Monday, November 10, 2014

Guest Post: Allie Burke Author of Paper Souls

When I started down this bumpy road of self publishing, Allie Burke was one of the first authors I met in a Facebook group filled with incredibly supportive indie writers. Recently, I read Allie's latest book, Paper Souls, and I was blown away. Having worked in the field of psychology for more years than I care to share, this story about a young woman diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia was so painful for me to read, knowing how accurate it is with the ups and downs of mental illness that I've seen in my own clients, and yet it left me with such hope in the end. One of the things I love about this story is the fact that Allie was able to create a woman who struggles with mental illness, but yet she is a strong person, who runs a successful business and has a loyal support group of close friends. I am proud to say that Allie agreed to do a guest post for me. I applaud her bravery, and I'm grateful that she is willing to speak out about her own struggles to raise awareness for those with mental illness. And now...Allie Burke.

The truth about Paper Souls is that I was having such a hard time at life for so many years that I really felt as if I needed to get it all out so I would feel better. I did eventually get it all out, and it did make me feel better.

Until it didn’t.

For me, the hardest thing about Paranoid Schizophrenia—which I was diagnosed with in 2011—is the judgment. Why doesn’t that guy want to be with me? or Why did I say that? Jesus, I am such a horrible person or Oh my god, everyone hates me. I still have these issues. It’s an extreme self-confidence issue, not necessarily based on the illness itself but the experiences I’ve had while also dealing with the illness. My doctor, who is not your ‘typical psychiatrist’, once told me that it can be compared to the three pigs and the wolf story. The three pigs are having a grand old time in the woods and the wolf comes after them, so they run to safety into their home. They slam the door behind them and they are okay. They are all standing against the wall, breathing heavily, exclaiming how the wolf almost got them and they could have died. An hour later, two of the pigs are on the couch relaxing, but the remaining pig is still against the wall, gasping for air, saying over and over, “he could have killed me.” Six hours later, two of the pigs are sleeping, and the remaining pig is still against the wall, gasping for air, saying over and over, “he could have killed me.”

That self-conscious pig is me, the girl with Schizophrenia. When I say something that upsets someone, or do something that was the wrong thing to do, I can’t let it go. I analyze the situation over and over, turning it around in my head, thinking how I could have handled the situation better or why life is so hard or why people don’t understand what I meant or why I did what I did. It is how I learned never to act on anything when I’m upset or in the heat of the moment, because it has always gotten me into trouble. When any little thing happens to someone with Schizophrenia that is not the best thing that has ever happened, it is the end of the world. If someone reacts to something I do in a negative way, I truly feel as if everyone hates me and there is no remaining reason for me to exist. The number of times the idea of suicide has crossed my brain is insurmountable. But this is not a trait of only those with Schizophrenia, it is a trait of Bipolar Disorder, of Depression, Anxiety, of Autism. Pretty much every mental illness that ever existed ever. And I think that’s why those of us with a mental illness are so quick to take the medication that is given to us by doctors. Because they numb the problem. Anti-psychotics, which are given to people with Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder, numb everything. They cross the blood-brain-barrier to literally numb your mental (and physical) existence to promote sleep for as long as you are on it. As with every drug there are side effects—you cannot sweat, you cannot see, you cannot concentrate—and you really just want to sleep. When you’re on it, nothing—such as a reaction to a mistake that you think you made—can touch you. The same goes for anxiety medication, which doubles as an anti-depressant. It numbs the effects of your problems. It does not solve them. Medication combined with therapy and probably a thousand life changes can solve your problems, with an end-game of getting off the medication, but taking a pill every day does not solve your issue. The woman who raised two autistic children who spends her time helping other children with this illness—that can solve your issue. Personally, I wished I never took the medication that was prescribed to me (which happened to be anti-psychotics AND anti-depressants) because 1. it was that much harder to get off of them and 2. the ideal that I can just take the medication and everything will be better will always be in the back of my mind.
To date, more than three years after I was diagnosed, went through a divorce, changed jobs and my place of residence, I continue to be very affected by my illness and the symptoms that it causes. I haven’t mentioned the hallucinations because really, that’s such a small thing to me. Something I can easily deal with. It is the mental turmoil one puts themselves through by thinking they are an alien and that everyone hates them that is so hard. Like everyone else, I have good days and bad days—my good days just happen to be really good and my bad days, really bad. That’s how it was for Emily and that’s how it is for a lot of people affected by this illness, I think. And that really is the point of Paper Souls. To bring up awareness that people in general can be bad people, not just people with problems. And vice versa. People with problems can be good. Or they can try really hard to be.

Schizophrenia is a thing that is hard, but life in general, can be hard. If we choose not to be defined by things such as Schizophrenia, we can make it. My definition of making it might just be different than yours.

Author Bio
An American novelist, book critic, and magazine editor from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a “kickass book that defies the genre it’s in”, Allie writes with a prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal. 

Her life is a beautiful disaster, flowered with the harrowing existence of inherited eccentricity, a murderous family history, a faithful literature addiction, and the intricate darkness of true love. These are the enchanting experiences that inspire Allie’s fairytales. 

From some coffee shop in Los Angeles, she is working on her next novel.
Visit Allie at

Check out Paper Souls

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Cover Reveal: Eggnog Kisses by Mireille Chester

Eggnog Kisses

Christmas in Quelondain

It’s been six months since Kaley’s fiancĂ© called things off, disappearing with barely an explanation, and the thought of spending Christmas alone is causing feelings of hurt and loneliness to ruin her holiday cheer.  Tall, dark, quiet, and ever the gentleman, her next door neighbor has been sneaking into her thoughts more often than not lately.  When she decides to ask him to go to a Christmas party on a spur of the moment whim, she has no idea she’s about to unleash a whole new dimension on her usually normal life. 

Born in Quelondain, Sean is no stranger to a broken heart.  Though it’s been years since the one he loved fated to his best friend, the ache is still present and crossing over to the other world hasn’t helped like he’d hoped it would.  When Kaley asks him to accompany her to a Christmas party his gut tells him to stay away.  It’s not that he isn’t attracted or tempted, but how is he supposed to explain his past and what he is.  Of course, it’s just one evening, right?  What could possibly happen in one night?

Two broken hearts…

Two worlds…

One fate…


She managed to get into her apartment while keeping a curious JJ from escaping.  The fluffy white cat purred and rubbed himself against her ankles.

“Hey, bud.  Did you miss me?”  Kaley went to the cupboard and pulled out a few Whiskas treats for him.  She looked around her small apartment and suddenly, she didn’t want to be there alone.  “I’ll be right back.”

She didn’t bother putting on shoes before closing her door behind her.  Sean answered his door and smiled at the sight of her.

“What can I do for you, neighbor?”

“I…”  This was stupid. 

 “So, what brings you over here?”

“I just…”  Kaley’s good mood vanished.

His smile softened.  “First Christmas since Gale left?”

She took a deep breath and blew it out of her nose.  “It’s stupid, I know.”

Sean shook his head.  “Not at all.  I know the feeling.  I wasn’t engaged, mind you, but my first holiday after my girlfriend left I was a wreck.  We’d been together four years.”

“I’m sorry.”  She looked at the ground.  “What happened?”

He cocked his head to the side.  “I was just about to have a rum and eggnog.  Want one?”

She was tempted to turn him down, but curiosity got the better of her.  “Sure.”

He held the door opened wider so she could get in and directed her to the couch.  “It was your typical breakup.  We were young and life had other plans for us.”

She watched as he mixed the drinks and brought them over.  “Thanks.”  She took a sip and he took a long swallow of his drink.  “Anyway, it wrecked me when she left.”

“What did you do?”

“I moved here.”  He smiled.

Kaley frowned.  “That worked?  It helped?”

“Not even a little bit.  The only thing that helps is time.”

She couldn’t help the depressed look that took over her face.  “Five years, eh?”

Sean laughed.  “It’s been that long, but it didn’t take that long.  I’ve had a few other girlfriends since, I just haven’t found anyone else I want to settle down with, that’s all.”  He raised an eyebrow at her glass.  “Want another one?”


“So where’s your party at tonight?”

“Mel’s boss is throwing a bash for their office. He rented the Rex Hall.”


Kaley noticed him glancing at the clock on the wall.  “Do you have something to do?”  She turned toward the door as someone unlocked it from the outside and he stood.

“Sean!”  The dark haired woman dropped her duffle bag and ran into his open arms.  Kaley watched dumbfounded as he hugged her close.  He had a girlfriend.

“I was getting worried.”  He took her coat from her and hung it up.

“My bus was delayed.  There was a crash on the highway and we got caught behind all the traffic.  I don’t think it was too bad.  I mean, there were ambulances and stuff, but the cars looked to be in not bad shape when we were finally able to go by.”

“And you didn’t think to phone?”

She shrugged.  “Ooh! Are you having rum and eggnog without me?”  The woman finally turned her attention to Kaley.  “Since Sean has zero manners, I’m Reese, by the way.”

“Um, Kaley.”

“Let me guess.  He didn’t tell you I was coming?”  She took the drink Sean handed her and settled on the cough beside Kaley.  “And he says I’m forgetful.  You’re getting old, big brother.”

He scoffed.  “And you get more immature the more years you put behind you.”

“Mom’s going to flip when she hears you finally have a girlfriend.  It’s about time you got over that stupid bitch.”


“Well, what?  By the moons, she was.  None of us could figure out what you saw in her.”

“You were sixteen when we split.  Don’t tell me you gave a shit.”

Reese pounded back her drink.  “Of course I cared.  How many big brothers do I have?”

Sean rolled his eyes.  “Four.”

“Right.  But you were always my favorite.”  She skipped back to her knee high leather boots, slipped them on, and shrugged on her coat.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m meeting Heather.”  She gave him a peck on the cheek.  “I have my key.  Don’t wait up.”

“Just remember I’m leaving at eight tomorrow morning.  With or without you.”

“Yeah, yeah.”  Reese grinned.  “I missed you.”

“I missed you too.  Brat.”

She closed the door with a wave at Kaley.

“She’s, uh… she’s one of those high energy people.”  Sean smiled and went to refill their drinks.

“No kidding.  I had no idea you had a sister.  Or three brothers for that matter.”

“What about you?”

Kaley shook her head.  “Only child.  Your mom and dad?”

“Both alive and running the farm.  You?”

“My parents died when I was fifteen.  Drunk driver.  I went to live with Mel and her folks.”

“But you don’t do Christmas with them?”

“They’re not around since they retired.  Mel gets on a flight tomorrow to join them in Mexico tomorrow morning.  They invite me every year, I just… Christmas needs snow.  You know?”

He grinned.  “I agree.”

Kaley found her gaze moving to his mouth.  He had a great smile.  Had they really been living next to each other for almost six years?  How had she never noticed? 


“Nothing.  I was just thinking that I can’t believe we’ve been neighbors all this time and we know nothing about each other.”

His smile softened.  “Yeah.  I guess that’s life.  Everyone’s too busy.”

She looked at her watch.  “Shit.  I have to go get ready.”

Sean stood and walked her to the door.

“So, you’re just home alone tonight?”  She looked up into his dark green eyes.

“Seems like it.”

“I was just thinking… Mel is bringing a date tonight and I’m going to be the third wheel.  Want to come along?”

“I don’t think…”

“Come on.  I’ll owe you one.  There’s this guy that works there that always gets drunk and hits on me.  You can pretend to be my boyfriend.”  Sweet mother of fuck.  Had she actually just suggested this?  She was thirty four years old for shit’s sakes.  Her face turned a deep shade of red.  “Sorry.  That’s so highschool.  I’m just going to leave before I make myself sound any more stupid.  Thanks for the drinks.”

Kaley rushed out of his apartment and back into hers.  Good god!  How many eggnogs had she had?


For more information on Mireille Chester and her books go to

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Fun with Michael Shinafelt!

It's time for one of my favorite annual traditions. Fellow horror fan Michael Shinafelt invited me for a fun Halloween interview on his blog a few years ago, and since then, we have been having a great time grilling each other every October. You can read his interview with me HERE.

1. I know I'm stealing your question here, but I have to know...what kind of freak would you be?
Lobster Boy could be fun, if you get my drift... 

2. Would you rather walk around in a graveyard after midnight, or spend the night in a haunted house?
Oh, walk around in a graveyard all the way!!! Have you ever seen the devil dance in the pale moonlight? Come see me in the graveyard after midnight sometime.

3. Are you a trick or treat kind of person?
Oh, that's easy...Tricks!!! Any kind, anywhere, anytime, Boo-Yah!

4. If you could do a remake of any horror movie and play the monster, which one would you choose and who would be your supporting cast?
I would want to be the character of Miriam Blaylock in The Hunger. Obviously they would have to give the character a sex change in the re-make as I don't do drag. But I would love to be sexy, evil and drink lots of blood. Then I would have to have two lovers one of each sex so that would be basically who would I want to make out and get naked with. I choose Rosario Dawson & Gerard Butler as my paramours. (M.E. - Good call!)

5. Who gets your vote for the worst job in a horror movie?
a. The babysitter
b. Local law enforcement
c. Horny teen lovers
d. Chick who falls
e. Priest
Horny teens, my suspicion is The Vatican finances horror movies to promote abstinence. (M.E. - You could be onto something.)

6. In the next big horror flick to be filmed, you can choose your role...good guy or monster?
That's a no brainer, the monster, c'mon you knew that answer when you asked the question. (M.E. - True, I did know the answer to this one. Heehee)

7. Favorite snack/drink when you're watching a horror movie marathon?
A nice Cabernet Sauvignon and jalapeno popcorn.

8. We're both fans of American Horror Story, which season would you least like to be stuck in? (Mine is The Asylum, although Freak Show is gaining ground).
Freak Show is gaining ground, but I would have to concur with you on Asylum. Coven would be a close second as it was just too silly and campy for my tastes. All that lame dialogue and lack of continuity would make Michael a very dull boy. (M.E. - That clown is just wrong.)

9. I love to read your interviews. If you could interview anyone in the horror industry, who would it be?

Paging Jamie Lee Curtis! My favorite horror movie of all time is Halloween and Jamie Lee held the Scream Queen tierra in the 80's for a spell with other horror opuses such as Prom Night & Terror Train. Hey Jamie Lee if you are reading this contact me. (M.E. - YES!)


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Short Story - Under His Wing Pt. 2

Here is part two of my short story about gargoyles, Under His Wing. For part one, click HERE.

          The days turned into weeks, and Callie was sitting on her balcony, watching the changing leaves float slowly to the soft ground. As much as she hated it, she was going to have to give some thought into leaving her little fortress. The air was crisp and she pulled her sweater a little tighter around her shoulders. Long ago, she had moved the bistro table over to Roman's side of the balcony. It was completely ridiculous, but she felt better with him standing guard on her balcony.
          Maybe she was finally losing her mind. All this time on the run had taken its toll, and had her resorting to talking to stone statues. In her defense, Roman was the perfect listener. He never interrupted. He let her scream, cry, pound on his chest, and curse the world without a single complaint. He patiently listened as she told him about her history with David. How he had become controlling and abusive not long after they were married. Callie told Roman how she had made plans to run away after he had threatened to kill her the first time. Once free of him, she thought David wouldn't bother looking for her. Callie figured he would just move on and find a new woman to torture. She figured wrong.
          The first time he found her, David beat her so badly, she wound up in the hospital. Callie left there in the middle of the night, as soon as she was able to move. Telling the nurses she needed to stretch her legs a bit, Callie took some dirty scrubs from a laundry bin and changed in the bathroom, keeping her head down and walking out into the dark parking lot. David had taken her clothes, so she went to the 24 hour gym where she kept an "emergency bag." She stayed in a cheap motel until she was well enough to travel. That's when Callie realized that she would never be free. David would never accept the fact that she had left him, and he wouldn't rest until one of them was dead.  
          Roman listened without judging, his stone jaw unmoving in the moonlight. Callie liked to imagine that Roman hated David, especially after she'd had too much wine and her mind began to wander. She would caress Roman's wings and share all her hopes and dreams with him. How she wanted her life to be instead of the nightmare she was living in. How she loved books, and had hoped to use the inheritance her parents left her to open her own book store. Sometimes Callie took out a few of the books she had been able to keep with her and would read to Roman, pretending he liked the sound of her voice.
          "Well, my dear, the wine is all gone, I guess that means it's time to hit the sack. Goodnight Roman."
          Callie closed the book she had been reading and took her legs out of the spot she liked to rest them in the curve of Roman's wing. Leaving her wine glass and the empty bottle on the table, she stumbled into her room. Callie stopped as a sound in the kitchen had her sobered up and on high alert. Eyes darting back and forth, she tried to remember if she'd locked the back door in the kitchen. Surely she wouldn't have been so careless. With the false sense of security that had begun to take over her mind these last few months, Callie had to admit that she may not have locked all the doors and windows downstairs.
          Creeping over to the closet, she pulled out her aluminum baseball bat and made her way silently downstairs. Thankfully, the lights were off, so he wouldn't be able to see her easily. Unfortunately, she wouldn't be able to see him well either. Callie waited until her eyes adjusted before she left the shelter of the stairway and headed towards the kitchen. On her way through, she also grabbed a knife out of the wooden block on the counter next to the gas stove. Every nerve cell in her body was screaming out as she fought to control her breathing, which sounded like a runaway locomotive in her ears. She couldn't give away her location.
          A loud sound to her left made Callie yelp before she could stop herself. By the light of the moon, she could see the shutter that had come loose and was flapping outside the kitchen window. Callie let out a sigh of relief, realizing that was the same sound she'd heard when she was upstairs. The front and back doors were locked. It had become so much of a habit now, that she couldn't believe she had doubted herself.
          Callie still made a thorough check of the downstairs rooms for her own peace of mind before going outside to secure the shutter. Coming back in through the kitchen door, she made sure to lock it behind her. It wouldn't hurt to check all the windows too she thought. After making the rounds downstairs, she trudged back up to her room. As an afterthought, she checked all the upstairs rooms as well. Never hurt to be cautious.
          Satisfied that the house was safe, Callie jumped in the shower. The hot water felt wonderful, and she could feel her bunched muscles starting to relax. She took her time, and gave herself a chance to unwind. The lights were still off in her room when she left the bathroom. Callie threw on some sweat pants and an oversized t-shirt, before going out on the balcony to tell Roman goodnight.
          "Everything's ok, Roman," she told the stony face as she cupped his cheek and ran her thumb over his lower lip as she often did.
          "Seriously?" She suddenly dropped her hands and ran them through her wet hair. "I'm officially losing my mind. It's like that Tom Hanks movie where he's stranded on an island , and he talks to a ball he calls Wilson. I guess you're my Wilson, Roman."
          Callie patted his chest and turned back towards the French doors, silently reminding herself, yet again, that she needed to cut back on the wine.
          "Good night Roman," she whispered.
          "Who the fuck is Roman?"
          Callie knew that voice all too well. She fought to keep the nausea in check as her body shook with the sudden chill of terror that overwhelmed her.
          "No one, David."
          "Don't lie to me, bitch."
          She didn't need to have the lights on to know what his face looked like. The handsome features would be  twisted with a sick rage that he kept well hidden from everyone. She was the only one alive who knew the monster he kept trapped inside that beautiful cage.
          "I'm not lying. It's the nickname I've given to the gargoyle statue on the balcony. You can check yourself if you don't believe me. He reminds me of the ones we saw in Rome on our honeymoon," she said, hoping to pacify him.
          Callie could see him moving out of the corner of her eye. David took a step out onto the balcony.
          "Well, what do you know?" he said, sounding surprised.
          This was her only chance. With David distracted by the gargoyle statue, Callie made a run for her baseball bat that she had left beside the door when she came upstairs. As her hands wrapped around the handle, David's fingers tangled in her hair and jerked her backwards. She screamed, and Davie ripped the bat out of her hands. Even in the dark, she was close enough to see the fury burning in his brown eyes. The shadows crawling over his face made him much more frightening than Roman's stone features.
          David picked her up easily and tossed Callie onto the bed. She bounced once before he was on top of her, pinning her down. He straddled her and held her hands above her head with one of his, using the other one to slap her so hard she saw stars. Normally, Callie would try to beg and plead for mercy at this point, but it never worked. She struggled, but she was no match for him. So this was it. This was the moment she had been dreading. The moment her luck finally ran out.
          His free hand wrapped around her neck and squeezed. When that didn't work, David let go of her hands, so he could use both of his to strangle her. Callie fought for her life. She hit, scratched and punched at every part of David she could reach, but he seemed unaffected by her blows.
          She felt her eyes and tongue bulge. Lungs burning, her face felt hot while her brain and body weakened from the lack of oxygen. Callie's arms felt heavy, and she no longer had the strength to hold them up. The realization that she was actually going to die didn't bring Callie the peace she had hoped for. She didn't want to die. It wasn't fair that David would get away with killing her and go on to live his life the way he wanted to. He never had to live in fear or hide from the very person who promised to love him forever.
          As the darkness closed in, Callie still wanted to fight, but her body didn't respond. She felt light, as if David's weight had been lifted off of her.
          "Breathe Callie."
          The strange voice commanding her was deep and powerful. The words vibrated through her chest, willing her to comply. Callie sucked in a painful gulp of air that had her lungs revolting. Coughing uncontrollably, tears fell unchecked down her cheeks as she struggled to understand what was happening. Had David changed his mind? Was he going to drag out her suffering for his own sick pleasure?
          "I was afraid I was too late."
          That deep voice again. Callie opened her eyes to see the silhouette of wings and large ears against the light shining through the open balcony doors. Even with his face hidden by the shadows, Callie knew it was not David's voice or the outline of his body, but her mind refused to accept what her eyes were seeing. Maybe she really was dead, or unconscious, and her mind was seeing what she had secretly hoped for.
          "Ro...Roman?" she croaked, her voice on fire.
          He turned slightly, and she could see his full lips curl into a wicked smile. "You know, I like that name," he said softly.
          "I don't understand..." She wanted to say more, but her throat would not cooperate.
          "I am not sure I do either," he started, looking out into the night. "This place is strange to me. I do not remember how I came be here. When you touched me that first night, I was..." he paused as if searching for the right words, "awakened."
          "Heard me? All this time?" she asked, keeping her words to a minimum to save her raging throat.
          Roman smiled at her, cupping her cheek and running his thumb along her lower lip as she had often done to him.
          "Every word."
          "Awkward," she rasped.
          He chuckled. "Not at all. I love the sound of your voice."
          Roman looked over his shoulder, and his smile fell away. The fierce expression on his face caused Callie to flinch. He immediately smiled again to calm her.
          "Callie," he said in soothing tones, "you will never have to live in fear again. This I swear to you. When I heard you scream, I fought to free myself from the bindings of the stone. I feared I would be too late, and I almost was..." he trailed off, looking lost.
          "But you weren't." She wanted to say more, but her voice wasn't going to cooperate. Instead, she placed a shaky hand on his thigh.
          Roman pulled Callie up gently and cradled her in his arms. "No one will ever hurt you again. I promise."
          He kissed her lightly on the forehead, and settled her back onto her pillows.
          "Sleep now," he said, brushing her damp hair away from her face
          Callie's eyelids felt heavy as she watched Roman pick up her ex like a bag of trash. David's head was turned at a grotesque angle, his dead eyes empty.
          "I shall return soon to watch over you."
          Once on the balcony, Roman's wings stretched out, and Callie felt a slight breeze as she watched him carry away her pain.

          "Goodnight Roman," she sighed, slipping off to sleep.

Short Story - Under His Wing Pt. 1

When I was younger, I loved to watch Disney's animated series, Gargoyles. 

I'll have to admit that I had a crush on Goliath, but as I was writing this blog, I went back to get some pictures, and wondered what I was thinking? I thought he was more human looking, but he's blue with giant bat wings, really funky feet, big ears, a huge tail, and spike things pointing out of various parts of his body. Plus, he doesn't even have nipples. Weird. That being said, I'm still fascinated by gargoyles, and apparently, I'm not the only one. I found a lot of romance books involving gargoyles. A much improved version, but still based on the mythical creatures. Here are two of my favorite covers. 

So in keeping with my Halloween theme this month, I wrote a short story based on my love of gargoyles. I'm terrible with titles, so until I can come up with something more cleaver, the working title is Under His Wing. Due to it's size, I split it into two parts. 

         Turning the key, Callie walked into the odd castle-like house that would be her home for the next few months. The owner wasn't happy about her refusing to sign a lease, but he shut up when she paid six months in advance. Callie probably should have been a little more careful with her dwindling inheritance, since she may not be able to stay for the full six months, but she couldn't worry about that now.
          The house was a local oddity, a castle right in the heart of mid west farm country. The stone structure stuck out like a green mohawk at a formal cocktail party. Nestled amidst the quaint farmhouses and red barns, the home was built by an eccentric man who did so with love. It was painstakingly recreated from his memories of the place he visited every summer as a child in "the old country." At least, that was the story the new owner told her. For all she new, he just made it up to peak her interest.
          David wouldn't expect her to stay in a place like this, one that drew so much attention. It might take him awhile to find her here; but, in all honesty, Callie was getting tired of hiding. At some point, her luck was going to run out. Hopefully, she wouldn't have to leave too soon. This place had good feel to it. The furniture was well worn and the air was a little thick, but that was easy enough to fix. She opened the windows in the kitchen before going back out to the rental car for the groceries she had purchased in the tiny mom and pop store in town. The woman behind the counter had been so nice. She happily introduced Callie to her son, who looked to be about the same age. He was attractive in his own way, and helped her put her groceries in the trunk. He made it obvious he'd be open to seeing her again, but Callie made it clear she was just passing through. The last man she had decided to take a chance on wound up dead. The police ruled it an accident, but she knew it was David. Since then, Callie made it a point not to get close to anyone.
          She put the groceries away, made a quick sandwich, and set up the coffee maker to turn on automatically in the morning before dragging her small suitcase upstairs. She had spied the balcony from the main road that doubled as the cover for the front porch. The owner said it was connected to the master bedroom, so Callie looked forward to being able to sit out there with a glass of wine and watch the sun set. It was too late for that tonight, but she would definitely have coffee out there in the morning.
          After unpacking her meager amount of clothing, she stuffed her "emergency bag" in the closet along with her aluminum baseball bat. She had put an identical one downstairs in the kitchen pantry next to the old mop and broom.
          Exhausted, Callie put sheets on the bed and couldn't wait to crawl under the covers. A shower would be nice, but she just didn't have the energy. Moving to the French doors that lead to the balcony, she decided to open them for the fresh air. Normally, she would never dream of sleeping without the house being locked down like a prison, but the lure of the night sky was just too appealing.
          Callie silently padded out onto the balcony on bare feet. Her oversized t-shirt blowing slightly in the cool breeze. Putting her hands on the rail, she took a deep breath and smiled.
          Turning to her left, she saw a small bistro table with two chairs. She imagined herself sitting there with her coffee and a good book. It really was a shame she wouldn't be able to stay. Callie turned to the right and screamed. The figure of a man at the other end of the balcony had taken her completely by surprise. She collapsed on the floor and crab crawled backwards until she slammed into the railing. Her heart was slamming in her chest and her whole body was on fire. How could he have found her so soon? Could she make it back inside to her bat before he caught her? Not likely. She would have to use the bistro chairs as weapons, or even take a chance on jumping over the balcony.
          Before she could decide her next move, Callie noticed the large man had wings. Wings? Taking a closer look, she also saw the figure had large bat ears and claws. Callie tried to calm her hammering heart and stop her urge to run. Standing on shaky legs, she made her way to the other side of the balcony to find a huge statue of a gargoyle.
          Callie laughed hysterically as the nervous energy coursed through her body. She hugged the large stone statue and said, "Boy, am I glad to see you. I thought you were my ex-husband, but he has devil horns instead of bat ears," she giggled.
          How she had missed this monstrosity from the road, she couldn't say. The imposing figure of the gargoyle took up a full third of the outside space. The moon cast frightening shadows across the face of creature, but it didn't bother her. Resting her head on the cool stone of his chest, Callie cursed herself for letting her guard down. If it had been David, she'd be dead or wished she were.
          Heading back into the master bedroom, she shut the doors behind her, turning the lock. The thought of fresh air had lost its appeal. Moonlight streaming through all the glass in the doors, reminded her that the lock was a joke, an illusion of security. Callie shook her head. There was no way he could find her this soon. She would have a few weeks at least, maybe even a few months. But for now, she was safe. Collapsing on the large, fluffy bed, the blast of adrenaline was wearing off, taking the last vestiges of her strength with it. Callie passed out as soon as her head hit the down filled pillow.

          The next morning, Callie groaned as the sunshine bored through her eyelids. It took her a few minutes to shake off the confusion and remember where she was. She was surprised to find she felt safe for the first time in a long time. Maybe it was the fact that the place looked like a castle that could be defended by medieval knights. She sighed. There were no gallant men in armor to protect her. She had to rely on herself.
          Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, Callie got up and walked out onto her balcony. Stretching in the sunshine, she could smell the coffee brewing from the kitchen below. Taking a deep breath filled with dark roast, Callie flopped into the bistro chair, feeling more peaceful than she had in the last five years. Maybe he wouldn't find her here. Maybe this time, she would be safe. She ran her hands through her own honey blonde hair. David would never expect her to look the way he remembered her. Over the last five years, Callie had changed her appearance so often, she forgot what it felt like to look in the mirror and actually see herself staring back.
          "Good morning," she flung over her shoulder to the gargoyle as she made her way back into her room and down to the kitchen for some coffee.
          Filling up her mug, she grabbed an apple and a some peanut butter before heading upstairs and back onto the balcony. She arranged her little feast on the bistro table and stole a glance and the stony statue to her right.
          "I don't know how you haven't fallen through this balcony. You look like you weigh a ton. No offense," she chuckled.
          Callie stood up and took her coffee cup with her for a closer look at it. As gargoyles go, he wasn't as scary looking as some of the ones she'd seen on her honeymoon in Rome. That was a lifetime ago, and she shook her head, trying to erase the memories and focus on her new gargoyle friend. He was definitely big. Actually, big was a bit of an understatement. She ran a hand over his massive chest and down his well defined biceps. His stone abs rippled down, disappearing behind a small garment of sorts. The gargoyle's chiseled thighs peeked out the other side of the stone cloth, tapering down to strong calves and feet with claws like an eagle. She sighed.
          "You know, you aren't half bad looking, well, except for the claws, bat ears and wings." Callie laughed and reached up to tweak his nose. "Since we're going to be roomies, I guess I should give you a name," she paused, tapping her finger on her bottom lip.
          "I know! I'll call you Roman! Rome is the first place I ever saw real gargoyles outside of books," she paused in thought. "Yes, I like it. Roman it is," she hugged the cold stone figure and smiled appreciatively until a white spot on his wing caught her attention. Leaning over, she saw that a bird had left its mark. "Gross."
          Callie walked back over to the bistro table and grabbed her napkin. Running into her bathroom, she turned on the tap and dampened it before returning to the statue. She scrubbed the gargoyle until every bit of the bird droppings were gone.
          "There," she stood back, admiring her work. "Now you look handsome. If you're going to be seen with me, you need to look good."
          She chuckled, cupping his face and running her thumb over his full lower lip.
          "You're the perfect companion, Roman. You look good, and you know when to keep your mouth shut."
          Callie spent the rest of the day getting the house in order. It wasn't too bad really. A little dusting and vacuuming and the place looked...happy. She sunk into the couch and tried to understand her strange attraction to the castle. The owner told her that the people of the town had made numerous attempts to have it torn down once the original owner died. He had no family, and the people said it was an eyesore that should be removed from their quaint little corner of heaven. Maybe she felt as out of place here as her new home seemed to be. They were both oddities just trying to survive.

Read Part 2 HERE