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Beautiful New Cover by Suzette VaughnI’ve written short stories to accompany my Lone Wolf series, but realized a few years ago, that I needed some prequels to the series. I wrote my first one, The Wall of Time, as my first NaNoWriMo novel in 2007. This novel, Solaris is actually going to be a combination of two novels I’ve started, plus a short piece I wrote for my Fun in Writing group.

There are times when I introduce characters and am totally surprised by them. I admit, this book has already surprised me several times, not only with this scene, but others where Wil reveals a depth of emotions he’s never shown before. Of course, he’s never been in this situation before, and it shakes him to his core. Deciding that he must do something to exact retribution for the women and children who died on Solaris, Wil goes to see an old acquaintance.

The Bloody Orchid specialized in the most brutal urges of sentient beings everywhere. There were other bondage bordellos, but this was the only one with class. Built along the lines of a Roman temple, one could find any sort of perverted need catered too—at an obscenely high price. Wil, who hated the smell and feel of this place, shivered as he walked between the marble pillars. The heavy iron doors swung open and a giant of a man stood there. He was clad only in a loin cloth made from the skins of sentient beings. Wil didn’t examine it too closely, its grim patchwork too distracting.

The gigantic doorman leered at him. “Welcome to the Bloody Orchid, Human. What can we do for you, or to you, this evening?” His voice was ridiculously high and effete, incongruous to his size and bulk.

I’m here to speak to Santa,” Wil said, smiling.Shakazhan front

Santa doesn’t speak to anyone. Go away.”

Santa will speak to me.”

Don’t make me hurt you, Human.”

Wil tilted his head to one side, examining the huge doorman with a leer of his own. “Get Santa for me, or we shall see who hurts whom.”

A short, ugly woman with three breasts, came out from behind the counter. She halted in front of Wil, glaring up at him. “You can’t come in here and threaten people, Human. Not for free, that will cost you.

I threaten no one, Grandmother,” he stated in an insulting tone, the fact the woman was probably forty years younger than he notwithstanding.

Her glare narrowed. “Throw him out, TinTon.”

Yes, Moema.” He stepped forward, head and shoulders lowered to charge.

I came to talk to Santa. I asked politely. He made threats, not me. Shall I leave here and tell everyone in the city that Moema of the Bloody Orchid insults customers and turns them away dissatisfied? Trust me when I tell you, I can ruin your reputation in less than a day—after I put your dog down.”

TinTon looked nervous, Moema glared.

Why do you want Santa?”

None of your business. I promise, Santa will be very unhappy if you damage me.”

Moema’s fingers flickered. TinTon charged. Wil stepped out of his way, hitting him in the back of the knee with his elbow. The giant crumpled, whimpering.

The Maker frontHe broked my leg, Moema!”

Wil shrugged, stepping out of reach of the big man. He might be down, but he still had the longest arms Wil had seen on a near human. “Santa. Please.”

Moema looked from him to the crumpled form of her guard, and stalked to the desk. “Santa, you have a visitor,” she said sharply into the comunit.

I don’t see visitors,” came the reply.

Not even old friends?” Wil said when Moema moved to disconnect.

There was a disturbance upstairs. A door slammed back, hitting the wall. Heavy treads landed on the balcony above, echoing in the great hall. A tall, stately figure appeared hurriedly at the top of the grand stair. Dressed in shimmering red, the color of arterial blood (on second thought, it was blood on a gown) stood Santa. She looked much the same as she had when Wil saw her thirty years ago. Her hair was black, awash with the same blood that soaked her clothing. She wore thirteen inch steel heels that ended in spikes. Her legs were long, shapely and covered in dark red scales. Wil knew those same scales covered most of her body, except for her chest and face, which she kept carefully de-scaled. A pointed tail twitched behind her with what looked like a human eye on the tip.

Shaking blood from her hands, she greeted Wil with a hug and kiss. Fortunately, the blood didn’t come off on him, for which he was grateful. Apparently, it was for show, after all. The eye looked real and he wasn’t terribly surprised, or pleased, when Santa popped it in her mouth. She always said that she liked blue ones best. Wil didn’t look at it closely enough to see the color.

I’m working, Lone Wolf. What is so important that you must interrupt the show?”

I apologize, my dear, but there’s been a dust up at the Mining Guild. Perhaps you heard about it.”

Santa frowned, her beautiful, but terrifying face made more so by her expression. TinTon whimpered and drew away from her.

I heard. I had hoped it was a rumor.”

It wasn’t. Forty-one people, all women and children, died because of their greed.”

Do you have names? Of course you do, or you wouldn’t be here. Come up to my room.”

Wil balked slightly. Santa laughed.

Not the showroom, darling. My quarters. Nothing more The Kahlea frontdisturbing than a shrunken head, I promise. Laughing, she led the way.

Wil followed, mindful of her tail. It had a temper and had smacked him more than once in the past. He’d come to be on friendlier terms with it the last time they met, but he wasn’t sure it was happy to be interrupted during a show. Santa’s tail was a mean bitch.

The room she led him to was strangely feminine and completely opposite her in every way. Frilly and pink, it reminded Wil of a little girl’s quarters, not that of one of the most vicious torturers in the galaxy. Santa had worked with him for a time, extracting secrets from their targets. She was retired now, putting on torture shows here at the Bloody Orchid.

Drink?”

Thanks, no. I’m working.”

She made a face, her black lips pulling back to reveal extremely sharp, long fangs—not an affectation, completely real. “You only came to see me on a job? I think my feelings should be hurt.”

Be fair, Santa. Last time I saw you, your tail tried to skewer me and you threatened to bite my head off.”

I was expecting,” she replied, pouring dark liquid into a glass. It bubbled and fizzled, smoking slightly.

Wil’s eyes narrowed. “A—baby?”

She waved it away. “We involuntarily spawn every ten years. I ate it. Nasty little bugger. What do you need from me?”

The names I give you, they come with a price.”

Yours or mine?”

You have the entertainment value. I need whatever information you extract. Everything, even the tiniest detail. The usual contract, with the additional stipulation that it must be within the next six weeks and no one can trace this back to you or me.”

That’s easy, darling. Six weeks isn’t long.”

I’ve never known you to take more than three days to get what you wanted.”

True. When I’m done, what then?”

You can pleasure yourself as you like. Is that payment enough?”

Depends on my targets.”

He told her. Santa’s eyes widened. “Council? Hmm. They drove my people from their home, built their wretched base upon it and banished us to the Cold Netherworlds. Of course, that was a thousand years ago…. Why them? Why now?”

Because they’ve hurt some friends of mine and they are responsible for killing my goddaughter—and my—daughter.” He fought tears, but he couldn’t stop them. “You know me. I’m not the stick around fatherly type, but she and her mother both died. My goddaughter, her sister and mother died. My friends lost their families for another man’s greed.”

And you lost something that you loved.” Santa wiped his tears with her long fingers. The wicked black nails rasped over his beard, tenderly caressing. “I have known you forever, Lone Wolf, yet I have never seen you cry. I will do this for you, not because of the pleasure it will give me, nor because of the information you desire, but because their actions put a hole in your soul. Right here.” She touched his chest, just above his heart. “It’s deep and black. They have killed a part of you. For that, they will suffer.” She kissed him tenderly, listening as he told her the names and locations of her victims.

© 2015 Dellani Oakes

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