Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I finished it. Finally. 1000+ pages. Done!

And I only skipped about 10 pages of the world's longest, preachiest, most repetitive soliloquy ever uttered by a single character.

I have mixed feelings about the book. I thought the philosophy and social commentary were very provocative. I'm not sure I agree with half of what was said, but I must admit the story forced me to think. In fact, it forced me to think so often that I would read 5-10 pages and find myself needing a break just so I could digest what had been said, hinted at, or talked around. I think the need to stop and think had a lot to do with the parallels between fiction and our current reality. Oh, sure, things aren't quite as dreadful for us as they were for Rand's characters, but the potential is there. I think that's the most disturbing thing about her book. The exposure of underhanded greed and the corruption of governmental power in her book echo our current situation.

The truth is there was so much philosophy, economic theory, and social commentary in this book that I don't know if I can fully articulate even a fraction of what Rand was attempting to get across. Calling Atlas Shrugged a complex read would be sugar-coating things. This book is tough. Tough to read, tough to digest.

I often felt as if the author had set out to debunk a few literary stereotypes. It would be very easy to see the protagonists in this story as villains if the tale had been told from a slightly different vantage point. After all, the protagonists' actions leads to all sorts of disasters and catastrophes that ultimately result in the end of the American government and brings society to its knees. I couldn't help wondering what this story would have been like if it had been told from the other perspective, if the Movers in this story had been portrayed as the villains instead of the other way around. Then I realized it has been, at least a thousand times and in every genre.

After finishing the book, though, I think Rand truly believed (believes?) the story she told. I believe she shares the philosophies set down in the text.

All in all, I'd say this was an interesting read. I would also say another read through might be necessary, but I'm not about to undertake it any time soon. Maybe not at all.

If you'd like a synopsis of the book and the central philosophies explored in the massive tome, I suggest checking out Wikipedia. There might be some inaccuracies, but the plot and major philosophical issues seem to be covered.

However, if you'd rather just wait for the movie, it should be released in 2009.

A Treasure Found

Jenny's bridal shower June 2005 006
Originally uploaded by moonchylde7782

I had forgotten about this picture. While browsing through my sister's Flickr account, I ran across this photo and thought "I should favorite this". Then I thought "I should share it with the world. Look how cute we were!"

Thanks for uploading this one, Chrissy. I'm totally stealing it!

For the Star Wars Fans

Okay, So I'm a Chicken

Last night I was home alone with the boys. It was about 10:30 when I heard the first one. Over the next 15-20 minutes I heard another three or four shots, which seemed to be coming from the woods to the south of my house.

Sure, it might have been some poacher out there in the woods hunting raccoons. But maybe not. Is raccoon even in season right now? Is it ever? And I didn't hear any dogs baying as if they were hot on the trail of some ring-tailed bandit.

After peeking out my windows and seeing nothing but darkness, I grabbed the phone. If my neighbors' lights would have been on and I didn't suddenly feel very alone and vulnerable, I probably wouldn't have called 911 to report what I was sure were gunshots.

The dispatcher's first question was "Are you sure it's not fireworks?"

Oh no. Not again.

With those few simple words I had a flashback to when my husband and I were dating. That night I had called him, insisting I could hear gunshots, when he reminded me it was the 4th of July.

But this is May. Who would think of fireworks in May? Not me!

"Uh. I don't think so," I answered, feeling suddenly very foolish because I hadn't even considered fireworks until he asked. "It could have been, but they sure sounded like gunshots to me."

At this point, though, I'm beginning to wonder. Maybe I should have stood on the front porch and scanned the skies for some fleeting glitter sparkling over the treetops. But what if I was right? Standing on the front porch then would be beyond stupid. Hello? How many 3rd-rate horror films have you seen where there's some idiot woman just asking for the ax or chainsaw to find her? Not me, folks! I'll hide inside my house and insist its a 50/50 chance of being gunshots or fireworks.

Eventually the dispatcher, who was a very kind and patient man, assures me they'll send a patrol car through the area. I don't know if they actually did or not, but I didn't hear another shot in the night. Not a single one.

Summer School

Yep. We're going to sign both boys up for summer school this year. I'm sure neither one will be very happy about going an extra three weeks, but the hubby and I both think they could use the time to build or, at the very least, retain their knowledge. Both of them have the same weakness and need a bit more time to advance to a more acceptable reading level.

Sometimes I wonder if they're really my kids. I mean really. How could I give birth to not one, but two, non-readers? I don't understand! Were they switched at birth? Has some sinister super-villian put a hex on them? Is there bad reading mojo in our house? I don't get it.

Hopefully a few extra weeks of reading, writing and math will help them become stronger students. Hey, a mom can hope!

Our Weekend

I love long weekends. This one was spent mostly at the campground. I've added a few pictures to the Camping Trip Set on my Flickr account with pictures of our weekend. If you don't have access, but would like it, let me know. I've been uploading more and more pictures over there. In fact, I think I have close to 140 pics stored there now.

Anyhow...this weekend. Camping. It was lovely. We couldn't have asked for nicer weather. It was warm and sunny. It sprinkled for a bit on Monday morning, but it cleared up before we even had a chance to roll out of bed.

I, of course, am sunburned. Let's just say Rudolf doesn't have anything on me! Even with lotion and some pampering, I am already beginning to peal. Yuck.

Still, it was worth it. I love playing kickball, baseball, and soccer with the family. Soccer kicked my butt, though. I was ready for a break about fifteen minutes into the game. Luckily, so were most of the other adults. After a small "half-time" break, we tied up the game and called it quits. The only downside to the game was that my sister and her kidlets didn't show up until after it was over. By then most of us were just too whipped to get the up the energy for another game. Maybe next year. Or later this summer, even.

What else did we do? Smores. Fishing. Ice cream. Hillbilly golf. Tossed around a football. Got way too much sun.

It was a perfect camping weekend. I don't think any of us wanted it to end.

Friday Snippet: The Hunted Cont.

You know the drill. Copyrighted, All Rights Reserved. Blah, blah, blah.

If you missed the first two installments, you can find them here:

Hunted : Part 1
Hunted: Part 2

And now for the conclusion:

She had not slept well that day in the fully darkened room in the back of the tavern. She had awoke before the sun had fully disappeared behind the horizon. As soon as the last rays fled the night sky, she had fled into the night, praying he would be unable to track her.

That had been nearly a century ago. Sometimes she would settle into a town for months or even years before she felt his presence. Always, she had deserted her belongings and current lover without notice to flee into the night. She had often wondered if he had found her home and the human’s she had enslaved to her—she had never felt the need to become another vampire’s master. The thought of him in her abandoned homes was maddening for she was certain he had killed every last one of her men, just as she had killed that woman so long ago.

As the storm raged around her, the river rushing beside her, she realized it had been only a week since she had sensed him closing in on her. She had been hesitant to leave, angered at leaving the slave she had just trained to take care of her. Her delay had allowed him to close the gap. Even if she turned and ran into the night, praying for the storm to cover her retreat, there was a very real possibility he would catch her out here. And this time there was no tavern to run to. She was in the middle of the woods, her lover likely still asleep in the cabin they rented on the lake.

She really had no choice but to face him. What surprised her was her sudden willingness to do so. She hoped he would find her. An end of the running, in any case, was all she really wanted. Tonight would likely see the end of a hundred year race she had not willingly embraced.

The lightening flared. A shadow, as still as the tree trunk it leaned against, took on a familiar form. The darkness swallowed the light from the bolt and she narrowed her eyes where she was certain he--her one-time lover, her teacher, her mentor, her lover, and her enemy--had stood. Her vision, honed over the last century, cleared and she found herself facing the apparently unassuming man she feared above all others.



He had not changed. Not that she had expected him to, not when their very nature prevented even a day of age to mar their eternal youth. Yet, somehow she had expected him to appear larger, darker, and more menacing than he did standing only a few feet away from her. She regarded him silently for a moment, allowing him to study the changes in her.

She wanted him to fear her. She was no longer the fledgling he had pushed too early from the nest. Survival had sharpened her, forcing her powers to escalate. She knew, as she looked into his hazel green eyes, she was a worthy adversary for him now. Her only weakness would be the link and they both knew it. Yet, once she had ignored the link and the intricate subservient ties it promoted, and she was confident her anger was enough to allow her to do so again.

Remembering the fury of that fateful night, she allowed herself to recall it with amazing accuracy. Her eyes blazed as she looked at her stalker. Nearly a hundred years of running from this…pathetic creature. If he had feared her potential at such a tender age in her vampiracy, surely he feared her even more now. The thought made her smile around the long, curved fangs.

When he attacked, she met him half-way. She would not be the victim. She fought with all the strength of her undead body, using the talons, the fangs, and even more mundane methods. Kickboxing had been her most current lover’s idea and she found it served her very well now. A wide smile and pleased laughter greeted the next rumble of thunder for she had no doubt she was going to be victor.

Her running was over.

Twice Relieved

Yesterday we had our final meeting of the year with my son's teacher, the Special Ed Coordinator, and the Principal. The goal of the meeting was to set up a 504 Plan, something his ADHD diagnosis makes possible. The Plan lists a series of accommodations the school and his teachers must take into account while educating our boy. Some of these accommodations are very minor. For instance, the first thing listed is that he should be seated in the front of the classroom near the teacher. More aggressive accommodations are that he's given extra time on writing assignments, as well as opportunities to re-do his homework if necessary. Weekly communication is supposed to occur between the teachers and me and/or my husband. A checklist is supposed to be put in his locker to help him remember to grab his homework. Nothing too taxing for him or the teachers, in my opinion.

The highlight of the meeting was the fact that no one uttered one word about retention. They plan on passing him into Fifth Grade! I'm so relieved. Even though he's only had two D+ this year, there had been talk. Apparently, his efforts during the last marking period and his test scores have shown enough growth that his teacher actually thinks he'd be bored having to repeat the Fourth Grade. Not to mention his grades as of yesterday were all Bs and Cs. I am so proud of him for that!

So the meeting went well. One less thing to worry about...for a few months at least.

This left only one major concern. Our dog. She's 13-years-old and getting rather lumpy. When she developed diarrhea I didn't think much of it. No, I didn't worry until I was cleaning up mess #6 or #7 and noticed that the fecal matter was surrounded by what appeared to be blood. Considering her lumpiness, her age, and recent behavioral changes, my husband and I feared the worse. Cancer.

While we were at the meeting we had left her chained up to the front porch of our house. Sorry, but I couldn't handle cleaning up doggy-do off the carpet one more time. Just. Could. Not. Do. It.

As soon as the school meeting adjourned, we took the dog into the vet. I have to admit I cried a bit. I was so worried they were going to say it was cancer and that we'd have to put her down. Even though she annoys the bloody blazes out of me on a daily basis, she's still my dog. We've had her almost as long as we've been married. She was here before the baby-bug hit. We've lost her to a tornado and managed to bring her home after a week's worth of searching. She's been our pain-in-the-ass and our best friend.

So. I got a bit teary-eyed at the thought of leaving the vet's office without her. Can you blame me?

I think my hubby might have gotten teary-eyed over the $189 we spent on an office visit, lab work, and medicine. Apparently our lovely little mutt ate something that attacked her intestines - some kind of bacteria he kept saying too fast for me or the hubby to decipher. What we did catch is that she might have picked something up in the swamps around our house, by eating a dead carcass, or during some other outdoor adventure. He gave her five shots and four different medicines for home. As long as the medicine works, she should be back to normal within a week. Maybe less.

I'm so grateful for both outcomes. Things could have gone much worse.

Last Week of Soccer

Can I just say I'm so grateful to see the end of Soccer season approaching? Not because I don't enjoy watching it, because I do. Immensely. There's just something about watching a sport your children enjoy. It makes the whole sideline spectacle a bit more involving than watching them kick up dust balls or pluck blades of grass from the outfield.

Still, it's time for the season to end. This four nights a week business is insane.

So, while I'll miss shots like these, I'm not going to miss running from here to there every night of the week.

The New Do

Originally uploaded by Krheiser

Well, I promised a picture and here it is. My new hair. I LOVE IT. It now only takes me about five minutes to do my hair instead of 45. No more blow drying. No more curling. At least, not for a couple weeks.

I'm hoping it'll last through our big vacation. Sure, it might relax quite a bit by then, but at least I won't have to wrestle, cajole, and declare war upon it. You know, like every other morning for the last year or so.

Oh, and the beautiful girl-child in the picture is my niece. This picture was taken the night of her dance recital. Isn't she beyond adorable? Pouty face and all? (She was actually giggling two seconds later, but you'd never know it by this photo!)

Writing Update

Miracles of miracles, I actually attempted to work on the WIP last night. Of course, trying to watch American Idol at the same time didn't help, but I think I know what has to happen. I need to remove about 2K, maybe more, from the end. I went in the wrong direction. I think I've been fighting it because the writing is good (well, mostly) and it seems like such a waste, but sometimes backtracking and remapping is necessary to making things work. The ending wasn't coming to me because I had screwed up. I had taken the "umph" out of the story, right when the "umph" should have pushed through to the climatic moment.

So. Deleting. That's on tonight agenda.

After I get my hair done, of course.

I Haven't Disappeared.

Although the blog may not reflect this simple truth, I'm still here. I've been incredibly busy with the boys' sports. This week we've already had a baseball game and a soccer game. If they don't cancel, we have a baseball game tonight and another soccer game tomorrow. On Saturday we have three soccer matches - two for the oldest boy and one for the munchkin. Busy!

I'm going to miss a significant number of these games this week, though. Tomorrow night I'm spending the night at my Mom's because I'm carpooling to an off-site workshop in one of the state's bigger cities. I'm going to use this night away from home to get my hair done. I'm very excited about this. I'm so ready to have a new look! I'm scheduled for a perm and a cut, and while I feel bad for the lady who has to roll this mop I call my hair, I'm very excited. I'll post pictures sometime this weekend.

Friday night my niece has a dance recital. She's five now and nothing short of a princess, so I'm sure I'll have some great photo ops. The only bummer is that they don't allow photography during the show, which means I'll only have before and after pictures.

Saturday is even busier! We're scrapbooking Saturday morning. We're cutting our scrappin' short, though, so we can get back to my place in time to leave for the Beer Festival in a neighboring town. There's a big group of us going. At last count I think there were 11 of us for certain with a possibility of 5 more joining us. It really comes down to babysitter issues and cold hard cash.

So! Yay! Fun!

Nice block, buddy!

Nice block, buddy!
Originally uploaded by Krheiser

I caught this bounce off the belly shot at last night's game.

Love Affair

Originally uploaded by Krheiser

My dog absolutely loves sticks. She loves it when you throw them. She loves it when you wag them above her head and make her jump. But, mostly, she just loves to chew them up into little bits of pulp.

Orson Scott Card comments on JK Rowling

I happened to stumble across this today and thought I'd share.

Tell me your thoughts and I'll tell you mine. (Hey, I've got to do something to get the comments moving over here!)

Not Enough Hours in the Day

I really thought this feeling would disappear after I was done with school, but it hasn't. Even though the hubby did the grocery shopping last night (he's so much better about sticking to a budget than I am!), I still feel like I hardly accomplished anything.

Here's what I did manage to do:

  • Dinner
  • 2 loads of laundry
  • Supervised punishments of two little boys who decided to have a tussle at daycare. My house looks pretty good right now thanks to their inability to be near each other without launching a full-scale attack.
  • Read one chapter of Peter and the Starcatchers to my boys & my nephew
  • Watched entirely too much television - at least 3 hours.

Here's what I didn't squeeze in to those few precious hours after work:

  • Writing. I have a feeling I'm only about three chapters away from "the end".
  • Packing the camper
  • Writing. Did I mention how close I am to finishing the rough draft of this project?
  • Exercise. I'm supposed to be training for the Crim. At this rate, I'll be lucky to run one of the 10 miles I'm planning on trying to tackle.
  • Writing. Seriously, so close!

Can you tell I'm getting antsy about the writing? I really wanted to sit down and make some serious progress last night. I have no valid excuse for why I didn't open up the WIP and tackle the current scene. You read that statement about entirely too much TV, didn't you? Yeah. No excuses.

Although, I must admit I had to know whether or not America had gotten it right. They had. Jason Castro is finally gone. Although I wasn't a fan, I have to admit his parting attitude was very commendable, if not downright chuckle-worthy. He's a very humble sort of guy, which is hard not to admire.

See...too much TV. Not enough writing.

This was a recent topic of discussion for Mur Lafferty and Jared Axelrod on a recent Special Issue of the I Should Be Writing podcast. They were basically talking about how it's hard to feel sorry for writers who complain about not having enough time to write when they admit to watching hours and hours of television each week. If you want to write more, watch less television! Don't turn it on. Don't get sucked into re-runs and pointless programming.

I struggle with this because I like television. I enjoy the mind-numbing relaxation before bedtime.

But I'd also enjoy finishing this book.


Yay for...rain?

I know it sounds terrible, but I'm glad its raining right now. The little guy's first baseball game has been cancelled, which is just fine because the wonderful Athletic Association in our town doesn't really believe in communication. Hard to believe in today's techy world, isn't it? I know!

Anyhow, we thought we were having their first practice tonight, only to find out that it was actually their first GAME. Apparently no one bothered to let our coaches know the schedule. Not that the rosters were communicated all that much earlier.

But, thanks to the rain, we don't have to worry about our kids going in to their first game stone cold. They should get in at least one practice before the season starts now. So, yay for rain!

Not that I really care about baseball. If you know me at all, you should know sports are pretty low down on the priority list. (I know a bunch of you men just winced...well, maybe just a couple of you.)

What I do care about is the spare time I have just been given tonight. Instead of hootin' and hollerin' at my youngin' (heh), I can now spend my evening at the grocery store leisurely browsing the aisles in search of the perfect campground necessities. Yes, it's that time of year again. Camping.

I love camping.

I can't even tell you how excited I am to go on our first little getaway. Although I'm sure the grocery bill will dilute some of that anticipatory pleasure. I mean, seriously, have you seen the price of milk lately?

Bad dog

The handiwork of the mutt who didn't want to be left at home...

Oh man, that was rough.

I was so sick yesterday. I made it - barely - through the first soccer game, but I knew there was absolutely no way I could stand on the sidelines for another hour. After checking with the coach, I left my oldest to play his game and went home to lay down. Don't worry. Hubby made it home in plenty of time to go watch the end of his game and pick him up.

Me? I was in bed.

Call it a virus. Call it the flu. Either way, it wasn't pretty.

Even though I haven't - you know - in the last 12 hours, I can still feel the effects. My stomach is plain tore up!

All I could think of, though, while I moaned through several miserable hours, was how difficult it must be for those women who don't have a wonderful, loving, patient husband who takes care of them when death seems like a reasonable alternative. I can't even begin to express how thankful I was for my hubby yesterday. He didn't only take care of me, but did the dishes, packed up the youngest for an overnight trip, and fed the oldest dinner. More impressive, he kept the boys a safe distance from the germs - let's hope it was far enough away to prevent anyone else in the house from suffering the same fate.

Truly, how do the single moms of the world do it? Or the single dad's for that matter? And what about those who might be married but can't count on their spouse for much of anything but derision and complaints?

Sometimes it's when things are at their least pretty when you realize just how lucky you are. And I am damn lucky.


Kind of in a funky mood tonight.

After playing FF XII for a couple hours tonight, I headed down to the basement to do some laundry. The kids have soccer in the morning and I hadn't seen either jersey since their last game. After searching high and low for them, I found one in a clean clothes basket and one at the bottom of a dirty clothes pile.

Once my Soccer mom duties were attended to I could focus my unenthusiastic attention elsewhere. I say unenthusiastic because blah pretty sums up exactly how I've felt all week. Tonight has been no exception.


So, scrapbooks. My laundry area is located right next to my "scrapbooking room" in the basement and, while I didn't feel like scrapbooking, I was feeling a bit nastalgic. Pulling one album after another off the shelf, I sat down and travelled back in time. I revisisted weddings of good friends and family. The journaling, written years ago when the memories were still fresh, reminded me of Jessica's panic when I showed up right before the wedding looking pretty much like I had just rolled out of bed. Oh, how she wanted to throttle me!

Next came my brothers' and sisters' weddings. So many memories there. So many stories I didn't capture because, believe it or not, its almost impossible to capture such things with mere words. What really amazed me, though, was how young we were all were. Babies! And speaking of babies, more than one of those weddings showcased pictures of my parents' first few grandchildren. My first born, his face still round with baby fat, had been the ring bearer in two of those weddings. How tiny he was!

There's one wedding missing from the album, but I plan on fixing that soon. Although they've been married for a few years now, I finally ordered my baby brother and his wife's wedding pictures through SnapFish. Once I get their wedding photos in the book, I'll be caught up on weddings. What an accomplishment!

The next album didn't have a theme really. It was a hodgepodge of random events or everyday moments. Pictures of my boys blowing bubbles off the back porch. Camping and fishing trips. Father's Day in the park when our youngest still sat strapped into a carseat while his big brother swung from the monkey bars. A collection of family snapshots.

Looking through those albums made me smile and, in some instances, it hurt my heart. So much has changed over the years. Most of it for the better. We have so many things to be grateful for and so very few things to regret. Yet, there are regrets. Despite all that's happened, I miss my step-mom; I miss who she was when she still loved my dad and found pleasure in being his wife. Then there's the friends we see once or twice a year now who, once upon a time, had more or less lived with us every weekend when we were first married. The loss of beloved grandparents who influenced our formative years.

So many memories!

I just hope I remember to keep journaling whenever I sit down to scrapbook because tonight only reinforced that the words mean just as much as the pictures. The two perfectly compliment each other. They capture more together than either could separately.

Friday Snippet

This is a continuation of last week's short story (it's not nearly as short as you think). I plan on posting the thing in its entirety on Friday Snippets, so I'll be sure to link to previous entries so you can keep on track.

Hunted : Part 1


As she waited for him to reach her, she allowed herself to relive the fateful night that had resulted in nearly a hundred years of running. She gloried in the resentment and self-righteous anger.

The room was dark, not a single candle burning. Yet, the room was not empty and its inhabitants were not asleep as she stepped through the doorway. Although the darkness was complete with the moon and stars hidden behind a heavy curtain of clouds, she could easily see every detail. Her
nocturnal eyes noted every detail of the painting on the wall, the small chip on the edge of the wine glass, and even the pattern of the grain on the tabletop. Yet, she paid these things little heed. She was not interested in the room. The man was all that mattered.

He was not exactly handsome. In fact, had he been other than what he was, he would be considered only average in appearance. Average height, average weight. Brown hair, hazel eyes. Nothing extraordinary in his bone structure. Yet, he was not average. An animalistic allure drew her to him, making her forget all the other men she had ever known.

His back was the room as he sat at the small table. He was smoking, something he did with predictable regularity after he satisfied the thirst. His skin was flushed with the effects of the fresh blood coursing through his veins. A sated lion in the safety of his den. “Elizabeth. You’re late.”

She nodded, looking curiously past him to their bed. The small flat he had rented for them with the interest made from a lucrative investment contained all their worldly
goods. The table, two chairs, a bed, and a chest filled mostly with clothes dominated the space. Nothing could be hidden from view for there was nowhere to hide it. Tonight a woman lay sprawled unconscious on the bed. “Who is she?”

“You should see her. Very beautiful. Perhaps even more beautiful than you, my dear.”

His words stung. Never before had he compared her to another woman. She struggled not to let her hurt show. She pulled out a chair but did not lower herself into it because even as she was about to sit, he stood and moved to the woman’s side.

Gently, refusing to allow her growing ire to show, she put the package she had been carrying onto the table. However, she could not remain behind, forgotten, as he savored this new beauty he had found. She joined him, standing close
enough to press herself wantonly against his side. Her arms snaked around his neck, her fingers stroking the sensitive region of his neck. She stood on tiptoe, straining to bring her lips to his neck, ear, cheek. His flesh was warm beneath her lips.

He did not respond to her invitation, “Look at her.”

She didn’t want to. She wanted to make him forget about this unwanted competitor. She ran her hands over his
back and chest. Lower her hands ventured. Tugging gently at the waistband of his breeches.

“Look at her.”

His voice was a whiplash. It was painful in its intensity. Her head rang with the command, her desire squelched by his displeasure. She was powerless to do other than he commanded, especially when he forcefully used the psychic link that enslaved her to him. She obeyed his command wordlessly, her eyes focusing on the woman on the bed despite her most fervent wish otherwise.

Jealousy burned through her eternally damned soul, adding yet another layer of corruption. The woman was beautiful, just as he had said. Flawless skin, delicate bones, slender but shapely. Her hair was the most arresting feature. Sunlight. A blond so pale and silken it almost hurt to look upon its wavy length. The thick strands
framed her sleeping face and graceful neck, spilled over shoulders to rest to the sides and in the valley of her breasts. A curtain of hair cascaded over the edge of the mattress.

“Her name is Jasmine.”

Jealousy consumed her. Jasmine, she knew, was a threat. Even without the unnatural sexual prowess of a vampire, this woman was temptation. No man, be he human or something much more powerful, would be immune to such delicate beauty. “Why is she here?”

He was still looking at the prostrate woman, studying her much as an artist would another’s masterpiece. Awe mingled with desire. His hunger for this woman was not only tangible through his expression and body language, it filled her body as he allowed the link between them to carry his growing passion.

She moved away from him, hoping the loss of physical contact would lessen the impact of his lust. She glared at the woman, at him, furious that his surging passion was not for her. She could sense that he was hardly aware of her, much as a cat would disdain its human when luxuriating in
the sun. It enraged her. It frightened her.

“I had to have her. Much as I once had to have you,” he admitted, undisturbed by her growing animosity. But, why should he worry? She was no threat to him. He could easily crush her with little effort and they both knew

“You have fed already,” she stated, purposefully choosing to misconstrue the implication of his statements.

He nodded, “Of course I did. I couldn’t chance damaging
her. She will be live in perfection for eternity after this night. She must be unmarred and you know how I am when in the grips of the thirst.”

Oh, yes. She knew. On those rare occasions when she had fed and he had not, the intimacy between them often led to his nearly draining her to the brink of oblivion. Where he might be gentle with this frail human, he had no concerns for her recovery. She was a vampire, after all, and death could not visit her again in such a manner. No, she would heal and there would be no scars to mar her pale skin. His nails could cut to the bone, his fangs and teeth gouging her flesh wherever he felt the need to rip and tear. His crushing grip cracking her arms and ribs.

She had fought him the first time, thinking he had meant to
kill her. Soon she had learned he was her master in more than one sense of the word. He could do almost anything to her and even make her enjoy it. His bloodlust and the pleasure his frenzy brought him were shared with her as her skin was destroyed and her bones broken. A hellish combination of agony and ecstasy.

“You’re going to make her one of us?” She asked, her temper beginning to overrule her common sense. She knew better
than to anger him.

He smiled. It made her heart pound in anticipation and dread.

“I don’t think three of us would be a good idea,” she stated. “Even in a city this size, we would draw too
much attention.”

Hazel eyes moved regretfully away from the slumbering visage to focus on her. “I agree.”

“Then you’re not going to make her one of us?” She asked, confused. Perhaps he had meant something else when he had talked of eternity. Was he going to kill the woman despite his wish to preserve her loveliness?

“Oh, yes, I am going to make her a vampire,” he replied, his eyes emotionless as they stared into her damaged soul. There was no warmth, his thoughts and feelings closely guarded from her. Whereas she could not prevent him from using the link between them, he could. If he didn’t wish her to know how he was feeling, what he thinking, then he would block her from his mind.

Uneasiness twisted her stomach. Something was not right. “I don’t understand.”

He smiled at her, a sad turning of the corners of his mouth. Pitying, would aptly describe the expression. “You’ve served me well, Elizabeth. But you’re growing
too strong. I never anticipated such power in you. I cannot tolerate it, my dear.”

Instinct forced her into motion. She dodged his first blow, ducked under his arm and made for the closed door. Before she had gotten two steps closer to the exit, he was before her. He swung; she back-pedaled. He lunged at her, catching her around the waist. They crashed to the floor. Breath knocked from her lungs, she lay motionless beneath him. Before she could recover, he had her effectively pinned to the hardwood floor, his lower body pressed intimately against her as he used his hands to keep her arms immobile.

Ordinary features had been cast aside as the creature within him assumed control. His eyes glowed, his fangs protruded, and his long fingers ended in deadly talons. The block on his innermost thoughts and feeling was gleefully released as he revealed to her the depth of his treachery. His waning desire for her, his triumph in finding a suitable replacement, the thrill of ridding himself of her unwanted presence, his anticipation for this final confrontation, his smug assurance that she would die while he stole her lifeforce and the power he had watched grown within her. All of these thoughts and emotions washed over her, devastating her pride and leaving her weak with terror.

She bucked beneath him, her nails growing into talons just as deadly as his. Her fangs had emerged so quickly the gums had torn and blood flavored her mouth. Had he been a human she would have torn his throat out without much
effort. However, he was not a human and she was not his equal by any measure. He was the master while she was the fledgling. Despite her astounding strength and willingness to kill, she was no match for him in hand-to-hand combat.

She was going to die. Again. Only this time, he had no intention of allowing her to return to the world of the
undead. He would not simply be content with her apparent demise, he would assure himself of it. Her heart would be cut from her chest, her head decapitated, and her body burned. Only when he was certain she could not return, would he be satisfied.

She screamed her rage.

He backhanded her, splitting her lip open and leaving a wide, gaping wound along her jaw line where his talon had gouged her. Blood did not gush from the site, it swelled and seeped, her body reclaiming it as quickly as it could. She had attempted to return the favor but the speed of his actions was astounding. Her wrist was once again pinned to the ground, effectively demonstrating her inability to best him.

She shrieked as he tore at her neck, his fangs scraping her collarbone. His tongue delved into the wound, lapping at the blood even as the long incisors siphoned away her
lifeforce. When she fell silent, struggling uselessly against his superior strength, he savagely deepened the wound. Her body could not recall the blood quickly enough. He began to drain her, and as a result, her strength ebbed and soon she was limp beneath him.

His pleasure, the heady euphoria only another vampire’s blood could provide, suffused her through the link. While she lay dying in his arms, she found herself smiling in
pleasure. The growing numbness in her body did not alarm her, countered as it was by his growing awareness and vitality. Her talons receded becoming normal nails once more. Her fangs slowly began their ascent, her superhuman strength ebbing with his continued feeding.

Death was not so terrible. She no longer feared it. Had he allowed it, she would have embraced him and the end his determined feeding would assuredly bring. But, he did not remove his hands from her wrists and she had to lie on the floor prone and unresponsive beneath him.

She closed her eyes, awaiting death.

A sound, a movement, and a scream broke the trance. His heady pleasure could not control her for a precious moment. She realized she didn’t want to die, not like this. Not at his hands. Luckily, the same things that had broken the death spell had snared his attention.

Capitalizing on his distraction, she gathered what pitiful strength she could and tossed him off her. He didn’t go far.

She scrambled away from him like a crab scurrying across the sand.

He glared but did not make a move to recapture her. His
attention focused instead on the screaming woman in the center of the bed. Her bright hair fell like a wave over her shoulders. She was clutching the soft material of her skirt and staring wide-eyed down at the two of them on the


Her blue eyes fell on his blood covered face, the gleaming fangs, and taloned hands. Her screaming became even more panicked, the volume increasing in painful decibels.

“Quiet,” he thundered. His eyes were intent on the woman’s face, attempting to draw her into a hypnotic spell.

Elizabeth's fingers touched the wound at her neck, her body trembling with weakness. Yet, for every second he attempted to reclaim his future concubine, her power
replenished. She willed her flesh to heal. The blood flowed less and less as the seconds passed. Hours would have seen her completely healed. Minutes, which is all she had, would see her strong enough to attempt another defense.

“Enough,” he commanded the woman, who continued to scream. She was too frantic, her gaze skipping between the two of them, to be properly snared by his efforts.

Springing like a cat, suddenly determined to thwart him in whatever way possible, Elizabeth lunged at the woman. In a blur of motion she drew the hysterical female against her chest, smiled in smug pleasure, and used a talon to slice the beautiful neck from ear to ear. Yet, one swipe was not enough. As he sprang toward her, comprehension of her intent evident on his face, she succeeded in decapitating the woman.

Blood covered her, the victim, and the bed. The silence in the wake of the woman’s screams was crushing. His own cry of denial and fury pierced her. She laughed, delighted by his anger. Fury, white-hot and uncontrollable, filled her
mind, body and soul. Her laughter sounded demonic even to her own ears, which only made her laugh all the more.

Knowing she was on the brink of insanity, she tossed the woman’s head away from her. Blood and gore turned the gloriously blond tresses pink.

“Damn you,” he thundered, striking her.

She struck back. Once, twice, three times. Surprising herself, as well as him. She had never considered the possibility of attack. He was her Master. The bond between them demanded better of her. Yet, her fury burned through his hold on her. Attacking him seemed foolhardy but no longer unconceivable.

She leapt from the bed, raced across the room, picked up a chair and swung. It crashed into his skull, knocking him sideways but not down. Had she been a second slower, he would have had her once again in his power. She didn’t stop to breath a sigh of relief for the fight was far from over. Instead, she picked up the table and caught him in the side. He stumbled but did not fall. She swung again and again, a blur of motion. When he fell, she tore through the door, leaving it hanging from one stubborn hinge.

She ran, calling on the last reserves of her strength. She maintained her fury, betting that it had prevented him from using the psychic link to control her during the last few minutes.

He was close. If she didn’t find a large group of people soon, she knew he would once again have her under his control.

Frantic, she searched, her ears straining for any indication of a gathering. Certainly New Orleans was not
asleep, not even at this hour. Somewhere there were people awake. She just had to find them in order to take advantage of the safety their numbers would provide. He wouldn't kill her in the open, not with risking himself.

Voices. She changed direction. Safety was only a street or two away. Surely she could make it?

She had made it. The tavern had been half-full of drunken men. Her bloody clothes had made her story seem plausible and she had soon found herself surrounded by a group of boastful, belligerent protectors. Her master had walked into the bar, taken one look, and accurately read the situation. She would be going nowhere she didn’t want to go, not even if he claimed to be her husband. He had stayed until the threat of daylight made it impossible for him to remain. However, his last look had promised her due punishment.