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Trying to squeeze blood from a stone, a Blackstone, to be precise.

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If you have not read the Blackstone Trilogy, and intend to do so in the future, please do not read any further. This blog post is intended for those readers who have finished reading, Blackstone Resurrection, the final book in the Blackstone Trilogy.

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So after I published Blackstone Resurrection, I received an enquiry from a reader as to whether there would be more added to the story about Aidan and Lily, a type of epilogue, to tie up loose ends, much like I had done with the Driftwood Trilogy, where I wrote an epilogue of how the characters were doing ten years later. In that case it felt necessary, to give peace to all the characters, and to show them in more normal circumstances, and more content. It felt right.

In the case of the Blackstone Trilogy, I attempted to do the same, as I’m always keen to please my readers, and if they wanted an epilogue, well, then I would write one. But I came up against a brick wall, again and again, bashing my fists bloody as I tried to break through. My creativity fled as I tried to invent a story where, quite frankly, there was no longer a story. It was finished, even though I had not been certain of that when I had agreed to do an epilogue or short novelette.

I hate to disappoint even one reader, but in the past months I have grown tired of trying to squeeze blood from a stone. It influenced my love of writing to the point where I began to avoid my laptop, and sometimes weeks would go by without me writing a single word. At first I thought something would come to me, and I would find a way to continue the story, but nothing came. And because I was keeping Aidan and Lily in my imagination, it prevented other characters from moving in, and prevented me from starting the standalone book I had been so keen on writing after I had completed Blackstone Resurrection.

So basically I have had around six months of barely writing. That’s not to say that I’ve been sitting around staring out the window. My life has become incredibly busy, as my 12 year old niece started coming to my house in the afternoon so that I could look after her and help her with homework. This was something that I had asked for so it was important to me to make time for her. Also the person who had been helping out with my shelter left my employ, and I have not been able to find a replacement. So in the morning it was doing my shelter work, sorting out 38 cats every morning, releasing them into the garden so that I could clean out and sweep their rooms and wooden huts, and clean around 22 sandboxes that had been used during the night. So it was cats in the morning, kid in the afternoon, and in the evening I was cooking supper for my two aged parents.

Yes, so hardly a minute spare to do anything, especially as initially my energy levels were so low after my second thyroid operation. But I can feel I’m back to normal now, and I can get the cats done in two hours in the morning, mainly because I’m moving faster now. And my niece has improved her marks, so she no longer requires such close attention from me. So now suddenly I have a few hours a day available to write, but what to write?

I want to outline the reasons why I feel that it isn’t possible to do an epilogue of Blackstone Resurrection. Let’s start with Suzy. Should there be some kind of resolution to her relationship with Lily, after all they had been friends for a few years, and she had been so concerned for Lily and the baby. Yes, to the point that she had betrayed Lily, and by extension, Aidan, almost costing Lily her life, and Aidan his freedom. Aidan endured months of terrible living conditions and beatings, but the worst was not knowing if Lily was alive or dead. Lily too, even though her living circumstances were better, had suffered great anguish not knowing what had happened to Aidan. One can say that Suzy didn’t know any better, that she had done what she thought was best under the circumstances, but I think we can all agree that Charles’ story of being the father of Lily’s child was fishy at best, and Suzy should’ve known that Lily would have taken her into her confidence if that had been the case. But Suzy had been so emotionally involved and caught up in her ‘hatred’ of Aidan that she was no longer thinking rationally. All of this is up for debate, of course, but consider the following. Would Lily be able to forgive Suzy for what she had done, even if it had been done in ignorance? Would Lily ever be able to trust Suzy again, knowing how easily she had been manipulated by Charles? How would Lily protect Suzy from Aidan, who would surely vaporize Suzy if he ever set eyes on her again? I think it’s obvious that their friendship cannot be rekindled, aside from the fact that Lily and Aidan are using different names until Aidan destroys the last of the Order of St. Lucian. The last thing they need is someone who knows them under their previous identities.

Then we come to James, who had been in Aidan’s employ for several years, and who had posed as Lily’s father during the time that they had been on the run from the Order of St. Lucian. I think it would be dangerous for James to be in Lily and Aidan’s lives. Remember when Lily left James to go and find Aidan, she waited until the bus had travelled quite some distance before attempting to draw money from her account. She had not wanted to lead the Order of St. Lucian to James and his new family, wanting him to enjoy his new found happiness in peace. After she had found Aidan again, she had sent James an email to tell him she was safe and had found Aidan. I believe that it should end there. There is no way that they could remain anything more than old friends who occasionally communicate via email, as anything more than that would put James at risk. And how would they explain the fact that they were not getting any older to James? Let’s face it, due to their immortality they would have to live an existence that involved moving frequently, living quietly, and avoiding long term friendships. Sounds like a lonely existence, and that was how Aidan had lived before meeting Lily, but now at least they had each other, forever. Sounds like a dream come true.

So then I thought, couldn’t I explore that a little further, how Aidan teaches Lily to use her powers, and how she experiences life as an immortal. But then I thought that’s far too much like Twilight, after Bella became a vampire, and she and Edward romped through the woods and he taught her to hunt, and she developed her powers. Yeah, that’s been done, and I had no interest in going down that avenue. So that was that then. For the sake of showing how awkward a meeting between Lily and Suzy would’ve been, what follows is a scene I had reworked over and over, and had eventually given up on. It’s not fully edited, nor complete, but you will see what I mean.

Copyright 2018 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.

“Lily!”

Lily froze as she heard her name. She knew that voice. For a moment, she considered ignoring the cry and disappearing into one of the many fashion shops lining London’s Bond Street. But then she paused. Aidan wasn’t with her, so what could be the harm?

She turned and saw Suzy rushing towards her with outstretched arms and joy on her face, her aura displaying nothing but love and happiness. Lily couldn’t help but to respond with a smile, despite everything that had happened.

Suzy slammed into her a second later and hugged her hard. “I can’t believe it, here you are,” she said, releasing Lily but still keeping a hold on her arm, as if she was worried she might disappear. “You guys just vanished, and nobody could tell me where you had gone. Lily, it’s been three years.”

“Hi Suzy, how have you been?” Lily asked, shrugging lightly to remove Suzy’s hand from her arm.

“I’ll tell you everything,” Suzy said, excitement in her tone, “but not here. Let’s go to that coffee shop over there and get something to drink, then we can talk in peace and quiet.”

Lily wasn’t sure if she was up to that kind of in-depth conversation, but then decided that Suzy would probably talk mostly about herself, and all she had to do was listen. “That sounds like a great plan,” she said, injecting a note of enthusiasm in her voice.

Suzy hooked her arm into Lily’s arm and headed for the café at a brisk walk. Soon they were settled at a table, steaming cups of coffee in front of them, and Suzy finally seemed to relax. She smiled happily. “Can you believe it, halfway across the world, and we run into each other. I mean, what are the odds of that?”

Lily didn’t know, but was sure that fate had caused their paths to cross. She had wanted to contact Suzy so many times, but Aidan had advised against it, saying that Suzy couldn’t be trusted, and that it was only out of respect for their friendship that he had allowed her to escape unpunished after causing them such misery. But this was different, surely. A chance meeting in London. Really, what were the odds?

“Well, clearly this was meant to be,” Lily said with a smile. “So tell me, what have you been up to since I last saw you.”

Suzy beamed happily, holding her left hand towards Lily. “I’m married. Benji popped the question after I graduated. I missed you so much at my wedding. One of my cousins stood in as my matron of honor, but I so wanted it to be you. I’m so sorry that you couldn’t be there.”

Lily shrugged and shut her lips tight against the words of accusation that threatened to burst forth. Better to play it cool. She couldn’t confront Suzy with the facts because how would she explain knowing exactly what had happened. This had been a mistake. She should’ve shrugged Suzy off while they had been on the street.

“How’s Aidan?” Suzy asked. “And your baby. He must be around three by now.”

“Aidan is fine, thank you,” Lily said, taking a big sip of her scalding cappuccino. That was a mistake, she thought wryly as her violated skin instantly healed and the pain faded. But the pain of the burn had at least distracted her from her anger. She put her cup down with exaggerated care and looked up at Suzy. “There is no baby.”

“Hah, I knew it,” Suzy said loudly, causing a few of the other customers to glance at them curiously. She hunched her shoulders and sank down in her chair. “Sorry.”

“What did you know, Suzy,” Lily asked in a measured tone.

“Aidan made you get rid of it, just as I predicted. Were you even still pregnant that time when we spoke on the phone?”

“I was highly pregnant, actually.”

“So where’s the baby?”

Lily took a deep breath. She wanted to punish Suzy for what she had done, and the misery she had caused them, but she could never tell her the truth. But perhaps she could tell her a sanitized version of the truth. “Men invaded our property and tried to harm me and Aidan. We managed to escape into our panic room, but the shock of what had happened sent me into early labor. The baby didn’t survive.”

Suzy sat frozen, staring at her with wide eyes, and her aura showed guilt warring with intense sadness and shock.

“The birth nearly killed me,” Lily continued, “but we were trapped in the panic room and couldn’t get help, because the men were searching the property, still looking for us. Aidan tried everything to keep me alive but I eventually lost consciousness. When I woke, I was in hospital. They told me I had been in a coma for three months. I spent many more months in hospital after that, trying to recover my health.”

“And where was Aidan?” Suzy asked softly, dread in her eyes.

“He was there when I woke up,” Lily said, forcing the lie past tight lips, knowing she could never tell Suzy the truth of Aidan’s captivity at the hands of Charles’ father, Senator Logan.

Suzy’s freckles stood in stark contrast against her pale skin as she stared at Lily, consternation on her face. “I don’t understand. We went back, but the police wouldn’t give us any information. I searched for you, Lily. I phoned all the hospitals in New York, but I couldn’t find you.”

Lily clenched her teeth as she feigned ignorance. “What are you talking about, Suzy?”

Suzy dropped her gaze and stared at her coffee cup without answering.

“I asked you a question,” Lily said, determined to get her to confess. Aidan had suffered so much because of Suzy’s meddling. She should just have stayed out of their affairs.

Suzy let out a small cry and covered her downturned face with trembling hands, but tears dripped copiously from between her fingers. “I’m so sorry, Charles fooled me. I was so stupid,” she mumbled in a thick voice. Her shoulders shook as muffled sobs escaped from behind her hands.

Lily couldn’t keep it up. The revenge had soured in her mouth. She stared at the rich red of Suzy’s hair, gathered in a ponytail of riotous curls, and she knew she could never hold her actions against her. She and Aidan had travelled into the past to the time before the attack on the mansion and had seen how Charles had fooled Suzy, and how Benji and Suzy had called the police in an attempt to stop Charles when they had realized their mistake. At least the gunfight between the St. Lucians and the police had warned her and Aidan of impending danger, giving them time to get to the shelter, so even though Suzy had betrayed them, she and Benji had also tried to save them from harm.

The waiter appeared next to their table, ready to take their food order. His eyes stretched when he saw Suzy crying. “We’re alright,” Lily said, waving him away.

“Suzy, dry your tears,” Lily said gently as she manipulated Suzy’s aura, calming her so that they could talk without more dramatics.

Suzy kept her face downturned at as she rummaged in her handbag and found a handful of tissues. She pressed the tissues to her face, noticeably calmer. “Sorry for making such a scene,” she whispered in a raw voice. “For the last three years I’ve been trying to make peace with what I had done. The guilt was killing me, but I consoled myself that you and Aidan had to be happy somewhere in the world. Now I find out that it was even worse than I imagined. I’m so sorry.”

* * * *

And really, where does the conversation go from there. Lily can never be truthful. She already hates herself for every lie she is being forced to tell. And Suzy will remember how she had betrayed Lily every time they speak. So this friendship can never be rekindled, because it will cause pain and discomfort to Lily and to Suzy. Not forgetting the fact that Lily would then be going against Aidan’s wishes, as he had advised her not to contact Suzy.

To answer the question about Aidan’s stolen antique furniture, yes, of course he recovered all his furniture, and Charles died horribly. Again, there seemed to be little point in writing a scene where Aidan put an end to Charles, because the main question would have been, does he boil him in his own juices, or does he set him on fire. And I think we’ve had enough scenes where Aidan has done that to his enemies. It would have read like a rerun if I had attempted to write such a scene. So there it is. I guess that’s all I can say. I hope that I’ll be able to start on my new manuscript soon.

Crossfire: Chapter Two

This is Chapter Two of my novel “Crossfire” which is available on Kindle and Smashwords.

Chapter One is available here in a previous post.

CHAPTER TWO

Marcelle stood on the winners’ podium, surveying the expectant faces gazing up at her. She searched the crowd for the face of the person who gave her victories meaning, craving the mischievous wink, the smile full of promises.

He wasn’t there, could never be there again.

This time was always the worst for her, when he wasn’t there to share her triumph. Her face ached as she forced another smile, trying to share the mood of her exuberant fans. She wanted to go home, but that was just a futile dream. Once the podium ceremony was complete, there would be the obligatory interviews, where she would tell lies to eager reporters asking inane questions. To win the Carrefour Cycle Classic three years in a row was an exceptional achievement, but she could never tell them her victories made her sad. She could never tell them every day was a challenge.

Two long years have dragged by since the death of her husband, Jean-Michel Deschamps, Formula One racing driver, darling of the French crowds, and thrice World Champion. He had died too young, meeting his fate at 150 miles per hour as the spectators screamed in disbelief and dread.

Cold overcast conditions had persisted during the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix, and the sun had not come out for her since that traumatic day. The shock remained fresh in her memory, when she had stared in horror as her husband’s car had spun out of control, cart wheeling in a ghoulish display of acrobatics before slamming into a safety wall.

In the ambulance, she had held his hand as the paramedics tried to keep him alive. Despite their efforts, the Frenchman slipped into a coma, the result of severe head injuries. He died a week later, without regaining consciousness. France declared a day of mourning for her favorite son, and immediately arranged a huge funeral.

As the anguished nation grieved, a stunned Marcelle had stared at the walls, still hearing her husband’s voice in the quiet apartment, unwilling to believe he had left her alone. During his illustrious career, Jean-Michel had twice walked away from spectacular crashes, the only occasions when his phenomenal skills had failed him. It had given rise to a superstitious rumor that he led a charmed life, and even she had started to believe it. At the age of thirty-two, the champion had been riding the crest of the wave, sure to capture the World Title for the fourth time in eight years.

After the funeral, she had fled France, seeking refuge from the prying eyes of the press and the grief of the French public. In solitude and blessed anonymity, she tried to come to terms with the loss of her husband.

Three months later, she returned to her adopted country, her grief buried deep, and picked up the pieces of her life. Her racing career flourished as she became nearly unbeatable, training harder and longer to fill the empty hours. Each day she longed anew for the red agony of muscles pushed too hard and lungs taxed to the limit, as she searched for the black void where pain didn’t exist.

The Mayor of Paris brought her attention back to the present as he held a massive gold cup towards her. She schooled her face into a warm smile and accepted the trophy, kissing the tall Frenchman on each cheek.

The young victor kept her speech short, thanking her team, her team manager and her sponsors. She spoke fluent French, and the crowd cheered. Everybody loves a winner, and she looked like one. She was lean and strong, with slim hips and tight buttocks attesting to the many hours she spent honing her body. Her legs were long and tanned, perhaps too muscular for a woman, but perfect for one of the top female cyclists of all time.

People often stared at her, as if a mere glance wasn’t enough to satisfy their curiosity. The source of their fascination came from the contrast between her tanned skin and her light grey eyes. Dark grey rings circled each iris, and in the right light, only the rings were visible. Most people found this mesmerizing, if somewhat creepy.

Marcelle knew people stared, and cultivated a long fringe, which she could flick forward to hide her eyes whenever she felt the need. Her shiny hair hung halfway to her shoulders, and the color was phenomenal, impossible to duplicate in a salon. The base color was dark honey blonde, but the sun had bleached many strands until they became gold, white blond and strawberry blond.

Certainly, the rest of her face warranted a second look. Her skin was flawless, her teeth regular and gleaming white, and her rosy lips held an unspoken promise for those who cared to fantasize about their softness.

Her trademark easy smile and cheeky dimples was just a memory in the minds of those who knew the young widow before her husband died. Some claimed they occasionally caught a glimpse of the woman she used to be, but most agreed she had lost the light that used to shine from within her.

She was the picture of health as she raised the cup above her head in triumph. The gesture was for the benefit of the press photographers only. She hugged the two women who had come second and third. At a slender five foot eight, she was an attractive contrast to their more muscled bodies. Of course, she wore the rainbow jersey of the current World Champion, a jersey she had made her own.

~ . ~

An hour later, Marcelle had freed herself from the reporters and autograph hunters. In the change rooms, she pulled on her tracksuit and sneakers, foregoing a shower in her haste to get home. Hefting her heavy trophy and her kitbag, she made her way towards her car, a racing red Ferrari Testa Rossa, a present from Jean-Michel.

The bus had left with the rest of the team, along with her racing bikes and equipment, so she was free to drive straight home. There she planned to relax in a warm tub to soothe her aching muscles. The Ferrari let out a joyous roar as she turned the ignition key and pumped the throttle.

As she shifted into gear, she reflected on the huge apartment waiting for her, empty without Jean-Michel. Though they had often been apart for weeks because of busy racing schedules, this was different. The future looked bleak to the young widow as she threaded through the early evening Paris traffic. Tomorrow was Monday, the start of another week. The thought provoked a deep sigh.

Now the heat of competition had died down, she could feel tendrils of ice growing in her chest again. In the beginning, when the grief had been raw and new, she had welcomed the ice, had craved the insulation it gave her from the agony of loss.

As the months passed by, the ice turned out to be an enemy. Soon it had taken over, threatening to choke the life out of her as it crushed her lungs and froze her heart. The ice filled her with a constant feeling of fear, telling her she was one half of a whole, and wouldn’t survive alone. She never told anyone about the ice, because it sounded crazy, even to her own ears.

The logical side of her mind told her there was no ice, and that the icy numbness of shock she had felt after Jean-Michel’s death had turned into dread, which had manifested as a cold chill in her body. The desperate fluttering she felt at times in her chest and the difficulty breathing was most likely a panic attack, when the anxiety became too much.

Her logical mind told her so, but she preferred to give it a name, and imagine the ice was an outside force that invaded her body. It was easier to focus on the ice than on the pain that shredded her insides into mincemeat.

Only in competition and training could she generate enough heat to melt the ice, allowing her to breathe freely. Occasionally the effect lasted for several hours afterwards, allowing her to feel again, which presented a new problem. Without the pain of exertion, she would concentrate too much on the pain inside, and find herself curled up on her side, biting her clenched fist to stop her screams.

Sometimes fire melted the ice during the night, when she dreamed of Jean-Michel, and the fire that consumed him. She had come to recognize the fire as symbolic of her guilt, and in her dreams, the fire burned her until she woke from the sound of her own screams. Those were her two realities, fire or ice, neither of which eased her mind.

~ . ~

Marcelle decided to pick up her mail on the way home. She didn’t want her home address to be common knowledge, and rented a private box at a small post office near the outskirts of Paris. It coincided most often with her regular route home, which was why she had chosen it.

After parking near the entrance, she directed a worried glance at her quiet surroundings, wondering if she should rather come back during business hours. She decided against it, jogging over the gravel towards the mirrored doors. It would only take a minute.

She hurriedly entered the lobby after shoving open the swing doors, but had gone only a few steps when her right foot hooked on something. The speed of her passage allowed no time for recovery. She sprawled headlong onto her stomach, skidding over the smooth tiles with outstretched arms, feeling something hard digging into her hip.

She jumped to her feet, alarm bells jangling in her brain, the adrenalin rush rendering her breathless. What? Where? Who?

Nobody pounced on her.

She noticed the dark outline of a man sitting against the wall. His outstretched legs had tripped her. He seemed unaware of her presence, and as if to reiterate the fact, toppled over to the side, coming to rest with his face against the tiles.

She waited, holding her breath. Nothing more happened, and in the silence, she heard the man’s rasping, labored breathing. Clearly, he needed help. She expelled her breath and moved towards him. Her left foot collided against something, sending it skittering a few feet forward. She bent down and picked up the object. The gun’s grip was slippery with blood, and she grimaced at the uncomfortable sensation, holding it between thumb and forefinger. More cautious now, she crept towards the fallen man.

She nudged him with a foot. ”

M’sieur, can you hear me?”

The man gave her no reply, but as her eyes became accustomed to the gloom, she could see him more clearly. He was dressed in black, and was perhaps six feet tall. Tangled blond hair hung to his shoulders, matted with blood trickling from a wound on his left temple. Blood from the same wound covered the left side of his face, partly obscuring his features. His face was deathly pale, and she knew the stain beneath him was blood, too much of it.

She was about to sink to her knees to help the man, when she heard the crunch of a shoe in the gravel outside the door. She froze. Friend or foe? Before she could react, a slender, swarthy man of medium height pushed the doors open, a gun in his hand.

The man advanced towards her, dark eyes darting from her to the fallen stranger and back. “Has fate robbed me of my destiny? Has the great warrior died like a dog in the streets?” He spoke French with a thick accent, contempt in every word.

Marcelle swallowed, unsure if she should answer. The man clearly hadn’t seen the gun in her hand, because he lowered his weapon, his confidence making him careless. She turned to conceal her firearm further, wrapping her fingers around the butt, no longer caring about the blood on the weapon.

“You have been helping him, perhaps? You are one of his people?” The man’s tone carried a threat she took to heart. He took another step towards the blond stranger, who did indeed look dead. If he wasn’t, she knew he would be soon. She would have to act fast.

She brought her gun into view, pointing it at the gunman. “That’s close enough,” she said, trying to sound more confident than she felt.

The aspiring killer turned to face his new adversary. The smirk left his face when he saw the weapon, but after scrutinizing her for a second, he smiled. “If you were one of his people, I would be dead already, I think.” He took a step towards her. “Do you want to die for a man you don’t even know?” He shook his head. “I think not, but if you give me the gun, I’ll let you drive away in your fancy Ferrari.”

She stared into his cold eyes, seeing the soul of a killer, not believing him for a minute. How could she leave the stranger to his deadly mercies? The gunman had made his intentions clear. Technically, she would be an accessory to murder.

When she didn’t respond, the killer’s tone hardened. “If we wait for my friends to arrive, they’ll kill you, but they might want to have some fun first, when they see what a sexy girl you are.” He took another step towards her, stretching out his hand. “Come on, we both know you won’t shoot. Give me the gun, before it’s too late.”

Marcelle stared at him, remembering another time, another place. Hatred rose in her chest, threatening to cut off her breathing. Her finger tightened around the trigger as her eyes turned to stone.

* * * *