Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell Part 13

Enemy of the state.

I wasn’t sure if that was what I was considered or not.

To my relief, Teagan stayed down once struck, not fighting any longer. Either that or he’d been knocked out. I couldn’t be sure as they dragged me up two floors.

Once there, Haynesworth dismissed the other men and escorted me to a room at the far corner of the building. Once inside the conference room, I saw both Father and Elena sitting in chairs on the far side. Then I noted the ropes securing them in their seats, as well as six armed guards standing around them. All indicators pointed to the fact that we were done for.

I refused to show any fear.

“What’s going on?” I demanded as Haynesworth prodded me forward and shut the door behind me. “Father?“

“Your father is none of your concern,” Yaron’s icy voice interjected, the back of a chair from the far end of the table turning to see me. From his vantage point, he’d been looking out the window over the city. Pitch dark eyes glared, looking straight through me. “I’m in charge now.”

That boded ill. So he’d inserted himself as the Presidente? As my eyes swiveled toward my father, he sputtered out, “This is outrageous!”

“Shut up,” Yaron barked out forbiddingly. On his cue one of the guards smacked my father on the head from behind. Then Yaron’s eyes settled back on me with pensive scrutiny. “But there is still a question as to what to do with you. You’re a spy.”

I refused to betray my trepidation as he left that accusation hanging. “And what evidence do you have of that? That the Lynx decided to come to me in an emergency instead of you? That a woman ambushed me in the dressing room yesterday and scared me? I mean, I’ve sat on the knowledge that my father murdered my aunt for years now. What makes you think I’d side with the Forge now after I’ve remained silent for so long after learning that?”

As I said those damning words, my father paled and looked down at his lap. More to my interest, Haynesworth shifted from where he stood in the corner, eyes widening with understanding. Apparently he hadn’t known about Lola after all.

“I’m not concerned with where your allegiances lie,” Yaron sneered, clasping his hands together. “Or why you decided to disobey orders to leave. My interest is why the Lynx would visit you twice. Perhaps even more than you’re willing to let on…”

Then the question came as to what he was planning to do about his musings. Before I could question him, he flicked a finger at me. “Take her and dispose of the others. I’ll meet you after the press conference…”

A thrill of fear hit me square in the chest as both Elena and Father were immediately seized and secured, guns aimed at their heads. While I hated them both, I didn’t want to watch them die firsthand either.

“Dispose?!” my father bellowed, though not fighting them as he was hauled to his feet.

“Your position is at an end, Francisco,” Yaron replied calmly, much like he’d been bothered by a mere fly. Death apparently didn’t disturb, move, or deter his conscience. “You overstepped your bounds. You are of no more use to us…”

I looked away as he and Elena took to begging, pleading for their lives and assuring their loyalty to the Hacienda. Though with morbid amusement to the highest, I noted that neither of them pled on my behalf or even considered me at all. I meant nothing to them.

As Haynesworth came over and snatched my wrist, I didn’t fight him. I walked compliantly alongside him as he escorted me out, stifling my conscience as Elena and Father were left behind. Surviving was my concern for now.

Especially as we rounded the corner and I saw ten men waiting, all in riot gear. As Haynesworth pushed me forward, I knew I had to move quickly. Wait until they were least expecting it and then run. Otherwise I’d never get away.

Haynesworth said nothing to me, acting as if he’d never met me before in his life. Now knowing that he’d easily sacrifice me to save himself, I put my hands up and allowed myself to be ushered along. He likely wouldn’t hesitate to shoot me if his own salvation depended on it.

But as we came out to the main part of the floor next to the elevator, off to where patients were, a new kind of dismay came to me.

As the elevator opened, I swallowed hard as an orderly wheeled out a stretcher. On it rested Kit, lying on his side. They must’ve been transferring him up to the floor for intensive care.

Pausing in sipping on the soda they’d given him, his eyes riveted on me as he was wheeled past. Then they swiveled around between the ten armed men surrounding me, inclusive of Haynesworth. “Aiyla?”

A cat-like smile appeared on Haynesworth’s face as he prodded me forward, knowing exactly what he was doing. “Get in.”

“Go home, Kit,” I whispered brokenly, looking at the floor.

Gunfire echoed from the hall we’d just vacated, prompting me to jump violently and nearly fall over, skittering back instinctively at the sound. With my nerves shot, the sound startled me.

As I accidentally knocked into one of the men behind me, he responded viciously. Stars erupted in front of my eyes as he struck me in the back of my head, presumably with the butt of his gun.

Landing on my knees, I cried out as my hands were pulled out from under me and I was pinned down from behind. Giving up on the idea of peacefully complying, I kicked out as my head was slammed hard into the linoleum.

In the back of my mind, I heard a roar from my other side, Kit lashing out at those who’d abused me. Managing to look up regardless of being pinned, I saw him launch off the stretcher. Despite being so grievously injured, he threw his orderly off as they attempted to restrain him. “Get your hands off her!”

“Kit, don’t!” I cried, knowing that the police would have absolutely no qualms about shooting him if he posed enough of a problem. As I tried to sit up, I was slammed back down, this time by three men.

“Sedate her,” Haynesworth ordered with open boredom, gesturing at me. “Easier to transport her then.”

Crying out as I saw Kit likewise being tackled to the ground, I stifled a sob. Despite my warning and all his injuries, he was doing his best to fight his way to my side. From my vantage point, I could see his eyes. They remained focused on me with steely determination, desperation etched on every feature as he fought to free me.

Throwing off a second orderly as they nabbed him, he managed to get a few feet further before being taken down and pinned to the ground by two more who had run up. But as they produced a taser to try and subdue him, I screamed out, “Don’t hurt him! Leave him alone-“

I cut off as my head was jerked, pulled up by the hair and a needle jammed into my neck. I barely felt the sting, my mind too preoccupied on the man before me.

“Aiyla?!” Kit cried out, still struggling as a heaviness fell over my mind. Everything started to slow with a sluggish haze as the drug hit me, my body shutting down despite my best efforts.

In the slowness of the moment, Kit’s face crumpled into despair, eyes locked on mine. His voice came out with a whimper as he called out my name again and began to cry over his failure, the sound almost as desolate as the feeling overcoming me.

I tried to respond but couldn’t as the drug incapacitated me. I was released as I sagged forward, hitting the ground front first. I tried to keep my head up but couldn’t. Control fled from me as I slid one hand toward Kit, reaching for him despite the haze sliding over my mind.

All I could see was his sobbing face as the darkness swallowed me whole.


Next week’s chapter promises to be explosive. Until then, love and hugs…

Author Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel

Copyright 2020 Del Muerta Sanctum of Hell Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell | Part 12

The emergency room was in absolute chaos.

Once my ankle was tended to, I insisted someone else take my bed. Other than having a hairline fracture and a few deep gashes on my leg, I was in far better shape than anyone else.

Taking refuge in Kit’s bay of the ER, I could hear crying and frantic shouting from outside the curtain. Hundreds of others were injured and many far more grievously than we had been. Children were screaming and mothers were weeping. I wondered just how many of them would be orphans and widows by the end of the day.

The siege hadn’t ended yet. There could be more bombs. Nobody yet knew exactly what the Forge had planned. Night was coming and the darkness was only just beginning to fall on us. And ever so periodically the ground shook, telling me that another explosive had gone off somewhere in the city.

Teagan remained armed and on guard beside me, keeping a wary ear open to our surroundings. Until Mortimer arrived, we were under orders to hunker down here. Hospital security was relatively overwhelmed right now, but the bedlam provided cover for us all the same. Nobody would think to look for us here. As he got off the phone, I asked, “Well?”

“Ten major bombings; thirty-seven IEDs on the streets,” he muttered, shaking his head. “The police are unsuccessfully trying to manage the forays into downtown, but the Forge managed to take a few uptown sections entirely with their forces. They’ve got control of a sixth of the city.”

So they were gaining strength. Considering how strong the police and armed forces were in this city to begin with, that boded ill.

As if reading my thoughts, Teagan muttered, “The trouble seems to be that a large portion of the police is openly defecting and another portion suspected of sabotage. We’ve been undermined from the inside.”

Turning traitor myself seemed like a good idea. Slipping away while confusion was reigning might not be a bad move. The only reason I remained here was lying in the bed next to me.

Looking at Kit as he got a blood transfusion, his wounds bandaged as best the emergency staff could for now, I wasn’t sure what would happen to him. He was on his side to avoid putting pressure on the wounds. I did, however, release a huge sigh of relief as Teagan added, “Good news is that one of the bombs wrecked a good portion of the Tourney stadium. The competition has been put off indefinitely.”

“So where are we at then?” I asked, dreading the answer.

“They’re going to evac you, Elena and your father to a bunker,” he said grimly. “Personally, I think they should’ve done it already…“

He cut off as the curtain parted, revealing Yaron as he stepped in. Grudgingly lowering his weapon, Teagan stood down. Neither of us were relieved to see him by any means. Nor were we sure how he’d found us.

Unlike me in my current condition, Yaron stood perfectly unharmed and unruffled as he demanded, “Anna, have you been treated?”

As I nodded, he said tonelessly, “Good. We’ll be getting you out of here shortly. We’re unable to get armored vehicles through since people are going mad in the streets. As for that nuisance the Lynx, he’s finally been caught red handed. They spotted him on the security monitors just before the bomb went off.”

Alarms sounded in my mind, realizing that he was being falsely blamed for the explosions. If they blamed him, they could effectively vilify him and convince the city he was to blame for all the deaths.

“No,” I huffed out, deciding to lie to buy time until I could question him myself. Meeting Yaron’s forbidding gaze, I murmured, “He was there to stop the bomb. He tried to warn me.”

Both Teagan’s and Yaron’s gazes darkened with my words; Teagan’s with dread and Yaron’s with interest.

“He came to you?” Yaron said, studying me more closely.

“He saved me from an abduction attempt by the Forge a few nights ago,” I muttered, wringing my hands. “So I guess he felt more confident approaching me instead of security. He warned there was a bomb and he couldn’t find it. I didn’t make it out in time. He could still be trapped in the wreckage or dead. I don’t know.”

That last bit was true. He could be. When I’d found him, he’d been rummaging through the file cabinets, so I very much doubted he’d known anything about the bombs. A rational person would’ve fled the premises if they knew.

As Yaron bore down to question me, Teagan let out a curse. Looking back, I saw him looking at a television monitor visible over our bay. As he turned up the sound, reaching it easily, a whole new kind of fright filled me.

My father was holding a press conference from somewhere in the hospital, one that seemed to be on whole going disastrously. He was shouting at the press as they demanded questions. And by all indicators, he’d lost his composure completely.

“It’s the people’s fault!” he yelled back at them, waving his fist at the cameras. “If they had set the industrial quota for the quarter, this wouldn’t have happened! It’s their own laziness coming back to haunt them! And the Forge knows it, too!”

Considering a great deal of noise sounded outside the curtains, it seemed that just about everybody in the ER had heard him, too. And none of it sounded positively received.

“He’s insane,” Teagan muttered to himself, likewise hearing the volume of people escalating around us. “Citizens won’t stand for this.“

“He’s blaming the people?” I murmured, looking at Yaron as his jaw twitched. “Was this planned and scripted?”

As Yaron’s unnaturally cold eyes turned to me, I saw a whole new danger coming my way. Frighteningly inhuman fury showed plainly across his face, telling me that the answer was a resounding no. The shadow government hadn’t condoned this.

“This goes too far,” he replied, looking me over with a new objective in mind. With that said he swept back out, leaving the chill of his words behind him. And I knew damn well what it could mean.

If Father had displeased the elite overlords, there was no telling what they’d do. At best, they’d depose him. More likely, they’d kill.

The realization was only amplified as there was a deafening crash from beyond where we were. Teagan stuck his head out and quickly retracted it, drawing the curtain completely closed.

“Time has run out,” he said, turning to me. “People are forcing their way in the ER doors. I’m not waiting. We’re evacuating now.”

As I stood to move into action, Teagan coming over to support me since my ankle wasn’t completely steady, a quiet murmur made me pause. Looking back, I saw Kit’s eyes open blearily before looking around.

“Aiyla?” he called again, rapidly coming to. His eyes were dilated, likely from the pain medication.

Limping over, I stooped to his side. “I’m here. You’re safe now.”

He blinked, focusing on me with difficulty. “What is that? I hear-“

The crowds were gaining volume and trying to crack the doors in. I could hear it, too, and so could Teagan as he hovered over me. “They’re revolting. Look, I’ve got to go. Tell the Lynx that they think he planted the bomb. I covered for him, but I doubt they believed me.”

Kit’s eyes widened into alarm, losing all signs of drowsiness. “Covered? What do you mean?”

 “Said he tried to warn me of the blast-“

“No,” he moaned over me, looking terrified at the idea. “You didn’t! Tell me you didn’t! It’s too dangerous!”

Lowering myself to his level, I touched his cheek. “Doesn’t matter now. The staff will take care of you when I’m gone.”

“Heard Yaron,” he huffed out, trying to fight against whatever drugs were in his system. He tried to push himself onto one arm before sinking back down.

I nodded. “Yes, he’s coming to take me away.”

The blood drained from his face. “No. If you go with him, The Lynx won’t be able to get to you. You told him you wanted out – to be free…”

As he fought against the pain medications to speak, my mind whirled. “How did you know that?”

“Get to St. Michael’s Orphanage,” he insisted, still panicked by the idea of my going with Yaron. Struggling to move, he managed to remove a ring from his finger and placed it in my hands. “Alvin will hide you if you show this to him. Don’t go with Yaron. I know what he’ll do to you.”

His eyes practically begged me not to, but I tried to place the ring back in his hands. “I’ll never make it that far. They’ll catch me.”

“You have to try,” he begged, pushing it back to me as the beeping of his heart monitor sped up. “You’ll never get the chance again. This isn’t about me. I don’t care if you never want to see me again after this, but you’ve got to try to escape. I won’t be able to help you if you go with him.“

“We’ve got to go, Aiyla,” Teagan insisted firmly from behind me.

“Make him take you there,” Kit insisted vehemently, clutching my hand and eyeing him over my shoulder. “He cares about you. Go! I’ll be fine.”

I wasn’t sure quite what to do. Part of me was terrified by either decision, but looking into Kit’s eyes, I realized I didn’t care. The only future I saw worth living was one with him in it.

With his saving me, he hadn’t only saved my life. He’d saved my heart as well. Saved it from a slow destruction with the path I’d been on. He’d brought me back from the darkness I’d been in after Lola’s death. Kit had revived my will to fight to live.

If I didn’t try to run now, I wouldn’t have the chance again. I’d never get to be with him.

Before I could stop myself, I leaned in and kissed him softly. He leaned into my kiss; greedily stretching after me to keep the contact between us and not wanting it to end as I pulled away. Already regretting parting, I whispered, “You’d better be. I’m not letting you go that easily.”

A faint smile tugged at his lips as he pressed the ring into my palm, looking into my eyes. “I will find you. Go. Te amo, mi vida.”

That last bit flabbergasted me, confessing that he loved me and especially considering the circumstances. But judging by the look in his eyes, he meant every word despite the pain killers in his system.

His focused changed as he looked over my shoulder, ordering in a forceful tone, “Get her out of here.”

Hating tearing myself away while he was injured, I forced myself to move as Teagan took my arm. He pulled me out the back of the curtains, the both of us heading for the rear staff entrance to the ER.

I looked over my shoulder for one last glimpse of Kit but he was enshrouded from my view by the curtains around the bed, lost to me as we rounded the corner. Tears slipped down my cheeks as I limped along, trying to keep up with Teagan’s swift pace. I’d have to trust the nurses to watch over Kit now. He’d be safest here. The elites wouldn’t care about him anymore now that the Tourney was cancelled.

“We’ll get out the deliveries bay in the lower level,” Teagan muttered, keeping a wary eye on all corners as we moved along.

“Take me to St. Michael’s,” I ordered, wiping my eyes as we went and slipping Kit’s ring into my pocket for safekeeping.

“Let’s focus on getting out of here first,” he said, propelling me along by the back with the other hand keeping his weapon on the ready. “By the time the Forge is finished making a meal of this, your father’s regime won’t last through the night. Until everything cools down, we’re gonna disappear,” he said adamantly, catching me as I almost stumbled and handing me my gun. “Mortimer will cover for us. We’re not taking any chances with you.”

Without question, I accepted my weapon from him, Teagan having taken it while I was treated. I cocked it, keeping it aimed at the floor with both hands and echoing his stance as we moved along.

“If we’re separated, steal a nurse’s uniform and run,” he instructed, voice growing tenser with every step. We headed into a back stairwell, descending further into the hospital’s bowels. “Change your appearance. If they catch me, they’re going to charge me with treason for disobeying-“

“You’re following my orders. I lied and told you that my father gave me a secret emergency plan,” I said, giving him a fake cover story to use. “If it’s too much, I can go on my own.”

The look he shot me was positively scathing. “You know better than that, Aiyla. I’m with you to the end.”

Reaching the door at the bottom of the stairs, Teagan prowled ahead gun first and gestured for me to hang back while he checked out the hall. But as he retreated back a step and squared his shoulders to aim, I knew we were in deep trouble.

“Where are you two off to?” Haynesworth’s lilting voice came from around the corner, Teagan stopping dead without lowering his weapon. “Odd that you’d be sneaking off now…”

Just by his tone, I knew we were screwed. There was suspicion that we were defecting from the Hacienda. Peering around the corner, I saw three other policemen with him. They’d blocked our exit. Yaron must’ve discovered us gone and sent them after us.

“Evacuating,” Teagan replied, not relaxing from his aggressive stance. “Move.”

“That’s funny considering Yaron ordered you to wait for him,” Haynesworth replied, crossing his arms. To my dismay, I heard footsteps coming from the stairwell above us. “He sent me to look for her since she’d gone…”

As his eyes traveled over me, I had the worst thrill of foreboding. Where there once was friendship and lust, now there was nothing but disgust. That along with a great deal of malice.

“You’d better come with us,” he said as two police officers rounded the corner behind me, boxing us in. “Everyone is in the conference room waiting.”

“The building isn’t secure,” Teagan insisted, voice deepening into threatening territory. I knew exactly what he’d want me to do. He’d fire on them while I ran, sacrificing himself. He was just waiting for the opportune moment to strike.

“Says who?” Haynesworth replied coolly, gesturing with two fingers to lower our weapons. “Are you complying?”

His tone told me that we’d be shot if we resisted. Lowering my weapon, I placed a hand on Teagan’s back while slipping past him. While I knew he’d fight to protect me, all it would do is get him killed. I wouldn’t let one more person die for my sake.

His fingers twitched on the trigger as I passed him, seeing that I’d given myself up. There was no fighting it now. As he in turn lowered his gun, Haynesworth sneered, “Consider yourself fired. Get out.”

As he spoke, the two men beside him grabbed me by the arms and steered me toward the elevator at the back end of the hall. Seeing Teagan move convulsively to stop them, I shook my head.

Before I could speak, however, I cried out as he was struck from behind and knocked to the ground. The men from the stairwell streamed out behind him, weapons aimed at his back.

“Don’t hurt him!” I cried as Teagan remained still. “He was trying to do his job!“

“Not one word,” Haynesworth hissed at me, pointing at the elevator with one damning finger. “Get in.”


Copyright 2020 Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas – Book Review: Disappointing

This book had such potential, but unfortunately fell disappointingly short. That said, I won’t trash it entirely. The novel kept me reading, even though at times I was scratching my head with the inconsistencies and sudden, impromptu twists. The story had intricate elements which were at best intriguing, but at many points did not cohesively mesh together.

My thoughts:

1 – Pacing issues. For 800 pages, perhaps the story would’ve gripped the audience more securely if things had been sped up. I do not know if the book was rushed in its editing period, but I felt as though at minimum 200 pages might have been trimmed down even further, if not removed entirely.

2 – When twists surfaced in the plot, I often felt they had not been properly set up for the reader. They came without warning and sometimes felt out of character for the person in question. Perhaps more foreshadowing would’ve aided the transitions and actions.

3 – The copious amount of swearing, and mostly at the beginning of the novel, felt as if it cheapened the writing. Having read Maas’ other works, I know how well she can write without resorting to that measure. They began to feel like a crutch to support the story, especially since about halfway through the book, less expletives were used by the characters. That character inconsistency there made it feel as if they were unnecessary and added only for shock effect.

Note: I’ve read and enjoyed many books where the characters swore (and far more copiously and colorfully than in this one), but it seemed natural for them to do so. The usages in this dialogue seemed unnecessary and forced.

4 – The allusions to banging everyone in the bathroom only added to that ‘cheapened’ effect. And considering everyone knows that Maas’ previous adult books have been loaded with sex scenes and pulled them off without devaluing the story or the characters (Rhysand and Feyre being deliciously sinful examples), it was disappointing.

When the two protagonists finally did get around to their love scene, all the other references to meaningless sex had already burned out the powerful effect of a good romance scene. It’d already weakened the moment to the point it didn’t stand out at all between the two of them and felt like more of the same we’d already read. It made the attraction less meaningful. In this sense, a double positive equalled a dismal double negative.

5 – Character issues. Much of the character building was lovely and very well done. The devastation of many of the events was very well expressed and brought sympathy for the characters. But again, things would often surface that did not feel consistent.

(SPOILER) Hunt, for example, as a trained soldier, was unrealistically unaware of his surroundings at times. When he was ambushed twice, it felt as though he deserved it for being so lax about monitoring the goings on around him. I’ve known soldiers, and they keep their eyes open so to speak. It was out of character for him and his skill set.

Pros:

When the novel finally did get to the climax, the story exploded. The last 150 pages were fantastic and kept my attention flawlessly. Everything was action packed and it leapt off the page. I only wish the beginning half or more of the novel matched it. The few glimmers of action in the beginning and middle act of the book were promising, but did not keep up the momentum. If they had, the story would’ve been outstanding. They felt like two different books entirely, but with the same characters.

I almost feel as if this book would’ve benefited from more time spent being edited and smoothed out. All the elements of a sizzling best seller were there, but the potential for it was seemingly unreached. Having read Maas’ other works, this novel could’ve surpassed them entirely. Unfortunately, it did not.

All I can hope is that these kind of issues will not plague the next in this series. Or the next book in the Court of Thorns and Roses series, A Court of Silver Flames, which is set to release next January.

Regretfully, 3 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

– Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel


If you enjoy Urban Fantasy action and romance series, you may instead enjoy:

Cursed Hart: Book 1 in the Vaktare of All Realms series, TOP TEN FINALIST FOR BEST URBAN FANTASY 2019 – CAFFIENATED FANTASY AWARDS. –

Click HERE to read it now.

The State of Our Nation

The state of our nation tonight…. our world… burning with fire and hatred. The demons are feeding off all this and getting power from it.

Don’t think that it is merely a one dimensional battle. It’s only ramping up from here on out and we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves…For those awake, this is now progressing to a full spiritual warfare arena. It’s time to engage.

Pray.

If you agree with this message, please share it.

– Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell | Part 11 – Te Amo

I could scarcely breathe. Weight pressed down onto my chest, constricting my breathing. The smell of smoke overtook my senses as did the heat, disorienting me.

With a pang, I realized that I’d been a fool. I’d attempted to open a box with a bomb in it. Not my finest moment. Having been so preoccupied, I’d missed the obvious and was lucky to be alive.

The Forge must’ve planted it to attack the club. The blast had gone off just as Kit had thrown us down. The question was what’d happened to him. Trying to move my arms to see if I could locate him, I quickly realized with alarm what was pressing me down.

My eyes flashed open as I found his body covering mine, chest to chest and his head tucked in next to my ear. He grunted as I moved, his breath ragged. “Kit?”

“Don’t move,” he muttered, sounding pained. “We’re trapped under the rubble and it could still crash down on us. Got lucky and the desk shielded us from the blast. Are you all right?”

“There’s something wet leaking, so a pipe must’ve been hit next to us,” I muttered, going still. Other than my right leg being strangely numb, everything else seemed fine. I couldn’t see whatever was on top of us. With no light, I could only assume the club had been destroyed.

“That’s not water, chica,” he choked out, voice strained.

Fear flooded through me, realizing that the liquid beneath my fingers had a sticky quality. And it was seeping down from above, over my legs. “Blood,” I whispered, realizing that he’d taken the worst of the blast to protect me. “How bad are you hurt?”

“Not mortally, but it’s no flesh wound either,” he replied, voice tightening. “Just do me a favor and keep talking. Distract me. I get claustrophobic and being boxed in is doing me no favors.”

Anything for him since he’d sacrificed himself. My hand found his near mine and I intertwined my fingers with his, unable to comfort him otherwise. “You saved me again.”

His fingers twitched in my grip. “We’re just lucky you heard the beeping or we’d be…”

I swallowed hard, though soothed by his presence. His heart was beating wildly through his chest, the rhythm quickening against my skin. “Where are you hurt?”

“Shrapnel in my back and legs. Blood loss is the danger.” As I went to call out for help, he muttered, “Don’t bother. I tried for twenty minutes while you were out. No one heard. If you’re claustrophobic, too-“

“No. Just need to get you help,” I said, slowly turning my head slightly to the side to see him. I could barely see the side of his face in the gloom. “Could the Lynx have planted the bomb? He was here.“

“No. He would never… That much I know,” he huffed out with hesitation, shuddering against me. “If he’d known, he’d have alerted security, despite having to hand himself over to do so. So you’re engaged to Yaron?”

It was my turn to stifle a shudder as he changed the subject. If he knew the news, it must’ve been circulating around the club for all to hear. “Bastard ordered I strip down so he could ‘inspect me’ before the marriage.”

A curse, one so ugly that I shivered, sounded in my ear, Kit continuing to sputter off profanities in Spanish at the mere idea. Not wanting to discuss it further, I changed the subject for a second time. “How did you get your name, Kit?”

Despite the dire state of our situation, he still giggled faintly. “When I was little, my ears and feet were too big for me, so a bully teased I looked like a caracal kit. So I took ownership of the nickname on my terms.” His head turned ever so slightly toward me as if to monitor my reaction. “And you? What was your childhood like?”

“I was always so skinny that Auntie Lola would joke I was like a skeleton,” I confessed, smiling at the memory. “When El Dia de Los Muertos would roll around every year, she’d paint my face to celebrate even though we weren’t allowed to join directly in the celebrations.”

As a child I’d watch everyone heading to the cemetery, wondering what it’d be like. Families would gather by the hundreds to honor their ancestors. The memories were like a beacon to me, leading back to a happier time. A time when I’d been happily ignorant to the suffering around me. The only time I felt loved.

I sighed heavily. “Sometimes I wonder if she was right about me, though. Maybe I am a skeleton. With the way I live my life, I certainly feel dead sometimes. Muerta.”

Dead. A skeleton of what I’d been before her death. All the joy in my life vanished along with her spirit the day of her murder. Ever since I’d felt like I had no identity or purpose. I longed to feel like I made a difference again; even just for one person. For someone to feel like I made a difference for them.

“But despite it all, you make me feel alive, too, Kit,” I admitted, echoing what he’d said the night previous. Especially with the revelation the Lynx had brought me, though I didn’t dare tell Kit that yet. “More alive than I’ve felt in years.” Silence fell as I waited for his reply. No response came. “Kit?”

With a jolt, I realized that his breathing was growing shallower. While I’d been reminiscing, he’d slipped into unconsciousness. Giving in to my panic, I screamed out, “Help! Somebody get us out of here!”

For the next few minutes, I kept screaming until my voice was hoarse. With every second, Kit slipped toward the very precipice I had been talking about: death. The sticky wetness under me was growing. And I couldn’t handle the idea of anyone else dying for me. Especially not him. I couldn’t lose him.  

If I hadn’t been pinned flat and our survival hinging on my screaming, I’d have been clinging to him and begging him to come back to me. The only sanity left to me was the fact I could feel him breathing against me. If he stopped, there was nothing I could do to resuscitate him. With me immobilized, there was no way to do CPR.

As I hit a particularly shrill pitch, I paused as I heard muffled movement from our left. The sound of voices reached my ears, telling me that help was close by.

 “Aiyla?!” Teagan’s voice roared back, the rubble shifting slightly. “Keep yelling! We’re trying to get to you. Don’t stop!”

“Kit’s here – he’s bleeding and –“

I cringed as the rubble started to move over us, expecting it to crash down further. Instead, warm light blinded me as the ruins of the metal desk toppled away, revealing Teagan. Bloodied with his clothes torn but otherwise okay, he stooped down to us.

“I’ve got her,” he yelled back to whomever else was searching.

“Kit’s-“

“We’ll get him help,” Teagan assured me, two other men in search and rescue gear coming into my view. As they carefully lifted Kit from the wreckage, my breath caught in my throat.

Kit had lied; hiding just how grievous his wounds were to keep me calm. Burns covered his whole back and glass was embedded everywhere from his neck down. Shards stuck up at odd angles; blood coagulated around the edges like mottled, burgundy stained glass.

All just to shield me.

I sat up to follow him and looked down as I felt a resistance. Once freed, I discovered why my right leg was so oddly numb. A heavy metal pole sat atop my thigh, likely having cut off circulation while I’d been unconscious. And that’d been a mercy unto itself. The ankle was swollen and bleeding, glass embedded in my calf above it.

Once Kit was in the hands of the other rescuers, Teagan stooped down to me and pried the metal pole away from my leg. As he did, the feeling flooded back into it. Gritting my teeth as the pain came to me, I reached out to him.

Ignoring my hand, he scooped me up in his arms to lift me free. “I’ve got you,” he murmured to me, carrying me with ease over the smoking and, in many cases, still burning piles of wreckage. Despite the urgency of the situation, he surprised me entirely by pressing a kiss to my forehead. There were tears in his eyes as he added, “Thank God you’re alive…”

Unable to bear the sight of the rubble and the many bodies I saw as he carried me, I kept my eyes firmly on Kit as he was transported out ahead of us. Still, my breath was robbed from my lungs as I realized that the entire club had been wrecked.

It was a miracle that I’d survived at all. Kit and I’d been insanely lucky to have been where we were. The rest of the building had collapsed, rubble exploding out and tearing into several surrounding buildings around it. We’d been under a section of the building where there was only one story. Others had been four stories high and all of it’d been brought down on those who’d been inside.

The carnage was inescapable, especially as I realized that there must’ve been multiple bombs in the building. Several of the bodies had been decimated entirely, burned beyond recognition. Others had been torn apart by the blast and others crushed.

A tremor wracked my body as I saw flashing lights and police vehicles on all sides, a news helicopter hovering overhead.

“How many?” I croaked, wrapping my arms around his neck.

“Unknown yet, but no small number. Elena got out already,” Teagan said to me, keeping his eyes on the unsteady pieces of concrete he walked over to get us clear. “As did Yaron.”

As soon as we were over the last piece and on the ground, he jogged over to the nearest ambulance. As Kit was placed on a stretcher inside, Teagan gently placed me on the adjacent bench seat in the ambulance. Space must’ve been scarce, seeing that all the other ambulances were full.

“Anna?!”

Looking up, I saw Haynesworth running toward us after getting out of a police cruiser. He was donned in riot gear, his command of officers pulling up behind him with sirens blaring. An armored SWAT team truck roared down the street behind it, coming to a halt.

He hurried to the back of the ambulance. “Get her to the hospital,” he ordered the EMTs, anger coloring his tone and he looked between me and the scene he’d just pulled up to. “We-“

Screams erupted on all sides as machine gunfire sounded, peppering the police cars with bullets. Haynesworth dove for the pavement as Teagan slammed the ambulance door shut, keeping the deadly hail out.

“Drive!” he bellowed, drawing his own weapon as the EMTs scrambled to do their jobs, the driver trying unsuccessfully to get out of the line of fire.

As a bullet pierced one of the side windows, I made the smart decision and dove for the floor. A wave of pain shrieked through my ankle, but I didn’t care as I searched for the holster I kept hidden under my dress. Before I could get to it, the ambulance screeched out of the space and zoomed for the end of the block.

“Turning into a fucking war zone out here,” one of the EMTs muttered, trying to tend to Kit as the vehicle bounced along.

“What the hell is going on?!” Teagan bellowed back, hovering over me and looking out the windows.

“This wasn’t the only location hit,” the driver called back, swerving around obstacles. “Attacks are progressing all around the city, some in the center of protest zones. People are rioting and panicking amidst it all, blocking the streets. Seems that the Forge was among the demonstrations and infiltrated them to plant bombs. Dozens of improvised weapons have gone off-”

“Shit!” Teagan roared, refusing my gun as I offered it to him. “Damn it to hell! I told them we shouldn’t leave the mansion!“

I just shook as I looked out the window, seeing bullet-riddled windows and police cars heading back the way we’d come. Water mains were blown and water was skiting toward the sky. Street by street was in shambles, people rushing about and trying to take cover.

Plain as day, I knew without asking what was going on. All I could do was hold Kit’s hand from below, trying not to give in to my fear.

The Forge had coordinated a citywide attack to begin an assault on the strongholds of the Hacienda. And they’d left the citizens of the city square in the middle, not caring who was harmed in the crossfire. From here on out, the day was only going to get worse. If they’d gotten this far, this wouldn’t be the first strike.

The city of Dejado Atras was under siege.

We were now at war.

And there was no definitive side for me to stand on.


Stay tuned ’till next week. Things are only going to get hotter from here…

God bless you and may peace reign over your heart. Dejado Atras is closer than you may think…

Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel (Copyright 2020 Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell)

You Are Loved Amidst This Storm – My Personal Letter To You For June 2020

Whew! What a week! Hackles seem to be rising in every corner. 

But in the midst of this storm, I wanted this message to be a calm contrast for you. Even I noticed that my own newsfeed has erupted into a flurry of fiery mixed opinions, everyone wanting to have their say at this difficult time.

I didn’t want to be the next person to arrive on the scene, inserting my two cents and throwing my hat into the ring. With the amount of bullying going on out there on the internet (and having gotten several direct, pointless doses of it myself this week), I instead wanted this moment to be a chance for you to take a deep breath. The only kind of trolls I want you to be thinking about are the ones that live under bridges (and perhaps reside in the fictional world of Arestina). 

I want to let you know that in this small spec of time, you are loved. You are cherished. You are valued. I want you to inhale and take a soothing breath. Knowing that many of my friends suffer from anxiety depression and are overwhelmed by what is happening in the world, I am simply sending a hug to all corners of the globe. This is a safe place, free of the bullying tone the internet has taken on this week. 

At this moment if you need an escape, you are free to check out this week’s complimentary chapter of Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell. I hope it provides a momentary reprieve from the chaos around us. Sometimes fiction can be a handy distraction from our fears and tension.

Having spent many moments in hospital ERs and recovery rooms, I know that the escape of a book can be a lifesaving escape. It is one of the reasons I am so passionate about writing. Not only has it helped me through many difficult times and helped tackle social issues of the world, but I also know that it can do the same for others when they are in need. And I hope in this time, I can help you as well. 

No matter where you stand, I want you to know that I am with you. I am here for you. I need not voice my opinions on the matters of racism and bullying. My written works, Wings of Caligo in particular, have already taken my stance on the subject. Still, I will voice one final truth that so many wish to ignore this week.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

We are all in this world together. 

As always, feel free to reach out to me and reply to this message. I’m here for you and send my love amidst the raging storm in this world. Division is our greatest enemy at this point and I want to extend a hand to anyone who reaches out. God bless you and may peace prevail over all our hearts. 

Love and hugs,

Maggie Lynn 

Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell Part 10

Dawn came earlier than I wanted. With it, however, came a scenario that I never expected. But damn was it nice.

Opening my eyes a crack, I realized I was cocooned in Kit’s arms. My head lay over his heart as he snored, the two of us sleeping on the couch. The pleasant scent of street food emanated from him, almost as if he’d absorbed the smell from sitting in a kitchen too long. Though loathe to move considering how comfy it was with his arms nestled around me, I knew better than to linger.

Gently shifting off him so he wouldn’t awaken, I couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was. He even had dimples from how much he smiled. Despite my best efforts, I’d grown fond of him. The realization hit me and plummeted in my stomach. The question now was how we would proceed. With everything I learned last night, things had grown exponentially complicated. The task now would be gathering intel on the Forge, considering nobody wanted to talk.

Heading into the bathroom to change out of the evening dress I’d slept in, I was less than thrilled to see that Ryan left a vibrantly purple hickie on my neck. I errantly wondered what it’d be like if Kit kissed me like that; if his hands had been the ones on my body.

The thought was entirely too delicious.

After splashing water on my face and giving myself a sharp reprimand for thinking such things, I headed back out to face him.

One couldn’t help but be disappointed as I discovered Kit gone and Teagan sitting where he had been; a breakfast tray beside him. As it was, his foot was jiggling as he sat, looking like a cat with an irritably twitching tail.

“Expecting someone else?” he asked acerbically. His expression soured further as I refused to broach the subject and shrugged. I was sure he knew that Kit had never made it upstairs and he severely disapproved. “I brought breakfast in to share.”

The sight of eggs and oatmeal had never been so welcomed. As I approached, he muttered while monitoring my reaction, “We need to discuss last night. We both know this won’t end well for either of you.”

That I knew. Despite Kit’s assurances, the Tourney would get him in the end. But as Teagan shoved the entire plate at me and forestalled my attempt to divvy up the plate, I muttered under my breath, “I need you to quietly gather intel on my aunt’s murder.”

The mood solidified between us as his eyes narrowed. Judging by his reaction, he was completely aware of the true murderer.

Before he could reply, however, he abruptly snatched the fork out of my hand as we both heard the clicking of heels. As Elena tottered in, I hastily picked up the hunk of grapefruit and held my tongue. A part of me that longed to demand if she knew of Auntie Lola’s true murderer, but I knew better.

Elena seeing me eat seemed to be the least of my troubles, however. As her eyes landed on my neck, she snapped out, “For Heaven’s sakes, cover that up! What will your fiancé think?!”

Fiancé? Did she mean Ryan? Teagan appeared likewise astounded, so I wasn’t the only one caught off guard. “I’m engaged?” 

Elena rummaged through her purse and pulled out a joint, not paying my trepidation any attention. “You’ve been using Haynesworth to get your quota of affection, but don’t lead him on any longer. Get yourself presentable. We’re going to the club.”

And with that, she clacked back out in her stilettos.

Teagan and I just stared at each other. Considering Elena approved of Ryan not even twenty-four hours ago, something had drastically changed. The question was who the chosen candidate was now.

“Remain armed at all times,” Teagan ordered as he stood, moving into action. “I’m not complacent about your dressing room visitor. Be aware that Haynesworth’s men recovered surveillance footage and identified the woman. She’s a well-known Forge supporter…”

So now I was suspected of colluding with her. The hint was left hanging as a warning. “Just how close is the rebellion to us?” I asked frankly, not caring if we were overheard. “Nobody will tell me.”

“They’ve been gaining traction,” he admitted, giving me a suspicious once over. “It’s a slaughter to anyone who gets involved… and on either side.”

Before I could question him further, he hoisted up his pant leg. I gulped as I saw a wicked looking scar over his ankle. “Anyone in the line of fire of the Forge is at risk. While I was in the service, I stepped on a landmine they’d left outside a building,” he said bluntly. “Now got a titanium rod holding my ankle together. This enemy will randomly strike wherever they can.

“They failed to nab you outside of the restaurant the other night, so they’ll try again,” he added, seeing my sorrow as I focused solely on his ruined foot. “Mortimer and I don’t think you should leave the mansion at all, but we’ve been overruled. As it is, Kit’s just lucky he hasn’t been spotted ‘dropping in’ and gotten shot by security patrols.”

So the Forge were the ones who tried to nab me the other evening? No wonder nobody would answer my questions about it.

He dropped his pantleg, hiding the damage from my view and prodded the plate toward me. “You need to realize how risky this is.“

“Don’t leave me alone with Ryan again,” I ordered, shuddering at the thought. “He doesn’t take a hint…”

A sound of disgruntlement came from him as his eyes lingered over the hickie. “Eat. Mortimer will have my hide if you don’t.”

Forty minutes later, I was in front of the house waiting for the limo to pull around. Teagan lingered behind me like a silent watchtower, arms impassively crossed as we waited. The both of us knew today wasn’t going to be pleasant. Supposedly I’d be meeting my future husband.

A few yards away, I was surprised to see Kit standing with the other contestants. They were coming to the club as well, likely as a perk for competing in the Tourney. I stifled a chuckle as the reality star wannabe made another crack about the outing not being anything special for her since she was already a member of the club.

“Yes, we get it. You’re wealthy,” Kit drawled loudly and massaging his head like he had a migraine, earning looks of agreement from the other competitors. None of them seemed to like her and I didn’t blame them. She was a spoiled brat. “Can’t you see we’re just seething with envy…”

As Elena stepped out of the house, I abruptly decided to head as far as possible from her proximity. Stalking past the other group, I knew Teagan was following. Coming to the edge of the drive, I peered beyond the hedge to the iron gates as I reapplied my lipstick. Seeing nothing, I almost yipped as I found that Kit had also followed along behind me. Despite Teagan glaring at him from a short distance away, he said jovially to me, “So is the lipstick for me or the gringo to ruin?”

“No. Now there’s a third gringo. Elena announced this morning that I’m engaged,” I said flatly, seeing Kit’s lazy smile disappear. As Teagan politely turned his back to us to give us space, I added, “No idea who.”

“Great. Another cream puff,” he drawled, wiggling his fingers in a taunting wave toward Elena since she’d spotted us. He blew her a kiss to top it off, seeing her flush mottled red at his sheer audacity. Despite the solemnity of our discussion last night, he’d returned to his usual flirtatious demeanor. And with gusto.

“You’re looking for trouble,” I said.

“No, I found trouble the day I laid eyes on you,” he said, squinting up at the sun as the clouds parted before shooting me a devious smile. “I rather enjoyed waking up with you this morning. What can I do to get that kind of sugar during waking hours?”

Meeting his gaze, I shot him a pointed look. “I’m more concerned with getting you out of here alive. Drop out of the Tourney. The vultures are circling.”

The bait wasn’t taken as he took a step up to me. His eyes glinted with mischievous intentions. “I’ll bet you were wondering what it’d have been be like if it was me instead of Haynesworth…“

As he reached out to touch my cheek, I blocked his hand. “Stop trying to distract me. I’ve had all the moves laid on me before and I never fall for them. I’m serious-”

“That just means none of them have successfully managed to light your fire,” he chuckled over me, refusing to give in.

“I’ve been kissed by plenty of men, thank you!”

He just laughed over my indignant reply. “Obviously not like you should’ve been.”

On some level, he was getting a bang out of needling me. I crossed my arms. “Did you used to speak to your wife this way?”

His expression shuttered off in an instant, losing his teasing edge. “No. We were childhood best friends. Then one day we became something else. We were married a year later.” He smiled sadly, looking at the pavement. “Being with her was like breathing; easy and natural.”

Kit’s eyes flashed up to mine, smoldering with an internal fire. “You’re different. Everything about you calls to me. Much like a galgo, I’m drawn in by the lure. And there isn’t a more tempting lure out there.”

“There are plenty of other women.“

“Not like you,” he corrected, leaning into me to drive his point home. “There’s never been anyone like that for me. You are the flames to my gasoline. And I want to burn. Even better, the feeling is mutual…”

“Perhaps, though it would be pointless to speculate,” I said, looking away. Not with the new fiancé in question.

“Who needs to speculate?” he pushed further, stepping up to me and leaving an inch between us. “I already know how you feel. Can see it; feel it. You’re just holding back because you think we’ll never be. So I push all your buttons and…” He leaned in to hiss in my ear, his breath tickling my neck. “Watch you get hot. Hot for me.”

The spark between us was electric as his dark amber eyes dared me to disagree. Every zing of chemistry was blatantly obvious. I could feel the heat radiating off his body as he hovered over me, eyeing my lips with open desire. The urge to press myself against him was inescapably tempting. To feel his hands on my body. For his lips to land on mine.

“You wish,” I hissed back, pushing him back with one finger as he leaned in for the kill.

He stepped back, putting his hands up as the limo pulled round. “Careful, querida. If you don’t blow off some steam, you’ll overheat. Or even better, you’ll explode.”

“And if you explode first?” I drawled in return, letting the words drip with a dare.

He only grinned with a wicked edge in response as the limo pulled up. His smile was purely male; a sensual promise of things to come between us. This was by no means the end of our standoff.  

But as Elena walloped him with her bag as she swept past into the car, he only laughed and strutted off toward the other contestants. That and smirked at Teagan tauntingly, seeing his disapproval.

The ride to the club was mercifully short, especially as Teagan kept his gaze averted the whole way. I reflected on how I should proceed in the meantime. Anything I saw or heard would be filed away in my mind, keeping any knowledge about the rebellion at the forefront.

It was especially worrisome as I saw protesters through the window of the vehicle, lining street corners and attempting to block traffic. There was no way of knowing what they were protesting either, especially considering they seemed so disorganized. None of their signs seemed to match each other, the protested issue seeming to be more about the collective government than an actual current event or policy.

And the police force stood in lines in front of them, imposing the peace. But a good number of them were looking between each other, not knowing what to do. There were hundreds of people, if not thousands, spanning several blocks.

I personally felt sorry, knowing the futility of their actions. A shift in regime was what they wanted. But I doubted the change they desired would be achieved by the means they were using. The elites would lay low for a few weeks and then appoint another figurehead.

Nobody would win.

They were shrouded from my view as we pulled around the block, though their outraged shouting was still audible.

The contestants rode in a second limo, the vehicle pulling up behind us as we parked in front of the large, white clubhouse. Once inside the absurdly opulent club, I was less than thrilled to see that the place was packed. And especially with all of my father’s male elite friends. I.e., those who held the true power over our city. The puppeteers of the shadow government.

With brown leather couches surrounded by red walls and black and white checkerboard floors, the place gave me the creeps as it always did. Cigar smoke clouded the air as I stepped inside with Teagan close behind. All eyes turned to me, those of the masculine variety. I felt acutely uncomfortable in my sundress with the straps of my bikini exposed.

Father was sitting with an older man that I’d seen before but never paid attention to. The only thing I knew was that the fellow religiously attended the Bilderberg conferences every year. And that was never a good sign.

“George,” Elena said warmly, extending a hand to him and kissing him on the cheek. “It’s so good to see you! You remember Anna.”

Judging by the look George shot me, I truly hoped he didn’t. I wasn’t into being anyone’s sugar baby and that speculation was the kind of look he gave me. “Of course. She’s blossomed into such a lovely lady, just like her mother. How are you, Anna?”

Freaking out but good while wondering if he was the one I was engaged to, I inclined my head to him. “Well, thank you.”

He nodded dismissively, much like the usual tendency of the members of the club. “I don’t believe you’ve met my son, Yaron.”

So that was who the arrogant-looking fellow on his other side was. “No, I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure. Well met, Yaron.”

A true charmer, Yaron barely cast me a glance as he took a sip of his drink. While he was good-looking enough, something told me that in Yaron’s eyes, he was his own cat’s meow.

As he stood suddenly and towered over me, I felt awfully small and for no reason to do with size. While he was over six feet, that wasn’t what daunted me. The feeling was somewhat akin to prey being inspected by a much larger predator. Like an owl surveying a rodent it’d just caught. All inner musings of my gut told me to run away from him as fast as humanly possible.

“Indeed,” he replied in a deep voice that filled with an unexplainable foreboding. He extended an arm to me. “Let us get to know each other. Walk with me?”

It was barely a request. I accepted the arm, now knowing exactly who Yaron was. Judging by the pleased expressions on Elena and my father, this must’ve been hubby to be.

Oh, shit.

Escorting me away from them and further into the halls of the club, I could feel myself visibly shrinking. Yaron gestured for Teagan to remain behind, so I was stuck alone with him. I wasn’t sure what it was about Yaron that gave me the willies, but everything in my subconscious was screaming at me that he was bad news.

As he turned his luminescent eyes on me, I gulped.

“You’re awfully quiet,” he mused, guiding me into a secluded room away from public view.

The last thing I wanted was for us to be alone. “Oh, I’m just –“

“No, it’s a good thing,” he said reprovingly, dropping his arm as we stopped. His eyes never left me, making me squirm. “I like my women quiet. Makes for easier relationships.”

Was I supposed to agree with that? All indicators pointed to the negative, but I said with forced pleasantry, “I’m sure. Now what is it you do, Yaron? Perhaps we have something in common.”

“I doubt it. Most women don’t enjoy talk of arms sales. I won’t waste my breath,” he said dismissively, turning to me fully. “Now I want you to know I never intend to have children. My brother can carry on the family legacy. I don’t have time for such things.”

That was good because I never intended to share his bed in the first place.

“I expect you to be attentive to me when I am home, however,” he added, expecting me to listen. “I have needs and they will be met. Strip for me. I want to see what you look like.”

My mouth ran dry. He wanted to inspect me? Was he serious? Did women put up with this kind of behavior from him usually? Deciding to test him, I crossed my arms. “And if I refuse?”

The hairs on the back of my neck went up as his eyes darkened. While he didn’t move, it was almost as if his pupils narrowed. “I don’t think you’ll like it…”

Now it came to me that he might well be the son of the arms dealer I’d heard about previously. The son whose girlfriends wound up roughed up and battered before ultimately being silenced. Hastily deciding not to antagonize him considering I had a bathing suit on under my dress, I just dropped it to the ground. Adding to my mounting disgust, he gestured with two figures for me to turn for him. As I did, he nodded his approval. “You’ll do. Don’t lose or gain any weight.”

“My doctor told me-“

I cut off as his hand twitched toward my face.

“Don’t,” he said with a ringing finality, turning for the door. “Now go swim. I have other things to be doing…”

As he walked out, my knees shook. Fear didn’t describe the effect the idea of being married to him had on me. Bracing my back on the wall, I felt dizzy as the true desperation of the situation hit me. Just the way he visually scrutinized my body left me feeling dirty and used.

Footsteps approached from outside so I hastily stooped to pick up my dress. Teagan poked his head around the corner and I huffed out a sigh of relief. His eyes traveled over me worriedly. “Everything okay?”

“It will be,” I said, shimmying the dress up over my torso and pulling on the straps.

Just by the set of his eyebrows, I was sure he’d deduced exactly what I had. And overheard everything. Especially as he added, “Don’t worry. Between Mortimer and me, we won’t leave you alone with him.”

“Yeah, and when we’re married?” I snapped, trying to shake off the shivers still running down my spine. The room was spinning and beginning to shrink, a sure sign an anxiety attack was headed my way. “Need to get out of here. Going to deck someone if I don’t –“

Further adding to my good humor, Elena came stomping in and waved her clutch at Teagan. “You get out! And what are you doing in here?! You’re supposed to be with Yaron!”

Acting as if Teagan didn’t exist since she’d told him to get out, Elena charged up to me with a half-deranged edge. “What did you do?! Did you make him angry?!” she demanded, coming over to stick her face in front of mine. “If you’ve screwed this up-“

“He decided I’d do.” As she visibly calmed, I snarled, “So this pleases you? I doubt you’ve ever even met him before!”

She shrugged. “It’s not my place to feel one way or the other. I’m not the one who picked him and it’s not my problem either.”

If it weren’t for the fact I’d be drugged over it, I’d have punched her right there. The urge to nail her over my new problem was inescapable. It would even ruin her latest nose job. Deciding that vacating her presence was the best route to self-preservation, I stomped out.

“Where are you going? I didn’t dismiss you!”

With her following hot on my heels, I decided escape was the best option. I started trying door handles as I darted down the hall. With her behind me and Teagan somewhere behind her, I was in no mood to deal with any of it. “Anna, come back here this instant!”

Hell no. Finally finding a handle that turned, I threw open the door. Quickly discovering the office far from occupied and, in fact, had quite the furry infestation going on, I froze. Two pointy ears and an alarmed set of glowing amber eyes turned in my direction as I slammed the door shut, realizing I’d just inherited myself a whole new quandary.

Elena stood in front of me as I remained thunderstruck. “What?”

“Mouse,” I lied, running with the most mundane excuse I could think of. “Ran across the floor. Look, I need some space. Getting married is such a big prospect that I can’t even begin to… thank you for such a… gift. God bless you.”

She just stared at me with blank surprise at my turn of tone. Since she’d already had a drink, she didn’t notice as I growled it out through my teeth like a malediction. Then with a shrug, she accepted the switch because it suited her. “Fine. You’re welcome then.”

Grinding my teeth together further as she sauntered off around the next corner, I looked back at Teagan who was hesitating ten feet back. “You guard the door.”

Before he could stop me, I slipped back into the office and snapped the door shut. Locking it for good measure, I turned to the new problem at hand. “You…”

The Lynx now lay sprawled across the desk’s papers with his legs crossed and his head propped up on one arm like a male pinup model. He grinned at me, puckering his lips facetiously at my perfectly livid tone. “Me. Hola, senorita. We meet again.”

“You’ve got to be insane to be in here,” I snapped, throwing my hands up at his perfectly irreverent tone. Though the voice changer masked his true voice, his sass wasn’t marred one bit.

In the brighter light of the office, I saw that his costume was simply a black shirt and black pants, offset by a cheap costume cape. The mask-like helmet, however, was more complexly structured. While the ears were shaped just like a real lynx’s, it appeared that some kind of electronic sensors lay within them.

He waved me off, unbothered by my alarm. “Security only guards what they think has value.” As he sat up and eyed me, he added with further amusement, “Nice bikini.”

Looking down at myself, I realized that I’d only gotten one strap of the dress up before Elena had accosted me. I hurriedly pulled it up. “You need to get out of here.“

“We talk first. I know you got my message yesterday,” he said conversationally, lazily adjusting his ears, which apparently were able to independently move, over the mask. They’d both turned toward me to follow the sound of my voice. “And what say you? Yay or nay to my offer?”

“I’m not interested in joining the Forge.“

“I’m not with them, though you’ve already figured that out,” he said, gesturing humorously at a perfectly round hole in his cape. “They took potshots at me earlier, so definitely not. As for you, I’m not interested in your taking a stand for us either. With your precarious position, spying for me has a much better ring to it.“

“Deal,” I said without hesitation, seeing his eyes widen. The rest of his face was hidden down to just below his cheekbones. “But I have terms…” I hesitated, wondering how much I should divulge. “I want out of the Hacienda.”

“You want to leave the Hacienda entirely?” Blank shock showed on his face despite the mask. “A new identity?”

“I’m not becoming Yaron’s wife. I’ll spy up until the wedding date. Then you get me out,” I demanded, striding up to him and putting my hands on either side of him on the desk. “I don’t care what you think of me. That’s the deal. Take it or leave it.”

Desperation was driving me to these lengths, but I didn’t care. There was no other way out otherwise. The Lynx cocked his head, eyes tightening in thought. “They’re giving you to Yaron?”

Judging by the intense loathing in his voice, he knew exactly who I was referring to. “God knows when.”

He nodded slowly. “I accept. I’m aware of his –“

“I have one more term,” I said, cutting him off.

He crossed his arms. “Another one?”

“You get Kit to go the hell home,” I said with utmost vehemence, seeing his eyebrows rising. “I don’t care how you do it, because they’re going to knock him off. If they’re pushing me at Yaron, they’re going to make definitively sure he’s nailed in the next competition. For all I know, the next event could be tomorrow. If you two are friends, prove it.”

His expression softened. “You care for him.”

“Obviously,” I snapped, knowing time was growing shorter by the minute. “Well?”

He smiled real tightly. “I doubt convincing him will be of much trouble considering you’ve decided to bail. And if you go with him, then absolutely not. I’ve overheard your conversations.”

It was my turn to be surprised. He had bugs in my room? “How?”

His smirk turned lopsided. “I have my methods. But what I overheard earlier between you was of most interest to me. I believe it was a discussion on seduction.”

I wracked my brain, trying to figure out what the hell he was getting at. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”

“’Speculate’ was the word you used,” he teased, reaching up to toy with a lock of my hair. “So very ironic coming from an attractive woman like you.”

Now he was coming on to me? I stared at him, wondering just what he was angling for. “Are you on drugs?”

He laughed under his breath, putting a finger to my lips. “Perhaps I believe it’s in your best interest to educate you. That way you’ll know the difference when my buddy Kit finally gets you to surrender.” Before I could object, he snaked one arm around my waist to pull me closer. “To know what it should feel like…”

As he eyed my lips with want, I sucked in a shocked breath. What was it with everyone today? It was like everything had suddenly gone on acid. While the idea of letting him kiss me wasn’t overly repugnant, I moved convulsively. I put both hands to his chest. “Don’t.”

“Why not?” he said silkily, his expression daring me to let him.

“Because you’re not…“

As the words slipped out, I realized with a start what I’d been about to say. The Lynx’s smirk turned a tad more lopsided as I bit back the words. “Because I’m not Kit?”

Precisely. The stark truth struck me square in the gut, realizing that I didn’t only like Kit. I’d fallen for him as well. The revelation struck me dumb, seeing just how badly I’d now screwed myself. I loved him? How was that possible?

To my surprise, the Lynx relinquished me and sat back. Even weirder, he seemed all the more smug that I’d rebuffed him. “Good. He’s lucky to have your loyalty. I’ll bid you adieu for now. We’ll work on getting you out. Kit can relay messages for me. In the meantime, stay sweet, senorita.”

Considering my nerves were completely shot, I skittered back as he produced some kind of gun and shot it up at the ceiling. Getting the idea a bit too late, I saw a line attach itself to the inner metal of an exposed open grate. So that’s how he’d gotten in here.

“Go find Kit and see just what it’s supposed to be like; to be loved,” he hissed to me, tracing my chin with his fingers before being hoisted up.

In a flash, he was up inside the vent system. He moved the grate back into place, making it appear as if he’d never been there at all.

“Cocky bastard,” I muttered.

A ghostly laugh echoed down at me, letting me know that I’d been heard. Then he was gone.

Deciding not to linger around, I darted for the door. Once outside, Teagan was nowhere to be seen. Wondering where he’d gone to considering I knew he’d never voluntarily abandon me, I jogged through the halls. Again, they were strangely empty. The whole place was suddenly putting off a very eerie vibe. Where did everyone go?

As I made it to the main reception area, I found it likewise vacant. I could hear voices, but I wasn’t sure where they were coming from. Perhaps everyone had gone outside to the pool but I couldn’t be sure.

The odd part was that a strange ticking was emanating from the shelf above the desk. It sounded like a clock, though with a more sedate rhythm. Approaching it, I was forestalled as Kit’s voice came up behind me. “Ah, there you are. Been looking for you…“

“Can you hear that?” I asked, reaching for the cardboard box to get it down as it went from ticking to beeping.

Kit came up behind me as I placed the box on the counter, seeing that the top of it was taped shut. The thing beeped and then went silent as we stared at it, the both of us perplexed. Then comprehension set in.

Terror crossed Kit’s face as he yanked me back before I could touch it. “Get down!”

I had no time to protest as he threw me to the floor and covered with his body. Just as my back hit the ground, a white light blinded me and a gale force wave of wind hit me across the face. My ears blanked out as a deafening boom sounded overhead.

All went dark as my head hit the wood.


Until next week my dear readers… Things are about to get hot…

Copyright 2020 Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel

If you are enjoying Del Muerta: Sanctum of Hell, you may enjoy these other titles by Maggie Lynn Heron-Heidel:

A Twist In Time Review – A New Steampunk Adventure

A journey into Victorian England with a new fresh ‘Twist’.

Oliver Twist never looked so good. As far as I know, before this, he’s never been a vigilante either.
I’ll be very honest and say at the beginning of this novel, I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy the story. But by the end, I was won over. Having never been a super fan of steampunk, I found this book refreshing and a delightful change from the usual offerings of the genre. Oliver turns out to be a worthy hero for the story, protecting the orphans of the city and rising to the challenge.
While there were a few questions left over at the end of the novel, they lead on into the next book in the series and do not lead to a cliffhanger. All in all, it leaves you wishing to read the next in the series. Though the book is technically YA, the plot arc is by no means juvenile. It is perfect for adults and teens alike.
Well done, Mr. Harris. Four and a half stars.

For those who are intrigued, here’s more about the book:

Dickens Meets Steampunk.
Foundlings are disappearing from the workhouse where Oliver Twist once begged for a second bowl of gruel. He sets out to save them, with help from tinkerer, Nell Trent, and a slew of fantastical contraptions – including a mysterious pocket watch that allows its bearer to bend the rules of time. With Oliver’s childhood nemesis, the Artful Dodger and her lethal bag of tricks dogging their steps, he discovers that there is more at stake than his own life and the missing orphans. Can he save London from the flames?


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