The Forever Series






 

 Exciting News Featured Book Forever Bound


Exciting News! The manuscript #FOREVERBOUND, which is the prequel to #ForeverFriends, is featured in Book Country's Waiting to Be Discovered section! I feel truly honored that the Penguin group chose me!

Only the first four chapters are up but you can go to the link here:
http://www.bookcountry.com/ReadAndReview/

Stay tuned for future updates!







Have you ever dreamed about finding your soul mate? Do you think you'd recognize him as, The One, the instant that you met?

Skye thought that Raine was her dream come true when she finally fell in love with him, but her dreams soon became nightmares when Alec, King of the Vlad Vampire Clan, wanted them and every other gypsy witch of Kersh descent, dead.

She had to find a way to stop Alec, end the war between clans, fight against the werewolves who turned her best friend Morgan, and keep Raine, her Forever Friend, by her side.

Available in print and digital:

Print: https://www.createspace.com/4042214
eBook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K6Y4E5C

Forever Friends Book One

by Amanda Kimberley
Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved


Prelude

"You can't leave me. We were supposed to do this together." Alec whimpered as he stroked the dark hair of Obsidian Moore.

Her perfectly porcelain skin was being violated with a steady flowing stream of crimson from her forehead. The rounded face and button nose features that wooed him initially to her, seemed almost silly to him now, as he stood helpless watching her die in his arms. How he wished he could sway the gods to spare her, but shallowness comes with a price, just as any of the other mortal sins.

It seemed strange to compare himself to the mortals. His brown eyes, chiseled chin, and muscular build made him look every bit human, but his dead heart, the one that hadn’t beaten in centuries, made it clear that he was nothing more than a vampire. Damned from the heavens, and exiled from the Underworld, he was punished to a sentence far worse than non-existence. He was dead among the living.

To him, humans had it easy. They possessed free will and could sin as much as they wanted to gain their desires, and it appeared they could do it without consequence. It seemed so effortless for them, it looked like an art.

Sin was something foreign to Alec. He never had a need to use it because his wants were always granted, the dark gift made this possible. As a vampire, he could have any of his material desires met by merely thinking it. His gifts even gave him powers over the humans. Their desires of lust made them easy prey.

All the powers he possessed, and all of the material desires on this Earth, couldn’t help him now. His reason for existence was dying in his arms. He was powerless to change the course of destiny. His only choice was to watch her die.

Ryback Moore, a gypsy witch of the Kersh Clan, cast a karma spell upon Alec long before The Were Rebellion had started. The irritant fool thought he could teach Alec a lesson on how to treat his daughter, a lesson that was now back firing on them both.

Alec could chant an incantation to the Mother Goddess, trying like hell to disregard Ryback’s spell, but he knew his desire to keep her on Earth would be met with disapproval. His asking to have Obsidian stay, denying her of the soul she should become, would be considered selfish to the Mother Goddess. Even his meager offerings of himself would fall upon the Goddess’s deaf ears.

Alec wished it was all a myth. It was honestly unheard of to cast a spell on the undead. Alec had actually laughed off the spell at first. Until he found out what Ryback had done. The Sun God took pity on him and entertained his wishes.

Alec, having no light inside of himself to speak of, fell victim to the pact Ryback had made with the Sun God. Thanks to Ryback, Alec could no longer feed upon the humans.

This curse had definite karmic undertones, something humans took as law. Sadly, if Ryback had thought more clearly, and didn’t allow his emotions to get the better of him, the spell’s bark would not have been worse than the bite. In essence, Ryback sentenced his own daughter to her death by extinguishing the one chance she had at existence.   

"I will always be by your side in spirit." Obsidian said.

"No! You can't die! I won't allow it! You just can't. If I have to, I will find a tribal elder and perform a resurrection spell. You just have to stay. You have no say in this matter." He stated flatly. 

Vampires had a selfish nature. They took what they wanted, when they wanted it. If that meant keeping someone from the destiny of dying, then so be it. Human law was of no concern to them. He’d do anything he could to keep her here. Existing without her was no existence he wanted to be a part of. 

Vampires could not, as humans put it, commit suicide. It was forbidden. Alec could try, but it wouldn’t end well. Through legends, he knew a tale of a vampire named Aleister that tried the very same thing. 

He purposely stayed up to watch the sun rise. Wanting it all to end because he lost his love. The sun rose, but he didn’t feel a singe of burning pain. The gods had apparently, as the legend states, made it snow. The clouds were thick enough where no sunlight could penetrate through, causing Aleister to have a fate far worse than non-existence.

Aleister did die that day. He proclaimed he’d never feel, taste, or touch anything again, and with that he buried himself deep within the earth. There was talk that he still resides in Transylvania, but it was just talk. The story never intrigued Alec enough to seek out its validity, until now. 

"I must go. They are calling me." Obsidian whispered as she loosely gripped Alec's hand.

He could hear her heartbeat fading. The sound was deafening to him. If he didn’t know any better, he’d swear his heart was stopping too. He kissed her weak hand. It was pure anguish for him to see her like this.

He had been walking among the living for centuries. A feat few vampires had accomplished. He was respected by many clans, in fact, some of them called him King of the Vampires. Alec was powerful and unlike some of his counterparts, he had a hand at magic when his heart was still beating, a practice that made his dark gifts all the more intriguing.

The King of the Vlad Clan was a powerful master magician indeed, bending the elements, slowing time, and could persuade the living to do as he saw fit. He had an immense amount of magical powers, but not one of which could heal the dying. 

His dark gift, however, could. He could try and give that gift freely to her, despite the curse. He was told he’d suffer the worst headache in his life, a small price to pay to keep his love, but there were still no guaranties it would work.

All he had to do was take a taste. She was so weak, she would not know until it was too late. She wouldn’t have time to argue, she’d feel no pain. Her father, Ryback, would still be able to see his daughter, alive and well. He could keep her here with him for as many selfish reasons as he could dream up. He was desperate to keep her all to himself. Any reason would have been a good one to taste her and bestow upon her the dark gift, the blood of immortal life. Any reason, except a pious one. 

He had absolutely no right to her. He knew that. Her soul was exceptional. A brighter one than he had ever seen in his dark existence. He couldn't extinguish that light, no matter how much he wanted to. Her soul was just too pure a hue of white to taint it a color any darker. No, she belonged with the gods and he couldn’t deny that.

He gently kissed her hand again and put it to her chest as she took her last Earthly breath. He watched her essence leave the world he was in and he let out a cry that was so shrill one would almost think that time momentarily stopped for his grief.

She was gone and there was now nothing he could physically do to bring her back. He was stuck in a world without her and he wasn't sure if he could bear it. His breathing felt shallow which was a bit of a silly notion since his lungs hadn't taken air for centuries. Yet, he could clearly feel an escape of something within him. Something from deep within, a weight, if you will, on his chest that wouldn't lift.

He couldn't escape the feeling and it seemed to grow worse. It was now inflicting his vision where he felt a tunnel forming around his corneas. Everything started to blur and then suddenly, the world turned as red as his pupils. His eyes became fixated on one person in the battle.

His rage grew towards Raine, a man he entrusted with his love. It should have been easy for Raine to protect his own flesh and blood. He was, after all, Obsidian’s cousin. A powerful man in his own right, the Rom Baro of the Kersh Gypsy Clan. He was standing clad in his black ceremonial robe, he looked determined and focused, trying to defeat the werewolves, but his attentions should have been on protecting Obsidian. 

Alec wanted to yell and act upon his rage, but he knew better. The werewolves and their rebellion were of top priority. Their feud had to stop. It was the duty of the witches and vampires to put an end this war which should have never happened in the first place. It was a silly squabble and had nothing to do with Alec’s brother Armand, or Armand’s heir. The wolves used Kate as an excuse. They caused a civil war because they felt they were not being respected by the vampires.

They were completely wrong, of course, and what made things worse is that their selfish behavior could throw the entire planet Earth out of balance, as well as, expose the magical community to the mortals. Their animal instinct clouded their judgment on vanquishing Kate. An open portal wouldn’t kill her, it would only make things worse.

The humans could not know of the Underworld, or any other immortals’ existence. It was unnatural and unlawful for that to happen. The humans would attack the immortals out of fear which is why an exposure law was set in the first place.

Certain magical creatures could not readily defend themselves against the humans. Sprites, nymphs, and fairies were some of the most vulnerable. If they were injured and unable to continue their magical tasks, an imbalance of nature would occur and the planet Earth would fall out of alignment, causing good and evil to shift. The veil between Earth and the Underworld would lift, freeing the demons. The immortals like Alec, that do walk among the living, would then no longer have the upper hand, giving demons the ability to overthrow a vampire’s power.

It was for this reason, and this reason alone, that Alec’s feelings had to be masked from Raine for now. He had no choice. He had to wait until there was a proper time to unleash them. His magical gifts allowed him to keep his thoughts to himself, even while in front of Raine, who was a skilled mind reader in his own right. But even though he could block Raine from his own mind, he couldn’t stop his from thinking. 

You bastard. She's your blood, unlike that bitch you call a soul mate. I will kill you slow, but not before I vanquish that shrew right in front of you. I will rob her of her soul. A befitting fate for you, my brother, indeed.

A faint smile formed on Alec's face as he killed a couple of werewolves with his bare hands. It had been a long time since he had smelled the permeating sweetness of blood. He had ceased hunting anything but vermin while with Obsidian.
Ryback had always thought he had a hand in Alec’s sudden change in the tastes, but it was Ryback’s daughter, and not the spell, that made all the difference. The smell of blood was menial with vermin. Alec filled his nostrils with as much of the sweet nectar as he could before it dissipated. 

Now that she was gone there was nothing stopping him. His love for existence was slain, ripped out of him, through her lifeless body. He saw little point in holding back because the pain of losing her was far worse than the pain of killing what he deemed as a meaningless mortal.

A werewolf, who was human most of the time, was considered mortal to vampires. However, many vampires felt that werewolves were a distant cry from a regular human being. If a werewolf was a table wine, a regular human would be a Domaine Romanée-Conti.

There was always little talk of vampires mistakenly biting a werewolf. Alec assumed they most certainly must have tasted vile, but Alec could never truly know that for sure. The vampires who made that crucial mistake usually never lived long enough to tell the tale.

The smell of blood was intoxicating and Alec knew he’d have no problem coming off the wagon again, but this werewolf’s blood smelled awfully gamey to Alec. He could only imagine that the taste would be the same. He had never cared to try, but this time, he would make the exception.

Mortal virgins were the best to Alec. They would have been his prime choice before the spell. Their blood could be compared to sipping Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque, the finest and most unique Champagne in the world. There was no disdain after taste to a virgin. They were pure. Tasting them again would be his only form of enjoyment at this point and he hoped to find one in this battle soon. 

He found another victim. A girl this time. He came up from behind her and snapped her right arm back. The sound of crushing bone was music to his dormant ears. His smile grew to greater proportions as he lowered her body to the ground and tilted the now brittle head back of his prey. 

As the day started to turn to dusk, he could see balls of light forming an alignment out the corner of his eye. Years ago he would have never paid attention to such a thing. Other immortal’s spells and superstitions were of no concern to him. He could exist beyond an Underworld attack, so a planetary alignment sparked little fear in him.

This time was different.  And it was because of her that he momentarily stopped to look at the sky. He knew she was as dead as his soul, but for a second he held unto the weakness of a human’s hope. 

Could her presence still be here? If she were in spirit, could he still have her? 

She somehow still held power over his thoughts, even now. He wanted to feel her next to him and he knew that was impossible. Those thoughts made him anger even more. 

A tear droplet formed on the skin of his prey. It glistened in sparkles, signifying the beauty of the planetary alignment in the night sky. The beauty of that tear may have persuaded him to glance up, as well, but the fearful pain behind that drop lost its meaning after Obsidian’s last breath. The fate of the life between his hands meant nothing to him.

He had never seen a planetary alignment before. The beauty of the balls of light held his attention as he drew his prey closer to his kiss of death. As he bit down, a feeling of ecstasy came over him, and even though he knew it could not be possible, he thought he could feel his own blood rush through his entire body.
The blood quenched his tongue first and then smoothed his throat. As the blood of his prey started to flow, the thirst and desire grew and he began to gulp. It was a long and welcomed drink, and one that didn’t cause any pain. He wanted to savor every ounce. It was a drink he had missed for nearly a year, a tiny blip of time for a vampire, but it was still sadly missed, and the foolishness of him wanted this kill to last forever as he closed his eyes tight. 

He then opened his eyes for a minute, wondering if this could possibly be a dream. The curse should have stopped him from this pleasure, and it clearly was not. Once his eyes got into focus, he noticed Ryback in the distance being thrashed and decapitated by a werewolf.

Alec then knew it was not a dream. Ryback’s spell was as dead as he was. A few droplets remained and were still flowing as Alec removed the lifeless body from his mouth. It was sucked dry by his ravish behavior. As he dropped it to the ground, he noticed that her pale features reminded him of Obsidian. His thoughts of her started to race. 

The connection to her is still so great. It is as if she were still here. Could she be? No. She was dead. 

Overwhelmed with grief, he did something he had never done before. The thought was actually silly to a vampire, but rather humane for a mortal. He closed the eyes of the prey’s lifeless body. He then walked away.

He wondered why thoughts of Obsidian were still plaguing him. She was gone. He saw her take her last breath, and yet, he could still feel her presence. It was almost as if she were right in front of him.

He reached out into the air where he thought he could feel her presence trying to grasp what little he could feel. It was a foolish thing to do. He didn’t believe in such ludicrous things. But the reaching made the want and need of her tangibility feel more achievable.    

He could never reach her, though, and that reality was setting in all too quickly. He had an eternity to mourn her. An eternity. It was an anguishing concept. There would never be a way of escaping the pain of mourning her. Damned to walk the Earth for forever, he had no escape or solace from the pain. The only thing he had left was determination to find pleasure in his miserable existence.

Revenge will be mine for the taking. All I have to do is wait. Time is what I have a bountiful, lot of.

His thoughts turned again as he looked for his next prey. A white wolf stood before him on the mountain top. He had never seen a white wolf before. Most were a drab grey or buff colored tan. He had even seen a black one before. That one went by the name of Keme Freeman.

Keme was special in Alec’s eye. He was an old wolf that lived longer than most and thought only about pleasing himself. It was almost as if he was cut from the same cloth as Alec. The color of him befit his demeanor nicely. The fur on that dog was something Alec could respect. The wolf, he could not, but he could respect the color of the fur. 

The white on this one was incredible, though. It peaked Alec’s interest in finding out how pure the color truly was. He found desire rising up in his body again. This hunt would be magnificent. Nothing would please him more than to taint the purity out. A hue of crimson was a perfect shade to slay the immaculateness before him. 

Alec lunged forward and leaped off of the rock he was perched on. He out stretched his hands that were tingling from the ecstasy of anticipation, and went for the jugular of the white one. The dog turned to look at Alec, anticipating his move, and shot an energy ball his way.

Alec became paralyzed from the blow, but it was the werewolf’s azure eyes that made him feel more of a retraction to incapacitating his body. The mere sight of this dog’s eyes made him shrivel his thrill for the hunt. The eyes looked all too familiar to him. He tried to place them.

Was Obsidian truly back from the dead? 

Alec tried to shake his head, but had failed miserably. He was still stunned and could not move, but even if he was not, the thought was impossible. Obsidian was not bitten by a werewolf. She was slain by one of her own. He saw it with his own eyes. There would be no way that this werewolf standing before him was Obsidian. She was dead. And not that long. Even the gods could not force a reincarnation so quickly. No, she was gone.

Another ball of energy over-powered him. He could feel his dead body going limp again. He wondered if this was perhaps what death felt like, of course, he was not sure. He had never really truly remembered dying himself. He was made by Lilith, the Queen of the damned. She was the most powerful vampire to walk among the living and the dead. 

She discovered the veil between the two worlds during the times of Adam and Eve. Scorned by her first love, Adam, and her second love, Dracula, she retreated to the darkness of the Underworld with grief, waiting for that one day she could rise again. She found that chance in Alec.

He tried to release his body, give in to the weakness, wishing that very act could make him die. Death, though, was something he would never have. Lilith robbed him of that peace long ago. Her insatiable love for him sealed his fate.

Lilith, like all vampires, was a selfish creature and did not allow all of her gifts to be passed upon Alec. The gift she chose to keep for herself was the ability to walk among the living and the dead. The selfish gestured made him feel like the bastard child, never being or feeling accepted in either realm.

What made it worse was the fact that the gods didn’t accept him either. He was born hard to kill, a master of magic and illusion, but doomed to an eternity of death among the living. Armageddon, a day most mortals fear, was a day that could not come soon enough, as far as Alec was concerned. He’d finally get his peace. The gods would absorb his essence and he would cease to exist. 

Lilith was not spared either. She was doomed to live an existence without a mate. Her betrothed, Adam, the first man to ever walk the Earth, rejected her. It was truly a fate far greater than his at the time. Sadly though, she brought this upon herself. She chose to be pettier than the gods, and against their wishes, sired Alec.

He could never understand it at the time. He was only a fledgling, drunk with power, but he knew now exactly how Lilith felt. Losing love was beyond hell. He could clearly understand her lust for revenge against the gods. He also sympathized with her want of nonexistence. Life was miserable without Obsidian.

A prick to his skin interrupted his morbid thoughts. The fangs from the white wolf dug into his arm.  The pierce felt more like a prick rather than a puncture. But for him, it was always hard to tell. The dark gift never made him feel much pain. And becoming powerless from the energy balls was more reason for being unsure. His mind was growing cloudy, making it hard to comprehend what was truly happening. 

Alec closed his eyes for a few minutes and when he opened them he was in a cave. He could hear the sounds of the war still going on outside, but he could do nothing in response. His body still lay limp and his mind was too dizzy for him to try and attempt to stand. 

He did have some sense about him. He knew that this white wolf was not what it seemed to be. It couldn’t. It spared him, and if it truly were a werewolf, it would not have done so.

Werewolves, in general, did not like vampires of any kind. They couldn’t understand them. A vampire would never die for their kind, nor would they help a fellow vampire in need. Not unless it suited them.

Werewolves were loyal to the core. They’d do anything, even die for any member of their pack. This difference made it hard for the werewolf to trust a vampire. Vampires weren’t completely untrustworthy, however. They would gladly align with other creatures if they saw fit, but that was what separated the vampire from the werewolf. 

A vampire was selfish to the core. They were considered the teenagers of the immortal family, in that, they had all the luxuries of mortal life. Gaining worldly possessions, thrills, anything desired, was easy, but it was all behind closed doors. They were loners in the darkness. Some were so good at hiding in the darkness that they became famous writers in the mortals’ world. There was talk of Edgar Allen Poe being a child of the night, but that had never been confirmed.

Vampires, unlike a mortal teen, were not self-centered by nature. They would, on occasion, please a mortal, but only if that pleased them in return. This was mostly due to law, and really nothing more. Vampires had a strict set that was separate from every other creature’s law. They did this because they honestly felt more superior to the rest of the races.

“You should rest, Alec. You will be needed again soon by the clan.”

Alec thought he could hear the comment as plain audible dialogue, but he saw no one in front of him, and the sound did not seem like it was uttered in his ears. He became confused.

“Close your eyes.”  The voice from nowhere said. 

His mind wanted to ponder on who this faceless voice could be, but he felt weak and entered darkness again.

“That’s it. Let the dark sleep take you into oblivion. We don’t need to think about love lost today. Let’s just think about winning the war tomorrow.” Whispered Lilith as she grabbed hold of him and dug them both six feet into the ground.

***

It had been almost 17 years and they had not seen any sign of him since The Were Rebellion, but that didn’t mean that Skye stopped looking over her shoulder. Skye and Raine moved to Savannah Georgia.  It was easier to leave the past that way, especially after losing Obsidian. The mortals’ World War also made it easy to pack up and leave everything behind. There was not much left after the soldiers had the pillaging sprees.  They found a modest stead ranch with enough land to live comfortably off of. The extra crops also brought in a good price in the city.

The days that turned into years were wearing comfortable. Thoughts settled in that perhaps Alec was not coming for them. Life became ordinary, which made Skye feel good.

Each crick and crack of the house instilled a nagging away at the goodness. Skye would close her eyes and try and block out the negative noise, but visions of Raine’s demise would soon follow. It was terrifying and left her frozen with fear on her worst days, and looking over her shoulder on the good ones. Her visions had been known to be wrong before, especially when it came to the paranoia known by the name of Alec. But before him, it wasn’t all that often that she was wrong.

She wished with her heart and soul that she could have seen more of the specifics in the vision. A day, or year, would have been nice. It would have made things easier, maybe even more clear, because if she was certain that this would be their last day, their last kiss that they’d share together, she would have made sure it was more than just a good morning peck. 

The barley was plentiful this year and she knew he wanted to get a jump start on the day before the heat got to the crop. If he did not, it would be a long and hungry winter for them both. That jump on the day robbed her of any recollection of her visions from the night before. In fact, the day seemed like any other.

All seemed normal as she was going about her daily duties, and she was giving no thought to Alec what so ever. She even selfishly stole some daydreaming moments of being with Raine in bed that night, while cleaning the coop. 

After cleaning the coop and collecting the daily eggs, Skye walked to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.  She heard a bang. The broom on the opposite end of the kitchen fell to the ground, signifying unwelcomed company coming. She quickly reached for the broom in a desperate attempt to cleanse the house, but before she could attempt to complete the task, a whirl of misty green light rippled around the kitchen. The light turned into balls and began to form into a figure of a man.

It was too late. Alec found them and there was no time to prepare for battle. It was not in Alec’s nature to take them as prisoners. He wanted them and every other Kersh gypsy witch to pay for Obsidian’s death.   
She whispered under her breath, praying that the gods would be forgiving, but she knew better. The outcome of this war between them and the Vlad Clan wouldn’t end well.

Chapter 1

The alarm interrupted her nocturnal down time for the third night this week. Skye was beginning to loath her iTune’s version of Bach’s Fugue in D minor. Fugue had gotten her through the college years better than any latte, but now, it seemed to lack its luster, grinding out her dreams instead of enriching them with sweetness.

It was a silly thing for her to attempt, but she felt an obligation to try and remember them. She knew it was a desperate attempt to think that the recollection of such things would cure her fears of going insane. Her four walls seemed to be caving in around her and this uneasiness might not have ever happened if she didn’t meet Raine.

Raine seemed to be a permanent fixture in her dreams and at the local haunt Morgan took her to. He had dark features with olive skin. His toned muscles chiseled out broadness in his shoulders and biceps. His face was soft and rounded, giving his tousled hair, dark brown eyes, and neatly trimmed beard some contrast. And he appeared to be in his mid to late thirties. An appealing age as opposed to the twenty year olds that were clearly just out of diapers. 

He was everything Skye wanted and couldn’t ask for better. He was the picture perfect man of her dreams, which was probably why he starred in them. He had a lot going for him, and judging by the way he carried himself on the dance floor, he knew it too. Skye hated that fact, but she had to admit that he was gorgeous. A definite piece of eye candy that she could get used to viewing while hanging out with Morgan. 

There was only one problem to her viewing delight. Every other girl at the local dive thought the same way and that was making her show a side of green that she hadn’t felt in ages. Skye really wasn’t in to competing with other woman, she was tired and thought it best to leave that kind of game to the younger ones. Yet, she wouldn’t mind finding a little extra energy if she had to, and that scared her. 

Skye shook her head as she crawled out of bed. She really had no idea what to make of him. There was nothing logical in her feelings that she could put a finger on. He seemed to be a nice guy, but she could only guess at that. Her stalking observations would only get her so far. She couldn't tell for sure if he was putting on the kind of front that most men do when they want to get into a woman’s pants. She hoped he wasn't like that, but given her age and wisdom on the matter, she knew that her chances were probably slim. Her age made her the perfect target for cheaters or sloppy seconds. After the whole Hunter fiasco, she wasn’t looking to score, she just wanted companionship. 

Skye wouldn't have even noticed Raine if Morgan didn't intervene. Morgan Walker was Skye’s tried and true friend of 5 years. A definite looker in her own right, Morgan had ebony hair, dark eyes that looked like jewels in the dim light of the bar, and her build was on the slender side with good muscle tone. Morgan really liked to work out and it showed. She was 5 years younger than Skye, in her early thirties. That seemed to give her an edge when it came to looking at life a little rosier. Skye, who saw a more cynical version, kept her alone most nights.

Morgan was Skye’s only cheerleader, always there to give Skye the nudge she needed to live a little. This nudge, however, was starting to look like a slap in the face. Skye was infuriated with Morgan for even suggesting that she should hook up with Raine. She just didn’t have room for a frivolous and fruitless affair. Not now, not when the boss was talking promotion.

To make things worse, the bar’s entertainment for the evening was karaoke, a favorite past time of men who wanted to impress the ladies. Raine was no different. He decided that Prince's Raspberry Barrette would be the best suited serenade for Skye since her choice of accessories for the evening complemented the song. Skye was not amused.

"I bet you sing that to all of the girls." she taunted back at him as he exited the stage.

"No, just the pretty ones. The name I go by around here is RJ, short for Raine Jacoby Thaler, but you can call me Raine."

Skye's blood started to boil, her nostrils flared and her dark brown eyes transformed to the ebony of night. He had the best of her. She knew it. But she couldn’t let him win. Not today. Not after she had officially declared to swear off men. No. She had to give him a grand retort. Something that was bitchy to keep him at arm’s length, yet, playful enough to possibly want more. She needed time to think about this one. It was a silly thought to want to string him along, but she just wasn’t sure what to do with him. The only thing she knew for sure was the fact that he was making her tongue tied. And she didn’t like that one bit. 

What could I possibly say that would be memorable enough? And why did it really matter?

Raine had the pick of the litter. The fact that she actually even cared about what he thought was making her nose itch. She instinctually rubbed it, trying to rid herself of the irritation.

How will I ever get through this uncomfortable minute, let alone, the rest of the night?

"Hi Raine, it's nice to meet you. I’m Skye Falkland. "

That was it. That’s all that she could muster. She had nothing, no line, no intellectual come back, no retort, nothing. He left her dumbfoundedly speechless which was hard to do to someone who majored in English and minored in Journalism. Skye hoped that this would not become a habit. If it did, she may have to reconsider her passion for words.

As the night pressed on, Skye noticed that Raine’s stride seemed to glide a bit off the floor as he made his rounds from girl to girl. She would glance his way from time to time in hopes that his gaze would meet hers, but her hopes were growing dim with each hug he gave to the ever growing competition. 

Skye's thoughts were interrupted by a floating microphone in front of her lips. The MC quickly and flatly stated to Skye that it was Kamikaze Karaoke Night, and Skye was the next victim. Singing was fun for her and this interruption was gladly welcomed, but her singing enjoyment might be hampered if she did not know the song.

To some that might be the most embarrassing thing that could ever happen in one’s life, but not to Skye it honestly didn't terrify her at all. She knew she was singing to a bunch of very happy drunks and their liquid filled minds would not remember her name much past the first stanza of the song, let alone the morning. Still, she hoped she knew some of it so she didn’t look like a fool in front of Raine, the only other sober person in the room.

The beat started and it was a familiar favorite, Kim Wilde's Keep Me Hangin' On, a fitting retort to Prince, she thought. Skye stood up and walked onto the stage. She began to belt out the lyrics as if singing was her lifetime profession. When the song was finished the audience showed their pleasure by cheering, clapping, and whistling at her as she descended the steps of the Vegas decorated stage. The popularity was a welcoming change from her awkward high school years, but the blurry-eyed smiles made her feel like she was in a time machine, reliving those uncomfortable teenage years all over again with every shoulder pat from the sea of people on the dance floor.

There was a bit of uneasiness that Skye felt in the air as her feet touched the dance floor. She thought it was just a slight breeze that released an extra blast of fog from the dry ice machine they had near the stage, but Skye knew better once her eyes met Raine’s. He was clapping, but it seemed different, slightly off beat from the rest, making them quite distinct to Skye’s musically trained ear.  Raine walked up to her while continuing to clap. His eyes, though almost as black as the night, glistened in the strobe lights.

"Wow, you are really good. We don't get a lot of talent around here. Well, besides the MC's, of course."

Skye lowered her eyes as she mumbled a thank you. She wasn't used to compliments. They were hard to come by in her life. And usually when she did receive them, it was from someone who wanted to get in her pants.

Raine's compliment seemed to fit because the look in his eyes spoke volumes. He wanted her. It was a request that she did not want to give into so willingly, and yet, she knew that she would have if he asked. She almost didn't even notice the slow song starting to play in the background. A sea of people started forming around the two of them.

"Dance?" Raine asked coolly as he motioned his head to the middle of the dance floor.

Skye nodded, hoping she wouldn't have to use a suddenly failing voice. She reached for his hand and felt a ripple of electricity flow through her arm and then through her entire body. Her legs felt like jelly as he moved her to the middle of the dance floor. She feared his power over her would leave her frozen in place. Terrified, she yelled to her brain to coax her legs to stride to the beat.  By the chorus, her legs were finally in unison with him and the beat.   

Raine smiled as he pulled her close. Skye could feel the beat of his heart pressed against hers. She wasn’t familiar with the song being played, but hoped it was long so she could savor the moment. She was in a moment of weakness being with him, but she still wanted to make the moment last no matter how silly it felt to her.

The sobering thoughts, though, wouldn’t stop. He was a man, and a rather popular one with the ladies at that. All he could bring to her was pain. She didn’t want that in her life anymore. Skye had vowed that she’d never fall in love again. The only way she’d break that promise was if there was a really nice cat or dog that needed a home. She was doing pretty well with her pact too. Up until Morgan started to introduce her to all the available men in the state of Connecticut. 

Still, there was something to Raine that made him seem different than the rest, but Skye couldn't put a finger on it. This guy was clearly one to stay away from in her book, yet, she felt comfortable with him. It was almost as if they had met before. Skye knew that probably wasn't possible.

"You look familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?" Skye asked, thinking aloud.

"Yes, you do know me." Raine said with a smile in his eyes. 

Skye was taken aback by his words for a minute. She never had someone admit that they knew her before. Her senses quickly came back as she questioned, "Where do I know you from?"

"Oh, I’m sure you’ll remember, sweetie. I’ve got that unmistakable and familiar kind of face. In fact, some people mistake me for a movie star." Raine said with a grin. He hugged her and glided onto the next pretty thing on the dance floor. 

The song was over and Skye had more questions then she had answers.

Why would he say something like that? Is he trying to be cryptic and brooding on purpose? Or was he just pompous? Should I stay away from this guy?  Or should I pursue something? 

She was always so sure of herself and her impressions of people. Being a human resource manager had some perks, because she could sense the motives of men coming from miles away. This one was making her nervous, though, and this couldn't be happening to her, not now. She had everything going for her. Her co-workers and boss were finally taking her seriously and offered her this recent human resource management position. It was the one thing in her life that lifted the weight off of her shoulders. An end to her looming college debt was in sight with the dent that her paycheck made. 

Getting involved now would mean that he’d want to spend time with her, causing her to ask for time off. She knew that wouldn’t look good to her divorcee boss who burned the midnight oil and expected everyone under her to do the same.

It took Skye forever to wipe the baby-faced image off of her 15 year younger looking face. She had started there in her early twenties and gave them her good years.  She felt this way because even though she was still considered young by many in the later part of her thirties, she felt old. She spent what should have been her carefree days running a store 80 hours a week and taking no vacations, sick time, or personal holidays. It was tough growing in a company, wobbling around as if you were in your mother’s shoes, unsure of the steps you were making.

Skye was, however, confident with one thing. She knew the type of man she wanted. She yearned to meet a kind and gentle man that was there for her. She also wanted a man that could potentially father her kids. And what made the top of the list was a man that wouldn't leave her for the next pretty thing to come along. Raine didn’t seem like any of those things, Skye could see that, and still, there was something drawing her to him. She did not like that fact one bit. 

The night ended and the early morning hours were making themselves known by the bartender who uttered, last call. Skye's heart sank. She really didn't want this night to end. She had wished she could get to know Raine a little better, or at least find out why he seems to think she knows him, but that wish was growing dim as the lights brightened.

Skye thought it best to just get home. Morgan, Skye’s ride home for the evening, was busy chatting with some old high school friends. Skye figured Morgan would be a bit longer so she decided to tally things up with the bartender. When she reached the bar, she came face to face with Raine. 

"Can I buy you a drink?"

It was getting late and one more drink would make Skye fuzzy. Normally, that would be okay, but Morgan was not always the most reliable designated driver. She sometimes got depressed that she was single and had a few too many drinks. And even though tonight was different because Morgan vowed to be a soda drinker, she still wanted to have a clear head with the Casanova in front of her. 

“Sure.” Skye found herself saying with little thought.

A glass of this dive’s version of white zinfandel appeared in front of her hands. Wine was one of Skye’s favorite drinks for an evening out. It was pretty hard for a bartender to have a heavy hand with a glass of wine. Many of the bartenders would let their hand slip when it came to mixing the alcohol with the drink. That was not very copasetic with Skye. She liked her drinks to taste like drinks.

Skye was not a connoisseur of wine by any stretch of the means, nor was she an exclusive kind of gal. She was content with whites, reds, and blushes. That didn’t mean that she was clueless. She knew what she liked. This bar’s wine was a far cry from what a normal zinfandel should taste like. It was really more of a rosy Chablis, but it was wine, none the less. Skye had been drinking it all night and she didn’t think Raine had noticed.

"Thank you."

"Not a problem.” Raine said as he waved his hand towards the glass. “So, have you figured out where you know me from yet?"

"Not unless you shop at the mall. I'm a retail manager at one of the stores there." 

Skye knew many familiar faces from the mall. Most of the locals in the area would shop at her store for anything from tires and batteries to clothes and shoes. It was a pretty general, all-around kind of store, which meant she knew a wide variety of people by face, even some of the bar’s regulars shopped at the mall.

"I don't shop much, so I doubt it’s that. Maybe you’ll remember later?" Raine said while his eyes deepened. 

Remember from where?

Skye wasn’t exactly a social butterfly. Her life consisted of work. She knew that this guy was not someone she had bumped into on a regular basis.

Where could I possibly know him from?

The full set of lights came on in the bar which made Skye tired. She did not have any desire to go to breakfast, but Morgan looked like she needed a cup of coffee and some food. She was the social one. She liked to chat with the bar flies after hours so she could keep up on all the latest gossip. This visit would be for the two of them to catch up. Skye had been so busy lately at work she hadn’t had time to see Morgan in several weeks. 

Skye wasn’t much for the gossip and liked to keep to herself. She never felt she had much in common with any of the other girls at the bar. She was always responsible and would probably bore them to tears with her lack lustered work life. She was also almost always the designated driver when they went out because they all could count on the boring one to give a safe ride.

Driving did have its perks. She could leave when she wanted to. Of course, being the overly responsible one, she always had to leave the bar early due to her job. She hated that and would love to live a little, but paying the bills meant she had to be boring.

Morgan sometimes didn’t care to know her limit when it came to having fun, which is why she wasn't always a reliable designated driver. There were many nights over the years that Skye found herself drinking soda so they’d have a safe ride home.

Skye was all too familiar with limits that were fueled out of guilt. Her motherly personality played a huge roll, but it was the death of a friend under the influence that put the exclamation point on her staying sober. Jimmy’s death was something she’d just never get over.

“What’ll ya have?” The waitress said with a frown that clearly showed how much she hated the 3 am rush.

"I'll have a Western Omelet with a cup of coffee, high test, please." Skye said as politely as she could.

"And I'll have some eggs over easy with a side of bacon and a cup of coffee, as well, thanks." Said Morgan.

The waitress only momentarily looked up from her order pad to grab the menus. She returned quickly with two cups, a fresh pot of coffee, and some creamers.

"Your food will be coming in a few minutes. My name is Jane if you need anything."

“Thank you.” Skye replied.

"So, I'm just going to come right out and ask you, Skye, are you into Raine?" Morgan asked abruptly after the waitress was off to the far end of the restaurant. 

"Raine's not my type." Skye stated as flatly as she could hoping her all-knowing best friend wouldn’t see past the façade. 

"Not your type? What do you mean! He's gorgeous, Skye! You can't tell me that you aren't the least bit attracted to him."

"Look, I’m just not that interested right now. I’m still hurt and I certainly don’t need a rebound! I've been there and done that more times than I can count."

"I don't know, Skye. I think you'd enjoy the ride with this one. And the pun is intended, by the way."  Morgan said with a snicker. "You should get to know him, Skye. You’re getting wound a little too tight and could use a good screw. Besides, you don’t have to marry the guy so stop with the ‘I need to be responsible’ act! You stopped believing in Cinderella the day you quit wearing diapers so loosen up a little and have some fun!"

"Leave it to you to be so blunt!” Skye said with a smile. “Maybe I should be his friend. Lord knows I'll need a few of those if I keep going to the dives you drag me to. He'd be better at keeping the creepy guys away from me than you. Somehow, the lesbian thing just isn't working anymore. They keep fantasizing about a threesome these days." Skye said with a bit of a chuckle in her voice.

"Yeah, you are right. The lesbian thing doesn't work, but neither does that bit you tried. The one about becoming a nun."

"True. I guess we both have to either find ourselves a boyfriend or stop going to the bars."

"I vote for finding a boyfriend because I have too much fun at the bars. So, same bat time, same bat channel for tomorrow? "

Skye was reluctant to say yes. She was tired from a long work week and wanted nothing more than to curl up on her couch to watch an action movie. She wasn't into the girly, girl movies. What she really wanted was some back to back John Cena in The Marine and 12 Rounds. The acting was just as scarce in the movie as the romance, but the biceps more than made up for it.

Skye's focus then turned to Raine’s broad shoulders and imagined him shirtless on a treadmill working out. She shook her head. It was silly to even be thinking about Raine. He’d wind up being a rebound to forget about Hunter.


Skye knew that Raine could never take away the hurt of Hunter, but she wouldn’t mind if he tried. He was as mysterious as a Sherlock Holmes novel. But no matter which way she sliced her mental thoughts, she knew the real truth. She wanted to read that novel, cover to cover. Savoring each satiable word by the fireplace in nothing but a blanket. A sequel would be gladly welcomed too. 

"Hey, Ms. Daydreamer, Are you going to come back to reality?" Morgan said. "I asked you if you wanted to go to Backtrax tomorrow. Raine said he's going to be there."

Skye blinked hard. She was so lost in her thoughts she didn't realize that Raine was sitting in the booth right behind Morgan. Skye had to say something, but what? What would be a good excuse to ditch a night out? She could use the old, my Mom is sick line, but Morgan knew that one all too well and Skye didn't want to ditch Morgan, just Raine.

"That sounds good. I'll be there with bells on." Skye blurted. 

A pit of bile swelled in Skye’s stomach making it hard to concentrate. She shouldn’t have said yes. Now Raine has a reason to look forward to seeing her. The hunt would be on as far as he was concerned. She closed her eyes briefly in hopes that the act would make her disappear.

Some warmth came against her left shoulder. It was a comforting feeling while she sat there sweating through the stress. The warmth started to blanket her body. Curious, she opened her eyes to a hand on her left shoulder. It was Raine's.

"You don't have to wear bells, but a mini would be nice." Raine said as he looked down at Skye's legs.

She had dark skinny jeans on tonight with a pink bulky turtle neck sweater. Skye didn't like dressing up at night if she didn't have to. She wore business attire all day and the last thing she wanted to do was dawn a skirt in the evening, even if it was a shorter version than her daytime attire. Heels were also out of the question. Her dogs would not only bark, but howl and whimper at an all day and night run. It wasn't happening.

"Then, a mini it is." Skye was committing verbal diarrhea and there was no amount of Pepto in the world that could save her ass.

Raine smiled as he rubbed her shoulder and then glided out the door. As she watched him walk out door, she noticed that he was not with any acquisition of the evening. He was with the bartender and wait staff of Backtrax. Skye thought this was bit odd. It made her wonder if he wanted to make a good impression on her. Though, she knew he had no idea that she’d be going to the diner afterwards.

Skye shook her head again. She was over-thinking this whole Raine situation. A good night's sleep would give her a clearer perspective. Luckily for her, she could sleep in tomorrow. Skye looked forward to the weekends for this reason, even if it was just for an extra hour. It was one of the few pleasures in life she had.

Skye and Morgan finished their coffee and got up to pay for the bill. Skye felt a presence behind her and she turned to see who it was. She saw Raine through the glass doors, still in the parking lot, smiling at her. A slight chill came over her as she exited the diner. She could feel Raine still starring at her as she and Morgan got into the car. 




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