Tuesday, July 21, 2015

One Night with the Golden Goddess Excerpt

A SEAL turned paranormal investigator, a skeptical archeologist and a naughty fertility goddess, what could possibly go wrong?

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Chapter 1

“It’s called a spirit box.” The gruff male voice came from behind her. “And you’re holding it wrong.”
Daniela Reyes gasped as the tall, dark-haired man with the buzz cut and arm tattoo pulled the black voice recorder out of her hand and turned it. The screen lighted up and loud beep rang out.
“Thanks,” she said, but he’d already walked away, and all she could see was his muscled back, encased in a tight black t-shirt with the words “Banshee Creek Paranormal Research Institute” printed on its back The man wasn’t just tall, he was huge, and every single ounce of him was muscle. He didn’t seem to be very friendly though. Well, at least Mr. You’re-Holding-Your-Spirit-Box-Wrong had a nice butt, and she had a clear view of it as he walked through the circular driveway toward the Tuscan-style mansion.
And she was grateful for the human eye candy because the house was a true eyesore.. If Alexis Carrington had built herself an Italian vineyard in Virginia, this is what it would have looked like. Mansion was probably not the right word. The thing was a freaking palace – a gaudy, straight-from-the-eighties – monstrosity smack in the middle of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The slanting afternoon sun hit her eyes and she raised her hand to block the brightness. It was a beautiful spring day, unseasonably warm and sunny. The trees were still bare, but a couple of bulbs were coming out, the bright purple flowers clashing with the house’s orange walls. What the hell was she doing here, surrounded by black-clad men unloading SUVs and motorcycles and lugging boxes and equipment and whatnot?
She was an archeologist, not a ghost hunter or paranormal investigator, or whatever these weird people called themselves. She was heading to Peru to start a new job as the caretaker of her very own Inca pyramid. Okay, so it was a very small pyramid and it was mostly rubble, but still, it was an honest-to-goodness archeological job, and those were hard to find. And her pyramid might resemble a couple of rock piles on top of a hill, but it was far more attractive than this…monstrosity.
 “Isn’t it awesome?” A cheerful voice interrupted her thoughts.
She turned to greet Cassie, her friend and colleague. As usual, her friend’s hair was a bright shade of blue with matching polish on her fingernails. Like Daniela and the rest of the team, she was wearing jeans and a black t-shirt with the Paranormal Research Institute inscription. Looking at her, you would never guess that she was an adjunct professor of Folklore & Mythology at the College of William & Mary.
“Did the gleaming marble strike you blind?” Daniela asked. “This place is butt-ugly.”
Cassie glanced at the guy who had corrected Daniela’s spirit box technique. “Oh, I wouldn’t call that ugly.”
She blushed. Had her friend caught her staring?  Judging by the twinkle in her eye, the answer was yes.
“I see they got you a t-shirt. You look like a real ghost hunter now.”
Daniela rolled her eyes. “Yep, I’m living the dream now.”
She immediately regretted the words. Cassie took her paranormal investigator gigs very seriously. True, she said that it was a way to research modern folktales and urban myths, but, still, she was pretty hard core.
But her friend didn’t seem offended. She laughed and grabbed her hand. “Don’t worry. You’re not the only skeptic we’ve had. We’ll turn you around. Give us a couple of hours and we’ll have you compulsively replaying EVPs in no time at all.”
She stared at her friend in confusion. “Eeviewhatsits?”
Cassie pointed at the black box in Gabby’s hand. “‘Electronic Voice Phenomena,’ also known as ghost voices. That’s what the spirit box records.”
Daniela stared at the apparatus doubtfully. “It looks like a mutant Geiger counter.”
“Shhhh.” Cassie glanced sideways at the guy with the tattoo. “Don’t let Marcus hear you say that. He’s an ex-SEAL so he doesn’t have a sense of humor.”
“Are you serious?” Daniela looked back at Marcus’ retreating figure. Yep, he was big enough, and built enough to be a SEAL. Yikes.  “What are you guys planning to do, invade the Otherworld?”
Cassie laughed. “Hey, everyone needs a hobby. Marcus handles all of our technical stuff and he takes his equipment very seriously.”
“He’s serous about ghost-talking equipment?”
Cassie rolled her eyes. “Like you wouldn’t believe. He built this huge thing that measures electromagnetic force. He calls it a ‘ghost box’ and it has a gazillion sensors and flashing lights.” She nodded toward the spirit box. “It’s ten times as big at this thing and super high tech.”
“I bet.” Her tone was sarcastic, but she couldn’t help being intrigued by Cassie’s equipment honcho.
Sure the world had a lot of hot guys with perfect bodies and piercing blue eyes. Sure, many of those guys had military backgrounds. A few of them were bound to be good with mechanical things.
But how many of them chose to tattoo Huma, the Bird of Paradise of Persian mythology, on their skin?
Not that many.
Marcus turned, as if sensing that he was the subject of their conversation, and glared at them.
Crap, he was good-looking, with cheekbones that could cut stone and lips that would be eminently kissable if they weren’t drawn into a tight, disapproving line.
“I don’t think he likes me,” she whispered to her friend.
Cassie pushed a sky-colored curl behind her ear. “Oh, that’s just Marcus. He doesn’t like anyone.” She grabbed Gabby’s arm. “C’mon, let me show you around.”
Cassie dragged her toward the house. They passed an oval-shaped fountain surrounded by frolicking statues. There were nubile nymphs, wild maenads and, yes, anatomically-correct  satyrs. As an archeologist, the cheap marble imitations made her heart hurt. 
One of the statues, however, did not look like a budget replica. It was a rotund female figure, stuck in a niche at the front of the fountain. The figure was made of terra-cotta, with exaggerated female attributes. How bizarre. It almost looked like a genuine Etruscan Venus.
“What are we doing here?” she asked Cassie as they climbed the orange marble steps. At least the architects got the entrance to the house right. The tall columns and generous steps gave the house the feel of an ancient temple.
Too bad the columns were painted sparkling gold.
Cassie turned and stood, framed against two imposing marble columns. “We’re filming our first broadcast. We’ve done paranormal investigations before.  We’ve even filmed some of them, but this is the first one we’re going to broadcast. It’s also our biggest one to date. Everyone’s very excited.”
Daniela looked at the freshly painted entrance with its gleaming wood door, bright gold hardware and intricate iron woodwork. The house decor wasn’t to her taste, but it all looked expensive and well-maintained. “Are you sure we’re in the right place, Cass? This doesn’t look like a haunted house.”
Cassie laughed. “I know. The people who bought it in the 80s did a complete remodel and subsequent owners have all subscribed to the Caesar’s Palace school of decorating. But, the house is actually quite old. It was built in the 1920s and if you look closely, you can see traces of the original building.” She leaned against one of the columns. “These gold bad boys weren’t here and the house was a very elegant, Mediterranean-style manor with white stucco and a red tile roof. Some of the original details are still here. Like this one.”
She pointed to an intricate mosaic on the floor.
Daniela looked down. Cassie was right, the mosaic looked much older than the surrounding orange marble. It was made of white and black squares in a simple, but vaguely familiar pattern. Its stark beauty looked distinctly out of place amid the garish orange and gold of the portico.
“The remodelers kept this?” She inspected the delicate symbol carefully. She’d seen this before, but where?
“It looks strange, doesn’t it?” Cassie replied. “They had to keep it. They didn’t dare take it out.”
Intrigued, she knelt to get a closer look. The white stones of the background were old and worn, and a few were cracked or missing, but the black stones that made the design were unblemished. The artist chose the strongest stones for the symbol. He, or she, wanted it to last, to resist the passing of time.  Daniela focused on the design.  It looked like two intertwined triangles with bent sides. She frowned. She knew this symbol, she just didn’t remember the name. It was on the tip of her tongue.
“There are too many lines,” she said, trying to figure it out. Maybe it was upside down?
Cassie nodded. “Usually it’s just two triangles, but here they drew it with only one line. I’m told that the standard design is meant to keep…” she frowned, as if searching for the right word, “Things out.”
“What do you mean?“
Cassie waved her hand. “You know, supernatural stuff. Usually people try to keep them out. This mosaic, however, does the opposite.”
A sudden breeze made Daniela shiver. What did Cassie mean? She traced the outline of the figure with her finger, ignoring the bent sides. Was it a star?
She froze. Oh, she knew the design all right.
“It’s a…” But she still couldn’t quite remember the word.
A shadow fell over the mosaic and she turned to face Mr. Spirit-Box-Maker himself. He towered over her, blocking out the setting sun.
“It’s a Unicursal Hexagram.” Marcus’ tone was matter of fact, as if you could order one online. “Be careful with it. The house has had several owners, and they’ve all gone through a lot of trouble to keep that mosaic intact.”
He paused, brow raised.

“No one wants the demon to get out.”

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1 comment:

  1. How do I download the novelette after I subscribe and confirm my subscription to your newsletter?