QSFer Amy Lane has a new queer paranormal book out (gay, gender fluid): “All the Rules of Heaven.”
When Tucker Henderson inherits Daisy Place, he’s pretty sure it’s not a windfall—everything in his life has come with strings attached. He’s prepared to do his bit to satisfy the supernatural forces in the old house, but he refuses to be all sweetness and light about it.
Angel was sort of hoping for sweetness and light.
Trapped at Daisy Place for over fifty years, Angel hasn’t always been kind to the humans who have helped him in his duty of guiding spirits to the beyond. When Tucker shows up, Angel vows to be more accommodating, but Tucker’s layers of cynicism and apparent selfishness don’t make it easy.
Can Tucker work with a gender-bending, shape-shifting irritant, and can Angel retain his divine intentions when his heart proves all too human?
THE BED that dominated the center of the room was hand-carved, imported ebony, black as night, and the newel posts had been studded with an ivory inlay, random designs supposedly, dancing around and around in a way that made the unwary stop, lost in the intricacy of runes nobody living could read.
The wallpaper had once been an English garden jungle—cabbage roses, lilacs, mums—riotous around the walls, and the grand window was positioned strategically to catch the early-morning sun overlooking what might once have been a tiny corner of England, transplanted by the cubic foot of earth into the red-clay dirt of the Sierra Foothills.
That same dirt was now the dust that stained the windows, layering every nuance of the old room in hints of bloody deeds.
The tattered curtains no longer blocked out the harsh sun of morning, and the wallpaper curled from the walls in crackled strips. The carpet threads lay bare to the hard soles of the doctor who tended to the dying old woman, but she had no eyes for the living person taking her pulse, giving her surcease from pain, making her last hours bearable.
Her eyes were all for Angel—but nobody else could see him, so he rather regretfully assumed that she appeared crazy to the other people in the room.
“No,” she snapped contentiously. “I won’t tell you. I won’t. It’s not fair.”
Angel gave a frustrated groan and ran fingers through imaginary hair. This was getting tiresome.
“Ruth,” she snarled. “You used me up, sucked away my youth, drained me fucking dry. At least get my name right!”
Angel winced. The old wom—Ruth—had a point.
“I’m sorry the task was so difficult,” Angel said gently, containing supreme frustration. She was right. What Angel had asked Ruth Henderson to do with her life had been horrible. Painful. An assault on her senses every day she lived. But Angel needed the name of her successor—he needed to find the person and introduce himself. Angel really couldn’t leave Daisy Place unless he was in company of someone connected to it by blood or spirit.
“You are not sorry,” Ruth sneered. “You could give a shit.” She looked so sweet—like Granny from a Sylvester the Catcartoon, complete with snowy white braids pinned up to circle her head. She’d asked her nurse to do that for her yesterday, and Angel, as sad and desperate as the situation was, had backed off while the nurse worked and Ruth hummed an Elvis Presley song under her breath. The music had been popular when Ruth was a teenager, and it was almost a smack in Angel’s face.
Yes, Angel had taken up most of her life with a quest nobody else could understand, and now Ruth’s life was ending and Angel was taking the peace that should have held sway.
Her breath was congested and her voice clogged. Her heart was stuttering, and her lungs were filling with fluid, her body failing with every curse she lifted. She’d been a good woman, performing her duty without question at the expense of family, lovers, children of her own.
It was a shock, really, how bitter she’d become as the end neared. A pang of remorse pierced Angel’s heart; the poor woman had been driven beyond endurance, and it was Angel’s fault. It was just that there were so many here, so many voices, and Angel would never be released, would be trapped here in this portal of souls until the very last one was freed. Angel was incorporeal. Ruth was the human needed to give voice to the souls trapped in this house, on these grounds. If she didn’t give a very human catharsis to the dead, they would never rise beyond the soul trap this place had become.
And now that she was dying, she needed to name a successor, or everybody trapped at Daisy Place would be doomed—Angel included.
“I’m sorry,” Angel said, regret weighting every word. “It probably seems as though I didn’t care—I handled everything all wrong. We could have been friends. I could have been your companion and not your tormenter. You deserved a friend, Ruth. I was not that friend. I’m so sorry.”
Ruth blew out a breath. Her words were mumbles now—Angel understood, even if the doctor and nurse at her bedside assumed she was out of her mind.
“You weren’t so bad,” she wheezed. “You were in pain.” A slight smile flickered over the canvas of wrinkles that made up her face. “You made my garden bloom. You couldn’t prune for shit, but you did try.”
“It gave me great joy,” Angel confessed humbly. No more than the truth. Angel had loved that garden, loved the optimism that had laid the fine Kentucky bluegrass sod and ordered the specialty rose grafts from Portland and Vancouver. No, Angel couldn’t prune it—couldn’t hold the shears, couldn’t hold back the tide of entropy that the garden had become—but that hadn’t stopped the place from being Angel’s greatest source of peace, even stuck here in this way station for the damned and the enlightened.
“I know it did.” There was defeat in Ruth’s voice. “Promise me,” she mumbled.
“What?” Angel would take care of the garden until freed from this prison—there was no question.
“Promise me you’ll be kind to him.”
Oh! Oh sweet divinity. She was going to name an heir.
“To him?” Angel asked, all respect.
“I left him the house, but the boy hasn’t had it easy, Angel. He’ll be here soon enough. Be kind.”
“I need his name,” Angel confessed. “If I don’t know his name, I’ll never find his soul.”
“Tucker,” she whispered, her last breaths rattling in her chest. “My brother’s boy. Tucker Henderson. Be kind,” she begged. “He’s a sweet boy…. Be kind.”
Triumph soared in Angel’s chest. Yes! Ruth Henderson’s successor, the empath who could hear the ghosts and help exorcise Daisy Place! Angel wanted to cheer, but now was not the time. With invisible hands but tenderness nonetheless, Ruth Henderson’s ghostly companion stroked her forehead and whispered truths about a glorious garden in the afterlife as the good woman breathed her last.
Amy Lane is a mother of two college students, two grade-schoolers, and two small dogs. She is also a compulsive knitter who writes because she can’t silence the voices in her head. She adores fur-babies, knitting socks, and hawt menz, and she dislikes moths, cat boxes, and knuckle-headed macspazzmatrons.
She is rarely found cooking, cleaning, or doing domestic chores, but she has been known to knit up an emergency hat/blanket/pair of socks for any occasion whatsoever, or sometimes for no reason at all. Her award-winning writing has three flavors: twisty-purple alternative universe, angsty-orange contemporary, and sunshine-yellow happy.
By necessity, she has learned to type like the wind.
She’s been married for twenty-plus years to her beloved Mate and still believes in Twu Wuv, with a capital Twu and a capital Wuv, and she doesn’t see any reason at all for that to change.
YARNING TO WRITE: http://writerslane.blogspot.com