Just to let everyone know, I’ve pulled Revenants Abroad off Smashwords, so that includes Kobo, and Barnes and Noble, etc (Scribd, Oyster, Flipkart). It was proving to be a dead end. I’ve chosen instead to go with Amazon’s KDP Select because I think it will provided greater visibility and will make the book available via Kindle Unlimited to those who have that. I don’t actually know how that works since I don’t have a Kindle, but I’m sure those of you who do, do. See?
Hope you like it!
Six hours of bad roads from Montreal to Tupper Lake felt like a week and a half, but neither the old house nor the solemn solitary figure standing in the driveway looked at all inviting to Anne-Marie.
“This is it. Wait here a minute while I make sure everything’s ok.” Andrej parked, opened the door and got out. He walked up to the waiting figure who shook his hand.
“I had no idea traveling could be this painful.” Anne-Marie tried to stretch her back, twisting and turning while she waited with Neko inside the car as Andrej spoke with the man. The guy was young, strikingly handsome with a square jaw and shaggy black hair, but he had a cocky belligerent air that chased away any thoughts of confederacy with him.
“What the hell is going on?”
Neko heaved a sigh. “These guys-it’s just their way. They want to be sure we’re the people they expected.”
“Who else would we be? How many people drive all the way out here? And who is that guy?”
“A pain in my ass. I’ll explain later. Come on, looks like we’ve cleared customs.”
The man had nodded and Andrej turned and motioned for them to join him. Neko hopped out first and opened Anne-Marie’s door for her, and together they walked up the driveway. Andrej put his arm around Anne-Marie’s shoulder, pulling her close.
“Jimmy, I’d like to introduce Anne-Marie. And of course you know Neko.”
Jimmy looked at Anne-Marie while he held out his hand to her. As he and Neko shook hands neither one spoke. He turned back to Andrej with a sidelong glance at Anne-Marie, making her feel more like an intruder than she already did.
“Come on inside. Gaston’s resting, he’ll be up later.”
They trudged up the muddy driveway to the wooden steps of the front porch that were nearly bare of paint.With an exaggerated swagger, Jimmy pulled the screen door open and held it, indicating for Andrej and the others to enter.
As Anne-Marie walked in he said, “Anne-Marie, is it? You don’t look like an Anne-Marie. Sounds like a nice Catholic girl kind of name.”
She stopped and looked him up and down. “Jimmy, is it? You don’t strike me as too bright, trying to pick a fight the minute we get here.”
“Listen, bitch, we don’t need you here…” he started, but in less time than it took for him to turn his head to her, Neko had him by the throat, pinned against the house, choking him.
“Don’t piss me off you little shit. I’ve been waiting to do this for a long time.”
“Neko, let him go. Now.” The command came from inside. It was woman’s voice, strong and steady.
Neko snarled and pulled his hand off Jimmy’s throat, letting him fall to the floor, gasping for air.
“You touch him again and you’re out of here, all of you.”
The woman speaking came out on the porch. Her gray hair was gathered in a loose soft bun, and old-fashioned glasses set off a stern face. It was not an unkind face, but she clearly didn’t take guff from anyone, human or vampire. Andrej stood behind her, eyebrows raised, watching Neko.
The woman kept her eyes on Neko as she said, “Jimmy, why don’t you go check on the truck? I may need to go to town later.”
Jimmy pushed himself up off the porch floor, rubbing his throat. He shot a murderous look at Neko, then walked off down the porch and around the house.
“Neko, let’s get something straight. If you want to stay here, and you want our help, you will not lay a finger for any reason on any of my people. Are we clear?”
“He should know better than to insult my friends.”
“Jimmy was out of line. I’ll talk to him. But if you touch him again you’re out of here. I can’t have you killing off my coven, if you want our help.”
Neko shook himself, trying to subdue his own rage. Anne-Marie watched him, wide-eyed. He saw her looking at him, and hung his head. “I’m sorry,” he said.
The woman turned to Anne-Marie and gave her a motherly smile. “And I’m sorry we got started off like this. I’m Sylvia. Come on in and make yourselves comfortable and I’ll get tea.”
Neko made a sour face, but waited until Sylvia was out of the room before saying, “Hope she’s got something stronger.”
Andrej put a hand on his shoulder. “I think it’s BYOB here these days.”
With a sound of disgust, Neko shook his head. “How long did you plan on staying here?”
“No longer than we have to.” He turned to Anne-Marie. “I’m sorry about that guy. If he gives you any trouble, let me know.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ve dealt with worse than him.”
Neko laughed. “That’s our girl.”
The house was decorated, if you could call it that, with a hodge-podge of mismatched furniture, all well-worn and somewhat battered. The house itself was what interested Anne-Marie most. The old farmhouse dated back to the mid-nineteenth century, and had suffered little updating over the years. Apparently repairs were carried out only when something broke or became unlivable. Even the glass in the many windows looked to be original and had become rippled with time. A large bay window in the living room looked out to the west side of the property. The woodwork and double-hung sash windows looked original.
Sylvia returned carrying a tray laden with mugs and a pot of tea.
“Neko, I don’t suppose you’d care for any,” she said, pouring tea into each of the mugs.
“Thanks, I’ll pass.”
“What are you two planning to do for food while you’re here?”
Neko looked at Andrej.
“We can take care of that, don’t worry,” Andrej said.
“You know we’re all out of bounds, right? We can’t work to protect you if we’re weakened in any way.”
Andrej nodded. “Of course, we understand. Even Anne-Marie is out of the question.”
“Unless it’s an emergency,” Anne-Marie said.
Sylvia raised one eyebrow, looking from Anne-Marie to Andrej. Andrej shook his head slightly, and Anne-Marie knew she’d made a mistake.
“Don’t worry,” Anne-Marie said, “it’s not a regular thing.”
Sylvia cleared her throat, poured a cup of tea, and passed it to Anne-Marie. “Well, whatever you decide among yourselves is your business.”
“Syl, you know me better than that,” Andrej said. He stood next to one of the windows, looking out towards the woods behind the house.
“How long have you two known each other?” Anne-Marie looked from one to the other.
“All my life,” Sylvia said. “He knew my parents before that. When I was little I even called him ‘Uncle Andy.’”
“Really?” Anne-Marie laughed. “How is it you’ve never mentioned that particular factoid?”
Andrej made a face at her.
Sylvia leaned toward Anne-Marie with a smile and said, “He’s always been very tight-lipped.”
“That’s true enough. But you have to admit lots of things have happened in my life, we’ve hardly had time to talk about everything,” Andrej said.
“That is a lot of ground to cover.” Sylvia leaned back with her tea, looking around at each of them in turn.
“So where’s Gaston?” Neko asked.
“He should be down shortly. I didn’t think you’d be so eager to see him.” Sylvia sipped her tea, looking at Neko over the rim of her cup.
“The sooner we get this straightened out the happier I think we’ll all be. Might as well get the show on the road.”
Anne-Marie’s shocked look told him he’d gone too far.
“Sorry, Sylvia. Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate what you’re doing for us, and the risk you’re taking, which is why I think the sooner we move on the better.”
“Neko, this isn’t something that’s going to be resolved quickly. I suggest you find a way to accept that you’re likely to be here for some time. Hiding you from Paimon isn’t going to be easy. But you’re right, the sooner we get started the better. And here’s Gaston now.”
A man had appeared in the doorway to the living room, He looked to be about Andrej’s age, but with thick blond hair, and large blue eyes. He was not quite as tall as Andrej, and not quite as slender.
“Andrej, it’s good to see you,” he said with a broad smile.The two met in the center of the room, shook hands, and embraced momentarily.
“Gaston, you’re looking well. Let me introduce Anne-Marie.”
“I’m delighted to make your acquaintance,” Gaston said with a bow,and taking Anne-Marie’s hand he placed a kiss on the back of it. As he stood again he looked past Anne-Marie and saw Neko leaning against the fireplace mantel. With a wink at Anne-Marie he said, “Neko,what a pleasure to see you again.”