Authors: Tisha Wilson
Taming the Heart
Book Two of The Creatures of the Night Series
By: Tisha Wilson
Miranda looked at herself in the reflection of the van. She tucked a strand of loose blond hair behind one ear and straightened her suit jacket. She wore a rose colored pants suit with a white silk shirt and a pearl necklace. Her tiny gold earrings peeked from beneath the dirty blond curls that kept escaping from her swept up hair-do. She could never make her hair obey. If only she could afford to go to a hair dresser regularly.
She needed a haircut in the worst way. Her ends were split from her bottle dye job and hair gel could only do so much for the frizz. She did all she could for the scraggly mess. She wrapped it in silk before she went to bed and blow dried it after she washed it. She took her time and brushed it a hundred strokes on each side like her mother had once taught her to do. Some days it helped. Some days it left her looking like a bad Dianna Ross impersonator.
“Mira,” she heard the familiar voice sing. She grabbed the wheels of her chair to turn towards her sister. She threw her arms open wide as her little sister fell on her and rained kisses on her face. Miranda laughed when her sister finally finished with the kisses and just sat in her lap throwing her legs over the arm of the wheel chair the way she had been doing for the last ten years.
“You are too big for this you know,” Miranda said as she struggled to turn and wheel them towards the car.
“Never too big to ride with you. What are you complaining about? You are the one who gets to ride around all day while the rest of us have to walk.”
Miranda shook her head and smiled a smile straight from her soul. Ever since the accident Katie had simply adored Miranda’s wheel chair. At first they had thought that she was only humoring Miranda, but when Katie had begun stealing the chair to take a spin up the block her father had had to do something. He had finally gone to Good Will to find a used chair and bought it for Katie. Katie would race around in that chair, challenging her sister to catch her, until the wheel had literally fallen off.
There were very few times since the accident that Miranda didn’t feel like a total freak, but when she was with her sister she just felt… normal. Of course Katie had that effect on everyone. She set everyone at ease and everything she touched turned to solid gold. Miranda managed to get them around to the driver’s side before Katie got off her lap and opened the door.
Katie reached down and scooped Miranda up in her arms as if she weighed nothing at all. “Mira. You have to start eating more,” Katie admonished.
“It’s not me. It’s all those pushups you do G.I. Jane,” she retorted as she allowed her sister to situate her useless legs beneath the steering wheel.
Katie stuck out her tongue and crossed her eyes before she sat in the chair and took it for a spin around the parking lot. Her perfect little pink mouth showed white teeth as she smiled and turned wheelies in the chair. She crashed into a few class mates who tumbled and laughed with her. She ducked a few fake punches as she continued to dash around. Katie was graduating from West Point today. Miranda wished that their father was still alive to see at least one of his children become a success.
Their mother had been ‘ill’ as long as she could remember and their father had taken care of them all. His heart attack had taken him from them so suddenly that Miranda still felt the stab of it in her heart, even two years later. After letting a few of her guy friend’s take the chair for a spin, Katie finally folded it and stuffed it in its place between the driver and passenger seat before taking her own seat in the passenger side. Miranda reached over and snatched the cap from her sister’s head to reveal her short cropped golden blond hair.
Katie wrestled it away from her with much laughter. Katie was three times bigger than her older sister, but she still pretended like it was a struggle to get the cap back.
“Mom still not feeling well?” Katie asked as their laughter faded and she tossed the hat in the back towards her duffel bag. Her diploma and awards were also in the back seat with the flowers that Miranda had bought at a local store before she’d arrived.
“Did you find out when they want you on Paris Island?”
Miranda did not feel the need to answer her sister’s question. They both knew the answer well enough. Their mother never felt well enough for things like this. Still, Katie sometimes made pretense.
“I’ve got two whole weeks of leave my friend,” her sister replied as she leaned back and put her hands behind her head as if she hadn’t noticed the subject change.
Miranda reached behind her seat and pulled out a paper bag. She held the bag out to her sister who snatched it excitedly. “No way!”
She opened the bag and squealed in delight. “How did you get her to make this?” she asked as she pulled out hand pulled pear flavored taffy and took a big bite.
“Mom woke up yesterday and said she thought you would like some taffy when you got home from school.” Of course her mother had meant home from elementary school, but she wouldn’t split hairs when the gift obviously pleased Katie so much. Sometimes Katie liked to pretend that their mother really was just ‘ill’ and not...
She watched her little sister’s eyes roll into the back of her head as she clutched the bag to her chest. Good. It should be the best of days for her. At least one of them had realized their dreams. Miranda started the van and pulled out of the parking lot. She had to drive through some boys playing football in their dress uniforms and families loaded down with balloons, flowers, and stuffed animals.
Miranda wanted to scoff. Soon these kids would go through boot camp and be sent overseas as sergeants and lieutenants. Graduating from West Point pretty much guaranteed speedy rising through the ranks and speedy appointments to the most dangerous battlefields in the world. She sighed and shook her head.
“Don’t,” her sister warned as she ate her taffy.
“Don’t what?” Miranda snapped as she whipped out into traffic and hit the gas. They were nearly to the freeway when Katie spoke again.
“Don’t make that face. Just because you don’t like the idea of me being in the military doesn’t mean it’s the military’s fault or the fault of any of those guys that want to go in.”
“Guys? You mean those kids!”
“Mira… please. Do we have to fight about this now?”
Miranda felt her heart speed up and the words fly to the tip of her tongue. She wanted to refrain but her mouth had a way of racing ahead of her brain sometimes. “I just don’t understand why you have to go overseas to protect the United States. We need plenty of good Cops in Madison.”
“I don’t want to be a Cop in Wisconsin. I want to have a military career. I want to be in charge of a unit. I want to be a General one day.” Katie turned and grabbed her arm with a pleading look. “Please, Mira. Please. I promise. I’ll take care of myself. I’ll come home one day when I’m old and your old and we will open up a bed and breakfast and have cats together. It’s our destiny. Let’s not begin that promising future with a fight.”
Miranda tried to keep the smile off her face but when her sister turned those dazzling blue eyes on her it was impossible. If only her eyes were that bright and her hair was that golden. “I plan on having a husband and a few kids,” she shot back with a grin.
Katie waved this off as she went back to her taffy. “Kids grow up and move out and women live longer than men. You have to have a post husband plan.”
Miranda laughed out loud this time. “I don’t even have him yet and you are already planning his death.”
They were on the freeway and moving at a good clip. “I’m just that cynical. You know. You would make one hell of a truck driver.”
Miranda laughed again. “Now that would be something to see. I would have to install an elevator just to get up in the driver’s seat.”
“Aww come on sis. After all those years with the chair, you have some real upper body strength. I’m glad you’re not wearing your gloves today. You always look like you’ve just come from pumping iron with those fingerless gloves on.”
Miranda laughed hard and out loud. “The only thing I pump is my wheels.”
“Don’t deny it. You look like you could kick ass with those gloves on, even with the pink embroidery you did on them. Maybe you should go around without them more often. When men think you can kick their ass they become intimidated. You might have already scared your future dead husband off with those things.”
Miranda socked her sister in the arm and Katie laughed in response. Her straight white teeth were so beautiful in her smiling tanned face and Miranda felt her heart swell. “I missed you. Everything is so drab at The Copy Shop without you.”
Her father wouldn’t win any prizes in originality, but at least everyone knew what the shop was intended for if the banks of copying machines didn’t give it away.
“You want my opinion you should set that thing on fire for the insurance money.”
“Don’t say that. Dad loved that shop,” Miranda reprimanded. Plus, she hadn’t been able to pay the insurance last month with her mother’s medical bills on the rise. If she burned it to the ground all she would have was a small mound of ash and a mountain of debt.
Katie’s face became serious. “I miss him,” she said softly.
Miranda’s eyes misted. “He would have been so proud of you today. I know I was.”
Katie leaned over and put her head on her sister’s shoulder. Miranda placed a kiss on her golden head and leaned her face against her soft curls. What was she going to do without her? Her world would be so much darker without the golden child.
* * *
Braden sat in the woods and listened to the night as he breathed deeply. The air was crisp. It was going to be cold tonight. He relished the thought. He missed Norway, had hated to be reassigned to this fledgling Nation. They thought they were the answer to the world’s problems. He sighed. They would most likely go the way of the Romans and then the way of the English. They would play some part in the world order, but at some point they too would recognize that they were not all powerful.
He had seen worlds come and worlds go. He had seen ten decades of change and he felt old. He had been at peace in his home country. He had been one with the hills and the mountains and the streams. He was nearly as old as some of those streams and hills. If life had taught him anything, however, it was that things never stayed the same. It was always changing.
He ran a hand over the cold steel in his hand and smiled. Some things did change for the better. Not that he disliked his long sword. The gun just required so much less… effort, loss of limbs, limb regeneration. He put the gun away and continued to crouch in the tree. He watched the woods and listened to the night. He could feel them coming. They would be here soon. He pulled back his trench length fur coat to expose the arsenal he kept strapped on at all times.
There were very few thrills left for him in this world. Soon it would be time for him to give up and join those whom he fought. He was tired of living. He was tired of the so called innocents that beat up and maimed each other in the name of greed or religion or power. People could be heartless and ruthless and he had long ago forgotten the ties he’d had to this human world. He didn’t even remember his mother or father’s names.
He only remembered the land and the country. If not happy, he had at least been… content. Then, out of the blue, this newest group of mentors began to reassign people to new areas. They said that a change of scenery would help some of the older ones get ‘re-acclimated’ with life.
As if after living a thousand years such a thing was possible. He knew the downsides of giving himself to the wolves. He knew that it would make the wolves that ate him stronger, but really, there were plenty of hunters and if they killed those wolves… he would eventually be free.
The thought thrilled him to no end. He would finally be freed of a life that had lost color for him. It had lost its flavor. They were coming and he would relish this fight. Maybe tonight would be the night. What else was there if he couldn’t even go back to his country?
* * *
Her sister stirred in her sleep and Miranda turned the radio down a bit. Katie loved listening to speed metal at outrageous volumes whenever there was a lull in conversation. She had finally dozed off with Miranda’s pink down stuffed jacket curled under her cheek.
Her sister was strong physically, and tall. If there was a woman that was well suited to the military, it was her, but Miranda couldn’t help but to look at her at times like this, when her soft golden lashes rested so gently against her cheeks, and see the little girl with the scrapped knee that came crying to her for a band aide. She smiled at that thought. Katie used to love band aides. She would wear them like a badge of courage and she knew that if she cried just the right way she would get more than one. How she had missed her while she had been away at school. Phone calls and text messages just weren’t enough. It would have to be enough now that she was preparing to go off to war.
Miranda was just turning her attention back to the road when she saw something flash across it. She had just barely wondered what it was when a similar looking something smashed into the driver’s side door. Her head snapped to the side and her hands flew off the steering wheel. She lost complete control of the van, not that it mattered anyhow. The impact tilted the van off the pavement. The world turned upside down once or twice before it finally came to a rest.