Guardian’s Patience

Guardian’s Patience –MGuardian's-Patience-ecover_D (6)

Short and round, she dresses like a gypsy in vibrant and sometimes clashing colors. She’s been known to dye her hair to match her mood. She does a Good Deed every day and smiles at everyone she meets. But underneath her happy-go-lucky exterior, Patience Delecourt is lonely and afraid. She’s the mouse in a demon’s Cat-and-Mouse game that’s been going on for years. Her ideal hero would come straight out of the old movies she watches night after night alone in her tiny apartment.

Stuffy and socially awkward, Broadbent ad Sebastian, Guardian of the Race, has his vision of the ideal woman, too; tall, elegant, cultured, and well-read. But every time he meets someone who might fill the bill, his advances are met with laughter and derision. As hard as he tries to emulate his fellow Guardians; their prowess with women, their clothes, their interests; he just can’t get it right.

He doesn’t see himself as handsome or a hero. She doesn’t see herself as beautiful or brave. Yet what they find together opens new worlds of wonder for them both. It also opens the doors to old enemies and sets off a series of events that threaten the House of Guardians and the people within it. With the credits ready to roll on their mismatched love story, Patience and Broadbent will have to find the bravery and heroism they see in each other, and decide how much they will sacrifice for love.

Rough draft of Chapter 1

Chapter 1

 

Her Good Deed for the Day was about to walk in the door and thank heavens for that. Pinkie Delecourt only had three rules in life, but she adhered to those three like the proverbial glue. Be Smiling and Cheerful No Matter What was at the top of the list. The Good Deed for the Day ran a close second and it couldn’t be a simple courtesy like picking up the can of soup some old lady dropped at the grocery store. It had to be a Good Deed. It was getting late and she really didn’t want to get out her crystal ball to do a search for someone who needed help, though she would if she had to. The Good Deed for the Day was that important.

She didn’t need a crystal ball, the tarot, or the rune stones to see that the guy was a loser. From the minute the poor girl walked up to the door of Good Fortune, leaving the boyfriend outside, Pinkie knew what she was looking for and knew it was a mistake.

It was the eye roll that gave him away. It wasn’t an indulgent isn’t-she-cute eye roll. It was a God-I can’t-believe-how-stupid-the-bitch-is eye roll. He gave it to her while watching her struggle to open the bright pink door to the shop, her arms overloaded with boxes and bags. He was too busy lighting a cigarette to help.

“Oh!” The packages tumbled from the girl’s arms in her failed attempt to grab the bakery box that went sailing from the top of her precariously balanced burden.

Pinkie dove from the display she was rearranging, arms outstretched. Her gauzy, purple skirt swirled around her ankles as she pirouetted with the box. It seemed to float for a moment above her palms before settling into them.

“Ta-da,” she sang as it fell upright into her hands. She dropped into a little curtsy as she presented the rescued box. Setting it on the tiny ice cream parlor table in the corner, she turned back to the girl who was restacking her boxes and stuffing smaller items back into her shopping bag. “Here, let me help.”

“Thanks, but I have it,” the girl said straightening. “You saved the most important one. Thanks,” she said again, “I thought it was a goner.”

“I was a football player in another life,” Pinkie laughed, “Why don’t you put the rest of your packages with this one, honey. Give your arms a rest while you look around.”

With a grateful sigh, the girl did as bid, and while her back was turned from the window, Pinkie frowned at the rudeness of the laughing smoker watching them both. She wagged her finger at him. He ought to be ashamed of himself for letting his girlfriend carry everything.

His response was to take a drag from his cigarette and blow a stream of smoke at her which left a film of tar and nicotine on the window she’d cleaned just that morning. His gesture ended in a snarky little kiss.

Pinkie raised her eyebrows and gave him a look that said she didn’t find him amusing. Just as he raised the cigarette again for another display of arrogance, her raised finger tapped forward as if pressing an invisible button in the air. The glowing tip of his cigarette burst into flame. Now it was her turn to laugh and blow a little kiss of her own as he slapped at the shower of sparks and ash that dotted his chest. She did it silently though, and all the girl saw when Pinkie turned back to the table was a friendly smile.

The girl was a little taller than Pinkie’s five foot three. Her delicate face was lost beneath an overabundance of curly brown hair, just as her figure was lost beneath the neat, but plain skirt and blouse that appeared to be a size too large. She should have been pretty.

“Not your daughter’s,” Pinkie said, nodding at the cake with ‘Happy Sweet 16th Bethany’ written in pink icing. The young woman was no more than twenty-five. She would have given birth at ten to have a daughter that old.

“No, it’s my…”

“Niece,” Pinkie finished with a logical conclusion. With the surprised look she got from the girl, she knew she got it right. Again.

“Why, yes!” Then the girl’s face fell. She frowned and shrugged. “My sister…”

“Doesn’t think it’s important,” Pinkie said, putting what she knew in polite terms. She nodded at the window where God’s gift to womanhood scowled. “Neither does he. He thinks you dote too much on the girl.” She didn’t need any supernatural power to tell her that the self-centered bonehead didn’t like his girlfriend spending money on anyone but him.

The girl’s eyes widened further at the accuracy of Pinkie’s statement. “How do you do that?”

People asked this all the time and Pinkie was always tempted to tell the truth because she wasn’t, by nature, a liar. Three quarters of her ‘knowledge’ came from observation; look, listen, and learn. The other twenty-five percent…

The dozen bangle bracelets lining her forearm clattered together in a jangle of metal as Pinkie raised her hand to pat the knot of the multicolored silk scarf she’d chosen as her headpiece this morning. Business was business and it was important to keep up the mystique. She held out her hand.

“I’m Pinkie, and you are?” she asked, avoiding both truth and falsehood.

That earned her a smile. People expected a fortune teller to have a more exotic sounding name even if it was a false one.

“Emilene,” the young woman answered and shrugged. “Stupid name, I know. I’m looking for…” The girl looked anxiously around the room and chose excuse over intent. “Oh, um, I thought I might find something for my niece. She’s becoming a little wild and…” She shrugged again as if she didn’t know how to go on.

“You thought you might find a talisman to keep her safe.”

The girl shrugged again. “Or change her ways?”

“Only she can change her ways,” Pinkie told her honestly. About some things, she wouldn’t lie. “But let’s see what I have that might help.” Mindful of the woman’s apparel, Pinkie led the girl to a modestly priced display of stones set in silver. “How about one of these?” She pointed to a row of golden stones. “Citrine. Dissipates negative energy. It promotes clarity and confidence and might help relieve some of the problems at home, too.” She took the velvet lined case from the shelf and laid it on top of the glass. “Or,” she said, and the young woman raised her head from the stones so she and Pinkie were eye to eye, “You can bring her to live with you.”

“Oh,” the woman said with a nervous glance at her lover, “I don’t think that’s possible.”

“Anything is possible if you believe.” This was a phrase she repeated often to her customers and it was said in a way that implied she knew something they didn’t. She gave the words a moment to sink in, then raised her eyebrows. “What else can I get for you?”

Another nervous look at the window where lover-creep was glaring at the two of them. “I…I thought maybe…um…a reading? But I shouldn’t…um…I don’t really have time.”

Pinkie could make the boyfriend wait if she wanted to and the thought was tempting. After the exploding cigarette, it was too tempting. No matter how innocuous the act might seem, practicing any magic with a dark motive was addictive; something Pinkie knew only too well. Besides, the girl didn’t really want a reading.

“Then how about I give you a little something else. Something that will make you see things more clearly. You can stop by next week for a reading.” She disappeared into the tiny work room and returned with a small cobalt blue bottle. “Two drops and only two drops in a cup of chamomile tea before bed,” She instructed. “Think of your future while you sip your tea and then pay attention to your dreams.”

The young woman frowned, but picked up the triangular shaped bottle. Her eyes slid to Pinkie’s. “I thought maybe you’d have something…um… for him?” Her eyes slid to the window.

The girl was looking for a love potion and while it wasn’t beyond Pinkie’s talents, she refused to make them. The love they produced was false and false love was no love at all.

“Come next week. Come alone, or better yet, bring your niece. I’ll do readings for you both. And after that, you can better decide what type of ‘something’ you’d like.”

“There’s more than one?” the girl asked curiously.

Pinkie hooded her eyes and smiled her most mysterious smile. “Oh, honey, for him? There are dozens to choose from.”

When the money was in the register and the store was empty, Pinkie looked down at the little orange cat who glared up at her with flattened ears.

“Oh, get over it. I didn’t do anything to him,” she told the cat.

The cat continued to stare.

“All right,” Pinkie snapped, throwing up her hands. “I did, but it was a slip, okay? You saw him. He deserved it. He deserves a lot more than that. And I didn’t cast any beauty spells either. I only gave her something to see herself as she could be and to see him for what he is.”

Pinkie thought it was an excellent Good Deed. The power of the sweet dreams potion came from a little charm and a whole lot of suggestion, but that didn’t matter. Emilene would begin to see herself as she should be, not as she was, and once she did, she’d have enough courage to kick the rat bastard to the curb. When she returned for a reading, and Pinkie knew she would, Emilene would be more receptive to whatever the cards foretold.

The cat didn’t blink, but one ear twitched.

Pinkie threatened the cat with her finger. “I don’t need this, okay? You’re not a watchdog. You’re a familiar and I can’t say my magic has improved any since you came. So back off and go do whatever it is cats do before I toss you back out into the alley that you came from.”

The tiny tiger finally blinked, stood, and turned its back on Pinkie with a flick of its tail. Head held high, it walked slowly back through the heavy velvet curtains of the reading room. Pinkie’s threat meant nothing and they both knew it.

She couldn’t get rid of it. The animal had showed up three weeks ago while she was feeding the strays that lived in and around the alley behind the shop.

Pinkie noticed her just as the moon chose its moment to peek over the old buildings and cast a bit of its reflected glory onto the alley. There she was; a little orange cat sitting in the glowing puddle of light, staring at the other cats in seeming distaste.

“Look everyone, we have a new member. That makes us thirteen. We are officially a full coven; a coven of cats!” Pinkie had raised her fist in the air for dramatic effect and declared, “A rebellious band of sorcery dedicated to combatting evil wherever we find it.”

At her emphatic declaration, all of the cats stopped eating, several hissed, and some skittered back from the raised hand.

“Oops. Sorry,” she’d said, lowering her hand to her lap and her voice back to a whisper. “Maybe I’ll do the combatting and you guys can just lend moral support.”

The little tabby continued to watch from her spot of moonlight. She showed no fear and even looked a little impatient as, one by one, the strays finished their midnight supper and padded away. Unlike the others, this one didn’t look hungry or neglected. It looked well fed. Its coat, soft and smooth, had none of the bare patches and scarring that came with life on the streets. It also didn’t shy away from her hand when she reached out to touch it.

She never intended to let it in. If she took one, she’d have to take them all and her little apartment above the shop wasn’t big enough. As a matter of fact, she made sure the cat stayed outside when she re-entered the shop and closed the door, locking it for the night. The next day, she awoke to find the cat sleeping on the far corner of her bed. This happened for three days in a row, but it was when she put the cat out the back door and returned to the shop to find it sitting on the counter by the register that she finally realized the creature was more than stray cat.

She’d never had a familiar, but she’d met a few. They were supposed to enhance a witch’s power and give it direction. A witch couldn’t choose a familiar. The familiar chose them, and it looked like the tiny tiger had chosen her, though all she’d seen so far from the cat was a flat-eared chastisement for almost everything she did.

Sooner or later, she’d do something to make the cat smile, but she wasn’t sure what that something was.

 

~*~

 

Grace’s arms pinwheeled as she lost her balance. Too round and ungainly to recover her equilibrium, she screeched as she felt herself falling from the stepstool she used in the kitchen to reach the higher shelves. Strong arms captured her as her feet flew up and her body flew down. One arm behind her knees and one wrapping around her shoulders, Broadbent rolled her body into his, instinctively protecting the precious cargo she carried within her very pregnant form.

At Grace’s screech, the whole household came running; Hope from her office down the hall, Nico and JJ from the gym where they’d been sparring, Nardo from the War Room, and the twins, Dov and Col from the room at the back of the house where they were probably watching the talk shows they recorded faithfully every day while they slept.

Lastly came Canaan, Liege Lord of their House of Guardians and Grace’s mate. He was wearing a pair of navy blue boxers, his body still damp from the shower, his face smeared with shaving cream, his eyes wild with frightened concern.

Seeing Grace in Broadbent’s arms, obviously unharmed, Dov shook his head. “Damn, Professor, you are hard up if you have to cop a feel from a pregnant lady!”

Broadbent and Grace both looked down at the breast he’d inadvertently captured in her rescue. Grace laughed. Broadbent turned red, bordering on purple. He snatched his hand away and lowered Grace to the ground.

“My apologies, Grace,” he sputtered, “I certainly didn’t mean…”

“You know,” Col cut in, following his brother’s lead, “If you’re that desperate, Nardo has a whole list of websites you can check out and those women won’t scream and run away like most of your lady friends.”

Grace sliced her hand across her throat to signal ‘cut it out’, but JJ’s voice overrode the signal much more effectively and would leave no awkward silence behind.

“He does not have a list,” she defended her mate and then started to laugh. “He’s down to two and we watch them together.”

Hope closed her eyes and slapped her hands over her ears. “Too much information!” She still turned red when Nico kissed her in public which was proven once again when he curled her into him and gave her a quick kiss.

“Ignore them, precious,” he told her, frowning at the ones who’d made her uncomfortable.

Col ignored the warning. “Nah, too much information would be if she told us what they did after they watched.” He paused in thought. “Or not. Why don’t you tell us and we’ll be the judge.”

“Yah, we’ll be the judge. What do you do after you watch?” Dov wiggled his eyebrows at Nardo. “Or is it while you watch?”

“Big mouth,” Nardo muttered to his mate, “You’ve just given them a week’s worth of material.”

Canaan, the Liege Lord who led this House of Guardians in their battle against demons, was a warrior who couldn’t be ruffled. Canaan, the mate and soon to be father, was a different matter.

“This is not amusing,” he roared as he ran his hands over his mate, checking for injury while she tried to slap his hands away. “Enough!”

“That goes for you, too, big boy. Enough,” Grace laughed now that the fright had passed. “I’m fine. I lost my balance and fell off the stool. Broadbent caught me before I hit the ground. No harm, no foul.”

Having seen for himself that there was no injury, the Liege Lord straightened and crossed his arms over his massive chest. “What the hell did you think you were doing?”

Grace pointed to the tall cupboard. “Getting the big bowl on the top shelf?” She had the good sense to look guilty. “Guess I should have asked for help, huh?”

“Guess? You guess?” Canaan asked angrily. He turned to the twins. “And what were you doing while Grace was climbing and falling off stools?”

“We were furthering our legal education,” Dov said.

Nardo rolled his eyes. “Night Court reruns or Drop Dead Diva?”

Judge Judy,” Col admitted. “Dov has the hots for her.”

“I do not! I just said she’s kinda cute.”

“She looks like Mom. Do you know how sick that is?”

They all began talking at once.

Grace and Canaan were now locked together, her back to his front with his arm wrapped possessively across her chest. Broadbent slipped in front of them and took down the big pasta bowl Grace had been reaching for. He placed it on the counter.

“I’ll go set the table,” he said quietly.

Laying each piece of cutlery precisely one inch up from the edge of the table, he listened with only half an ear to the friendly banter in the kitchen, grateful that he was not at its center. He understood Grace’s cut-throat gesture for what it was. She, in her endearing Grace-like way, was trying to protect him from further pain and he appreciated it, but it was unnecessary. He much preferred the twins’ crude teasing, though it would be a cold day in hell before he told them so. Their boorish barbs meant things were getting back to normal.

This House of Guardian’s was different from any he had visited in his former position as secretary to Councilor Addison, a respected member of the Ruling Council of the Paenitentia. Those others had been comfortable, but tightly run quarters for their all-male inhabitants. Canaan’s House was more of a home, thanks largely to the presence of numerous females, all of whom were Daughters of Man. He often thought it strange that these women, who he’d been taught as a child to view with distaste and distrust, could bring so much pleasure to those they loved.

Which, he supposed, was what he was looking for when he asked Faith Parsons to be his mate. He wanted to share the same kind of pleasure the lively Grace bought to Canaan, the shy and gentle Hope brought Nico, the mutual admiration and support shared by Nardo and JJ. In his heart of hearts, he pictured a woman of understated elegance, a well-read woman of good breeding and good taste, a gentle soul with whom he could share quiet moments of peace and solitude. Faith would have filled the bill quite nicely, except for the fact that they did not love each other as mates should. He might have been content with the arrangement, but Faith would have eventually grown tired of it and him. She was wise to turn him down.

In the end, Faith found the mate who could give her what Broadbent ad Sebastian could not and he was happy for her.

Canaan’s House being what it was, everyone knew about his proposal and Faith’s rejection of it. They had treated him with such care and kindness. Grace in particular, went out of her way to protect his broken heart.

Therein lay the problem. His heart wasn’t broken. He didn’t think he had a heart that could be broken. Certainly, he held the members of Canaan’s House in highest esteem and affection, more so than he held the family of his birth, but love was something different.

He didn’t think he had the capacity or passion for that kind of love.

*******

The Twins and the Bad Guy

Thief pinned in the back seat by Dov’s meaty hand, Col drove up Canal Street in the direction that would take them out of town. Sometimes the directive that they could not kill innocents really pissed him off. The guy in the back seat might be human, but he was sure as hell no innocent.

“Aw, look at that, brother dearest,” Dov cooed evilly from the back seat. “Wittle thiefy-wiefy wet his wittle pantsy-wantsies.” His grip tightened as he spoke to the thief. “And if any gets on the seat, you’re going to lick it up, cuz I’m not wiping up your tinkle-winkle.” He grinned and it was nothing like his normal, playful one. “Or maybe we should just dump you out someplace once we pick up more speed. You can wipe the seat with your ass as you slide out the door. I love the sound of the splat when they hit the pavement, don’t you, brother dearest?”

It was times like this that Col really loved his twin. It was a fucking shame that the guy would have no memory of Dov’s Oscar worthy performance. Once they thumped his forehead, he’d forget all about tonight. The only parting gift they could give him would be an inexplicable fear of returning. Still, they could play with him until they reached the edge of town. Knocking down a poor woman to steal her money deserved some kind of punishment and they were up for the job.

Rain sheeting, wipers thumping, Col caught sight of the Professor striding up the sidewalk and was going to make some wise-ass remark to Dov about it, but the words never left his mouth.

“Holy shit!” he said instead, as he did a double take. “Did you see that?”

“What?” Dov’s head snapped from window to window, obviously missing it. “Can’t see a damn thing in this rain.”

“I think I just saw the Professor with a girl in his arms.”

“Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. Was she screaming?” Dov asked with a devilish laugh and when his brother shook his head, added, “Then it wasn’t the Professor. Any girl in his arms would be bound to scream.” He turned back to continue his torment of the thief. “We like screaming,” he said, but his comment had no effect. The thief had fainted.

“Should I wake him up?”

“Do you need to ask?”

*****

 If you’ve been reading the series, you know that Broadbent’s heartfelt and well-reasoned offer to mate Faith was lovingly refused. Poor Broadbent. He’s not exactly the hero type. He’s not handsome like the others – movie star, rugged, or otherwise . He’s certainly not a smooth talker and he’s much too awkward to sweep any girl off her feet and yet…

There’s something about Broadbent that I find irresistibly charming. He’s not the man we dream of, but in reality,  he’s the type of guy we’re all hoping to find. He is kind. He is generous. He is thoughtful. He is, essentially, a good man; a nice guy. And we all know what they say about nice guys. They finish last.

I’m actually tearing up at that thought. Broadbent was only supposed to be a minor character, playing a bit part in Guardian’s Grace. He became a foil for Dov and Col’s goofiness and a regular member of Canaan’s House, a Guardian in good standing. And slowly, he became much more to me. How silly!

Silly or not, Broadbent deserves better than to be relegated to the position of permanent bachelorhood simply because he doesn’t fit some fictional (and idealistic) mold. He deserves to find his ladylove.

She just won’t be quite what he’s dreaming of….