"I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared to meet me is another matter."
-Winston Churchill

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Heart of Eden Short Story Contest - Voting Begins Now

 

Wow!  That time went by so super fast.  We have our submissions though - YAY! - and you are going to love these short stories. I think you may have a hard time voting.  First I want to remind you that this is a Reader's Choice Award Contest.  All readers just use the poll to cast your vote and leave a comment to enter the special contest just for voting.

Here's what is up for grabs:

For the Authors:

1. $25 Amazon Gift Card PLUS your short story placed in our Writing Innovations Magazine (still a WIP)
2. FREE 10 Stop Virtual Book Tour - No book,  give it as a gift.
3. Critique of a WIP and a Spotlight on The Virtual Book Tour Cafe' Blog

For the Voters:

Leave a comment with your email address to be entered to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card or a Retailer of Your Choice.

So let the games begin!

I will list the short stories in the order received.  It will contain a title and the author name.  All stories will have "Heart of Eden" somewhere in their plot.  Find your favorite, cast your vote, comment to win!

#1 - The Spanish Stranger by Debra Chapoton

Amanda rode the bus she always took downtown, saw the faces she always saw, passed the sites that no longer impressed her. She did, however, take notice when a strikingly handsome man boarded the bus and began a slow advance down the aisle. He scanned the interior and their eyes met momentarily before she glanced back out the window. She wondered if his eyes had lingered. She looked down at her watch and as she did she had a funny feeling. She looked up to see him still approaching, but he was leaning near one passenger after another, asking a question to which each person was shaking his head. She caught a word or two and recognized the sounds of Spanish; he must be asking for directions.
Amanda rose and headed forward; the bus was nearing her stop. She wondered if he would speak to her. She smiled, hoping her college Spanish wouldn’t fail her if he did, wondering if she should use the polite or the casual form of address. The man smiled back and turned sideways to let her squeeze past. She smelled his delicious cologne, was struck by the width of his shoulders and noticed the cute unevenness of his eyebrows. She used a Spanish phrase equivalent to “excuse me” and he reached for her elbow to stop her. He rattled off a request so fast that she thought she might have been mistaken about the Spanish, maybe it was Portuguese or Italian.
“Lo siento. No te entiendo,” she said. I’m sorry, I don’t understand you. She used the familiar form of address. “Habla más despacio, por favor.” Speak slower, please.
He did and despite being distracted by how his eyes danced around her face as he spoke, she understood enough to tell him to get off the bus one stop after her. He thanked her and told her his name: Miguel Santibañez. She nodded and mumbled her first name. Finally releasing her elbow he offered to shake hands. They held on a little longer than was normal.
The bus slowed, stopped, the doors opened and Amanda stepped off. She half wished he would follow her. She turned left and then right and headed toward her destination with the eerie feeling that yes, she was being followed. She replayed in her mind what she had told him, not sure now if she had made it clear. One stop after her. Had she paused between the phrases, changing the meaning?
Without looking back she broke into a semi-run, the fastest she could do in the crowded morning rush. When she had to stop at the intersection, she glanced back and saw him walking fast to catch up. He smiled and waved. He was flirting. This was what she had wished for. Half wished for.
The light changed and she quickly crossed the street and entered the first door she came to. A security guard was lounging behind a counter and he gestured to a clipboard and told her she had to sign in. The stranger was at her elbow again; she could smell him. She wrote her first name and thought about using Santibañez as her last name. Should she flirt so boldly? She turned her head and stared into his eyes. There was no pretense there. Trusting her instincts Amanda slowly wrote her last name. Then she hurried down the hall knowing it wouldn’t take him long to memorize her name, sign in and follow. The first doorway opened into a large room packed with boxes. There was a curtain along one wall and she rushed over and hid behind it, leaving a small opening from which she could spy.
Miguel stepped in almost immediately. She could see him scan the room in the same searching way he had on the bus. Had he been looking for her then?
Amanda watched him move slowly closer, his smile widening, but then he stopped and waited. She breathed in slowly, relishing the moment. The decision was hers. She trusted the Spanish stranger intuitively and without question. There was chemistry. There was mystery. There was chance. It tugged at her heart – a heart of Eden. She pulled back the curtain and the unexpected romance began.

Copyright 2011 by Debra Chapoton


#2 The Long Road Home by Stacie Williams

The Long Road Home
By: Stacie Williams

On the long road home, we passed by the little town called Heart of Eden. It sounded like a lovely place, so we decided to visit. Upon entering the town everything was red and hearts everywhere. It was almost magical and we instantly wanted to stay never leave.

The first people we ran into were kind on the short side but still very nice and so darn happy. I mean smiles were plastered all over their faces and not once did they frown. It would be nice to be happy for a long time but not a constant smile on your face forever. We didn't know at the time that we had just walked into a trap they pull everyday. That is until the next day and then we couldn't leave. The place was the same day over and over again with no way to stop it.

After being there for a while we ran into someone who knew how to end it. He needed our help. First no one new could come in everyone tried to keep all newcomers from entering. If anyone new entered it would take longer to get the time to go forward. The people in the town didn't get older or sick and were of course constantly happy. A few people loved the town but all the others were ready for a change. Because it wasn't like you didn't notice it was the same. everyone had their memories, they knew they were repeating the same day for years but no way to change it until now.

The man told us what we had to do. First after making sure all the same people were there and no one new we had to separate everyone from when they visited. Everyone had to stay in the groups of when they showed up. Then we had to wait til the night when the moon was full and the temperature was 75 degrees. When all that came together we could say a spell and we cut and get some blood from everyone in a bowl and stir some ingredients in. The ingredients were twigs and powder and water, lastly money I don't know why money but I didn't question it. So since we ha everything now all we had to do was wait and try to enjoy what time we have left.

So that's just what we did, I hung out with as many people as I could. We ate food like there was no tomorrow. Then the night finally came. So we took our time and got everything ready it took us all day to get everything right. When night fall came we got into a big circle. Took a small knife and everyone took turns cut a tiny slice into their hands and squeezing blood into the bowl. We then start chanting the spell. All of a sudden we saw magic I mean white dust and it sparkled then it was like a whirlwind around us. We never moved but when it was all done the whirlwind stopped so did the white magic. So we couldn't see a difference and decided to go to bed. We would figure everything out in the morning. When morning came it was a brand new day. Everyone cheered and aid our goodbyes. My friends and I left to go home. We had a lovely and scary adventure. So glad it was over. No one believed us when we told our story.
#3 The One Night Stand by Vivienne Dianne Neal
One Night Stand
By
Vivienne Diane Neal

Ellen Baker woke up from what she thought was a wet dream. The last thing she remembered was meeting a man named Ray at a singles’ bar on June 1, 2010. When she first laid eyes on him, a feeling of pleasure overcame her. She had just broken up with her boyfriend of five years, and was looking for a quick replacement.
As far as Ellen was concerned, Ray was going to become her Heart of Eden. Why she found him so alluring was a mystery. A man who was usually second best was more of her cup of tea. She believed her role in life was to cultivate a man who lacked sophistication and elevate him into a successful being.
Her parents emphasized how she should help a man in need and never reject him if he did not have much to offer. They would always stress, “If you are too choosey, you will never be chosen.” Ellen took this to mean, it is okay to settle for less and then do your best to raise him to greatness. She applied these teachings to most of the men she met including her ex-boyfriend, but when he became that victorious man, he was as mundane as a dead bedbug, in and out of the sack.
As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for because you might not like what you get.
Ellen was a successful real estate broker, who sold million dollar homes in some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in New York City. She lived in a loft in lower Manhattan, had an active social life and traveled at least three times a year.
When Ellen saw Ray walk into the bar that night and he stared at her, it was as though his eyes were scanning her body. He was tall, dark, and enthralling and reminded her of a succulent apple, which she was ready to devour. He understood then that she was attracted to him, and he was ready to move in for the kill.
Good evening, my name is Ray. Have we met before? Your face looks very familiar.
It is nice to meet you, Ray. No, we have never met before. My name is Ellen, and it is a pleasure to meet you,” she said in a flirtatious manner.
Likewise,” said Ray.
The two started to talk and realized how much they had in common. They came from influential families, attended private schools, and graduated from prestigious colleges.
Ray’s mother and father were lawyers and lived in North Carolina.
Ellen’s parents lived in New Mexico and owned a thriving gift shop.
Ray then asked, “May I buy you drink.”
Yes, that would be nice. I’ll have a Harvey Bristol.”
Ray, who had the physique of a bodybuilder, was a traveling salesman for a major pharmaceutical company in San Francisco. He was attending a conference at a major hotel and would be leaving New York tomorrow. Knowing that Ellen was attracted to him, he was going to make it his business to get into her panties before he went back to California.
As the two continued to talk, Ellen was becoming hot, wet and horny. Her apartment was around the corner, and she invited Jay back to her place for a nightcap and more talk.
~*~
When the two entered Ellen’s loft, they quickly removed each other’s clothing.
Ellen’s body was in sexual overdrive, and Ray, who was as hard as granite, followed her into the bedroom.
Cool as a cucumber, he picked her up, slowly positioned her on the bed, and leaped into her as though it was his last day on earth. Engaging in every sexual position known to the human race, Ellen was screaming and pleading for Ray not to stop. He obeyed her every command until they both finally fell asleep.
~*~
Two days later, Ellen woke up. It was now June 3, 2010. Her sheets and pillowcase were drenched. It was as though a burst of rain had fallen on her. As she turned to kiss Ray, he was gone. Confused, she started to wonder, “Was Ray really here or was I dreaming. If he were here, why didn’t he wake me up and say something before he left?
Then she noticed her computer was on. When she went to check, there was a message on her screen that read:
Thanks for the memories.
Love Ray

Yet the biggest shock came when she received an email with the following message:

Verification for the transaction executed on June 1, 2010 is now available. You will need your user name and password to view this confirmation. We wish to thank you for trusting your account with our bank.

When she went to check her online bank account, $100,000.00 was gone from her money market account. An undisclosed bank in the Caribbean received the funds. Someone withdraw the money from the offshore account and then closed the account.
Sitting at her computer, Ellen guessed that Ray was the culprit. Throughout her life, she always went for the underdog. After seeing Ray, she thought for once in her life she would go for what she thought was a prosperous man. She came to realize that no matter what type of role a person plays, there could be an underhanded swindler waiting to rear its ugly head. She also understood, “If I bite into an apple, I must check to make certain there is not a worm inside.”

The End


#4 Sobriety by Johanna K. Pitcairn

Sobriety
It took me by surprise, as if I had woken up from a bad dream. My skin felt sore, and itchy, and I could not help but notice the burning sensation…. What did I do? I came home last night, perfectly happy and sober. I hadn’t been drinking in three weeks! I was really proud of myself, because sobriety represented such a huge
accomplishment for me. My addiction to alcohol caused me to lose everything: my license, my car, my job, and then my marriage. Thank goodness Maria and I did not have kids on the way, or I would have lost them too. This life was not worth being talked about. I spent nights making love to a bottle of scotch, falling asleep in my own vomit and waking up in unfamiliar places. One night, I even ventured out to the most dangerous
parts of town, because I thought I was invincible. I came back with a broken arm, my nose reduced to pulp and one missing front tooth. Oh yes, and of course, they had stolen my wallet.

All these years were spent wasting so much money and energy for something that did not even make me happy in the end…. I was glad I got out of it. The first days were the hardest, but after two weeks, I could already tell the difference. My body and my heart thanked me for finally making the choice of being healthy. In a few months, I would be able to go to the gym, get back in shape, and maybe meet somebody new. It was truly exciting and wonderful.

I lost myself reminiscing about my past, while the burning sensation persisted. This felt oddly uncomfortable. What was wrong with me? Every time I turned over I almost cried out of pain, as if my skin had been torn off my body and the bare flesh was in direct contact with the sheets of the bed. This was so disheartening. I had, however, to get up and to look at myself to see whether I was ok.

With lots of difficulty, I managed to push myself out onto the ground, and then I slowly walked, or rather, limped, to the bathroom. As soon as I pushed the door open, I did not even have the time to turn on the light. Violent nausea took me over suddenly and I was lucky enough to land head first in the toilet bowl, feeling my guts ripping apart. After I was finally done, I just collapsed on the floor, exhausted and still sick. It lasted a
while until I managed to move away. When I stood up, leaning against the sink, I felt the burning pain again, as if an invisible hand was running a blade everywhere on my skin, creating millions of paper cuts all over its surface. My bloodshot eyes watered up. I could not hold it very long without pain killers. I searched for the medicine cabinet in the dark until I grabbed an entire bottle of pills and popped four into my mouth. That would do the trick, I thought.  Already feeling a bit better, I quickly left the bathroom and headed towards the kitchen to make myself some coffee.

After I poured some water into the coffee machine and patiently waited for it to warm up, the back of my legs sent a direct message of excruciating pain to my brain when I tried to sit down. My eyes teared up immediately and as I clenched my jaws, I bit my tongue by accident. I felt the taste of blood in my mouth and almost passed out, but the pain, that horrible pain, kept me awake. There was no way I could see the end of the day without suffering. This idea alone made me feel disempowered and I thought, for a split second, about drinking again.

No. I could not do that to myself. Not after so many days without a drop of this poison in my system. I know I could resist the temptation and just stay calm, focused, with the adrenaline pumping through my veins and forcing me to just feel every little bit of this misery I was being put through…. Why? I behaved, and I stayed clean. Was it all I deserved after so much sacrifice?

My mind was running wild because of the pain, and I started to lose control of my temper. This was something else I needed help with and I thought I could finally control… apparently not. All my weaknesses had been exhumed from under the surface and they were being revealed to the world, one by one. I suddenly feared the wind of fury that was coming my way.

I decided to fight my urges so I chugged two cups of coffee, then slowly went back to the bedroom. If I could not sit down, I would at least lie on the floor, where the wood felt so cold and hard to the touch, but sleeping on the bare ground always helped me stay calm. I remembered when I was a kid, my mother always told me to lie on the wood, because the energy of the earth helped me adjust my energy levels, she said. What
about when my bedroom was located on the second floor? Did it work like that too? Yes, she used to reply. I just had to believe.

Well now was the moment of truth. If I rested on the hardwood floor of my bedroom, and simply closed my eyes, the pain would go away. It had to. Where did it come from anyway? I felt fine yesterday, and then I went to sleep, and I didn’t recall any hurting anywhere. What if everything was just a bad dream and my imagination was playing tricks on me?

I pinched myself to be sure. Nope, I was dead awake.
* * *
During minutes that felt like hours and hours that felt like days, I lied on my side, my body cramping up and my muscles becoming completely numb. I wasn’t sure which pain I could tolerate more, the one of moving or the one of lying still. I tried to distract myself, thinking of what I could have done the night before that led to this ordeal but I was totally clueless. I retraced my steps…. I left the office at 8 pm, got a ride straight to
McCalliger’s for a burger and a milk shake, then went back home. I watched some late TV programming until 2 am and fell asleep. It had been an easy night, without drama, and mostly without booze. Friday nights were always hard to resist in the past… The beginning of the weekend, knowing that I had two days to drown into my liquor, made me act carelessly and mostly, it made me feel free. Or so I thought. I had to remember. Something must have happened. The pain I was experiencing did not come here by itself.

I focused until my head hurt so bad that I had to get up to swallow more pain killers. Here we went again. I wept like a child this time when I finally stood up. I wasn’t sure whether I was happy to finally feel the muscles of my legs again, or whether I was sad because I still felt like pure crap and did not know what to do to remedy this issue.

When I once again reached the bathroom, I turned on the light this time. I saw that the jacket I wore yesterday had been left on the floor, right next to the door. Why didn’t I notice it before? I must have been so blinded by my pain that nothing in my way mattered when I entered that morning. But here it was, my light brown leather jacket, proudly displayed on the white tile floor.

When I finally grabbed it, after much effort to bend over, I realized that the inside had been stained with blood. Was it mine? This jacket had cost me a fortune! I remember buying it five years earlier at this mall store that had closed down since then. I did not know I was bleeding. I looked at it, examined it under the bright light and saw a whole pattern engrained in the fabric. It looked like two arcs meeting in the middle, much like a heart. This looked so strange.

I was puzzled. I stared at the jacket, almost forgetting why I had come to the bathroom in the first place. I could not understand the significance of the dried blood. I didn’t know what took a hold me, but I started searching the pockets to find more clues about this mystery. I pulled out a few bills, and some change, then a receipt for a place called “Stonecreek Brewery” where I presumably spent $85 in drinks…. This
was not possible. I did not drink last night, I swear! I also found a business card for a tattoo parlor… “Hell City”. What?
* * *
It was Sunday afternoon and the pain had started to slowly decrease with time. When I had the courage to finally look at myself in the mirror, I just cried even more. I fooled myself thinking that I could stay sober, and here was the ugly truth, painted in red all over my skin, down to my buttocks. The heart of Eden tattooed on the whole back of my body was certainly no joke. It was proof I was still under the influence, living a
double life, ignoring the blackouts, hiding myself behind a wall of lies…. After that fateful night, sobriety really started for me. Or so I hoped.
* * *
I woke up in an unfamiliar bed and looked next to me. There was a girl I did not remember seeing before. When I glanced at the bedside table, I saw the empty bottle of Jameson staring down at me. I did not need to be preached right now. Enough was enough.

I walked back home. It was dark and cold outside, even foggy at times. When I crossed the road and looked away to toss my cigarette, I got distracted. And I got hit; full frontal collision.

I spent days at the hospital praying for God not to spare my life. I did not learn my lesson. The nurses laughed at me when they washed me. What was this big heart covering my whole back? It looked so red and devilish, almost cartoony, it made them burst hysterically. That tattoo was the punishment I deserved, and I just did not learn my lesson. When the doctor came in and announced to me that the accident made me paraplegic, I smiled though. I was happy I would never have to see that awful tattoo ever again. I chose the lesser of two evils in the end… and I never stopped drinking.

#5 An Angel's Gamble by Lara Hogg

My money¹s on the humans. Nalaevial nodded, standing on the looming
rock, his great, narrow wings curving with the currents of unearthly wind.


Gashara glanced at the apple/heart-shaped red tattoo on his friend¹s wrist,
there as a reminder of what he had done. Amusement brought a smile. You say
that because you¹ve been poisoned, my friend. He thought of the story passed
around their corner of the heavens.


When younger, Nalaevial stood below the giant tree, awed. Plump,
shiny fruit had sent his curiosity aflame and itched his fingers with a
longing to touch. He reached into the mass of shimmering leaves. His brow crinkled.
This one¹s odd. Holding the branches away with the other hand, he pulled the
fruit forward to have a look and gasped at the heart-shaped wonder.


His mouth watered. He took one little bite. An explosion went off in his
chest, and his soul lit with joy.


His friend Jozlon approached him and set her hand on his shoulder. You
discovered love. Good thing that's not the forbidden tree. She walked away,
whistling.


I wasn¹t poisoned. I was freed. Nalaevial's voice brought Gashara from his
thoughts.


Gashara brushed a strand of moonlight-colored hair from his face and drew
deeply of the swirling winds around them. He chose to feel sensation, and
when he shivered, he smiled in delight. Nalaevial¹s storm-cloud wings danced
on the breeze, its feathery tips brushing against his arm and tickling him.


That's a matter of opinion. So, why do you think the humans will win? I¹m
for the zombies.


Nalaevial crossed his arms over his muscular chest. No. Zombies are too
stupid. No brain function rockin¹ in those he shuddered, Srotting skulls
of theirs.


Why not the vampires? They have age and experience over the humans. He
drew another breath, reveling in the moist air. Oncoming storms smelled so
good, like spring bursting open in all its glory.


I give you that. However, without heart, they will give up too soon.² A
sudden frown marred his beautiful features.


What is it, Nalaevial?


A glimpse of the future. I will do something distasteful.


May I?


Nalaevial nodded, and Gashara peeked into his mind. He gasped. That's
cheating!


I read the rules. There¹s nothing in them that states what I will do is
illegal.


But.


Nalaevial sighed. Look, those four humans must make it to the safe colony.
The zombies and vampires have killed so many people already that the four
are the last hope.
There are a few in the colony.


I checked the numbers. Not enough to provide a viable gene pool to
repopulate the planet. The colony is four shy of the ideal number.


Without the four, humans could still proliferate.


Nalaevial swept his wings through the breeze. The edges of the feathers
sparkled when they passed under a streak of sunlight. He gazed at the
glittering silver sky then looked at his friend again. Trust me. The four
are needed.


Gashara shrugged. I suppose so. Imagine a world with only vampires and
zombies.


****


Quinn, Marenda, Arthur, and Clara did their best to keep the zombies from
busting through the shed. Clara pressed her body against the boards nailed
over the hole. 


Bam! Scratch. Moan.


Oh, God. She glanced at Quinn and Arthur piling boxes on top of the lawn
chair. 


Quinn reached a hand to push another box against the window. Blood dripped
from his forearm onto his blue tee shirt when he brushed his wrist against
it. Arthur's pale face and blood-stained pant leg cramped Clara's stomach
with concern above the terror already rushing her body. Arthur didn¹t look
well, having lost the most blood from cuts and injuries sustained during
their chase across the city by rotting monsters. Why hadn't Clara told him
she loved him before? But now was not a good time.


Marenda pushed against the crate blocking the only door. Bang! The wood of
the crate rattled with the powerful shove on the other side of the door. She
screamed. A cut stained streaks of her blonde hair pinkish-orange. We're
going to die!


No. Clara shook her head and swallowed down her tight throat. ³Think
positive.


Marenda laughed in a mocking way. The crate moved an inch, and her feet slid
on the dirt. 


The explosive crash of the window preceded the hurtling of the wooden boxes
to the ground. They splintered, sending pieces flying. All four friends
screamed as their arms flew to their faces.


Stop! roared a powerful voice.


****


Nalaevial shimmered into solid form and thrust his hand out. Gashara
appeared by his side. Nalaevial surveyed the scene. Splinters of wood and
glass hung suspended in the air. The humans had their arms up, covering
their faces. An arm reached into the window, rotting, gray flesh sliding off
it. 


If time were moving right now, I¹m sure the stench of those zombies would
be making you swoon. He glanced at Gashara, knowing his friend enjoyed
using physical senses.


Gashara nodded. Indeed. He held up a hand. Light trailed it. Proceed.


Nalaevial smiled. He strode to each human and put his hand gently on their
heads, saying, I'm sorry, as he touched them. He turned to Gashara. It's
done. 


Bring them into this dimension, or should I?


Allow me. Time shall remain still around them. Nalaevial swept his hand in
front of each human. Wake.


One by one, they gasped and looked at the angels wide-eyed.


Don't be afraid. Nalaevial moved his wings. They passed through suspended
shards of glass. We¹re here to help. I'm sorry for what I did, but it's the
only thing I could do within allowed boundaries to help you survive this.
You must make it to the human colony.


Arthur rubbed his pale face and moved a strand of brown hair from his eyes.
Angels?


Yes. Gashara said.


What did you do to us? He glanced around at frozen time, as did his
friends.


Turned you into vampires.


What?² He stepped forward.


The others trembled.


This is the best I was allowed to do to increase your chances of survival.
Nalaevial nodded to Gashara, and they disappeared, going back to their
mystical mountaintop to watch from above the earth plane.


****


You¹re still pale, Clara said, looking at her arms, ³but we all are now.
How do you all feel?


Okays and fines came from her friends.


Stronger, Arthur said.


A moan crept into the shed.


Get ready. Time is awakening.


Slowly, by the looks of it, Quinn, Marenda said. Help me move these
boxes. We¹ll run out, so we¹re not boxed in.


Good idea. Arthur and the others dashed to her side.


They cleared the door, pulled it open, and shoved through the still-frozen
zombies blocking their path.


Clara and Marenda coughed.


The stench! Like garbage.


And crap, Quinn added, while running alongside his friends.


Arthur no longer limped. The collective sounds of moaning and groaning
spewing from the zombies came to sickening life behind them as time stirred.
The friends ran down streets, over lawns, and past broken cars until they
reached a country highway.


We lost them. Clara glanced around.


For now, Marenda added. ³What¹s the game plan?


There were too many to defeat back there. Let¹s head toward the colony.
Twenty miles to go. Then we¹ll be safe. The walls are impenetrable, and
scientists there are working on a solution to rid the world of its nasty
creatures.² Quinn ran a hand through his blond hair.


Arthur nodded. The angel made us into these immortals for a reason. He
paced in front of a telephone pole.


I agree. Clara plopped down on a tuft of grass, spreading her legs onto
the tar top.


We shouldn¹t get comfortable. Arthur reached for her, offering his hand.
She took it and stood, gazing into his brown eyes. They glimmered almost
gold now.


She stepped back. Arthur, your eyes.


Yours look lighter, sky blue now instead of sapphire.


Yours are lighter too.Clara touched her hair.


Still red. Arthur chuckled. He glanced at the others. If we encounter
more on the way, I¹m not sure we will find a structure to hide in.


Quinn shoved a hand into the pocket of his jeans. We should fight. They
can¹t kill us.


Then why did we run?


Quinn looked at Marenda. Too many. They would have piled on top of us and
taken chunks from our cold flesh.


Ugh. Marenda shuddered.


Arthur gripped Clara¹s hand. She inhaled sharply.


Sorry. He let go.


She grasped his hand. Don¹t be.


He skimmed the fingers of his free hand along her jaw. You have always been
such a wonderful person.


Tears stung her eyes. Let¹s she cleared her throat, head out.


Streaks of pinkish-blue fell from the sky, not warming their skin, and they
hurried along the deserted highway. Waves of grass rippled on both sides of
the road. 


For an hour, they didn't speak. They reached a crossroad with houses lining
it.


Quinn broke their silence. About fifteen more miles. We can make it.


Suddenly, from behind a house came four zombies, and they charged.


Marenda's scream pierced the air. She darted. Quinn restrained her by her
elbow. Hold your ground. They can¹t kill us.


You¹ve got to be crazy! Let¹s hole up in a house.


Until more come? No thanks. Remember why we left the shed. We fight.


I agree.


Me too.


The zombies each tackled one of the four friends. Clara pressed her palms to
the chest of what was once a strongly built man. The gash in his head and
scrapes on his face showed how he met his early death. Good thing muscle
size didn¹t matter in zombies. They were all the same strength.


She leaned her head back as her attacker tried to feast on her neck. Her
feet tripped backwards. Her friends fought valiantly against their own foes.
Their grunts shimmied around her.


She looked her assailant in his foggy eyes. You big, rotting asshole, I
have no flowing blood! You¹ll starve! She lifted her wrist and put it in
front of his mouth. He bit her. She winced, feeling pressure but no pain.


The zombie chewed then groaned. A chunk of skin fell from his mouth. Clara¹s
stomach roiled. The zombie turned and walked toward the houses. His putrid
colleagues joined him, one dragging her bony foot.


Clara glanced at her friends. Bite marks covered them. Clara reached a shaky
hand to Marenda, who was holding her neck on the ground. She started when
her gaze landed on her own flawless skin. The bite mark was gone!


Remove your hand from your neck.


Marenda did so. Teeth marks faded. She glanced at the others and watched as
their bite marks glimmered into nonexistence. Suddenly, terrible hunger
raged through her veins for blood. She smacked her lips and craved the
coppery taste of human blood in her mouth. Her stomach cramped. She bent
over, grasping it. 


I need to feed. One glance around told her that her friends did too.


They nodded and continued down the highway.


Two hours later, Clara stopped. Her friends followed suit. I can't stand
it. I need blood.


We¹re five miles from the human colony, Marenda said.


Don¹t even think about it, Arthur said.


She raised a pretty blonde brow. Are you as famished for blood as I am?
Does your stomach hurt from as intense a need as mine does?


That¹s a safe bet. Arthur pressed a hand to his gut. But we'd be just as
bad as the zombies, unworthy to live, if we only lived to take.


Clara nodded her approval and took a breath of moist air. A storm is coming.


I think this blood thirst may kill me. Quinn ran a hand across his brow.
When we get to the colony, we canSdrink animal blood.


And hopefully it won¹t poison us.


Clara, why would you think that? Arthur brushed a foot against the edge of
the tar top, displacing dirt. A puff of dust scattered over his leather
boots.


I read that in forty percent of the vampires now existing, the blood of
animals is deadly.


We¹ll take our chances. Arthur grabbed her hand.


The sky rumbled.


Yes, she said.


Many animals are now extinct. Have any of you seen one in all the miles
we¹ve traveled? Marenda shoved her blonde bangs from her face.


I saw a rabbit eight miles ago.


Marenda scoffed.


As vampires though, will the humans even take us in? Should we try to hide
what we are? Can we mate with humans?


Clara looked at Quinn and shrugged. Don¹t know. Her stomach cramped, and
her mouth screamed for blood.


She looked around. A car loomed ahead, shoved against a telephone pole.
Smoke rose from the hood. She tipped her head and jogged ahead, the others
following. One glance in the cracked window revealed a man, woman, and two
little boys unmoving on the seats. Blood streaked the heads of the adults.
She glanced at their softly-moving chests. A thunderous beating began in her
ears, then another and two more.


Heartbeats. Her hand came briefly to her lips. I can hear their hearts. From
the wide-eyes of her friends, she guessed they could too.


Supper, Marenda said, reaching for the car door.


The sky rumbled again.


Clara stayed her with a hand to her arm. No.


Her brow knitted. ³But, I¹m feeling faint, and there are no animals around.
Animal blood might kill us anyway.


I said no. The heartbeats receded to the back of her senses, dying down in
volume to a faint level.


Marenda stiffened her posture. You¹re going to stop me?


Yes, if you force my hand. A raindrop hit her cheek.


Ladies, Arthur began. Please. He looked at Marenda. She¹s right. Better
to starve with our hearts and honor in tact than to live with disgrace.


Quinn scrunched up his features. I don¹t know. I¹m pretty damn hungry. We
don¹t know that they¹ll live anyway.


You¹ll go through me. Clara pressed her back to the driver¹s door.


And me. Arthur shoved against the back door.


A soft drizzle fell from the sky. Raindrops splattered onto the tar top.


Marenda circled around. There are two more doors.


Quinn went to the other side to join her. Clara hissed and jumped up,
landing on the top with a thud. In a crouched position, she held up her
hands with fingers spread like claws. She gazed at her arms and legs,
trembling. ³HowSdid I do that?


Marenda gaped. Nice move, vampire girl. I¹ll bet I can do that too.


This should be fun to watch. Quinn glanced at the ladies chests as rain
made their bras appear under the material of their cotton shirts.


Arthur glared at Quinn. This isn¹t a joke! We need to stick together. We¹ve
been given a gift and shouldn¹t abuse it.


Clara gazed at him. Love swelled, warming her.


You¹re right. Quinn touched Marenda¹s arm. Let¹s go. When we get to the
colony, we¹ll try to reason with the people.


What about them? Clara jumped down. Her feet thudded onto the road. She
focused on the faint heartbeats and heard only two. Tears stung her eyes. A
third passed into oblivion. She stared into the window and pressed her
quivering hands to her thighs, listening carefully and urging that fourth
heartbeat to keep up its struggle. After the last thud, she willed it to
beat again. It didn't.


Answers that, Clara muttered.


The sadness in her eyes touched Clara¹s heart. Come on, she said roughly.


They ambled toward the colony.


****


Gashara and Nalaevial stared through the gray sky to the earth plane.


I told you they were worth it. Nalaevial stroked the heart of Eden tattoo
on his wrist. 


Gashara spread his silver wings and shook them. The feathers rattled. ³The
humans in the colony will reject them, you know, will probably kill them on
site. Their bloodless skin is a dead giveaway. You did this for nothing, and
the colony will be four short of the perfect number needed for the ideal
gene pool. Too bad you¹re not allowed to turn them back. He gazed at
Nalaevial. 


The man's lips were set in a straight line, his gold eyes serious.


You knew the whole time, didn¹t you? You changed them anyway. Why? Gashara
leaned against a cloud, his ephemeral body floating against it.


Gashara, I was proved wrong about vampires. They can have heart. I only
believed in humans.


You didn¹t answer my question.


They will win over one human while living just outside the colony walls,
then another and another as they prove themselves. After a while, they will
be allowed in the walled colony. The scientists will cure them a month later
when through diligent trial and error in their labs they will produce the
means to do so. I can¹t cure them because it was supposed to happen this
way. Arthur and his new wife.


Clara? 


Yes. They will have the scientists hold off on curing them. He dusted off
the wing that curled around to his front.


Why?


They will courageously go into the world with the antidote and cure
vampires who wish it and bring them back as humans into the colony.


How will they eat?


First animal blood then human donations, freely given.


The zombies?


Nalaevial shuddered and sat on the cloud. Humans will enlarge their colony
and stay behind the walls for a generation or longer, until the zombies rot
away to bones. The bones will then collapse into piles.


Disgusting.


Yep. Then masses of humans will go out and face the remaining vampires.


Will they turn them all with the antidote? Gashara flapped his wings. A
breeze dusted his hair off his shoulders.


No. A natural ingredient used for the cure will be extinct by then and
unable to be artificially reproduced for years.


What will they do?


Nalaevial traced the red heart on his wrist and shrugged. That is another
story.




#6 Heart of Eden by Dawn Meyers

 I felt the change coming, pulling at me, and begging me to relent. Soon I would feel the power course through me. In a few days I would drown in it, be reborn in it. It was primal, something dark and mysterious, but something that filled me with anticipation. No matter how much I feared it.
I never felt like it was a curse. So many others do. They think they loose their humanity in the shift afraid of the time spent after their bones snap and rebuild, molding them into something stronger. Scared of what they do in the time that they spend stalking the night, longing for the coppery taste of blood as the thrill of the hunt courses through their veins. They think this makes them less then human. That it makes them into monsters.
It doesn’t.
            When you shift, there’s a freedom unlike anything any normal person has ever experienced and could probably never understand. You get a perspective, a sense of what should matter to you. It makes those petty everyday problems seem so trivial. It’s about survival and finding out just how far you’re willing to go. It’s beautiful.
            But, it’s not only the power of the shift that sticks with you. The wolf is always there, lurking beneath the surface. It’s the perfect companion for a private detective like me who needs a keen nose, a love of the hunt, and a set of killer instincts to help get the job done. You can feel it stalking, restless beneath your skin especially just before the full moon, a primal force eager to be released. It also makes all those wonderful skills keener, sharper.
It’s times like now when I take on some of my more difficult cases and today didn’t seem to be any different if the man sitting across from me was any indicator. Even his scent was laced with the promise of violence, a combustible combination with the waves of power pouring off of him. I sat across from Mr. Brody studying him, my eyes narrowing as I took him in. He was tall, broad in the shoulders, the tight t-shirt he wore clinging in all the right places displaying an impressive set of muscles any body builder would envy. His square jaw gave away his determination, but no more so then his eyes. They were everywhere, focusing on every little movement, but I shouldn’t be surprised, he was a wolf too. That little fact made his presence all the more intriguing, if not a little disturbing. Whatever he was after, he should be able to locate it without my help, but the payday he was offering quickly soothed my unease. Well, almost.
“So this woman you’re tracking, why do you need my help? You’re Alpha, aren’t you? This is a job you could easily do on your own.”
His eyes narrowed boring in to me, those golden orbs flecked with green unlike anything I’d ever seen. This was definitely not your average wolf. “That’s not your concern. Can you track her or not?”
I pulled my legs off my cluttered desk and sat up, the squeaky chair screaming in protest as I folded my hands in front of me. “I can track her. I just don’t know why I should.”
“Because I’m paying you an obscene fee to do it.” He leaned back crossing his own arms over his impressive chest. “Isn’t that enough?”
“Usually, but something’s not right.” He didn’t reply, just continued to stare at me, his face impassive giving nothing away. The hairs on the back of my neck began to prickle confirming my suspicions. He wasn’t being completely honest. “Sorry Mr. Brody, I think I’m going to have to pass.”
“I’m afraid that’s not possible, Miss McKenna. You will do this and you will find her before the full moon rises.”
“You’re insane! That’s less than twenty four hours from now. Even if I was inclined to help, which I’m not, that wouldn’t be feasible.”
“You misunderstand. This is not up for debate.”
Okay, now I was getting pissed. This guy may be an Alpha used to getting his way, but I wasn’t one of his wolves. “Mr. Brody, I’ve made my decision. Please leave.”
He smiled smugly, a smile I desperately wanted to beat off of his ruggedly handsome face. It was the face of a man that knows he’s going to win.
We’d see about that.
“Have you ever heard the story of Adam and Eve?”
I cocked my head, confused by the seemingly odd turn of the conversation. Curious to see where this would lead, I nodded, waiting for him to continue.
“The Garden of Eden was not what the human world would have you believe. In fact, there was no such place and no such couple. It’s sad really the way they’ve butchered our history.” He frowned like he smelled something foul, his eyes distant in thought.
“What do you mean our history?”
“Lycan history, Miss McKenna, the story of our creation. In reality it had nothing to do with a garden, or a snake, but the apple is the only bit of truth in an otherwise blatant work of fiction.” He let that sink in for a minute before he resumed his history lesson. “You see the world use to be a place of magic. Mythical creatures once roamed this land no less real than the dinosaurs that came after them. But, the fall of our world had nothing to do with something as trivial as good and evil, but everything to do with temptation as the human retelling suggests, but it was the temptation of power not sin.
“You see, we used to be the favorites of the gods, but there was one held above all others. A witch name Eden. She was all that was good and fair and was given the most precious of gifts, the seeds of creation. She alone held the ability to mold this world, to shape it in to something wonderful. She controlled the balance of good and evil, light and dark, magic and reality. But, with great power comes those who wish to take it, to claim it for their own dark purposes.
“Fenrir was such a one and the first of our kind, the father of our race and my ancestor. He was tempted by that which Eden possessed, the ability to create and destroy at will. Over time he managed to seduce the woman winning her trust and her heart until he finally stole the latter, ripping it from her very chest and devouring it.
“It was the most tender fruit he’d ever tasted, the power of it surging through him, but it was to be short lived as the world began to weep the loss of one so exquisite, so pure. And with her dying breath she cursed Fenrir separating the harmony of man and best and tying their divided fate to that of the swelling moon, the one and only time that the stolen heart would be allowed to exert its now corrupted power over the world.
“And so the world of magic fell leaving man to wipe us from existence and from memory.”
“That’s an impressive bedtime story, but what does it have to do with the woman you’re looking for?”
“She is Eden’s offspring, the product sown from Fenrir’s evil, and she is no mere woman.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“She is the first, Lilith.”
“You were going to send me after a vampire?” I slammed my hands on my desk so hard the wood creaked and I knew my eyes were glowing as my anger burned. “I should kill you where you stand!”
My back suddenly slammed in to the wall behind me, my skull cracking against the plaster with a sickening thud as a hand circled my throat tightly. Mr. Brody’s hard, lean body was pressed against mine, the power radiating off of him unlike anything I’d ever before encountered.
“Mind your place, pup.” His voice was cold and hard, the barest edge of a growl coloring his words. “I don’t tolerate insolence. Understood?”
I gave the barest of nods, unable to move my chin because of the massive hand that completely covered my throat in an iron band of pure strength. And then, just as suddenly as he had grabbed me, he was gone and once again lounging serenely in his chair as if he’d never moved. I leaned over, hands on my knees gasping and trying to comprehend what had just happened. Wolves didn’t move that fast. He smiled showing the barest hint of fang as he watched me recover.
“What are you?” I grabbed onto the back of my chair to steady myself.
“Now you ask the right question.” He stood placing his palms flat on my desk staring at me intently, the wolf inside his eyes struggling to break free before the irises became blood red and began to glow faintly.
I gasped in horror. “That’s impossible.”
He laughed a dry horrible sound that held no humor only an unending horror that went beyond madness. “And yet, here I stand.”
“Why is the vampire important?”
“She stole my heart.”
My brows puckered as I looked at him, a question obvious on my face. Was he joking? I opened my eyes to speak as his body went rigid. “What?”
“I’m afraid we don’t have to find her, she’s going to find us.”
“You can’t be serious.” I looked out the window to my left staring in shock as the sun seemed to plummet below the horizon. “How?”
“I told you, she stole my heart, a piece of the whole. She is officially one of the most powerful creatures on the face of this planet and we need to get that piece back.”
“How are we supposed to get it back? You just said she was the most powerful…”
He cut me off, slicing his hand through the air to silence me. “It was foretold. You are the missing piece, the one that I need to regain the Heart.”
“But why? What am I supposed to be able to do against the First?”
He shifted, pushing away from the desk, his jaw clenching as he raked a hand through his dark hair. I watched him, the play of muscles rippling beneath his shirt as he seemed to struggle with some internal battle. What was this man not telling me? I let out a heavy sigh and immediately those intense eyes settled on me again.
“Are you alright?”
“Oh yeah, I love it when strange Alphas comes into my office demanding that I go up against the first vampire for some kind of magical heart. It always makes my day, Mr. Brody.” I smiled sarcastically feeling mania finally setting in like early onset rabies.
“Trent.”
“Excuse me?”
“My name, it’s Trent. Please stop calling me Mr. Brody.” He shivered playfully, his body shaking like a wet dog throwing off water. “I’m only three hundred for Loki’s sake.”
My mouth dropped in surprise. “Three hundred? Are you serious?”
He smiled, this time amusement lighting his beautiful eyes. “Three hundred and twenty seven next month actually.”
“How?”
“You ask that a lot. Can’t you just ever accept things the way that they are?”
            “No.”
            “At least you’re honest.” He let out a wary sigh. “It’s just how things are. I no longer seem to age, or if I do, it’s so slowly that I don’t even notice it. Fenrir was the same until he was murdered, the remaining piece of his Heart stolen.”
             “Why am I getting the impression that when you say ‘Heart’, you don’t mean some kind of trinket?”
He shook his head sadly. “The Heart of Eden was Eden’s true heart, an apple that houses the seeds of creation safely within its bosom. Once you have tasted it of its flesh, it becomes a part of you.”
              “So you have to eat Lilith’s heart?” His jaw clenched before his distant gaze focused out the window at the premature night sky. “Ew.”
             “Indeed.” He cocked his head, his ears twitching as they struggled to hear some distant sound.                                                          “She’s close and before you ask I don’t know how I know.”
             “How long do we have before…” The building shook sending plaster raining down like snowflakes from the ceiling above as something exploded downstairs.
             “She’s here.”
             We looked at each other for what seemed like an eternity as adrenaline pumped through my veins. Time seemed to slow down as I gave into the wolf feeling my ears strain to hear the steady footfalls from below.
              “Here puppy, puppy!” The tinkling of laughter maniac filled the building along with the horrified cries of humans as they struggled to flee from the wreckage. “Come out; come out, before I blow your house down! Oops. I already did!”
“Why is she after you?”
“My heart, of course. She holds half of the whole and I have the other.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I did, but you didn’t listen. It does give us a nice advantage though.” His smile was that of a predator, his eyes flashing the hungry crimson glow of a vampire.
“What advantage?”
Instead of answering he merely turned and looked out the shattered window and I gasped. It was impossible, but that didn’t seem to make a difference to the moon which now sat fat and bloated above the skyline, the heavy crimson aura of blood coating its celestial surface.
I shuddered feeling its powerful energy as it crept over my skin, the cool power seeming to anger the heated beast within which began to writhe as it fought its way to the surface. Immediately I surrendered to its vicious energy as it slammed in to me, twisting and reshaping my body into the lean powerful form of a wolf, my silver coat glistening in the icy light. Agitated I snapped my jaws now feeling the otherworldly prickle of the vampire below, the stench of decay filling my nose making me sneeze.
Beside me Trent’s unusual pulse beat against me, his visage on of a twisted monster, his body more like something that Hollywood would concoct then an actual living being. He was a part man-part wolf monstrosity with gold eyes glowing faintly red. It appeared as if he had stopped the change mid-shift, a thought that intrigued me. I’d never before met someone powerful enough to alter or control their shift. Staring at him in awe filled horror his eyes met mine, a snarling smile crossing his misshapen face.
He growled, his mind whispering to mine, Take the back stairs and come up from behind. I’ll distract her while you attack from the rear. I whimpered as his voice echoed in my head. He wasn’t my Alpha; he shouldn’t be able to enter my thoughts. Go! With that final command he stalked off into the building beyond leaving me to my thoughts and my task.
Quickly, I picked my way through the debris strewn halls making my way to the main lobby below and was shocked to see the destruction that greeted me. Above I could make out the sounds of fighting, angry growls and a fierce shrieking. Ignoring the collapsing building I set off up the stairs worried I was already too late.
Swiftly I made my way upstairs losing my footing on the slick tile as horrible whimpers echoed from above piercing my heart deeper than I thought possible. It seared something deep within me, a primal need to protect what was mine. Growling I sped up the final flight of stairs catching sight of Lilith’s mane of red hair blazing in the dim light as she knelt over a dark shape at her feet which was even now taking on a distinctly human appearance, the pale glow of human flesh coated in crimson.
No!
Without thinking I dove onto the exposed back of Lilith, her banshee like screams slashing through my skull as my jaws clamped around her neck. Desperately I shook my head waiting to hear the snap of bone. It wouldn’t put her down, but it would give me time. Instead, I heard a very human, very male war cry and felt Lilith spasm, the force of the blow flinging me from her back to land hard on a broken banister, the sharp wood impaling my hind quarter.
Pain flared red-hot shooting down my spine like lightning. My body shook in shock as it began to morph back to my human form as my energy fought to heal the wound. Now naked and covered in sweat, sitting in a pool of my own blood as my leg pounded, I watched Trent bury his face in Lilith’s chest, his hands ripping at her pale flesh as he tore her heart from her splintered ribcage. With a final agonized scream Lilith’s body began to crackle, igniting in a pungent blue flame as her body writhed in agony against her grisly fate.
When she was nothing more than greasy smoke billowing through the building, I turned back to my leg wrenching it free of the wood, gasping as the rough surface abraded the tender meat of my thigh. As soon as the obstruction was gone I could feel the muscle tingling as the flesh knitted itself back together. In an hour I wouldn’t even remember the wound was ever there and even now I found myself ignoring the itchy tingle instead watching as Trent stood stock still staring at the meaty pulp in his palm, his shoulders rising and falling with his ragged breathing.
“Trent?” His glowing eyes instantly lifted to mine. “What’s wrong?”
“I can’t.”
“Why?”
He smiled, amusement glinting in his eyes. “Because it isn’t mine to take. My heart, this piece of it, is destined to belong to my mate. It belongs to you Sylver McKenna.”


#7 Heart of Eden by Yvonne "Vonze"

Heart of Eden
By Yvonne “Vonze”
unpaintedportrait@gmail.com

Once upon a time, long before you or your greatest great-grandparents were born, there lived a medieval farm boy, of about seventeen, in a beautiful valley. He and his family, which consisted of his grandfather and six grown brothers, worked in the King's royal apple orchards. They tolled over the apples daily, making sure only the most perfect, spotless apples would reach the royal family's table. Brendan, as the farm boy was called, didn't mind the work. Manual labor had made him strong, working in the sun had made his skin bronze and his hair fair. Brendan's brothers also did their work without complaint, it was a living after all. However, Brendan's grandfather made his opinions known to anyone that would listen and, usually, even to those who did not.

Grandfather had lived a life of leisure when he was lad, as his father had been a wealthy merchant. When the wealthy merchant died, the trade was past to Brendan's grandfather, who was accustom to wanting for nothing and had no business sense. The business faltered and Grandfather, instead, turned his livelihood to games of chance. Unfortunately, for Brendan's family, Grandfather also had no sense for games of chance and was soon destitute. Their only ray of hope, was that Grandfather's daughter, Brendan's mother, had fallen in love with a farm boy that made ends meet, Brendan's father. Rather than being thankful, Grandfather remained belligerent. He complained about life from sun up to sun down. In his mind, the King's royal guard, whom he had gambled with, had rigged the games of chance. Thus, it was their fault his lot in life was so miserable now.

Brendan, for the most part, was able to ignore his grandfather's bellyaching with his daydreams. Secretly, he longed to be one of the King's royal guard. Not only for the gold and glory and adventure, but because the King's royal guard was swore to protect Princess Eden. And, oh, to be close to Princess Eden. Surely angels were envious of her beauty, her fair, nearly ice white locks, her slender body, which was always cloaked in white, her heart shaped face and her glorious, shinning smile. Brendan had loved her at first sight. The orchard was located beside the main road for town-bound travelers, and the King's caravan, with dozens of royal guards thundering down the road, was hard to miss. Princess Eden would often sit at the window of one of the lavish carriages. A few times, she had even waved at them, calling out, “Good day,” while Brendan and his brothers were high in the trees. Brendan felt that she must be a wonderful princess indeed, if she was kind enough to waste her breath on poor farmers. He never would admit to anyone, but at times, while he was picking apples, he daydreamed what it would be like to kiss her, become a proper nobleman or fight his way into the royal guard, and marry her.

Ironically, Brendan was lost in one of his daydreams, on a particularly hot afternoon, when the royal caravan began speeding by. He turned away from his work, anxious to catch a glimpse of Princess Eden. Once Brendan saw the beautiful, icy hair, he knew it was her at the window. But in a matter of seconds, the carriage was out of view, down one of the many turns in the road. Then a horrible commotion happened, a loud cracking sound and a woman's scream. Brendan turned to look at his brothers, who also looked at each other with puzzled faces.

“Should we go see what happened?,” Brendan wondered aloud.

His grandfather laughed, “You think you can do anything to help the situation? You're no help to anyone, you soft-headed fool.”

Brendan crossed his arms, trying his best to ignore the old man, as everyone else did.

Just then, one of the royal guards was returning to their direction. He rode up to their group and spoke, “The princess' carriage has hit a group of rocks in the road and lost two wheels, pray tell, do you men have a supply of cool water or ale to help her highness endure the hot sun?”

“Certainly we can spare it!,” Brendan spoke eagerly and took charge to find some refreshment for his secret lady love. He bolted back to their homely shake for the water skins, and raced in record time, down to the little spring of cool fresh water.

Even though he was gone only a matter of minutes, Brendan was helpless to prevent the next tragedy. As Brendan was marching up to Princess Eden's broken carriage, the water skins in hand, his heart racing anxiously with the mere thought of being so close to her, perchance to even speak to her, he witnessed the strangest sight in all of his life. His grandfather, who hated the royal guard, who secretly even hated the King, was bowing before Princess Eden, who stood before him. In his hand, Brendan's grandfather had an apple outstretched, an offering to the princess. Brendan was just close enough to hear his grandfather say, “Would her highness like a lovely apple to refresh her, until my dimwitted, I mean, youngest grandson returns with some water?”

Brendan's cheeks burned as the princess laughed and accepted the apple. How could he ever face her now that his grandfather had labeled him a dimwit?

Only, to his horror, Brendan wasn't allowed time to further ponder how to face Princess Eden. He didn't get to face her at all. She took a tiny bite of the apple, her eyes rolled back in her head, and she fell over backwards onto the dusty road. Brendan's grandfather laughed wild, unhinged laughter at what he had done. The royal guard moved in, but Brendan was closer and faster. He punched his grandfather square in the face.

Brendan's grandfather was sentenced to death a week later. Brendan knew he should feel sorrow for the old man's passing, but due to the old man's wickedness, Brendan rather felt justice was done. Apparently, his grandfather had dipped the apple in a potion he had won gambling years ago, and had given it to the princess as a means of revenge on the royal guard that he hated so. Princess Eden, however, was not dead. Worse than that, the heart of Eden had a faint beat that kept her lingering between life and death at every moment. All the King's witches and wizards tried to combat the potion with other potions and spells. All of them failed. The kingdom began to wonder if the princess would sleep forever. It seemed that their only hope was to find, Yenendithas, one of the oldest wizards in the world, and ask if he had ever reversed a potion with the effects of the one that held Princess Eden under. If anyone could help Princess Eden it was Yenendithas. Only problem was, Yenendithas, lived as a hermit, high up in the mountains and liked to disguise himself as a dragon. So, a dragon hunt and capture was called for. Still stuck in the orchard, Brendan watched the road as cage after cage with dragon after dragon was hauled down the road to the castle. Instead of being lost in daydreams, Brendan was now lost in sorrow for Princess Eden. It was his own grandfather who had cursed his secret lady love, and he was powerless to right the wrong. He wasn't a member of the royal guard, had no sword skills, he'd never be able to find Yenendithas for Princess Eden. Perhaps, he felt, he really was a fool and a dimwit after all. He'd grow to be an old man and Princess Eden would sleep forever, frozen in time.

After another long day's work, Brendan decided to walk down to the spring, so he could be alone, lost in his thoughts. He promptly began to sit on a large rock, when he heard a voice call, “Hey, wait a minute!” Brendan turned, and to his shock, the large rock he'd almost sat on transformed into a rather small-sized dragon. “Oh please don't faint or run, or tell anyone you saw me,” it spoke again. “You can talk?,” Brendan demanded. “Oh, course, boy. All wizards turned dragon can,” it rolled it's eyes. Realization dawned on Brendan, it was Yenendithas! Bless his lucky stars, the princess might be saved! “Yenendithas!,” he beamed, “I must tell the King!” Brendan turned to run, when the dragon reached out of one its claws to stop him. “Oh no,” it shook its head, “Please don't do that, so embarrassing, I simply couldn't face the King like this. Forget you saw me, dear, farm boy. I shall have to try and cast a forgetful spell on you.” Brendan stared at him blankly, not understanding. “But, surely you've heard the tale of Princess Eden by now, don't you want to save an innocent, beautiful girl?” The dragon's claw remained on Brendan's shoulder, “No, no, dear boy, you miss understand me. It isn't that I don't want to help, it's that I can't. I'm a dragon you see, and for some years now, I haven't been able to change myself back into a human. I think that my powers are weakening with old age. I'm better used for my wisdom and wit, than for my power nowadays. It's somewhat embarrassing for me, I couldn't, ever, face the King's cabinet of wizards and witches again. They hold me in regard as this ancient powerful wizard, and I can't let them know that I'm stuck with this as my true form now. I'd be a laughing stock.” Brendan wiggled under the dragon's claw, “Better to be laughed at than for a innocent girl to sleep forever,” he closed his eyes, full of sorrow, “all because of my hateful grandfather.” The dragon, Yenendithas, stared at Brendan and his scaly features seemed to soften, “I see your conflict my friend, but you must understand, I've lived for hundreds of years and saving princesses grows tiresome. I'm sure someone else will think of something.” Brendan lost control at Yenendithas' uncaring words. He pumped his fists at his claw, trying with all his might to be freed as he shouted, “Nothing works! They've tried everything? Why do you think the royal guard is capturing all the dragons in the land? They need your help, they're all as dimwitted as I am. I love her, but I can do nothing!” Yenendithas released his grip slightly, “Ow, stop that. I will let you go if you promise me you won't run away and tell the King you found me. I'm an old man, well, old dragon now, and all I want is to be alone in my mountains. With all the crazy adventurers nowadays, I can't even do that. Here I am, trying to find a nice, lonely spring to live by and you nearly sit on me. I guess I will have to find a swamp somewhere. I can see, however, that you do care for Princess Eden, and you're not as much of a dimwit as you are just young. I do know how to save Princess Eden, but I cannot do it in my present state. However, I will tell you a riddle that will help you save the princess, but you must do as I say and promise me whatever I ask.” “I'll do anything,” Brendan promised. Yenendithas released his grip and began, “First, promise that you won't tell the King or anyone else you saw me. Tell him the answer came to you in a dream or something more interesting like that.” Brendan nodded. “Second, you must tell King and whomever it may concern that only you may break the spell with the riddle's answer. I'm trying to help you out here, dear boy, anyhow, feel free to ask for demands and rewards first. Some nice gold for yourself or something, maybe even the princess' hand in marriage. I'm sure the King will give you whatever, he can't really bargain with his daughter's life.” Brendan stared, confused at Yenendithas' second promise, but he nodded again anyways. “Alright then,” Yenendithas gave a toothy dragon grin, “Here is the riddle: What is worth nothing, but worth more than gold to some? What is sometimes pure, sometimes passionate? What locks two people together for a second, but keeps a fire inside for a lifetime?” Brendan thought back to his daydreams, he loved Princess Eden, and he longed to kiss her. He imagined that his kiss would be pure, yet passionate, and how he dreamed of being with her for a lifetime. “A kiss,” mumbled Brendan aloud. Yenendithas, nodded, “But, remember, not just any kiss, a kiss from only you, the farm boy who loves her,” and with that, the wizard dragon flew off into the night's sky.

Once Brendan announced that he knew how to save Princess Eden, he had little trouble gaining entrance to the King's palace. The King was at his wits end and was willing to try anything, even suggestions from farm boys. Brendan remembered his promises to the dragon, and eagerly asked, “Sire, if this should work, I would like to be knighted and have a fine home in the countryside, can you arrange that?” “Done,” the King's eyes focused on his daughter's lifeless body, that was placed on a stone alter, instead of Brendan. “Sire, I would also like a wagon full of gold, so that I may have an easier life, can it be done?” “Whatever you say, if it works,” the King nodded. “Sire, if I have my say, if this works, I would like to have your daughter's hand in marriage, would I have your permission?” The King gave Brendan a hard look, but then glanced back at his daughter, his beloved child who might sleep forever, “If it works, you have my permission, on my honor, it will be done.” Brendan nodded and knelt beside his beautiful, secret lady love. He moved back a lock of her icy blonde hair, his heart pounding against the wall in his chest. “I love you,” he whispered over her, and leaned in for his first, true kiss. The heart of Princess Eden was immediately brought back to normal, the poison vanished by Brendan's love for her.

The King made good on his promises and Brendan and Princess Eden lived happily ever after.

*********************

There are your entries.  Now it's up to the reader's.  Authors spread the word for more chances to win.  Everyone has a chance to win!  Don't forget to leave your comment with email addy voters!  Contest will run until June 16 (I moved it back a day as I was a day late getting the polls up) and the one with the most votes wins and there will be 2 runners up as well.  3 prizes for authors and one big prize for voters!

I also want to throw in there that some of the formatting is not the fault of the author,  blame blogger!  It formatted right on my computer just not on here,  sorry about that.

Cast your vote now!

19 comments:

kristina shields said...

I voted for The Long Road Home by Stacie Williams! Good job!

spicedice45@gmail.com

Cindy C Bennett said...

The Spanish Stranger by Debra Chapoton

geekgirl at comcast dot net

Carol M said...

#1 - The Spanish Stranger by Debra Chapoton
mittens0831 at aol dot com

Julie Lynn Hayes said...

#6 - Heart of Eden by Dawn Myers

shelley_runyon@yahoo.com

Denise Z said...

I voted for #6 Heart of Eden by Dawn Myers. I loved the story and really, really want to read more!

dz59001[at]gmail[dot]com

Anonymous said...

The Spanish Stranger by Debra Chapoton

edysicecreamlover18ATgmailDOTcom

aobibliophile™ said...

One Night Stand by Vivienne Diane Neal

aobibliophile(at)gmail(dot)com

Katrina W said...

Heart of Eden by Dawn Myers !! Id love to read more !! Interesting storyline for sure

kat
kittee_cat@bigpond.com

earthwalkr said...

It was a tough choice between An Angel's Gift and Dawn Meyers's Heart of Eden, but I had to go with Meyers in the end. Good story, well done. However, I was sadly disappointed with the other stories in general. I would like to suggest to the authors of those to learn as much about writing as they can before submitting anything to an actual agent or publisher if that is what they would like to do someday. They really need some work.
Julie Achterhoff
erthwkr@gmail.com

Sandy said...

I voted for Dawn Meyer's, Heart of Eden, because I thought it was well written.

Anonymous said...

I vote for Heart of Eden :) edysicecreamlover18ATgmailDOTcom Krystal L

chelseacarson1 said...

I forgot to put my email address on my entry :P
I vote for The Spanish Stranger, it was really good and I hope she makes a book from it's plot.

dakotagirl16AThotmailDOTcom

Louisa said...

I voted for Heart of Eden by Dawn Myers, it had the most (in my opinion) importance to the Heart of Eden, and it pulled me out of the story the least :)
lpcoolgirl@gmail.com

mamabunny13 said...

My vote goes to "Heart of Eden" by Dawn Myers.
Good luck to everyone.
mamabunny13 at gmail dot com

Julie said...

I voted for the Heart of Eden by Dawn Myers. I really liked it and thought it was well written!
jwitt33 at live dot com

oshie said...

Heart of Eden by Yvonne aka Vonze

jwilburn4 @ gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

I liked #1 "The Spanish Stranger" by Debra Chapoton
cindymacbeth at gmail dot com

alice priday said...

hey great stories.
i voted #5 An Angel's Gamble by Lara Hogg

danielsangel101@yahoo.co.uk

Jennifer Bonges said...

All were great..hard decision..I voted for Sobriety by Johanna Pitcairn.

jlbonges@comcast.net

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