Thirty Days of Genius – Day Seven

I risked a sideways glance at the new queen, hoping my lack of decorum would go unnoticed but knowing even if it wasn’t, she would not care.  I was here to guard her, though with just the two of us currently in the room, she was safe.  She looked tired, slumping slightly in the throne and frowning into the distance.

Today had been a rough day for her and she still had not had time to let it all sink in.  She had been awoken before dawn with the news that her parents had been murdered on their way back from France.  That meant that she was to be crowned the new queen as soon as possible.  She had not had time to shed a single tear before she was whisked away into preparations.

The news went out with the dawn and as many lords and ladies as possible were notified of the crowning of the new queen.  After the crowning, she was forced to sit as each lord wished her well and promised loyalty.  For each one she smiled and nodded, thanking them.  Only the final lord of the evening was left and he was just arriving.  The queen had been getting ready to retire for the night when word of his impending arrival halted her.

She straightened and smoothed her expression as the doors were thrown open.  I did the same, especially when I saw which lord had arrived.  My hand went involuntarily to rest on my sword, a move not missed by the newcomer.  Lord Smythe had been after the then princess since she was a young girl.  He had first petitioned to court her when she was just twelve.  Her parents had denied the request.  Smythe renewed the request every year but was continually denied.  The king and queen knew their only duaghter could do much better and find a more suitable match.

A servant walked in behind Lord Smythe carrying a rather large oddly shaped wooden item.  It sort of resembled a pine cone.  Smythe stopped a few feet too close to the queen, a leer partially hidden behind a smile.  My hand flexed around my sword.

“My dear, it’s so good to see you again.  I only wish it was under better circumstances.  Your poor parents,” Smythe let the words slide smoothly from his mouth.  His voice rang with false sincerity.  “I’ve brought you a present to congratulate you on your ascension to queen.”  The servant moved forward.  “It’s a pineapple sculpture from the far away West Indies.  It carries with it a meaning of welcome to the native people there, just as I’m sure I’ll be welcome here.”  His smile was so filled with foulness that it was difficult to look upon.  I only hoped the queen still had her wits about her after such a long day.

“Why thank you Lord Smythe.  I’m sure this will make a very nice adornment for the stables, to welcome all of our guests into the castle.”  Her smile was innocent but I could see the humor dancing in her eyes.

“I was hoping it would be in a bit more personal location as it was quite difficult securing its passage all the way here.  Perhaps your chambers or your sitting room would be more appropriate?”

“Oh no, I couldn’t possibly hoard such an exquisite piece.  The stable is by far the best location.  There everyone will get to enjoy its beauty,” the queen reiterated, a hard look coming into her eyes.

Smythe fumed to himself before stepping threateningly towards the queen.  I was in motion before I even realized he was moving, my sword drawn and held steady against his neck, my body blocking him from the queen.

“Call off your dog, Madeline.  I will have you, mark my words.  Your parents are not around to protect you any longer and you will be pressured into taking a husband.  You will be mine!”

“My lady,” I asked calmly, “what are your orders?”

“Release him.  He is to be banned from the castle.  Send that dreadful thing home with him as well,” she waved at the pineapple.  She stared into his eyes, willing her words to reach him.  “I will never be yours, no matter if you are the last man on the planet.  You are hereby exiled from all royal property.  Any attempt on your part to enter a royal establishment will be considered treason against the crown.  Watch your steps Lord Smythe because I am not as lenient as my father.  Step a toe out of line and I’ll see you hanged for it.  You are dismissed.”

I escorted Lord Symthe to the door along with his servant and sculpture.  I turned him over to the waiting guards, letting them know to pass the word that he was banned from all royal property and to make sure that he had an armed escort to deliver him back to his estate.

When I returned to the throne room the queen was sitting slumped in her chair, trembling.  She looked up as I entered then went back to slumping when she realized it was just me.  As her chief guard, we had a long history of friendship and she knew I could be trusted.

“Did I do the right thing, James?” she asked quietly.

“You did well, my lady.”

“How many times have I told you to call me Madeline or even Maddy when we’re alone?” she sounded exasperated which was an improvement from unsure.

“You are the queen now, my lady, and should be addressed as such.  Besides, Maddy makes you sound like a spoiled child.”  I grinned at her so she would know I was merely teasing.

“Why you!” she laughed and my heart lifted with the sound.

Writing prompts:  pineapple, meaning, queen

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Six

I stared at my spellbook, stumped.  This was not something they taught in school, even mine.  The wolf in my kitchen was freaking me out with his subsonic growl and drooling fangs.  The alpha in the corner with the dark coat and piercing eyes was freaking me out even more.

Maybe I should mention how I came to be in this situation.  I’m Isabella Freeman, witch for hire.  Currently I was trying to figure out how to un-Were the werewolf in my kitchen.  Even his alpha had not been able to force him back into his human form, so he had turned to me for help.

The longer John, the Were currently slobbering on my floor, stayed in his wolf form, the more wolf-like he became.  His human logic and reasoning were being replaced with a wolf’s instincts.  Marcus, the alpha, casually told me he would have to stay lest John decide I was food instead of friend.  Knowing it was only Marcus’s influence that kept John in control was not helping my anxiety.

I wasn’t worried about turning Were if he attacked because nature decreed a witch’s DNA was not compatible.  Even most humans would not turn Were if they were bitten or attacked.  Most would die, but not turn Were.  The reason is that they lacked the correct set of genomes for the Were virus to latch onto.

These days all children were tested for the genome and compatible children were watched closely by the local werewolf pack.  Eventually they would be approached about joining the pack.  Those that refused were supposed to be left alone although sometimes “accidents” happened.

Only alphas were Weres from birth.  They were almost always born from Were couples, but occasionally someone outside the pack would birth a Were alpha.  The parents were generally happy to give the baby to the pack, for a small adoption fee of course.  Finding a wolf in your son’s bed was not a pleasant experience.

Marcus was a Were alpha from fully human parents.  John was not an alpha and had voluntarily contracted the virus when he was twenty.  However, none of that really helped me now.  Something had happened a week ago and John refused to leave his wolf form.  Marcus was being tight-lipped about what had happened.

I had already tried a calming spell to no effect.  I was eyeing a spell that returned an item to its normal form.  It was more of a counter-curse than an actual spell and it was supposed to be used on inanimate objects but I was out of ideas.  A few key substitutions should make it work, though I’d have to cook up a potion to make it most effective.  Forcing a potion down a wolf’s throat wasn’t too high on my list of things I wanted to do in my life but neither was getting on an alpha’s bad side.

Writing prompts:  mention, birth, school

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Five

Pirates, in general, are not known for their generosity.  Whether referring to Blackbeard or some fifteen year old kid downloading the lastest blockbuster with Bittorrent, the statement is the same.  And so it is for Mike Gordan, a teen-aged pirate all grown up.

The acne is gone and the social skills have improved a bit, but deep down, he still considered himself a pirate, a rebel.  However that part of him is slowly being killed off by a mediocre job as a shoe store manager, a pregnant wife, and a mortgage.  It’s hard to be any sort of pirate when you have a mortgage.

His days of scouring the internet for the latest and greatest illegal goods are long since over but some part of him still yearns for the thrill.  He frowns when his wife buys movies and music, wishing that he hadn’t decided to become a responsible adult.

Life is somewhat boring these days for poor Mike, which might explain what happened next.  One day, a perfectly ordinary Tuesday by any account, Mike left for work and never came back.  The bank account was emptied and his car was found outside of a motorcycle dealer.  All of his credit cards had been maxed out on cash advances and then abandoned.  He just disappeared.

Becky, his wife, was devastated.  For all his quirks, she truly loved Mike and never, ever expected him to abandon her.  His debts became her debts thanks to the community property laws and she had to sell her house and move back in with her aging parents to stay on top of it.

Two months before the baby was due she hired a private investigator, though she could barely afford it.  The trail came back cold.  Mike had completely and thoroughly vanished.  Still she persevered, thinking he would return.

After little Jacob entered the world, Becky found she didn’t have time to dwell on her missing husband any longer.  Being a single mom–even one living with her parents–was rough.  Her days were filled with feedings and changings and baths and naps and getting a few minutes of work in whenever possible.  She was lucky that her boss at the newspaper was so compassionate.

She filed for divorce on grounds of abandonment when Jacob was one.  It was a legal quagmire but she had a friend of a friend helping her for free.  The divorce was granted and suddenly she was something she never thought she would be–a divorcee.

When Jacob turned four she had saved enough to move out, though her parents assured her she could stay.  It was weird being on their own, just Jacob and her.  It was quiet and lonely, though she fought to keep Jacob from seeing it that way.

At Jacob’s sixth birthday party she met Vick, the father of one of Jacob’s friends.  He was a widower and his little girl Beth was his world.  They hit it off, both single parents just struggling to get by.  He invited her out for coffee.  She accepted.

Writing prompts:  pirate, shoe, generosity

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Four

She watched him from across the room as he moved from group to group, fake smile firmly in pace.  She knew he hated these events, even as he was forced to attend.

“Why should I go to some boring ballet that benefits some new cause trying to save the planet?  It’s a waste of time,” he had told her last month when she brought it up.

“It’s good for your image,” she replied patiently, used to his harsh attitude.

“It’s trivial, that’s what it is,” but he sighed, resigned.

She knew he would go because he always did.  However he always hated it.  As his personal assistant, it was her job to make sure his image remained sparkling, no matter what she knew to be true.  In actuality, he was a demanding, demeaning, spoiled, chauvinistic pig, but not many people got to see that side of him.  It was her job to keep it that way.

She sighed into her champagne flute and wondered how she had fallen so low as to keep a spoiled little rich boy looking like a competent CEO.  She had basically been acting as the CEO for the last two years but without any of the fame and fortune; just more and more responsibility.

The job was demanding but also occasionally rewarding, such as tonight.  She got to see the Nutcracker ballet and rub elbows with the city’s best and brightest, or at least richest.  Plus one of her favorite causes was getting a hefty donation from her incompetent boss.

Suddenly bright green eyes set in an attractive face invaded her line of sight, breaking her out of her thoughts.

“Miss Andrews, I believe?” he inquired politely.

“Yes.  And you are?”

“Nick Knight at your service.”  He took her extended hand and instead of shaking it, he bowed with a flourish and gently kissed the back of her hand.  She raised one eyebrow.

He laughed.  “That’s pretty much the response I get every time.  Can’t a man be a gentleman these days without rousing suspicion?”

“What can I do for you, Mr. Knight?”

“Well, I’ve come to sweep you away from Mr. Reynolds and into the waiting arms of Am Corp.”  He continued quickly at her skeptical look.  “I’ve heard that you’ve been quietly running Mr. Reynolds company for him for the last year.”

She looked at him suspiciously, wondering where he got his information.

His smile was charmingly mischievous.  “I have my ways,” he said with a grin.  “Your skills are being wasted on Reynolds.  Come work for me and you’ll be on track to be my interim CEO in less than six months.  Honestly, I need a break and I can’t leave unless I”m sure my company is in good hands.  I believe that is you.”

“Your investors won’t ever sign off on it.  I don’t have a business degree and I have no recorded history managing a company.  I’m just an assistant that keeps the CEO on the straight and narrow.”

“So if my investors agree, you’ll take the job?” he asked slyly.

She looked at him again, wondering why Knight and Am Corp were ringing a bell but was unable to come up with anything.  It was a dream job, which immediately put her on edge.  If it was too good to be true, it generally was.

“I’ll think about it Mr. Knight, but I think you need to keep looking in the meantime,” she finally replied.  She needed to do some serious research and soul-searching to see if leaving her currently crappy but steady and well-paying job for a chance in the dark was really worthwhile.

“Welcome aboard Miss Andrews!”

“What?!  No!  I never agreed to any such thing.  I merely agreed to think about it.  And now I’m kind of regretting even that.”

He just winked and drifted away.  “I’ll have my people call you to work out the details,” he tossed over his shoulder with yet another infuriating grin.

She ground her teeth as he disappeared into the crowd, firmly clamping her mouth shut to prevent her desired retort from escaping.  Nick Knight didn’t know it yet, but he’d met his match.  She’d show him, one way or another.

Writing prompts:  trivial, ballet, planet

Thirty Days of Genius – Day Three

I glared at Jenny over the top of my book, daring her to detonate the camera flash in my eyes again.  She grinned slyly and I  knew she was going to do it.  My eyes narrowed just as the flash exploded into my vision.  That ought to be the perfect picture for the family album, just my eyes visible and narrowed in annoyance.

I wasn’t sure why I had been dragged along on this stupid trip anyway.  I had certainly voiced my displeasure at the idea both loudly and repeatedly.  I was summarily ignored by both my parents and my siblings.  It appeared they were becoming immune to my dramatics.  Perhaps I should up the ante.

Before my thoughts could turn to plotting and revenge, we arrived.  The engine noise of the boat died away like the last peals of a death toll, somber and final.  The island was in the middle of the lake and it would be our home for the weekend.  Yes, we were camping.  As a family.  I suppressed a shudder.

I looked longingly at the distant shore and wondered if I would drown before I made it.  Perhaps it would be worth it.

Writing prompts:  family, camera, boat