“You. Yes, yes, you, the one sitting there staring at me.” She spoke clearly, but her mouth — that lovely perfect fuchsia stained mouth — didn’t move at all.

“You don’t know the word ‘telepathy’? God, did I get stuck with a stupid one again?”

“No,” I protested. Indignation overcomes incredulity. And good sense, apparently. “No, you didn’t. I’m not stupid and you’re not stuck, or certainly not with me. What’s got your panties in a wad?”

I heard a small chuckle. “Grew a pair, did you? All right, let’s see what the old beeyotch with brass ones can do, shall we, duckie?”


“Well? Don’t just sit there. Produce something, for god’s sake.”

“Produce? What are you talking about? Why should I do anything for you? Who are you anyway?”

“Nobody told you? Shit, not again! I want them prepped before I arrive and this isn’t the first time it hasn’t been done right.”

I felt her sigh, troposphere to the Mariana.

“Maybe that means you’re being unreasonable.” The good sense hadn’t returned.

“Oh, breaking you is going to be so much fun, slut.”

I’d gotten to her, though she tried hard for indifferent. Before I congratulated myself too much, she spoke up — thought — again.

“I’m Nuala.”

“Yes, and …?”

“The Green Man take my soul, are you really that ignorant? And you think you can write? Nuala. Named for Fionnuala.”

I shook my head with each name.

“The daughter of Lir?”

Another head shake. I could see her stretch calm over herself, as if it were spandex for her passions and then with the exaggerated patience of a kindergarten teacher, she went on. “Is the concept of ‘muse’ familiar to you?”

“Oh shit. No. Not you.”

“Exactly what I said. But I’m being punished for some demigod’s bruised ego, so we’re both SOL, girlie. Now, get to work.”

“On what?”

“Who’s your deity?”

“Huh?” She might be crazier than I’d thought. That was from so far in left field it was like having a charging polo pony materialize and steal home plate.

“Deity. God. Who do you worship?”

“Nobody much. The universe.”

“You mean I can’t even cuss in a way you’ll take to heart? That’s it. After I’m done with you, the Dagda can suck his own dick, after he pulls it out of his ass where I’m going to stick it for him.”

“You wanted to know about deities in order to use profanity? Then any of them will do. I was raised christian, though.”

“Aaahhhh. Jesus Christ, you’re stupid. Work, damn you!”

“I repeat, on what? Isn’t it your job to inspire me?”

She howled. “NO!! It’s my job to goad you, to get inside your head and make sure you don’t have a moment’s peace until you finish whatever it is you’re working on.”

There was a noise, a rumble. Not loud, but definitely attention-getting. She closed her eyes. “All right, all right, yes, I will. … Yes, I do. … Very well.”

When she opened her eyes there was something there that hadn’t been before, an echo of a whisper of submission; it dissipated before I was truly sure it had been there.

I cocked an eyebrow at her smile.

“He made me a promise I want him to keep,” she said softly, “so, let’s get back to it.” She paused a second before spouting, “A sloe-eyed kid, just barely old enough, walks into a pawn shop holding a necklace that’s got a seashell pendant. A rare seashell, called a dragon’s tear. The guy behind the counter gulps and pulls an identical necklace from inside his shirt. Now what happens?”

“I don’t know. There’s not enough there. Who is the kid? Where did he get the necklace? I need more than you’ve given me.”

“I knew you couldn’t write! I’ve given you far more than enough. Remember that new video from Logan’s site you’ve been wanting to download? When this is done, if it’s up to standard, that video be free, for a few minutes. Does the thought of his tattooed arse working it with his bud Geoffrey inspire you in the least?”

I shivered and began:

The small shell looked fragile, clasped in its twisted silver housing, but the energy emanations made it almost hot in Doug’s palm and he knew that even if he could break it, he never would.

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