LOL. I wrote a Christmas scene that was just some doodling about what’s going on in the background at the start of Bite Back 6, and got a lot of positive reaction to it. https://henwick.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/christmas-story/
So… here are another couple of scenes with Father Julius and Livia in New York. Remember, these aren’t main Bite Back characters and probably won’t appear in the main books, though I may sketch out a short story with them in posts like this. And no, it hasn’t distracted me from writing Bian’s Tale for long. I wrote these scenes on my ‘day off’.
Update on Angel Stakes audio… Julia thinks she’ll have the recording done this month. After checking and admin, I’m estimating that the audio will be available in February. I’ll do a specific post when I feel the schedule is clearer.
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Father Julius crosses the road, sidles around the iron gate with the flaking keep-out sign, and heads down toward the river, steps crunching on uneven gravel.
He wears soft boots which keep his feet warm, and are comfortable for walking. He doesn’t know how far he will have to walk today, beyond the five miles he has walked so far. By the same consideration, his coat is warm. It’s old-fashioned, his woollen coat; military, snug, double-breasted, with wide lapels. He has put his collar and hood up, even though he knows it completes the image and makes him look like the sinister assassin character out of the video game. The hood is necessary. It hides his thick, red hair, which is too recognizable. He doesn’t want to be stopped by any of his parishoners at the moment. Time is precious.
Is he too late? Where is she?
The red hair has always been a problem. He has it cut frequently to keep it from being unruly, and that makes the Bishop think he’s vain. Julius does not discourage it. Better the Bishop think of vanity than start to suspect what Father Julius really does in his own time.
Like keeping the hidden Athanate community of New York from spinning out of control.
A flurry of snow swirls out of the evening.
And behind it comes a young man. An Athanate.
He’s distressed, stumbling. He cringes at the sight of Julius.
But he’s not dead, merely ‘reprimanded’, and a load lifts from Julius’ shoulders.
Julius lets him go: alive he’s not a problem to them. Unless he makes another mistake, and then not all Julius’ pleas will save him.
He walks on quickly.
She’s there, down near the water. Her hands are thrust deep into her coat pockets and she’s looking at the river, lost in thought.
She doesn’t turn as he approaches, but in the same way he can sense her, she can sense him.
“You haven’t visited me for ages, Julius,” she says. “We speak only when there’s a problem.”
“We do. I’m sorry.” He doesn’t argue. They don’t have time to argue and besides, she’s right.
She spins, secure that the evening’s poor light will hide her uncanny speed and suddenly, she’s behind him, arms gripping his body, imprisoning him. She’s pulled his hood back and her lips are resting on his neck. When she wants, she moves in a blur, evidence of her elder Athanate abilities. She’d given him just enough time to gasp, no more.
“So visit me now,” she whispers.
It’s like falling, the rushing sensation in the pit of his stomach. But it’s not fear, or at least, it’s not just fear. It’s the same thing it’s always been, that shivery, rabbit-snake fascination. That heart-thrashing desire.
“Livia,” he says. His voice is thick and slow, and he has to swallow. “We don’t have time. A message has come. Altau wants to see us now.”
“Some things are more important than our new lord and master.” Her fangs are out. He can feel them graze his skin and he has to clench his teeth. She makes his whole body sing. She always has.
He takes her hands in his, raises them to his lips and kisses her cold fingers.
Taking a deep, calming breath, he speaks again: “We can’t keep him waiting.”
“We could run.”
She lets him go with an unhappy sigh, and they start to walk slowly back toward the light. They are close, shoulders almost touching.
He raises his hood again. The flushed skin of his face feels like a beacon in the darkness and he really can’t have his parishoners seeing him like this.
“You’ve come to take your disguise very seriously, Julius,” she says as he hides behind the hood. “So seriously, it’s become more important to you than…old friends.”
“It’s not, but it’s complicated,” he says,
“Complicated? I disagree. Everything has become painfully simple. You do know, my little, black-frocked priest, there’s every possibility we won’t be allowed to walk away from this meeting with Altau?”
“If he wanted to hunt us down, he could.” Julius gestures, sweeping the argument away. He’s had this discussion with others, many times, over the last couple of weeks. “There’s nowhere to go, and no way to get there.”
“Yes, he could hunt us. But why bother to chase us all around the city or the country if he can get us to turn up at his door like good little sacrifices?”
“I really don’t think that’s what he wants.”
“Maybe. Bazhir wasn’t clear one way or the other. Anyway, I’ll amend what I said. There’s every possibility, I won’t be allowed to walk away.”
“I won’t leave without you, Livia.”
He hadn’t intended to say that. It sounds so trite. So melodramatic, so puffed up. He lowers his head to hide more blushing.
But Livia slips her hand into his and presses herself against his arm as they walk.
“Well then, that is the only reason I will go.”
Manhattan Island, office.
There are two others waiting in the lobby of the new headquarters building of Altau Holdings.
They’ve been there for some time, and Aaron Keensleigh makes no secret of his anger. The tall, powerful Were alpha probably couldn’t hide his emotions if he tried, and he doesn’t try. The Were don’t come down out of the Adirondacks much, and they don’t like the city. They also don’t like the Athanate. They certainly don’t like politics.
Julius is surprised the alpha is here at all.
The other person waiting is a complete contrast. Faith Hinton just loves the city. She only lives out on Long Island, you know, but the shops are so wonderful here in Manhattan, she simply cannot resist. Just look at all these…
Her hands press against her cheeks, framing her heart-shaped face, as if she is shocked by what she’s done.
She sits surrounded by branded shopping bags.
Julius has to bite his lip to stop the threatening laughter, entirely inappropriate in the circumstances. The Adept’s happy, babbling song of praise to Manhattan had to have been sheer torture for Keensleigh over the hours they’ve been waiting.
And he should not fall into the mistake of dismissing Hinton, as the Were probably has. That empty-headed facade is very practiced and expertly acted.
Both Keensleigh’s anger and Hinton’s exuberance simply bounce off Livia’s stone face. Since they crossed the river, Livia has not uttered a word.
And that, perhaps, is also practiced, he thinks.
House Altau does not leave them long, now they are assembled. Within a minute, one of Altau’s elite security is guiding them to an elevator.
To Julius’ immense surprise, the Altau leans in, enters the code for the penthouse into the elevator’s pad, and then steps back, leaving the four of them to ascend alone.
Even Hinton’s chatter stumbles as the doors open to reveal Skylur Altau himself, alone and casually dressed.
“Welcome,” he says, with an open handed gesture.
Livia tenses beside Julius. She does not like what she cannot predict, and in one move House Altau has demonstrated how unpredictable and confident he is. He is not scared of any of them, not even all four of them together, and he does not care if they know it.