Garret glanced through the contents, occasionally raising his gaze to a sharp regard of her. It would be one of the only times she thanked God for allowing Renee to fuss over her before venturing out the door.

He slapped the folder shut and stalked to Max who continued to stand in the doorway of the inner office. He smacked the folder against his chest.

“Her.”

“What? Harrison, you can’t—”

“Do not test me. If she is not cast, I wash my hands of this picture.” Then he strode from the room.

All eyes focused on Max, his scowl doing nothing to lessen the throbbing of his jaw muscle or the vein on his forehead. Finally, he focused those hard silver eyes on Amy.

She gulped and only just kept herself from seeking a place to cower.

“Congratulations….” He sought her name from the contents of her portfolio, “Amy Burke. You are now this picture’s leading lady.”

Renee squealed, dashing from the office on the tail end of a list of names of people she had to tell that very moment. Amy collapsed into the nearest chair. “Wait, what?”

Max turned long enough to toss her portfolio onto his desk, resulting in a cascade of papers and a muttered curse. “Report tomorrow morning for your script and shooting details. There will also be a meeting with the Executive Producer. For now, leave your name and contact information with the receptionist on your way out.” He slammed his office door.

White-knuckled fingers were numb even after she pried them from the chair arm. An extra she could play, no sweat, but… the lead? Amy gulped, her stomach not listening to her persuasion to settle down. Being sick in the middle of the casting office would not be a very good way to introduce herself.

“Aims.” Renee scrambled back into the office, grabbing up Amy’s purse and her arm in one fluid motion. “Come on. We’ve got to celebrate!”

The sudden lurch to her feet nearly sent her stomach contents outward. Oh God…. “Easy, Renee.”

“I dropped your contact information with the receptionist and your business card.”

“I have a business card?”

“Yes, Aims, remember?”

Her head hurt, so she let it go as Renee pulled her from the office. “Of course. What was I thinking? Of course I have a business card.”

“I told you this was the one.”

“You were right and I was wrong.”

Renee shot her a glare. “Hilarious… hey, you look a little green.”

“I feel green.” Green would never look the same again. “Can we sit down for a sec?”

“Sure, sweetie. God, you… you’re not going to throw up, are you?” Renee brushed the hair from Amy’s neck as she slumped onto a cement retaining wall of a terraced garden just outside the casting office.

“Me? Throw up in public humiliation?” Amy took in a long, slow breath as she tried, again, to talk her stomach down from the rafters of her throat.


Of Damsels & DragonsGenre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: TBD

Director, Producer, and English thespian Sir Garret Harrison has little patience for the politics of Hollywood. To get what he wants, he harbors no qualms with utilizing the power his name holds; especially in regard to the wooing of his leading ladies.

When he chooses an unknown for the role of heroine, he believes the conquest will be short and sweet. Amy Burke, however, shows herself as anything but a paper doll waiting for his supposed flair of style.

To Garrett’s surprise, her resistance sweetens the chase. But when she finally surrenders to his charm, will he admit to his own defeat?


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Jaxon lifted Serra’s limp body from the rubble, dusting the fragments of dirt and stone from her face.

“Is she alive?” Eryn asked, her voice hushed. The pallor of the woman’s cheeks made her uneasy.

The only response was a grunt as he stood, lifting her into his arms and then bolting down the hallway toward the exit. Eryn gaped after him a moment before growling orders for Xu and Raijin to offer escort.

The handheld at her hip beeped and buzzed a demand for attention. “Dwyre. Go.”

“I took it upon myself to order a medical transport,” Quistis reported in her usual businesslike fashion. “It should be here in five.”

“Good because Jaxon just beat Hyne’s hell out of here with Serra. Not sure if she’s alive or dead, but she’s headed your way.”

“Roger that. Aggressors?”

“Not yet, but Jaxon—”Eryn’s gaze fell upon the heap of gray and brown revealed by Serra’s removal. “Gotta go. Over and out.” She slammed the handheld to her belt clip. A closer scrutiny revealed the heap as another body. He was thin and his clothes looked like they hadn’t fit him for some time. His face, however, was still recognizable despite everything he had endured: Seifer Almasy. Eryn’s throat constricted at the intensity of her relief. At last.

"Commander!" she called.

Squall’s attention shifted to his red-headed lieutenant and the tattered grey lump beside her. He strode over and knelt beside them, his eyes widening at the sight of his lost advisory. “I’ll be damned,” he said, his face breaking out into a smirk, “I knew the jackass was alive.”

Their reunion was short-lived.

Gunfire danced around them. Squall jumped to his feet, Griever already drawn as he barked at Eryn. “Get Seifer out of here!” he shouted between bursts of gunfire.

She jumped to her feet, grabbing Seifer forcibly by the arms and standing him upright long enough to toss his weight across her shoulders. Beaten and starved for months, Seifer still out-weighed her enough to make her doubt her instinctual reaction to her training. The extra mass slowed her progress, but she was still able to hot-foot it down the corridors while doing her best to not jar the man. There was no way for her to know how many injuries he had incurred while in the torturous care of the Purists.

“You’re not gonna die on me today, Seifer Almasy,” she grunted.

Eryn cursed under her breath as she burst forth from the castle ruins to the brightness of mid-day. The aerial medical transport had arrived and Jaxon busily loaded Serra’s stretcher inside. He turned as Eryn approached and gawked at the sight of his best friend carrying Seifer Almasy across her shoulders.

“Are you serious?” he asked in disbelief, pulling a stretcher with him.

Eryn leaned forward and dropped Seifer on the stretcher as gently as she could, her hand shooting out to probe his neck with two fingers.. Panic slapped her in the face at his face disturbingly peaceful expression. “There’s no pulse,” she hissed. “F___! No pulse and no breath!”

What? Mr. Stubborn-Pain-In-Everyone’s-Ass can’t hang on for five more minutes—?”

Eryn and Jaxon were both shoved roughly aside. Serra fell across Seifer’s inert body, sobbing “No!” just before an eye-searing globe of white enfolded the two. It vanished as quickly as it appeared, a wave of hot and sweet-smelling air pulsing outward with its disappearance that sent both Jaxon and Eryn onto their backside.

Scrambling upright, Eryn searched for a pulse— she let out a fast breath; his heartbeat was strong and constant.

“This isn’t right….”

Eryn shifted her focus to Jaxon’s frown. “What’s the matter?”

“Her heartbeat is constant but… there’s something not right. Her breathing and her heart rate… it’s too low.” Jaxon shook his head. “I don’t like it. We’ve gotta go—Now!”

As Jaxon once again scooped Serra into his arms and made his way to the transport, Eryn assigned stretcher duty to Xu and Raijin while contacting the Balamb Garden Infirmary. “Incoming!”


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There came a flash of white and then the ground rumbled beneath Jaxon’s feet, nearly sending him on his rear end before he could steady himself. “Whoa. That can’t be good.” Jaxon took stock of his surroundings, judging the direction of the blast – or whatever it was – by the change in the air and the smell of something burning on the breeze. He set off at a quick trot. “Did they start the fun without me?”

The sounds of Eryn barking orders on the run told otherwise.

Jaxon came to a halt near a crumbled bit of wall. Leaning casually against it, he bided his time until Eryn, Squall, and Selphie converged on his position. “I’ll take the obvious ‘what the hell’ expressions as proof that you had nothing to do with what happened.”

“What did happen?” Eryn asked, the grip on her weapons adjusted in readiness.

“As near as I can figure someone made a boom.”

Eryn cast him a glance of impending doom and destruction.

He cleared his throat and straightened. “Only thing is, I do believe the explosion was caused by magic.”

Squall stepped forward, looking beyond Jaxon to the ruins. “GF?”

“I don’t believe so. The air felt different.”

“How can you do magic without a GF?” Selphie asked.

“That is a good question.” Jaxon sent Squall a glance as he continued his scrutiny of the ruins. “If you want the answer, we’ll need to venture forth.” He sent Eryn an inquisitive look. "Where’s our guest from the Centra Intelligence Agency?"

Eryn pressed her lips into a tight, white line. "She came this way a few minutes before the white light."

Jaxon balled his hands into fists until his hands hurt. "Pardon?"

"She bolted. Like Ifrit himself was on her heels." Eryn didn’t hold Jaxon’s pained gaze.

“Is this on the map?” Squall’s intense glance grabbed Jaxon back from the sudden mad desire to charge into the ruins. “This doesn’t look familiar to me.”

“It isn’t on any map that I have, no. E, can you get a screenshot from the closest satellite?”

“No uplink.” Eryn waved her handheld in an irritated arcing motion. “Some high-level interference in this place, that’s for damn sure.”

“Interesting.” Jaxon grappled with his calm to focus on his task at hand. Then he stepped toward the collection of ruined walls. Shell casings littered the ground and the amount of booted footprints told of a skirmish leading into the gaping maw of a castle-like building that seemed to be stuck midway above and below ground. “Everyone ready for an adventure? Whoever was victim, or instigator, of the white magic went thisaway. And believe me when I say there are a lot of them. At least two squads.”

“And us without a blessed GF between us,” Eryn grumbled. She swore.

Jaxon’s uneasiness prevented the amused smirk. The aroma of powerful magic nearly singed his nosehairs. But, as he had told the others, it didn’t smell nor feel the same as the intensity left by the arrival of a GF. GFs gave the impression of a blanket, somewhat smothering or stifling. This was more like… an approaching forest fire? There was an electricity-type feeling to the air. As if even that could… implode and explode at the same time at any given moment.

But even that didn’t really explain things.

Eryn and the others switched on the lamps strapped to their wrists, aiming them into the growing darkness. Squall had his gunblade drawn and ready.

“Where are all the bodies?” Selphie whispered.

Jaxon crouched and gingerly touched a pile of fine dirt… though it felt more like soot or ash. “Hm. Incinerated, apparently.”

Selphie muffled a complaintive squeal and Eryn cursed as Jaxon dusted his finger off on his trousers and led them forward again. “Let’s all hope and pray that the boom doesn’t decide to come around again, shall we?”

"If the occupants are ‘incinerated’, Jaxon, does that mean…?"

Jaxon shrugged without looking at the Garden Commander. He couldn’t say ‘That’s exactly what it could mean.’ It didn’t matter if it was the truth or not. That Seifer Almasy and his beautiful twin sister were possibly two piles of ash were facts he didn’t want to face at the moment. "We don’t know that all occupants suffered the same end. In fact, I don’t know for a fact that the dust back there was the remnants of a person."

"You’re the best," Squall reminded. "I’ll take what you have to say at face value."

Jaxon cringed. "This is the one time I don’t like being the best, Sir."

"Agreed. But they could be fine. Stranger things have happened."

"I’ll take that, Sir. Thank you." Jaxon halted and gestured back to the others. "Now, if you could take a few paces back, I have a job to do and something just changed."

Squall did as ordered – the fact he was able to order the Garden Commander around still weirded Jaxon out. He crouched and pressed his fingertips on the brick flooring. "Boots at a run. More than one pair." He closed his eyes to focus on the sounds. "Two pair don’t have the smoothest gait."

"Are they headed our direction?"

"I don’t believe so, no. It’s hard to tell in a ruin like this. Bricks tend to reverberate and throw me off." Jaxon stood and continued forward in cautious attention. "Try and be as silent as possible. Tread as soft as you can."

Eryn’s grumble about not being a rabbit caused a smirk.

***

The world didn’t exist outside the darkness and pain.

There was heat and fire. There were conflicting voices. There was weight pressing down on his chest.

He couldn’t lift his arms. Couldn’t even open his eyes for the incessant pounding. Even a curse required too much effort through the sludge in his mind.

Rest.

A voice he seemed to remember. As if from a dream. A very long dream filled with running and ghosts and gunfire and flaming bodies that vanished into nothing– the weight was suddenly lifted and he groaned both from relief and agony.

A flare of heat and then cursing and swearing made him smile– he was lifted and the pain exploded in his head and throughout his body… and all went black.


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Serra considered herself studious.

There was little challenge for her to pay attention during mission briefings and overviews. However, as Eryn Dwyre made her way to the front of the three teams, Serra found it increasingly difficult to focus her attention on the detailed maps and mission plans. Even as she lowered her drifting attention to the handout binder held in her white-fingered grip, her surroundings almost seemed to phase in and out of… focus.

Instead, she was left with a two-toned whine in the back of her mind that balanced between being heard and being felt. To her already ragged nerves it was much like a jagged piece of metal scraping on a chalk board.

In an attempt to firm her focus, Serra raised her hand.

"Yes?" Lt. Commander Dwyre asked in a sharp tone.

"I assume that I will not be allowed to accompany Scout Crest?" She noticed, barely, that he was not at the briefing.

"Correct. He has already ventured out on his assignment. You will be on the first team." Eryn consulted her notes. "I believe team assignments were already discussed in the mission briefing this morning."

Serra ground her teeth to keep herself from flinching, both from pain of the whine’s rising pitch and from embarrassment of not recalling that fact. She nodded and lowered her focus yet again to the handout binder.

The hard stare from Lt. Commander Dwyre continued for a few brief moments before Eryn called everyone’s attention to the next page of the handout and continued with her overview. Any and all questions asked fell to the wayside of the whine that escalated into a throbbing roar in the center of Serra’s brain.

With a cringe, Serra raised a hand to pinch the bridge of her nose, not noticing her simultaneous action of creating a white ball in the palm of her hand roughly the size of a large marble. She fisted her hand, enclosing the marble of light in a white-knuckled grasp as she wrestled with the pain and the sudden short bursts of noise and voices–

Serra bolted to her feet, voicing a murmured apology and stepping quickly away from the team. She didn’t notice Eryn’s attentive focus as she continued her overview, or Commander Squall follow  after her. All she heard was the noise of two voices deep in her mind and the explosive array of images of a young woman. Even with her eyes open the woman was there. Her blonde-green hair flowing in soft waves to her feet. Her stature erect and intense. Her slim form engulfed with white fire–

The woman faced Serra, her eyes ablaze with white fire… and a look of surprise. Then the woman smiled and lifted an arm, beckoning Serra forward while uttering a single word: "Come."

The word pounded in Serra’s mind, bringing with it a wave of power that Serra had to grapple with in order to keep it from exploding out of control. She panted with the effort, her hands pressed to each side of her head as she ran blindly forward. She didn’t hear the voices behind her calling for her to stop. All she heard and saw was the young woman with an eternity of age in the white fireof her eyes.

The woman seemed familiar at the same time she was strange and different. But she was safe and Serra knew she had to go to her. Knew that a life hung in the balance.

A hand gripped her arm, but a pound of outward power loosed it and propelled Serra forward. Serra couldn’t comprehend how long she ran. All she saw was the form of the woman, her hand outstretched, and her eyes smiling.

Power continued to flow from those eyes into Serra, pressing at her brain and burning through her body with the effort to keep it in check. All those years of training to control her abilities…. Her confidence soared. I can do this! I can do this! It was the first time in her life that she experienced clarity in her purpose, in the purpose of her abilities, and in the purpose behind her existence.

The woman. She was the key.

Serra reached out, desperate to grasp the outstretched hand and pull the answer to her. The woman vanished and Serra stumbled to a halt, blinking into the darkness. She summoned a ball of white with but a thought and gazed around her in confusion at the dim and cobweb infested hallways of a ruined castle– booted footsteps and angry shouts and curses sounded behind her. Serra’s heart pounded in her chest, her new found power surging like a wave of water through her veins and in her ears.

Danger! Hurry!

Serra scurried forward, stumbling over the debris of fallen walls of brick and wood girders. Panic battled with her confidence and calm but she pressed forward, following the press to turn down this hallway and that one toward the end she didn’t see.

The angry voices continued behind her, gaining speed with each hesitant step and turn. Serra tried to shut them out, but failed. Halting at a crossroads, she ignored her trembling fingers, focusing instead on her instincts and controlling the power that continued to surge and wane and surge again through her body–

Bullets sprayed the ground and wall behind her and she dove forward, releasing the white ball of light and tripping over something lying prone in the darkness. She rubbed at her forehead and the fresh bump before calling again the white ball of light and shining it into the darkness… to reveal the scarred face of Seifer Almasy.

Serra choked on a sob and clutched him with her free hand, her eyes frantic in searching his pale face for signs of life. He moaned and a splutter of flame shot out from his palm to shatter bits of brick from the ceiling above them. She threw herself over him, doing her best to protect him from the debris while her frantic mind grappled with any way of escape.

But when she felt the burning muzzle of a machine gun pressed against her back, panic jerked free her control of the waves of power and a ball of white roared outward, turning everything living to ash… and all went black.


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I’ve written 1499 so far today on A Different Daydream, the alternate reality for Zell and Sally. I wrote more than 1200 yesterday.
*happy sigh*

It’s absolutely fantastic to be writing daily again. And if writing my fanfiction is what it takes to remember why I love writing, then bring it on! I’ve been empty and lackluster for a year [or more] and am done with it! Cat and I have been getting together over chat to try and resurrect the plans for the story. While it leaves us wishing that we had the others present, it’s still a key to good memories. :)

In fact, this Saturday I get to meet up with one of my Mintfield Flowers, Bergamot, who crafted the FF8 Database of characters. I found out that he lives really close, and so M and I get to meet his new family. :) Hurrah!

>.>
Now I better get back to ADD…..


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ADD

I’ve been writing like mad on ADD.

1,283 words yesterday.

I don’t know how many today. Let’s count so far. 899 in one section and 600 in another!! Wow!! 1499!

I guess I really am getting ready for NaNo. If I want to make it to 50k in less than 30 days, I’ll need to write more than 1600 words each day.


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