“Not here, either,” said Andra

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as she slammed shut another drawer.

“Why would it be in a drawer?” David asked.

Andra threw up her hands. “Why would it be anywhere except where I left it?”

David had the uncomfortable feeling he was supposed to know the answer to that question. He didn’t. Something in him didn’t want him to know.

“Don’t mock me,” Andra hissed.

Startled, David looked to her. “I didn’t even say anything.”

“I’m talking to Janus.”

“Well, it’s no use talking to him, is it? He’s not here. I am. Must be nice for you to be all in one piece, but this two-faced bastard,” David pointed to his own chest, his voice rising in frustration, “likes to play hide and seek.”

Andra stepped over to him, took his face in her hands. “I’m sorry. I know it’s difficult.”

David looked down into Andra’s beautiful green-gold eyes. Then suddenly drew out of her embrace with a huff. “You’re looking for him again.”

“He knows where my key—”

Your key?”

David saw the quick flash of consideration cross Andra’s face. If she worked Janus up enough, tried to claim the key as her own as opposed to just on loan, would he come out?

With another snort of disgust, he turned away. “Who would you rather have, I wonder? Me or him?”

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“Mrrowr?”

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The sleek grey cat landed with a thud on Genevieve’s desk, causing Grant to jump several inches out of his seat, and for the first time since he’d arrived, Genevieve smiled.

Collecting himself, Grant said, “Well, you have a cat anyway.”

“And she isn’t always happy to see me. Are you?” she asked as the cat bent its neck appreciatively under Genevieve’s long finger nails.

“My understanding is cats more or less tolerate rather than love,” said Grant.

The cat turned her head in his direction and narrowed her brilliant blue eyes.

“You sound as if you’ve never owned a cat,” Genevieve remarked.

Grant felt the need to tread more carefully than ever. Now that Genevieve seemed more relaxed, he didn’t want to set her back up again. Insulting her cat might do just that. Tentatively, he reached a hand toward the animal.

The cat let out a low warning growl.

“Emi!” Genevieve scolded, and the cat leapt from the desk to the floor.

“Sorry,” Grant said to the feline as she strolled past his chair. She flicked one ear in his direction but otherwise showed no acknowledgement of him. Like owner, like pet.

Emi stopped in front of the closed office door and sat.

“Oh, she wants out. Do you mind?” Genevieve asked.

Grant most certainly did mind; he didn’t want to get close to the creature again. But he said, “Of course not,” and rose to do as requested.

The cat did not strike, merely exited with tail and head high. Grant eased the door shut again behind her.

“She’s probably just upset I mentioned getting a dog,” Genevieve said, and Grant paused, unsure whether she was joking.

“Well, you know how, uh, cats . . . Have you eaten?” Grant asked abruptly. “Not to change the subject, but . . .”

“But you did change the subject,” said Genevieve. “My cook will have put something in the fridge for me to heat up. But thank you.”

Sensing a softening, Grant pressed a little harder. “You won’t want that. It will keep until tomorrow at least,” he added quickly, not wanting to insult her cook any more than her cat. “And I’m sure you wouldn’t send me on that long drive with an empty stomach.” He gave her his trademark smile, the one that had won him the romantic lead in two comedies in just sixteen months, though he was dying to do a drama.

Genevieve tilted her head as if contemplating. Taking his measure. Then she took a deep breath and gave what Grant perceived to be a resigned nod. It was all he could do not to whoop and pump his fist in victory.

Instead, he merely stretched his smile a little further. “Brilliant,” he said. “I know just the place.”

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The Problem with Perfectionism

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Cross posted from spooklights. A to Z post for the day is below this post.

I went to make myself a waffle this morning and got annoyed. There were crumbs in the butter. I work hard not to have crumbs in my butter or cream cheese, but we had guests this weekend, and let’s be honest: Crumbs in butter are a relatively common occurrence, one that is difficult, even almost impossible to avoid.

But these crumbs made me consider the nature of perfectionism. Because I am a perfectionist, and I’m not proud of it. While on the one hand, being a perfectionist does at least mean I give everything my very best effort and cannot bring myself to knowingly hand in shoddy work, the flip side is that in truth nothing is perfect and I therefore live a life of continual disappointment and dissatisfaction.

As a writer, being a perfectionist is debilitating. It takes me ages to eke out anything because I cannot bear for it to be less that perfect. It’s like mining for gemstones that have already been cut and polished—these things do not occur naturally. It’s agony. (Though I’ve found the A–Z Challenge helps me get over that, and so I thank it for introducing me to a new way of writing that may prove far more useful to me in the long run.)

And then, of course, once you think it’s finally finished—and perfect—and it’s all printed or published or whatever . . . You find that typo. Or you realize you wish you’d have used a different word here and there. Or you think of an even better scene. This is why I almost never go back and re-read any of my own work. And why I can’t stand to watch myself on film. I’m never happy with the results.

Being a perfectionist sets one up for a lifetime of not being happy with, well, just about anything or anyone. So I’m trying to lose that. I’m trying to learn to look at the positive aspects of things instead of searching for flaws. To see beauty, no matter how small. I’m trying to teach myself to forgive mistakes—my own and others’. Life will be so much lighter and more pleasant if I can learn this lesson.

So. Crumbs in the butter? Fine, whatever. I’ll admit it’s going to take some adjustment, this new perspective on things, but the perfectionist in me is determined to succeed.

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La belle dame sans merci, Grant thought

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as he followed Genevieve’s straight and stiff figure up the stairs and into her office. She was, it seemed, that classic creature: beautiful but cold as any beautiful statue might be, and all business.

The office itself was a small wonder. The walls were smooth and white, as was the floor, though it was made warmer and more comfortable by a large, red, round rug. The cabinetry was dark wood, and while much of it held books, some featured glass cases filled with odd collectibles. And the wall art . . .

“Wheels?” Grant asked.

Not tires but old-fashioned, spoked wheels, and now and then the kind of wheel you might see on a watermill. Many had strange symbols or foreign writing on them. For such a square house—and yes, Grant noted, the office was also a large square—there were a lot of circles in the room. Some of the paintings looked old enough to belong in museums.

Genevieve ignored his question and took a seat behind her large wooden desk, gesturing him to one of two chairs that faced it. “What is it you think I can do for you, Mr. Owen?”

Grant felt the need to sit up straight, knees together and feet flat on the floor like a boy facing the headmaster. Feeling the urge to fidget, he clasped his hands together tightly. “Well,” he began, “they say . . . You know . . .”

He risked a glance at her, but Genevieve kept her face remarkably blank.

“You can sort of . . . Give a man a boost. In his career.”

“And how do you suppose I do this?” she asked.

Grant’s jaw fell open. “I have no idea,” he admitted.

“And what do I get in return for these services?” Genevieve pressed.

Grant was feeling more ridiculous every moment. “I don’t . . .”

“Do you even know what I actually do? I’m a consultant,” Genevieve went on before Grant could show his stupidity once more. “I get called in when things go terribly wrong. I’m a last resort, the one people hope never to have to see.”

Grant considered Genevieve’s cool features and burning eyes and wondered whether he’d think it was worth risking everything just to have a few minutes with her.

No, probably not.

“It must be difficult,” he said suddenly.

Her brow quirked in unspoken query.

“To live your life as someone no one is happy to see,” said Grant. “But then maybe that’s why, every now and then, you decide to help someone out? At least then they’re happy to see you.”

He was half talking to himself, really, and when he chanced another look at her was rewarded with an expression of utter astonishment on her face. Her lips were slightly parted, and for the first time she appeared soft and human. Grant wondered what she would look like with her hair down.

And then all at once her mouth snapped shut and her expression became hard. “If I wanted someone to be happy to see me, Mr. Owen, I would get a dog.”

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Another Dream

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So every now and then I post one of my weird dreams here, if only for the sake of entertainment value. This one occurred a couple nights ago, and I’m just lifting the post from my personal blog and putting it here as well:

Last night I had coffee for the first time in (literally) years and ended up nauseous and sick. I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker, Cafe du Monde being the big exception, but then I haven’t been to New Orleans since spring of 2005. (Aside: So looking forward to the family reunion in June!)

Anyway, I don’t know if it was the coffee, but I had the strangest dreams. Like, even for me, these were really weird. First there was something about being a young student—elementary age, maybe middle school. I and my classmates were flying over a beautiful countryside. Not in a plane or anything. Just us. Flying. I think maybe we held on to one another so we didn’t get separated. I remember how green everything was, and in the distance a glittering ocean. Every now and then I saw an old castle or house, and I had the definite feeling we were in England. The flying was part of some exam we were taking, and I know we landed and went into our school to talk to our teacher, but I can’t remember what was said or whether we passed the exam.

And next thing I knew I was a woman, a leading-lady type from 40s Hollywood. In fact, at times this dream went all black and white like an old movie. I was a lawyer, but in my spare time I liked to write novels. And then I got thrown in jail on suspicion of something, murder maybe, not sure. The jail was really strange, too. It was all grey stone but had these odd angles and turns to rooms; it felt more like an old castle. And there were iron gates here and there separating parts. Anyway, Benedict Cumberbatch turned up as some kind of prosecutor or someone meant to interrogate me . . . And then I found out they’d brought in my brother Stephen for questioning. (For the record, in real life I’m an only child.) I was very upset about this because Stephen was a sweet, gentle person and I knew he wouldn’t be able to stand up to the interrogation. Sure enough, they brought me in to see him, but he’d been turned to stone or frozen or something, and his wings—apparently Stephen had wings, like an angel—were all shattered. I had another brother and a sister, too, and they came to see me. The brother said he was going to go find “Charlie” and get his help. Charles, it seems, was yet another brother. I begged him not to because that would lead the authorities to Charles. So this unnamed brother said, “Then this is all I can do. Just stand here.” And our sister insisted he should go get Charles.

I don’t know whether he did get Charles, though, because the dream changed a bit. Still seemed a lot like an old movie, but this time I was in an old house with a few other people. Maybe they lived there/owned it. I don’t know. But there was discussion about some old church, or maybe a chapel attached to the house . . . And here’s where things get really convoluted. A nun came to visit, to ask for help saving the church. But it seems we wanted to dig beneath it for something. And a local person came and said he would start tonight. But we thought maybe he was a devil worshipper? Or something? I remember walking him through a corridor of pictures, and all of them were black and white drawings and paintings of the devil. “I’ll show you his favorite,” I told the guy, as if the devil had a favorite picture of himself . . . But then somehow we were able to figure out the guy was actually a worshipper of Dido. I don’t know if that was a saint or what, but that seemed to be important because then we agreed to help him start digging under the church that night. The devil thing had been some kind of test.

Lots of tests in these dreams . . .

“Key?”

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“Don’t play innocent with me,” Andra snapped. “You promised.”

“I honestly have no idea where it is,” David told her.

Andra stared hard into his eyes, but they remained steadfastly pale, no sign of Janus. Which meant David was likely telling the truth; the god in him was hiding, and only Janus knew where her necklace was.

“Janus,” she said again, “get out here.”

But David only pouted. “You know it doesn’t work that way.”

“It should,” said Andra. “The way he messes with you . . . I don’t like it.”

“And the way she messes with you,” countered David, “I don’t like.”

Andra scowled. “What do you mean?”

“Sending you here and there with hardly a break. We almost never see each other—”

Andra’s eyebrows went up, but it wasn’t the words. No, it was the darkness beginning to gather in David’s irises as he became increasingly agitated that had her interest. “There you are,” she said. “Finally.”

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“Janus,” Andra said, and David knew

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she was angry—she only ever called him “Janus” when she was angry. “Where is it?”

David blinked at her. Integration hadn’t been easy for him, nor was it complete. The seamless existence Andra took for granted was still a see-saw for David. Andra had been raised with an understanding of her abilities; she’d been trained. David, however, still suffered almost nausea-inducing tidal waves of sudden memories, the flip side of those being the big, empty spaces when he couldn’t remember what he’d been doing just five minutes before. Like the day with Grant in the conference room. What had that been about? He wasn’t sure, only knew he’d walked out of there with a new determination to take back the key.

And now he couldn’t remember where he’d put it.

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“I—”

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Grant cursed his too-slow brain. He’d never had trouble charming women before; why did it suddenly seem so impossible now?

Genevieve had stopped walking at least. She stood halfway up the staircase, her elegant fingers folded over the wrought iron and an expectant expression on her face.

It was a lovely face, too, Grant considered. She could have been a star herself with looks like that. The way she pulled her blonde hair back was a tad severe, but the catlike length of her eyes . . .

“I’m sorry I intruded.” With nothing clever coming to mind, he was forced to deliver the truth. “I just couldn’t resist. I mean, to come so close . . . And they say fortune favors the brave.”

To Grant’s surprise, Genevieve started as if he’d poked her with his words. She studied at him from atop her seemingly lofty perch, giving Grant the same feeling as when in an audition the casting director simply stared at him. It made him fidgety.

“So they do,” she said at length, her words slow and thoughtful as if she were somehow unwilling to part with them, “say that. Fine, Mr. Owen. You may come up. But let’s keep this brief, shall we? You still have a long drive home.”

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He wasn’t tall, but

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they almost never were. The adage said cameras added pounds, but cameras also added inches, at least in Genevieve’s experience.

Still, he wasn’t short either. In her heels, she and he were on a level.

“Grant Owen,” he said, and Genevieve blinked rapidly and tried to bring herself back to the moment. She ignored the hand he stuck out and stepped back to pull the door wider, though as it was an oversized door it was hardly necessary to make any more space. Except Genevieve felt like maybe it was necessary, though she wasn’t sure why.

“Well, Mr. Owen, I must say this is unexpected. Come in.”

She noted the way he brushed nervously at his hair as he stepped into the house. It’s not cute, she told herself. And anyway, they’re all more or less alike.

Oh, but she knew deep down that wasn’t true. Knew from experience. Else why was she still in this godforsaken town?

“Not an unpleasant surprise, though, I hope?” Grant asked as he scanned the impressive entry; square skylights let in the burgeoning twilight.

“It’s getting dark,” Genevieve said and strode across the room to switch on the sconces that were placed at regular intervals along the walls. Their soft light reached up into the recesses of the room, giving all the straight edges a warmth and softness.

“Beautiful,” breathed Grant. “The house, I mean,” he added quickly when Genevieve frowned in his direction.

“My office is up here,” was all Genevieve said. She indicated a staircase with wrought iron railings and floating wooden slats for the steps. It led up to a small square landing and exactly one door.

“Oh!” said Grant. “You’re . . . I mean, I didn’t think . . .” He became more flustered as her frown deepened and her fair brows began to contract. “I didn’t think you’d answer your own door is all.”

Genevieve stared at him for so long Grant began to think she was looking at something else entirely and started to turn around to check no one was behind him.

“You’re the one David Styles mentioned,” she said suddenly. “I thought I’d heard the name.”

Grant straightened and threw his shoulders back, the visual definition of affronted. “You might have heard the name anywhere, really. I do get press now and then.”

“I thought I told David I wasn’t interested,” Genevieve went on. “How did you get my address?”

Grant’s mind whirled, but improv wasn’t his strength, and creating a lie on the spot proved impossible for him. “Alfred. Keenan.” He added the last name as an afterthought, just for the sake of clarity.

“There’s a neck that needs to be wrung,” Genevieve muttered. Then, louder, “If you get press, Mr. Owen, I’m sure you have no need for me. You know the way out.” And she turned and began the climb back to her office.

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Genevieve sighed and wished

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she hadn’t let Charlotte leave so early. Now she was stuck dealing with this . . . “Grant Owen,” she murmured to herself. The name was familiar, but then so many of them were. But Genevieve was sure she’d heard this name recently, and outside of the dailies and other scuttlebutt. Where?

She should have just sent him away, told him to call and make an appointment like anyone else. Now, as the purr of an engine sounded outside, she wasn’t sure why she hadn’t. Genevieve had made a life of saying “no,” after all; it wasn’t difficult for her.

The bell rang, but Genevieve took her time in answering. These actors usually needed lessons—plural—in patience, and she believed in training early and often. Not that she’d agreed to anything with this one, she was quick to remind herself. In fact, Genevieve hadn’t taken anyone in particular under her wing in almost nine years.

She made her way across the oversized entry, her three-inch heels echoing on the marble. During office hours there was staff, of course, but Genevieve liked to have the house to herself in the evenings.

Which made an unexpected visitor less than welcome.

She pulled open the door in one brusque motion designed to communicate efficiency and maybe a little displeasure. But actors were thick, so she doubted this one would catch any of the nuance. If it had been a role on set, he’d have understood it perfectly, but that was the thing about actors: They had no real-world functionality. And Genevieve had little patience for them.

Still, she stopped short of tapping her foot. That would have been overkill.

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Wondering about my A to Z theme? It’s explained here. And remember: these scenes aren’t necessarily in chronological order!

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