a squeal of laughter.
But she didn’t chase after him like she normally did. A hard crash rattled the cabin walls, and they both froze, listening. Danny hurried back to her, and the fear was back in his eyes. Nancy felt dread crawling up her spine. What was happening?
They heard another crash, and hard footsteps on the deck above them. And then Nancy heard the voice of the man with the scarred face, and another voice that spoke with authority. They appeared to be having a heated discussion.
She listened with a dry mouth, keeping a protective hand on Danny’s shoulder. He looked up at her. “Mommy?”
“Shhh sweetheart, be very quiet.”
The voices above rose to a crescendo and Nancy listened with growing trepidation. Though she couldn’t understand the words, which sounded like Arabic to her, she could hear that the man with the scarred face was losing ground. His replies became shorter and shorter, while the other man dominated the conversation.
Then the voices grew quiet, but a minute later she heard hard footsteps outside their door, and then it burst open. Nancy threw herself over Danny, pushing him into the mattress to protect him from whatever violence might come through the door.
But instead a hard voice said, “Get up,” as the barrel of a weapon prodded her spine painfully.
She raised herself off Danny, relieved to see he had not suffered any damage, and pushed herself to her feet. The man with the automatic weapon had the bottom half of his face covered, but from his clothes she recognized him as one of the men she had seen on deck the day before.
Though she couldn’t see the expression on his face, his pupils were dilated, and his eyes glittered madly. She could see he was high on some kind of amphetamine, and worried about his forefinger poised on the trigger of what looked like an AK47. One slip and a barrage of bullets would cut her and Danny in half. He gestured with the barrel of the weapon. “You come to the deck. Bring passports.”
She grabbed their passports from her handbag, and then reached a hand to Danny. “Come sweetheart. Let’s go with this man.”
Danny must have heard the urgency in her voice, because he climbed off the bed and took her hand. “Let’s go, Mommy.”

~ . ~

On the deck the two crewmen and Peter Coleman already waited, looking exhausted and bruised. Clearly they had not had a restful night. Peter glanced at her, concern in his eyes, and Nancy felt guilty that her face was unblemished while he had bruises on his face. But he had bruised knuckles too, and Nancy wondered which poor soul on board had ended up on the wrong side of those mighty fists.
She led Danny to stand beside Peter, and only then did she look at the stranger standing beside the scarred man. He was better dressed than the others, and had a more muscular build, no doubt the result of a better diet. Everything about him said that he was the man in charge. The cause of the hard crash earlier also became clear. A vessel bigger than the yacht had taken the yacht in tow, its powerful engines churning the sea to white foam as the thick towrope strained between the two vessels.
The stranger didn’t carry a machine gun, but had a handgun jammed into the belt of his trousers. He stared at Nancy with dark eyes, and though she showed no reaction on the outside, her insides chilled. This man was bad news. She had scored a small victory over Scarface the day before, but this man was made of different material. She could see there would be no negotiating with him.
He looked at Scarface. “Get passports,” he instructed.
Scarface nodded at one of his men who came forward and gathered everyone’s passports. Nancy kept Danny’s hand in hers, terrified for him more than for herself. But he seemed to be holding up, looking at the pirates with calm eyes.
The man in charge flicked through the passports. Then he looked up. “My name is Mahmud, but you can call me Captain. Okay?”
Nancy nodded grudgingly along with the others, but something in her expression must have attracted his attention. He looked through the passports until he found hers. Then he looked up. “Doctor Nancy Kendall, travelling with her son, Danny.”
A cold trickle of dread dribbled down her spine, but Nancy nodded without speaking, trying not to show her fear.
Captain Mahmud strode closer and peered at her face. “There’s something wrong here.”
She kept her eyes focused on the deck, silently praying that he’ll lose interest.
He stepped back again, and looked at Peter and the two crewmembers. “Everyone here has been beaten, except this one.” He turned to Scarface. “Why?”
Scarface tried to save face. “She’s doctor. She can help.”
Mahmud laughed. “You fool. She’s doctor, but he is too,” he said, pointing at Peter. “And we don’t need their help. They are our prisoners. And we do to our prisoners exactly what we want.”
And without a further word he backhanded Nancy, mashing her lower lip against her teeth, sending her flying backwards. She landed awkwardly, and something hard connected the back of her head.
“Get up,” she heard Mahmud scream, and footsteps approached her position.
Nancy struggled to her feet, her senses swimming, but Mahmud never reached her.
With a growl Peter charged him, smashing a fist into the pirate’s face before his charge carried them both to the ground.
They were a blur of fighting bodies, and it was obvious to Nancy that Peter was winning the fight. But then a shot rang out, and everybody froze, and Nancy screamed when she saw that Scarface held Danny suspended above the rail. The little boy screamed in fear, squirming like a fish on the end of a hook, staring in terror at the rushing water far below him.
Peter rose to his feet, dread on his face. One of the pirates punished him with a rifle butt to his kidneys, but he remained standing.
Mahmud took a little longer to get up, blood pouring from his mouth and nose.
Scarface shook Danny as he shouted, “I said if you don’t behave I will throw him in the sea. Must I do it, Boss?”
Mahmud shook his head. “No, bring him back here.”
Scarface shifted his grip, preparing to bring Danny back over the railing, but a second later he was grabbing at air as Danny slipped from his grasp and disappeared with a single thin cry.
Nancy screamed, feeling as if all the oxygen had been sucked from the air, but a second later a big shape barreled past her and Peter dived over the railing, going after Danny.
Nancy sank to the ground as chaos ensued around her, with Mahmud and Scarface screaming, and several of the pirates running to the railing to see if they could spot Peter or Danny. One of the crewmen ran to the stern of the yacht and threw two life preservers over the railing.
Mahmud grabbed his radio and screamed into the mouthpiece. A few seconds later the vessel in front of them shut off its engines, and in the sudden silence all Nancy could hear was a sharp keening cry. But she stopped when she realized the cry was coming from her bloodied mouth. She couldn’t get her legs to work. As much as she also wanted to run to the railing to look for her son, her body wouldn’t move.
Nothing these men could do to her now could be worse than the pain tearing her soul apart. If she ever met Karl again, how would she explain that she had put their son in harm’s way? She imagined his green eyes turning dark with sorrow for a child he had never known. And it was her fault, for keeping Danny away from his father.
Everybody ignored her as the towrope was detached and the crewmembers were instructed to turn the yacht around and search for Peter and Danny.
Under the threat of guns the two crewmembers soon had the yacht travelling back the direction they had come, and two of the pirates stood at the railing with binoculars, scanning the waves for signs of life.
Nancy lost interest. Too much time had passed already. Her son was gone, along with the brave man who had wanted to be a father for him, and a husband for her. She knew now that Peter had loved her more than life itself, and had thought nothing of sacrificing himself to try to save her son. But a tiny sliver of hope remained alive in her.
Karl had fallen overboard and had survived for two days in the ocean before washing out on the beach. If Peter had reached Danny in time, and then swam for the life preservers, survival was possible. But Danny was so small, she argued with herself. He could swim, but would he have remained afloat long enough for Peter to find him?
The tears came, pouring down her face and mingling with the blood on her chin. She tried to wipe the fluid away with her hands, but they shook so badly that all she managed to do was make the mess worse.
She gave up, and dropped her face into her hands, crying Danny’s name over and over.

~ . ~

A long time later, a wet little hand touched her shoulder. “Mommy?”
She looked up. It was Danny, wet and pale, but alive. His eyes were red, both from crying and the salty seawater, but he wasn’t crying anymore. He wrapped his little arms around her neck and climbed onto her lap. “I’m okay, Mommy, don’t cry.”
And Nancy knew it wasn’t a dream, because beyond Danny she could see a sodden Peter on the deck, lying unmoving as three of the pirates kicked him mercilessly. That was his reward for saving her child’s life, to be beaten like an animal. Hatred rose in her chest, and if hate alone could have killed these men, they would all have dropped dead in an instant. But instead she had to watch helplessly as they hurt Peter, even though he could no longer feel it.
Eventually Mahmud called a halt, and the three men dragged Peter towards her. He was a big man, six foot four and well over two hundred and fifty pounds, and the strain showed on their faces. They dropped him in front of her, and turned him over so that he lay on his back. Both his cheekbones had been split, and blood poured from his ruined mouth. Almost immediately Nancy heard him beginning to choke as blood ran back down his throat. She quickly moved forward and turned him onto his side to open his airway. She wanted to scream and rage at the unfairness of it all, but held her tongue, afraid that Mahmud would lash out again.
Someone grabbed a fistful of her blonde hair, and dragged her to her feet. It was Mahmud, and he held his bloodied face close to hers as he hissed, “Disobedience will be punished immediately. Look at him. Where’s your strong man now?”
Nancy swallowed her hatred down. “We’ll be good, I promise.”
“Good.” He turned to Scarface. “Take them below.” He gestured towards the two crewmen. “And them too.”
Nancy and Danny were herded below with the crewmen, and allowed to return to their cabin. She saw as the men struggled past her half open door with Peter’s limp body, and went to the doorway to find Scarface outside. “Please,” she whispered. “Put him in here with us so I can take care of him.”
He shook his head. “No, he has been punished. He must suffer.”
“He could die, and then you won’t get any ransom for him.”
That gave him pause for a moment, and then he shouted something to the three men. They struggled back in his direction, and at his instruction, deposited Peter on one of the twin beds in the cabin. Nancy felt a small sense of elation at her victory. At least now she could help Peter instead of wondering whether he was dead or alive.
As soon as the door closed behind Scarface, who had given her a last menacing frown to remind her to behave, Nancy changed Danny into dry clothes, rubbing his frozen skin briskly with the towel. Then she sent him to play in the bathroom with some of his toys. To his credit, he didn’t argue, even though the bathroom was small and cramped.
A minute later she heard him racing his toy cars along the smooth floor of the shower. Children were far more resilient than adults, she thought.
She focused on Peter, who still lay unmoving, rapidly soaking the mattress with his wet clothes. Quickly she stripped his clothing off, leaving him only with his undershorts. Then she pushed the other bed closer, and expertly rolled him onto it, giving him the benefit of the dry mattress. She covered him with the sheets before reaching under the covers and pulling off his damp undershorts.
Though she and Peter had known each other for many years, their relationship had never become physical. Somehow, after Karl, she just couldn’t give herself to another man. Bringing Danny along on the diving trip had been just another way of ensuring that Peter wouldn’t be sharing her cabin. And yet here he was, in her cabin. The irony wasn’t lost on her.
She pulled her medical bag from one of the small closets, and started examining Peter.
Thirty minutes later she sat on the damp twin bed and sighed deeply, feeling a little desperate. The merciless kicks those pirates had rained upon Peter’s muscular physique appeared to have done little damage. His ribs were bruised, but not broken, and though he had a lot of bruises, they weren’t life threatening.
But that was where the good news ended. His face had suffered some damage, and she had stitched the deep gashes on his cheekbones and forehead. Miraculously his nose had remained unbroken, allowing him unimpeded breathing. But she suspected that Peter had a bad concussion, the extent of which she couldn’t be sure of until a few more hours have passed, or he regained consciousness. She needed a cat scan of Peter’s brain, and he probably required surgery, but none of that was possible in the middle of the ocean.
Danny came from the bathroom. “Is Uncle Peter going to be okay, mommy?” His little face expressed concern for the man he had known his whole life.
Nancy tried to smile. “I think so. We have to wait for him to wake up, just to be sure.”
Danny climbed onto Peter’s bed and snuggled up beside him. “I’ll stay here with him, and call you when he wakes up.”
Despite the circumstances Nancy smiled when she saw the love in Danny’s eyes. Her son loved this big blond bear of a man, and why wouldn’t he? Peter was a wonderful man, with a soft heart that belied the strength of his physique. His patients adored him, both for his kind heart, and his ruggedly handsome looks. She remembered Peter holding Danny when he was just days old, and the sight of her precious son cradled in those big hands had brought tears to her eyes, and right there she had asked Peter to be Danny’s godfather, an honor he took seriously, becoming a substitute father to her son. Peter had never asked her about Danny’s father, and for that she had been grateful, knowing that he didn’t judge her.
But Peter wanted more than that, and had told her so, more than once. Their friendship had changed to a strong relationship more than a year ago, and Nancy knew that her colleagues fully expected that she would marry Peter eventually. A match made in heaven, they called it, speculating what beautiful children she and Peter would produce with their blonde good looks.
But now tears filled her eyes as she stared at his bruised face, and the seriousness of their plight came to sit in her stomach like a cold stone. Life was short, and there was no guarantee that they would get out of this situation alive.
And right there she made her decision. Why not Peter? What was she holding out for? Karl wasn’t coming back for her. He had probably forgotten her the second that black helicopter carried him far away over the ocean, back to his life of violence and killing. Peter loved her. He would never hurt her like Karl had hurt her. He was the kind of man she could grow old with, if they survived their immediate perils. As soon as he opened his eyes, she’ll tell him yes.
And when they arrive home, she’ll put on the engagement ring he had given her three months ago, when he had proposed marriage. He had insisted that she keep the ring, even though she had asked for time to think. Well, she was finished with thinking. This was the right thing to do, for her and for Danny.

* * * *

CHAPTER THREE

Due to the length of Peter’s unconsciousness, Nancy had been forced to put up a drip and catheterize him. Then she occupied her time with bathing and changing Danny and making sure he ate some of the fruit that was on a bowl on a small table in the cabin. She didn’t eat any of it, worrying about their food supply, seeing as the pirates have shown no inclination to feed them. But they had some bottled water in the cabin, and in her medical pack she had some electrolyte replacement powders as well as a few chocolate bars and energy bars. Whether that would keep a six year old satisfied, only time would tell.
It was nearly lunchtime when Peter moaned, and opened sluggish eyes. Nancy had been sitting next to his bed, and reached out to touch his shoulder. “I’m here, Peter,” she whispered.
He turned his head and focused on her. “Nancy?”
“How do you feel? Can you see alright?”
“Everything’s a bit blurry,” he whispered, blinking his eyes.
“You’ve suffered a head injury.”
“Oh. How?”
Nancy went ice cold. Peter not remembering what happened was another bad sign, and coupled with his hours of unconsciousness didn’t bode well for a good outcome. Telling him now about the pirates and what had happened would raise his stress levels, along with his blood pressure, which was the last thing she wanted. So she decided to lie.
“You fell, darling. On the deck. It happened so fast, and you hit your head on the railing. We’re on our way back to port, so you can get to a hospital. Just relax.”
“And I’m here, in your cabin, in your bed?”
“Yes.”
“Why?”
“Because I’ve decided, Peter. I don’t want to be alone anymore. I want to be with you. I love you, and I want to marry you.”
“I can hardly believe it,” he whispered. “Why now?”
“Because I nearly lost you today, and it scared the hell out of me. I realized how much I love you.”
“I love you too,” he said before sighing deeply. “But I’m so incredibly tired, and I have a terrible headache. Can I save the jumping for joy for later?”
Danny came storming into the room. “Uncle Peter! You’re awake.”
Peter summoned a smile, even though it had to hurt, and stretched a hand out to the boy. “Hey little man. Are you looking after your mommy?”
Danny crawled all the way up the bed on all fours and snuggled under Peter’s arm. “Yes, I am. But you saved me. I was so scared, and the waves were so big, but you grabbed me. Thank you.”
Peter frowned. “I don’t understand.”
Nancy drowned out Danny’s explanation by saying. “He fell overboard, and you went after him. You saved him, and then when you came back onboard you slipped and fell.” She winked at Danny, willing him to play along. Luckily the child trusted her enough to obey.
“You mean I did the bravest thing ever and I can’t remember it?”
Nancy realized he was trying to be his usual self, for Danny’s sake.
Danny giggled. “Yes, you’re a superhero, even if you can’t remember it. Is it sore?”
“My head hurts a little bit,” Peter said with a grimace. “And I feel as if a horde of donkeys have run all over me, but I’ll survive.”
Nancy took Danny by the arm. “If you look in Mommy’s handbag, there’s a chocolate treat there for you.”
He jumped up. “Thanks Mommy!”
“And then you can play with your cars again, and let mommy and Uncle Peter talk for a little bit.”
“Yes Mommy.” He found her handbag and after grabbing his treat, disappeared into the bathroom to play with his toys.
When they were alone again, Peter looked at her. “You realize I’m a doctor too?”
“Yes.”
“What are you hiding from me?”
Nancy suppressed a sob. “I’m trying to keep you comfortable, Peter. Your head injury is serious. You’ve been unconscious for hours, and your pupil sizes are unequal. Your temperature is up, and your face is flushed, and your heart rate has dropped below sixty. Somewhere in your brain you’re bleeding, causing intracranial pressure.”
“What are you hiding from me?” he asked again.
“I don’t think we’ll make it to port in time.” She tried her best to remain calm, but couldn’t help the tears spilling down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry.”
He reached for her and she lay down beside him, resting her head on his chest.
“I want to remember you just like this, sleeping in my arms,” he whispered. “I love you so much.”
“I love you too.”
“The crew will look after you.”
“Okay.” She clenched her fists, trying to remain calm.
About thirty minutes passed before he spoke again. “Remember… that little house… I mean church? With the red flowers… the red roses outside?”
“We should get married there.”
“Yes, we will.”
He didn’t say anything more, and she thought he may have gone to sleep again. But then she felt him tense. “Nancy?”
“Yes, my love.”
“I can’t see. Everything is dark. Don’t leave me.”
“I’m right here. I won’t leave you.” She wrapped her arms around his torso and hugged him. “I’m here. I’m here.”
But he didn’t speak again. For many minutes Nancy didn’t move, listening to the strong beat of his heart. But it was too slow, yet another symptom that his brain injury was severe. Perhaps if she pretended it wasn’t true, things could go back to normal.
Nearly twenty minutes passed before she sat up and fetched her pupil torch. She tried hard to steel herself, trying to assume the persona she normally reserved for giving bad news to families.
But when she examined Peter’s pupil reactions, the shock was too much. His right pupil was blown, which was the medical term to signify that it was completely dilated. Due to the increased pressure in Peter’s skull, most likely from brain tissue swelling, or from a bleed, some brain death had already occurred.
The other pupil still responded to light, but sluggishly. Peter was gone already, even though it could take several hours before his body followed. She could do nothing more for him. She was an excellent trauma surgeon, and if she could have transported him to a hospital in time, and into theatre, she could have saved him, but here in this godforsaken place, she was helpless. The only comfort she had was that he had not died alone, which was what would have happened if the pirates had taken him to his cabin, as they had originally intended.
After making Peter comfortable again, Nancy looked for Danny, and discovered that he had taken a pillow and blanket into the bathroom and made a bed for himself. Poor child, she thought. He was exhausted, and there was more horror to come. She left him there, fast asleep, and returned to Peter.
She was exhausted, and hungry, and emotionally she was completely spent. Her brain needed a respite from the tension, and her soul needed to recharge before she could grieve for Peter. She lay down beside him again, and snuggled her face into the hollow of his shoulder. It was a safe place, allowing her to experience his warmth and closeness without having to listen as his heart slowed even further, and his breathing became labored.
Just before sleep took her, she remembered lying like this with Karl on that first day when he had been so desperately ill, and had needed her body heat. She imagined the whisper of his breath against her face. Then there had been hope for recovery, and indeed Karl had made an excellent recovery. For Peter the fight was over, and now it was just a question of time, waiting for his body to die. And for her there was the horror of knowing that if he didn’t die by morning, she would have to give him a lethal dose of morphine, putting him down like an injured animal.

~ . ~

Nancy’s dreams were troubled and gruesome, and mostly involved Karl arriving on the yacht with fire in his eyes and a bloody knife in his grasp, and killing every pirate on board while Danny cheered him on. The dream was macabre and bizarre and she awoke feeling sick.
Peter was ominously quiet. She stilled the cry that rose to her lips, and pressed her ear to his chest. No breathing. No heartbeat. She checked his pupils. Both were blown, and unresponsive to light. He was dead.
She sat stunned for a few minutes, hate and grief flooding through her. Hate for the pirates who had killed Peter, and grief for the future that she and Peter would never have.
But she had to restore his dignity before the pirates came back. Already it was a blessing that the pirates had left them alone for most of the day. She had draped Peter’s wet shorts and shirt over a chair, and now discovered that they were dry, though slightly stiff from the saltwater. But they would have to do. Biting back her tears, she removed the catheter and the drip and dressed him again.
She would have to find a way to alert Scarface to take Peter out of there before Danny woke. He had suffered enough traumas for one day without discovering that his hero was dead.
After she had finished dressing Peter, she covered him with a sheet. As distasteful as the prospect was, she would have to call Scarface. She tried the door, and was surprised to find it unlocked.
Gingerly she stepped into the narrow passage. “Hello,” she called softly.
She heard the shuffle of feet, and saw a pair of feet descending the steps before materializing into one of the pirates. He didn’t look friendly.
She swallowed hard before she said, “Please tell your boss that the big man is dead. Tell him Peter is dead.”
She saw the whites of his eyes flash for a second, and realized that the man was deathly afraid of delivering the news.
He grabbed her by the arm, and urged her towards the stairs. “No, you tell. You tell.”
She had little choice, and soon found herself on deck, face to face with Scarface and Mahmud.
The man pointed at her and repeated, “You tell.”
One side of Scarface’s mouth turned up in a sneer. “What is it?”
“Peter is dead,” she said more calmly than she felt.
Mahmud’s eyes practically bulged from his head. “What? What you do? What you do?”
He grabbed her by the throat and started shaking her. Nancy couldn’t breathe. Her mouth stretched wide as stars and dark spots appeared in her vision. But an eternity later she found herself on the deck, coughing painfully.
Mahmud stood over her, clearly still furious. He grabbed her with a hard right hand and plucked her to her feet. “How did he die?”
Nancy coughed a few times before she could speak. “The men who kicked him hurt his brain. Bleeding in his brain killed him. He died while I was asleep.”
By now Scarface had gone below deck with three men. They reappeared, carrying Peter’s lifeless body. Now Nancy was glad that she had dressed him. It was already undignified how carelessly they carried him, without him being naked as well. But what distressed her more was Danny walking behind the men, rubbing sleepy eyes. She grabbed him as they passed her, and pressed his face against her thigh. “Don’t look, Danny. Keep your eyes on Mommy.”
“What’s wrong with Uncle Peter?”
“He’s sleeping.”
She stared imploringly at Mahmud. “Please can I take my son below deck? He doesn’t need to see this.” She had a good idea what was going to happen next.
But Mahmud laughed unpleasantly. “Do you think I care about your son? Or what he sees? He stays, and so do you.”
He walked forward to examine Peter’s body. “It’s a pity. We could have asked a big ransom for him.” He looked up at her. “Now we will just have to ask double for you and your boy.”
He gave orders to four of the men in a language that Nancy didn’t understand, but the meaning soon became clear when they each took hold of one of Peter’s limbs and started carrying him to the railing. She bit her lip to stop from screaming. It’s just a body, she told herself. It wasn’t Peter anymore.
But she couldn’t bear the thought of him abandoned to the tides, almost certainly being eaten by sharks or one of the many predators in the sea. Those beloved hands had stroked her hair when she felt sad, and that strong body had held her close and comforted her after a hard day of disappointments. It wasn’t just another body. It was Peter, and he didn’t deserve this.
Just at the moment that they swung Peter over the rail, Danny broke from her grasp, and turned. The splash as Peter’s body hit the water was drowned out by Danny’s howl. He stormed to where Peter had disappeared over the railing, screaming uncontrollably. “Nooooo! Noooo! Mommeeeeeee!”
Nancy ran after him, desperate to get to him before one of the pirates did. But she was too late. Scarface lashed out and backhanded Danny so hard that he stopped in his tracks, and dropped to the deck in a boneless heap.
Nancy reached him a moment later, and scooped him up in her arms. “Does that make you feel like a big man, you fucking bastard! He’s a child. Can’t you tell the difference?”
To his credit, Scarface looked guilty for about two seconds, but when he noticed Mahmud’s eyes on him, he recovered his bravado. “Shut up, woman, or we throw him overboard too.”
Nancy retreated, clutching Danny to her chest. “No! I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” And the bile tasted bitter in her mouth as she swallowed her hatred and realized the hopelessness of their situation.

* * * *

Disappointed

I have been meaning to write a blog post regarding the release of Somali Sunrise, but I kept putting it off, hoping to be able to give better news.
The end result of that is that I’m now writing this blog post from my hospital bed on my iPhone 6.
Yep, it sucks big time. But let me give a little background first. The photo you’re seeing is of the back of a factory where I feed feral cats. I’ve been taking care of the feral cats at that factory for eleven years. And for eleven years I’ve been climbing up on that wall to fill up the two auto feeders that are on top of that container but underneath the carport. It’s a great sheltered location and I can put up to a week’s supply of food in the auto feeders there, and know that it’s safe from rain, ants , rats and birds. Problem is it’s quite high up. There where you see the food container is where I normally stand. So yes, better not to look down.
So I’ve been doing this safely for 11 years but on the last Sunday of November my odds ran out. Not too badly though. I mean, it could’ve been worse. I fell off the ladder, not the wall. Didn’t really fall, but stumbled on the second last step, landed awkwardly on my right leg, at which point it gave way with a funny click and I hit the ground like a ton of bricks, but not before bouncing off that big blue garbage container.
But having been a competitive cyclist for many years, I’m used to hitting the deck so I got up and dusted myself off. My knee was hurting and my shoulder was bruised but I didn’t have time to be injured so I just carried on.
Big mistake. By the time I went to my orthopedic surgeon (two weeks later) and had an MRI done I was on crutches. And the MRI showed I had twisted my  knee and torn something which had now become wedged inside my knee joint. Yes that sounds as painful as it is.
Anyway so an operation was needed except that because it was by now the middle of December, my doc was going on leave until 7 January 2015. Bummer. But he’s been my knee doc for twenty years so I didn’t want to use another doc. And everyone else was going on leave too anyway.
Entirely my own fault that this happened. I had been so obsessed with finishing my manuscript that I refused to let life get in the way. Except that then life came and took a big bite out of my ass.
Approx three days after my doc went on leave my knee blew up and from there it was antibiotics and cortisone and anti inflammatories as my general practitioner tried to deal with something that wasn’t his speciality.
And through this haze of medication I was still trying to finish Somali Sunrise, but to be honest, I was losing the battle.
It’s really difficult to get into the ‘zone’ if a throbbing leg keeps pulling you back to reality.
Anyway, I prevailed and then finally was booked for my operation for 14 Jan 2015, which is this Wednesday. Except that on Saturday morning I woke up with my entire lower right leg swollen and very red.
Of course I rushed to hospital, mainly worried that I might have developed a blood clot in my leg from sitting with it elevated all the time.
Anyway, I was promptly booked into hospital and put on blood thinners and megadoses of antibiotics.
The blood thinners was until a DVT (blood clot) could be ruled out and the antibiotics was to treat the cellulitis that I had developed in my lower leg.
Tests revealed that I had picked up some kind of ‘bug’ in my bloodstream and of course it had gone for the weakest part of my body, mainly my wonky knee.
It’s now Monday and I’m pleased to report that I’ve just been for a sonar of my right leg and it showed zero blood clots. Phew! I am relieved.
But the cellulitis and leg swelling is still ongoing and being treated. So for the time being I’m still in hospital but hoping I might be discharged tomorrow.
Of course my knee op has been postponed yet again because I’ve been on blood thinners and doc won’t operate while I’m ‘septic’ which is wise, I agree. He only has my best interests at heart.
What does all this mean for Somali Sunrise?
Good news is that through all this I’ve actually finished the manuscript. The bad news is that because I couldn’t work at my normal pace, it hasn’t yet been edited.
So I’m asking for a little indulgence here, please. As soon as I’m discharged I’ll get cracking on the editing. For a manuscript this size (110000 words) I’ll need four to six weeks to edit and polish. And in between all this I still have to have my knee operation. Ja, before another bug gets hold of me.
It seems that with working with feral cats and getting scratched and occasionally bitten I’m a prime candidate for things like this. But I plan to be more careful in future. Promise.

This photo following is of the space above the container and shows one of the feral cats ‘posing’ for a photo.

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Aidan’s Redemption is available

Aidan’s Redemption, the second book in the Blackstone Trilogy, is available at  AmazonSmashwords  and Barnes & Noble.

Smashwords will distribute to  Itunes, Sony, Diesel, Kobo, and Blio. This will probably take around two weeks, but could take as long as a month. Please be patient, but if you don’t want to wait, Smashwords has the correct format for all modern electronic readersAidan's Redemption .  I will be updating the links as they become available.

Aidan’s Redemption available January 10, 2014

I have been getting some enquiries regarding Aidan’s Redemption, which is the sequel to Lily’s Reprieve, and is also the second book in the Blackstone Trilogy. I had hoped to publish just after Christmas, but I had underestimated how busy my December would be. The good news is that the cover is done, and the manuscript is complete. I am busy now with final edits, after which I will publish, either on or before January 10, 2014.

For those readers who can’t wait, here’s a three chapter teaser of Aidan’s Redemption to see you through.

Copyright 2013 Niki Savage

Aidan’s Redemption

Chapter One

“Why do you hide beneath the ground like a wounded animal? Why do you not teach these humans a lesson they will never forget?”
Aidan smiled sadly. As usual, Zargun just wanted to destroy and conquer. “And what lesson would that be?”
“That they must worship us, or die.”
“I could not convince even one human to remain loyal to me. How would I convince billions?”
“Are you still moping over that harlot? She betrayed you. Is that love? You should have destroyed her like the others.”
“I could no more hurt her than I could hurt my own flesh.”
“And yet she watched them beat you, and did nothing.”
“She was as much a prisoner as I was.”
“But you keep forgetting that she had put you in that position. If I had not stepped in, you would be dead now, or locked in a dungeon.”
“And you were only too happy to take advantage of the situation,” Aidan said bitterly.
Oscar glanced up, startled by the sound of his master’s voice. Until now, the verbal exchange had been silent. Zargun spoke in Aidan’s mind, and Aidan answered him in the same way.
“Could I have predicted that the radiation of the sun would set me free?”
“You must have suspected,” Aidan said, answering Zargun in his thoughts.
“I hoped, and my hope was rewarded. You have been too easy on these humans.”
“You forget that I am human too.”
“Your innocence astounds me. You gave up the last of your humanity when you allowed me to teleport us to the sun. Could a human survive such a feat?”
Aidan rose to his feet and walked to an ornate mirror that complemented the antique furnishings in the luxurious room. He studied his image for a few moments before declaring aloud, “I look human. I am human.”
Zargun laughed. “Except that you glow in the dark, despite all your sessions with the black stone. Anyone who comes near you will die within hours, and that includes sweet Lily. But she is as good as dead anyway. By now the leukemia would have destroyed her body.”
Aidan grimaced in pain. “You cannot know that for sure.”
Zargun laughed again. “I can only hope. Let us travel into the future, and see if she is still alive.”
“I will not do that.”
“Why?”
“Because that would destroy the last bit of hope I have.”
“I fail to understand what you see in her. You are better off without her. You are stronger without her. You made yourself vulnerable to protect her, and she used it against you. How can you still care for her after she betrayed you?”
“She betrayed me because I failed her. I should have told her everything from the start, and I should have been true to her.”
“But you were true to her, in your own way.”
“It was not good enough.”
“Well, I think it is time for me to take charge.”
“You, take charge? You are just an alien talking in my head. You have no power over me.”
“You will discover that you are wrong. You are a mere thousand years old, but I have been alive for millions of years. Do you think you can stand against me?”
Before Aidan could answer, incredible pain ripped through his skull. He fell to his knees, screaming Lily’s name as red hot, molten agony tormented every nerve ending in his body.

* * * *
Chapter Two

Lily lay on an unfamiliar bed, staring at the crystal wind chime she had hung near the window. The September sun shone through the window, instantly transformed by the crystal facets of the wind chime into brilliant colors that danced on the cream-colored walls of the motel room. Yet the room remained chilly enough for Lily to consider adding a jacket to the jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt she already wore.
James was in the room next door, and they had been on the run for six months. During that time, Lily had discovered that James was under the impression that Aidan worked for a clandestine government organization. He had told her that Aidan had instructed him to go on the run with her if she or Aidan gave him the keyword Ulysses, because that would mean Aidan’s cover had been blown.
It sounded almost believable, if you left out the fact that Aidan was part alien, radioactive, and deadly to anything that crossed his path.
In the beginning, Lily had been under the impression that James expected some kind of contact from his employer. But as the months passed by, it became obvious that Aidan had left them to their own devices.
After exhausting the five locations that Aidan had specified, they had kept on the move, changing location every few days, pretending to be father and daughter on a road trip through America. Most people accepted their story readily, if they were even curious enough to ask.
A sharp rap at the door that connected her room with James’ room startled Lily from her reverie. She sat up and called, “Come in.”
The door opened, and James entered, a smile on his face, though she could see the lines of hardship that the months on the run have carved on his features. He wore beige chinos and an open necked blue shirt, but Lily didn’t think she would ever get used to not seeing him in a suit.
“Having a nap in the middle of the day, luv?”
Lily didn’t have the heart to tell James that she hated it when he used that endearment. It reminded her of Victor, who had fooled her with ease, and tricked her into betraying Aidan. Though he and Patrick had paid for it with their lives, Lily couldn’t move past the fact that she had fallen for their deceit. Self-condemnation haunted her, but she had to bear her burden alone, unable to tell James what had happened that fateful morning when she had betrayed Aidan.
She forced a smile. “Nothing much else to do. And I feel as if I just can’t catch up on my sleep.”
“You slept all day in the car yesterday. Are you sure you’re feeling alright?”
“I’m fine, but I have this horrible headache that just won’t go away. Do you have some Advil in your room?”
“No, luv, but we can get some after lunch. There’s a good restaurant down the road. I think we need a solid meal to get our strength back.”
Lily suppressed a shudder at the thought of food. “`I’ll give it a miss, if you don’t mind. I’m not hungry.”
“I’ll bring you a takeaway, in case you change your mind. And I’ll see what pain pills I can get.”
“Thanks,” Lily said, glad that he had not insisted that they stay together.
James left, and she lay down again, resuming her contemplation of the crystal wind chime Aidan had made for her.
In the rush to leave the Central Park penthouse, she had grabbed what she could in the allotted fifteen minutes. She had left behind all the beautiful designer clothing she owned, and had instead filled her suitcase with sensible shoes, jeans, T-shirts and jerseys. The kind of clothes that she imagined someone on the run would need.
Then she had used five precious minutes to take her wind chime down from the ceiling and pack it in its box. Afterwards she had run to Aidan’s room to grab his favorite woolen sweater and a bottle of his aftershave, tools she could use when the longing became too much to bear.
But she had also disobeyed James’ orders. She had left all her credit cards and her laptop on her bed as instructed, but she had packed her iPad and her iPhone. Aidan’s cell number was in the contacts list of her iPhone, so she had planned to purchase a prepaid sim card, and then call him. But since then a few things had happened that left her hesitant to contact him.
During the first months they had been on the run, she had often woken during the night, sure that she had heard Aidan calling her name. And while awake, she would hear his voice in her mind, telling her over and over that he loved her. She had wondered about that at first, wondering if that was what Aidan had meant when he told her that teleporting to the sun had changed him into something else.
Maybe he had reached a plane of higher enlightenment. Maybe he was now capable of mental telepathy, like the aliens on the planet Hedon. Maybe he was trying to reach her, to reassure her that he was in good health and that they would be together again somehow.
But if he had wanted to do that, he could just have phoned James. At each of the five locations, James had found a locker that contained new papers and an unlisted cell phone. But no call had ever come through on any of the phones, adding to James’ belief that Aidan was dead, because he had not contacted them as agreed. But Lily knew better. She had betrayed Aidan, had trampled on his love for her, and this banishment and uncertainty was her punishment.
Her eyelids grew heavy as she stared at the crystal wind chime, and a few minutes later, she fell asleep.

~ . ~

Lily woke what felt like only minutes later when James burst into the room. She jumped to her feet, startled, but then immediately sat on her bed again as the world turned dark in front of her eyes. She took a few deep breaths before looking up at James. “What is it?”
“We have to get out of here,” he said, two spots of high color in his cheeks. “Some strangers at the restaurant were asking questions, looking for someone of your description.”
Lily yawned. “I’m sure this town is filled with plenty of blonde twenty something girls.”
“They described a scar on the girl’s forearm.” He grabbed her right arm and pushed back her sleeve to reveal a crescent shaped scar dating back to her childhood. “They described this scar.”
Lily gasped as her insides turned to ice.
“You need to pack,” James said. “We’re leaving in ten minutes.”
Lily didn’t need ten minutes to pack. She rarely unpacked her suitcase anymore. It took her three minutes to unhook the wind chime and pack it into its box, and a further thirty seconds to sweep her toiletries off the bathroom counter and into her toiletry bag. Slipping on her trainers and tying her shoelaces took less than a minute. Only five minutes had passed by the time she walked through to James’ room with her suitcase.
He had already slammed his suitcase shut. “We’re getting good at this,” he said, trying to inject humor into the tense atmosphere.
Lily played along, forcing a smile. “Practice makes perfect. Where to this time?”
James frowned. “Let’s just keep heading north, as far away from New York as we can get. When we see a town we like, we’ll stop off for a couple of days again. I just don’t know how they keep finding us.”
Lily didn’t know either, but she had a strong suspicion. Last night she had used her iPad, and today strangers were looking for her. Victor had once asked to borrow her iPad while his had been in for repairs, which strengthened her belief that the iPad was suspect. “James, I forgot something in the bathroom. You start the car. I’ll be right behind you.”
“Don’t be long,” he said as he headed out the door with his suitcase.
Lily stepped back into her room and opened her suitcase. Her iPad lay on top of her clothing. She grabbed it and ran into the bathroom. After lifting her iPad high above her head, she smashed it onto the edge of the bath. The back cover of the device shattered, exposing a tiny circuit board, and a blinking red light. Two small leads attached the circuit board to the battery of the iPad, and Lily tugged it free before grinding it to pieces beneath her heel.
This explained a lot, and she felt a surge of rage at the damage Victor was still wreaking, even though he was long dead. No doubt, he and Patrick had planted the device, hoping it would lead them to Aidan’s hideout, but she had never taken her iPad to the mansion, knowing that she wouldn’t need such entertainment with Aidan in the vicinity.
But after her escape, the Order of St. Lucian had found another use for the tracking device, and only because she had disobeyed James, who had told her to leave all electronic devices behind in New York.
She left the ruined iPad in the bathroom, grabbed her suitcase and stormed out of the room to where James waited. She still kept her iPhone, because it had never left her possession, so she knew that Victor couldn’t have installed a tracking device in it.
Minutes later, they drove out of town. In the next town, they planned to use one of James’ false identities to trade the brown Ford they were travelling in for a different car.
Always moving forward, always running, trying to remain alive, but was this living?

* * * *
Chapter Three

With the new car fueled up, James and Lily took turns driving, sleeping in shifts, and stopping only for food or fuel. As the sun rose the next morning, Lily slipped her sunglasses on, and glanced at James’ sleeping face. She felt a stab of guilt, knowing she had put his life at risk. Six months on the run wasted because she had a tracking device in her iPad.
The leads attached to her battery told her that the device had been feeding off the power of her iPad, which is why they’d had times of relative peace when her battery had been flat, and she had not bothered to charge it.
But last night she had discovered that the motel had free wireless, so she had charged her iPad and logged on to the internet, desperate to check her mail, hoping to find an email from Aidan. Instead, she found close to a hundred emails from Suzy, imploring her to respond.
She had thought it was safe to use her iPad, because she had removed the sim card and disabled location services before they had left New York.
But she had no way of knowing that the tracking device would report her general position every time she logged on to a wireless network. And that could have cost James his life. He would have fought to the death to defend her, and he was capable of it. Lily had discovered that James had worked most of his life for a British agency in London, who hired out bodyguards who posed as butlers.
James had told her that when he reached retirement age, Aidan had approached him and offered him employment as caretaker of his apartment in New York. James had jumped at the opportunity, eager to explore new horizons.
But had he signed up for this? The order of St. Lucian wasn’t interested in him, though they would kill him if he stood in their way. No, they wanted her, for reasons she could only imagine. But she had a few ideas. The first obvious idea was that they wanted to use her to draw Aidan out into the open. But how would they achieve that, if she didn’t even know where he was?
But another, far more sinister agenda worried her. She had heard Charles and his father talking in the elevator while she had been in the coffin. From the conversation, she had gathered that Charles had found the hazardous material container with the used condoms. God only knew what they planned to do with that, but she was quite sure that they meant for her to play an integral part in their plans.
James woke and stretched as best he could in the cramped confines of the passenger seat.
“Did you have a good rest?” Lily asked, glancing at him.
He frowned as he stared at his watch. “You were supposed to wake me three hours ago.”
She smiled. “You looked like you needed the rest, Grandpa. I still have quite a buzz going from that enormous cup of coffee I had at midnight. Go back to sleep, it’s all under control.”
James relaxed again and closed his eyes. “If you say so, luv. Wake me when we reach the next town. I think it’s time we find somewhere to book in so we can get cleaned up.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Lily said brightly, fighting the exhaustion hovering behind her eyelids. A sign indicated fifty miles to Bellingham, a town close to the border of Canada.

Look out for the rest of Aidan’s Redemption on January 10.

New Crossfire Trilogy Covers

After a bit of fiddling on my part, these are the new covers for the Crossfire TrilogyNew crossfire trilogy covers 27 May 2013

Lily’s Reprieve has a new sexy cover

Lily's Reprieve new cover pic

Lily’s Reprieve is free

Image

Beter late than never, is what I always say. I had promised that my new book, Lily’s Reprieve, would be available at the end of January 2013. And I almost made it, except I was two weeks late. ;-) But sometimes life intrudes, and I’m sticking to that story. Lily’s Reprieve, which is book one of The Blackstone Trilogy, is available now at Barnes & NobleApple ItunesSmashwords and Kobo.

This is my first foray into paranormal romance, so I have made the book free at  Smashwords, and it will soon be free at all retailers except Amazon. I plan to add two more books to the series to complete the Blackstone Trilogy.

I have included a picture of the cover for Lily’s Reprieve. If anyone is wondering what is on the cover, I am happy to explain. That is what it looks like when the gorgeous, yummy, handsome and sexy Aidan Knight disappears in a brilliant flash of light. Why, do you ask? Well, you’ll have to download the book to find out.

Crossfire is free!

Crossfire, the first book in the Crossfire Trilogy, is free on Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, Sony, KoboBarnes & Noble and Diesel. On iTunes, Crossfire has more than 220 ratings and reviews across the series, and on Barnes & Noble there are several enthusiastic five star reviews.

I have noticed a lot of new blog visitors, and it has left me wondering if they are looking for a different Crossfire Trilogy, written by Sylvia Day, which was published recently. So far only the first book “Bared to You: A Crossfire Novel ” is available. I believe the next one will be out in October. But while you are waiting, please check out the book I mentioned above. My Crossfire Trilogy is complete, and I promise love, romance, action and instant gratification.

If you look at the comments on the right hand side of the page, you will see that many readers have left comments saying how much they have enjoyed the Crossfire Trilogy. And the first book is free. That’s a good offer, and shows how confident I am that readers will go on to purchase the second and third book in the Crossfire Trilogy. The reading order is Crossfire, Crossfire: Fire & Ice and Crossfire: Hearts on Fire.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog, and please come back soon.

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