The Divinity of Anila
The Musings Book 1
by Cloud S. Riser
Genre: YA Paranormal
--My name is Anila. Up until a few days ago, I thought I was just like every other teenage girl. Seriously, life was awesome. I was popular, had great grades, and was on my way to getting a scholarship to one of the top universities in the state. Then my boyfriend decided to go crazy on me, and I end up in a car with some other guy who claims magic is real. Crazy, is what I say. Pretty sure he's out of his mind. I--
--Hold on a minute, Nila is not giving me a fair chance. The name is Bailey, and I'm not crazy. I'm a Muse. And so is she. That's why her boyfriend got uber possessive on her. Muses inspire the best in others, and without control over their magic, a Muse can be pretty addictive to hang around.
Which is why I'm here, to teach Nila how to control that magic so she doesn't cause any more problems with the every day humans. See--
--I hate how he says every day humans like I'm not one of them. Oh, and get this, I apparently can't touch him, even just a tiny bit, because we might create magical sparks...or something?--
--Look at all the things she doesn't know about being a Muse. The sparks help us find our soul mate. Do I need to explain why I don't need her touching me right now? We just met. Besides, it's common courtesy. Keep your hands to yourself.
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“DIVINITY OF ANILA” EXCERPT ONE:
“I love you,” Levi purred into my ear as he kissed along my jaw. Any eighteen-year-old girl would have been thrilled to hear those three words coming from their deliciously handsome boyfriend of two months.
The thing is, I'm not just any teenage girl.
Truth be told, hearing the words “I love you” made my stomach twist, and I don't mean that in a good way. Probably because deep down in my heart, I knew he didn't mean it. Levi sure sounded convincing, and maybe he believed it was true, but with the way he preferred to try and suck face with me twenty-four/seven instead of actually learning who I was...well, I don't think I need to elaborate on my apprehension to say those three words back.
When it came to Levi, the most I knew about him was that he was twenty, was interested in Biology and Chemistry, and was on his college's basketball team. Beyond that, getting him to say a whole lot about himself was like pulling teeth. At first, it didn't bother me. He was cute, in college, and seemed genuinely fascinated with me.
Too fascinated with me.
That should have been my first tip off right there that something about this guy wasn't all right. He had a charm, though, that made me want to ignore all of the warning signs. Not to mention the fact that he was tall, athletically built, had luscious blond hair, and sparkly blue eyes didn't help. The guy was the definition of physically perfect. A guy so good looking noticing me would never happen again in a million years. Shallow? Yes, but he was also a nice person... from what I knew of him, I mean.
His hand went under my shirt and made its way up toward my breasts. That was new for him. Kissing, I let him do. Copping feels and allowing him to touch my bra was not a part of my comfort bubble.
With a great deal of gentleness, I placed my hand over his and pulled it out of my shirt. Maybe he thought I was playing around with him, because he just moved it right back. We went back and forth a few times before I finally wiggled my way out from underneath him, falling to the floor from his dorm room couch.
“I don't like that,” I said, being blunt.
Levi pushed out his lower lip. “I'm sorry, Nila, you're just so...”
I placed a finger over his lips. “I'm not mad as long as you respect I'm not ready.”
“Well, why aren't you?” he snapped, so suddenly I jumped away from him.
My entire mouth seemed to turn into cotton, as I tried to articulate how I was feeling. “Because I'm just not.”
“So I don't get what the hang up is. We're not going to get in trouble.” Then he asked the question that made me throw up a little in my mouth. “Don't you love me too?”
Thankfully, I was still on the floor. I managed to pick myself up in a way that didn't let on just how much I was shaking, and I smoothed out my shirt. “It shouldn't matter if I love you or not. If I'm not ready, then I'm not ready. End of story.”
“No, not end of story. There's a reason.” His gaze became narrower and I noticed something resembling tears in his eyes. What the heck? Why was he getting so worked up over this?
“We haven't been together for too long, and I don't know a whole lot about you. I like you a lot, but this isn't how I want...” I shifted where I stood, trying to hold onto my confidence. “This isn't how I want my first time to happen.”
He rolled his eyes at me, the angry tears still present. “You have a guy who loves you and wants to show you how things are done right, and that's not good enough? Should I get you a dozen roses or litter my room with candles? Is that more your thing? What do I have to do to prove to you what I feel is real and I'm the one?”
“Whoa, okay, the one?” I laughed. I probably shouldn't have, but I did. “Levi, we've been together for two months. Do you even know the color of my eyes?”
“Honey, that's what they make me think of. And I know you ate cereal for breakfast this morning because I can taste it on your breath,” he said. “Last night you spent the night in watching a bunch of shows on wedding dresses, so I know you're kind of a hopeless romantic. I know you a whole lot better than you think.”
He knew a lot of things he shouldn't have known. I certainly never told him what I was doing the night before. So how did he know? Did he go hide in the trees outside of my parents’ house and spy through the windows? The idea sounded ridiculous, but he was putting off some major creepy stalker vibes.
Slowly, I took in a deep breath and made my way toward the door. “Wow...”
“See? I pay attention.”
“Yes,” I said carefully. My freedom was only ten feet away. I could make it. The question was, would he let me?
Levi slouched where he sat. “You've made up your mind.”
“There's a lot I need to think about.” That seemed like a safe answer. Setting him off could prove disastrous. Levi was on the edge, and I didn't want to be the one receiving the brunt of those raw emotions building inside of him.
“Fine, bye.” He hunched over even more. So broken. I felt bad, guilty, and those feelings were almost enough to make me stay.
Then I remembered how creepy he was acting, and rushed out of the door. I'd been gone for all of three seconds when Levi sent me the first text.
“This isn't the end.”
“DIVINITY OF ANILA” EXCERPT TWO:
“Um, how about the diner by that gas station?” Nila asked, pointing to the left. There were six different places we could have stopped for food and gas. She'd named every single one of them.
“Are you sure?” I asked, changing lanes to head that way. We'd been driving around the town in a circle. The locals probably thought we were about to do something illegal. One woman we passed three times already and if we went by again, I was pretty sure she'd call the cops.
Nila frowned and then shook her head. “No, I'm not. Never mind, let's do the grill.”
“Okay, the grill. You're not allowed to change your mind anymore.” I pulled off of the main road, did a u-turn in the middle of an empty side street, and went the opposite way we'd been coming from.
“You said I could pick.” She pouted.
“And you did pick. Seven times!”
“It was not that many.”
I rolled my eyes. “Consider this my making an executive decision since you're unable to do it yourself.” Thankfully, the grill wasn't too far away. My stomach was growling for some grub. Breakfast was practically a century ago. Okay, only a little over four hours ago, but that was a long time to go without eating.
“I wanted to make sure this wasn't some kind of a set up. Figured if I changed my mind enough times, I could get a read on where you wanted to go the most and catch you,” she mumbled.
“You won't catch me in anything because there is nothing to catch. I promise you I have never been here before in my life and I know nobody here. I am hungry, though, and we need to eat. Stretching my legs out and getting away from the wheel would be an added bonus as well.” I pulled into the parking lot of Harvey's Grill. Seemed like my kind of place. Classic brick outside with a typical wooden sign. Given the small size of the town, it was probably considered the swanky place to eat. Real food, that's all I cared about. Fast food got old after a while, and I did a lot of eating out. Comes with the job.
Nila kept her gaze on me as we both got out of the car. Once again, I got the impression she was trying to size me up, challenge me. She enjoyed it. “I'm going to add another kink into our game. Not only do I get to choose who you're going to get the money from, but you can't do it by selling a logical story that anyone would believe.”
“Oh really?” I raised an eyebrow. “Do explain.”
“You have to tell them something made up, illogical and crazy. Like...” She tapped her chin with one of her nicely trimmed, red nails. “You have to feed your pet unicorn enchanted bananas before the monkey pirates steal them to invade the marshmallow kingdom.”
Unamused, I shot her the darkest of glares. “Excuse me?”
“Yup, that. You have to tell them that in order to get the money. Nothing else.” The grin she gave was far too smug and obnoxious for my taste.
Groaning, I opened the door, letting her go in first.
She snickered. “Don't think you can do it? Not without a plant?”
“No, I can do it. Just makes things a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Just remember, you asked for it.” I approached the host's podium.
“Good,” she whispered, moving closer to me. “Figured if you really have magic in you, you can make it work with anything.”
I gave her a rather forced smile and waited for the host to acknowledge us. When he finally looked up from his cell phone, he grabbed two menus without even saying “hi”. Rude. The restaurant was dead, though. For it being prime lunch time hours, there wasn't another patron in sight.
“Oh boy,” I muttered as I looked over the menu. It didn't take long for me to find what I wanted.
Nila folded her menu and placed it in front of her as well. “What?”
“With nobody here, that makes our pickings a bit slim for our generous donation,” I explained.
“You want to back out?”
“Nah, just wanted you to be aware it might be more complicated. By all means, pick our victim.” As nervous as I was, I didn't show it. She'd only go on and on about how I had some kind of a plant picked out, and that's why I was on edge. Truth was, guilt filled me when I thought about the poor busboys and waiters who weren't going to have enough cash to pay for Nila and my challenge requirements.
She scoped out the restaurant. “How about...”
“We eat first,” I said. “Gives you plenty of time to think, since we both know you suck at making up your mind.”
The waitress arrived just as Nila finished rolling her eyes. “My name is Beatrix and I'll be your server today,” the young, twenty-something lady said. She gave us both a smile, and when her gaze settled on me, her smile widened. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“Water with lemon would be great,” Nila said.
“An Arnie Palmer, please. We're also ready to order, if that's all right.” I made sure to lay the charm on thick. In doing so, a bit of my magic poured out from me.
Beatrix scribbled our drinks down. “Of course, what would you like?”
Nila was a salad girl. I only half paid attention as she put in her order, but I did catch that much. I, on the other hand, got a steak. As Beatrix turned to leave, I caught her wrist in my hand, letting more of my magic flow out – planting seeds, so to speak.
“Could you make sure it's medium-well? I'm not sure if I mentioned that or not,” I said. Again, I gave her a smile, making sure it was sweet as pie.
For a second, Beatrix seemed flustered, stumbling back a little while giggling. “You did. Don't worry, I got it down the first time.”
“Thank you,” I said, genuinely grateful. Nila, of course, was frowning at me. Nothing I did was right in her eyes. Sighing heavily, I unwrapped my silverware. “Yes?”
“You did something to her,” she said.
I nodded. “Hocus pocus. You're observant. I wasn't sure if you'd catch it.”
With a snort, Nila spread her napkin over her lap. “Stumbling? The ditzy giggling? You're not that cute, sorry. Cute, but not worth losing brain cells over.”
At least Beatrix had brain cells to lose. I held the comment back and gave her an innocent shrug. “Just wait until you see me with my shirt off.”
“So tell me some more about you,” I said, completely shifting gears. As much as it was to ruffle her feathers, I'd be a nice guy and do what I was told – make the transition easier.
The drinks came then. Nila held her glass of water in her hands, spinning it a few times as she gazed down at the table. You'd think I asked her to choose who would live and who would die in a hostage situation with the sadness her body projected. I could feel it just as if it were something I was experiencing first hand, another gift of being a Muse. No wonder I was so gloomy and grumpy. She was too, and she didn't know how to reel it in.
Nila took a slow sip of her water. “The plan was college. I was accepted to the same university Levi is at. From there, I was going to study medicine.”
“Yeah, ideally.” She shrugged. “Not so sure what's going to happen now.”
I drank from my beverage casually. “Any specific type?”
Nodding, I sat back in my seat. It fit, oddly enough. I bet she got all kinds of soft and gooey when she was around kids. “Cool, and what do you mean you don't know what's going to happen now?”
“It's not like I'm home, and I can't finish high school if I'm out of town for months at a time with you.” She gave me a pointed look. “Plus with Levi and how he's being...”
“Insane?” I provided.
She shrugged again. “Let's just say I have this feeling my dreams and goals are going to be put on hold for a while.”
“Well, the nice thing about being what we are, is you can do whatever kind of work you want. Service of some kind is pretty common. It's in our nature to care for others. Being a children's doctor is an awesome career path,” I said. And I was being honest. She could be whatever she wanted to. With the way she glared at me across the table, I got the impression she didn't believe me.
“Again, I need to finish school.”
“We can make that happen, and get you back in time to start at the university. You're not stuck with us forever. As soon as we're confident you can control what's inside of you, then you can do whatever you want.” I smirked. “Then again, if you happen to like it with us, then that's not my problem.”
The scowl returned on her face. “You're arrogant.”
“Most of us are.” I made sure my gaze was fixed on her when I said it.
“If you say so.” Searing pain shot up my shin. She actually went so far as to kick me from under the table. And I had issues? Seriously? Above the table, she sipped on her drink like everything was fine and normal. Underneath, I had to look out for a war zone.
“What about you?” she asked.
I raised both of my eyebrows. “What about me?”
“Have you always wanted to be a... how was did you word it... Creativity Specialist?” And with the disdain laced in her tone, I knew in her mind she was replacing my job title with the words “glorified hooker”. This girl was not going to get the better of me.
“When I was younger, I was interested in being a teacher. As I got older, I realized I didn't have the patience for it. What I do now has a nice balance between all of the things I desired to do as a teacher without as many of the negatives. My job is similar to one-on-one mentoring, and in some cases tutoring. I get to teach people how to do some new things, but mostly, I encourage them to do what they already know how. So many people have passion burning inside of them and they're too afraid to touch it.”
“And that's where you come in,” she said.
“Yes, I show people all of the ways they can tap their true desires. Those, generally, have to do with the talents they were born with. Society has a way of pulling us away from those talents and dreams in favor of work that is more practical and realistic.”
She snorted. “So we should all be starving artists?”
I shook my head, glad the food was coming. Having things to do with my mouth besides shoot it off would give me more of a chance to think before speaking. “No, I don't think everyone is supposed to be an artist. However, there are ways to implement creativity into certain career paths that are satisfying without taking someone out of the work force. And, yes, sometimes, people also get themselves trapped in jobs that suck. I've helped a few people find new places to work that are more gratifying.”
Hopefully with an explanation that thorough, she'd understand more of what I do – what all of us do under Madame's guidance. As I watched her chew her salad, I could see the gears turning in her head. She was getting closer to believing me.
“Interesting. Sounds like a complicated job when you explain it like that.”
“It is,” I said. “Especially when you add in the hocus pocus factor.”
“Right, can't forget about that,” she muttered.
I dug into my meal, taking a minute to just enjoy the food. For being a small town sort of place, the quality was awesome. Everything came out perfectly. After my stomach was more satisfied, I elaborated further. “Just like you, I have to control what's inside of me. Too much touching can cause an explosion of creativity and emotions in a client. Too little interaction, and the whole thing is a waste of time. On rare occasions, the obsession thing kicks in and I need to transfer my client to a new specialist.”
“You confuse me when you start talking about the touching thing,” she confessed. “One minute you're describing your job as something legitimate, and then the next you go on about physical contact being a key attribute to your success. What does that even mean?”
“My job is legitimate.” I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Touch is the most direct path between me and another person. With a strong connection, my magic flows with more ease.”
“The M word again,” she mumbled.
I ate quietly for a moment. How did I get her to believe? “You noticed how when I touched our waitress she got a little...”
“Flighty? Ditzy? Like an awestruck fan?” Nila provided.
Laughing, I pointed my fork at her. “Flattering, really, you're too kind. The reaction was the outpouring of my magic into her. It’s been described as euphoric. All of the physical cues are subtle. Stumbling and giggling is a good sign something got into her. I planted some of my magic in her to kind of get the ball rolling for our... game. Since touch can be so powerful, we need to be careful who we touch and how. I did that to her by just grabbing her arm. An intimate, emotional experience is so much stronger than just a handshake.”
“And it only works on normal people?”
I nodded. “Yup, but we've established I won't be touching you anyway.” I took a long sip and gazed around the still empty restaurant. “Okay, so who do you want me to use my... abilities... on? Have you decided?” I was prepared for her to pick a waiter or busboy or maybe even one of the chefs. The pickings were slim and they were the most safe bets.
No, Nila pointed to the manager. “Him.”
The guy was middle aged. Nothing special, necessarily. Vibes of kindness flared off of him. I also got the impression he wasn't stupid, nor would he put up with any shenanigans in his establishment. A fitting challenge, indeed. He'd need more than just a nice smile and smooth talking. I'd pull the whole thing off, easily. For a Muse, I had pretty potent magic. Thing was, I didn't believe it would make much difference to her. She'd come up with excuses on why the whole magic thing was a bunch of bull. The whole ordeal was going to be a waste of my time and resources.
I glanced back at the guy and shrugged. “Sure, works for me. Are you going to want dessert? I'd like to get the whole bill before we begin our demonstration.”
“Not in the mood for dessert,” she said. “I'm ready to get back on our adventure.”
“Okay.” I finished the last bits of my meal and then sat back. Keeping my posture casual, I made sure I repeatedly looked over toward the manager. Not in a “come hither” sort of way, no, I didn't play that kind of game with guys. Puck got a kick out of messing with their heads sometimes, but not me. If I focused, I could output enough magical energy to grab his attention all the same. Besides, it was his job to come over and make sure everything was great. Which is exactly what he came over to do after a few minutes passed.
His name tag read “Tom”. He stood over our table and smiled one of those real kind of smiles, suggesting he was an overall happy kind of guy. Stress didn't seem to be prevalent when I got a read on his emotions, and that made me feel a lot less guilty for what I was about to do. No stress meant he liked life and things were going well for him.
“How was everything today?” Tom asked. “Interested in any dessert?”
I shook my head. “Food was great. Don't think I have any more room in my stomach.”
“If you change your mind, our cheesecake is considered the best in the county.” He gave a proud grin, and I realized he was more than just a manager, he owned the joint.
“Next time,” I said, offering my hand for a shake. He accepted my invitation, and the connection was made. Then I took on a more serious tone. “We've actually got to get going. Having some problems with our unicorn.” Yes, I felt as dorky saying it as it probably was to hear.
Tom frowned and I watched Nila's face grow into a huge, stupid, smile. She seriously thought she had me. When Tom opened his mouth to speak again, I got a great deal of pleasure from watching her jaw drop.
“What's wrong with your unicorn?” he asked with genuine concern.
I sighed and leaned back in my chair. “We ran out of enchanted bananas. You know, the blue ones?” With glitter, the bananas have glitter. They grow on pink palm trees.
“With the glitter,” Tom said softly, echoing the thought I planted in his head. “They grow on the pink palm trees.”
“Yes! Those are the ones! They're only found in the Bahamas which is where we keep the unicorns since they like the weather so much. Problem is, if we don't feed them the bananas, they won't be strong enough to fight off the monkey pirates.” I shook my head, letting my distress come off of me in a thick cloud that enveloped the table and a few feet beyond. While I couldn't see this cloud, I could feel it. Negative emotions tended to manifest in a heavier, more tangible, fashion.
Tom's frown deepened. “Can't let the monkeys win.”
“No, we can't. Not with the Marshmallow Kingdom at stake.”
“Tell you what, you get back to your unicorns. I've got the check.” Nila gasped, and I feigned surprise of my own.
“Are you sure?” I asked. We need fifty dollars for gas too.
He nodded. “Yeah, I'm sure. And here's something extra to help you get there faster.” And right there he pulled a fifty-dollar bill from out of his pocket and handed it to me. “Let me know if there's anything else you need. I've got connections to suppliers. I could hook you up with a good deal.”
“Thank you, you're too kind,” I said, putting the money in my jeans pocket for safekeeping.
“Have a good trip back,” Tom said.
I shook his hand again, giving him an extra boost of magic just to make sure he didn't change his mind any time soon. As a bonus, I did my best to unlock some new marketing and menu ideas to help his business. I got no joy out of conning him out of his money. Cash is the last thing I needed. With Madame, I had plenty of dough in my bank account collecting dust.
Once Tom was gone, I pulled two hundred dollars out of my pocket and dropped it onto the table.
“What are you doing?” Nila asked. “He just said everything was paid for.”
“Leaving a tip,” I said. I grabbed her by the upper arm, making sure my hand was placed over her shirt. “Come on, we should go before the buzz wears off and he figures out something strange happened.”
Cloud S. Riser is a Minnesota native. She has lived in Minnesota her whole life. She will probably remain there for her whole life too. The mother of The Squid, Skyscraper, and two cats, her life is definitely never dull. An adventure she braves with her husband. In order to stay sane, she creates massive amounts of fiction which she has decided to share with the rest of the world for the simple reason of: she is a storyteller.
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