Friday, February 12, 2010

AN EXCERPT from VICIOUS CIRCLE

An excerpt...FROM VICIOUS CIRCLE

In the back of my address book was a list of contact numbers for the wærewolves who kenneled in my basement during full moons. My finger ran down to the name Johnny. A last name wasn’t necessary to clarify this guy. There was only one Johnny.

I put quarters into the pay phone and dialed Johnny’s number. It rang twice.

“’Lo?”

“Johnny, it’s Persephone Alcmedi. I—”

“Hey, Red.”

That threw me. My hair’s dark, dark brown. I tried going blonde in my late teens. A week later all the prissy cheerleaders at school started saying things like ‘Your Greek roots are showing.’ I went back to brown; blonde hadn’t been me anyway. I’m a darkling. “Red?” I asked.

“I’ve decided I’m going to call you Red from now on.”

“All right. I’ll bite—no pun intended. Why?”

He snickered in a very masculine way and lowered his voice. “’Cause I like the idea of the big bad wolf visiting you and Grandma.”

I laughed so hard people pumping gas turned to stare at me. Johnny’s sigh made me imagine the satisfied smile he surely wore. He loved attention.

“I knew you’d call me eventually,” he said.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but this isn’t what you think it is.”

“Damn.” He breathed the word more than said it.

Quickly, I asked, “Busy tomorrow?”

“Never too busy for you, Red.”

“Stop it. And don’t read into the words.” On full moons, the wolves let themselves into my storm cellar and locked themselves into the cages they wanted with whomever they wanted to share them with—an important choice, since these caged animals passed the time by mating, and furious mating by the sounds of it. Wæres differ from natural wolves in that they don’t have to be in heat for such activity. When I went to unlock the cages at dawn, Johnny was always alone. He teased me and howled at me, the pack clown, so to speak.

“Aw, c’mon, Red. Go out with me just once. I won’t bite. I won’t even lick if you don’t want me too.”

I grinned, but softly said, “No.”

“Busy or not?” Now I felt guilty for asking.

“I said I wasn’t.”

“Perfect. Would you please go to Cleveland and pick up something for me in, uh, well...your stage clothes.” He fronted an awesome techno-metal-goth band.

“In daylight hours?”

“Mm-hmmm. At four o’clock.”

“Awesome. I love scaring the white-collared types. What’m I picking up?”

“Probably a briefcase or something like that.”

He paused. “You don’t know?”

“Long story.”

“Sounds like perfect dinner conversation to me.”

I rolled my eyes. “Johnny.”

“Okay, okay. Where?”

“From the manager of a coffee shop near the Rock Hall of Fame. On ninth.”

“No way! The place they roast their own beans?”

I had to smile. His enthusiasm never waned. I didn’t mean to be cruel, but if any man would make a good wolf, as in cousin to man’s best friend, it was Johnny. He had the personality of a tail-wagging leg-humper that had just gotten his treat. “Yep.”

“Cool. Wait—what’s in it for me?”

Going with the thought I’d just had, I said, “Treats.”

“Oooo baby.”

“Not those kind of treats, Johnny. I’m talking steaks.”

“Don’t blame me for trying, do ya?”

“Never.” I had to admit, his interest in me was flattering—and his voice seemed sexier to me on the phone than it ever had in person—but my personal rule was direct: Don’t flirt with the wolves you kennel. Kind of like no office dating. Of course I’d only adopted that rule after he started kenneling and flirting with me. But I couldn’t date him. He…he had these tattoos that were just…ominous.

“So,” he drew it out. “Am I keeping this briefcase or whatever until the moonrise or do I get to make a special trip to see you and Grandma?”

In a mocking, child-like voice, I teased, “What big ideas you have.”

He growled low. “I got other things bigger than my ideas, little girl.”

My cheeks flushed red enough to suit the nickname. Johnny was different. The other wolves, in human form, were just people. Johnny had such presence!

I’d always thought he just flat out scared me, but talking to him now—more than we ever talked when he kenneled—I had to wonder. He was funny. He was witty. Was it different now because I needed him to do something for me? Was I that shallow?

No, it had to be because this was the first time I was on the phone with him …hearing him without seeing him.

I realized it was all about his looks. That made me feel bad. I didn’t judge people on looks. Not usually, anyway. And though I’d not thought Johnny was a bad person based on his looks, I’d definitely judged him as not-boyfriend-material because of them.

“I’ll be home; bring it to me there.” I’d have to test my theory and see if he still intimidated me.

He hesitated. “I’m not complaining, Red. I’ll play fetch with you. But why aren’t you doing it if you’re just going to be home?”

“I’ll explain when you arrive. Okay?”

“Okay,” he said brightly. “It’ll be about five-thirty or six by the time I make it through traffic and get to your place, so I’ll just go ahead and pick up something for us to eat. See you then.” He hung up before I could protest.

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