Chasing Damian Part 13 and UPDATE Book Release

Now this is the lucky number – 13. Haha! Here goes part 13 of my upcoming – FREE for one week – novel “Chasing Damian”, a big chunk of which I promised to publish online on this blog. Here is me keeping my promises. Will reveal a glimpse into the approved cover by next Friday, so stay tuned: the sexy villain, fog and all, as they so lovely say. BROAD GRIN. Go all through to the end of this post. There’s a surprise for YOU!
So here we go.

Novel Synopsys:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.
When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation that conducts experiments on humans and which had ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.
A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that draws her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?
A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

forbiddenlove
Pic source

Tony stayed until after the last class that evening. He waited for us every break. He must’ve really wanted to redeem himself. I decided to give him a chance, only not the kind he would’ve wanted and expected, for sure.
“Listen, Tony,” I cut off his blabbering, smile broad, eyes soft, hand light on his shoulder, all rounded enough to convey the show as far as to the corner Damian’s group had gathered in. “Let us talk about this in a more comfortable place. Standing tables aren’t exactly suitable for long stories, so why don’t we go to Portofino?”
Surprised by my friendliness Tony agreed, babbling and grinning at the same time. But, contrary to what I’d expected, Damian didn’t follow us to the cozy restaurant on the corner between campus and the main road.
It was already evening. The place was as welcoming as ever, the orange walls adorned with paintings of fishermen throwing nets in calm seas as hospitable as the broad tables laid with shell-shaped dishes.
Ruxandra was pretty creative when it came to stories, so she even gave him details about this imaginary peasant granny who’d fed us homemade bread and roasted pork. It felt a bit like the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, with Rux often displaying a disturbed expression as if she remembered watching someone being chained and stuffed with food, then sliced open.
Tony made himself smaller and smaller in his chair, eyes wide like onions as he constantly expected a sharp edge to the story that Rux’s glowering and tone threatened with. Soon unable to put up with the game I myself had initiated, I suggested we continued some other time. “It’s getting late,” was the lame excuse. Plus, after an hour at the restaurant Damian still hadn’t made his entry, which meant that my attempt at making him jealous had failed.
But, as we emerged from Portofino there it was, his 98’ BMW 3rd series, black with dark windows, parked by the restaurant. Damian himself was nowhere to be seen, yet for a moment I hoped with all I had that he’d somehow been watching us, concealed, eating his heart out in jealousy.
But the theory shattered when Damian appeared with Svetlana and two laughing couples from the neighbored gas station. They’d most probably had their dinner at the Hey fast food, a modern furnished place, loved by many of our fellow students. For some reason Ruxandra dragged me out of the way that very moment.
The bus ride home allowed Tony the opportunity to talk about himself. He’d sold his car to pay for his last year of studies at a private – and bad – university, and now he no longer lived with his mom, but with three friends in a rented apartment at the Lighthouse. I don’t remember details, since I was drowning in morbid jealousy, my mind spinning around Damian. I felt powerless at the thought of him and Svetlana, and used at how he’d had me give his blade a hand job last night.
Tony accompanied us to the gate. I wasn’t even angry with him anymore. Tonight he’d been merely an instrument that had failed its purpose and I honestly didn’t have the slightest feeling of guilt about it. He’d used me in far more vile ways, so this was the least he could do for me – accept my returning the favor.
Ruxandra didn’t explain why she’d dragged me after her from the Portofino until a week later, which passed with me overthinking Damian’s words and actions from our short moment of intimacy on the Marvimex evening.
She sent Tony for coffee – poor guy was going out of his way visiting every day on campus – and bent sideward to me. She spat the words quickly in my ear.
“Don’t look now, but Novac’s been watching you. Whenever you glance at him, he looks away.”
And once again butterfly wings flapped like crazy in my stomach.
“He’s sure wondering what’s the deal with Tony,” I sneered. “He already made it clear he means to protect me, he owes it to Dad. As he does keeping his whore warm.”
“Listen, I don’t have the time to deal with your frustration, but know this: Last week at the Portofino I made you look away from him on purpose. No matter how well versed he is and how detached he managed to appear, I had a feeling he knew exactly where you were at any given time. I was right. Whenever you turn your eyes from him, his settle on you. He even followed the fucking bus every night, Alice.”
Another flapping of butterfly wings that I struggled to repress.
“That only confirms what I told you. He’s playing the bodyguard.”
“Oh, yeah? Even here, in the full cafeteria, where nothing can happen? When you’re with your back at him, he’s drinking you in. It’s growing more obvious by the day. Even Svetlana noticed.” Her eyes flicked to the woman, and mine followed. Indeed, she was glaring at me, while Damian talked to another campus heartthrob, Gino Bogza – the blond Elven Prince, how I liked to call him.
“Rux, he’s just keeping an eye on me, making sure I don’t roll on my back and fall like a baby just when’s he’s not looking or something.” I let my shoulders slump, tired and hopeless. “I’m just gonna wait until this is all over. Dad is with the R.I.S., protected, Hector’s on the case, and I . . . I’m giving up. We’re not gonna be able to solve anything where the police and the R.I.S. can’t. BioDhrome, the Executioner, Damian, these are huge fish . . .”
“You’re talking gibberish,” Ruxandra interrupted. “Don’t you think we can help if we share what we know?”
“I don’t know what to think anymore . . .”
“Here’s what we do. I’m gonna go see Hector. I’ll tell him about Giant, Damian, everything. Maybe we do know a bit more than he does, or maybe we could put together what we have. And I’ll ask about your Dad, too.”
“No. Damian said Dad is safe as long I don’t try to find him. We might be followed if Hector takes us to his hideout.”
“You might be followed. You’re his daughter and possibly still BioDhrome’s target. Maybe you were their target all along, if we are to trust the R.I.S. and your lover boy, which is the sound thing to do.”
“He’s not my lover boy,” I snapped.
“Stop that. You’re crazy about him and he’s crazy about you. He watches your every move, which means he won’t bother wondering where I am. I don’t matter to him or BioDhrome, so nobody will follow me. And I swear, if I have the slightest feeling I’m being tailed, I’ll abort mission.”
I nodded with a heavy heart and let her go. But after Ruxandra leaked out of the cafeteria, leaving me in Tony’s company, I also saw the downside. My ex wasn’t getting off my back anytime soon, now that we were alone. He refused to go to his university and waited for me in the cafeteria on the next break too. I would’ve loved to know Damian’s reaction to this, but every time I glanced at him he happened to look away. Frustrating.
Then I had the most brilliant idea to lose Tony, whose constant presence was starting to get on my nerves. I decided to attend Dr. Anton Barbu’s Educational Psychology class from 18.00 P.M. I originally intended to skip today, since it was late and already dark outside, but since Damian would apparently follow the bus home at any hour, I should’ve been safe.
“I can wait,” Tony said.
“No, don’t. We might stay for debates after class. It could get really late.”
“Then just call me when you’re done.”
“Okay, I will,” I lied with a smile.
It was a relief to see him walk out, but I was certain he’d wait outside for at least half an hour to make sure this wasn’t a strategy of mine to lose him. Tony and I had been a couple for over three years and I knew all too well that behind this fresh contact façade he was still a patronizing bastard.
The cafeteria was now a more pleasant venue with only a few students left, rain trickling down the tall nightly windows, and dimming lights. To my dismay, as I glanced to the place where Damian should’ve been, it was empty. He’d left. A chill went through my chest. I looked at my cell – Still enough battery for a few hours. If panic took me, I could still call Officer Sorescu, Mom or Ruxandra.
Despite the late hour and the scarce attendance, Dr. Barbu’s lectures always took place in a great aula, its amphitheater shape reminding me of ancient Greek plays. I loved attending seminars and lectures in these halls, wood-paneled symbols of history.
A thin man in a tweed suit, bald on top of his head but with jet-black hair on the sides, the proud bearer of a Poirot-style mustache, Dr. Barbu always made an impression. A famous and infamous psychiatrist whose name reverberated as far as the Sorbonne, he intimidated not only us, but also the living shit out of the Rector. I guess that’s how he got the monopoly over the psych classes of all faculties.
He had everybody’s attention in a matter of seconds, and not because his lecture was fascinating – as you might falsely expect from psych classes – but because all people present desperately needed to pass his exam. Now that was a difficult task. His phrasing was complicated both in speech and writing, so we mostly strained to get just passing grades, while attendance added a few points.
Right before the clock above his lectern struck the end of class, while I was already gathering my stuff, one sentence apparently spoken louder and clearer than all others before it sent a power current up my nape.
“More on gene-generated compulsions, their manifestations and how to identify them in Dr. Nathaniel Sinclair’s ‘Facets of the Nuclein’, available at the city library.”
My head snapped up. The professor was just writing the book’s title down a list on the blackboard. Recognition smacked me full in the head. I’d read five pages of a book written by Dr. Nathaniel Sinclair up in the mountains. The book had belonged to Marius Iordache.

To be continued . . .

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share a comment with the writer and the reader, and stay tuned for the cover reveal next week. I’m also super happy to announce that for the first week after the book is published on Amazon it’ll be up for a mighty giveaway. And there is also a surprise I’m preparing for you guys: How would you like to have YOUR STORY told? Leave a comment stating your interest and a motto – what characterizes you and your story?

Update on the Drama of a World-Class Ballet Dancer

For Blog Bogdan

UPDATE

Dear friends and readers, thank you so much for your help and support for Bogdan during these last months! Further donations won’t be necessary, but all the prayer you can give. Bogdan has passed away on the 21st of June, “tranquil and without regrets.” These were his words. The disease had advanced very quickly – four times faster than in the average case – and left him with solely the command of his eyes in a matter of months. He will always be remembered, loved and cherished.

R.I.P. Bogdan Nicula

SAVE A LIFE – A world-class ballet dancer paralyzed in full glory

anaatcalin:

Update on the drama of a world class ballet dancer

Originally posted on Fiction Online by Ana Calin:

627x0

This is an appeal to all my friends and readers and to the world at large.
Sadly this post isn’t fiction, but the true story of an amazingly talented young dancer, Bogdan Nicula, whom I had the honor of knowing personally fifteen years ago. We didn’t stay in touch, but a couple of weeks ago I was shocked to learn that he struggles with ASL, the disease against which last year people poured buckets of ice on their heads and which nails Stephen Hawking in his high-tech chair too.

But in Bogdan’s case the disease seems to be advancing at a much faster pace than usual. Bogdan now lies on a hospital bed in Düsseldof, Germany, where he used to work as a ballet dancer until December 2014. His family and friends hope to raise the necessary funds for his transport to Thailand for a stem cell transplant, his only chance of…

View original 906 more words

Chasing Damian – Part 12

As promised, part 12 of “Chasing Damian.” Stay tuned next Friday for part 13, and every week for much more.

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel Synopsys:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.
When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation that conducts experiments on humans and which had ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.
Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation, which may cost her life. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that draws her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?
A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

forbiddenlove

Telling her the conclusion I’d reached during the night was only a matter of minutes. Ruxandra listened with her usual concentrated frown. The discussion was shorter than I’d expected, since none of it seemed to surprise Rux. Hardly anything still could, she said. She asked no questions.
George still snored as we picked our outfits for today. It was an easy and fast process, with Ruxandra grabbing her bags from Marvimex, which she’d dropped on the chair by George’s couch when she’d stormed to him yesterday. I plucked from the wardrobe whatever my hand touched first.
The pair of thick black trousers and the brown sweater didn’t compliment my body the way the clothes from yesterday had, not to mention what an ill fit they were, but more creaking of the wardrobe doors would’ve woken George, so I had to make do.
Mom was up ahead of us, as usual. A rich breakfast was already on the table: marmalade, chocolate croissants, butter, scrambled eggs and, luckily, black tea, which is the only thing I managed to get down my throat.
Mom grinned, guessing what knotted my stomach. “Anxious about seeing Damian today?”
Ruxandra’s eyes flipped up at me over the rim of her teacup.
“He’s just a friend,” I muttered. The word prickled my tongue.
“Now that you mention it, I never got to ask,” Mom said, “how long have you known each other?”
“Um, about two months,” I replied, recounting our history in my head.
The first time I’d laid eyes on him in mid November. How I’d stalked him from afar for about a month and made plans over the Christmas break with Ruxandra to get his attention, falling deeper into a crush before I realized wasn’t even entirely human. How I’d stumbled into his arms in mid January at the party. How we started talking to each other in the cafeteria afterwards – most of this ‘talking’ consisting of short exchanges and jokes from my part – over the following weeks. Then the trip to the mountains and the events that had shaken me to the core. And now we had . . . Wow, already the 20th of February. “Three, maybe.”
“That’s a while,” Mom said. “I’ve seen great loves develop over that amount of time.”
“Not the case here,” I retorted, a little acrid.
“I really think he likes you,” Mom insisted, wrapping up sandwiches that I didn’t want to imagine what she’d do with.
“Are you and Rux hand in hand to make a sucker out of me?” – Not that it came into question that I’d still chase him, but I just had to voice the problem that had tormented me when I’d started to, at least for therapy. “The competition’s fierce for the guy, can’t you imagine already? And he’s actually seeing one of the campus Barbies,” I spat, a flash of Damian rolling his hips into Svetlana shooting me a headache.
As I’d foreseen, Mom moved with the aluminum-foil clad sandwiches in the direction of our bags. I instantly remembered the rice pudding she’d packed once back when I was in elementary, the entire classroom laughing and pointing fingers at me in the lunch break.
“What are you doing, Mom?” I snapped.
She ignored the question and stuffed the sandwiches in our bags. “He’s great looking and, as far as I can tell, darn smart, of course there’s competition for him. But all this must’ve concurred to his developing refined tastes. And setting his eyes on you.”
Ruxandra intervened. “Jenna, are you saying you have a good feeling about the campus Prince Charming? As far as I know, you hate the type.” She sounded and looked surprised, too.
“Yes, I actually do have a good feeling about him,” Mom replied with a warm smile and the look of wisdom on her face that I’d trusted all my life. Had I been wrong forever?
We took the bus to campus. It was packed and it stunk of dirty puffer and wool, onions and sweat, but Officer Sorescu would surely refrain from offering himself as an escort ever again, so crowds were the safest place to be. As was the constant company of trusted people.
The cafeteria was as loud and busy as ever, so Rux and I met there again after lectures, as usual. Though hating myself for it, I couldn’t help glancing around for Damian, while fellow students bombarded us with questions about the events in the mountains – They’d heard a mild, fabricated version.
Then I saw him walk in, looking stunning in a beige V-neck knit tight on his muscular arms, brown chinos and boots, backpack slung on one shoulder. My heart leaped into my mouth, but sank only instants later, as Svetlana appeared high on thin heels with a couple of giggling girlfriends.
Within a few minutes her arm coiled around Damian’s like a snake around a thick tree branch, her grin large and white, her hair falling long and glossy platinum down her back. Dressed in a fitted white blouse with a generous cleavage-view to her small but firm breasts, and slim khakis, she was beautiful and seductive.
She seemed to have recovered completely from the state I’d last seen her in. Not a shadow of distress on her smooth face, as if her whole life experience consisted of dolls and later beauty shops and cocktail parties.
Damian didn’t grant me one glance, as if he didn’t even know me, but Svetlana’s eyes did stop on mine at a certain point. I must’ve glared, feeling angry and impotent, unable to do my father justice, even though he didn’t quite deserve it – He had no one but himself to blame that his much younger lover and the only man he’d trusted with his secret banged each other behind his back. Nevertheless, he was my father. My allegiance to him before third parties was unconditional. Not to mention that jealousy I desperately tried to ignore if not deny ate at me like an army of rodents at a piece of cheese.
Svetlana sank her head. Though she’d already proved stronger than me physically, it was understandable now. I was so angry I would’ve stopped at nothing. I would’ve knotted her jugular around her throat if it cost me a whole bruised face, which must’ve been obvious in my glare.
She began rummaging in her designer bag as a man’s face suddenly replaced the sight. He stood real close, so I had to back up a couple of steps to bring him into focus. My mouth popped open.
“Tony?!”
He smiled a shy smile. “Hi, Alice.”
I stared at him, unable to utter one word. It had been many months since this man had stood before me with his round face, cheeks like red peppers, small eyes the color of bark and the ridiculous air of arrogance. But, unlike his usual self, he was sober. Even his hair was slicked back like that of mobsters in old movies. He looked halfway presentable with vest over shirt, suit pants, coat á la Clark Gable hanging on forearm. He brought cool winter air with him, so he must’ve just come in.
“I,” he began, voice shaky, “I saw you on the bus, I . . .”
“Aha.” Eyebrows high up, I still couldn’t recover from surprise.
“You were with Rux,” – who, I now noticed in a glance, was also staring with an open mouth – “Wondered if I should come and talk to you. I, I heard what happened, you know.”
“What did you hear?” shot automatically out of my mouth.
“The whole story, you know. The train, broken down in the mountains. The avalanche, you were trapped there. Until they found you, the villagers, you know,” he stuttered.
“Oh.” So the fabricated version.
“You’re looking good, Alice, really good.” Now he ogled me from head to toes, much the way Officer Sorescu had the evening before. Tony, too, seemed unable to control his slippery eyes despite my unflattering baggy brown sweater, overworn black khakis and leather boots with low heal. Un-fucking-believable.
“It took a while until I decided to come here and talk to you,” he said.
“I understand.”
“You do?”
“Perfectly.” – Resentful grin.
“You still haven’t forgiven me, have you?”
“You still ask?”
Slam on the table, coffee mugs clattering, my heart jumping out of my chest. Ruxandra’s eyes stabbed Tony, her fist clenched, knuckles showing white. “Can you believe yourself, asshole?” she spat, so loud that every head in the cafeteria turned in our direction. My eyes darted to Damian, who was looking at us with the expression of a wolf ready for attack. I had an idea.
I placed a light hand on Ruxandra’s forearm. She gave me a questioning glare with a quirked-up eyebrow.
“It’s all right, Rux,” I said, looking deep into her bitter-chocolate eyes and praying for telepathy to work, “the man has good intentions. Why don’t you tell him exactly what happened up there, if you feel up to it. I sure don’t yet.”
Ruxandra glared at Tony. It took a few moments until she was able to address him again, eyes down in her books, hand angrily flipping pages to stay busy. While she presented in short the fabricated story as alien from the truth as E.T. from Earth, involving peasants welcoming us by their stoves until the authorities found us, I observed Damian from under my eyebrows.
Observing is an overstatement, though. I glanced at him once in a while, trying to read the emotion in his face. The flashes revealed tight jaw and eyes fixed on us, metallic. Maybe he feared we might tell Stranger too much, but I’d sure as hell make him believe a hotter version.

To be continued …

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinion with the writer, publisher and readers, we’re happy to hear from you. Stay tuned for episode 13 next Friday or subscribe at anaatcalin@gmail.com to receive notification at each new post.

Enjoy the first 50 pages of the book here.

Love,

Ana

Chasing Damian – Part 11

As promised, part 11 of “Chasing Damian”. Stay tuned next Friday for part 12, and every week for much more.

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel Synopsys:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.

When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation that conducts experiments on humans and which had ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.

Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation, which may cost her life. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that draws her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?

A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

forbiddenlove

Pic source.

Rux nodded, neck long and face drawn in mock-refinement. “Words put to paper in your dear philosophic period. Freshman year, wasn’t it? When you were still tactless and fearless. Why play pretense now, Alice? You know that what most if not all women want above all else is to be beautiful and desirable. Fuckable.” She sneered the last word in my ear, Marlene Dietrichish enough to set us both laughing.

“I did say that, didn’t I?”

Twisting a strand of my hair on her finger, “You must’ve read it somewhere.”

“Most probably some philosopher.”

“Maybe Schopenhauer the Misogynic.”

“Maybe Nietzsche. I’d expect such impertinence of him, too. Wouldn’t hurry to ascribe it, though, it was a while back.”

“Well, you know what they say. We forget names and titles but the content shapes us. Do you still believe in the thesis?”

I pondered and, for the first time ever since Tony had stood and left me crying at a corner table, I spoke with the ugliest of truths, fished right out of the pond of mud and shit deep down.

“Strongly.”

Ruxandra smiled. “Then hear and savor: You returned home different tonight. It must be the adrenaline Novac makes boil in your blood. You’re still the sweet Lolita with baby blue eyes and creamy caramel locks but somehow more . . . glamorous. Striking even.”

“But still Lolita,” I whispered, then changed the uncomfortable subject. “What’s up with George? Why has he been so restless without you today?”

Ruxandra dropped back on the bed, hand already reaching to turn off the reading lamp. I jumped on the mattress next to her and caught it.

“I’m listening.”

She rolled on her back, eyes to ceiling. When she spoke, she did so as if she were talking to herself. “All he wants to do is cling to my chest and snivel. The entire time. Among sobs he might repeat apologies, although I dread it when he does.”

“Apologies?”

“He feels guilty for having been violent with me up in . . . up there. He fears he might’ve done with me what he did with . . . that guy.”

A heavy silence fell over us. What was I supposed to tell her? Oh, honey, everything’s gonna be all right? Overused and arid of meaning. I let go of her hand and lay down by her side. She turned off the light, and for minutes both Ruxandra and I stared upwards in the darkness.

“You think he would’ve done it, Alice?”

The question I feared. I squeezed her hand, my voice faint. “Yes.”

Further moments of silence, even though we were both wide awake and haunted. I decided that, since we were speaking with the dirtiest of truths again, we might as well do it all the way. Plus, this particular truth might just have made her feel better.

“You would’ve done it, too, Rux.”

The sheets rustled as she rolled to face me. I didn’t do the same, but kept staring upwards, eyes darting all over the ceiling in search of words.

“The gas, it rose our adrenaline to a specific level that stripped us of everything to sheer instinct. We were . . .”

“Killing machines,” she breathed.

“Every one of us was ready, willing, if not eager to spill blood.”

“Not every one. You weren’t.”

I couldn’t keep back a bitter laugh. The memory of the peasant in rubber boots, his bad-smelling grin, the wrinkled, bloodshot eyes that my fingers had clawed into, all of it played before me like a movie on fast-forward.

“Oh, yes, Rux, me too.”

She squeezed my hand harder. “That was different. It was self defense.”

“You call it self defense when you don’t have a choice,” I snapped. “But I overpowered him, Rux. I scratched his eyes, he couldn’t have followed if I’d used the chance and run away. But no, I wanted to finish him.”

A while later I was calm enough to add, “Malice is in all of us, I guess. When stripped of the glazing of civilization and given the proper chemical input, we’re all just instinct. We’d never guess who we really are until we get down there, to the most base of levels.”

Another few moments of silence, grotesque memories sucking us both in. When Rux talked again, I heard her as if through static.

“I don’t know, but base isn’t how I felt.”

Now it was my turn to be curious and surprised. “How did you feel?”

“Superior.”

The mattress wobbled as she rolled on the other side. She cried herself to sleep that night. The bed was a vibrating cradle, one that cast me into dark thoughts in the silence. For hours I thought about what she meant by superior. How could anybody feel like that in the state we’d been? We’d been animals. Stronger than in our civilization-coated environment where most of us are lost to apathy, but still base.

Maybe indeed better than merely human in some sense. In the sense of tougher, maybe more efficient. All due to the gas that had turned our bodies into some kind of high-performance machines. I’d even recovered from multiple fractures and God knows what else before I’d woken up. The realization gave me the chills.

But if the gas alone could do that, resulting in blood tests that baffled doctors, then what had BioDhrome done a whole year with Damian Novac? I shuddered at the idea of him lying on a metal table, needles sticking out of his body, his eyes half-closed and mouth open, a tube snaking down his throat.

Then I thought about Giant. That he was so large he could’ve easily won Mr. Olympia could be ascribed to steroids, the brightness in his eyes to the gas, but combined? In the context of Damian’s and BioDhrome’s story?

With his breathtaking looks that bordered on inhuman Damian seemed to be of the same outlandish league as Giant, so the latter was surely one of BioDhrome’s experiments, too. An agent, Damian had said. Then it hit me.

A genetically modified organism.

I sat up in a flash. This is it! This was the result of everything linked together: BioDhrome conducting medical experiments, the R.I.S.’ chase for them, my Dad’s part in it as a geneticist, the weird Giant and the striking Damian, all of it led to one conclusion: BioDhrome agents were genetically engineered killers.

I felt a consuming urge to find out exactly what they’d done with Damian and what made him “unable to live among people”. “An Upgrade is as doomed as a target,” Dad’s words came to mind. Yes, that’s what they must be called, Damian and Giant. Upgrades. More than ‘normal men’. Superior, as Ruxandra had put it.

For hours I strolled in circles around the room. Barefoot and gnawing at my partly nailless fingers, there was little difference left between me and an asylum lunatic. When Ruxandra shook me awake from the chaise longue in the morning, my eyelids were swollen and heavy.

“What are you doing, curled up there?” she inquired, black hair messy, eyebrows raised, eyes bitter chocolate.

“I’ve got it, Rux. I’ve got it,” I grumbled.

***

To be continued

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinion with the writer, publisher and readers, we’re happy to hear from you. Stay tuned for episode 12 next Friday or subscribe at anaatcalin@gmail.com to receive notification at each new post.

Enjoy the first 50 pages of the book here.

Love,

Ana

SAVE A LIFE – A world-class ballet dancer paralyzed in full glory

 

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This is an appeal to all my friends and readers and to the world at large.
Sadly this post isn’t fiction, but the true story of an amazingly talented young dancer, Bogdan Nicula, whom I had the honor of knowing personally fifteen years ago. We didn’t stay in touch, but a couple of weeks ago I was shocked to learn that he struggles with ASL, the disease against which last year people poured buckets of ice on their heads and which nails Stephen Hawking in his high-tech chair too.

But in Bogdan’s case the disease seems to be advancing at a much faster pace than usual. Bogdan now lies on a hospital bed in Düsseldof, Germany, where he used to work as a ballet dancer until December 2014. His family and friends hope to raise the necessary funds for his transport to Thailand for a stem cell transplant, his only chance of survival.

His friends and colleagues, ballet dancers from Bucharest, Constanta and Cluj, Romania, organized beautiful charity ballet shows, but until now they could only raise about a quarter of the necessary sum.
Bogdan Nicula is a valuable, acknowledged artist in Romania and Germany, he danced on the world’s greatest stages includig the Balshoi Theatre, Moscow. For this reason the Romanian press reported his case, and I took the liberty of translating a chunk from an article that offered the detailed story.

View the original here.

The Tragedy of the Romanian Ballet Dancer who paralyzed in full glory. Bogdan Nicula suffers from the same disease as Stephen Hawking.

In less than six months Bogdan Nicula (35), a Romanian ballet dancer living and working in Germany, was forced to leave the stage of the Opera House in Düsseldorf for a hospital bed, now almost entirely paralyzed. His family is struggling to raise the money for a stem cell transplant, Bogdan’s only chance of survival.

He danced on the world’s greatest stages, from famous German theatres (Mainz and Düsseldorf) to the Balshoi Theatre in Moscow, being one of the most talented Romanian ballet dancers known abroad. But Bogdan Nicula’s career was interrupted this fall, after he was diagnosed to be suffering from a  relentless disease, the same one that nails Stephen Hawking – the famous physicist and Nobel Prize winner – to his chair, namely amytrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It was to raise funds to find a cure for this disease that last year Hollywood stars poured buckets of ice on their heads in what became a viral movement on the internet (“The Ice Bucket Challenge”).

The first signs of the disease

For 25 years Bogdan Nicula worked every day to achieve the best possible muscular coordination, as well as strength, gracefulness and the discipline necessary to attain success as a dancer. He began dancing ballet in the 6th grade, when he moved from a normal school to the School of Coreography in Bucharest, where he managed to catch up the work of two years in only six months.

After graduation he worked at the ballet theatre “Oleg Danovski” in Constanta, on the coast of the Black Sea, and in 2001 he started his international career on the stages abroad as a main dancer at Ballet Mainz and later at Ballet am Rhein, Düsseldorf, Germany. His schedule used to start early in the morning with training and it would end late in the evening with ballet shows. But in September 2014 it changed abruptly. Bogdan began to feel drained of energy much faster than usual and increasingly exhausted. He began having difficulty controlling his arms and legs, and getting back pain. Bogdan went to the doctor’s for investigations. The diagnosis came as a shock.

In Bogdan’s case the disease avances four times faster than usual. By the end of December he was forced to use a wheel chair and since January he’s lying on a hospital bed, almost entirely paralyzed and barely able to breathe by himself. He only let his family know at the beginning of January, when his state worsened and he found himself unable to fend for himself in any way.

The disease evolved at a very high pace

The newspaper “Adevarul” contacted Bogdan’s mother two days before she came back home from Germany. She was at Bogdan’s side and crying. “We found out on the 10th of January. He didn’t tell us before, didn’t want to cause us pain. He’s in a good state of mind, he can still eat and talk even though with difficultly because of the oxygen mask, but he can’t use his arms and legs anymore. He’s a vegetable,” says Bogdan’s mother among sobs. “I pray to God for a miracle, he’s such a good boy, such a loving child. I spend the whole day with him. Friends from the theatre come to visit, they took care of him, he wasn’t alone for a second. I pray to God to save him.”

The family needs 50.000 Euro

“Adevarul” also contacted Monica, his sister, who explained that her brother’s only chance is a stem cell transplant, a procedure that can be successfully performed at the Beike Biotechnology clinic in Thailand. “This disease usually evolves between three and five years, but his case is particularly dangerous. Before Christmas he could still walk and in January he was almost entirely paralyzed. When we came to the hospital in Düsseldorf he was already wearing an oxygen mask. His only chance is a stem cell transplant. We already sent the documents to the clinic in Thailand, and the doctors told us the transplant must be carried out as soon as possible. The problem is that he can’t be transported as a normal passenger, he needs special transportation. The costs for the transport and transplant are very high, around 50.000 Euro,” Monica explained.

UPDATE

Dear friends and readers, thank you so much for your help and support for Bogdan during these last months! Further donations won’t be necessary, but all the prayer you can give. Bogdan has passed away on the 21st of June, “tranquil and without regrets.” These were his words. The disease had advanced very quickly – for times faster than in the average case – and left him with solely the command of his eyes in a matter of months. He will always be remembered, loved and cherished.

R.I.P. Bogdan Nicula

Much love,

Ana

 

Chasing Damian – Part 10

As promised, part 10 of “Chasing Damian”. Stay tuned next Friday for part 11, and every week for much more.

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel Synopsys:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.

When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation that conducts experiments on humans and which had ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.

Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation, which may cost her life. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that draws her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?

A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

forbiddenlove

Pic source.

I couldn’t hold back anymore. Tears broke down my face, an uncontrollable salty flow that mingled with the cold downpour.

“Two doctors from Barcelona and Bristol were murdered,” I cried, clinging to his jacket in a surge of trust I couldn’t explain. Letting the worry and fear stream out of me felt liberating. “One from Bulgaria was taken in by the police after he presumably put Giant out there. And you want me to believe my father is safe? I’m so terribly afraid he’s already dead!”

“None of those doctors are dead, and neither is Dr. Lazar Dobrev in police custody. They have all been extracted.”

“You know the man’s name?” I asked baffled.

“I told you, I used to be a BioDhrome agent. I have my ways to information. Often to more information than ever reaches the R.I.S.” There was mockery and contempt in his tone.

More? “You know how the Cezare Lupan file disappeared, then?” I dared.

“I do.”

“How then? Who has it?”

He shook his head and let his hands fall off my arms in a slow caress.

“The less you know, the better protected you are,” he repeated like a mantra. “I already told you much more than I should have.”

“Why did you?”

Damian smiled a genuine smile. With a gentle finger he stroked a wet tendril off my cheek. His gesture gave me the goose bumps. I pressed myself harder against his leather-clad body, unable to hold back.

“What did you mean when you said that because of my father you can live among people again, Damian?”

“What do I owe your father?” he said, his huge hands covering mine and pushing them gently downwards. “How did I meet him? How did the Cezare Lupan file disappear? Is Damian Novac even my real name? And the list of questions can continue, isn’t it?”

I nodded, eyes fixed on his, knowing he could read the eagerness in them.

“Those are questions I can’t answer.”

“Why not?”

“As I said, the less you know, the better protected you are.”

“What about BioDhrome, Damian? What did BioDhrome do to you?” I whispered.

He shot a blade-sharp glare in the distance, above my head. I was now treading a mined field, I knew.

“Even if this is the only answer you give me, I beg of you,” I insisted.

“The less you know . . .”

With that he settled me out of his way and dashed out the gate before I got to blink. A few moments later, soaked to the bone and snuffling, I was leaning over the fence, peering down a dimly lit street blurred by heavy rain.

CHAPTER IX

“I don’t trust him,” Ruxandra said, sitting by me on the edge of the bed as I towel-dried my hair. “I say we take this to Hector. I mean, come on, there’s no such thing as an ex-mobster, Alice, much less an ex-BioDhrome. They’re a vicious pack, they trade with organs and conduct genetic experiments, and I doubt they let anyone out of their ranks alive. If you ask me, there’s an awful lot of power behind what BioDhrome does, and I’m not talking only megalomaniac oligarchs who want to live forever, but secret services, maybe entire fucking governments. Damian wouldn’t have been able to escape them, so he must still be in the game.”

“I’m not stupid, Rux,” I retorted. “I know you have a point. But I don’t trust Hector either. I don’t know, it’s a just a feeling I have . . . Plus, BioDhrome is too big of a fish, a nasty international corp as you put it, with an awful lot of power. I doubt his unit has the slightest chance against that.”

“But he’s got Novac within his reach. And Novac confessed to you, Alice. He confirmed that he worked for BioDhrome. That will be useful for Hector.”

“As if Varlam doesn’t already know that. He’s been trying to come about proof for years, he won’t be able to do much with my statement. Plus, Damian’s right – The police can’t protect me. Giant wants me, that’s a fact, and with Damian gone, if they do arrest him by some absurd chance, who’s gonna make sure Giant doesn’t get me?”

“He didn’t even tell you his name, did he? Giant’s name, I mean. Let alone his own,” Rux mumbled, her backside wriggling like the tail of an upset cat as she prepared the bed for the night. Mom’s satin nightgown flowed down her legs, making her look like a temptress from a Latin American soap.

“Look, I’ll talk to Damian again tomorrow, all right?” I said few moments later, as I turned off the light and tucked myself in. “I’ll push for more answers.”

The mattress warped as Ruxandra turned on the side, facing me with an arm under her head. She grinned, I could sense it.

“I know what you’re thinking,” I said.

“And? Am I right?”

I exhaled in surrender and pulled the blanket up to my nose, as if that could conceal my thoughts and fantasies.

“I guess so.” Yes, I was completely taken with him, even under the circumstances. I dreaded him and I wanted him. And I was happy I had a reason to approach him again tomorrow.

“I think he’s pretty much into you, too.”

That slapped the Sandman completely off my eyelids, sending him rolling on his back.

“You think?”

“Now you know I don’t trust Novac. He’s dangerous, but maybe you have nothing to fear. Maybe he’s lying to you about having quit on BioDhrome so that you’ll give him a chance, as fairy-talish as that may sound.”

“You talk as if his liking me were something natural.”

“It is, you know my position on this. Only that this time I don’t have the slightest doubt he’s interested. The way he held you at Marvimex, it looked and felt . . . possessive. As if he made it clear you were his, and his alone.”

I didn’t reply, hoping she’d say more. I couldn’t hear enough of this. But there was something else Ruxandra seemed eager to talk about. She propped herself on an elbow and turned the reading lamp on. Her chocolate eyes appeared to pour all over my face.

“There’s something going on with you, Alice.”

“Huh?”

“You’re different. Something changed. I mean, you’ve always been a pretty sight, but . . .”

“Good night,” I cut her off and turned my back at her. I wasn’t in the mood to take the slightest amount of shit from the collection ‘You’re beautiful the way you are’. I preferred the ‘He might just want to fuck you at least once’ series. But Ruxandra jumped out of bed, grabbed my hand and pulled to drag me out.

“What the hell are you doing?” I squealed.

She rummaged in her bag and took out a make-up set the size of a cell-phone. She opened it and stuck the mirror out to my face.

“Just look at yourself and save me the torture of explaining.”

An eye appeared first, then the mouth, then a cheek. Rux didn’t succeed in centering the thing on my face, but I doubted there was anything special to see anyway. The last image I had of myself was pretty fresh, too. Just a while ago I’d wiped the steam off the bathroom mirror.

“I still don’t see your point.” I pushed her hand away.

She dropped on the edge of the bed, forcing me to look into the thing. She pointed her finger at this and that part of the mirror, which surely reflected my face from her angle, but all I could see was the plastered ceiling seemingly afloat in the vague lamplight.

“You’re different since you came back with Novac at Marvimex, as if his presence had somehow activated the femme fatale in you,” she said, gaining more and more enthusiasm, “Your skin is silken and smooth, your lips gained volume and a rosy color. I don’t know what happened tonight, but the result is obvious. You look ravishing, Alice.”

“I don’t see anything, to be honest. And I can’t even believe we’re having this conversation, it’s just plain stupid. And cheap. And bimboish. ”

She clapped the make-up set shut and gave me a narrow-eyed scowl. “The Alice I know is very much in touch with that ‘little bimbo inside splashing around in mud, lurking even in the most bespectacled of female intellectuals. Phony they are if they deny her.’ Should I go on?”

“I recognize my own quotes, thank you.”

To be continued

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinion with the writer, publisher and readers, we’re happy to hear from you. Stay tuned for episode 11 next Friday or subscribe at anaatcalin@gmail.com to receive notification at each new post.

Enjoy the first 50 pages of the book here.

Love,

Ana

Chasing Damian – Part 9

Happy New Year! May 2015 be full of great surprises and presents. Here’s the first one from me: Part 9 of “Chasing Damian”, publisher approved and re-edited. Stay tuned next Friday for Part 10, and every week for much more .

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel synopsis:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.

When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation that conducts experiments on humans and which had ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.

Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation, which may cost her life. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that draws her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?

A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

 

 forbiddenlove

Pic source.

Part 9

After a short pause and a crooked, almost sad grin, “I believe you’ve met him tonight. I’m only here to make things clear for you. Keep a low profile, because you’re a very easy victim.”

My tongue froze, leaving me unable to ask at least one of the avalanche of questions that tumbled from brain to mouth. To make things even worse, Mom appeared with a tray of cookies and mugs of tea at this very moment, smiling innocently and acting too friendly. She sat in Dad’s armchair, dressed in her cherry-red pencil suit, her hair up in an elegant bun.

It’s hard to classify Damian’s attitude. He made a great impression on her, but without playing the exemplary good boy. In his leather jacket and with elbows resting on his knees, he dodged off her questions in such way that it left me blinking like an idiot, glancing from one to the other.

To her inquires of the collection, “Where have you grown up?” and, “What do you plan to do after graduation?” he provided replies such as, “In a village in the Delta. They call it the End of the World,” and “Cure people and then take crap from them, of course.”

He made her laugh, which gave him the opportunity to wield his shrewd technique of always staying a mystery – He proceeded to asking her questions. A man of common sense, though, he didn’t touch on anything sensitive beyond, “How long haven’t you seen your homeland?” and “What ways did you use to get Roma interested in education?”

As she told her story with bridled enthusiasm and fine gesticulation, I fidgeted waiting for the chance to be alone with him again – in vain. As soon as his tea mug was empty and Mom’s story done he stood up, whisked his jacket and wished us ladies a nice evening.

“Thank you again for seeing Alice and Ruxandra home safely,” Mom said, her tone mild and warm.

“Oh, Officer Sorescu had that under control. It was a whim of fate that we bumped into each other, really.”

Refined barbarian.

With a hand on the door handle he looked at me, the candle flames playing their game on his deceitful, handsome face.

“I’ll accompany you to the gate,” I said.

“Not necessary,” he blocked.

“Oh, but it is.” With a fake smile I walked passed him and led the way out.

I could feel his stare on my back as we strolled down the aisle to the gate. I stopped and turned slowly, not sure I wanted to catch the expression on his face. Apparently he didn’t want it caught either. When my eyes rested on his he looked aside and hooked his thumbs into his jeans pockets, offering me his carved profile.

“Who is that giant guy, Damian?”

“That’s a good name – Giant. Just call him that.”

“I’m not in the mood for jokes.”

“Neither am I. The less you know, the better protected you are.”

Protected?

“And why is my protection important to you? Don’t you fight on the same side Giant does?”

Damian took a few steps toward me, hands unhooked from the pockets, his stare steady on my face, as if the implication offended him.

“Listen, Alice, let’s get one thing straight, okay?”

Opening my arms in a Halleluiah-gesture, “I’m willing to get everything straight, Damian.”

“I owe your father a lot. It’s because of him that I can live among people again, you understand? He’s been extracted to safety, but you are open. You, his daughter, the apple of his eye.

BioDhrome know how much you mean to him. They know that, if they get you, Tiberius will come out of hiding. If you heard the entire talk we had at the hospital, then you know I offered to protect you. He refused, but obviously, I’m your only hope. Your surveillance officers are useless.

“And I will protect you, for his sake if not for other reasons. I’ll protect what he loves most. But that doesn’t make me your friend, Alice, you understand? Your father would disapprove, and he’d be right to do so.”

I stared at him with a stupid grin. “Are you saying you can do what the police and even the R.I.S. can’t? That you can protect someone where they can’t?”

“I used to be a BioDhrome agent, Alice. I’m many things the police and even the R.I.S. aren’t.”

BAM! There it was, the guilty plea loud and clear, knocking me in the head. Hector Varlam would’ve surely sold his soul for this.

“I believe BioDhrome led the operation in the mountains with the purpose of kidnapping you,” he continued, low, “and getting to Tiberius through you. They couldn’t have gotten to him directly, he was too . . . well protected.”

“What the hell are you saying?” I spat through my teeth. “That I’m the reason people died? That my friends could now be dead because of me? How weak is that, Novac? How lame is that, placing the blame on me?” My chin trembled to keep back tears of denial. “Giant talked to me tonight, you know?”

Drop by drop but fast, rain started whipping against my face, forcing me to blink fast and making Damian an intermittent vision.

“You didn’t expect that, did you?” I sneered in the tone of a nutcase. “Yes, he talked to me, and you know what he said?”

“What?” – soft, calm, but standing too close, hands gently clasping my arms. I tried to ignore the pace my heart took.

‘The Executioner’s gem, the Executioner’s aim’ were his words. Do they ring a bell?”

Damian made no answer, but his eyes flashed with recognition.

“They do, don’t they? That’s what they call him, isn’t it? The Executioner. Who’s out to execute. Me. And how did you know he’d be at Marvimex? You work together!”

“You don’t understand, Alice,” he whispered.

“Oh, I understand little indeed, but I don’t have a doubt here. You helped them organize the operation in the mountains. If I was their target from the beginning and you just happened to be on the same trip . . . It’s you who should’ve delivered me to them, isn’t it? You failed, so they sent the Executioner!”

His grip around my arms tightened so much that I gave out a cry of pain. He yanked me to his chest, lifting me so that I had to stand on the tips of my toes, and brought his face so close to mine that our lips almost touched. The words came out of his mouth in gusts of pleasant breath and rainwater that smashed into my face.

“Believe me, woman, had I wanted to harm you in any way, you wouldn’t be standing here now. You don’t have a clue how I searched for you, howled your name against all peaks. I sought help at the military base. I made sure we searched every corner of those forests. I exerted pressure until we found you frozen in that precipice, your limbs twisted…” He paused here, his upper lip curled, “And you think I should or would’ve delivered you to BioDhrome?”

You searched for me?”

“Alice, pay good attention, ‘cause I won’t repeat this: I’m here to protect you. I’m not your enemy, I never was, but nor am I your friend. I am a killer, it’s in my blood and no matter how much time I spend in the world of normal men, I’ll never be one again. BioDhrome made that impossible. When this is over I’ll leave and you’ll never see me again but, until then, your only safe shelter is under my wing.”

To be continued . . .

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinion with the writer, publisher and readers, we’re happy to hear from you. Stay tuned for episode 10 next Friday or subscribe at anaatcalin@gmail.com to receive notification at each new post.

Enjoy the first 50 pages of the book here.

Love,

Ana

 

Chasing Damian – Part 8

As promised, here goes Part 8 of “Chasing Damian”, publisher approved and re-edited. Stay tuned next Friday for Part 9, and every week for much more .

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel synopsis:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.

When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation that conducts experiments on humans and which had ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.

Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation, which may cost her life. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that draws her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?

A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

forbiddenlove

Pic source.

Part 8

As soon as the plump man turned around, his jaw dropped. Damian was either a striking sight to him too, or Sorescu had been warned to keep clear of him. Ruxandra’s eyes darted from me to Damian in surprise, but she didn’t make a sound.

“Not a great evening for outdoor shopping, is it?” Damian said with a vicious grin.

After a quick set of blinking, Sorescu came to himself. “Do I know you, Mr. . . .”

Assassin and the metal under his sleeve jumped to mind again. I shuddered and swallowed the knot in my throat.

“Novac,” Damian replied, offering his free hand for a shake. For a second I feared – or hoped – Sorescu would grab his forearm and feel the blade, as far fetched as the possibility was. But his ego prevented any chance of discovery.

“I see,” he said, sinking his hands in the pockets of his trousers and pushing his chest forward. “Well, Mr. Novac, how may I help you?”

“I’m one of the survivors from the mountains, your colleagues have me under surveillance. Which is how I know who you are, Officer, and why I was disturbed to find Miss Preda straying around Marvimex, desperate to find you. You lost her from sight, and, as her close friend, I must express my doubts as to your competence.”

With this last word he let go of my arm, his hand moving to the small of my back and covering it almost entirely. An electric sensation coursed through my body as the memory of our first night at the cottage lit in my head. His arms, weapons now strapped to them, they’d held me, stroked me . . .

“Close friend?” Ruxandra broke my moment’s daydream and the silence between the two men, who were glaring at each other like fighters in a ring. “Forgive me, Damian, but I . . .”

“I’m sure you must’ve noticed Alice was missing, didn’t you, Ruxandra?” Damian interrupted her without taking his eyes off Sorescu. “Why didn’t you draw the Officer’s attention?”

Rux began to babble unintelligible words. She shifted from one leg to the other, the look in her eyes stating a big BUSTED.

“I’m sure Miss Preda hasn’t been away for that long, maybe a few minutes,” Sorescu retorted, his tone conciliatory all of a sudden. “And Miss Ignat already has what she came here for, so we’ll be heading back now anyway.”

As Sorescu reached out, inviting me to cross to his and Ruxandra’s side, Damian’s hold tightened around my waist. I felt his muscled thigh hard against my hip and my cheeks prickled.

“Minutes can be lethal, Officer. The fact that you don’t know this is another reason for me to doubt your expertise. And to take Alice home myself.”

“I’m afraid that won’t be possible. She came here with us, she’s going back with us.”

“As you surely understand, I can’t rely on that.”

Sorescu smiled sheepishly, hands up as if surrendering in front of a gun, “Tell you what, mate: Why don’t we drive back together? That way you’ll be sure she made it home safely.”

“All right. That would at least allow my supervisors a dinner break,” Damian said with a smug grin, as if he’d obtained the very result he aimed for.

We followed Sorescu out of the bazaar. This time Ruxandra walked alone under her umbrella, and Damian shielded us both under mine. Wet gravel crunched under our boots, my arm hooked around Damian’s. The arm of the villain I was obsessed with. We only separated by the car, with me taking the back and Damian the passenger seat.

Ruxandra kept her head down during the entire ride, while Damian kept Sorescu feeling like a trapped mouse. The tension was only masked by dull radio chattering. I patted Rux’s leg and, when she glanced at me with a long face, I mouthed an It’s okay which had no effect.

It was easy to tell she was disappointed in herself. Maybe she felt guilty for having lost me from sight. But I didn’t find the energy to try and make her feel better now. I was too busy hating myself for the way I felt. Damian’s presence as well as the killer knives under his sleeves made my heart race and my cheeks burn in two very different ways.

It was in front of our house that words were spoken again, with Officer Sorescu grudgingly offering Damian a ride home, now that he’d “seen his close friend delivered safely.” To both Rux’s and my surprise Damian not only refused, but turned and directly requested to be invited in for a cup of tea, since the rain and cold had “permeated to his bones.” Yet as we got out of the car he looked anything but a man bothered by the low temperature or humidity. He actually seemed as comfortable with it as most people are with early summer, and I wasn’t the only one to notice it.

Officer Sorescu stayed behind the wheel with the heating on and the window down, his eyes darting from Damian to me. Soon his curious gaze turned into a sleazy measuring from head to toes that was yet another shock – since I was the subject of his inspection. Men had never looked at me like that, especially if they had someone like Ruxandra in their field of vision. But you know what they say. If a cool guy wants you, that makes you desirable for others, too. This must’ve been the effect in my case now – Sorescu misinterpreted Damian’s attitude toward me. He thought Damian was into me. My inner self laughed bitterly.

Guilt and rush crept up my spine as I walked towards the front door, opening the way for an armed man who breathed threat in my nape. The windows were dark, only a dim light flickering behind the curtains in the living room. This could be the end, I thought, bringing Damian Novac into our home. But the feeling that a refusal would’ve made matters worse wouldn’t budge.

Damian hovered in the doorstep as if he were a vampire who needed further invitation to walk into the vital space of his victim. I stared at him, a titan away from his Olympus and his time, clad in leather and jeans, wary to enter the home of a mortal. Just as I contemplated exploiting the moment and begging him to turn around, the door to the living room went ajar. Welcoming candlelight shone through to the vestibule, bathing Damian’s face in its mild golden touch.

“Oh, there you are,” Mom greeted with a large smile. She kissed Ruxandra and me, then her eyes rested on Damian. She welcomed him so warmly, my skin creased. He’s got fucking weapons under his sleeves.

“Please, have a seat,” she offered with both her arms stretched to the old, fluffy sofa as she took us to the living room. That she was ecstatic about Damian’s visiting, and that she still believed he harbored tender feelings for me was obvious as it was alarming.

The perfumed candles in the silver candelabrum – an antique Mom had bought in Paris and that she was particularly proud of – gave out a warm light fit for a library. Indeed, fit for our living room, dominated by the massive bookcase, broad sofa with the wooden coffee table and Dad’s old plush armchair. Damian took an instant to look at it as if it were a museum piece, then slowly lowered himself onto the sofa. It warped and squeaked under his weight, dark jeans molding on long, muscular legs. With a flick of his eyes that he made sure only I noticed, he demanded that I sit by him.

“Power’s out,” Mom said with an apologetic shrug. “Thank God the stove’s on gas.”

With that she retreated to the kitchen. Her alleged purpose – making tea and bringing cookies. Her true intent – giving Damian and me time alone, which overcharged my nerves, making me uncontrollably gnaw on my lower lip. Mom had also maneuvered Ruxandra out of the way with a simple reference to George having asked about her all evening, which caused Rux to spin on her heel and dash to George’s room like Speedy Gonzales.

Damian turned his face to me. The flames danced in his crystal eyes, his hair now flowing wild to his shoulders, danger emanating from him as it does from a predator. I winced as he touched my chin with two fingers – an unexpected, but gentle gesture.

As those fingers slid down my throat they produced such sweet pleasure that I couldn’t restrain a low sigh and my lids falling heavy. He was touching me. Damian Novac was actually touching me. My reason shut down.

“I’m in your home, Alice, and the police couldn’t do shit about it, you realize this?” he whispered, his breath touching my ear and his fingers stroking the base of my neck. His scent of young wood and leather made me dizzy. I couldn’t find my voice, and my pulse thumped in my ears, soon covering the squeaking sound his leather jacket – which he’d refused to take off – made as he moved his arm.

“You also realize I’m carrying weapons, don’t you?” he continued just as hushed, his fingers now wrapping around my hand and taking it to his left arm, which rested on his knee.

The blade was hard under the jacket. He guided my palm up and down the blade, slowly, making me rub it as I would his manhood. It stirred feelings in me, not of revulsion or anger, as it should have, but of need in my groin.

“I promised you some answers, Alice, so here they are.” His voice rippled, deep and velvety. “Number one. The police can’t protect you from a BioDhrome agent, I believe I’ve already made this point.”

“Are you a BioDhrome agent?” I whispered. My hand still caressed the blade, still guided by him.

“Number two,” he whispered, ignoring my question, “Your father will be safe as long as you don’t try to find him.”

This time the information sank in quickly, slapping me back to myself. My hand stopped moving and Damian didn’t force it.

“Number three,” he continued, beastly eyes drilling into mine, “You’ve managed to draw too much of BioDhrome’s attention. They sent an agent for you, Alice. That’s bad news. Really bad news.”

He retreated, his breathing a bit heavy.

“Are you that agent, Damian?” I managed, my voice thick with both longing and anger.

To be continued

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinion with the writer, publisher and readers, we’re happy to hear from you. Stay tuned for episode 9 next Friday or subscribe at anaatcalin@gmail.com to receive notification at each new post.

Enjoy the first 50 pages of the book here.

Love,

Ana

Chasing Damian – Part 7

As promised, here goes Part 7 of “Chasing Damian”, publisher approved and re-edited. Stay tuned next Friday for Part 8, and every week for much more . . .

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel synopsis:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.

When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation that conducts experiments on humans and which had ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.

Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation, which may cost her life. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that draws her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?

A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

 forbiddenlove

 

Pic source.

Part 7

The largest man that must’ve ever existed stood before me, his head much above mine. He was big to the extreme, something most people don’t get to lay their eyes on in a lifetime. A black cloak that reminded me of the garment of a priest molded on the wavy, way-too-big shoulder muscles. Cold sweat trickled down my temples.

His face was obscure behind eyes that shone like silver lights in a way that wasn’t natural. On the spot I realized he must’ve been a freak of nature, for which the Persian Empire was once so famous. Except that he was definitely here now, thousands of years off.

“Now this is unexpected,” he spoke, the words as if pounding from a loudspeaker that stood too close.

I stared into his star-like eyes. Their brightness blinded me to any details of his features, and I just petrified in the face of something so unusual and yet so familiar. It took only another second to realize he must’ve been under the influence of the gas that had turned us into monsters up in the mountains, the gas that had made my own eyes light up like torches.

“A gem, indeed.” It was a vibrant whisper.

What the hell are you?”

A grin that I didn’t see but sensed stretched across his nightly face. “The Executioner’s gem. The Executioner’s aim.”

A hand started toward me, looking like he was introducing himself. But I was too afraid to stand around and find out whether it wasn’t actually going for my throat. I stumbled a step backwards to put distance between us.

His feet moved slowly, but clearly intent to follow. My pulse took up and my rational mind shut down – quickly and skillfully, well trained from the mountains – as I turned on my heel and started running, boxing heavy rugs out of my way, lamps slivering as they brushed my hair.

Not thinking made it easy to move and my body immune to the bumps into other people as I emerged back into a crowd. But even in this state one thing was clear as day – The man had wanted to draw me to him, and the family that had drifted me along to that lonely corner of the roofed bazaar had been his instruments. Ruxandra was no safer than I was, and Officer Sorescu would be completely useless against the giant freak. It would take no more than a slap to send him flying on his back and sinking into unconscious slumber.

Just as I identified Ruxandra’s back among the strollers something hard wrapped around my waist. An arm with something rigid along it like a plank of metal, I realized as it lifted me from the ground as if I were a feather. I wanted to scream but a large hand covered the lower half of my face. Panic struck at the certainty that the giant with glowing eyes would squash me in a second. But the man spun me round and crammed me between two booths.

I looked up into pale, crystal-green eyes glinting under dark eyebrows, and recognized the finely chiseled face of Damian Novac.

CHAPTER VIII

I stared at him with an open mouth. The beauty of his face struck me as if I saw him for the first time, and I realized he was of the same league as Giant – extraordinary and just as scary.

I felt tiny as a child. My heart raced and my face burned, so close to a titan’s chest. He smelled the way freshly cut wood had in Gramps’ barn many years ago.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Damian hissed through his teeth. His eyes pierced into mine with the sharp purpose of crystal shards, but also something else that I couldn’t quite give a name to. Maybe some kind of angry relief.

“Are you back to your senses already?”

I managed to find my voice.

“What are you doing here, Damian?” Then some of my wit followed, “Or should I call you Cezare?”

His lips drew in the ghost of a grin. “Both will do. But you haven’t answered my question – What the hell was going on in your head, straying around alone?”

I jotted my chin and gave him the most capable of scowls. It didn’t seem to impress him, but I was proud of it anyway.

“If anyone owes explanations here, mister, it’s you.” Before I knew it, my index finger poked until it hurt against his stony chest clad in just a white V-neck and a thin leather jacket. “I’m looking for a way to contact my Dad, who was allegedly extracted by the R.I.S. after the little talk he had with you.” “One can’t protect from fire with fire or from hell with demons,” the memory of Dad’s words echoed in my head. “My Dad, who seemed to know you all too well.”

Damian’s jaw tightened, his face taking on the hardness of honey-glazed marble. So fast that I didn’t even perceive the move, he caught my wrist in an iron grip.

“How much of our talk did you hear, girl?”

Girl. “Is that fear I sense?” I mocked, merely trying to hide my anguish.

“It is, yet not for myself. You apparently know too much, too, Alice.” – urging tone, yet not threatening.

“Finally he remembers my name. Well, there’s not much you can do about it now, is it? But rest assured – the more I find out, the more questions I have. Too few answers.”

“And who have you talked to about these questions and answers until now?”

“Why should I tell you? Let’s get one thing straight, Damian, Cezare, or whatever your name is: I don’t trust you.”

Damian raised his chin, looking tall, imposing. His hair spilled in raven waves to his shoulders, his mouth was a dark grin and his eyes sharp crystal. A beautiful devil he was. I swallowed and sank my head, praying he hadn’t seen the way my eyes had widened at him and exposed me for a treacherous second.

“Good,” he said. My head snapped back up. I stared at him in surprise, which I tried to mask with mockery.

“I ain’t that dumb after all, am I?”

“Oh, dumb is last the thing you are. Actually, you impress me every day more, Alice.”

“That sounds like a line from a cheap movie, Fallen Angel.”

“Fallen Angel? Is that the cheap title?”

“As cheap as ‘you impress me’ and all that, but since I can’t be sure what your name is, I picked one.”

“Nice name you’ve chosen, I’m flattered. But I’m not an angel, Alice, not even a fallen one.”

“What are you then?”

His fingers wound around my arm, sinking into my flesh.

“You want answers? I’ll give you some,” he hissed.

Before I could react Damian started walking, pulling me after him. To make him loosen his grip, I clasped his forearm with my free hand and felt something hard strapped to it. Something metallic. Though I couldn’t be sure, the first thing that jumped to mind were the blades I’d read assassins used to carry under their sleeves ages ago. Shock paralyzed my tongue, making me unable to warn Ruxandra or Officer Sorescu before Damian patted the latter’s shoulder.

To be continued.

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinion with the writer, publisher and readers, we’re happy to hear from you. Stay tuned for episode 7 next Friday or subscribe at anaatcalin@gmail.com to receive notification at each new post.

Enjoy the previous 50 pages of the book here.

Love,

Ana

Chasing Damian – Part 6

As promised, here goes Part 6 of “Chasing Damian”, publisher approved and re-edited. Stay tuned next Friday for Part 7, and every week for much more . . .

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel synopsis:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.

When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation which conducts experiments on humans and which had ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.

Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation which leads back to Damian’s past, which may cost her life. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that will draw her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?

A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

Part 6

forbiddenlove

Pic source.

“See, what did I tell you? They found Mad Conan to blame it on. As for the old man, he’s a scapegoat,” Ruxandra said as images of a wrecked old doctor with Einstein hair, cuffed hands and fragile body in a suit appeared on the screen, led to a police car by two men in black uniforms.

The connection to Dad fired in my head.

“Jesus, Rux, this is bad! This is real bad!”

She looked at me, startled by my reaction but as sharp as I knew her. In a few breaths and with no second thoughts I broke my oath and told her about the extraction, glancing at the door to make sure Mom didn’t catch me on it.

“Help me, Rux,” I pleaded. “I need to see him, make sure he’s not being held hostage and questioned like a heretic.”

“There are people outside, Alice. They’ll follow you,” she retorted, skipping the surprised part. She took the information as I gave it to her, frowning and fully present.

“So what if they do? They’re not my problem, Mom is.”

“Alice, those bulldogs outside will make sure you don’t find Dr. Preda, if you’re not supposed to.”

“I’ll just go to Varlam at the station. He’s supposedly available for us at all times, isn’t he? And I’ll find a way to get him talking. I’ll offer info in return, I don’t know.”

“And why would Jenna try to stop you?”

“She deems Dad a danger for us right now, because of his ties to BioDhrome. And she knows that, if I want to see Varlam, it’s because I want to see Dad. Better yet, if I go out now, no matter the pretext, she’s gonna know what I’m actually up to. You have to get me out of the house, please.”

“You don’t have Hector’s number?”

I shook my head. “No. Mom made sure all contact details are out of my reach, probably also yours. He’s not on the internet either. Hell, I think hardly any R.I.S. agent working undercover as a bearded rocker would post himself on the web with office hours and gun registration number. The only solution is going to the station.”

Ruxandra studied me for a while. A deep-in-thought V formed between her eyebrows as she assessed my face, and the moment Mom walked back into the living room, she began talking without warning or turning her eyes from me.

“There’s no way I can spend days here without something proper to wear.”

She sounded so convincing, I fell for it myself. “You can have anything from my wardrobe,” I babbled, blinking fast.

“You’re petite, Alice, you don’t own anything I can actually take out on the street or campus tomorrow.”

Her eyes danced on mine, maybe in expectation for me to kick the ball back at her. But, since I was too puzzled to produce a sound, she went on herself.

“I need to get some things from our place.”

I appreciated the our and instantly understood what she was doing. But Mom intervened as if burnt with a hot iron.

“You’re sure not going to that part of the city, not with darkness knocking on the door.”

Ruxandra’s clever face froze for a moment, but, as she turned to Mom, it had already regained its elasticity and added a rakish smile.

“You’re right, Jenna, I didn’t think about that. We’ll ask one of the boys outside to accompany us to Marvimex.”

“They’re here as watchmen and not escorts,” Mom admonished.

“Then please, have a word with them,” Rux said.

Mom gave me an I-know-what-you’re-up-to glance, which I blocked with an innocent smile and a shrug.

“I’d love to get out of the house for a bit,” I said. “I need a breath of freedom, Mom.”

It was the begging tone that unbalanced Mom’s resolve, no doubt. After little more insistence from our part she allowed us to get ready while she went out, looking for Officer Sorescu or one of his colleagues. I had no idea why Ruxandra hadn’t tried to lose the escort, but I decided to trust her judgment in the end. She always knew what she was doing.

I parted the curtains with two fingers and spied – much like old Mrs. Teodorescu from across the street did each time a car pulled up in front of one of the neighboring houses. Mom crossed the street with rapid steps, keeping the long winter coat gathered close around her body.

To my gaping surprise, she entered the corner bar – for the very first time in her life, I was sure – where loud drunkards burned away their time gambling cigarettes and bottles, sometimes their wives’ jewelry, sometimes their wives. With its barred windows and narrow entrance the place was perfectly designed to keep interest at bay. Yes, suited for undercover tailing operations, why not.

“What if the place hadn’t existed, I wonder.” Ruxandra’s voice startled me. I’d thought she was already getting ready, didn’t realize she was still present. “Would they have extracted Mrs. Teodorescu and had an agent disguise himself as her? Imagine a guy with a moustache in an apron.”

She forced a laugh that made her look and sound mentally deranged rather than amused. The picture of Officer Sorescu’s round face framed by a colored kerchief did reach my mind’s eye, though.

Ruxandra took my hand and pulled me to the antechamber, where challenge number two was up – getting around George. He lay on the sofa with eyes fixed on the small TV, watching no less than Bugs Bunny. Mom must’ve turned to the old tape to keep his mind off anything heavy.

Ruxandra stared at him, holding a finger up in front of her pursed lips – keeping me quiet, I imagined. He seemed not to be aware of our presence, his mouth open, drooling, and brows high in the lost expression of a retarded person. Maybe the colored motion on screen simply helped him relax and put his mind off duty. Or maybe he was high on prescription medication.

Slowly, Ruxandra opened the doors to the wardrobe. The slower she moved the louder they creaked, and George stirred.

“For fuck’s sake, Rux, he’s not Alien or something,” I mumbled, refusing to accept that George wasn’t to be treated like a normal man anytime soon.

“Shhhhh! D’you want him screaming and wriggling?” she retorted through her teeth.

I knew she was right but it felt wrong anyway, treating George like an inconvenience.

Ruxandra skimmed over the shelves with an all business frown, scanned the available items – not by far satisfactory, judging by the silent scoffs – and snatched a white wool sweater and a pair of tight jeans that reminded me too much of what Olympia had been wearing in the mountains. But as soon as Rux closed the double doors to my room behind us, I shrugged off the memory as I did the nightgown and pulled them on without protest. Time was too precious.

The jeans were a couple of years old and had gone through repeated washing along with the other pairs, but I’d only worn them once on the day of acquisition. Tony had labeled this particular pair “slutty” ‘cause it molded on my thighs “like latex leggings do on hookers’ legs”. What saved them from becoming a give-away was my “modest” wardrobe, as Rux often put it, so I’d kept them to make me feel I owned at least a little more than I needed.

A change of clothes was already folded for Ruxandra on the rocking chair by the window. I watched her sinewy shape dance into it and recognized Mom’s elegant red turtleneck sweater and her white winter puffed pants.

“How do I look?” she inquired, probably trying to shallow-talk some of the pressure away.

“When did Mom give you the threads?” If Mom had offered Rux access to her wardrobe, what was the point of shopping, especially at five in the evening?

“She didn’t. I helped myself after the shower today.” She winked. “Once a gypsy, always a gypsy. We seldom need permission.” A reasonable explanation followed after a short laugh. “Joke aside, your clothes are all too small, and I figured Jenna wouldn’t mind. She never did before. I took these threads for tomorrow. I wanna go back to campus, I won’t let this thing control my life.”

“But she’ll see you’re wearing her stuff when we go out. Marvimex won’t stand, she’ll know we’re going to see Varlam. Plus, even if we manage to persuade her we’re going shopping, we might not even make it to him with one of those watchmen on our heels,” I threw at her, sounding increasingly desperate as I realized our plot was rickety.

“Oh, we’re going to Marvimex first, all right. I can’t wear Jenna’s clothes forever, she knows that. I can only wear them for a day or two, until I get myself new ones. Once we’re there, I’ll talk the guy into accompanying us to see Hector. I’ll tell him you and I have confidential information, and that our seeing him needs cover.”

“He won’t buy it,” I shook my head. “It’s weak, it won’t work.”

“Wanna bet?” Rux retorted, a mischievous grin quirking up a corner of her mouth.

In the end Rux turned out to be right, Mom didn’t even ask how come my best friend was wearing her outfit. The explanation must’ve been obvious.

Embarrassing as it was, we had to accept Mom’s pushing cash in our hands with bent heads. All the money I’d managed to save from tutoring activities was hidden in Ruxandra’s apartment – that we weren’t allowed to set foot into for, I guess, forever –, as were Ruxandra’s savings from all that baby-sitting.

In less than half an hour we were standing under the large sign creaking askew above the entrance to Marvimex, the rain rapping on our umbrellas. The crooked plate read “Shopping Center”, yet the place wasn’t far from a ghostly bazaar. Engulfed by grey blocks of flats with walls damped by rain that testified half century of communism, it looked like a stable with dozens of barracks in the middle of a concrete fortress. They were populated with small, fat men and women wearing thick golden chains around their necks, offering contraband like circus performers did their often disturbing tricks. Still, many shoppers preferred the place to the Tomis Mall for its cheap and often unique wares.

Valuable objects such as antique adornment artifacts and clay pots weren’t unusual here. There were actually even stories of vintage jewelry that had made it to the manors of lords and ladies in England or even tycoons in the States for hundreds of thousands of dollars. But to me, these were no more than myths until proven otherwise.

Officer Sorescu sheltered Rux under the umbrella he held for both of them. She’d been quicker to charm him than I’d thought possible.

I caught glimpses of her profile now and then as we slithered through strings of people towards the roofed hall that housed an anthill of booths. These glimpses were enough to read seduction off her smile and divine the batting of her thick lashes. They produced the effect of melting poor Sorescu on his feet, and I knew she would soon be able to touch on the sensitive subject, namely ask him to accompany us to the police station for a confidential meeting with Detective Hector Varlam. Then the even more sensitive core of the subject would follow – no one was to hear of this.

But the view was lost as a young family in shopping rush suddenly squeezed me among them, and disappeared again just as suddenly in the roofed hall. Persian rugs hung around among lamps and chandeliers of different shapes, their glass icicles clinking whenever they trickled too low and touched my hair. They gave dim and pleasant light of warm and silent colors.

It was as if I’d been teleported by some tornado in another dimension, this part of the bazaar as good as empty of life except for a few passer-by shadows here and there, thin and untouchable ghosts. I spun among the hanging rugs, curtains and lamps that surrounded me the way circus gadgets would a child. Intertwined patterns engraved into the carpet fabric had a hypnotic effect. An effect that was all-surrounding.

It was unsettling, this feeling, like a presentiment of danger that came true when a powerful voice called my name. I turned on my heels and gasped sharply.

To be continued.

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinion with the writer, publisher and readers, we’re happy to hear from you. Stay tuned for episode 7 next Friday or subscribe at anaatcalin@gmail.com to receive notification at each new post.

Enjoy the previous 50 pages of the book here.

Love,

Ana

Chasing Damian – Part 5

As promised, here goes Part 5 of “Chasing Damian”, publisher approved and re-edited. Stay tuned next Friday for Part 6, and every week for much more . . .

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel synopsis:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.

When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation which conducts experiments on humans and which seems to have ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.

Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation which leads back to Damian’s past. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that will draw her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?

A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

Part 5

forbiddenlove

Pic source.

CHAPTER VII

“I’m your daughter, you really believe I’d betray your secrets?” – stab in the chest. As I don’t betray Dad’s. “All right, may I die in chains, if a word on this leaves my mouth,” I went for one of the many gypsy oath formulations I’d learned in Ruxandra’s home.

Mom shuddered. “Not like that, please. Your word suffices. Keep this all to yourself, for your own good.”

“No need to elaborate on that. Elaborate on extracted.”

Deep breath, gathering her nerves. “Tiberius has been working with the Intelligence Service for years, Alice. He’s been analyzing blood samples they delivered him, samples that came from dangerous thugs. The results were always classified, your father never spoke of them. But when he began receiving samples from so-called BioDhrome agents, he withdrew in his shell like a turtle. Still, his baffled face spoke volumes. Even when he grew more accustomed to whatever he discovered, it took its toll on him. It almost drove him insane, which cost us many midnight fights.” Her voice trailed off, lost in painful memory.

“Tell me about it,” I whispered. All those late nights when Dad tiptoed to the master bedroom, the quiet quarrels they thought I didn’t hear, played like a movie in my head. All those empty weekends, Mom sunken in her books and I in mine, Dad only a picture on a shelf, even though he was still of this world.

“I put him under pressure for years to quit what he was doing. I imagine that’s why his heart grew cold to me, and he began seeking comfort elsewhere. Oh, dear baby, I haven’t asked – some coffee? Tea?”

With the premiere of her confession on my shoulders, I nodded, and Mom put a kettle on the stove. I let her decide on whether coffee or tea and moved a few inches in to let her sit by me and slip a loving arm around my back, as if to support me through what she’d say next.

“Your father is a BioDhrome target. He’s been one for a long time. So the R.I.S. took him in when we were still at the hospital in Brasov. He’s safe with them.”

“How can you be sure?” Worry broke through my voice, no matter how hard I tried to keep it chained.

“Because there’s nothing safer than R.I.S. protection in this country.”

“The few words I exchanged with him back at the hospital, he didn’t seem anxious about his life. He wanted to stay here, with us.”

“Without protection, two of his colleagues have been killed, Alice. People who worked with Intelligence Services in Barcelona and Bristol, also in matters related to genetic research. The R.I.S. are certain BioDhrome was the author, and that Tiberius is a target of greatest importance to them too. Therefore he’s a risk factor in this house, for us and for himself. Now that he’s out of the picture we’re safer, but still. Officer Sorescu, the man you saw in here . . .” even more careful now, “He’s around with his colleagues, just in case. Ruxandra and George will be staying with us, it narrows down the number of places that need surveillance.”

“Does this mean we’re confined to these walls?”

“No, you’ll be free to live your life almost as you did before. The police, the R.I.S. and the doctors, they all agree that the trauma will be slow to leave you, so a normal life is essential. Especially public places are benefic. Crowds are safe.”

She smiled as if this were supposed to thrill me like alcohol would a teen. And it did, to a certain extent. Crowds, places like the campus and even clubs were safe indeed in our town, the built-in curiosity of people would let no event unobserved. It worked better than CCTV, so there was strong reason to believe that BioDhrome wouldn’t risk an action in open field. They’d try to get us alone, at night in lonely places or even in our homes. So surveillance made sense.

But the feeling that Dad had been extracted against his will nagged. He’d been desperate like never before at the hospital, his tone had left no room for doubt. He’d been convinced that he could protect us, especially by being present.

“And if we want to talk to him? Is there some number we can call? Some place we can go, for example, I don’t know, a phone cabin downtown like in those detective movies or something?”

“We can contact Detective Varlam.”

“I see.” I was unable to control an acid grin. So this is how Hector was forcing cooperation. By leaving us no way around him. On a second thought, what if extraction was no more than a cover? A gross lie? What if he’d thrown Dad in a nasty cell and punched and kicked information on Damian Novac out of him? I jumped to my feet, bumping into the table edge. My ears whistled in tune with the kettle on the stove.

“Well, I’d like a word with him right now,” I spat.

Mom stood up, too, hand on my cheek to calm me down, blue eyes identical to mine wide and worried. Standing a head taller though, she made me feel like a kid again.

“Alice, honey, the whole idea behind this was to keep contact slim. Why bother organizing an extraction, if family stops by at the hideout to say hello anytime they please?”

“And you accept this so easily?” I snapped and brushed her hand off. “Are you really not worried about him, not one bit? His absence doesn’t bother you in the least?”

Now it was Mom’s turn to frown and apply a hard edge to her voice. “It’s not much difference to the last years, is it?”

“But this is different, Mom! You have no idea what we’ve been through up there, in the mountains. BioDhrome is serious shit, they’re really deep trouble!”

“Exactly! I am worried about your father, Alice, believe me, but yes, I admit, I’m more worried about you. Officer Sorescu even thinks that this attack on your group was meant at kidnapping you, in order to force Tiberius to turn himself in to them. To BioDhrome. So if his presence puts you in danger, then I don’t need or want to see him again until the afterlife.”

Her words sent a stab through my brain, but I kept protest and anger behind tightened lips. Mom’s honesty was sharp, like glass colliding with glass in her voice, leaving no trace of the vulnerability she’d put in her confession. Moreover, Dad had been cheating on her for a long time and she knew that. I happened to know even with whom. Indeed, why should she give a shit. I tried for a peace-making tone.

“But I wouldn’t be seeing him, Mom. I’ll just talk to Detective Varlam, make sure Dad’s all right. I need details.”

“I know you’re hard to assure of anything, sweetheart. You have a counterargument ready for anything, you’re able to question even the law of gravity, and I think you’re taking it too far sometimes. That’s why I’m telling you now: your father is safe and sound, take that for granted.”

Mom wasn’t the dictator Dad could often be, but when she stood for something there was no way past her will. Behind the mask of the kind, soft-spoken Madame Jenna everyone appreciated, she had ways of getting what she wanted, brains to bow to and the patience of a reptile. On days like this, I ate my heart out for not having inherited at least half of everything she was.

Still, I found the guts to try and make up a strategy around her in my head, but before it caught shape I heard the door from the antechamber to my room. Then light steps. Ruxandra’s steps. The knock on the doorframe to signal her presence was accompanied by a weak smile.

Her pretty face had lost much of its glow, her olive complexion now pale in its own way, her hair a washed-out black, rumpling down to her waist. Her jaw was locked despite the smile. The experience we’d been through had taken away what was left of her carefree self, I would say, and Ruxandra had become a twenty-two-year-old veteran of fight for survival.

Mom smiled back and hurried to pour her a cup of coffee, eager to cover the subject of our conversation. Ruxandra relished in Mom’s warm welcome like an orphan would in a Christmas night with presents, and joined me at the table, huddled in my old pink bathrobe that came too short on her arms and legs.

They were all “Rux, dear,” and “Jenna” to each other, as always. They had a special relationship. Mom had made a life purpose of plunging deep into the troubles of the gypsy minority, she had dedicated them her time even though there was no trophy to be won. Rich wives of the Western World she came from did charity, Mom had told me, but she didn’t think much of it. “Raising funds for clerks. Trust me, half of the donated money ends up on their pay-checks,” she’d say.

But Mom was determined to be of use on a very personal, palpable level and made a great ‘career’ of social work. Many of the gypsy kids in our neighborhood, Ruxandra and her sister Saveta included, had listened to her winter stories and learned to read and write from her. Both Romanian and English. It had been Mom who’d helped Ruxandra’s mother leave her husband and find a job at the textile factory many years ago. She’d fought and achieved so much in those difficult times. A rush of admiration swept over me, and a smile drew my lips. My heroine.

Ruxandra took a long sip of coffee, fingers curled around the mug, then leant her head back, savoring not only the aroma but also her surroundings. There was love in her gaze as it crossed over every detail of the room – The cluttered wooden cupboards nailed to the walls over the counter, the door to the back garden with its dusty glass pane, the pots, kettles and spoons dangling from a wooden stripe with hooks above the sink like bells waiting to be played.

“I’ve missed this place,” she said, her hand gently stroking the nylon table cover.

Mom gave her a warm smile. “It’s missed you, too.”

Despite the promising start, the conversation got stuck as soon as Mom uttered a, “Did you sleep well?”. Ruxandra lowered her head and pressed her lips, as if not wanting to remember. But, if she’d had nightmares, I hadn’t noticed. She’d been still and quiet. Only George’s low moaning and sighing had reached me once in a while through the veil of light sleep.

Mom tried to guide Ruxandra back on the conversational track, but all she got were attempted smiles from the trembling corner of her mouth. She wasn’t quite herself, that much was obvious. But then again, neither was I.

Mom’s insistences on tea, cookies, coffee, chocolate, marmalade and another dozen sweets per minute were a clear sign I was a disturbing sight too. I wasn’t even sure to perceive and answer all her questions, I had this feeling they’d passed by my ears more than once, like deja heards or something.

George woke up late in the afternoon. His sudden screams as if someone were slicing him alive made us all jump, and Mom almost threw down the door to the antechamber to attend him. His pained groans sent chills down my back. Ruxandra slapped her palms over her face, her shoulders shaking in hard sobs.

Carefully, I took her in my arms. I threw a glance at the big, lazy clock on the highest shelf of the bookcase – it showed four in the afternoon. George had at least gotten a good chunk of sleep. Unlike Ruxandra and I, who hadn’t even found the energy to lose the pink nightgowns we still wore like overgrown babies, curled on the couch, TV on.

Without Mom to promptly switch channels as soon as the news came on, always packed with tragedies and subliminal, “This is the end of the world”, Ruxandra and I were now fully exposed to them. A report about a massacre at a remote cottage in the mountains of Bulgaria made us both lift out heads, teeth clenched, eyes bulging.

The twin of our story, only that no one had been found, dead or alive. The perfectly groomed reporter’s words were like another deja-heard, her voice matter-of-fact but disturbed in its depths. Her story was accompanied by censured images that played on the half of the screen next to her face.

“Blood on pieces of clothing and torn curtains. Broken windows and dried blood on shards of glass. Stains of blood…” And this is where my ears began buzzing, muffling the sound of the TV. My blood pressure must’ve shot up to the sky.

So this one made it on the news.

“They’ll cover up in a few days max,” Ruxandra said, close enough to my ear to pierce through the buzz.

“How could they? How could a footage like this be a mistake? They fucking filmed the mess. People are not stupid, Rux.”

“No, they aren’t. But there have been so many tragedies with so many explanations lately, that illegal experimentation won’t cross their minds. They’ll accept any animal attack, serial killer, drugs and orgies that ended up badly, you name it.”

Then the reporter said, “The police arrested Dr. Lazar Dobrev, a psychiatrist. He used to treat one of the missing persons, who’d been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Yet Dr. Dobrev set him on the loose. The man was known to have murderous compulsions, which he shouldn’t have had trouble acting on at a height of two meters and a hundred and seventy kilograms of muscle.”

To be continued.

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinion with the writer, publisher and readers, we’re happy to hear from you. Stay tuned for episode 6 next Friday or subscribe at anaatcalin@gmail.com to receive notification at each new post.

Enjoy the previous 50 pages of the book here.

Love,

Ana

Chasing Damian – Part 4

As promised, here goes Part 4 of “Chasing Damian”, publisher approved and re-edited. Stay tuned next Friday for Part 5, and every week for much more . . .

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel synopsis:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.

When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation which conducts experiments on humans and which seems to have ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.

Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation which leads back to Damian’s past. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. He might save Alice’s life or he might take it. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that will draw her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?

A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

 

Part 4

forbiddenlove

Pic source.

Mom drove all the four-hour way to Constanta in silence. George was in great need of it. He was sensitive to all sound, he’d cover his ears, his face would twist in a grotesque mask and he’d squeeze his lids shut at every word he heard. He’d killed a man with his own hands, the trauma was most severe for him, the doctor had explained. He remembered every detail of it vividly, which tormented him with violent headaches.

“Don’t leave him alone, for whatever reason,” the doctor had warned.

The street up to my parents’ house revealed itself on a last turn, cobbled and ghostly in our headlights. Barking from neighboring yards and the crisp sea air were the first to greet us, lonely and timeless, like the screech of our old iron gate and the warm darkness of our living room. I think that was my first real experience of synesthesia, I could almost feel the massive oak bookcase through my skin, the homely upholstered couch, Dad’s favorite armchair.

George didn’t wait for an invitation to throw himself face-down on the sofa in the small antechamber that opened into my room, which I used to call my boudoir back in high school. Ruxandra and I shared my bed.

Mom turned on the lamp outside, the thick skeleton of our old apple tree bathing in its mild light. We kept the curtains open so we could face it from the bed, my old guardian from childhood days. It felt safe, it felt home, but I still couldn’t close my eyes until the early morning hours. Something was missing, something wasn’t right. Something wasn’t home. It only hit me when my eyes snapped open at midday, my brain refreshed: Where was Dad?

I threw the blanket aside, squirmed out of bed – squashing Ruxandra in the process, provoking a grunt and a sleepy frown – and rushed to the master bedroom.

The curtains were drawn, making way for the pale winter light through the overlarge window. The just as oversized bed was made – of course, Mom must’ve been up for hours, if she’d slept at all, considering the circumstances. Having left the parental home a few years ago to live with Ruxandra and her sister in the town suburbs, most of my parents’ habits had moved to the back of my brain, only to resurface when exposed to them again. As they did now. I remembered the smell of scrambled eggs that used to draw me to the kitchen when I was a child. It hadn’t spoilt my olfactory senses in many years and it didn’t now either, but, as I said, old memories resurfaced.

I tiptoed to the kitchen to find Mom sitting at the table, her thin fingers slowly stroking a coffee mug smeared with souvenir photos of San Francisco – one of the few items that still bound her to her own home. Her stare was lost over the black liquid that didn’t give out steam, which meant she must’ve been staring blankly at it for some time now. Her hair, blond and crisscrossed by platinum strands, fell rumpled to her slim shoulders. She was clad in a fluffy, white nightgown.

The sight was disconcerting, considering her usual innate urge of always looking flawless and making an impression of aristocracy on all eyes that fell on her, including the cleaning lady’s. Now the absence of an elegant and shiny bun and the uncovered wrinkles on her meager face in the presence of a stranger were another definite sign something was wrong.

His sitting on the kitchen couch, the corner cupboard hanging over his head like the Sword of Damocles, was even more disturbing. A heavy winter coat was hanging negligently off the couch edge, his chubby hands cupping a coffee mug of his own like pillows of flesh emerging from under thick pullover sleeves. His mien was grave as he set brown, warm eyes on me.

Round and young, but marked by determination, that’s the impression his face made. Common features, like mine, someone I wouldn’t have noticed in a group or anywhere else. But now he sat in my parents’ kitchen. Was he a lover? No way, my inner self snapped. She would’ve gone for someone less . . . fat. Plus, he didn’t seem to be feeling awkward, nor did he try to justify his presence.

Just a few moments of puzzling silence, then he stood up, gathered his coat and turned to the door that led directly to the back garden – something told me he’d come in through the same, but I was clueless as to the reason why he refused to use the front door. With a hand on the handle and the coat on the other arm, he turned once more to Mom.

“We’ll be close.”

She nodded. He threw me a glance that said, “I’ll let you girls talk,” before he left.

Unable to formulate questions even in my head, I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Still, the sixth sense activated again and sent me with slow steps to the table, then seated me in the man’s place.

Mom didn’t raise her head. On the contrary, she seemed to sink it even closer to the mug, a hunch forming on her slim back that was otherwise as straight as a wood plank. Hadn’t it been for the thick nightgown, I would’ve seen the skin stretch over her ribs. The truth of the man’s visit must’ve been a burden not much different from an affair. Could it be?

“So?” I managed after a while.

Her fingers still stroked the mug with slow, even moves. “We’ll be under surveillance. I don’t know for how long.”

Surveillance?

“Why’s that?”

“You and your friends. The . . .” she chewed on her lower lip, probably to keep back what looked like a nervous breakdown. Her cheek twitched. “Those people from the mountains. BioDhrome, they told me.”

Panic shot to the tips of my toes.“BioDhrome’s our priority now, Tiberius. They won’t stop here.”

“Where’s Dad?”

Only now Mom looked me in the eyes, eyebrows up like a crying pet’s. She looked for the way to put it, there was no doubt.

“No, God, please no!”

Mom’s expression grew from wrecked to worried, more alert now, the way it had been at the hospital. She gripped my wrist, voice soft and soothing, though it cost her some effort.

“No, baby, no. He’s all right, safe and sound.”

Pulse still up until the information sank in. “Where is he then?”

This was the news she’d been nervous about, I could tell by the pause and fixed gaze on my eyes.

“He’s been extracted, they told me.”

Extracted? What’s that supposed to mean?”

Another nervous chew on her lip. “This BioDhrome thing.” Then reconsidering, “Alice, this must stay between us. Tell no one, not Ruxandra, not anyone.”

“Just tell me, Mom!”

“Give me your word first. For your own safety, not mine.”

To be continued.

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinion with the writer, publisher and readers, we’re happy to hear from you. Stay tuned for episode 4 next Friday or subscribe at anaatcalin@gmail.com to receive notification at each new post.

Enjoy the previous 50 pages of the book here.

Love,

Ana

Chasing Damian – Part 3

As promised, here goes Part 3 of “Chasing Damian”, publisher approved and re-edited. Stay tuned next Friday for Part 4, and every week for much more . . .

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel synopsis:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.

When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation which conducts experiments on humans and which seems to have ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.

Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation which leads back to Damian’s past. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. He might save Alice’s life or he might take it. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that will draw her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?

A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

Part 3

forbiddenlove

Pic source.

CHAPTER VI

Unbelievable how Dad could still shove my questions under a carpet after all these years. He wanted to forget I wasn’t a child or a pet, and tried to shift focus by answering my questions with his own.

“Are you feeling dizzy?” – recovering from surprise, stroking my forehead.

“How do you know him?”

“Does your head feel heavy? The whole body? Lift your right hand,” – as if he didn’t hear me this time either.

“What did they do to him, Dad?”

“Is breathing difficult? How about talking?”

“Damn it, Dad!” – no difficulties there – “What’s the story?”

The door creaked ajar and Dad’s face sprang over mine. He whispered sternly in my ear, “Breathing is difficult, Alice. Everything hurts, no matter what.” Then he straightened up to face the visitor.

A mind-blowing surprise to see the person interested in my wellbeing this time was Hector, the bearded singer with aquiline features. It wasn’t until two men in POLICE jackets followed, that I realized he wasn’t there as brother-in-pain. His frown and suspicion-filled eyes measuring Dad from head to toes already spoke of a strict inspector or something, but as he flashed his badge my mouth still popped open.

“Your wife kindly announced us that Miss Preda is awake,” he croaked, low and controlled, as if he hadn’t been there with us, as if he’d only just read the case facts in a file that got slapped on his desk. What movie is this?

“She’s still weak, Detective, she won’t be able to deliver much.”

“I’d be much obliged, if she tried,” – adjusting his attitude to match Dad’s aristocratic demeanor, clearly mocking.

“Later, Detective, I must insist.”

“Time is precious, Dr. Preda, given the circumstances. Surely you understand.”

More of this back and forth, “I insist,” and “So do I,” until Dad was left with no choice, the two officers framing him on each side. With silent threat on their furrowed brows they grabbed Dad by his arms. Offended, he jerked from their grasp and whisked his suit, giving me a reassuring, “I’ll be back with you as soon as the hawk’s out. Don’t let him pressure you.”

With that the officers ushered him out, and Hector took the chair by my side, examining me with a stiff attitude. His lips were white and split like a crack addict’s, there was a large cut with stitches on his forehead, not to mention that one eye was already turning from blue to black, so it couldn’t be just in my head – He’d been there with us, he’d taken a gulp of dread and violence as large as I had.

“What is this?” I managed, unable to hide astonishment.

“It’s obvious, isn’t it? Detective Hector Varlam, at your service.”

“Jesus, Hector!” – memories of lilt guitar tunes spinning in my head – “You were there with us. You lived it all first hand, what? Why? Jesus, Hector, why are you here?”

“Now, now, take it easy babe,” – with a gentle touch on my wrist, the familiar bearded singer replaced the detective with the experienced frown – “I don’t need you to recount what I already know, of course. I only need to find out what happened after you played decoy and got almost everybody out of the cottage.”

“How do you know I played decoy?” – didn’t wait for the answer though, other questions pressing against this one like a crowd against a door – “And what d’you mean almost everybody?”

“There have been fatalities, I’m afraid. Marius Iordache and six others didn’t make it out in time. I hate being the one to deliver this news.”

“Jesus Christ!” One particular memory lighting up – the wretch, coughing out blood and grunting like a dying animal.

“Alice, please,” Hector lowered his voice and face, acting the accomplice who felt with me, “This isn’t easy on my side of the barricade either. But we have to keep a cool head and recount the facts while the whole thing is still warm. If too much time passes, the brain begins to edit broken pieces of memory.”

“How long have you been on this case, Hector? How long have you been chasing BioDhrome?”

“Quite a while. For six years, to be exact.”

“So you didn’t get them in six fucking years, and now you want me to believe my account of a fight in frosty woods will make the difference?”

“A fight? Is that what happened?” – raised eyebrows, but no genuine surprise.

“I have a feeling you know more than you let on.” Like he did that I played decoy.

“The rescue team did find the body of a villager close to where they found you. But the man was all meat stripes, and I seriously doubt you were the author.”

“I wasn’t. It was wolves.” But I had a feeling he knew that, too. A shudder traveled down my spine.

“Humor me. Tell me what happened.”

I did. Short sentences, only facts – struggling to push the gate shut in the bustling face of all emotion. Hector listened, eyes down at his hands.

“You were the only one attacked, you know,” he murmured, without lifting his head. “The rest of us ran and ran, faster and faster, whipped by such rage and bloodlust that we saw red.

“The rush started to fade as I strayed through the forest and, by the time I reached the village in the valley, I was drained of strength. My lips and fingers were frostbitten. There wasn’t a soul in the village, Alice, it looked completely abandoned. But all survivors, your friends Ruxandra Ignat and George Voinescu included, found their way there – all usable paths turned out to lead to the village like a fuckin’ maze – and we sought refuge in the church.

“Interestingly enough, Damian Novac came in last, hours later, and he wasn’t alone. He’d found the military base deep in the woods, some miles from the village, and brought help. How he made it there remains a mystery. Like so many things about him.” At this point, his eyes shot at me. “He was here with your father, wasn’t he?”

“So is this it? Is this why you’re really here and pretending to be bonding with me? To find out what they talked about?” I grinned at him, unable to hide the contempt in my voice. He and Damian had been hanging out for years, and yet here he was, this stuck-up detective who thought too much of his acting skills, squeezing information from a traumatized civilian.

“He’s dangerous, Alice, you must understand. I have reason to believe he’s a BioDhrome agent. I don’t have proof, since the guy is damned shrewd, but I’ve been around him for six years. Six. That’s enough time to feel things, if not know them.

“I’d studied Novac for a long time before this mission, monitored his every move, adjusted my personality to get under his skin. We became good friends, or so I thought. But his past, he always guarded it with inhuman wit. Still, one thing slipped – his friendship with your father. Until I saw him emerge from Dr. Preda’s private booth at the Marquette . . .” he went on carefully here, “The booth where Olympia danced for him, you understand? For your father. I’m sorry, Alice. I really didn’t want to tell you this, but I need your trust.”

Rage clouding my head, “What are you fuckin’ saying?”

“I’m saying that your father rented a booth at the club and paid for anonymity. I’m saying he’s having an affair with Olympia Slavic, and Damian Novac is the only person he trusted with this secret. And there’s much more where that came from. But I’ll have to stop here, you’re in no condition to hear this . . .”

“My condition didn’t stop you until now. Go on.”

Hector gritted his teeth.

“You know how I received this assignment? The Cezare Lupan file, archived with the R.I.S., disappeared six years ago. Disappeared, you understand? No one can make that happen unless they’re the K.G.B., F.B.I., fucking David Copperfield or a nasty monster with friends in high places, like BioDhrome. That’s how the Intelligence Service got me on the job.

“After six years of fuckin’ med school with him, I still don’t have material evidence against Novac, I don’t, but I’m positive as hell he works for powerful sharks. Still, any chance of producing evidence by myself is gone with the wind. My cover is now history, blown when we got out of that frozen hell, blown when my R.I.S. superiors came forward too directly, overconfident I’d gotten all the proof and witnesses we needed to nail Novac after this. Novac sniffed them, he now knows who I am.” – Bitter grin.

“But know this, Alice: I have no doubt that he’s been playing your father, too. Maybe he even introduced Dr. Preda to Olympia, with the purpose of loosening his tongue, do you realize? BioDhrome needs information from him. Your father may be a genius, but Novac’s Machiavelli resurrected.”

The whole room spun with me. This isn’t happening was back in the charts.

“So help me.” Hector lowered his voice even more, taking my hand in both of his. They pressed on my bandaged fingers, reminding me of how my nails had come off. The pain helped revive awareness that I was still in the real world.

“What did they talk about, your father and Novac?”

There was such emphasis on this last question, that my thoughts suddenly fit together like puzzle pieces, leaving no room four doubt. He’d come to see me as an investigator, yet he’d done as good as all the talking, telling me horror stories about a Machiavellian agent and a father I refused to recognize. All this even though I was lying on a hospital bed, with IV lines snaking around my arms. “Everything hurts, no matter what.”

The son of a bitch was trying to manipulate me into betraying my own father, and Dad had known it. Maybe everything he said was indeed true, but he was wielding the truth to get a fat bonus – he was trying to nail Dad along with Damian Novac, or Cezare Lupan, or whatever his name was. I turned my head to the narrow window, letting the gray daylight flood my eyes, as stinging as it was.

“I wouldn’t know, Detective. I wasn’t yet awake.”

“Yes, you were,” he insisted. “Your mother told me you were.”

“She was wrong.”

“As simple as that?”

“It’s the simple truth. Now if you don’t mind, I’m tired. Everything hurts.”

To be continued.

***

Enjoyed this? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share your opinion with the writer, publisher and readers, we’re happy to hear from you. Stay tuned for episode 4 next Friday or subscribe at anaatcalin@gmail.com to receive notification at each new post.

Enjoy the previous 50 pages of the book here.

Love,

Ana

CHASING DAMIAN – Part 2

As promised, here goes Part 2 of “Chasing Damian”, publisher approved and re-edited. Stay tuned next Friday for Part 3, and every week for much more . . .

See the first 50 pages here.

Novel synopsis:

When she meets heartthrob Damian Novac, shy student Alice develops a heavy crush against her best wishes. Hoping to get close to him, she joins Damian and friends on a winter trip in the Carpathian Mountains – a choice that will change her life abruptly.

When the train derails in high snow, they seek refuge at an abandoned cottage, but soon people of their group start losing their minds and dying. Alice barely escapes with Damian and some of their friends, only to realize she’s far from safe even back home. A shady corporation which conducts experiments on humans and which seems to have ‘engineered’ Damian into something monstrous many years before is on their trail.

Alice becomes an important tool in the investigation which leads back to Damian’s past. A man of secrets and obscure powers, Damian might be a villain or a hero. He might save Alice’s life or he might take it. Though aware of the danger he poses, she can’t fight the obsession that will draw her ever deeper. Will Damian become her lover or her executioner?

A novel that will keep you reading, diving into the demonic nature of criminal masterminds, spiced with hot, dangerous romance.

Part 2

forbiddenlove

Pic source.

CHAPTER V

Whispering somewhere close. If I was dead, I wasn’t alone in it. It was true, you still existed somewhere after you died. You don’t see, but you can hear – not an ideal situation, but still something. And it’s warm and so very comfortable, all that whispering, as if somebody’s careful not to disturb you.

Then I must’ve fallen asleep and dreamt, even in death, and it was anything but nice. I was small, so small, like a bee in a jar. And I tried to get out, but the glass was slippery, there was nothing I could grab. Every time I tried to reach up, my palms would leave traces of blood down the jar. Instead of fingernails, I had pus and blood. I screamed, a sharp scream like a train whistle, then a hard push on my hands. And then my eyes were open, though painful, so very painful.

I sat up, sweat trickling down my forehead and neck. The room seemed warped, like in a dream, my skull heavy as if it contained rocks. I dropped back on pillows that smelled of disease and needles stung my arms.

A sweet, pained voice rang close to my ear. “Alice, baby, you’re awake! Thank God, you’re awake!”

English. That moment I knew Mom was leaning over me, her lips pressing on my temple and forehead again and again. I tried to open my eyes, but the lids were swollen and hurt. Everything hurt.

She held my hand, I now felt it, aware again of the life that flowed feebly through me. A slow pulse in my chest, like a lazy clock. Tick – pause – Tock. Tick-pause – Tock.

Among sobs, Mom began telling me the story of the Sleeping Beauty. It had been one of my favorites as a kid, and her voice brought back the oldest and sweetest memories of pink pajamas and Judy the Monkey. Memories as distant as how and why I’d ended up feeling as beaten and finished as I did. My mind was taken only with the prince with beautiful, sculpted face and long raven hair blowing in the wind as he rode his white stallion, the girl slumbering in a high, ivory tower and the taste of cotton candy mingling with that of blood.

The story came to a forced end when two men walked in – I could tell they were men by the low, deep voices that didn’t manage to keep their heated conversation to the mere level of whispers.

“I won’t leave her under your wing alone.” The direct, determined tone was enough to trigger the man’s identity in my head – Dad. The feeling of warmth and peace was now whole – they were here, both Mom and Dad. I was safe.

“You’re being unreasonable, Tiberius,” the other man warned in a pleasant but commanding voice. Probably as commanding as his person, since he called my dad by his first name – The fewest called the great Dr., PhD., A-pile-of-titles-in-biochemistry-I-can’t-even-read Tiberius Preda by his first name.

Suddenly, images of a rusty chain and strings of fur crossed my mind’s eye like sharp lashes. Then the fall, the knock in my head. The conclusion was rapidly reached – I was at a hospital and the man must’ve been a doctor.

“I’ll be her sole guardian.”

“That’s not a good idea,” the doctor stressed.

Among wretched sobs, Mom whispered, “She’s woken up, Tiberius. She was up on her hands, she opened her eyes.”

The shuffle of fabric told me Dad hurried to my side. Hands checked the catheter in my arm. IV lines. Hospital, doctor, catheters . . . Reality caught outline. How on earth could I have survived? A leaden sensation all through my body prevented me from moving or making a sound, but my brain activity took off like a rocket.

“She’s regaining her strength fast,” Dad said, and bent close to my ear, “Alice, do you hear me? Are you awake, sweetheart?”

Regaining my strength felt far from the truth, since I didn’t find enough to moan, let alone answer.

“She fell asleep again,” Mom lamented, as if I were more dead than alive. “She fell asleep, my poor girl.” My temple tickled – She was caressing my hair.

“You should get some fresh air, Jen. You look and sound tragic, and that’s the last thing she needs.”

Mom took offense, it was obvious in her higher-than-usual pitch.

“I’m not going anywhere. This is my baby, barely out of a cold ditch.”

“Your tone.”

“No, Tiberius, your tone. I’m not one of your sluts.”

“That’s it, Jenna, you need fresh air.” Dad was now severe – that kind of severe that used to sew my lips together years ago. Now it shut Mom up and strengthened my decision of playing asleep. I sensed her linger in the doorstep, as I did her crying eyes on my face before her steps faded down an echoing hallway.

“I’ll leave you with her,” the doctor said calmly.

“No, don’t. Close the door, we need to finish our talk.”

“Not here. Not now.”

“I won’t leave her with you, lad, and I don’t want you doing anything behind my back to force my hand.”

He can force Tiberius Preda’s hand?

“I won’t take action without your knowledge”, the doctor said, “But I won’t back off.”

“I won’t have her in your custody. That’s my final word.”

“Let’s talk about it later, some other place.”

Dad seemed not to hear him. “There’s something else that can’t wait, though. Have you seen her blood count? It’s so good it’s frightening. After hours in the cold and everything she’s been through, not even a bladder infection. She fell down a precipice and not a broken bone. This is not normal. Besides, she’s always been a fragile kid.”

There was a trace of discontent in Dad’s voice that baffled me to my stem cells. If I was doing better than ever, what was there to be so urgent about? And why was I hooked to IV and felt like shit? And why ask my own doctor if he’d seen my blood count?

Thank God my face was too stiff to express anything. The slightest sign that I could hear them, and false smiles would greet me, then the discussion would be taken somewhere else, leaving me with no clue as to my own situation and Dad’s distress.

The doctor wasn’t as surprised, though. “She won’t remain this strong. But either way, she remains in danger.”

Oh, please talk sense!

“What if she doesn’t come back to normal? Ruxandra Ignat, her blood count looks just as staggering, there’s still no change …”

Ruxandra’s alive?

BioDhrome’s our priority now, Tiberius. They won’t stop here.”

He knew about BioDhrome? And Dad did, too?

I strained to pinpoint the doctor’s voice. I knew him, I surely did. Deep, composed and pleasant to my ears like thick, flowing honey. My mind searched and searched, until recognition hit – my unattainable barbarian, Damian. He was alive, thank God he was alive, thank God for learning it before I was aware enough to go nuts with the uncertainty!

I was tempted to open my eyes, but the effort equaled lifting bricks only with my eyelids, giving me the necessary seconds to reconsider. The conversation would come to an end at the first sign I was awake. I stayed still as a corpse, but inside excitement, joy and curiosity strained to pump my pulse. For whatever reason, they failed, my body wouldn’t respond. IV lines. What am I on?

“Especially if their values don’t come back to normal.” Dad’s voice broke.

“They will. Those values were only triggered by the gas. It raises the adrenaline up to that particular level that regulates all functions of the body so that it can become a fighting machine, the best version of itself, this is no secret to you. But the effects will fade eventually, and Alice will be the fragile kid you knew again. But that won’t stop BioDhrome.” There was scorn in Damian’s tone, as if he suspected Dad of wishing weakness on me. It didn’t throw Dad off his distressed track, though.

“The effects of this experience might not wear off after a while, and you know it damned well. I don’t want her . . . Forgive me, but I don’t want her ending up like you either. An Upgrade is as doomed as a target.”

Huh?

“They did much more with me than they did with Alice, you know this. She’s far from an Upgrade yet, and her values will normalize. You’ve seen George Voinescu’s results, his liver’s already a wreck again.”

Permanent experience effects, Upgrades, what the fuck?!

“What you had was inclination, Damian, talent, if you will. That played the most important part. Their procedure came second. Blood and spirit are connected, make no mistake about that, and don’t listen to small minds with a degree in science. Alice might not be talented, she may not be as strong and angry as you were, but she is on that path. She is . . . not well, lad.”

“For that you have only yourself to blame,” Damian said, calm but cold like a judge in court. “She gave up your inheritance, she ran away from everything you represent, she went desperate enough to want and marry a loser, so she could be rid of your name. Of your indifferent, frosty shadow. And things got worse and worse.”

Pause. Both in Dad’s breathing and mine.

“Put like this it strikes you, doesn’t it, Tiberius? Quod erat demonstrandum. With all due respect, you can only hurt your own daughter. And you surely won’t be able to protect her now, with BioDhrome’s eye on her.”

“How deeply did you two bond, boy, that she told you all this?” Dad sneered. He’d virtually bowed his head and gulped down all Damian’s scorn, however veiled in a detached tone, but it was easy to imagine him pointing a rifle at my handsome barbarian now.

“I asked. She talked. I listened.”

“Did all that listening get her in bed with you?”

Oh, no, no, no, Dad, please don’t!

“Have I not proven my loyalty and respect?” Damian’s voice went a frequency deeper, sounding like insulted bass. This time emotion was clear, making my stomach prickle with both butterflies and embarrassment. “I only got close to her when the situation turned ugly, returning the favor you once did me. I owe you much, Tiberius, and this is my opportunity to repay you. You’re powerless now, but I can and will protect Alice until we track down BioDhrome’s head and chop it off.”

“You’re the one who put her in danger when you embarked on this trip, knowing she’d be on it.”

“I didn’t expect a hit, there hasn’t been one in years. Not to mention that the people on board would be missed by many, unlike the wretches BioDhrome usually targets.”

Long pause.

“So can I rest assured that you haven’t taken a special liking to my daughter, Damian? That you weren’t on that trip because of her?”

Another pause, this time in Damian’s response and in my breathing again. He hesitated. Good God, he hesitated . . . Was it a good sign? Was he reluctant to admit that he liked me? Or was he unsure of how to tell Dad his baby wasn’t worthy of attention?

“Why don’t you prove your respect once more, and keep as honest as I know you,” Dad demanded. I struggled to control my breath as expectation built up – virtually, but the pulse stayed steady. The strangest sensation.

Damian’s reply lagged for seconds, but when it came, it was velvety and clear. “Alice is a gem, I must admit. Sweet in appearance, sharp in wit and loving as an angel. But she’s your daughter.”

Expectation popped like a balloon stung with a needle. The refined barbarian that was Damian Novac had found the perfect words to avoid a direct answer, but there it was, between the lines. It may have been his way of saying I was the little sister of Shitty, since “amazing”, “stunning” or at least “attractive” hadn’t as much as touched his description of me. To save a bit of face, I prayed my playing asleep had worked the first night at the cottage as it did now.

After tormenting moments Dad spoke again, low and careful, “Don’t take this the wrong way, lad. It’s just . . .” Awkward pause. “You’re dangerous, Damian. It’s not your fault, they did this to you, yet . . .”

“I get it,” Damian cut him off.

The air was so laden, that I could almost hear Dad nod. “I can’t risk them doing the same with Alice.”

“Then let me take over. Will you tolerate my wing over her?”

Long pause. Apologetic, maybe fearful answer.

“I won’t, lad. Your wings are black and thorny. One can’t protect from fire with fire or from hell with demons.”

Damian lingered in silence for moments, but his anger filled the room, heavy as his presence. I could feel it as I did my own strange anxiety lacking the frantic heartbeat.

“You leave me no choice, Tiberius.” – Urging. Low.

“Respect and loyalty, Damian, if I may remind you.” – Dignified, determined, yet pleading. “Just don’t do anything behind my back.”

“As I said. Not without your knowledge.” With that, Damian closed the door behind him.

A chair raked the floor as Dad pulled it close to the bed and sat down. He stroked my forehead with long, lab-man fingers for a long while, a while that I used to calm my rage at destiny, to quench the curses that burned the tip of my tongue, and to ensure I’d look innocent and unknowing when I’d open my eyes. Yet the first sentence that came out when Dad’s tired face appeared through the blurry shield my eyelashes made was,

“What did BioDhrome do to Damian Novac?”

To be continued.

***

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Ana