What follows is the original prologue written for Deadly Storm. I am currently debating changing it as the story has changed…
Candles flickered and spat, casting shadows on the dark wood walls, figures that danced and capered madly to a tune only they could hear. The scent of vanilla and blood hung heavy in the air, mixed with pipe tobacco from the old clay pipe that Gwyndorf kept clenched between his teeth.
Gwyndorf. It was a silly name, like something out of a fantasy movie, yet it fit him like a glove. He was tall and thin, with ragged white hair that hung over his shoulders and a beard that any mall Santa would have envied for its color and thick, bushy splendor. He combined the look with an old grey robe over drawstring pants, a silken shirt and knee boots so cracked and worn they could have belonged to the Grey Wizard himself. He sucked his pipe and exhaled a cloud of smoke so thick it was almost fog.
Raven Storm glared at him. “Are you going to help or not?”
She was sweating beneath her black leather pants and red sweater, and it was making her irritable. They’d been at this for hours, a game of cat and mouse, back and forth. The discussion had stretched so long Levac had gone for coffee and never returned. He’d said (via text) he would get the blow by blow later.
Gwyndorf looked back at the budget lying on the counter between them. “Your estimate for the photographer is quite low, Fürstin Storm. And the price for the cake? Outrageous!”
“Look, Gwyndorf, it’s a damn photographer. Everyone there will have a camera phone capable of taking amazing photos. Why should I pay some bozo five gees to point a camera and say ‘smile!'” Raven snapped.
Gwyndorf sighed. “Because that is the way it is done. Your mother has agreed for a full wedding package, what is the problem?”
Raven leaned forward and tapped the budget with her finger. “This is our wedding, mine and Aspen’s, we’ll do it our way with our budget and without mom’s interference. Can we at least get journalistic style photos? I’m not a model, I don’t need to be posed. I want to remember the wedding, not feeling like I’m doing some bizarre Playboy lesbian issue.”
Gwyndorf nodded. “Of course, that can be arranged. Now, about the dresses, your mother chose−”
“I don’t care what Mother chose, I’m not getting married in Court formalwear. Aspen and I decided on something more Fae, to honor her side of the family,” Raven said.
Gwyndorf harrumphed. “Unusual, Fae are−”
Raven arched an eyebrow in warning. “Didn’t you hear me? My fiancée is Fae.”
“−Beautiful people with an amazing fashion sense,” Gwyndorf finished lamely.
Raven’s next comment was cut off by the angry chirp from her phone. She held up a finger to silence Gwyndorf and answered the call.
“Storm, what’s up, Silver?”
“A fresh case,” Silver replied. “You and Rupert have a weird one waiting for you, the scene is still untouched.”
Raven cursed under her breath. “I thought Sable and McShea were next in line. I’m working on wedding plans and I’ve got the planner right where I want him.”
“Sorry, Ray, Sable picked up a case in New York, she and McShea are already on a red-eye. You’re up and its in your neck of the woods,” Silver replied.
“Alright, I’m on it. Can you call Asp and−”
There was a smile in Silver’s voice. “Already called her, Ray, don’t be such a control freak.”
Raven smiled. “Can’t change who I am, Sil. Text me the details, Rupe and I are on it.”
She ended the call and looked back at Gwyndorf. “Sign it!”
Gwyndorf sighed. “As you wish, Fürstin. The Mistress will not be happy.”
Raven slid into her coat and adjusted the holster beneath her left arm. “It isn’t her wedding, I don’t care if she’s happy.”
Gwyndorf sobered. “How is she, Ravenel?”
Raven paused, hand on the door knob. “She’s hanging in. Thad and Selena are helping her with duties but we still haven’t found the Magus responsible.”
“Has she decided on a successor? If one is not named there will be chaos, the Renegades will try to force a challenge,” Gwyndorf said.
“They will try to force a challenge anyway. Mother is announcing her choice at the next Court session,” Raven said. “Let me know if Christian is good with the Fae designs. He isn’t the only tinker who wants to dress the Court’s first lesbian Fürstin couple.”
“As you wish. Good luck, Fürstin.”
Raven stepped out into the night. It was snowing outside, in blankets of white so thick they muffled sounds and hushed the city. It was almost as if the apocalypse had come and there was no one left but her. It was an odd sensation, one that made her crave human contact and the comfort of a crowd. Ever since she’d come out of the freezer four weeks ago, she’d been that way. She hated being alone, hated the cold even more. She could feel the chill down to her soul and felt so incredibly lonely she thought she might die.
She hadn’t told anyone but the Bureau counselor about her feelings. He’d chalked it up to mild PTSD and scheduled her for regular sessions she’d skipped three weeks in a row. Exploring her emotions wasn’t helping and she had no idea what would.
“Hey, partner, I hear we’ve got a weird one to tackle, you ready?”
Raven turned to Levac, who had just exited the nearby Donut Vault with two steaming cups and a sack that was already oozing jelly. She forced a smile and reached for the coffee.
“You spill that jelly, you’re walking back to the office.”
Levac licked what smelled like raspberry jelly off his wrist. “Not to worry, boss, I’ll sacrifice my coat to protect the upholstery.”
Raven laughed and climbed behind the wheel of her new Jaguar SUV. She didn’t like it much, but the winter had been so bad that four wheel drive was a must to get from the city to the Manor without wrapping the Shelby around a tree. She would suffer with the Jag to save her real ride. She’d already lost two, thanks to Renegade vamps and crazy humans.
She pressed the starter and accelerated away from the curb. The snow parted around them, a swirl of white against the darkness and twinkling holiday lights that decorated the street lamps and storefronts they passed. The holiday scene did nothing to warm Raven, who felt cold inside.
“Dark is coming,” Levac said.
Raven felt a chill race up her neck beneath her crimson hair and she glanced at him in surprise. He caught her look and smiled. “The Christmas lights will look nice against the storm.”
She looked back at the road. “Yeah. Won’t that be nice.”