Mary The Outlaw: Chapter Two

 

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I rode under the overcast sky losing track of time as my mind travelled everywhere from the dark depths of my past to the strange possibilities of the future.

Outlaw. The word sounded so much better than “painted lady” or “saloon girl”. Outlaw referred to someone entirely different from one who served drunken men. I still wondered if I might wake up in my room with the young cowboy’s arms still wrapped possessively around me. I felt as though I were either in a dream or dead. Both seemed to be the only possibilities to my exhausted mind.

I pulled on my horses’s reins when a pond consisting of more than mud came into view. I jumped down from the saddle and nearly toppled over. I hadn’t realized how painful and exhausting half a day’s ride would be.

My weakened legs shook as I led the horse to the water. Keeping a hold on the rope, I wandered along the water’s edge, pinching my arm several times. I felt pain, which likely meant that I was not a ghost. I was simply living some other life that I was not prepared for in the least.

The tall cat tails rustled to my right and I jumped at the sight of a straw hat appearing above the long grasses. My hand rested on the hand gun secured in my belt. It had one bullet in it and the last thing that I wanted to do was use it at the beginning of my journey.

“Hello?” I called, forgetting to lower my voice.

A soft, sun kissed face appeared from beneath the hat.

“You know how to use that thang?” asked the strange woman.

“I’ve been huntin’ since I was fourteen, Ma’am.”

I took my hand off the weapon.

“Runnin’ away from home?”

“Somethin’ like that. I should be on my way.”

“I was huntin’ frogs. I’ve grown tired of eating potato soup and my shakin’ hands ain’t reliable for huntin’ these days. Ya hungry?”

I shook my head. Food was the last thing I wanted to think about.

“Help me catch some. Put ’em in that bucket.”

“I should be going.”

She laughed as I remounted and rode away. Her chortling chased me like an evil spirit. I reached the next town as the sun began to set. I kept my head down as my horse trotted through the boisterous streets. I understood why Papa hated town and I decided then that I would avoid towns as much as possible in the future.

A high-pitched shriek sounded down the street. My horse’s ears flattened against his head.

“Easy, boy,” I cooed, patting him gently.

I searched the streets for the source of the scream. My eyes found a group of preteen boys across the street surrounding a little boy no older than seven.

“Hey!” I shouted, deepening my voice.

Only one of the youths looked at me over his shoulder at me. I steered my mount closer to them as they shouted curse words and shoved the little boy. I could barely breathe as rage burned from the pit of my stomach.

“Let him go, you bloody wolves!” I shouted.

“What’s it to you?” balked the tallest one.

“Why hurt someone so much smaller than you?” I asked angrily.

They laughed at me. For being so young, they carried the same entitled cockiness that most of the saloon men had. I stared at them and shuddered before looking at the frightened little boy. I got down from my horse and drew my weapon. The boys backed away.

“Whoa. Who the hell are you?” asked the chubby one.

“Get lost before I send one of you to hell!”

The three of them ran down the road like frightened rats. My anger simmered down as the filthy, roughed up boy stared up at me with wide eyes.

“Best be gettin’ home now,” I said.

Without a word, he nearly tripped over his own feet as he ran the opposite way down the street. I watched him until he turned down an alley. I took a deep breath and scanned the street. No one seemed to notice or care about the confrontation. Max would possibly search for me for the next few towns. No one ever expected a girl to be able to fend for herself. I wasn’t so sure I could, either.

I rode a ways down the road when my eyes began to close involuntarily. I was exhausted and my horse probably felt the same way. I steered him off the trail toward a cluster of rocks. It was doubtful that anyone would see us from the road as we rested for the night.

I curled up into a ball on the hard ground wishing I had brought a blanket with me. My new horse stared out into the darkness, seemingly content with being tied to a bush for a chance to sleep.

“Did you know your old master was a terrible man?” I asked.

A chill tightened my scalp and raced down my spine as the sound of approaching horses disturbed the evening air.

Mary the Outlaw: Chapter One

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My feet slammed down on the hard ground. I looked up at the window I had just jumped from as I caught my breath. Max would be awake in another hour. He always woke up with the sun.

The cowboy’s horse was still hitched at the saloon’s post. Though relieved, I scoffed at his sloppiness. Only the lowest class of fellas tied their horses to the front of a building.

I jingled his coins in my purse. His mistreatment of me had been his greatest expense. I untied the reata from the post and stretched my hand out to the chestnut gelding. He sniffed my palm and snorted. Cringing, I mounted in the clumsiest fashion. I had to learn how to move like the wind now that I had become a murderer. A murderer. Some of his blood had smeared on my hand. I stared at the dark, sticky liquid slowly drying on my hand. I knew I should have been horrified by my sins, but I felt only the urge to flee and the fear of being caught.

I guided my new mount down the street with shaking hands. I had only ridden a mule on the farm; I had no idea what sort of temperament the horse possessed. I urged him into a canter regardless, hoping for the best. We flew over the dark grasslands and I closed my eyes for a moment. I was like a dove set free from its captor. I was far from safe and yet I felt wonderful. The ground began to slope upward and my mount adjusted his pace. He was a good horse. I longed for us to become one. We would make a better pair than he and the cowboy.

My heart fluttered at the sight of my home atop the hill. The barren fields of my family’s property mirrored the emptiness that encompassed me. I would never be able to return home, but a part of me no longer wished to. A large part of me died the evening that Max had his way with me.

When I arrived at the home that had once been a haven of family warmth, I tied my horse to the post and travelled up the stairs to the front door. I tried the knob and was proud of Samantha for bolting it shut. I went to the rear of the house and kicked the shoddy back door with all of my might. It opened at last and I met the wide black eyes of Samantha, who stood in the middle of the kitchen holding a knife.

“Mary, my God. Where’ve ya been?” she asked.

“I was workin’. Forgive me, Samantha, but I had no choice. I-I killed a man. I cannot stay, but I came here to give you the money I took off the scoundrel.”

Samantha set the knife down and took a step toward me. Tears streamed down her soft, kind face. “Oh, child. They will hunt you like a rabid dog. Where in God’s name will ya go?”

“I don’t know, but I have a horse, a gun, and some money. I can go find better work in a different city. One far away.”

“Blood money,” said Samantha hollowly.

“It is money all the same. Don’t spend it all at once or they’ll get suspicious.”

“I may have been born a slave, but I ain’t no fool, Mary.”

“I want to see little Becky one more time.”

Samantha let me pass through the kitchen. I travelled quietly up the stairs leading up to the bedroom that we all shared before I stepped into the saloon. Unspeakable grief broke through the numbness when I found her sleeping soundly beneath the blankets – blankets we once shared. I covered my mouth. Her silky, long hair draped over the pillow. I longed to be able to protect her, but if I stayed, the monsters would find me there and steal away Becky’s innocence.

I was still a girl myself. I could not fight against Max and his friends alone. Not yet. I had to leave for both of our sakes.

“I am sorry,” I whispered.

I leaned over and kissed her cheek. She would soon be twelve and I would miss an entire lifetime of adventures and wonderful memories with her. I stepped away, drinking in the sight of the little girl that I might never see again. I wondered if ghosts felt the same way as I, looking over the person who mattered the most before journeying off to an unknown world.

I made my way back to the kitchen where Samantha stood wiping her eyes. I wanted to hug her, but I felt unclean. The cowboy’s blood still stuck to my hand.

“I’m sorry, Samantha. Thank you for being a good friend to me and for taking care of Becky.”

“Is there not another way?”

“Becky would hate me for what I have become and the men will punish you and her if they find out you’ve been hidin’ me. Going home was never an option.”

Samantha shook her head as she studied me. “That there pretty dress screams saloon girl. That cowboy hat won’t make you no cowboy ‘neither. Wait here.”

She returned with a pile of my father’s old clothes. I winced at the painful memories of Papa. I had no other choice but to create a disguise if I hoped to survive. Samantha was right. She helped me dress. Papa’s clothes were ridiculously big on me, but it made me appear slouchy and boyish. It was the perfect disguise. Samantha gently tied my hair up into a tight bun.

“Don’t let it fall out, y’hear?”

I nodded. “I suppose I should take his pack, too. Since I’ll be living on the road for a while.”

“You’ll catch your death out there!”

“Papa did it for years and you’re always sayin’ how much he and I are alike.”

“His pack is over here,” muttered Samantha.

She retrieved it and dropped it at my feet. She wrapped her arms tightly around me and I inhaled a mixture of freshly baked bread, hay, and smoke, savouring her comforting scent. Without looking back, I took my Papa’s sugan and stepped out of my home for the very last time. Realizing that it was too bulky to ride with, I left it on the door step. I would worry about buying supplies once I was far away from Max.

I realized then that I was the farthest thing from a dove set free. I had become a ghost.

Mary the Outlaw: Prologue

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I stepped up the creaking stairs leading to the house of evil – the saloon. It was only five minutes past two o’clock in the afternoon on a sunny day, but I felt despicable being there. I held my breath to stop the strong scents from overpowering my senses as I walked inside. There were only two men sitting down with drinks at the bar speaking with the bartender. My eyes stung as the smoke from their cigars wafted over to me.

A well-dressed man around forty years old approached me seemingly from nowhere. He was handsome, but looks never impressed me all that much. His snakelike smile made me want to turn around and leave. I swallowed hard, trying not to stare into his bright blue eyes.

“Good afternoon, Miss…?”

“Miss McNeil.”

“McNeil. Are you Nathaniel’s daughter?”

“Yes’m,” I said.

I nearly hated him for asking me. I spent every day attempting to swallow down the grief since his passing on some distant battle field. I never had a chance to say good-bye to him or Mother.

“The war took the best men.”

“Yes, it did, Sir. I came here because I saw your ad in the paper seeking to hire girls in your saloon. Are you still lookin’?”

His eyes widened as his mouth upturned into an easy grin. “You can call me Max and I am hirin’. You’re all of what – seventeen?”

My heart raced.

“I am nearly nineteen. My baby sister is very weak from starvation because we had a bad year on the farm. I need to earn some money. Please, Sir, I will work any task that you need me to.”

“We can’t have your baby sister stave to death, can we?” he said while hiding a smirk.

I swallowed back a biting retort to his sarcasm. I already hated him.

“You are a little young. Most girls start around age twenty and they look their age, but I am certain that the fellers will love your pure type of beauty. It’s a rare thing to come by in saloons – or anywhere for that matter.”

The way that his gaze scrutinized me up and down reminded me of the devil.

“Sir, I mean, Max, the article says that hired painted ladies serve drinks and food to patrons and make them feel welcome. Is this all that I will be doing?”

Max the saloon owner cleared his throat, taking a step closer to me. His warm breath tickled my face. He stared at me as though he was contemplating breaking my neck. I looked away.

“My dear, I knew your pappy,” he said, stepping closer. “I’ll watch over you like a father while you make a living for you and your sister.”

“When may I start?” I asked quietly, hating how my voice broke.

“You can start tonight. I only have four girls working for me right now, and Tuesday nights are busy.”

I cringed inwardly at the thought of working in a saloon full of rowdy drunk men. Fear weakened my knees and had to lean against one of the chairs while I pulled myself together.

“All right. I-I won’t need to live here, will I? I have heard that some of the girls-”

“You need to live here. You can send money to your sister once monthly when you are paid. Deal?”

My stomach knotted at the idea of sleeping anywhere other than home. I expected to return to my sister and our house servant, Samantha. Well, she was more like our friend. We all became one and the same once the war began. I peered over my shoulder and out the door, longing to go back to my farm. I clenched my fists and took a deep breath.

“Deal,” I agreed. “So long as my job as a painted lady will not venture into lady of the night territory.”

My entire face flushed as Max threw his head back and laughed at me.

“My girls aren’t whores, Mary.”

I flinched at the way he used my first name, but his blunt response was the assurance that I needed to hear.

“Why don’t you start right now? I will get you acquainted with the other girls upstairs. They’ll fix you up proper for tonight.”

He reached over and took a long strand of my sun-lightened hair, gently twirling it around with his fingers.

“Um all right,” I said.

I followed him up the dusty stairs. I nearly turned around and ran out, but I knew I could not. My sister’s life depended on me.

I blinked back frightened tears and braced myself to face everything that the job would throw at me. I would only need to work there for a few months and then I would be able rework the land along with my sister and Samantha. We would rebuild the farm together and one day, my time at the saloon would be well behind me. It was only temporary.

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One cold morning, I woke up before the sun rose. I had to pry myself out from the cowboy stranger’s strong grasp. He groaned and turned over to his other side. Even in his dreams, he seemed to think that he owned me.

I wrapped my shivering body with my silk robe and stood at the window. Staring out at the stars, I relaxed. It was only those quiet moments when no one else was conscious that I could truly think. I was so tired of being treated like property. I was more than tired.

It had been four long months since I discovered that Max was lying to me all along. As my sweet baby sister slowly gained her strength back on the farm, I had become a lady of the night in the saloon.

“Lady of the night,” I whispered to myself in disgust. That was no title.

The cowboy stirred in his sleep. I touched the tender bruise on my upper arm and winced at the memories of our evening. He said he liked the skinny girls because they are the easiest to toss around. A smile formed on my red lips as I glanced at his knife on the night stand.

I hesitated before taking it in my grasp. I quietly crawled back into bed with the knife still in my hand. I held the blade against his thick neck as he continued to sleep soundly. He was young like I was, but he had killed more men and beat more women than I would ever know.

Tears marred my vision of his angular face.

 

Wednesday Whimsicality

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Independent Spirit

Her wide eyes and quiet nature are often misunderstood to be needy or helpless. Some fail to recall her multiple solo trips across provinces to find her own way. Her quest is to find balance and peace as she writes. She cannot be truly happy unless she is supporting herself.

She cannot be tamed, though she is often mistaken to be weak and manipulatable. She will flee any situation that threatens her freedom or authenticity. She cannot stay anywhere for too long, always a wanderer.

Once, a spiritual man accused her of having a demon when she openly disagreed with him about a woman needing to be under the authority of a man.

“Independent spirt,” he sneered.

He pounded his fist on the desk, and that was the first time she wondered if she was perhaps one of the few sane people in a rather insane world.

I ran for the hills, living whimsically ever after.

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(Photo Source: everystockphoto.com)

 

Book Review: When The Black Roses Grow

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When The Black Roses Grow By Angela Christina Archer

Twenty-five men and women were accused.
Nineteen hung to their death on Gallow Hills.
One suffocated under bone-crushing stones.
All believed to possess the power of witchcraft.

In 1692 the fear of witchcraft is spreading around Salem Village. While those who are accused and sentenced face death, everyone else faces the risk of accusations placed upon them.
***

I was drawn in to Emmalyn’s world from the very first page as she grieves for her mother who was tried and hanged as a witch. 1692 Salem is a dark place where many women are accused and sentenced to death as witches, but Emmalyn does her best to stay strong and live out her life in peace. There is so much danger looming and virtually every woman in Salem worries that she might be the next accused witch.
When a mysterious vine starts to grow in her home, she fears for her life as the dark magic is evidence that she is a witch. When James, a handsome stranger comes to town, he both excites and worries Emmalyn. He hides a world of secrets behind his piercing blue eyes.
Author Angela Archer weaves a beautiful tale of loss, love, trust, and the darkness that humanity can sometimes force upon others. I enjoyed protagonist Emmalyn’s authenticity and strength through the entire book. The tension and drama builds with every passing chapter.
I was not prepared for the epic twist at the ending! You will not want to miss what happens in this beautifully written historical tale.
Historical romance and fantasy fans alike will enjoy Where The Black Roses Grow.

You can purchase When The Black Roses Grow on Amazon here!

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SAPHIRA – Short Story for the Coffee Break

Follow along with Ana Calin’s dark romantic thriller that is sure to leave an impression with you. I am hooked on the story of young artist Saphira and The Marquis. Do not miss this epic tale!

Ana Calin

Saphira – *fiction based on a real person, for whom I’ve drawn up a personal profile* (Elf-Type)

BLURB:

Saphira is a young artist with a curse – she’s that kind of beautiful that sells. Which her parents – business people in distress – decide to exploit, dragging her to business banquets in order to find her a rich husband. It’s at one of these banquets that Saphira witnesses murder and draws the attention of a highly dangerous killer with mysterious reasons. This scene depicts the pivotal moment when Saphira becomes a witness and meets the killer known as the Marquis.

***

The most luxurious banquet hall in the city. Or so it wishes to stand with its chandeliers dripping crystal, golden curtains and mirrors with gilded frames – fake of course, but they can trick a lay eye. I sit at the table with palms in my lap, focused only…

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New Novel By Christopher Milner Published On Amazon

Christopher Milner has published his first book, The Giant Rat of Sumatra, on Amazon! It is only $4.55. Make sure you get your copy and support him. He’s a very talented writer. Check out his blog here and see for yourself. You’ll be glad you did. :)

Dracul Van Helsing

My 1st Novel Now Published and Available For Sale On Amazon

To all my friends, readers and fellow bloggers, I just thought I’d let you know that my 1st Novel was published today. :)

It’s now available at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01B1W526W

I would ask for your support in buying this book and also let your friends, acquaintances and family know about it to purchase it as well. :)

Many thanks,
Christopher

Monday January 25th 2016
Robbie Burns Day

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INFP Wednesday Whimsicality

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I wander along seas and lakes and rivers, or on cobblestone streets in search of organic tea shops. I am a willowy princess in this world, but a warrior in my created world. I wonder if they might make me a Queen one day. In my other world, of course. Where most of my characters are alive and living, where friends never born in this world live and speak to me. I think they help me more than I help them.

I know if my canine friend were still alive, she would watch over me in any way that she could. I am a lone wolf, a wandering wild mare. I may be lost sometimes, but I find many muses as I travel and write. Old books from my grandparents spell-bound me as a child and I miss them. Turn off the lights, watch a candle.

Fog is an eyegasm; sun often chases away my inspiration. I have loved monsters, but monsters will eat INFP girls as a late night snack. Cute cannot conquer.

(Source: Whoufflepuffabulous on Tumblr)

City of Ice, An Excerpt

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I started a novel, City of Ice, about six years ago. It’s about a 28 year old suicidal princess attempting to survive in a cult ice world. The monarchy is a sham – the city is ruled by the cleric and their dark magic.

I am notorious for working on two projects at once, and my YA fantasy novel is still my main focus, but as a little reprieve, I will come back to this and start editing and adding to it. :) Here is how the first chapter begins.

Let me know what you think!

City of Ice, An Excerpt

Sunlight hit two large ice formations just ahead of them, making them glow. The light made Ivea nearly forget about the cold.

“So beautiful,” she breathed.

“We should turn back.”

She ignored Tercun, quickly urging her horse into a gallop over the crisp snow before he could say anything else to spoil the magic she was feeling. His mount caught up to hers and they both slowed down when they came to a large patch of ice.

“What if I can’t bring you back this time, Ivea?” he asked.

Instead of offering her alchemist friend a biting retort, Ivea watched the horizon ahead. She would do what she needed to, and he would follow her as he always did for the last twenty years. They rode ahead and reached a cavern. A human-sized hole only a few feet above ground level marked the mouth.

Ivea’s pulse quickened with that familiar blend of excitement and unease. She dismounted and approached the cavern, digging her treaded fur-trimmed boots into the solid ice. From below, Tercun gave her a gentle lift upward and she reached for the opening.

As she climbed up on the ledge, warm air collided with her face. Her lithe form slid down a sloped, icy wall; she grunted when her bottom slammed onto the cave’s floor. Her eyes adjusted to the strange and stunning surroundings, which made her quickly forget about her discomfort.

Light from a tiny opening in the ceiling hit the hot pools of rippling, steaming blue water and caused the walls to come alive with radiant designs. Ivea was sure that the sight was as magnificent and soothing as any heaven could be.

Her skin tingled as she unbuttoned her coat and let it slide down her shoulders. She could not have chosen a more fitting place to perform her most dangerous experiment. Today, she would find out for certain if there was life after death.

“Ivea, you can’t do this.”

Tercun stood right behind her. She would have jumped from surprise had it not been for his soft, even tone.

“Since when did you become so skilled at sneaking up on me?”

Tercun’s gaze travelled down her long, scarlet gown. Ivea rolled her eyes and went to the pool, admiring her dress in the reflection. She could be imprisoned for over a year if a member if the cleric caught her in such attire. She was Queen Mornia’s daughter, but that would not spare her from the wrath of a fanatic.

“Don’t you tire of always wearing white?” asked Ivea, returning her gaze to Tercun.

“I never bothered to think about it.”

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” she sighed.

Ivea twirled once, watching the bottom of her dress sway like a faraway flower in the breeze. How wonderful it was to break away from white’s monotony. White hair, white garments, white snow, and white skin was everywhere in the city with no reprieve.

“You don’t have to do this just because you want proof that a supreme being does not exist,” said Tercun.

She dipped her bare foot in the warm water.

“Yes, I do.”

“I know very well that you do not.”

Ivea could not be mad at him, even as his stern tone chased away the whimsical mood that surrounded her. She had adored his quiet, calm manner from the first moment they met as children. He was so different from her, from everyone. He was the only person that offered her a listening ear and she adored him for that. She also despised him for being so accepting of the clerics’ doctrine.

Taking in the surrealism of the strange water, her stomach fluttered. It was time.

“Ivea.”

She turned to him in annoyance, but was stunned to see how otherworldly he appeared as the blue reflection danced along his angular face. He could have married countless noble women that would have made his life a lot easier, but he never seemed to be interested in any of them. When he wasn’t busy studying new theories, he was trying to keep up with her self-harm experiments. It was almost as though he secretly enjoyed them.

She swallowed as a dull ache worked its way up from her chest, tightening her throat. She brought her gaze away from his pleading eyes and down to the water.

“Yes?” she whispered.

“I will bring you back. No matter what.”

“I know.”

Ivea cleared her throat and stood at the edge of the small pool, wondering how deep it reached into the earth.

Second Excerpt from my YA Novel :-)

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The mineworkers’ shadows appeared as dark monsters on the walls of the cave. Helen paused for a moment to rest her sore arms and watch the eerie figures move about. She would never become accustomed to the place no matter how much she tried to tell herself that she would.

When at last the bell rang for everyone to go home, she followed the long line of people who were anxious to escape from their dreary daily sentence. Most of them barely spoke a word to one another. She imagined that their minds were off somewhere else, perhaps thinking back to better days.

Gladyssa had been given the day off since her fiancée arrived in town last evening. Helen was happy for her sister and could not begrudge her the stroke of good luck.

Sunlight greeted Helen from the mouth of the cave. Though she was shorter than everyone else, the streams of light still reached through them and shone on her soot-covered face. It healed her from the abyss of hopelessness, reminding her that there was still a life worth living once the workday was over. She was almost fourteen years old, and as she got older, she would have more say over life. Or, so she hoped.

An unusual rumble sounded above her and drowned out her pleasant thoughts. Panicked voices filled the air around her. She tensed, unsure of what to do.

“Everybody run!” shouted a man from the entrance.

Several bodies pushed past Helen toward the cave’s opening. Rocks and pebbles fell down on them. She cried out and shielded herself from it.

(Image source: everystockphoto.com)