Chapter 02 sneak preview of my current work-in-progress:
Luca – Book 1 of the Demon Born Series (paranormal romance).
Pre-edit version. May change before publication.
Another weekend, yay! And here’s the second instalment of the paranormal romance novel I’m writing (Luca’s story).
Big shout out to all of you who emailed me last week. It was great hearing from you, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the first part of the story.
I’m a little slow writing it at the moment because of other demands on my time, but I’m aiming to complete a chapter a week. So, thanks for bearing with me, and I hope you enjoy this week’s chapter.
“What? Is he sixteen?”
Belle Meed rubbed a weary hand across her face. “Thirty, apparently. But I suspect he borrowed the extra fourteen years from his grandma.”
Kathy, her shop manager, chuckled. “Where do you find these ones, gal? You’ve a whole app of men in there, and you still pick the dodos. You’re a dodo magnet.”
“The dodos looked… normal,” Belle protested. “Ordinary.” And ordinary was important. She didn’t want the non-ordinary ones. She had enough of that circus at home, so her potential love life was going to be stuffed to the gills with ordinary, thank you very much.
Kathy sighed and shook her blonde head. “It’s the ordinary ones you need to watch out for. Their floppy drives haven’t seen action since the turn of the century, so they’re desperate for even a sniff of pussy.” Her round face broke into a grin, and she leaned on the shop counter closer to Belle. “So what other dodos you got in there?”
“They don’t get much better,” Belle warned and swiped her phone screen until she came to the next eager message.
‘Suck me dry, gorgeous.’
“Ooh, I like me a keen one,” Kathy said with a snort. “Show me more.”
Belle laughed and swiped through her list of wannabe suitors.
‘How are you? My girl’s out of town. We could bang.’
‘Can I borrow £50?’
‘Roses are red. Violets are blue. Pic me that pussy. Come on, babe. Be cool.’
‘DTF? Can pay twenty. Ten if blowjob only.’
‘Come make babies!’
‘I’m luring girls to my house with chocolate. What’s your favourite?’
‘Call me DADDY.’
“Oh, lordy.” Kathy buried her head in her hands. “In my fifty-two years, I haven’t seen a better collection of cretins all in one place.” She looked at Belle. “And you’ve been on this app for how long? A week?”
“Two weeks. Though not long enough to have found the ‘one’ from the looks of it.”
“Hah. You’re twenty-three, gal. If you’d wanted to find this so-called ‘one’ by now, you should have started looking sooner, like when you were eighteen, maybe.”
Exactly what Aunt Dee kept nagging about. But life until now had been ploddingly peaceful with no need for the ‘one’, or the ‘two’, or any number of men paying attention to her. But a month ago all that had changed. A sudden restlessness deep inside that Belle couldn’t put her finger on had set her panicking and feeling empty—only half-there. Aunt Dee had practically jumped up and down with glee, convinced that this was a sign Belle’s ‘soul mate’ was finally near.
Belle frowned. She most definitely didn’t want any ‘soul mate’. That was more trouble than it was worth. What she wanted… needed… was to fall in love with a nice, ordinary guy, so she could safely put her old life behind her and live a nice, ordinary life with him complete with kids and a white-fenced cottage.
Determination renewed, she swiped to the newest message on her phone. “Things aren’t all that bad,” she said. “This came today after lunch.” And she showed Kathy the message.
‘Hey beautiful, How you doing?’
“Dear God, a half-decent one,” Kathy yelped in excitement.
“Um… yes.” Belle held the phone closer to Kathy. “Take a careful look behind him.”
“Are those… prison bars?”
“Can’t blame him for trying. Prisoners must need love too.” Belle studied the brawny, tattooed man in the picture. “It was a good introduction though…”
“Hardly Shakespeare.” Kathy took the mobile phone from her and placed it down on the counter. “Look gal, I hate to see you get desperate like this. And if your uncle were still alive, he’d kill me if I didn’t steer you in the right direction. You’re a pretty thing, so you’ll get a ton of men hitting on you. But you’ve got to take your time with them. They’re not all worth jumping into bed with.”
Belle smiled. Good old Kathy. She’d joined their village flower shop, Sweet Blooms, twenty years ago when Uncle Carl first started it, and Belle had been just three years old. And now Kathy was like a second mum to her after Aunt Dee, albeit a little more unconventional. “I wasn’t looking to be anyone’s bed warmer straightaway,” Belle said. “I’d hoped to find a relationship like the one Uncle Carl and Aunt Dee had. You know… find someone nice to settle down with.”
“Settle down?” Kathy indignantly straightened her stocky five-foot frame. “That’s your Aunt Dee talking. If there’s one thing I’ve learned the hard way, it’s ‘never settle’. No man’s ‘the one’. You could be missing out on something better. And yes, you’re still in too much of a rush.”
Belle chewed her lip. Yes, she was in a rush, but she had a reason. And as for no man being ‘the one’, it would have been wonderful if Kathy had been right. She could have escaped all this ‘soul mate’ trouble Aunt Dee was trying to drown her with. But something inside told her Kathy was wrong. “I need to settle,” she said quietly. “There’s this sense of… urgency. I don’t know how to describe it.”
“I’d have said it was your eggs ticking away, but you’re mighty young for that,” Kathy said. “Fine. Settle if you must. Besides, your Aunt Dee would have a cow if she heard me telling you otherwise. But see, if you’re looking for a man to settle with, then I think you’re going about it the wrong way.” She picked up the mobile phone and flicked through to Belle’s profile on the dating app. “I mean, look at this. It’s all wrong.” And she held up the phone for Belle to see.
A young woman smiled back from the photo on screen. Her leaf-green eyes were bright, and her long brown tresses fell in loose waves around her heart-shaped face and almost to her waist. She wore a pretty orange dress in the photo, very like the yellow dress Belle was wearing today.
Belle self-consciously touched her hair, which was once again tumbling carefree to her waist. “But what’s wrong with that photo?”
“Everything. It’s you every day as you come to the shop. If you want to catch the eye of a real man, you got to look the part. Dress up a bit. Slap a bit of make-up on. Keep looking like a girl who’s just stepped out of school, and all you’ll get are pervs hounding after you.”
“Oh… I never thought of it like that.”
So that was where she was going wrong. She was so new to this whole ‘try-to-attract-a-guy’ thing, that she had no clue. For some reason, she’d grown up as a freak who’d had no interest in attracting anyone. Aunt Dee would no doubt trot out the old ‘waiting-for-soul-mate’ line, but the less said about that subject the better.
Lost in thought, she stroked the broad green leaf of a potted African Violet she’d been pruning on the counter. Gentle warmth flowed from the rough leaf into her fingertips, and her mind relaxed. Well, at least she knew what to do now. And for starters that meant a new profile photo, and then—.
“I swear…” Kathy muttered, breaking into her thoughts. “That damn plant just sat up and took notice.” Kathy’s wide-eyed gaze was on the African Violet’s purple flowers, which were now pointing straight up at Belle and doing a peppy little wave. “Look! It’s dancing now.”
Belle snatched back her hand.
“Your uncle could do that too.” Kathy frowned and prodded the little flowers, which had thankfully stopped their happy jig. “He’d talk to the plants, and I swear they’d talk back in their own way.”
“That’s silly,” Belle said with a nervous laugh. “Plants don’t talk… or dance. Everyone knows that.”
The shop phone rang beside Kathy, and throwing another frowning look at the flowers, she reached out and answered it.
Belle took the opportunity to quickly deposit the now still African Violet onto a display shelf far from the counter.
Ordinary. Just be ordinary.
But no matter how much she tried to calm herself, her hands still shook with the close call. The world of humans was ordinary. Hers was not. It was at times like this that her ‘gift’, as Aunt Dee called it, seemed more a curse as it poured out of her uncontrolled. Dammit, trying to be ordinary was a lot of work.
“It was the Micklethwaites,” Kathy said, placing down the phone receiver when Belle returned to the counter. “The ones with the wedding next week. They want to add to their flower order.”
“That’s a bit last minute,” Belle said, relieved that Kathy seemed to have forgotten the dancing violets. “What flowers do they want?”
“A mix of pink peonies and roses.”
“Roses?” Belle blanched.
Kathy already had her hand up in a calming gesture. “I’ll handle those,” she said with a wry smile. “Dear me, what would anyone think of a florist who’s allergic to roses?”
“I’m not allergic,” Belle said. Just plain terrified. “I’m…” She shrugged. “Thanks though.”
With a nod, Kathy picked up her reading glasses. “I’ll put the order through on the computer.” And she headed off to the office upstairs.
Belle began tidying up to close shop. It was already quarter to five on a Friday evening, and all the shops in Whimple Village closed at five on the dot. From the quiet look of the village centre outside, Sweet Blooms wouldn’t be seeing any more customers today.
But in the lonely silence, the plants on the shelves called her, and she stopped her work and regarded them. Lush green leaves and rainbow flowers artfully decorated every corner of the little shop. Their exotic scents perfumed the air, and their vivid energy rippled through her body in gentle waves. It was tempting to let go and reach out…
Relaxing her hold on herself, she tentatively nudged her essence out towards the plants. Their energy immediately tingled with delight. Flowers and leaves peaked around her, some swaying to her energetic touch, others shimmering in soft lights of blue, red, pink, and yellow. Life soared through Belle, pure and wonderful, and she closed her eyes on a sensation akin to being a bird swooping high above feathery clouds. It was sheer magic. But then the plants pull on her strengthened, and she opened her eyes. Already her power was intensifying, spiralling and slipping out of her control. With a mental tug, she yanked it back into herself. She couldn’t risk it. Let go of her magic fully, and anything could happen.
The sudden red flash of a car caught the corner of her eye, and she turned to see a Porsche pull up outside the shop.
Posh cars were a rare treat in quiet little Whimple. Most of the wealthy folk who owned the big houses on the village outskirts preferred nearby London for their shopping. Modest Whimple was usually left for the poorer villagers to enjoy.
Belle stared at the sleek red car and then stared even harder at the handsome man who stepped out the driver side.
Now, this was an ordinary she could like.
He stood tall and elegant in his autumn-coloured blazer and chinos. His blond hair was carefully styled, and the sunglasses he wore against the unseasonably bright October sun heightened his good looks. But best of all, even with the glass front of the shop separating them, she could sense he was pure human with not a drop of wizard blood in him.
Magicless. Ordinary. Perfect.
To be continued next week…