My novella Superstition: Raging Bull, is now up and available on ebook. If you are reading this, you can read my novella — available in ibook, kindle, and ebook. Here is a little preview for you, the entire prologue:
No Love For Captain Peter Vara, the Washington Post headline smirked on February 14h. The press may have thought it was horribly clever, but for Peter it was just one more horrible reminder that he was horribly alone on the most horrible holiday to be alone on.
He had the paper spread over the single table near the window while he cleaned his army issued handgun. The smell of gun oil and newspaper had a salubrious effect on his disposition. The air-conditioning unit made a low, steady hum as it cranked out warm air, keeping the frost on the windows at bay. He laid out newspaper to keep his uniform clean. He didn’t want to get any gun oil on it.
While he rubbed a soft cloth over the cold steel, he was thinking about the last time he returned from duty. When he came home from Iraq, he found that his wife had hired a lawyer and the divorce papers were all ready to be signed. That was first Valentines Day since he joined the Army that he had been single.
This would be the last. Or at least that was the promise he made to himself.
Snow was falling in DC. He thought it was an omen of some sort. Snow on the day his heart would go cold.
“God, I hate the cold,” he muttered to himself as he shifted part of his handgun into his palm to rub it clean.
“I hate it too, actually,” someone said and Peter jumped to find someone sitting at opposite end of the rather small table he was sitting at.
The man across from him was extremely well dressed–a black three piece suit, well tailored with a red tie that brought out his blond hair and blue eyes perfectly. He looked like a broad shouldered, metrosexual, GQ model.
“Who are you?” Peter had no love for pretty boys and pencil pushers and his voice betrayed it.
“I’m a god.” The man’s voice was as perfect and just as impressive as the rest of him. Even Peter was impressed by it, though the man’s words made him laugh.
“A god?” Peter repeated still laughing incredulously. “You don’t look like God.”
“I’m not THE god,” the man said. “I’m A God. Eros, to be exact. You know me as Cupid.”
“And you are here because…?” Peter sat back in his chair and calmly reassembled his gun.
“I have a proposition for you,” the man who called himself Cupid said.
He reached into his jacket and pulled out a folded bit of paper. He unfolded it and laid it on the table. It wasn’t lawyer legal double spaced paper; it was a piece of parchment that looked rather old and dated. The writing on it was not in English.
Peter slid a pin into place, trying not to look too curious about the parchment.
“I have a city in Arizona,” Cupid said. He pulled out another folded bit of paper, but this one was colorful and familiar. In small letters it read ‘illustrated map of’ big letters it read SUPERSTITION. On the map, when he unfolded it, were cartoon cacti, buildings, and other landmarks. “It used to be a mining town, became a ghost town. I bought it a few decades ago…”
“You bought an entire town?” Peter asked, his gun almost completely reassembled. He started to push cartridges into the magazine. “Is that something Greek gods normally do?”
“Yes, actually.” Cupid ran his finger in a circle over a small mesa in the Superstition Mountains. “Our method of exchange is different now than it was back in the good old days. A business loan is quite easy to obtain when you have good credit or a lot of collateral, and I have both.” He looked up and grinned at Peter and Peter actually found it charming. So charming that he almost smiled.
“But for Greek Gods there are certain rules to occupying a city-” He held up his finger. “–I suppose the word would be ‘keeping’ a city safe from other gods and other outside interests.” He waved his hand around in the air, illustrating. “Number one, you must have worshippers. That isn’t too hard, you’ve seen for yourselves my likeness in every retail shop. This is the best time to make a deal right now because everyone is worshipping love.”
“A deal like what?” Peter asked, shoving the magazine into the pistol.
“You have to let me finish offering the deal before you go back to contemplating blowing your brains out.” Cupid waved his hand over the table and the gun was completely unassembled on top of the map.
Peter felt his heart leap in his chest to his mouth. He stared at the pieces of the gun and then at his empty hands. He looked back and forth once more before he looked at the man who called himself Cupid. “Who… what… are you?”
“I’ve told you already.” Cupid waved his hand again and all of the pieces of the gun were gone. “Now where was I?” He ground his teeth for a moment, the muscles in his jaws twitching. “Oh yes. Worshippers. I think I have sufficient in the city. Next you need a temple dedicated to your name. Actually, it doesn’t really have to be a temple, just a building dedicated in your name. I do have that. Two buildings actually, just to be sure–an elementary school and middle school.”
“Why didn’t you just name the entire city after you?” Peter asked half in sarcasm and half in actual curiosity.
“I had to name the city Superstition–a deal with the Spirit of the Mountain and some of the local tribesmen.” He smiled brightly as he spoke and leaned forward. “But you’re interested now, aren’t you?”
Peter shrugged. He couldn’t say, really. The guy did seem to be tugging on Peter’s emotions right after Peter had decided he had only one option left.
“But the last part that I need to make the city mine, completely mine, is a hero.”
Peter narrowed his eyes. “A hero?”
“Yes. You. Peter Vara. You will be my hero.”
“Me?!” Peter’s back straightened so tight he almost rose out of his seat.
“Yes. I need someone with your type of training and skill to protect my city.” Cupid sat back in his chair, one hand still on the map, and smiled his charming smile at Peter.
Peter laughed and it came out a twisted bitter sound. “Maybe you haven’t read the papers Mr. God-man, but I’m no hero.”
Cupid flicked his wrist. “I don’t actually read the papers. I find that personally witnessing everything as it actually happened is much more effective.”
Peter frowned, his brow dipping especially low over his left eye.
“Oh, I saw the entire event. I saw your special operation, as you call it. I saw your men die. I saw your commander in chief forsake all knowledge of your operation. I saw the old men of the Senate rip you apart.
It is all very Greek, actually. Made me think of home.” He looked off to his right and his eyes became unfocused for a minute, but when he turned back to Peter, his blue irises were sharp and focused.
“You don’t have to serve these men with no honor, Peter–men who send you into danger on their behalf, men who would never dream of picking up a weapon, and then distance themselves from you. You can serve me instead.”
“What makes you any better than the President or any General I’ve ever served under?” Peter felt like his heart was being squeezed in a vise. He had a hot, uncomfortable tightness in the middle of his chest that was worse than heartburn.
“Because I do not abandon those who serve me,” Cupid said with such quiet conviction that Peter almost couldn’t disbelieve.
“That’s not what I’ve heard about the Greek Gods,” Peter replied in a low voice.
“You may have heard that of Hera, or Zeus, or even my mother Aphrodite, but you have never heard it of me, Athena, Artemis, Apollo or Ares. You have never heard it of a hunter or a warrior. We understand, Peter.”
His voice was so convincing, so soothing and clear. Peter felt his heart being pulled in two. “What is it I need to do?” Peter asked.
“Sign the contract. Protect my city from invasion whether it be divine, magical or physical.” Cupid flicked his wrist again and there was a pen in his hand – a nice, sterling silver pen that you’d find in a high end clothing store or jewelry shop. He handed it over to Peter. “You will be provided a house, a car, a job as the Principal of the Superstition High School–”
“Principal of a high school?” Peter asked, interrupting.
“Yes,” Cupid said looking from the contract. “You are perfect material for managing the situation there. The city itself is a place for high profile people that wish to escape the same sort of media scrutiny you are getting now. They wish, like you, to be anonymous as possible. Some of them are innocent and noble like you, some of them are actually guilty, and many of them are … what you mortals now call ‘high maintenance–‘”
“High maintenance?” Peter was well aware of the deep compliment he had been paid–if the man was indeed a god–but he fluctuated between bitterness, self-loathing and humility, and until he could settle on a single emotion, he was in no position to acknowledge anything.
“Disgraced politicians with a family to raise, famous actors who either want to retire from the limelight, press and fans or want time away from it to create something uninfluenced by all the aforementioned. Witches. Druids–”
“Witches?!” Peter’s hands gripped his seat, feeling a little like he was going to spin off the face of the Earth at any moment.
“Yes, quite a few, actually. That’s why many of them can’t be fired. Magic contracts in their blood and all that. You can still kill them though.” He shrugged.
“I can’t fire them but I can kill them?” Peter asked, his brow almost raised to his hairline.
“Don’t worry, none of them can do magic without authorization.” The god continued as if he hadn’t mentioned homicide at all. “In fact, you will be the one to give such authorization in some cases. No magic can be brought in from the outside without me knowing and thanks to the iron mines surrounding the city, none of the Fae can enter the city–which is probably one of the biggest reasons we have so many witches here.” He leaned forward with his hand on the side of his mouth. “They can’t really compete with Fae magic.”
“How reassuring,” Peter said. He wasn’t being sarcastic, but he no longer knew why he was still having the conversation.
“You have no idea.” Cupid leaned back again, as serious as Peter. “The Fae are the worst. They can screw up any place that isn’t protected from their magic. Just look at Ireland: One long history of constant screw-ups. It’s not the Irish, Peter, it’s the Fae.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“Yet another reason I picked you. With your Spanish and Native American heritage, there is very little chance you have any Fae blood in you.”
Cupid tapped on the signature line on the parchment. “Just sign. I’ll make it worth your while and you can keep that promise you made to yourself that this will be the last Valentines Day you ever spend alone.”
“How did you know that?” Peter pushed away from the table and stood, his chair falling over behind him with a thud. He wished he had his gun with him. He needed that comfort of control. “Can you read my mind?”
Cupid stood slowly. The way he moved, so calm and stately, he looked much older. He had the control you didn’t find in a twenty-something metrosexual.
“Peter,” the god said, “I am the God of Love. I don’t need to read your mind. I’ve seen this play a million times.” He came around the table. His blue eyes stayed on Peter even as he bent down to pick up Peter’s chair and set it upright. Cupid stood and put a calming hand on Peter’s shoulder, pushing him firmly and steadily back into his chair.
Cupid didn’t return to his chair, but stood over Peter, a hand still on Peter’s shoulder. It was strangely reassuring.
“I am the God of Love. Not only can I give you the house, the car and the job, I can find your perfect mate. All I need you to do is be the hero you already are in my city.” Cupid’s voice was deeper now, and it continued to soothe Peter until his mind felt clear. “All you have done was follow orders. You only have to do what you have done already. Protect and defend, manage and reconnaissance.”
Peter nodded. “I can do that.”
“Then sign the contract,” Cupid said, handing him the pen again.
And Peter did.