Chelsea Childling Goes to a Funeral

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. If you want to start at the beginning, click here. If you want to see an index of all the Chelsea stories, click here.

I’m writing more Chelsea stories for NaNoWriMo. You get some hints about the future on Twitter iffen you like spoilers.
***
chelsea

Chelsea examined her reflection in the mirror and tugged on the edges of her black shrug, desperately wishing she’d been a touch less rebellious. Her school had a strict dress code, and the miniature jacket had been the band-aid on many an outfit. Now, it was the only thing making her acceptable for a funeral.

Dink.

She willed the tears not to fall. Dink had been a fan of elaborate eye makeup, and she’d spent a good forty-five on hers this afternoon. She owed Dink more than winged eyeliner and false lashes, but killing the vampire that had mangled him would have to wait.

She pulled a deep breath and tugged on the shrug again. The skin-tight, black tank top underneath was also low cut. Thankfully, she owned a longish black skirt and conservative black heels.

“You look amazing.” For once, Jackson Hawk’s voice was devoid of lust. Instead, the monster hunter sounded sad and maybe a touch wistful.

She pushed her asymmetrical, red bangs behind her ears. It didn’t help. Multiple piercings lined each ear. The spikes, hoops, and studs glinted in the faint, February sun. “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I look like a grown up? I’m twenty years old.”

Warm arms wrapped around her, but wearing heels meant that Jackson’s eyes barely cleared her shoulder. They gleamed over the black cloth now. Their bright, clear green studying her before he kissed her exposed spine. “You’re gorgeous.”

She shuddered and her words came out in a wail. “I don’t want to be gorgeous. I want to look like I care that Dink’s dead.”

Jackson kissed her neck again. “No clothing will make you more or less of a friend. You cared about him. That’s more important than any shirt.”

She tore away from him, hands once more going through her closet. Maybe there was something she had overlooked. Didn’t she have a gray sweater? Where was it?

The springs on her bed creaked as Jackson sat down. “Do you want me to go with you?”

She froze, stuck halfway between wanting company, and not wanting Jackson Hawk anywhere near the clergy who ran her college. She half feared he’d burst into flame just walking into the chapel. “Do you have anything respectable to wear? We’re talking tie and a jacket.”

Jackson’s laugh floated across the room. “For you, my little nun, I can wrangle something.”

Her heart thumped against her ribs, and she hated herself a little as she went back to searching her closet. “For me? You make me sound special.”

He ducked under her arm, slipping a hand around her waist, green eyes serious. “You are special.”

Oh damn.

She forced herself to be rational. “And Scott’s wife? Was she special? And what about Amber?”

He licked his lips and grinned. “So only one woman can ever be special to me?”

The laugh ripped out of her, followed quickly by guilt.

“Don’t. He liked making you laugh.”

She choked back tears. “How would you know?”

He shrugged. “I was following you two that night.”

Her lungs and diaphragm couldn’t sync up properly. Her voice came out wispy. “You followed us?”

“There’d been a few attacks in the area. I was keeping an eye out.”

“Then why…” One hand balled into a fist and she brought it down on his shoulder. “Why didn’t you save him, too?”

“No chance.” His voice was light, unburdened by any guilt. “The other vampire was hungry. He grabbed Dink and ran before I could react.”

She turned away, staring at her hanging clothes, not seeing them. She’d been drunk, stupid drunk, and Dink had walked her home, as he had so many times before. Chelsea’s knees shook. She wobbled downward and would have fallen if Jackson hadn’t grabbed her.

She leaned her head against his, babbling to fight off tears. “It was all my fault, again.”

He kissed her hair. “Again?”

“My parents. begged to go to South Carolina for Thanksgiving. They went down the day before to open the cottage. They were mugged and killed outside the airport.”

“Not your fault.”

She shook her head. “No, it is. I threw a tantrum. begged and begged. I wanted to feel like a kid again. I got them killed, j-just like I got Dink killed.” And there was no stopping the tears as there hadn’t been for the last four months.

Her knees gave out, but Jackson didn’t stumble under her dead weight. Instead, he scooped her up and carried her to her bed. He laid down beside her, rubbing her back as she buried her face in his chest.

When she finally cried herself out, he kissed her nose. “Here’s the deal, my little nun, you take a shower and by the time you’ve redone your makeup, I’ll be back, looking respectable.”

Before she could tell him ‘no’, he was gone. Chelsea wiped a hand across her face and headed for her tiny bathroom. The hot water ran out before she was ready to leave the shower, but by the time she reapplied her false eyelashes, her heart stopped pounding. There was no disguising her red, swollen eyes, but Chelsea didn’t care. Dink and her parents deserved more than tears.

As she reapplied her lipstick, her dorm phone rang. “Miss Childling, there’s a Mr. Hawk waiting for you.”

“I’ll be right there, Sister Ignatius.” She ignored her mirror as she grabbed her coat out of the closet, refusing to contemplate the short shrug again.

Jackson was indeed, waiting in the lobby, and respectable had never looked so good. Chelsea had no idea where he’d conjured the black suit and gray tie, but it looked tailored for his slim frame. Jackson being Jackson, he ran an obvious eye along her body, grinning like a madman. Sister Mary Ignatius glowered at him as she fingered her rosary, and Chelsea had to fight not to laugh.

The nun patted her shoulder as she walked past. “It will pass, child. Time, and the Lord, heal all things.”

Chelsea found a smile. “Amen, Sister.”

Jackson held out his arm. “I’ll have her back before dark.” Sister Ignatius grunted, lips pursed, but said nothing. Chelsea was never sure how much the nuns knew or suspected regarding rule breaking, but Jackson had pretty much moved into her dorm room last week, coming and going by way of the fire escape.

Jackson walked her to an unfamiliar car. “Where to, Miss Childling?”

She opened her door and slid into expensive leather. “Seriously, Jack, the suit, the car… where did you get all this?”

“You don’t want to know.”

She glared at him.

He shrugged and started the engine. “Scott’s wife, Judy… well, she liked going out and made sure I looked good when we did. And she barely uses the car these days.”
Her hand tightened into a fist.

You know better. Jackson Hawk… is Jackson Hawk. Do not get attached.

He put a warm hand over hers. “Where to, Chelsea?”

Dink.

She had no time for jealousy. A friend needed to be laid to rest.

The cathedral at Fourth and Craig.” They rode in silence, which remained unbroken as they stepped into the cathedralChelsea wasn’t sure they spoke the rest of the day. She bounced from person to person, a human pinball of muted grief.

All she wanted was a seat, but there were Dink’s fraternity brothers, somber and glassy-eyed. They’d all but adopted her after her parents’ death. As they begged her to come by on Saturday, her lie of a promise sat bitter in her mouth. She couldn’t go back there until the vampire was dead.

Once she escaped the fraternity, she faced Father Patrick and Sister Mary Clarence. They also worried about her. Father Patrick extracted a real promise to go to his office. The portly priest was a damn good listener, but she couldn’t confess how she’d get relief from this death. Still, it would be good to cry on his shoulder, again.

Sister Mary Clarence was, as always, harping on her grades. “You’ve missed all three of my classes this week.”

“I’m sorry, Sister. I’ve been keeping up online though.” She had been going to the demon hunter’s bar with Jackson in the morning instead of Renaissance Art History.

“Barely,” the nun harrumphed. “I check, you know.”

When she’d made enough apologies, she walked toward the chapel, bouncing off the muted sympathies of people she only vaguely knew.

The doors to the chapel came into sight, but her worst nightmare stood just outside them. Dink’s mother was unmistakable. She could see Dink in every line of the woman’s face. Her tight curls and brown skin, her dark, sad eyes. She stared at nothing, barely acknowledged the people around her. Her grief surrounded her like barbed wire, keeping everyone at bay.

Jackson’s warm hand gripped Chelsea’s elbow, and he guided her past Dink’s mother and through the doors. The ceremony was a blur. Chelsea sat frozen to the hard, wooden pew as all the people around her, but Jackson, knelt or stood along with the priest.
She didn’t hear Father Benedict’s eulogy. She barely registered the children’s choir. One thought ran through her mind as she stared at the shining wood of the closed casket.

I will find the monster that did this, and I will kill it.

Jackson put a hand over hers and squeezed. There was little comfort there, either.

***

There will be more Chelsea on the first Monday of the month. Follow us on twitter for witty excerpts, random thoughts, and Kate’s pop culture obsession.

Kate Whitaker lives in the woods of the Olympic Peninsula. When she isn’t learning about coffee, she’s kicking in the kids outside for a few moments to drift off with her keyboard.

Advertisements

Happy Halloween

Next week you get your free Chelsea story.  Today we’re celebrating Halloween with Matty and Dean  in Pittsburgh. So here’s a little mood music, and enjoy our boys.

***

Matty woke to lips on his bare spine. He lay as still as possible, trying not to squirm under the tickle of Dean’s immaculate goatee.

A smooth tenor whispered in his ear. “You’re awake.”

“What do you plan on doing about that?”

Dean’s chuckle rose goosebumps. “Ask a favor?”

Matty rolled over. Dean was propped up above him.

He freed an arm and draped it around Dean’s neck. “Will I like this favor?”

“Probably not.” Dean took a deep breath. “I was hoping you’d go to a party with me.”

Terror shivered down Matty’s spine and his nails dug into Dean’s skin.

“It’s okay if you don’t, but I wanted to ask.”

His lips already forming a ‘no,’ Matty caught Dean’s slight flinch. Curiosity pushed his fear down to a manageable level. “It must be important, since you know I hate leaving the house.”

Dean rolled his eyes with a fond smile. “Just ask.”

“Fishing is more fun.”

“A former client invited me. I found her birth mother, and-”

“And she hits on you.”

It was a shot in the dark, but Dean’s brown skin shaded darker still. “Yeah.”

Matty laughed. “I might be insecure enough to go for a little while.”

“Insecure? You?”

“Well, yeah. Someone who isn’t afraid to leave the house is showing an interest.” He tried to keep his tone light, but his voice quavered anyway.

Dean flicked Matty’s hair out of his eyes. “And I want to show her how misplaced that interest is. But if you don’t want to go, I won’t either.”

Damp palms be damned, Matty was sick of living in fear. “No, we’re going.”

Black eyebrows rose. “You sure?”

“For a little while anyway.”

Dean took a deep breath and sat up. “Okay, here’s the catch—”

“I thought she was the catch?”

“It’saHalloweenparty.”

Confused, Matty didn’t say anything for a moment. The moment stretched longer, with Dean looking more worried every second.

Matty blinked. “Why is that the catch?”

“Isn’t there some weirdness for you at Halloween?”

“For werewolves or Canadians?”

“For were- Wait, they celebrate Halloween in Canada?”

Matty rolled his eyes. “Yes, Canada has Halloween. Why did you think there would be weirdness?”

Dean shrugged. “Popular media?”

Matty held out his thin arms. “And I’m some beefy dude who sniffs people inappropriately and turns into a weird man/wolf hybrid every full moon?”

“They were right about the painful transformation.”

“Partially.” Matty sat up. “We’ll need costumes.”

Dean flashed a sheepish grin. “I kind of covered that already.”

“So you spring a party on the paranoid, asocial guy, to passive-aggressively tell a woman to take a hint, and you pick out my costume without asking me?” Matty kissed Dean’s nose. “This sounded better in your head, didn’t it?”

Dean shrugged. “Not really, but I think you’ll enjoy this, anyway.” He opened the bedroom door, grabbed two plastic bags, and then handed one to Matty.

The first thing Matty saw was brown and hairy. He pulled it out and a rubber snout jiggled at him. Red paint dotted the huge white teeth of the mask in a bad approximation of blood. “A werewolf?”

Dean grinned. “Yeah, the mask, furry gloves, and shoe coverings. You just wear your normal clothes.”

Matty looked at the mask for a moment, and then laughter boiled out of his stomach until he wiped away tears. “It’s so meta. I love it!”

He stood and grabbed Dean’s face. The full lips were soft, but Dean’s hand were rough as they grabbed at Matty’s pajamas.

Panting, Matty pulled away. “Before we get totally distracted, what are you going as?”

Dean hitched a breath, bent down, and pulled out a red hoodie, a messenger style backpack, and a bottle of wine.

Laughter boiled out of Matty’s stomach again. “Seriously, Litt-”

“Oh, hell yeah.”

***

The party was loud, and the mask made it hard for Matty to see anything clearly. He shivered and tried to take a breath as he was jostled by the crowd.

“Dean.” The hoarse whisper was lost in the mask and the loud music. “Dean.”

Dean grabbed his arm, threaded through the crowd to the kitchen, and out the back door.

Matty pulled off the mask, gulping fresh air, as Dean rubbed his back. Eventually, he pushed the panic down. “Thank you. Though I question how you know the layout of this apartment so well.”

Dean leaned against the railing of the balcony with a smile. “June and her mother had me over for dinner after I reunited them.”

“I bet.” He leaned his head on Dean’s shoulder and tried to still his thudding heart.

“I invited you then, too.” Dean put an arm around him. “Are you okay?”

“I didn’t know there would be this many people.”

“We can go whenever you need.”

“Dean!” A woman’s voice squealed from the kitchen. “Mother told me you were here.” She was dressed in very low-cut, flowing gold lamé, with a tiara in her thick, black hair.

Dean plastered on a polite smile. “Hello, June. Matty, this is June Li. June, my boyfriend, Matty Grekov.”

Matty fought not to laugh at her drooping face when Dean emphasized “boyfriend”. She rallied spectacularly though. “Did you get anything to eat yet?” She gestured towards the crowd and Matty shuddered.

Dean squeezed his hand. “I’ll get you something.”

“Thanks.”

Surprisingly, June didn’t follow. Instead, she put her hands on her hips with a toothy smile. “How did you two meet?”

This is going to be fun.

“He was dating my sister, and things just clicked with us.”

June’s head jerked back. “Your sister?”

He twisted up a smile, feeling more like Mina than usual as anger seeped into him. “Yeah. And damn, that coming out… awkward. But some things were just meant to be, you know?”

June nodded. “How long have you been together?”

“Just over a year.”

Her eyes took on a wicked gleam. “He’s never mentioned dating anyone.”

Bitch.

“Why would he talk about his personal life with a client?”

“I’d like to think we’re friends.”

Matty’s temper frayed a little more. “I’m sure you’d like to, but he’s very professional. He doesn’t usually get personal with clients.”

The last of the fake smile faded, and her eyes narrowed. “There are no pictures of you in his office.”

A hot jolt of anger ran through him. “You should see the bedroom.”

Before she could say another word, Dean came back with a plate of food and drinks.

June gave him a stiff smile. “I need to see to my other guests.”

Matty smirked. “Have fun.”

The door slammed behind her as she stalked away, golden skirt swaying.

Dean arched an eyebrow. “What did you say?”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.”

“I just let her know, subtly, that she’s got no shot.”

“I’m suddenly very glad I already cashed that check.”

Matty glanced into the apartment, stomach churning. “How much longer do we need to be here?”

“Why?”

He grabbed the red hoodie and pulled Dean close. “Well, you sure are looking good.”

“Oh no.”

“You’re everything that a b-”

“Stop, please.” Dean’s voice shook with laughter. “Let’s say hello to June’s mom, then we’ll go.”

“Thank you.”

“Anything for you.” He smiled down at Matty. “My big bad wolf.”
***
Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of Washington. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at her kids as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters.

 

Good Morning, Chelsea Childling

This is a series of short stories, detailing the adventures of Chelsea Childling. If you want to start at the beginning, click here. If you want to see an index of all the Chelsea stories, click here.
***

The bright sunlight streaming through her window contradicted her icy feet. Chelsea tugged on her blanket, but it stuck on something.

That something turned out to be a naked, muscle-y bit of man with dark hair and sharp cheekbones. Chelsea sat up, flashes of last night coming fast.

Dink walking her spoiled, drunk ass home from the party. And the attack… the vampire.

And him, the naked man in her bed… Jackson Hawk.

“Morning.” Jackson rolled over, smiling.

Chelsea tried to return it, but it felt off as she wrapped herself in the blanket.

Impervious to the cold, Jackson popped out of bed. Amid the ropey muscles were scars, lots and lots of scars.

Another flash from last night came to her. Jackson had offered to help her kill the vampire that had taken Dink.

“Uh…” Chelsea had no idea what to say. This went beyond awkward one-night stand territory and asking for a phone number.

Jackson pulled on his pants and grinned over his shoulder. “Well, my little nun, since I’m not supposed to be here in the first place, what’s the procedure?”

“We sneak up to the roof and you use the fire escape.”

Jackson blinked before laughing. “Already have that worked out?”

Chelsea shrugged. “How else are we going to get kegs in here?”

He looked around for a moment before spotting his shirt. “So, if we’re gonna kill this vampire, you’ll need an education in monsters and a few fighting lessons.”

Jackson’s complete nonchalance melted Chelsea’s smile into something more natural. Her shoulders unknotted, and she moved to the closet to grab some clothes. “Well, I’ve been kickboxing since I was twelve, and started krav maga in college.”

“Excellent. You ever use an ax?”

Her heart skipped a beat. “No.”

“Good.” Jackson’s grin edged towards a smirk. “You’ll have enough bad habits to unlearn.”

“Bad habits?” Chelsea found her hands on her hips.

Jackson mimicked the pose, his black boots slapping his thighs. “Yeah, bad habits. Fighting monsters is nothing like fighting people. Here, you go for the kill, every time.” He dropped his hands, and those striking green eyes turned earnest. “First, aim for the head. Most things die when you remove the head. Second, limbs, especially anything with claws or a stinger. If neither of those is an option, run like hell, ‘cause you need back up.” He sat on her bed, his boots dropping to the ground. “Your life is over my little nun. If not now, then soon. You can try and live two lives, but eventually, the time you aren’t killing monsters… You’ll be hanging on to a relic. You aren’t the college girl drinking her weekends away and sneaking guys into the dorm. You’re a monster hunter now.”

The slamming of the closet door startled her as much as her back smacking into it. “I don’t want to hunt monsters, just this one. Just the one that killed Dink.”

Jackson shrugged. “We’ll see.”

***

Chelsea stopped at the bar door.

“What’s up?” Jackson glanced over his shoulder, most of his face hidden by his hoodie.

“This… this is not a great place.” The bar had a reputation for fights, massive, bloody brawls.

Jackson grinned. “This is a haunt, a hunter’s bar. We might get a head’s up on our nightling.”

“Our what?”

“Nightling. Your vampire classic: pale, pretty, only goes out at night, sucks blood.”

“You make it sound like there are other types.”

“There are.” He pressed a speaker button. “My delish Trish, I have returned.”

A crabby voice grunted through the speaker. “Shut your hole, twerp.”

“She loves me.”

Chelsea’s heart hammered against her ribs as the door opened. The thick walls hid a grimy, dark space. Half a dozen tables littered the cracked tile floor. A number of mismatched stools lined the bar. The whole place was hazy with smoke. Chelsea pressed against Jackson’s back as everybody turned towards them.

One dirty if absolutely huge man chuckled. “Well, look who’s back, Jackson ‘Man-whore’ Hawk.”

Chelsea’s face burned.

Jackson shrugged. “Don’t blame me for the whole Judy incident. You need to bathe more often, Scott.” He sauntered past the glowering man amid the chuckles from the other patrons. Chelsea scurried after him.

Bar was tended by a tall man with tan skin and a dark glower. He handed Jackson a beer without being asked and stared pointedly at Chelsea.

Jackson beamed at the man. “This is my newest friend, Chelsea. We’re looking for a nightling. Took a college student last night. We have amends to make.”

The bartender shrugged and jutted his chin towards a table of four scarred-faced people. Jackson paused, then turned her her. “Sit tight and let me talk to them, okay?”

Panic burbled in her stomach. “What am I supposed to do while I wait?”

Jackson was already walking away. “Have a beer.”

“At ten in the morning?”

A low chuckle came from beside her, and Chelsea spun around. A woman sat at the bar. She was round. Round belly, thick arms, chubby cheeks. Her brown eyes twinkled as she nodded to the empty stool beside her. “Take a seat. I’m Amber, by the way.”

“Chelsea.” She gingerly lowered herself onto the scarred wood.

“Well, Chelsea, welcome to your new life.” Amber waved a fleshy hand at the bar. “You’ll get used to the weird hours.”

A flash of irritation hit her. “Why does everybody think I’m going to give up my life to hunt monsters?”

Amber rolled her eyes. “Did Jack explain anything before tearing off your clothes with his teeth?”

Chelsea face burned again.

Amber chuckled as she waved to the bartender. “It’s simple, Chelsea. Your whole life you were lead to believe that monsters and magic were fantasy. A plot device to add more drama to stories. Now you know that it’s real. Every story, every movie, every monster you’ve ever thought of or seen on TV is real. Now that you know, how the hell are you going to go back to your normal life? You’ll hear someone talk about a strange attack or a weird coincidence and you’ll know that it’s a monster.”

Chelsea shuddered as the bartender placed a beer in front of her. “I— I just want to kill the thing that killed my friend. I don’t want to be a monster hunter.”

Amber sighed. “So you’ll let someone else’s friend get killed?”

“Uh…” Chelsea folded her arms over her chest and shivered.

Amber flashed a sympathetic smile. “It takes some getting used to, but trust me, you’re a hunter now.”

Chelsea grabbed her beer and began chugging it as her eyes sought Jackson. He stood talking to the four stone-faced people, a charming smile playing across his lips.

When she put the bottle down it was half-empty. “He did try to tell me this.”

“Before or after you hopped into bed?” Amber’s raspy voice shook with laughter.

“Both.” Chelsea sipped at her beer again. “So Jackson has a lot of friends?”

Amber’s eyebrows rose. “Jealous?”

“More worried about pissy ex-lovers.”

Amber snickered. “Not something you’ll have to worry about with hunters.”

Chelsea couldn’t keep the skepticism off her face.

Amber shrugged. “We live on death’s doorstep. And nothing gets the blood pumping like dodging the reaper every night. So there you are, ax in hand, all hot and bothered, and there’s someone else, hot and bothered, too. Falling into bed with hunting partners is common and nothing to be ashamed of.”

“That guy called him a man-whore.”

Amber giggled. “Okay, so Jack… takes the whole thing to extremes. Scott’s just pissed because Jack hooked up with his ex. Like a real ex. They used to be married.”

Chelsea nodded, sipping her beer again.

“Jack’s a good guy.” Her voice dropped. “He may sleep with anything that has tits and a pulse, but he cares. Most hunters kick you out in the morning holding your clothes. Jack… Jack thinks genital bumping means friendship.” Amber smiled. “And he’s a charming little shit with lots and lots of friends.”

Chelsea found herself giggling and shooting Jackson a glance. He was good-looking, and sweet.

Amber bumped her shoulder. “Just remember, don’t take him too seriously. He has no concept of saying no to anyone who’s willing or keeping his hands to himself.”

There was something in the other woman’s voice that caught Chelsea’s attention. A certain wistfulness. “You speaking from experience?”

“Yes.” Amber shrugged. “We’ve partnered up to hunt a few monsters in the past.”

Chelsea downed the rest of her beer. “That’s one hell of a euphemism.”

There was a long pause before Amber burst into giggles. Chelsea only held out for a few moments before joining her. They laughed together while the silent bartender got them more drinks.

“Hey.” Jackson’s voice held curiosity. “What’s so funny?”

Chelsea turned to him. “Just comparing notes.”

Amber snorted a moment before she spit beer all over the bar.

Jackson grinned. “On what subject, my little nun?”

“Human Anatomy.”

“Oh, my favorite.” Jackson’s grin stretched wide.

“That’s what I hear.” Chelsea sipped her beer again. “So this vampire that killed Dink?”

Jackson’s smile faded. “I have an idea where the nit might be, but we’ll need to confirm and then come up with a plan.”

Amber slammed her bottle on the bar. “I’m in.”

“We didn’t ask.” Jackson’s smile grew wider.

“You didn’t have to, Jack. I owe you more than a few favors.”

Chelsea giggled. “Was that supposed to sound dirty?”

Amber laughed, as Jackson gaped at her. “Why, my little nun, that was almost scandalous.”

“I may go to a Catholic college, but I’m no nun, Jackson.”

He smirked. “Not after last night, anyway.”

Amber rolled her eyes. “I’ll hold him and you can punch him.”

Jackson’s smirk encompassed both of them. “Are we talking a three-way or is it just me?”

“I don’t know.” Chelsea licked her lips. “You have another man who’s interested?”

Jackson froze as Amber roared with laughter. She fought to her feet, holding her stomach. “Better watch yourself, Jack. You may have finally met your match.”

***

There will be more Chelsea on the first Monday of the month. Follow us on twitter for witty excerpts, random thoughts, and Kate’s pop culture obsession.

Kate Whitaker lives in the woods of the Olympic Peninsula. When she isn’t learning about coffee, she’s kicking in the kids outside for a few moments to drift off with her keyboard.

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.

chelsea

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.”

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.

bxj0k

So far, I’m on the right track. Pacing is good, characters stay in character, and dialogue is on point.
687474703a2f2f692e67697068792e636f6d2f526853617934674279373961452e676966

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.