Targeted Age Group:: 17+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This book started as an experiment, just to see if I could write a book after reading so many. After a few weeks of writing, I realized that I really enjoyed diving into the world of fiction–so much so that it has become a fun side project for days off!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters sort of just crept up on me. Some of them are based on versions and mashups of people that I know, some from my own imagination. My protagonist, Odessa Black, originated from a character idea I had almost a decade ago. So she's been with me for a long while!
I tipped the pitcher of water over Zeek’s head, the cold bath doing nothing to combat the scent of whiskey oozing from his pores.
“What the hell, Odessa?” He stood up, flicked a few ice chips off his shoulder like they were a bad case of dandruff, and proceeded to wring the water from his baggy clothes onto the floor.
I set the empty pitcher down and resumed my efforts at clearing the tables, not bothering to look at him. While he frequently made lewd comments after downing a few fingers of amber liquor, today he took it a step further and grabbed my ass while I was bent over wiping a table. What was it about bars and alcohol that made guys think it was okay to grope any girl within reach?
“You know the rules, Zeek. Being drunk does not get you a free pass on harassment. If you have a problem with it, go talk to Sam. Otherwise sit your ass down, finish your meal, and be on with your night—somewhere else preferably.” I paused briefly, my mouth tightening into a parody of a smile. “Unless of course you’d rather I kick you out now and have you banned from coming back to your favorite watering hole?”
He blanched at the threat. To a drunk asshole, nothing was more terrifying than the thought of taking away his steady stream of cheap booze. And in a city like Seattle, cheap alcohol was rare—unicorn-levels of rare. And Zeek was nothing if not an eager regular at The Tavern. He just also happened to be a complete asshat.
“You know very well I can’t complain to Sam,” he mumbled, shoving a forkful of potatoes into his mouth. I tried not to gag at the way spittle settled into the corners of his mouth while he ate.
I walked back around the bar, refilling the pitcher before setting it down in front of him, just in case he needed a not-so-friendly reminder to behave. Sending him a warning glare, I smiled to myself, imagining what it would be like if he did complain to Sam.
Technically, Sam was my uncle. But he was only ten years older than me and acted a lot more like the protective older brother I never wanted but still loved. There was no chance he would take Zeek’s word over mine. In fact, the asshat got lucky. If Sam had witnessed the grope, Zeek would probably have a black eye right now. Maybe two.
We were slow, so I pulled an almost-empty bottle of cheap vodka off the shelf and tried repeating some of the fancy maneuvers Luis was always dazzling the customers with. I was getting better, but where Luis made the tossing-bottles-behind-his-back thing look impressive, I mostly just looked like I was failing out of clown college.
Zeek and I both cringed as the bottle fell on the bar top, soaking us both in the last dregs of vodka.
He smiled at me, and I stared in morbid fascination as strings of milky spit morphed around his words. “I hope you don’t think you’re getting a tip tonight.”
I narrowed my eyes, hating Luis for running late. I didn’t usually have to cover the bar, so Zeek wasn’t usually my problem. He wasn’t exactly setting the mood for a good shift.
Sam walked out of the back room, a small broom and dustpan in his hands. As soon as his shape was discernible, there was an audible sigh from the girls propped up at the other end of the bar, drinking their flamingo-pink cosmos. They were part of Sam’s usual fan club hoping to get lucky enough to hitch a ride back to his place. Well, our place since I lived with him. It wasn’t always the same girls, but they looked and acted enough alike that they were interchangeable as far as I was concerned. Maybe it was because he was family, but I didn’t really get the fascination.
The guy was thirty-one years old and wore the same three dirty band t-shirts over and over again on a predictable rotation with a pair of dark jeans that I was fairly certain he almost never washed. And his shoulder-length black hair was in desperate need of a good brushing. He kind of looked like he should be fronting some nineties grunge band. Of course, the golden hue of his aura gave him a slightly ethereal look, but it wasn’t like the chicks at the bar could see his energy—no one could, except for me, so there was no way that was adding to his appeal. Still, I couldn’t really complain about his popularity with the female population. I’m pretty sure that most of the bar’s revenue was pulled in from women trying to catch his attention for more than thirty seconds. Very few of them ever succeeded.
“Dess, I heard the shatter all the way in the back. If you want to practice tossing bottles around like a lunatic, do it when we don’t have customers please,” Sam whispered, his dark eyes narrowing at Zeek’s laughter. “And Luis called, he’ll be here in five.”
“Thank the gods.” I let out a huge breath. Luis’s job was way more difficult than I gave him credit for. Those cosmos the barbies were drinking? Pretty sure I forgot to add in the vodka. There was a reason Luis was behind the bar and I was out jotting orders down on the floor. Not that I’d ever admit it to him. The guy’s ego didn’t need any more inflating.
“You’re telling me. It’s a miracle you haven’t burned this place down yet,” he muttered, more to himself than to me, but I caught the smile in his voice. Sam’s dark almond- shaped eyes scanned Zeek’s wet hair and clothes. “Zeek, why do you look so guilty?”
“Hey, don’t look at me like that,” he stuttered, “talk to your niece. I could’ve been cut by one of those shards. You should’ve seen her whipping that bottle around at me. In fact,” he puffed out his chest, “you’ll be lucky if I don’t sue.”
Sam raised a dark brow, his expression more amused than afraid. “I doubt it’ll come to that.” Sam turned to me with a quick wink, the corners of his mouth turning up ever so slightly as he focused his gaze back on Zeek’s face. “Time to pay your bill. Then go home.”
Instantly, Zeek’s expression melted into an almost dazed smile. Sam was a persuasion-manipulator, and I bit back a grin when I recognized the usual signs. Generally, he could only manipulate humans and they had to be weak-willed, distracted, or inebriated. Zeek fit the bill for all three. Sam didn’t use his ability out in the open very often. For the most part, the existence of energy users was kept secret from humans and it was in everyone’s best interest to keep it that way. I didn’t think many people would take kindly to being worked over by a supe. And we needed humans to keep spending money at the bar, not boycotting it. I enjoyed not having to pay rent at Sam’s place. Luckily, Zeek was a bit of an idiot, so Sam could get away with the whole compulsion thing. And hey, at least he was using his powers for good.
Still, while I was happy for Sam to come to the rescue, I was always a little bit jealous when he used his energy manipulation. Mostly because I didn’t inherit it. While he could literally do light mind control, all I could do was recognize the soft gold glow surrounding him and other energy users—a glow that no one else seemed capable of seeing. And after living with Sam for the last six years, I barely even recognized his glow anymore. So I was stuck with a pseudo ability, while Sam was practically a franchise deal away from joining the Avengers.
Without another word, Sam walked to the other side of the bar to serve the girls another round and likely earn himself a fat tip.
Zeek drew my attention away from the glass I was cleaning by waving a twenty at me. “Thanks for the great service, Odessa. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Generally, Zeek would only utter a sentence like that if it were laced with irony and the hard slur of Jim Beam, so I knew this was all Sam’s doing. Not to mention that the only ‘tips’ he typically left were loud asides to the female staff encouraging them to wear push-up bras or no bras at all.
He handed me the bill—and lo and behold, there were two—then turned to leave, swaying drunkenly as he made his way to the door. Sam knew I was saving up for a new laptop. I caught his eye and he winked at me without breaking stride as he walked into the backroom on his cell. Did I mention Sam was the best?
After pocketing the twenties, I looked up to find Luis crossing paths with Zeek at the door’s threshold. His face pulled in confusion, taking in Zeek’s drenched appearance and unusually chipper attitude.
“Odie, so sorry I’m late. Traffic was a bitch.” Luis looked at me with his shit-eating grin, knowing full well how much I hated that nickname. There was so much you could do with Odessa: Dessa, Dess, hell even D didn’t make me want to hit someone. Odie was what you named a dog, the breeds with smashed in faces and breathing problems.
He hopped over the counter out of breath. Luis was a pretty big guy, so I was always a little bit surprised by how graceful and agile he was—and a lot bit jealous. He smiled and rolled his eyes when he saw the trashcan full of glass. “Why am I not surprised, and why do I have the feeling that had something to do with why Zeek looked like he just got back from a pool party? You’re so lucky Sam is your uncle.” He laughed and nudged my shoulder, his left dimple on full display. Dark brown hair fell into his face while he helped me clean the last few glasses in the sink.
“Don’t I know it.” I fiddled with the black pendant on my necklace, a permanent fixture in my wardrobe, before tucking it into my shirt and smiling at him. “Now that you’re here to rescue Odessa-the-damsel from the onslaught of killer vodka bottles, I’m going to prep for dinner.” I hopped onto the counter, trying to gracefully reproduce his entrance. Somewhere along the way I went wrong though, because two seconds later I was sliding around in the puddle left by Zeek. Karma was a bitch. I ignored Luis’s laughter as I walked towards the kitchen, perfectly content to pretend that I’d nailed it.
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