Immortal Matchmakers, Inc. #5 (COLEL-Excerpt)

COLEL – Immortal Matchmakers, INC. #5

CHAPTER ONE

“Shush, my babiees. I know you’re hungry. Just a few more minutes, and I’ll have something for your empty bellies.” Colel, the Mistress of Bees, stroked the buzzing hive atop her head, wishing she could turn her flowing blonde locks into a field of golden flowers rich with nectar.

Or better yet, get them off my head to hunt for wildflowers on their own.

But, alas, it was only April—far too early in the year for anything to blossom in this small town of Crested Butte, Colorado. The snowpack had disappeared along with the skiers, but the ground remained frozen solid. It was why she’d come, having just arrived this morning from another hive community in upstate New York. She needed to see how the locals had fared the rough winter. And by locals, she meant the tiny black-and-yellow ones who needed to make it until June, when the hills and mountains burst to life with vividly colored wildflowers. It was the sort of glorious spectacle that brought people from all around the world. To the honeybee community, however, it was harvest time, and they needed to gather enough food stores for the next winter.

A challenge to bee sure.

Beehives around the world continued dwindling in numbers. Why? No one was exactly sure, but her very own hive had told her they felt a shift in the bee-force. A dramatic weakening.

Fear not, my tiny pollination Jedis. Colel will get to the bottom of this. She’d been on the road for months now, traveling from country to country, state to state, searching for answers and personally surveying global hive conditions. The bees she carried with her acted as her ambassadors and spoke all dialects of buzz. And French. They were classy like that.

A pinch on her earlobe gave her a startle. “Ouch!” She resisted swatting the little warrior, who now hovered in front of her face.

“Chuck, knock it off. I’m hurrying.” She pushed him out of her way and continued down the sidewalk, searching for the little convenience store she’d seen on the drive in. With a population of 1,600 humans during the off-season, she hoped the store carried more than just the bare essentials.

Chuck replied with an angry flutter. The other bees, nestled safely inside her warm hive hat, mimicked his warning.

“Stop it. You’re making my brain hurt with all that vibrating, you little psychos.” Honestly, she loved her bees, but in all their seventy thousand years together, they’d never behaved so crazy.

She pushed on the glass door of the mom-and-pop sundry shop, and a tiny bell announced her arrival.

“Good afternoon, ma’am,” Colel said, noting the alarmed expression of the old woman in a gray turtleneck standing behind the register counting change. “Have you any honey?”

Terrified, the woman silently shook her head no.

“Gah…really?” I thought for sure…

The hive roared and began beating their little wings to the rhythm of “We Will Rock You” by Queen, only they sang it with the words “We will sting you.”

Little bastards. They truly were incorrigible when they didn’t eat. The irony was that they didn’t need sustenance for survival. They ate out of habit, and seventy millennia had yet to change their honey addiction. “Might you know of another shop nearby? It’s an emergency.”

The woman’s mouth fell open to the fully slack position as she took in the enormous beehive atop Colel’s head.

“Oh no. Don’t do that. Chuck will think it’s an invitation.He loved the warmth of a good human mouth or, really, any human orifice. Such a pervy little thing.

“Who-who’s Chuck?” the woman stammered.

“Never mind. Just tell me where to find some honey, and we’ll be on our way.”

“We-we just sold our last bottle.” With her trembling hand, the woman pointed to her right, toward the wall of cereal and instant coffee. “You’ll have-have to go to Gunnison if you want to buy some. The other store in town is closed for renovations.”

Gunnison was the nearest large town, but that was forty minutes away. “Wait. Why did you point to that wall?” Gunnison was in the other direction.

The woman’s brown eyes widened into giant saucers, like she’d just done something she painfully regretted. “Don’t know.”

Colel stepped closer and leaned over the counter, placing her nose to nose with the frail human. “You’re lying. Where is the honey? And tell the truth or my little friends will get upset.” Of course, Colel would never sic her fuzzy little army on this nice woman. In fact, it was engrained in the gods’ DNA to protect humans—the good ones at least.

“I sold it to Rys.”

“Rise? As in ‘sun rise’?”

The woman nodded.

Rise. What kind of cockamamie name was that? It entirely reminded her of an erection. So did cactus, the space shuttle, and that weird little symbol beneath the Amazon logo. Okay, fine. Just about everything reminded her of an erection. Seriously, if she didn’t get laid soon, it would be the death of her. Not that she could die, but seventy thousand years of virginity sure the hell felt like croaking. Add to that, she was unable to get herself off. Her existence was like a slow, incredibly frustrating death.

“His name is spelled R-Y-S. It’s German or Italian and short for something. Can’t remember. But he’s the florist next door.”

Bingo! Colel reached into her yellow parka and produced ten C-notes. “Take this money and procure two cases of honey. I will pay extra for any shipping charges, but they have to be here by tomorrow morning. No later than seven. I like to get up early.” Not that she really needed to sleep, but she did enjoy it. Just like taking bubble baths and wearing togas. Everyone has their vices. “You may keep the change.” That amounted to a very nice tip.

“Please don’t hurt him! He’s a very nice young man. The town needs him,” the woman yelled as Colel hurried out before all bee-hell flew loose.

Pfft! I’m not going to hurt him. Just going to pull a Winnie the Pooh. After so many years traveling with the immortal hive, Colel should’ve known better than not to have a backup plan to feed her bees. Shit happened. And her babiees didn’t care if a snowstorm in Chicago prevented their supplies from being delivered ahead of their arrival to the cozy rental cabin where they’d be staying.

Standing on the street, three steps from the front door of this “Rise” man’s flower shop, her cell phone buzzed. She slid it from her yellow coat and stared at the tiny screen.

Brutus. What does he want? Without a doubt, the man was a kickass, lethal warrior, deadly to the bone and fiercely loyal to the gods, but like the bees, he’d been acting strange lately, vacillating between grinding his teeth when in her presence or bending over backwards to please her.

So unlike him. As one of the leaders of the gods’ immortal army, aka “the Uchben,” Brutus did not believe in pleasing others or showing emotions. Something is definitely off. He’d even adopted an elderly dog recently.

He must be flipping. Flipping was a term used to describe the recent plague sweeping the immortal community. Like the bees disappearing, no one knew exactly why the Universe had decided to “flip” her moral compass. Meaning, any good immortal was now turning evil and vice versa. The only known inoculation against the plague was being mated. Somehow, having a deep connection with another being, specifically a mate, grounded the individuals. Everyone else? Crayzeee. Or at least getting there.

“Brutus, good afternoon. What may I do for you?” she said with a curt tone into her phone, indicating she was in the middle of something and did not appreciate being bothered.

“My bee queen, I am told your provisions have been delayed due to weather. I have activated my contingency plan and will be there tonight to personally deliver your supplies.”

What was I just saying about overkill ass-kissing? She couldn’t claim it to be unsweet or unappreciated, but it simply made no sense. She was a goddess. He was a human who’d been given the immortal light of the gods, a mere demigod.

I do the saving. Not him.

“No need, my dear Brutus. I have already taken care of it. Perhaps you can send the bee chow on ahead to Maui.” That was her next stop. It was already spring there, and she’d heard reports of the puaʻakuhinia failing to bloom. The plant resembled large blades of tall grass with small clusters of purple, red, or yellow flowers. They only blossomed in the spring, and the lack of supply was an indicator of bigger issues. Those particular flowers were very sensitive to changes in the atmosphere.

“I am already in flight,” Brutus confessed after several long moments of silence. “I will deliver your supplies and take you on to your next stop once your business has concluded.”

“Brutus?”

“Yes, ma’am?”

“I’ve known you for a very long time, and I’ve never heard you speak more than ten words.” Not in total. She meant that he generally used approximately ten words—yes, no, maybe, sir, ma’am, stay, die, we fight, and of course, hungry. He was a hard man of few syllables. Granted, part of it had to do with his position. The group he led, a specialized elite force, shared a telepathic bond.

Who knows? Maybe they gab away at all hours of the night, chatting about their favorite dick flicks: Transformers, Die Hard, Bing and Bong’s Excellent Adventure.

Or was it Bill and Hillary?

Ted and Bundy?

Oh, who can remember such details?

Nevertheless, the abundance of sounds coming from this man’s mouth was unprecedented. “Care to explain why you’re suddenly speaking like an actual human?”

“No.”

She rubbed her itching forehead. The hat wasn’t ideal, but it was the easiest way to safely transport and protect her BBFFs (best bee friends forever). “Look, Brutus, I’m in crisis mode here. So if there’s something going on, you might as well spit it out.”

Silence.

“Don’t make me compel you to obey,” she warned.

“As if you could, goddess.”

Like hell I couldn’t. “Brutus, spill, or so help me gods, I will have you placed on the rack, pulled apart piece by piece, and served to Minky on movie night with warm butter and cheddar sprinkles.” Minky was her sister Cimil’s invisible, bloodthirsty unicorn. Cimil was currently sitting on the bottom of the ocean, inside an oil drum—a punishment inflicted by a group of angry mermen after Cimil murdered a bunch of their men. That rascal, Cimil. Always getting into trouble. In either case, Minky was currently running free and doing gods only knew what.

“I would welcome such a fate,” he mumbled.

Oh, gimme a break. “What’s with all the wah-wahing, Brutus? Are you flipping?”

Silence.

With a gasp, she covered her mouth. Oh no. He was flipping. This was not good. Brutus was critical to the gods’ defenses. “Tell me now what we must do, and I’ll move heaven and earth to help you.”

“I am fine. Better than ever, in fact.”

“So you’re not changing?” She didn’t believe him.

“No.”

“Then why the strange behavior? You went from being as verbose as a cave-dwelling hermit to being a chatting sixteen-year-old girl who prides herself on nonstop complaining as a competitive sport.”

“Is an immortal warrior not permitted to change with the times?” Brutus threw back.

“You’ve worn the same camo pants for over a century.” No, no. Not the same pants—cuz, ewww—but the exact same style.

“I am a man of few needs. Fashion is not one of them. I will arrive in five hours,” he said with a sharp tone and ended the call.

“Brutus? Brutus?” She looked at her device. I can’t beelieve he hung up on me. So strange. And if he wasn’t flipping, then what ailed him?

Her hive now screaming with hunger like a concert hall filled with banshees, she slapped the side of her hat. “That’s it! You’re all acting like children. You’re bees! And may I remind you, if anyone has needs, it’s me. Me!” She pointed her finger up at them. “Your constant jealousy and neediness are a full-time biscuit-block. So bee silent, or there will bee no honey for a month.”

The hive shut their nectar holes.

There. That’s more like it. Colel drew a quieting breath and reached for the flower-shop door, noticing a tall man—about six four—staring at her from a few yards down the sidewalk.

Wow. Now there’s a tall glass of “yes, please!” He was in his early thirties and gorgeous, to say the least. Thick dark hair and short stubble to match, along with intense brown eyes that held the promise of knowing his place as a man: to kill things and to please a woman. Yet his cold expression indicated his heart was not easily swayed or won.

As for that body, it was hard and godlike. Metaphorically speaking, in a non-incestual-lust kind of way. Not that she and her brothers were actually related since none of them had parents. They’d all just happened, like an idea or a dream manufactured by the Universe herself. But this man… Sigh. His body was the product of millions of years of female selection, strong and tall with hips that said he had lots of sperm and knew how to squirt it.

Suddenly their eyes locked, leaving her completely paralyzed. Beejesus, what’s happening to me? It was like having every ounce of energy sucked from her soul, cell by cell, leaving behind only a vacuum of need. Her heart felt it the most.

Then, without a word, he blinked, breaking the spell, and marched past her into the flower shop, where he disappeared behind the counter, into the back.

How long she stood there in shock, her mind spinning, she didn’t know. Was he the one? She’d heard her brethren speak of first contact with their mates, but they’d never mentioned anything like this: an instant addiction.

I need another look. Without hesitation she entered the quaint little flower shop.

Oh, this is cute. The walls were painted light green with a colorful mural of yellow and red bouquets. Several glass cases of flowers stood behind the counter, and buckets of daisies sat on the floor next to the window.

That man works here? He struck her more as the lumberjack type. Or maybe a chef, since big men generally like to eat a lot. Either way, the divine floral scents instantly made her bees go nuts.

Uh-oh. She began pressing down on the little silver bell next to the register. “Hello? Hello?” she called out impatiently.

“Be right out,” said a deep, husky voice from the back.

Suddenly, Chuck decided he would play nice-bee no longer and gave her a prick on the cheek.

“Ouch! Dammit, Chuck. Not now!”

The tall, imposing man appeared from the back room, only this time, his expression was more disgusted than anything.

“You brought those nasty bugs into my shop?” he snarled. “Get out.”

“I beg your pardon, but these are my—”

“Lady, I don’t care if they’re the cure to famine, cancer, or male-pattern baldness, those little fuckers are not welcome in my store and neither are you.”

Her jaw dropped. Then she snapped it shut. Because, well, Chuck. “What kind of person doesn’t like bees?”

The man pointed behind him. “The kind who’s allergic to their sting and lost his twin brother to them just last year.”

Colel froze in place, noting two epinephrine pens on the top shelf of the glass refrigerator, right next to the bee orchids. Whoa. Nice flowers. But other than his taste in flora, this had to bee a mistake. Because the attraction she felt just now had to mean something. The Universe wouldn’t dare play this sick joke on her. Not after everything she’d been through.

All right. Stay calm. You’re not even sure who he is. First things first, however; she needed to get her bees fed.

Colel cleared her throat. “I’m so sorry to hear about your brother. Truly. However, if you could just tell me if you might happen to have—”

Suddenly, her little demons’ patience wore out. From the droning of their wings, she could tell they were preparing to leave the hive and take matters into their own hands. Or feet. Whatever.

“Honey! Give me honey!” She pounded her fist on the counter.

The man, Rys, frowned as if contemplating whether he should throw her crazy ass out or oblige her so she’d leave on her own.

“If you value your life, you will give it to me now.” She reached for his arm and took hold. A shock wave ricocheted through her entire body.

Ah! What the…! A blinding white light, like a bolt of lightning, hit her. Suddenly, she saw him and her swimming in turquoise waters. Desire and love radiated from his eyes and every pore of his being. It was all for her, like he’d been waiting his entire life.

Colel blinked and saw she was still standing on the other side of his counter. Her arms were at her sides, and his expression of disdain was unchanged. What was that?

“The honey was for my grandmother’s afternoon tea, but if you leave, it’s yours.” With an unshakable glare, he reached under his counter and produced a clear plastic bear. “Don’t ever come back.”

But she wanted to stay. She needed to know if that had just been a dream or something more. A premonition.

With no time to argue, she grabbed the bottle, unscrewed the top, and squeezed honey on her hand so the bees would follow her outside. With less than a second to spare, she made it to the sidewalk. The bees swarmed her, lapping up the sugary substance faster than she could dispense it.

Crap. That was close. Feeling a set of eyes on her, she slowly turned her head. The man, Rys, stood just a few feet away, staring through the plate-glass window. It wasn’t hate in his eyes, but it wasn’t love either. Whatever this man felt for her didn’t mirror her own emotions, emotions that told her he might be the one she’d been hoping to meet for tens of thousands of years.

And he’s allergic to bees?

Either the Universe had become more sadistic than ever, or the damned woman had finally cracked.

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