Lily drove up to the condo visitor's parking and stood outside her car for a moment, looking up at the towers. She had never really considered them before, maybe glanced at them when she'd come to shop at the mall, but didn't think of them, not really, as a place where people actually lived. As she went in the front lobby, she saw Danny standing at the front desk, talking with the security guard.
It was nice to see him looking casual, really casual, with a t-shirt stretched over his broad shoulders and wearing shorts, showing off his long legs. His hair was messy and his face was ruddy, but he smiled when he saw her. "I timed that well," he said, picking up the paper tray of coffees and pastry box off the security desk.
She wasn't sure if they were "there," yet, but she stood up a little as she walked up to him, tilting forward on tiptoe to kiss him hello, just in case they were, and he accepted and greeted her with a quick brush of the lips. Very nice.
"Don't get too close," he warned, still smiling, "I just came in from my run."
Ah, that explained his red face. "You're fine," was all she said, as he led her to the elevator banks.
"I didn't get you a coffee, I realized I didn't know how you take it," he said, gesturing some with the paper tray.
"I'm not a big coffee drinker," she replied. "So that's all right."
"Sean Patrick has a wide variety of tea and soda upstairs," he said. "You can take your pick. Hopefully you do like Danishes."
"I do," she nodded the affirmative. "Tea would be great."
"We'll get the kettle on for you while I take a quick shower and dress," he said.
She looked down at her own jeans and t-shirt. "I'm dressed okay, right?"
"Look fantastic," he replied. "I know it's still warm during the days, but no one really swims this time of year, the water's gotten too chilly. Dad keeps talking about heating it but he never seems to get around to it. Come on in." He unlocked the door to a condo at the end of the hall and led her into an impossibly luxurious main room, with a kitchen in the front to the left, and hallways leading off in both directions. Directly in front of her was a broad, wide, open sliding glass door leading out onto a spacious balcony.
"A vampire lives here?" she asked, looking around at the decidedly Southwestern décor, the displays of arrowheads and cowboy artwork, and the rich leather upholstery with the nailhead trim.
"No direct sunlight," replied Danny, putting the tray on the kitchen countertop, similar in general design to her own apartment, but the countertops were solid polished granite, with a gold-flecked backsplash, not cheap plastic.
Elvis Presley was playing in the main living room, just ahead of them, so Danny led the way, calling, "Sean Patrick? I'm back, and Lily's here."
The huge television on the wall was showing an old Elvis concert, one Lily remembered Grandmother watching over and over again. A tall, impossibly thin man rose to his feet from where he was lounging on the massive, overstuffed leather sofa, setting aside a pile of papers and a rather large laptop computer. "Welcome," he said, turning a big, charming smile on her.
Lily felt a surge of delight rush through her as she enthusiastically took his hand. There was no doubting her senses, she could feel him through to her bones, a joy that combined the memory of watching the Kachina dances when she'd been a little girl, the first Christmas she remembered when she got to taste chocolate for the first time, or the time when grandfather first showed her how to see the auras in supposedly inanimate objects, such as trees and flowers. This was no common vampire, no white man’s "true" vampire, no "inbetweener." This was a spirit, a Nightwalker. "I'm so honored to meet you. I never dreamed I'd actually meet a Nightwalker," she said, almost gushing she was so overwhelmed.
He smiled at her, a warm, friendly smile that made his eyes crinkle at the corners. His skin was the color of a vanilla caramel, but his eyes were a deep and clear brown, with flecks of hazel in them. His hand was smooth and strong, not warm but not cold, either. "You're the third person I’ve ever met that called me that. Are you a Shaman?"
Lily's face heated. "No, I'm a woman."
The nightwalker's mouth tightened. "That shouldn’t have anything to do with it. But my great-grandfather called me a nightwalker, and then I never heard the term again until I met a Dakota Sioux fellow, up in South Dakota. Both of them were Shamans. So I just assumed." He bent his head, bringing himself closer to her, bending as supple as a willow branch, "I apologize."
"It's all right. It's not your fault," she said, studying his face. She could see what Danny had seen, the darkness that rimmed his aura, but amidst that darkness the kindest heart sparkled through, shining like a beacon in the center of his being. She turned to Danny, trying to regain control of her emotions. "You didn't tell me he was a nightwalker."
Danny was looking at her blankly, clearly not understanding. "Nightwalker?" he echoed, looking over her at his uncle, one eyebrow raised.
She heard Sean Patrick chuckle, and she made a face at Danny. "All those vampire study courses and classes in Native American studies and you never ran across the word nightwalker? How does the white man teach, anyway?"
"I give, I give," said Danny, lifting his hands in surrender. "You can teach me on the drive over. I got to get showered, if you don't mind this vampiric Lothario entertaining you while I'm out of the room."
"I am not a Lothario," Sean Patrick protested, but it was such a weak protestation that Danny only laughed as he vanished down the left-hand hallway. "Come on in and have a seat, Lily," he said, clearing a spot for her on the sofa.
"Did we interrupt your work?" she asked, sitting down.
"I'll be working on this for the rest of the week. I would have had to put it aside when we leave for Apache Junction, anyway," he replied, closing the computer and putting it on the coffee table. He reached for a remote and started to turn the television off.
"You can leave it on. I like Elvis," she said.
That brought another bright smile. "Good for you. Sometimes the youngsters don't care for my old crap."
"My grandmother loved him. I must have seen this concert a hundred times when we were living with her, when I was a little girl," said Lily, watching the bright colors of Hawaii on the screen.
He picked up an electronic cigarette from the table and turned it off, tucking it into the pocket of the plaid Western cut shirt he wore. "So what tribe?" he asked, a casual, curious tone.
"Hopi," she replied, and looked sharply at his face. "And I believe Danny said you were part Apache?"
"Yep. My grandmother was one-hundred-percent. I'm guessing you probably don't care for us."
"Well, the word 'usurper' is used sometimes," she admitted. "But it's mostly reserved for the Navajo."
"Well, Navajo and Apache are related. But my people were southern plains, Lipan Apache. Never in Arizona at all, I promise." He smiled at her, and Lily couldn't help but smile back.
She looked around at his artwork, much of which was standard cowboy art, very little of it standing out, except for one. "That looks like a real Lori Takahashi," she said, pointing at a painting of a pair of cat's eyes, peering through impossibly green leaves, an impressionistic swirl of color around the startling realism of the eyes.
"You know Lori's work?"
"She's one of my favorite western artists," said Lily, rising and going to look more closely at the painting. It was a painting, and not a print; she could see the brushstrokes, and at the bottom, the clear "L Takahashi" signature. "It IS a Lori Takahashi. One of her actual paintings! But she died so young and her body of work is so small, how did you get this?" Of course, he was rich, just look at this place, that was a ridiculous question.
But he smiled again. "I knew Lori. She painted me a few times."
"You knew her? But she died years ago…" her voice trailed off. She realized she had no idea how old the nightwalker was; he was old enough to be Danny's great-great grandfather, or some such, wasn't he?
His smile widened. "Yes, it was years ago. Probably before you were born."
"No, she died right after I was born. I read all about her when I got old enough to know the name of the painting I grew up staring at. 'The Nightwalker.' It was on my wall when I was a baby and a little girl, and we took it with us when Mama moved us down to Phoenix. It's always been on my wall."
"Come with me," he said, gesturing she should follow him. Curious, she pulled herself out of the thick leather of the sofa. He led her into an office, or library, a man's den filled with more rich leather furniture, a large desk and computer equipment, and one section of the wall opposite the desk, a wide, high, well-lit space where a large print of "The Nightwalker" hung. She looked closely at it, although she knew that the original painting was hanging in a museum in Vermillion, South Dakota. It wasn't a painting, but the print number was 1 of 1,000, dated March, 2002, and the "L Takahashi" was not only part of the print, but also there in silver marker.
"Wow. The first print of the first print run?" she asked, looking at print with almost as much awe as she might the actual painting.
"Well, honey," he said, "I'm the Nightwalker."
Lily turned her head, slowly, to look at his tall, lean figure lounging in the doorway, then back to the upright figure of the Nightwalker, standing in the tall prairie grass under the swirl of stars, deliberately meant to invoke a North American take on Van Gogh's "Starry Night."
"We were having a picnic, near the banks of the Missouri River," he went on, his eyes gone surprisingly sad as they moved from her face to the print on the wall, "She was trying to cheer me up. I'm a bit depressive, and she was a good, good friend to me. I don't remember why, but I stood up, and she made me stop. She sketched that for about twenty minutes, then cut me loose and lost herself in it. For months she painted. I went home to Los Angeles, and she painted. Then out of the blue, she calls me back to the gallery opening and the unveiling. Her greatest work." He smiled, but it was a smile as sad as the expression in his huge eyes.
"The more I read about her the more I liked her," said Lily. "I looked at pictures of all her paintings, at least, all the ones they were able to make copies of for the books. There's not a lot, but every article I ever read said she could have been the greatest painter in South Dakota history. The greatest non-Native western artist."
"I'm glad she's remembered like that. I think about her just as fun girl with auburn hair that liked to eat cheeseburgers and dance. She introduced me to Alan Thorne."
"She knew Alan Thorne, too? Wow."
"She could have spearheaded the new Algonquin Table, my girl," said Sean Patrick. "Anyway, I'll show you something I never ever show anyone."
Lily followed him to a closet in the hall, down the opposite way from where Danny had vanished. She could hear, from that direction, the sound of the shower, faint and faraway in the muffled elegance of the condo. Sean Patrick opened the door to reveal a rather large walk-in closet with what appeared to be a hundred years of life carefully stored therein. "Do you ever throw anything away?" she asked, as he moved a few boxes.
"Now and again," he replied with a grin. "Bear in mind, I also have a condo in Vegas and an apartment in Los Angeles."
"I guess life is messy," she said.
"Yep." He took out a large rectangle that was carefully swathed in soft cloth. "This is only because
you're a fan of her work."
Lily gasped as he drew back the cloth. "Oh, my," she breathed. "So this is where it went." She took the painting from him and drew back. "May I look at it in the light?"
He was blushing, but he nodded, his eyes curious.
Lily carried the painting with some amount of reverence out into the living area and to the balcony, where the morning light was strongest. The painting was a deeply realistic rendering of Sean Patrick in the nude, lounging on a bed, with one arm cocked behind his head and one knee bent, but it was his expression that dominated the painting, and the artist had captured a face that was bemused, curious, intent, and yet relaxed all at the same time. The colors were masterful, the strokes loving, almost caressing the canvas. "Oh," said Lily again, taking in the details, "I read about this painting. It's called 'Capture a Moment.' All anyone could find was a picture of it someone took at her only showing in South Dakota before she died. All the family would say was that it was purchased by a close friend. The fellow who wrote the article went to that show, he saw it, and he said that 'The Nightwalker' might be generally considered her masterpiece, but this was her 'Mona Lisa.'" The artist had captured more than a moment, she'd somehow captured all the elusive qualities of her nightwalker and put them into this rendering of his face. It was beautiful.
"Really?" he said, and part of that expression came across his face, bemused and intrigued and this time, maybe a little guilty.
"You know, you don't have to be ashamed of your body," she said, giving him a look. "You're rather handsome."
He blushed again. The boys in this family were certainly given to blushing. Lily shook her head. "You don't know what it was like, being at that opening, people looking at this and then seeing me. They knew what I looked like naked."
"We're all naked under our clothes," replied Lily.
"You sound like Cody," he grumbled.
"Danny's mom," he said. "That reviewer, he really said that about this painting? All based on one gallery showing?"
"Yep. And people have been looking for it. Her family would never say who bought it."
"Well, they sure wouldn't let me buy 'The Nightwalker,' and I offered quite a bit for it." He took in a deep breath and came to stand next to her on the balcony, looking at the painting in her hands.
"It's not that it's a nude," Lily explained, making him take one corner so she could gesture with her free hand. "The eye is drawn by the composition to your face, mostly your eyes, so. That's 'the moment' she wanted to capture here, the story she wanted to tell. It's all in that face, the set of your mouth, the way your eyes shine in the light at that angle, the color of your skin, the way your hair falls. She made life here."
"I guess I never really looked at it." The guilty tone had returned to his voice.
Lily glanced up at him. "What?"
"She wanted me to promise it wouldn't end up 'hidden in a closet somewhere,'" he said.
Lily sucked on her cheeks. "Did you promise?"
"Actually, no, I did not. I expressly said I could NOT make that promise. But I remember her asking." He seemed to finally let out that long breath. "But you make me think."
"What are we looking at?" Danny came out, wearing a t-shirt and jeans, his hair still damp. "I see. These are the etchings my uncle shows my new girlfriend?" He said it in a light, joking manner, but it gave Lily a strange thrill of delight at the term "girlfriend."
"I was showing it to Lily, not to you," said Sean Patrick, taking the painting back and swathing the cloth around it again.
"It's a nice painting," said Danny.
"It's better than nice," replied Lily. "It's Lori Takahashi's lost master work, and this guy's kept it hidden in a closet for twenty-six years."
"I feel guilty enough about it," said Sean Patrick, carrying the painting back to the hall. "But now at least I'll think about doing something else with it. Maybe I'll send it anonymously back to South Dakota, to join 'The Nightwalker' there in her permanent display."
"I think they'd like that."
"And it's highly unlikely that anyone would know it was me there, anyway, even if I come to see it," said Sean Patrick, shrugging. "The most people would say now is 'hey, you look like him,' if I were standing right next to it."
"Which they would not if you displayed it here."
"Little kids come to this house," he said, all prim Victorian manners.
"And you should expose them to more art than just Charlie Russell and Frederic Remington."
Sean Patrick stuck his tongue out at her.
- Current Mood: tired
Blog Post #4: Food, Drink, Holidays, & Culture
Well, today won't be quite as detailed, because as readers may have noticed, my world is a whole lot like this world, just has magic that's real.
So some color:
When Cody was a little girl, Christmas was a major celebration for them; being generally a poor family, living in a small house, didn't seem to matter, because when Grandpa showed up, all bets were off. Christmas morning often greeted the Cameron children with a tree that was actually larger than their living room, although it seemed to fit, all the way to the star far above them, and presents from everywhere all over the world--sometimes, Cody thought, Grandpa seemed to bring presents from OTHER worlds--and after mounds of presents and gallons of hot chocolate, a massive dinner, singing, games, and storytelling. Cody was in college before she learned that her grandfather was probably the most famous mage in the world, his name (although not his face) known in every magickal circle in every corner of the world.
Christmas was likewise a gigantic celebration back home on the O'Connor Ranch, before it was sold to the state.
During the years when Sean Patrick ran the Nightmare Saloon in Burbank, he closed for major Christian holidays like Christmas, but Halloween was a major celebration, and over the years he managed to come dressed as every vampire in popular modern culture because it amused him. (He was way too tall for Spike, but made a pretty credible Lestat.)
Food & Drink:
Sean Patrick drinks Jack Daniels on the rocks. His favorite food is Italian, and he could live on Chocolate. He feeds on blood when he must, because he needs it to live, but he's not as vigilant as he should be (a vampire doctor told him once he should be drinking between four and six pints a day--he doesn't too often get close to that). He was taught how to cook by a famous chef and he takes pride in his cooking and baking. (Chocolate has a powerful effect on vampires; it seems to affect their serotonin levels to an extent much more than humans.)
Cody likes Rum & Diet Coke. Her favorite food in the world are French fries, but she's in general not fussy. She's an experimental cook and loves to try new recipes.
Matt is a recovering alcoholic and prefers fruit juice in sparkling water, or plain lime-flavored seltzer. His favorite food is Thai, with Indian a close second (his mother was half-East Indian); but he's not a really all that focused on food. When his first fiance left him he lived on protein powder and orange juice.
Della's favorite drink is Amaretto on the rocks, although she's fond of wine; her favorite food when she was human was vanilla cake but since becoming a vampire she really doesn't care for human food (except for chocolate).
Amok, the above-mentioned famous chef (and incidentally vampire), is known for his "plain northeastern cuisine in high style," and he spent decades being completely unknown outside of modest circles in Boston until almost by accident he got featured on the Food Network and the next thing he knew he had a regular (and very popular) cooking show. He knows in a few years he's going to have to retire and get out of the limelight as people begin to notice he's not any older than he was when he started; he likes human food but he also prefers blood.
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The Worldbuilding Blogfest
Blog Post #3: Religion and/or magic
I talked a little about both yesterday, because obviously religion and magic play an important role in the history of my Earth.
Because it is fundamentally the same as the "real" world, the religions are generally the same; including the power of the Catholic Church in the 15th Century (I just added the werewolf massacre to the other delightful things they were doing at the time). But beliefs around the world are more or less the same. For all he's a vampire, Sean Patrick is deeply religious, believes firmly in God, and still goes to weekly mass (he has become disillusioned with the Catholic Church as an entity, but he still believes).
Of my characters, Matt is lapsed Catholic; like the rest of his family, he was raised in the church, but he fell away years ago and is somewhere between atheist and agnostic. His wife, Cody, practices yoga and has a deist's faith in god or gods (probably the latter), although her family is more or less Protestant. They never really discussed religion when it came to the kids, and each of them have their own ideas.
There are still strong pockets of various native religions, just as there are in this world, as well as the requisite numbers of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, etc., etc.
Magic: Magic is considered, by most mages, as another of the sciences. The main difference is, of course, no matter how hard you study magic, you can't actually perform it without a fundamental ability. Magic is a part and parcel of the world as a whole.
Mages are usually focused into families, often identified by unusual or brightly-colored eyes (nothing bizarre, like purple, but unusually intense shades of blue, green, or hazel; Asian or Hispanic mages will sometimes have goldish tones to their brown eyes, or otherwise be paler than usual). Each mage has a specific skill, sometimes more than one, and while they may understand the theories in other specialties, they usually cannot perform magic from outside their field.
Magickal fields include healing/repair (for a powerful healer understands that repairing the human body is not unlike repairing a broken teacup), translocation (movement in space), translation (languages), absorption ("borrowing" powers from other mages, when in proximity), and adaptation (an almost "free-form" magic). Power levels of individual mages vary, with some being quite strong and others, well, not so much. There are also very low-level mages, simply referred to as sensitives, who can see and sense magic (they might also be able to see ghosts and physical auras). The sensitive is the most common form of mage, so common most don't even think of themselves as true mages. Translocators are also very common.
Magic being a part of the mage means they don't really have to cast "spells." Magic is woven from thought, sometimes a gesture or word, but nothing flashy -- no need for circles or candles or lengthy Latin phrases. A translocator merely thinks about where he or she wants to go, envisions the location in his or her head, and opens a portal there, sometimes making a movement like "unzipping" the air. A translator focuses on a language and begins to understand, similarly to a normal way of learning a new language, just extremely quickly.
There are numerous magickal creatures. Werewolves were exceptionally widespread before the massacre and are still in the Americas and Asia. Werewolves are magickal by nature, the werewolf gene passed through the mother's line. For many centuries after the massacre what were left of European werewolves tended to be somewhat inbred, trying to keep the werewolf line alive. A werewolf does change at the full moon, often starting the change with puberty. In general werewolves are not dangerous, although young ones do have a hard time keeping their heads about them during the change; fully adult werewolves maintain the majority of human intellect while in wolf form. Werewolves do not lose mass when they change, so a large man (such as my main werewolf, Raifford Kincaid) is a VERY large wolf. Raif is 6' tall and weighs 225 -- he's an exceptionally large wolf.
Vampires were accidentally created by a mistaken spell by a healer, and while most historians aren't really sure when, they agree it was likely somewhere in the Caucasus Mountains, possibly before the fertile crescent was populated (although some historians argue that one). Vampiric studies theorize that the first vampire was accidentally created by a healer attempting to heal death, the backlash of which created the first true vampire. Vampirism is spread to normal humans (and sometimes magic users and spirits) by blood, much like the legends of this world, and the further it gets from the original source the more likely it is the vampire will become an "in-betweener" or a monster (Nosferatu).
A mage can usually "see" a vampire for what it is, so any mage who becomes a vampire wanted to be one for whatever reason, and as such probably chose a true vampire to make them. A spirit may influence the vampiric nature if a vampire should be so unlucky as to choose a spirit as a new vampire companion.
Then there are spirits. Spirits are beings of magic, but they inhabit human bodies, are born of human mothers, and often don't even know they are magickal at all. Spirits are usually born to women who either believed they were barren or had passed childbearing age, and, due to that, tend to be "pets" in their families, whether the family knows they're a spirit or not. Spirits might influence such intangibles as luck, love, friendships, or prosperity. Some are spirits of the elements--earth, air, fire, water. Spirits tend to gravitate toward each other, and it's not at all uncommon to have spirits related by marriage of other family members. They tend to get along together extremely well, whether or not they're aware of what they are.
- Current Mood: creative
Post #2: History and Politics
The world I do most of my playing in has a mostly similar history to the one we learned in school, where your typical grade school history tossed in brief mentions of "the werewolf massacre" or "the bloodshed," depending on which side one was on, much the same way kids growing up in America learn about European history.
During this time, 1478-1492, the Catholic Church was at its zenith. Pope Sixtus IV, in addition to all his other lovely accomplishments, embarked on a crusade against magic and magic users, citing Exodus and Leviticus in his quest to destroy all mages and magickal creatures. Thousands of werewolves were killed, nearly to extinction, as were numerous vampires, spirits, and mages who didn't have the power to escape. Many werewolf families managed to get away from Europe, taking refuge in Asian countries, Africa, and parts of the Americas; the only major werewolf pockets left in Europe were in Ireland.
Dating from this time period, Western mages became a secret, hidden society. Many true mages, of course, had no trouble avoiding the pope's crusaders; other magickal creatures, like werewolves, had to find countries where the pope's influence was not so profound.
As such, modern Western European-descent people tend not to believe magic is real and think of the werewolf massacre in much the same light as the Salem witch trials -- there weren't any REAL werewolves or mages or vampires, right?
But the reality of magic, as a science, continued as the influence of the church waned in England (although persecution of magic continued). Much like historical knowledge in this version of the world, it's perfectly possible to study magic in institutes of higher learning, and in my stories I've made mention of the fine magic departments in Oxford, Cambridge (Harvard), and UCLA (I'm sure there's more); in the modern United States, where my stories are set, the common folk generally don't believe in magic, or if they do, think it doesn't exist any longer.
Native Americans, attuned to the world around them, never completely outlawed magic, even as European influence spread; ditto the Asian countries. It's far more common to find mages and magickal creatures operating openly in these places.
In the United States, some states or counties have anti-magic laws, which may or may not be observed depending on the hawkishness of the law enforcement (who may or may not even believe in magic, and think the laws are merely holdovers from a less enlightened time). Some states which have a heavy Native American presence are far more open, with large magic departments in their colleges and departments of magic in government offices. Others fall somewhere between, with magic departments hidden but there, acknowledged in many quarters but completely unknown to others.
Mages are just normal people who happen to have a gift for magic; anyone can study magickal theory and understand how the science works, but only those who have the gift can actually make it work. While they are secretive about their magical ability, they don't hide or anything. A mage is just a person and has to have a steady job to earn a living; a mage might work in a magickal industry or department of a non-magickal company, or teach at one of the university magic departments. Not all magics are conducive to making a great deal of money, so having other talents is nice, too.
Vampires, behind bred of humans and magic, continued to spread; on the whole, the most common were and continue to be the "hidden monsters," the "in-betweeners," who can pretend to still be human but are not. These are the ones hunted by the secret Order of Vampire Hunters, the Hiera Sacra. But an older, more magical vampire, called the "true vampire" by the magickal community, also exists -- these vampires live with and benefit their human relations, usually staying with their family for many generations, and continuing to live and work with human communities. There are also the monsters, the vampires who have lost all traces of humanity, and these can be found world-wide. AT some point the Hiera Sacra suppressed belief of the "true vampire" and started to hunt and destroy ALL vampires, no matter the cost to the human family of the true vampire.
The government is still the same -- Elizabeth II sits on the throne of England, Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008 and 2012, Duhbya before him, etc. Sean Patrick is a Yellow Dog Democrat, although he has oddly managed to evolve with the party (of course, he was only a little boy at the end of the Civil War -- being part Indian himself, he's always been keenly aware of civil rights).
I have more, but it's getting late and I'm working the early shift this week. I haven't written down everything, but I keep a regular timeline for my all my characters and the world around them.
- Current Mood: busy
The Worldbuilding Blogfest
Blog Post #1 -- Geography & Climate
Most of my stories take place in the modern-day United States, although I did one set on the Mediterranean in 1932. The bulk of the stories are set in Texas, California, Arizona, and Nevada, since this is my home, and by extension the home of my characters. Mostly I have a family of cowboys and cattle barons, a family which staked out a claim in central Texas and at their peak owned a property that stretched over three counties. My timeline stretches mostly from 1863 to the present day and a little in the future, since that's the lifetime of Sean Patrick O'Connor, and his extended family. The main hacienda in Texas, just outside of the city limits of modern-day San Antonio (and now a State Park and Historical Landmark), was built by Sean Patrick's grandfather, the first Sean Patrick O'Connor, who came to Texas from Ireland, by way of New York, with a few silver dollars and a lot of determination. Before he died he had the biggest house and had bargained and bought and stolen enough cattle and land to set up his son, Liam, as the cattle baron of Central Texas, the O'Connor Ranch, known for miles around as "The Ocee." The town of O'Connor would be founded nearby, initially only a post office and rail station, but eventually a fully-formed town which later was absorbed by San Antonio.
Now the wider family is scattered across the Southwest, with my main characters living in Scottsdale and Apache Junction, Arizona. Matt and his family own a large house in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains, while their uncle Sean Patrick the vampire lives in a high-rise condo in Scottsdale (for anyone familiar with the Scottsdale area, Sean Patrick owns a condo in the Scottsdale Waterfront). Sean Patrick also owns a condo in Las Vegas, in the posh Turnberry Towers.
Sean Patrick lives and breathes the Southwest. Even after living away from San Antonio for fifty years in Europe and another thirty years in California and Arizona, he still has his Texas drawl. He loves living in Arizona, even considering he can't go out in the sun, because he loves the warm weather. He doesn't turn on the air conditioner unless he has people over visiting (and he does love to have people over). He grew up as the pampered prince of the palace there on the old ranch in San Antonio, but when he became a vampire, he gave his inheritance to his younger brother Matthew, and the main family line has passed down through Matthew's family.
The city of San Antonio eventually chipped away at the lands, slowly surrounding the main hacienda until all that was left was the Big House itself, the barns, and the family cemetery. It was made a Historical Landmark and State Park in 1984, after the death of Matthew O'Connor Jr.; tours run daily, and the family continues to handle the upkeep.
Sean Patrick moved to Los Angeles in 1976, opening a large country bar in Burbank. He operated the bar and lived in a secret underground apartment there until 2004, when he bought his condo in Las Vegas. Shortly thereafter, he and Matt's family moved to Arizona.
I spend a lot of time on Google Maps while crafting these stories, and I've driven all over Las Vegas, and taken virtual tours of fancy condos; I haven't actually drawn any maps of my own because my map-making sucks, but Google has been a godsend for me there.
The climate -- the Phoenix Valley (Scottsdale and Apache Junction are suburbs of the Greater Metropolitan Phoenix area) is hot. I've decided to ignore climate change as I write into the future, largely because I don't want to envision our Valley as the sun-dried dustbowl I see it turning into now; however, otherwise the weather is just as it is in the real world. I even used the Farmer's Almanac to find out temperatures and precipitation on the days my first novel was set during. Nothing more I can add to that one!
The World Building Blogfest
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The Worldbuilding Blogfest
- Current Mood: accomplished
Lily held back a moment, trying once again not to stare at him. He was even more handsome close up than he'd been in the dim light of the restaurant. She had felt foolish for accusing them of pulling something over on her, planting him there to see what her reaction would be, but of course why would Dulaney do any such thing?
His broad shoulders, which had looked wonderful in a t-shirt, were magnificent in the well-cut suit, obviously tailored to fit him and not some off-the-rack purchase. The green flecks in his tie matched his green eyes and his smile was simply lovely. His aura was green, too; the serene, warm green of a jungle rain forest, deep and tranquil and hiding strength and honesty and power. She liked him instantly, even more than she had when she'd been admiring him across the restaurant yesterday.
Grandmother would be horrified she was this attracted to a white boy. She swallowed and followed him and Abby into the room, where several crates were stacked, all of them practically humming with magic.
"All right, kid, let's see what you can do," said Abby to the young man, stepping back. "We pulled everything else that might have had something dangerous attached to it, but there's still some interesting things in here. Go for it. Show me your stuff."
Danny nodded and stepped toward the crates. Abby leaned toward Lily, "We may need your Samoan mage. There's another piece in here, we think it has a curse that could almost match the other one, but we're being super careful about it, just in case."
"I'll give you her number," replied Lily, watching Danny as he examined each crate, his brow furrowed slightly. "How old is he?" she asked.
"Not sure. He's working with us to fulfill the hands-on part of his post-graduate degree, so he's out of college, at least," replied Abby in a low voice, watching him closely. "I really do want to see what he can do. I was pretty sure he'd gotten the position over a lot of other potentials because he's related not only to the professor who runs the program but he's got a relative on the board at Dulaney, too."
Lily glanced at Abby in surprise. She hadn't noticed anything about the woman's attitude before this to indicate there was anything other than comfortable professional relationship. "Do you think it's just nepotism, then?"
"I like his look, good aura, lots of strength," Abby said softly, "And Jack, our boss, says we see what he can do. So that's what we do." Abby was watching Danny as he shoved one crate aside and pressed a hand to a largish box toward the back. There was, to the eye, nothing unusual about it; but Lily could tell there was something in it which was potentially dangerous, just enough to make all her senses tingle.
"I think he chose the right one," she said.
"He did," Abby agreed, nodding, and smiling. "What is it, Danny?" she asked in a louder voice.
"This one. I don't think it's a curse, but it's not exactly good," he said, his voice slightly muffled behind the boxes. "I think if we have access to someone who can cast a protection field before it's opened, that would help. Either that or find a translocator, get it to a safe location before it's cracked."
"Good!" said Abby. "Excellent work."
He came back, shoving the box ahead of him, moving the largish box with some ease. When he straightened, he automatically brushed his hands off on his grey suit jacket, then looked down at the smears of black against the Italian silk with annoyance. "Damn… er, darn it."
"That one's allowed stronger language, kid," said Abby. "That's one of the reasons we dress casual here."
Danny grinned, and that made him even cuter. Lily was starting to really feel uncomfortable, but she swallowed it with some effort and managed to smile back. "If I'd already moved into my new place, I could walk home and change," he said with a shrug. "I guess I'll just have to deal the rest of the day."
"Talk to Cam. He can take care of it," said Abby. "There's a reason he's always so neat. Where's the new place?"
"Those apartments, just across the street," Danny replied, gesturing toward the north windows.
"Convenient," said Lily. "Where are you staying now?"
"With my uncle, in Scottsdale," he answered, brushing again at the marks on his jacket. "What's next?" There was an eager tone in his voice.
"All right, then. Let's get the new kid to work," said Abby. "Sergeant, what do you think about this one?"
Lily leaned close to the box, spreading her hands over the wood and feeling it, trying to grasp the elusive, tingling sensations it was giving her. She was partially aware of Danny, behind her, could feel his senses at work, too. She drew on the two of them, the three of them better together than individually. Triangulating, she could sense the ancient magic inside the box, magic that was eager to get out. "I think it's safe to open here," she said. "But a protection spell might not be a bad idea."
"Let me get Krys in here," said Abby. She leaned out the door and called down the hall.
Lily straightened up, then stumbled a little as her heel tipped on the carpet. Danny put a hand under her elbow, catching her. "Clumsy of me," she muttered, but she wasn't even aware of the words coming out of her mouth. His touch sent a charge through her that was electric, yet pleasant; a ripple started from his hand on her elbow and tingled through her body, from the top of her head to the bottoms of her feet, and she found herself looking up at him with her mouth open, unable to form any coherent words.
He was babbling something about old fashioned manners and apologizing for seeming to assume she was incapable of supporting herself, but she hardly heard him, other than the musical timbre of his voice. He was telling her about his uncle, she thought, when she heard Abby's voice, cutting through the buzzing in her ears.
"Well, I'll be damned. It does exist."
Lily blinked, and Danny jerked his hand away from her elbow as though he'd been stung. "What?" he asked, sounding vaguely guilty and nearly as disoriented as she felt.
"When you two touched," said Abby, standing by the door staring like she'd seen something truly extraordinary, "your auras merged."
Danny looked startled. Lily found herself making a dismissive sound. That was a myth, just like Abby had said. People said it happened, but she'd never seen it in her life, and never believed it. People were individuals, and separate auras remained just that: separate. She'd certainly seen them overlap, and perhaps that's what Abby had seen.
"Don't be silly," she said. "We've only just met. Even if such a thing existed…"
"It exists," said Danny. "My parents. He's bright gold, she's sky-blue. When they're together it turns green."
Lily gave him a skeptical look. "I've never seen it," she said.
"I didn't believe it, either, until I just saw it. Here."
Another woman came in, maybe a few years older than Abby, with silver-streaked brown hair and an open, honest face. Her aura was almost colorless, but it was vibrant, bright white. The expression on Danny's face told Lily he, too, had rarely ever seen an aura like that. "What's up, boss?" she asked.
"Well, we need a protection cast on the crate before we open it, but first, look at these two."
"Okay, I'm looking," said Krys, one brown eyebrow arching.
"Go ahead, Danny, touch the sergeant again," said Abby.
Danny blushed, his face turning beet red, all the way to his carrot-top, making his freckles stand out on his nose and cheeks. He really was adorable. Lily sighed and reached out to touch him, instead. "There," she said, trying to ignore the warmth that spread through her when she placed her hand on his forearm. She could feel solid muscle under the silk, and found herself immediately imagining what it would feel like to have such powerful arms holding her.
Krys gasped. "Well, I'll be."
"And they just met," said Abby. "Can you believe it?"
Danny shoved his hand through his hair, making the wild mane stand on end again. "What does it look like?" he asked, almost apologetically. "I've never seen my own aura."
"You're green," said Krys. "A good crisp Kelly green, fairly solid and primary. She's a pale red, almost what they call 'Sedona red,' very Arizona. Together you make gold. I've never seen anything like it, especially not from people who haven't been together for a while."
"He said his parents blend. Rare to have it in families."
"I'm adopted," said Danny.
"Still pretty rare. Looks like you two ought to get to know each other better," said Krys, with a wide smile. "Now I suppose we ought to get to work." She pushed up the sleeves of her white blouse and spread her hands out.
Lily glanced at Danny, and caught him as his eyes hastily sped away, to watch what the mage was doing.
"I meant to ask, Lily," said Abby conversationally, as though they hadn't just turned her whole world view upside down, "about the other idol. I assume it has to stay in evidence a while, probably until everything's cleared up and our thieves are taken care of, but I'd be really appreciative if I can get a receipt on that, just so we can balance our books."
"Yes, I can do that," said Lily. Her voice sounded stiff and odd in her own ears.
She didn't believe in fate, certainly not fated life-mates, the way the stories told about blended auras. Even the spirits all said that nothing was determined, even when you could see the past and the future all at once, that everything was in motion. If she were to find the love of her life, want to settle down and marry him, it shouldn't matter what their auras were like together, as long as they were in love.
She might be in mild attraction, if not outright lust, with this boy, but she didn't know him and she did not love him. There was definitely no such thing as love at first sight.
"Let's get that box open."
Danny stood back as Abby heaved the box open, but Lily leaned forward to see what was inside. Initially, it appeared to be mostly a great deal of packing material, but with the protection firmly in place, she pulled out the excelsior and reached in to remove a rather exquisite vase. Lily gasped, surprised, as Abby brushed away the packing fluff to reveal the delicate patterning on the china, so fine the light shone through it, glinting off the lines of gilt paint which highlighted the rich colors and design. "Oh!" she breathed before she thought. "It's beautiful!"
"This is the prize, I think," said Abby. "This is what our thieves were after. I'm willing to bet this is worth the entire rest of the shipment, or will be, once we crack what's cast on it. Any clues, Krys?"
"Not specifics," replied Krys, whose face looked a little green as she kept the protection up, "but it's kinda strong, and doesn't feel all that friendly."
"Well, let's put this someplace safe, then," said Abby, handing the vase to Krys. "I'll tell Jack what we have and see if he can find someone who can help snap it. If we don't have anyone at Dulaney, I may be calling you, Lily, to find out about that Samoan."
"No problem," said Lily. "Is there anything else, or is this the entire shipment?"
"This is the sum total. We think most of it came from the South Pacific, but obviously there are some Asian pieces. I'm sure Jack will want to contact Dulaney Hong Kong to see if this was stolen. It doesn't seem to match anything on the manifest." She handed Lily the list.
Lily scanned the invoice. The idol in evidence was listed, as well as several other Polynesian sculptures, some masks, a stone icon of some god, and a 'plain vase.' "They really were trying to pull one over on someone, if they call that a 'plain' vase," she said.
"That's what I think, too."
Lily spent the next hour or two going over the rest of the shipment with Abby, trying to ignore the nearness of Danny assisting them, moving crates for them and using the crowbar, now careless of his suit but thoroughly involved in his work, his eyes bright with interest and excitement.
She wasn't sure if Abby had made up her mind, but Lily was pretty certain this boy hadn't gotten his position through his family connections, but maybe in spite of them.
The item that seemed to capture Danny's attention was the stone idol. As they pulled it free of its case, he let out a long whistle. It was too heavy for Abby, but he was able to lift it, dragging it out of the packing material and setting it on the floor, kneeling to look closely at it.
"It's old magic, Abby, but it's not dangerous," he replied, his green eyes not shifting from the idol's face. "There's something here," he went on, reaching to touch the idol's face. "Someone," he breathed. "Hello, there. How long have you been there?"
Lily leaned over. She could see, if she focused hard, something moving beneath the stone face, something shifting over the surface like the hint of a mist. "What is that?" she asked, trying to look closer.
"I'm not sure. What did you say?" he turned his attention back to the idol. "Wait… I can't follow you. Yes, your English is very good," he glanced up at Abby. "Is there a linguist anywhere?"
"What do you need one for?" asked Abby, staring at him.
"There's a ghost in this statue," he replied, gently running his fingers over the rough carved stone, the ugly little face. "But he doesn't speak English very well. It's mostly pidgin, I think, but I'm having a hard time following it."
"You can speak to ghosts?" asked Lily.
"Most of the time. Sometimes they're hard to understand or hard to hear, but this one's pretty active, for all he's pretty well caught in the statue. How'd you come to end up in the statue?" he asked the stone.
Abby let out a whistle. "I guess you do have some talent, kid," she said. "I'll go see what I can drum up."
Danny continued to gently touch the stone, focused on it completely.
Lily felt a strange jealousy. "I can see some ghosts, but I can't talk to many of them," she said. "Only those that are really close to me."
"Like the old Indian who follows you around?" he asked her unexpectedly.
Lily started. "He's here?"
"He's been with you almost since you got here. He's quiet, I didn't notice him right away." He turned his head to look at her, blushing again. "I was kinda looking at you."
- Current Mood: accomplished
"I'm supposed to be starting at Dulaney today," he said.
"Yes," said the woman, glancing at his card, "there's a few of you. Please wait over there while I call up."
Danny nodded and joined two others in the lobby, who looked as nervous as he was. "Dulaney?" he asked.
"Yes," said the shorter of the two, dark skinned and wearing a rather rumpled brown suit. The taller just nodded, glancing between them and wearing the sure expression that he'd made the wrong decision, since he was wearing a plain white button down suit and khaki slacks instead of a suit. Danny glanced between them, wondering which of them were right. He felt reasonably confident in his suit, a mid-range Brooks Brothers, but on the other hand, this WAS Arizona. Maybe it was less formal here than it was in Boston.
The elevator opened and a woman in a shamrock-green shirt with a white Dulaney logo on the pocket emerged. She wore her blonde hair in a businesslike bob and was smiling broadly. "You're our new kids, I assume?" she said, coming up to them. "I'm Abby Van Rysik, I'm the head of the department you'll be working for. Come on upstairs, you boys know we can't talk about this down here," her voice dropped slightly as she shook each of their hands. Her aura was a gentle, quiet yellow, almost a dreamy color, but with strong magic. Danny followed her into the elevator, the other two trailing behind.
They didn't talk as they were wafted to the fifteenth floor. "Which of you is Daniel Sullivan-O'Connor?" she asked.
"That's me," said Danny.
"You're with me. "Peter Franks, you're with Olly Davis," she introduced the boy in khaki slacks to another casually dressed woman with black hair in a ponytail. "And Bobby Foster, you're with Denny Taylor." Rumpled suit went off with a black man with a wide grin and another green polo shirt. In fact, as Danny looked around, he noted that everyone was casually dressed. He and rumpled suit sort of stood out, which was the first thing that Abby noted as she led him off down one of the hallways.
"I think you've been a little influenced by the Boston office," she said, chuckling, glancing at his suit. "We're a touch more casual here, as you will see. These are our offices," she waved a hand to both sides of the hall, "and down here at the end is our Senior VP and my immediate boss, Jack Wolfe. Jack is a brilliant sensitive and just about the best boss I've ever had. You'll love him, and I hope you'll like it here, Danny. You came very highly recommended."
"Thanks," said Danny. "I'm still not sure how I got this gig."
"Your skill, which, I will tell you, we're going to be putting to the test right away. You won't have a lot of time to kick back on your first day, but we do want to give you a chance to set your things down." She reached an open door. "This is your office, you'll be sharing with Laha. Laha, this is your new office mate, Danny Sullivan-O'Connor."
"Nice suit, man." Laha proved to be a big Hawaiian man, with close-cropped black hair and a warm, friendly smile. He was wearing a vibrant red shirt Aloha shirt with palm trees and neon fish all over it, khaki shorts, and beach sandals. "Boy, I really messed up with the dress code."
"Laha takes our 'business casual' dress to its far left extremes," said Abby in a dry tone. "But, he's a tremendously talented mage with a real knack for finding and for basic observation, so he gets away with a lot. Laha, we're going to throw Danny right on the whole Southeast Asia situation, since we need a sensitive with credentials as impressive as his, so you can bring him up to speed on that, and I'll haul him down to meet Jack."
"Southeast Asia?" asked Danny, feeling a little faint.
"Big shipment, big problems, amigo," replied Laha. "But come on in and get settled. Your desk is the empty one."
"I kinda guessed. Amigo?"
"When in Rome, eh?" he grinned broadly.
Danny put his messenger bag on his desk and sat in his new office chair, spinning it to look out the window. It looked out over the apartments, and the graveyard below. He was suddenly itching to go look at it, to walk through the sun-blasted stones, but he shook off the urge and spun back to the office. Laha's desk was in a pleasant state of organized clutter, with a cheerful Disney sea turtle waving from next to his name plate, which read Lahahana Kalanianioli. There was a big travel poster for one of the Hawaiian islands hanging behind it, along with a diploma, a Bachelor's in Magickal Theory from USCLA, and many photos of a large, happy-looking Hawaiian family. Danny looked up at his own wall, trying to decide what he would put up there.
"They're pretty easy-going with us in the magic department," Laha was saying. "We get away with stuff because most of the general public doesn't see us, but we're pretty hands-on with most shipments. This one we're dealing with had some problems because a couple of our guys in the Los Angeles office got greedy and decided to make off with some of the better items for themselves. But see, even smugglers gotta use their brains if they're gonna commit corporate espionage."
"What happened?" asked Danny.
"One of the pieces they stole had a curse on it like no one's seen since the days of Pompeii," said Laha. "Did at least one of them in, he got caught. The one who got away, no one's seen him, but I'm betting things didn't go good for him. He managed to sell the piece before he went to ground, but that spread the curse. So we get a call from the Phoenix Metro police, their magic department, because that thing's cursing the crap outta some family here. Abby's coordinating with the cops on that one now, and that's probably what she's gonna put a nice respectable boy like you on, too."
"Wow." Danny looked through the drawers of his new desk. There were some hanging folders, a plain office stapler, a tape dispenser, and some random paper clips, as well as a few pads of yellow sticky notes and one that was neon green. He took that one out and put it on the desk next to the dock where, he guessed, his computer would go.
At that moment, Abby returned, carrying a box. "Here's your jack to the cloud," she said, setting it down. "We'll have IT down to get you all set up. Then we can run you through the rest of the team, get you all introduced, and then throw you to the wolves?"
Danny felt his face heat up. "That bad?"
"Oh, horrible," said Abby, but she was smiling. "You'll be fine. Come on."
Danny followed her into a conference room, Laha trailing after them. There were a few others already there, sitting around the main table. A buffet along the back wall had several big coffee tanks and carafes of orange juice, a tub filled with ice and bottles of water, and a couple of very large boxes of donuts. "Help yourself," said Abby, indicating the buffet table.
"All right, gang, what's the status?" Another redheaded man came in, a burly fellow, short and stocky, with powerful broad shoulders, his silvering red hair cut into a close military cut, with a craggy, old-young face. He looked a little like James Cagney, with his wide-set features and direct manner. His keen, brilliant blue eyes focused instantly on Danny, and a broad smile crossed his face. Danny couldn't help but smile back, the expression of a fellow redhead as they met each other, something in common that others did not share. His aura was a deep, sapphire blue, the most self-assertive aura Danny could ever remember seeing. "You must be the new boy. I'm Jack Wolfe, regional veep and head of the magic department here. I believe you came to us with some pretty high recommendations, Danny."
"I'm honored, sir," said Danny, finding his hand disappearing into a hand every bit as large and powerful as Dad's were, although the redheaded man was quite a bit shorter, less than six feet. That the regional vice president of the company knew him by name was both flattering and a little intimidating, but the older man wasn't anything like he'd been expecting from an executive.
"No sirs here, Danny," said Jack with a sideways grin that made him look even more like Cagney, "I'm just Jack, to every member of the team and every person at Dulaney West. We don't stand on formalities here like Raif does back east."
Abby laughed. "That's one fellow we do call sir, Danny," she said. "The casual first-name drop there of Mr. Kincaid."
"Yeah, call him that and he gets all sorts of self-grandiose ideas," Jack grumbled, but he laughed, directing Danny to a chair. "Raif Kincaid is the CEO, kid. Works out of the Boston office. My best friend and Navy buddy. He comes out this way once in a while. Out here, you don't need the suit and tie. You can hit the company store and brown-nose like all these lugs here, or just wear whatever you find on your floor, like Laha does, and we'll be fine. All I ask from my team is good work done honestly," he stressed the word honest, "punctuality and reliability, and you're good by me."
"Get here early and you'll advance, keep wandering in late," said one of the other guys, eyeing Laha, "and you're stuck."
"Let Danny get a cup of coffee before we throw him in the fire," said one of the women.
"Oh, good idea," said Jack, who was at the buffet himself, "Come on, Danny, don't be shy. We got a lot to talk about today."
Once they were all seated, with coffee or tea or juice or water in front of them, Abby introduced everyone around the room. Danny heard the names and focused on each of the faces, but he was sure he wouldn't remember. There were eight members of the magickal team, plus him, and he heard magickal designations as he tried to keep his mind on names and functions and keep from examining each of their auras in turn. All were bright and clear and honest-looking, reds and golds and greens, making Danny feel at home and comfortable immediately. It was like being in a classroom where everyone was magickal, or at least in the know, where you didn't have to worry and didn't have to keep a secret, because everyone knew.
Once the welcomes were done Jack clicked the computer in front of him, bringing up a PowerPoint presentation on the flat white wall behind him. "All right, Abby, let's have the bad news."
"It could be worse," said Abby. "The police have the artifact, so it's been recovered. They also managed to find a Samoan mage who was able to break the curse, and according to my contact at the Phoenix PD, it was a pretty comprehensive curse break, claimed it goes all the way back to the top, so if that's true, the bad luck that's been dogging us since the thing landed in Dulaney hands should start clearing up."
"Hallelujah," said Jack.
"Now, since Laha and Cam are already working on the recovery of the second item, I'll take Danny with me to the next meeting with the police," she smiled at Danny, "Give you a good feel for public relations and making contact with folks outside the company. I understand from your file you're a front man."
"I have some experience," said Danny. He'd always been selected as the cool head, the one to speak for groups. Even the one time, his very first time, he'd served jury duty all the older people in the room had voted him jury foreman.
"Excellent. So let's bring Danny up to speed on the entire shipment, and what we actually do in a normal situation."
For the rest of the morning, Danny learned all about Dulaney Corporation Shipping Industries, what they did, and what their team handled. Since it was an international shipping corporation, moving hundreds of thousands of packages every day, they spent a lot of time in warehouses using every single ounce of sensitive ability, looking for magic. "Most magic is legal, and perfectly legitimate," said Abby. "We just check those manifests and let them go. But sometimes, and fortunately it's rare, we find stuff like this shipment. Then all hell breaks loose."
It was fascinating, and rather nifty, to be able to follow all this. Danny watched the entire PowerPoint presentation with rapt attention, although he was aware his teammates looked bored, they probably had seen all this stuff over and over again, but for him it was still new.
Finally, though, lunch time rolled around. Danny trailed Abby back to his office as she told him more about their contacts in the police. In his office, one of the IT guys was climbing around under his desk. "She should be arriving here any minute," she said, checking her watch. "We'll go to my office."
Abby's office was the same size as Danny's, but she obviously didn't share it with anyone. Her phone was humming as they entered, and she called, "Answer!"
"Ms. Van Rysik, your guests have arrived," said the voice on the other end.
"Send them up, Sue. Thanks." Abby threw herself into her desk chair. "Right on time. Have a seat, Danny. I'll cut you free for lunch when we're done."
"I'm okay," said Danny, sitting in one of the armchairs by the window that also looked out northward, toward Camelback Mountain. He turned when a firm, businesslike knock sounded on the frame of the open door.
The woman who stood there was pretty, round-faced but slender, with wings of raven-black hair smoothed into a French knot on the back of her head. She wore a rust-colored slacks suit with a cream-colored blouse, and a silver "man in the maze" was around her neck, resting on the bared hollow just beneath her collarbone, matching earrings swinging from her ears. Her eyes had an elegant, exotic tilt, and where a beautiful pale hazel shade of brown, with a vibrant light in them. Her aura sparkled with magic, a similar rust-red to her suit, thoroughly suited to her obvious Native American blood. She was gorgeous. Danny bit his tongue.
She gave him a startled look, then said, "Abby?"
"Come in, Sergeant. Lily Laughing Coyote, I'd like to introduce you to our new intern, Danny Sullivan-O'Connor. Danny, Sergeant Laughing Coyote."
She was still looking at him oddly as she took his hand. "Lily, please. I know Laughing Coyote is a mouthful."
"And you can call me Danny," he responded. "Is there something wrong?"
"I just… were you working here yesterday?"
"I started this morning," replied Danny.
"Then it was just a remarkable coincidence you had your lunch at the same place we did yesterday?" the police woman asked, looking at him with a hard expression, her dark brows arched.
Danny blinked, and looked helplessly at Abby. "I don't know. I ate at some Mexican joint in Arizona Mills yesterday. I was shopping."
"It was a coincidence, Lily," said Abby, still smiling despite the sergeant's firm tone. "I didn't even see him."
"I think I saw you," said Danny. How could he have forgotten her? He remembered, he'd smiled at her and her bright reddish aura, he hadn't even really noticed her companions. "I didn't know who you were."
Her tight shoulders seemed to relax as she studied his face. "It just seems odd."
"Honest, just a happenstance," said Abby. "We can decide if we three want to actually eat together today. Unless your partner is going to join us?"
"He may, later. He's filing paperwork," said Lily. "May I see those artifacts?"
"You may. Come on, Danny. Let's make you work for your living."
Danny still felt like he were being scolded by the pretty police woman, largely because she kept sneaking looks at him, until he felt his face heat up. He kept running his hand through his hair, trying to keep it smooth but knowing it was starting to stand up on end. Until he could excuse himself to the men's room it would just have to stand there, wildly taking on a life of its own, as he knew it was wont to do when he couldn’t keep it tamed down.
His nerves started to calm, though, as Abby unlocked the cage and he could feel the magic. Beside him, he felt the police woman perk up, too. "You feel it?" she asked.
"Yeah. Have you done anything like this, Sergeant?"
"Occasionally, but nothing like that idol," she replied. "If the other pieces in that collection are anything like it was, it will be a lot more than interesting."
Danny couldn't help but smile at her. "Well, let's see."
- Current Mood: relaxed
"Did you have a good day?" asked Sean Patrick as Danny let himself in. The condo smelled heavenly, like fried chicken and baking biscuits, and Danny felt his mouth water, despite the fact he'd eaten so much just a few hours ago. All the windows facing north and east were now wide open, letting in the warm September air and bright, indirect sunlight.
"Pretty damned good," said Danny. "I found a place."
"Good! Close to work?"
"Walking distance." Danny hauled his bags of things down the hall and dumped them on the bed, then came back to the kitchen, where Sean Patrick was trimming green beans. "Very close to work, and don't tell Mom, but my balcony overlooks a graveyard."
"You are the only kid I know who would be excited by that," said Sean Patrick. "But I can see why you don't want Cody to know. She'd worry about you."
"Mom doesn't have to worry." Danny sat on one of the bar stools. "Fried chicken and biscuits?"
"Good nose." Sean Patrick piled the trimmed green beans into a steamer and put it on a burner, but didn't turn it on. "There will also be mashed potatoes and gravy."
"Ah, the Texas comfort food dream."
"Damned right." Sean Patrick grinned. "So what else went on today? You had my car out for hours."
"I did some shopping, had lunch, did a little more shopping, and then a bit of sight-seeing. I took the tour at Petersen House and then wandered around there for a while, drove down to the Tovrea Castle and did the tour THERE, too, and looked at the outside of Pueblo Grande but decided against another historical tour and just came home."
"I have never been able to do any of those tours, since they're during the day. This is why I ask that the O'Connor House in San Antonio has late-night hours, so I can actually get inside while the doors are still open."
"Well, I just figured I'd do a little sight-seeing before I came back to being just a plain resident, who never got out to see the sights," said Danny, resting his elbows on the counter. "But I have absolutely no complaints with the car."
"You can use it as long as you need," said Sean Patrick, chopping celery for the salad he was putting together. "I don't mind. It's good for them to get a little conditioning. I can't drive all of them all the time."
"You rotate driving them?" asked Danny.
"Usually. The El Camino's a sentimental favorite, as well as the sun-safe glass, but otherwise, yeah."
Danny studied the vampire's face as he worked at the cutting board. He still looked grey and drawn, so clearly he hadn't fed today at all. Danny knew, both from Mom and Dad and from his own studies that a vampire needed to drink blood, and preferably human blood, every day, usually many times a day. Some scholars who studied vampires, and vampire lecturers he'd listened to, advocated at least six pints a day, which was always a trial for Sean Patrick, who hated begging his family. It was why, the lecturer had said, true vampires stayed with their friends and families, so they always had people to rely on. Sean Patrick, Danny knew, had also spent a great deal of his time in Los Angeles roaming the streets at night, feeding on gang bangers and petty criminals. He also had friends at hospitals and blood banks who would smuggle him expired blood before it was destroyed.
Danny weighed whether or not he should say something again. Sean Patrick never paid much attention to people who nagged at him, except maybe Dad, who could be more forceful with him; and more, if Mom was worried about Sean Patrick, she might be a little less concerned that Danny had rented an apartment that overlooked a cemetery. Of course, that was mean spirited of him, and he felt a twinge of shame at having even thought about it.
So he said, "You haven't fed."
Sean Patrick sighed. "Yeah, you're right," was his surprising answer. "And if your mama sees me like this, she'll pitch a fit, and Matt will cut his arm open for me." He wiped off his hands and turned to the refrigerator, taking out a bag of blood from the small pile there. He squeezed it into a large mug with Elvis Presley on it and stuck it in the microwave. "Thank you for looking out for me, Danny."
"If I didn't, Mom would be just as mad at me for not saying something to you." Danny shrugged, and took a candy out of the dish on the counter.
"So what's the new place like?" asked Sean Patrick, drinking his blood, leaning one hip on the counter. "Where'd you decide on?"
"It's a little two-bedroom just off the I-10 interchange, walking distance to work, rent's reasonable, there's a fitness room, good places to walk, close to Arizona Mills, and my balcony overlooks a cemetery."
Sean Patrick's left eyebrow arched. "I'm surprised you didn't let me get the brunt of the lectures from Cody," he said.
"I thought about it, but apparently I'm hopelessly good," said Danny. "I couldn't use you as a shield."
Sean Patrick laughed. "Well, I do appreciate it." He drained the mug and filled it again, then returned to making the salad. Danny watched the greens go into the salad spinner, then pitched in to help, peeling and slicing carrots.
As the biscuits were coming out of the oven, the chicken resting with a cover to keep it warm on the back of the stove, the front door opened and Dad's deep voice rumbled through the condo, "Anyone home?"
"Dad!" Danny felt like a little boy again as he jumped off the bar stool. The condo burst into sudden life as the younger O'Connors came bubbling in.
"Uncle Sean Patrick!" chirped his youngest sister, Eliana, racing past her father to be caught up by the vampire, who swung her up to the ceiling.
"I guess I'm chopped liver," said Danny, gripping Dad's hand and then embracing him, then turning to hug Mom as she came in behind the rest of the kids, Justin and Erin and Zach.
"Welcome home, kiddo," she said.
Danny got hugs all around, especially from Erin, who had been his champion since the day he became an O'Connor. "We missed you, Danny!" she said, hugging him again.
Once all the greetings and happy reunions were taken care of, they were all sitting in Sean Patrick's comfortable living room under the glow of the television, turned on but turned down so they could talk. Mom wanted to know everything about everything he'd done since they'd last talked, back at graduation. He'd finished with his Boston job and then gone to Paris with his buddies from the undergrad prep class for their bike tour, the last real "we're college students with no responsibilities!" blowout before coming home and settling into the post-graduate work they were all undertaking.
Danny pulled out his tablet and showed photos of the trip, with Mom on one side and Erin on the other, until Sean Patrick showed them how to connect the tablet to the television so they could all watch the slide show, which Danny initially protested because it would be harder to skip the pictures of them getting drunk and fooling around with a bunch of like-minded college girls their last night in Paris.
"So what'd you do today, Danny?" Dad asked, as they finally headed for the supper table. Sean Patrick and Mom had laid out the dinner, and Danny smiled a little to himself at fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy being served on the elegant good china with the sparkling crystal glasses and finely polished silver.
"A little sightseeing," he responded, helping Erin with the heavy chair before he sat down himself. "A little shopping, and I found an apartment."
"Already?" said Mom with some amount of disappointment in her tone. "I thought we'd go with you."
"It was so easy, though, Mom," said Danny, reaching over to press her hand, "I went down to check out my office, and there's a great complex right across the drive. The rent was good, they were nice places, and I just loved it. I went ahead and signed the papers right away."
Mom pressed her lips, but that made her dimples show, taking any sting away. "Well, as long as you're happy with it."
"I won't move in until the weekend, so I certainly don't object to any help," Danny went on, making her smile again. "Since I start work tomorrow."
"Looking forward to it?" asked Dad.
"I think I am, really," Danny said, nodding with some enthusiasm. "A little scared, but excited."
"You'll be awesome."
Danny grinned. "So where's Matt? I thought he'd be here." Matthew was the oldest, the boy Danny's age whom he'd befriended in high school; Matthew had taken Danny, the shy and awkward new boy, under his protective and popular wing. The next thing he knew, they were brothers. Since Matthew came home after graduation, instead of staying for the post-graduation work, Danny hadn't seen his brother-slash-best friend in several months.
"He said he was coming later. He's got a date tonight," said Mom.
"He can always bring Tiffany here," said Sean Patrick. "She's more than welcome, they both know that."
"I think they wanted to be alone for a little while, you big dummy," Mom continued, giving the vampire a teasing look. Sean Patrick stuck his tongue out at her. Mom and Sean Patrick got along like siblings most of the time, more than best friends at others; Danny had once been a little shocked at their casual closeness, the way they kissed each other on the mouth, but since Dad didn't care, Danny figured he wouldn't worry about it, either.
"We ought to get to Paris sometime, babe," Dad said to Mom, reaching to grip her hand. "Maybe do the European cruise next time, up the Rhine."
"I certainly wouldn't object," said Mom. "We've done every cruise around the Americas. It's about time we hit Europe. Some of those Mediterranean cruises look amazing."
"I liked France," said Danny, "but it was even better because we had a linguist with us. I still don't speak enough French."
"Magic making you lazy?" asked Sean Patrick, sounding more than a little lazy, himself, lounging back in his chair. He had eaten at least half a chicken all by himself, as well as what looked like a plate full of the creamy mashed potatoes, swimming in gravy. Danny grinned at the vampire, admitting to himself he, too, was considering more mashed potatoes.
"I wouldn't talk. I've heard you try to speak French," he shot back.
"He's got you there," Dad drawled.
"I will not be disrespected in my own home," said Sean Patrick, but he didn't at all sound insulted, and he was grinning.
"Oh, yes, you will," Mom replied, impishly, blowing Sean Patrick a kiss. "Besides, we all know you can beat us all in Spanish."
Sean Patrick gave a sardonic bow of his head, flourishing his hand like the actor he could be. "Si, Senora," he agreed.
"I tried," Danny finally went on. "I really did. French is harder than Spanish, though. The accent is just close enough to be really confusing, and all the words are totally different. Plus, they don't seem to have any tolerance at all for anyone who can't pronounce something. It was a lot easier to just use Brayden's skills with language. He could talk to anyone, any place, no matter where we went, and it was really useful the places where the roads went over borders. I sometimes didn't even know what was going on. Brayden was almost as good as Grandpa with just plain language skills; Nick was just good at understanding."
"Well, I'm just glad you had a good time," said Dad, picking up his cranberry juice spritzer and holding it toward Danny. "I'm thinking you'll be the best new intern at Dulaney."
"Thanks, Dad," said Danny, picking up his beer and toasting in return.
- Current Mood: chipper