So you can read my books

Friday, January 13, 2012

THE OLD YEAR WAS DYING_Friday's Romantic Challenge

The old year was dying, the tolling bells ringing out its dirge in the night.

Alice squeezed my hand tight,

her death-cold fingers reminding me that I had someone to be strong for.

Shadows were heavy in the LaPrete Mansion's upper dining room.

Of the places I wanted to spend New Year's Eve with the ghoul of my dreams -- this was the very last.

Cezar Prodanescu, wheezing the prelude to his death rattle, spoke from the oak chair at the head of the dining table.

"Victor Standish, you and your ghoul cost me. That building was going to be my last project."

I shook my head. "The thousands of new Katrina orphans needed that place."

"You made the buyers think it was haunted!"

"What can I tell you? My mother's good at making ghosts."

Cezar's son scowled at me. "Because of you we have been made to endure this tedious Romanian ritual."

His wife, sitting beside him, patted his hand. "Andrei, remember your blood pressure."

Cezar snorted, "All you care about, Andreea, is that bearer bond right beside that New Year's Eve Mask."

Her daughter whined, "Grandpapa, must I wear this mask, too?"

He flashed a dying wolf's smile at her. "If you want your own bearer bond, Doina, yes. Besides, I made yours a faerie princess. And you only have to wear the mask until the bells stop."

Her brother glowered at the mask on the table before him. It bore an uncanny resemblance to Alfred E. Neuman. "Look at what he wants me to wear!"

Cezar snorted, "Then, don't wear it, Gavril. But you will receive nothing!"

Reluctantly, Gavril put it on. Andreea looked with disgust at her own mask in the shape of a wrinkled old shrew. She fondled the bearer bond. She put on the mask.

Andrei flicked dead eyes to the pig mask and barked an insult of a laugh. "You have made me wear so many masks, Father. What is one more?"

He put it on. Cezar pointed to the braying donkey mask in front of me. "Wear it and I will call off my lawyers from delaying that orphanage."

I shook my head. "The deal was you would do it if I showed up."

His smile reminded me of a snake's - but without as much humanity. "The deal has changed."

I shook my head. "My word hasn't. I've showed up. No jumping through hoops."

Alice lightly touched her mask on the table top done up like a snake's face. "Victor, the orphans."

Cezar turned to her. "Don the mask, and I will still call off my lawyers."

She took her hand from mine. She picked up the mask, slowly bringing it to her face.

I went cold.

Something was brewing, but I knew Alice. If I told her not to, she would do it out of spite.

Cezar looked nothing so much as a vulture as he watched her, then turned to me. "Tell her not to, boy. You want to."

"I - I love Alice too much to take away her right to choose."

Alice's eyes rimmed in black tears. "So I choose ... you."

She placed the mask down.

Cezar scowled and put his skull mask on.

He slid Alice's mask to Doina. "Wear it, and you will receive ten bearer bonds."

"T-Ten?" She tore off the faerie mask, putting on the snake one.

The tolling bells were reaching the end of their countdown. The Prodanescu clan glared at their patriarch. Alice smiled softly and took up my hand again.

The tolling died away. Andreea wrenched her mask off. Doina screamed wetly. I felt like screaming myself. The mother's face was an exact copy of her mask. Andrei ripped his mask off.

A wet pig's snout quivered at me. Doina sprang from her chair, sending it to the carpet. She raced to the ornate mirror. A snake's face stared slit-eyed back at her. She started screaming in peals I knew would never stop until her last breath.

Gavril just sat shivering in his chair. Alice slowly, slowly reached out to Cezar's mask. As soon as her fingers touched the mask, the rubber band crumbled to ash.

Cezar's skull mask dropped.

Andreea began to titter in gibbering madness.

Though dead, Cezar looked merely asleep.

I turned to Alice. "Next New Year's Eve? No parties."



  1. Creepy. That Cezar is truly a monster. Loved the tone and pacing of this Roland. You really know how to involve a reader in a setting.

    I loved the last line "Next New Years Eve? No Parties."

    Victor has learned his lessons well in how to manipulate Alice without seeming to control her.

    Well done.


  2. I downloaded this book and look forward to reading it.

  3. Alfred E. Neuman - now that would truly be terrifying.

  4. Okay, you succeeded in totally creeping me out. And in making me want to read it all.

  5. Donna :
    It is Friday the 13th after all! Victor was frantic not to have Alice put on that mask -- but he still used the truth to motivate her -- not manipulate.

    As the ultimate free spirit, he hates taking free will from anyone.

    In UNDER A VOODOO MOON, thrown into the past, Victor gives her up though it cuts out his heart so that she will never endure the long years as a ghoul.

    How does that turn out? You'll have to read it to find out. Sly devil me.

    Wasn't Cezar a monster? He was doubly cruel to his granddaughter, knowing she would willingly put on the snake mask for ten bearer bonds. All her life she will be haunted by the fact that she could have looked like a faerie princess instead of a snake - if only she had been content with one bearer bond.

    Diane :
    Thanks for downloading THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH. I hope he and Alice provide you with chills, laughs, and a few sniffles, along with a great read -- and 100% of the royalties go to the Salvation Army. See? You just became a hero! Roland

    Alex :
    LOL! Yes, wouldn't it? You notice Gavril couldn't bring himself to take off the mask. He may well become a moronic Phantom of the Opera!

    LD :
    I couldn't resist the timing of a post done for Friday the 13th. May this post be the only scary thing about today for you, Roland

  6. Truly well written. You capture romance in unusual places.

  7. Susan :
    Yes, I was caught up in the spirit of Friday the 13th! Glad you enjoyed it.

    Nancy :
    I think the flaw many for many of us is that we wait for romance until what we consider the proper setting. We must snatch when we can, whenever the opportunity presents. But then, I'm a romantic at heart. LOL.

    Folks, I am heading out for a very long day of blood runs, else I would visit all my friends' blogs. One day I will be able to support myself writing, affording me time to visit as I wish I could now, Roland

  8. That was spectacular! Love, love, love the last line.

  9. Thanks, Nicki :
    In my mind, Victor is a teenaged Tony Stark or Bruce Campbell (Ash of ARMY OF DARKNESS). Attitude is all he has as a shield against the darkness. I appreciate you visiting and commenting so much, Roland

  10. Excellent work. The pacing and building to suspense is well-crafted. I am definitely going to be frequenting here more often.

  11. Thank you, Steven :
    Your kind words mean a lot. Your post on the fear of Friday the 13th led me to believe you might enjoy this little story. In fact, you may enjoy Saturday's post where the ghost of HP Lovecraft guest hosts and asks if your genre chose you instead of the other way around. LOL. Roland

  12. Roland, 'Next New Year's Eve? No parties.' Priceless. Your prose is excellently suited for Friday 13th. To have less humanity than a snake is harsh indeed though!

    Great entry Roland.


  13. Hi,

    What can I say: superlative! Always a delight to get one's teeth into your masterpieces... ;)


    BTW: sent Victor a tweet, he ignored it! Amazon Tag-Party Feb 4-5th. I love supporting Indie authors, but given present sign-up figures I'd say Indie authors think going it alone is best. I'm once again reviewing pre-print books for big-named publishers. And, I'm seriously thinking of quitting the blogosphere on a "help others" basis. I've come across so much self-obsessed mania of specific Indie authors within my sphere(me me me)that it sickens me when I see others doing their damn best at promoting these so-called blogger friends books and then they themselves left treading water. But in the end, Karma will have its day.


  14. Denise :
    Yes, Cezar had less humanity than a snake. Many Russian mobsters are like that as well. Brrr. I'm glad that last line made you smile.

    Francine :
    Thanks for the praise.

    In the past week, I have driven rare blood over 2000 miles in blinding rain and fog so dense I could not see past my hood or to the side of the road. It was like driving through a thick cloud. Pulling over to the shoulder was out of the question since the person behind me was as blind as me and liable to slam into me!

    Besides scaring the ever-living merde out of me and draining me physically, it left me with almost zero time to visit my friends on their blog. Victor, of course, probably got the Russian Mob or the Old Ones on his case, so his twitters went unanswered, too. Sorry.

    I try to be a good blog friend. I know about the "Enough about me/What do you think about me?" mentality that too many out there have.

    It is why I have my contest now tied to how many books Victor sells, so I can reward my friends who have reviewed Victor. Michael Di Gesu won a Michael Whelan autograph.

    And ... ssshh ... don't tell, but Sandra just called me, saying that Ann Best just won the Robert Downey, Jr. autographed mini-poster of IRON MAN.

    I want you to have that Sean Bean autographed LORD OF THE RINGS POSTER but Sandra is the one doing the drawing!

    Please do not leave Blogdom. I will feel sad, lonely, and emptier if you do, Roland

  15. Hi,

    I think your volunteer Blood Courier work is admirable. And come hell or high water you'll get through. One blood courier over here (UK) was fined for speeding a couple of years ago, people raised the money and paid the fine.

    We have similar with the charity Lifeboats (all volunteer crews), and the air ambulance is a charity run organisation as well.

    No worries about Sean Bean: I've got a lot of him in any case! Don't ask... ;)


  16. Francine :
    Blood courier & Product Management Tech is my paid job -- there is more to it, of course, as with everyone's job than the title implies. Driving the blood to rural hospitals is just the life-threatening part!

    I guess with 100% of the royalties for all my novels going to the Salvation Army, I am a volunteer novel-writer for them!

    Now, you've gotten me interested in how you got your Sean Bean stuff. Oops, there goes the center's phone. Gotta run - literally! Roland

  17. That was breathtakingly creepy! Great read

    PS - Francine - please don't go - you're such a lovely presence!

  18. Laura :
    You're right : Francine is a lovely, healing presence in the blogverse. I'm happy my little post gave you the proper creepies for Friday the 13th, Roland

  19. Hello Roland. I
    I had completely forgotten Friday was Friday the 13th! Now I see why this ghoulish masterpiece.
    Awesome, vivid & yes...way too creepy!
    Thanks for sharing.