Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sunday Excerpt 14

This week, I'm providing a double-shot of Lexi. I've combined two scenes together to bring us to the end of a chapter.

Alexis kept busy enough throughout the night. Business at the bar was slow, although the pace was unpredictable. Customers came and went, creating a rise and fall in activity, rather than a steady flow. One lonely dancer graced the stage, moving suggestively to old worn out rock and roll songs. Alexis wanted to talk to the woman, but stayed just busy enough to be serving drinks each time the dancer took a break. Besides, during every break, the dancer went into the small crowd sitting with a customer.
She finally caught the dancer leaving the stage after a short set. Business in the bar was in a lull, so Alexis decided she would take a short break, and get to know the only other female employee in the place. She gave the woman a smile as she left the stage, and followed her to a table along the outside wall of the bar.
"Mind if I sit with you," Alexis said as she pulled out a chair. "By the way, my name's Paulina." Alexis gave her the name she gave everyone else since arriving in Montgomery.
"Sure. Whatever," the woman said, not mentioning her name, instead taking a tube of cherry Chapstick off the table, and running it in a circle across her lips like a car along a racetrack.
The woman lifted a container of bottled water up, screwing the cap open, and bringing it to her lips. Alexis watched as she tipped the bottle up, drinking about half of it in one long pull. She wondered why a dancer in a shady strip club would choose water over any of the harder drinks probably provided free to her while she worked. The woman suddenly stopped, looking at her through her uplifted water bottle.
"What, you never saw a dancer drinking water on her break?" The woman sat the bottle back down on the table, screwing the cap back on, a wry smile forming as she stared at Alexis. After what seemed a lifetime of staring, the woman finally broke her gaze, picking up the tube of Chapstick again for another two laps around her lips.
"Becky," she said, as she pushed the cap onto the Chapstick tube. "My name's Becky."
"Nice to meet you, Becky." Alexis watched her stand the Chapstick tube upright, and pull her water toward the edge of the table. Becky moved with a grace and fluidity that Alexis thought was beyond that of a dancer in a club. Surely, Becky had some other professional dancing experience. She asked, "How long have you worked here?"
"About a year or so." Becky stared at her again, as if trying to see beyond her eyes, and into her soul. "I started out in the New York ballet. After an injury, I moved to Vegas. I did the circuit there for awhile, and then ended up here."
"That's a big jump, Vegas to Montgomery, Alabama. How did that happen?"
Becky grabbed at her Chapstick again. "Let's just say, a relationship brought me here, and when it ended, I was stuck." She uncapped the Chapstick tube with a pop, and ran it around her lips again, faster than before, as if she truly thought her lips were a race track.
Alexis decided not to press the issue any further, afraid of finding out what kind of horrific thing prevented Becky from leaving this place. She looked away, not wanting to go any deeper into conversation. Across the dark room, she saw Lefty raising his glass and shaking it until ice cubes spilled out the sides onto the floor
"Looks like you've met our resident jerk sleaze ball," Becky said as she pushed her chair back, getting up from the small round table.
"Yeah, he's been making me nervous all night." Alexis followed her up from the table, and extended her hand. "It was nice meeting you, Becky."
"Yeah, same to you. Take care of yourself, Paulina. Don't let guys like Lefty get to you. If you do, you won't last a week here."
"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind." Alexis glanced over to Lefty and saw he was still holding his glass up, an expectant look on his face. "I guess I better go fill his drink before he has a fit."
Becky strolled seductively back to the stage, grabbing the pole, and beginning a slow dance in the middle of a song. Alexis waited for another minute before making her way over to Lefty's table, just to make him sweat it out a little.
§
It didn't take long for the bar's crowd to dwindle down to only a few customers. By eleven o'clock the bar was empty except for the creepy, greasy-haired man, Sam called Lefty. Alexis wanted to show Sam that she was a valuable employee, willing to take initiative and get things done. She found some plastic trash bags behind the bar, and walked through the bar, emptying ashtrays and garbage cans. She filled both bags by the time she made it to the side door, leading out to an alleyway, and the dumpsters.
She hoisted the heavy plastic bags up, and backed into the door, moving into the alley backwards. Once outside, she dropped the bags and jumped for the door, but it closed before she reached it, leaving her stranded and alone in the dark alley. After throwing the bags into the dumpster, she turned to walk toward the front of the building, and something made the hair on her arms stand up. She sensed someone in the dark shadows nearby and nearly shifted before she saw him. Lefty's dark shadow filled the small alley space as he double-stepped, closing the distant between them. Alexis pushed back her shift, deciding she could take care of him in human form, if it came to that.
"What's a pretty little thing like you doing out here all alone," Lefty said as he reached over and grabbed her arm at the elbow.
Lexi said nothing, giving him a nasty look as she yanked her arm away. Undaunted, Lefty moved in closer, gripping her elbow again. She felt the hairs on her arms tickling her skin, and a primal urge to attack flashed through her mind, as he pushed her against the side of the dumpster.
"Leave me alone," she said, as she did her best to will the shift away. This was the last thing she needed on her first night of work. She couldn't afford to bring attention to herself, but she couldn't just let this creep take advantage of her either. Lefty moved close to her, his breath making her want to gag. His lips were parted, not in a smile, rather in that way a child might let their mouth fall open when all their attention is concentrated elsewhere, overriding physical control of their body. Alexis clenched her jaw, her hands curling into fists as she slid across the cold metal of the dumpster. She felt her body and mind giving way to an animal desire to rip lefty's head off. It was a difficult task as his actions brought on a flood of memories of Leonidas taunting her throughout her childhood. It didn't help that Lefty kept moving against her, his open mouth venting a putrid cloud of alcohol and stomach bile.
"Come on, Baby, I saw you looking at me in the club." Lefty leaned into her again, pushing his nasty body against her and running the stub of his half-finger across her cheek. "I know you want it."
That was it. His disgusting breath and stub of a finger, and his intent he was making so clear pushed her over the edge. Alexis felt the hair on her arms thickening, her canines growing painfully in her mouth. She yanked her arm out of his grip again, and let a low growl build within the depth of her throat.

"You alright ma'am?" A voice came from the alley entrance.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Sunday Excerpt 13

Here it is -- on time for a change.

As the door shut behind her, Alexis closed her eyes until she'd adjusted to the relative darkness inside. The Pink Pony hosted only a few customers—early-birds, desperate and lonely, or simply unemployed, with nowhere else to spend their time. She felt their eyes on her, watching as she moved toward the bar where Sam stood, plunging glasses into a sink. He was watching her too but she did not feel his stare on her like she did the others. Their stares carried an almost measurable weight, assaulting her as if each one of them were in a line, poking her shoulders, and other parts of her body, as she walked by. Her skin crawled, and she sensed her body on the verge of shifting to prepare for a fight. She stopped twice before reaching the bar, giving serious consideration to turning and walking out, fearful that she couldn't go all night feeling this apprehensive and self-conscious.
"Don't worry," Sam said as he dipped a glass into the bar sink and placed it onto a folded towel. "They'll stop staring by the end of the night."
"Yeah, this could take some getting used to." Sam looked at her as if the words "I quit" were written across her forehead.
"Well, you'll have to get used to it quick." Sam turned the cup over and dropped three ice cubes into it. "Gotta be observant in a place like this. You gotta be aware of your surroundings all the time."
"I'm observant enough," Lexi said, surprised at the cynicism she heard in her own voice.
"How 'bout a little test then, just to see how observant you really are." Sam stared at her as he tipped a bottle of bourbon over the tumbler. "Don't look around. Look at me and tell me how many customers are in the bar right now."
Lexi pictured the bar in her mind. The only thing she had to go on was the brief glance she made after the door closed and she opened her eyes, but that was enough. She only needed one look, and once her eyes adjusted to the dark, she could see every dark corner of the bar as if she were outside in broad daylight.
"First, there's the guy in the white button up shirt and tie sitting at the small round table by the bathrooms. He's nursing a drink, probably vodka, because he finished work an hour ago but doesn't want to go home yet. He probably comes here every night for an hour or so as he works up the nerve to go home. Wife's probably got his balls hanging out with the laundry. That's why he drinks vodka. He doesn't want his wife to smell the alcohol on his breath and know he stops here before going home. Good so far?"
"Go on," Sam said. "You must've seen more than just one person here."
"Sure," she said, her confidence resounding in her voice to the point she feared it would come across as arrogance. Regardless of how it looked, she was sure Sam would be impressed at her observations. "Then there's the old man hunched over a coffee mug. He's a regular too. Probably comes here every night because he's got nothing else to do. He probably sneaks a flask of whiskey in with him and spikes his coffee with it. You probably know about it, but feel sorry for him. He wears an old green Army jacket with nothing underneath. He's probably a Vietnam vet, retired and living on a fixed income. You probably give him his coffee for free too."
"That's George, and you're right. He doesn't really have anywhere else to go." Sam pulled a large round tray from under the bar and placed the tumbler of bourbon on it. "Anybody else?"
"Yes, there's one more," she said. "The first two don't bring in much business but they're harmless. The third customer is different. He's sitting so close to the stage, he could probably lean forward and lick the brass pole—and he's probably thinking about doing it too. He's probably packing since he's wearing a jacket in the middle of summer. He keeps his hair combed although it doesn't look like he gives equal time to washing it. Looks like he's the kind of customer that'll stay here all night until you have to throw him out, or he happens to follow some kind of trouble out the door. He's a real grease ball but he pays cash for his drinks." How'd I do?"
Sam pushed the tray across the bar top to her. "You did pretty well, Paulina. Probably better then I would've done. Now, go give grease ball his drink."
Alexis sat the drink down on the table in front of the man with the greasy hair.
"Thanks, baby," the man stared at her breasts, looking away only long enough to pull a five dollar bill from his wallet. "You new here? What's your name? You don't want me calling you baby all night, do you?"
"Name's Paulina," she said as she reached for the bill. "And, if we're going to have a discussion here, I'd prefer you search a little higher and look me in the eye."
The man pulled the bill away before she could take it from his hand. "How bad do want it, baby." He shook the bill just out of her reach.
Alexis smiled at him, and threw her hand out to grab the bill but he jerked it away. She noticed half his right index finger was missing and wondered what kind of stupid thing he did to lose it.
"Come on, baby," he said, a disgusting grin growing from the corners of his mouth, revealing stained teeth. "Talk to me. You gonna dance for me later? How much do you want my money?"
"I don't want it bad enough to dance for you." She tried desperately to keep her emotions under control, fighting against the urge to knee him in the groin for making such a suggestion. "But I bet if Sam over there breaks his shotgun out from behind the bar, he could get you to dance." She didn't know if he actually had a shotgun behind the counter. She just figured most bartenders would have something stashed away to protect themselves.
The man stopped fooling around and gave her the money, although his smile remained, his crooked, cigarette-stained teeth a reminder of what kind of people she would be dealing with for the rest of the night. She took it, turned away from him, and walked deliberately slow, trying to resist the urge to run at full speed back to the bar.
"What an ass," she said to Sam as she slid the empty glass off the tray into the stainless steel sink. "What's with that guy?"
"I guess you've been formerly introduced to Lefty," Sam chuckled under his breath as he grabbed the glass and plunged it up and down over a cleaning brush.
"Lefty?" Lexi was surprised people still used nicknames like that. "What is he, in the mob, or something? Is it because of his finger?"
"Yes and no, he's a wannabe mobster, and yes, he got the nickname because he lost half his trigger finger in a failed robbery."
"How, exactly, do you lose half your trigger finger in a robbery attempt?"
"Rumor has it that he was trying to rob a local convenience store with a fake gun. The store clerk pulled a shotgun from behind the counter, and in his haste to get out of the store, he got his hand caught in an automatic door."
"How could he lose half his finger in a door? Don't those things have some kind of override?" Alexis was beginning to feel like walking back to his table and laughing in his face, but she kind of felt sorry for him at the same time.
"Well, that's the funny part. According to the rumor, his fake gun was caught on the other side of the door, and instead of just letting go of it, he tried to forced it through the crack, losing part of his finger in the process." Sam made a slicing motion across his finger with his other hand as a low chuckle escaped him. "The police arrested him at the hospital. They had to go retrieve the end of his finger from the crime scene to process him, but by the time they were finished with it, the doctors said they couldn't sew it back on."
Alexis had to bite her lip to keep from laughing out loud. She suddenly didn't see him as quite the threat anymore.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sunday Excerpt 12

Okay, so I missed my deadline again. Gotta get better at this. Enjoy.

Alexis walked along the dirt service road beside the four-lane, passing under a large wooden sign indicating the entrance to Forest Lake RV Park. Across the four-lane was a huge truck. The entire was a complicated dance of sound and movement. Cars hummed along the overpass along Interstate sixty-five, adding to the cacophony. The small road opened up into a huge square lot, the size of at least four football fields. The dirt gave way to gravel as she continued onto the property, looking for the manager's office. Tiny patches of lush green grass surrounded each little camping site, and a small man-made pond bordered the property to the South. Alexis heard the dull roar of Interstate Sixty-Five to her right, and a faint diesel odor permeated the air. She thought it strange to locate a campground in the middle of a city. Maybe the proximity of the site to the Interstate, and a big chain truck stop, made it convenient for travelers.
The property was mostly deserted, with only three camping trailers parked diagonally among ten or more rows of empty parking spots. Alexis saw a man sitting in a rocking chair on a makeshift porch in front of a single-wide trailer. He was wearing a blue jumpsuit, whittling a stick or something, and whistling to himself. It reminded her of a scene from Mayberry, or Deliverance. A small wooden sign above the door of the trailer said 'Park Manager' so Alexis turned and walked toward the man, thinking about what she would say to him as she approached.
The man did not see her until she reached the wooden steps of the porch. When she walked up the steps, her hand extended in front of her, he put down his stick and knife, and slowly eased himself out of his rocker, with what looked like a great amount of effort.
"Afternoon Miss, what can I do you for?" The man spoke in the kind of gurgling, raspy voice people get after years of smoking.
"Are you Mister Woods?"
"That'd be me. But please, call me Viron," he extended his hand out to shake hers.
"You come in here on foot?" Viron looked around her to the gravel road. "We ain't got no primitive sites here. Spots are for RV's and campers only."
"I'm here to see about a trailer rental," she reached out and shook his hand. "Sam, from the Pink Pony sent me here, told me to mention him."
"Sam?" Viron's eyes rolled up and his chin jutted forward.
Alexis could almost hear the cogs and gears squeaking and creaking as he recalled the name.
"Sam," he said the name again, as if the gears in his mind suddenly aligned into the right position. "He's a good man. I rented to him when he first came to town. He's doing better now. Lives somewhere, north side." Viron rambled on, lost in his thoughts. "I remember him talking to me about buying that run-down old strip club. Thought he could make it into something more respectable."
Viron stopped and looked at Alexis for a moment. She saw that little sparkle in his eyes that southern gentlemen get when they are with a lady. He stood there looking at her for a moment, his hand still clutching hers, before letting go.
"I'm sorry, Miss." He bowed slightly, enveloping her hand with both of his now. "I must've missed your name."
"Oh, where are my manners," Alexis returned, in the sweetest southern drawl she could manage. "My name is Ale ... Paulina. Paulina Grey."
"Well, Miss Paulina," Viron said, as he turned to the door of the trailer. "Let me go get some keys, and I'll show you what I have."
Viron went into his trailer, leaving the door open behind him. Moments later, Alexis heard keys rattling, but instead of coming back out directly, she heard him talking to someone on the phone. She thought she heard the name 'Sam' and assumed he was asking Sam about her. When Viron returned, he had a large brass ring with at least twenty keys on it.
"The key we need is on this ring somewhere." he moved the key along the ring, one at a time as walked out in front of her toward the other end of the lot.
They walked to the other side of the park, passing the three occupied campsites on the way, presumably the only business he had on the property at the time. On the far gravel roadway stood three dilapidated old single-wide trailers. They were covered in metal with tiny windows, and propane tanks mounted to the front. Viron continued to the last trailer in the row, continuing to fumble through the keys on the ring until he found the one that fit the door.
"I know it ain't much," he said, as he opened the door. "But, the rent is cheap and the property's safe, quiet."
The trailer looked as ancient on the inside as it did from the road, the walls were covered in a simulated wood paneling. Except for the small kitchen area, the entire floor was covered in green shag carpet, but the place was clean, smelled fresh, and was fully furnished.
"What do you think?" Viron held out his hand like a model on a game show. "It's old, but I keep it clean, and the bug man just came through last week."
"How much?" Alexis shuffled her feet in the deep threads of shag carpet.
"One-twenty a week," Viron said. "But that includes all utilities. It ain't got no cable television hookup though."
"I'll take it."
Viron worked the key off the large ring as they walked back to his office. He asked her inside his office, and once inside, pulled out a rental agreement, handing it to her. His office was a small round table in his kitchen. The inside of Viron's trailer smelled of cigarettes and Aqua-Velva aftershave, and sported the same interior design as the trailer he had showed her. Alexis looked at the application. It asked for information she did not want to give, like her name, and social security number, and phone number.
"Look," she said, as she slid the paper back across the table. "Isn't there any way I could avoid all this paperwork?"
"It's the law, Miss Paulina." Viron slid the paper back to her. "State law requires it."
"You see, Mr. Woods." Alexis thought of the first lie that came to mind. "I'm just leaving a bad situation. I don't mind giving you my name and a phone number, but I just don't want my ex to find me." She gave him her best pout. "Can't we work something out? I can pay cash. Up front."
Viron stepped back and looked hard at her. His eyes were dark, intense, and piercing, with a depth that came only with age and experience. She feared he would see right through her, and into her soul, where her lie could not be concealed. Relief came as a slight smile swept across his mouth, a softness forming in his eyes.
"Alright. No paperwork," he said, taking the form from her hands and placing it back on the table. "But, I'll need two weeks rent paid up front and in cash. We'll talk about it again after that."
Alexis thanked him and fished the money out of her purse. He gave her the key, and she gave him a big hug before nearly skipping back to the trailer—her new home—and conducting a more thorough inspection before testing the shower. The shower head was mostly clogged with water coming out in just a few streams, but at a stinging force. It was sufficient though, to get her cleaned up before her first night at the new job.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunday Excerpt 11

Enjoy:

Dimitri had already tried to call his granddaughter twice in the last hour. Both calls went straight to voice mail. He nearly jumped out of his seat when his cell rang. He saw it was from Alexis, and connected the call before the end of the first ring.
"Hello? Lexi, are you okay? Where are you?" Dimtri's concern overwhelmed him; thoughts manifested themselves in a seemingly desperate stream of questions.
"I'm safe, Papa."
Lexi's voice soothed him, his only Granddaughter was safe, but it did not completely dissolve his worries. "Where are you," he said, realizing immediately he did not really want to know where she was.
"I'm just safe, Papa," silence followed, and he could sense her forming her words, hesitating to speak. "How are Mom and Dad?"
"They're fine, he responded, and then added, "They're just worried about you."
"Is Leonidas okay?" Dimitri heard her ask. She must've known word would spread quickly, and everyone would know what happened within minutes. "I might have hurt him. He attacked me, and with everything else going on, I just had to get away."
"I understand, Lexi," Dimitri told her in the most gentle voice he could muster. "I think maybe you just hurt his pride."
"Yeah, I choked him pretty good, but you have to know that he choked me first, Papa."
"It will be alright, Lexi," he tried to control his tone to conceal his worry. "Knowing Leo, I'm sure he deserved it."
"Well, for what it's worth. I'm sorry for challenging our future Alpha." Lexi's voice came through his cell phone scratchy and distant. "But I want you to know that it doesn't change anything. I will not be mated to Leonidas."
Dimitri fell silent. He was not sure how he was going to tell Alexis about Leonidas. There was really no way to spare her the worry. He would just have to tell her the truth.
"Lexi, about Leonidas," he hesitated, choosing his words carefully. "He plans on heading to Atlanta to look for you. Rumor has it, his father threatened to denounce his succession if he did not find you and bring you back."
"It's okay, Papa, I don't think he'll find me."
Lexi's voice gave no sign of worry. Usually, even if she was trying to hide her feelings or put on a strong front, he could see through it. His Granddaughter may have been good at hiding her feelings with everyone else, but he always knew how she really felt.
"Grandpa, I don't think I'm going to be coming back home right away."
Dimitri was not sure what to think. He was glad she was safe, but not so sure Leonidas could not find her. Leonidas was known for being as determined and ruthless as a pitbull when he wanted something. He was equally childish and petty when he didn't get his way. His sheltered upbringing did not give him the benefit of maturity.
"I gotta go, Papa. Don't worry about me. I'm safe, and I'm someplace Leonidas will never find me,"
"Okay Lexi." Dimitri already missed his Granddaughter. "Just be careful, and call me if you need anything. Better yet, call me even if you don't need anything."
Dimitri's phone clicked as Lexi ended the call. He knew that she could take care of herself, but that did not decrease his concern. He could only hope that Leonidas would get tired of looking for her and give up. He hoped that, sooner rather than later, Lexi would come to her senses, and come back home. While he understood how she felt, he thought it best she reconsider her position in the pack. Maybe consider their entire family's position, and the future of their community.

Dimitri checked the computer screen to see a small pulsing dot stationed over the overlay of a map. The software was working exactly like his old friend from the police department told him it would. He rolled the wheel of the mouse and the map zoomed out until he could read the name of the city around the source of her cell phone signal. It became clear to him why Lexi sounded so confident Leonidas would never find her.