Chelsea Childling: Newbie Monster Hunter

So for almost two years, I’ve had this newsletter.

And for like six years, I’ve had this blog (well, this one and the tumblr)

But now I have a job, so…

This blog is dropping to monthly, and I’m canceling the newsletter.

And yes, that means now you get Chelsea stories on the first Monday of the month.

Newsletter folks, I’m starting from the beginning. Yes, it is a cheap way to have like 2 years of content on back up.

not sorry

So with no more build up, here we go again.

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It had to be the most boring party ever. The guys huddled around the beer pong table, congratulating themselves on trick shots, mostly peacocking for the nearly identical blondes, who stood in a giggling group, feigning disinterest.

Chelsea tried to push away the negativity. Four months ago, she would have been in the thick of the tournament, tossing ping pong balls and quips.

She trudged back to the crowded bar. Dink and Trevor were playing some drinking game with dice. She could only remember the rules after a few rounds.

“Gimme another jack and coke, please, Dink.”

Dink crossed his arm somewhere in the stratosphere over her, and his deep bass voice settled in her chest. “Sorry merbabe, you’re cut off.”

Chelsea sighed. “Shut up and fill my cup.”

“No, Ariel.”

Flipping bright red hair out of her eyes, Chelsea pouted. “What kind of fraternity cuts girls off.”

“The kind not full of stereotypes from a movie.” Dink bent over the bar and dropped his voice. “You’re trashed, little mermaid. Let me call you a cab.”

Chelsea swallowed tears. Dink and his fraternity brothers had been a godsend since her parents died. They never charged her for alcohol and made sure she went home, alone, every night. “I think the walk would better tonight. It’s only a few blocks, Dink.”

He sighed. “Let me get my coat.” He kept talking over her protests. “Merbabe, there’s been a bunch of muggings the last few weeks. I don’t care how what color belt you have in which martial art. You’re drunk and I’m walking you home.”

“Whatever.” Chelsea knew it was pointless to fight, and the last time she’d walked away, the fraternity had shut down the party to search for her.

Once Dink had grabbed a replacement bartender and their coats, they headed towards Main Street. The high piled snow was gray ice now, but the bracing cold cleared her head and sobered her a little. It felt good to be in the freezing quiet, alone.

Well, mostly alone. Dink was a solid, silent presence stretching above her. His head moved constantly, peering into shadows and frequently looking behind them.

“You scared of the dark, Dink?”

He raised one bare, earth brown hand with a smirk. “I am the dark.”

Chelsea giggled and blamed the booze.

Dink beamed down at her. “That’s the first laugh I’ve heard in months.”

She shrugged. “I think that asshole killed my sense of humor along with my parents.”

Dink’s arm settled on her shoulders. “C’mon, merbabe. Happy thoughts.”

“You’re mixing your kid’s movies, now.”

He chuckled. “Some time, we need to hang out outside—” Dink was gone. Chelsea blinked and spun around, wobbling a little.

“Dink?”

In the still, brisk darkness there was a moan, and then a streak of white. Chelsea was whisked off her feet. The rushing cold tore tears from her eyes, and her stomach flopped and flipped.

The frozen brick wall slammed the air out of her lungs as it knocked some of the drunk out of her brain. A woman stood above her. Skin whiter than the falling snow and dark eyed, she had fangs.

Chelsea kicked and shrieked, all her self-defense training vanished in a moment of terror. She lashed out blindly, no thoughts of aiming for the woman’s eyes, just a desire to hit back.

Then the pressure at her neck was gone, and she was hitting the frozen pavement. Her head ricocheted off the bricks, and stars danced in the snowflakes.

“Oh, you’re feeding on a ginger? Gingers are my favorite.”

Chelsea blinked and shook her head, trying to clear her vision. A man stood down the block in the orange streetlight. His hoodie blocked his face, but he held two axes.

The pale woman charged him. The man dropped to his knees. Chelsea had trouble seeing what happened next. The woman got lost in the dark shadows before the streetlight. But the man whirled his arms, and she appeared, screaming as she fell to the ground.

The man leaped to his feet, darted to the downed woman, and swung his axes again. The woman’s head fell awkwardly to the ground.

“What are you doing?” Chelsea tried to scream, but her voice came out as a croak.

The man hurried over to her. Chelsea wanted to crawl away, but her scattered wits couldn’t make her body move right.

The man squatted. “You okay?”

Chelsea pushed at the maniac.

“Hey, it’s okay. I killed it.”

“It?” Rage ran through her “It! That was a person!” She sat up, shoving the man away from her. “You killed her.” She drew back her hand to hit him.

The man caught it. “It was a vampire. And you know it.”

Chelsea struggled to pull away. “Vampire? You’re crazy.”

“You saw the fangs.” The man left go of her hand.

“Prosthetics.” Chelsea rubbed at her wrist.

The man smiled. “She lifted you up by your neck with one hand and blurred out of focus when she ran.”

Chelsea’s stomach flipped. “Humans… .”

“She wasn’t human.” The man leaped backward, avoiding the puke that Chelsea couldn’t stop.

There wasn’t much in her stomach thankfully. She hadn’t had much of appetite since her parents died. She sat up after a few minutes and wiped at her mouth.

The man rubbed at her back. “Do you live near here?”

She nodded.

“Okay, can you get there on your own? I need to take care of the body.”

Chelsea wanted to say yes, but her head shook and tears ran down her face.

The man sighed. “Stay here. I’ll be right back.” He stood.

“Wait!” Fear shivered down her spine. “What happened to Dink? My friend.”

The man took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. Her partner took him and ran.”

Chelsea nodded as more tears ran down her face. One thought wormed through her head: He had been a great friend, and she didn’t even know his real name. He’d been introduced to her as Dink, and she’d never even asked why he was called that.

Time was as frozen as the air. She sat against the cold bricks, not bothering to brush the snowflakes from her eyelashes.

Eventually, the strange man came over and held out his hand. “Let’s get you home.”

Chelsea nodded and took his hand. To her shock, she had at least an inch on the man. In the dark of the building, his hoodie kept his features vague, but she got the impression of a smile.

“Which way?”

She shook her head and headed towards her off-campus apartment in silence. As they got closer to the building, she texted Sarah. To her intense relief, her friend didn’t ask questions as she let them in the side door. In fact, the way Sarah winked and hurried away, she had an illicit friend over as well.

The joys of religious schools.

Chelsea learned towards the man. “You’ll have to be very quiet. I can’t have overnight male guests.”

The man chuckled in his hoodie. “Lesbians must adore that rule.”

A laugh bubbled up in her stomach. She clamped a hand over her mouth and leaned against the wall. Dink was dead and here she was laughing.

The man stood on the step above her and pushed back his hood. Brilliant green eyes peered down at her. She couldn’t look away from them.

Hands gripped her shoulders. “It’s okay to laugh. He’d want you to.”

She nodded, lips pressed together, and tears coming.

“C’mon.” He patted her shoulders. “You need to get cleaned up.”

She lead him to the third floor, thankful that her psychiatrist had insisted that she needed privacy. The single apartment was tiny, just one room.

The man settled on her couch and grabbed the remote. “Do you have cable?”

Chelsea took a breath and locked her door. “Yeah… I’m going to take a shower.”

“Good idea.”

As she undressed in the bathroom, she wondered if she was some kind of death magnet, destined to be alone. She sat on the floor of her shower and cried until the water turned cold. When she finally was able to face him, she headed out of the bathroom.

A pizza sat on the table, steaming in the low light. Chelsea stared at the man, finally looking at him. Without her heels, they stood eye to eye at five foot seven. He was ropy with muscle though. In addition to those amazing eyes, he had cheekbones she could use for a ruler and dark hair.

“I’m Jackson Hawk.” He offered her a slice of pizza.

“Chelsea Childling.” She went to take a bite. “How did you get this?”

“Your friend stopped by with it. Said it was for beer munchies.”

Chelsea set the pizza down on the coffee table and plopped herself in Jackson’s lap. “I am cold and alone. And I’m tired of feeling that way.”

He brushed her hair out of her eyes. “Yeah… And here’s the thing, Chelsea Childling. Some time tonight, you’ll discover that the last thing you want is to pretend that this never happened. You’ll want—”

“To kill that thing that killed Dink.” Her strained and rough voice surprised her.

Jackson smiled. “Exactly. And after we kill it, you’ll want to kill more. Because you won’t want anybody else to go through this.”

She slipped away from him to the floor. “No, no. I have classes on Monday.”

He laughed. “You don’t. And you never will again. Maybe you’ll try for a while, but trust me, you’re a monster hunter now. The life you knew is officially over.”

A weight lifted in her chest. She tentatively touched Jackson’s knee. Shame warmed her face at her ‘on again, off again’ behavior.

Jackson smiled, grabbed her hand, and kissed her fingers. “Relax, Chelsea. You’ve had a rough night.”

Her eyes narrowed, even as a shiver ran down her spine. “Are you taking advantage of me?”

“Tell me no and I’ll stop. I’m perfectly willing to sleep on the couch.”

She rolled her eyes and grabbed his hoodie. “Get over here.”

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Futility in the Fall

Missy Chambers kicked at the red and orange leaves as she waited for the bus back to her dorm. Soon enough they’d be raked and burned, but right now they smelled of autumn and crunched under her sneakers. She loved Hyde Park in the fall.
I can’t believe this is my last fall in Pittsburgh. I really need to get that paper done for Dr. Boesgar if I want to graduate in April though.
Despite her syllabus calling, Missy didn’t pull a book from her backpack. The wind off the river blew through the trees, making leaves dance around her. There was no hurry to be anywhere at the moment.
A whine caught her attention. Off to her right stood a dog. A black mask circled its gold eyes and sharply pointed ears pricked up towards her. Looking like a beautiful mix of Husky and German Shepherd, it seemed to be smiling at her.
She held out a hand, and the dog bounded over to sniff, tail wagging furiously. It butted its head against her arm, so Missy took the chance and rubbed at the thick, soft neck. No collar could be felt under the shaggy cream and black fur.
“Hey pretty dog, you have a name?”
“Matty.”
Missy startled at the man’s voice and blood rushed to her face. The tall man smiling down at her was seriously good looking in a comic book superhero kind of way. Square jaw, spiky blond hair, and good teeth.
And he has at least a decade on me.
He pushed a leather collar over the dog’s head. “Little brat slipped his collar. I’ve been looking for him.”
Missy would have sworn the dog rolled his eyes at this statement.
“Little brat?” She roughed Matty’s ears. She could look the dog in the eye from the low bench.
The man shrugged, an affectionate smile peeking out. “Some nicknames stick no matter what you look like at the moment.”
“Well, he just walked over a few seconds ago.”
The man nodded. “How long have you been sitting here?”
She paused, nervous fear and her mother’s warnings running through her.
Don’t talk to strangers, especially men you don’t know. Don’t tell them where you live or what your schedule is.
“A little bit. My bus is on the way.”
“You all by yourself then?”
She shrank onto the bench, suddenly much more nervous than before. Matty whined and licked at her hands.
The man smiled at her again. “Sorry, I’m not trying to be a creep, I swear. My name is Rick.” He held out a hand.
Missy hesitated. Rick wasn’t just tall, but heavy. Obvious muscle strained the sleeves of the gray hoodie he wore.
A flicker of movement caught her eye. Matty nodded to her.
Don’t be silly. Dogs can’t nod.
Against her mother’s better judgment, she took his hand. “Missy.”
He met her eyes and Missy’s heart beat a little faster. Who cared that he was older than her? Beautiful gray eyes like that defied age.
“Well, Missy, thanks for stopping my terrible dog.” He half turned to walk away, then spun back to her. “I know how this sounds, but do you want me to wait until your bus gets here?”
She was tempted, if only for the scenery, but the mother in her brain was having a complete meltdown. “Nah, it’ll just be a few more minutes. Thanks though.”
“Not a problem.” He smiled at her again. “This is out of line, but if you want a ride home, Matty and I will be walking the trail over there.”
“Thanks for the offer.” Missy almost wished she’d said yes, but this time she agreed with mom. Getting into a strange man’s car was just asking for trouble.
The sun sank lower as her bus ran later. Eventually, Missy stood and stretched, wondering if she should call the Port Authority and double check that her bus ran this late on the weekends.
Maybe I should take Rick up on that ride. If he drops me off at The O, I can get something to eat, and definitely catch a bus from there.
A cold shiver ran down her back, though she couldn’t say why. No brisk wind off the river had disturbed the leaves.
“Hello there.” The man who spoke wasn’t Rick. Wearing dark clothes that blended into the shadow of a huge oak, his pale face practically glowed. Despite being shorter than Rick, he gave off a distinct aura of danger.
Missy backed away, putting her hand in her pocket. The pink kitty key ring looked cute, but it was made of titanium and the pointed ears were sharp, making a formidable weapon.
Before she could pull her hand out, the man was in front of her. There was no time to move away or cry out. His hand lashed out and pain ran up her arm. His other fist slammed into her head, and she collapsed into the leaves, moaning.
The man’s pale face loomed over her. “So young, and so sweet.”
She rose off the ground with a pain in her neck. Something wet the front of her shirt, but it was fuzzy and happening somewhere else to a body she could barely feel.
As the world dimmed a long, low growl rumbled over her. Missy’s vision was once again filled with leaves. The growl became louder and louder, and paws brushed her cheeks.
“Better run, vampire.” The voice was familiar, but she couldn’t place it. The paws darted away from her.
She was rolled on to her back and beautiful gray eyes, full of pain, filled her world. “No, Missy, no. C’mon, stay with me. I’m sorry. We were tracking another vampire. We thought it was the only one. I’m so sorry.”
As darkness fell over her, the cracking voice buzzed into nothingness.
***
Elizabeth Chambers walked through Hyde Park, the orange and brown leaves blowing across her boots. She’d had finally gotten custody of her daughter’s body, but she had to see the place where Missy died, one last time.
The compulsion to come to this sad place had washed over Elizabeth two and three times a day the week she’d been in Pittsburgh. Thankfully, she was leaving in a few hours, and would never set foot in this city again. This would be her last chance.
As she approached the bench, two men sat there amid the browning fallen leaves, red roses in hand. One was large and blond, the other short and dark.
The short man stood, placed his rose on the bench, and sighed. “C’mon, man, you did your best.”
The blond man shook his head. “My best wasn’t good enough.”
The short man stared off into the trees. “Look, you can do everything right, and some times…” he shrugged. “Some times life just sucks.”
She fidgeted, wanting them to leave, but the big man lowered his head. “She seemed like a nice kid. She didn’t deserve that death.”
Could it be?
The paramedics had described a man who had fought off Missy’s attacker and sat with her until they came. Large and blond with a dog…
Elizabeth pulled in a sharp breath. “Excuse me, did you know the girl who died here last week? She was my daughter.”
The dark man shook his head, but the large one shrank against the bench, horror and comprehension etched into every line on his face. “I’m sorry, ma’am, I didn’t know her. I offered her a ride home because her bus was late, but… I didn’t know her. She seemed…”
Elizabeth nodded. “You stayed with her until the paramedics came?”
He closed his eyes, face straining. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Thank you.” Her voice shook, and the tears came as they had all week. Loud and unstoppable. “Thank you for sitting with my little girl. I’m so glad she wasn’t alone.”
The big man stood. As he put his arms around her, Elizabeth let herself sink into him and sob. He held her and rubbed her back, murmuring under his breath.
Eventually, Elizabeth got herself under control and he stepped away. His awkward helpless as he stared at her nearly undid her again. But having someone to comfort was easier than dealing with her own pain.
She pulled out a tissue and dabbed at her eyes. “Thank you again, so much.”
The man shook his head. “I-I only wish I could have done more to help her.”
Elizabeth felt a smile grace her face. The first since she’d gotten the phone call from the police. “Young man, you did more than anybody else. Be proud of that.”
He lowered his head and took a deep breath. When he looked up again, shiny tear tracks ran down his face. He handed her the red rose in his hand. “Give this to Missy for me.”
“I will. Thank you.”
They stood there for a few uncomfortable moments before he flashed her an awkward smile. “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye.”
He waved to his friend. “C’mon Matty.” They walked over to the trail and disappeared into the trees.
Elizabeth sat on the park bench, rose in hand, and called to mind her daughter’s first steps.

New Chelsea!

Sopping red hair fell in her eyes, but Chelsea couldn’t spare a hand to move it. Alex’s eyes wouldn’t open, and he didn’t seem to be breathing. Not even the pouring rain could wake him.

Yes, today is Chelsea Day!

You still have three hours to sign up and find out what happened to Alex, and what Chelsea will do next.

Drip, drip, drip

Last week, I gave the unfinished Red Witch manuscript to the betas and writing group. Slowly, word is trickling back.

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So far, I’m on the right track. Pacing is good, characters stay in character, and dialogue is on point.
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Which hopefully means I can get back to work in a few weeks and bang the rest of this out. I will need to discuss the direction for the last bit of the book, but I’m feeling much more optimistic.

Stop trying to make it happen.

I have tried reading the entire manuscript out loud to the husband.

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I have tried not thinking about it.

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I have tried walking and dancing for inspiration.

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I have even tried switching up my writing music.

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But three weeks later, I kind of have to admit that my mind is not on the Red Witch, and I can’t force it to be.

So what can I do?

i-dunno

For now, I have sent the unfinished manuscript off to the betas and made it available to my writing group. And that will have to do. Hopefully some feedback with unlock my brain.

It’s Chelsea Day!

Chelsea Childling is back today!

Sonja is making some rather uncomfortable waves for Chelsea and Amber. Their fledgling relationship can handle reavers, but can it handle doubt?

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Yes, our favorite redhead is once again getting into hot water as she learns how to hunt monsters!

 

i-dunno

No, not that one…

 
There’s still time to sign up today for your free story.  Chelsea stories come out once a month (no email spam here!) and are completely free!

It’s a Holiday!

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There should be Chelsea today, but it’s a holiday and I’m lazy.

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So next Monday you can have your Chelsea.