Christmas With Dakota Banks + Giveaway (INT)!
Christmas with Maliha
“Surf’s up,” she said. She left the blinds open because the weather suited her mood.
It was Christmas Eve, and she was spending it alone. Her teammates were scattered around the world. Hound and Glass were hunting rhino poachers in a South African national park; Amaro was working his day job, trying to see if he could break into the network security at MI5; Yanmeng and his wife Eliu were trekking in Bolivia; and the newest member of her team, Mickey, was doing something in Death Valley.
That afternoon, she’d made her favorite cookies, English Toffee Squares, packed a box, and gone to visit her girlfriend Brandy, only to find that Brandy had been swept off her feet by her latest love and was leaving on a holiday cruise.
With her soulmate Lucius stuck in a demon’s hell, it looked like Santa would be Maliha’s only visitor tonight.
What’s a rogue demon’s assassin to do? Eat toffee squares, decorate the fresh Christmas tree, a beautiful Fraser fir she’d lugged home yesterday from a farm, and have an early evening.
She nibbled on a toffee square and then set the tree up in its stand. The tree wasn’t perfectly shaped, but she fixed that with some trimming of branches with one of her swords. Untangling the strands of lights almost made her give up, but half an hour later, she’d conquered the task and strung them on the tree. By now it was dark. Approaching the large expanse of windows, she couldn’t see much outside, but she could see her face reflected in the panes. She didn’t like the forlorn expression she saw there, so she grinned into the glass and then lowered the blinds.
Glancing over at the kitchen counter, she saw the presents she’d bought for her friends sitting there, looking cheerful and sad simultaneously, since they were a reminder of her solitary state. She put them under the tree so their owners could pick them up whenever they happened by.
“Of course, the tree might be gone by then—too many needles fallen off. Oh, cut out the pity party.”
Though they weren’t all traditional Christmas ornaments, they were lovely, handmade, and gathered from her travels around the globe and through the past three hundred years of her life.
Each of them had a story, like the small bowl with a hole drilled near its rim, tied to the tree with ribbon. She had used it to share butter tea with the thirteenth Dalai Lama at the top of the world. It was also her first experience with tsampa, roasted barley flour added to the leftover tea and stirred to make a Tibetan dumpling. Maliha’s dumpling wasn’t coming out right, so the Dalai Lama took her fingers in his and showed her how to manipulate the dough and turn the bowl in her hands.
Next out of the box was a violet-tinted diamond of about twenty carats, round cut and mounted in a gold holder with a delicate chain for hanging on the tree. It was a fragment of the Tavernier Blue Diamond, from which the Hope Diamond was cut. It was given to Maliha in 1798 by an eager suitor, soon after the Blue disappeared during the French Revolution. She ditched the suitor, but kept the diamond. In those days, she saw relationships as unnecessary entanglements.
Two people—one turned his face up to the camera—it was Yanmeng! Maliha slipped the knife out of sight and opened the door to let in Yanmeng and his wife. After an enthusiastic greeting, Eliu put some presents under the tree.
“For you and the others,” Yanmeng said. “We hurried back. Didn’t want you spending Christmas Eve by yourself.”
“Really, you shouldn’t have bothered. But it’s good to see you,” Maliha said.
Another ring of the bell brought Mickey to her door. He was dressed for desert weather and hadn’t even bothered with a coat for travel. His eyes lit up when he saw her and he gave her a bag of presents that were a bit soggy from the weather outside. He was shivering and a little damp, so after a quick greeting, she pushed him in front of the fireplace. Steam began rising gently from his clothes. She offered him a change of clothing but he said he was okay with being a walking humidifier. Soon he was fortified with hot chocolate and asking for more toffee.
The doorbell rang again. This time it was Hound and Amaro, who’d coincidentally arrived together. They each deposited an armload of presents under the tree. Hugs all around were followed by a passionate kiss from Hound planted on Maliha’s lips.
Amaro whistled. “Does your wife know about this?” he said to Hound.
Hound said, “A guy’s got a right to greet a former lover properly, doesn’t he? Besides, there must be mistletoe around somewhere.” He reached around and patted Maliha’s posterior. In an instant, Hound found himself on the floor, with Maliha’s pointed fingers an inch from his throat.
“There’s greeting and then there’s groping,” Maliha said. “Married men should know the difference.” She was smiling, though, and helped him up from the floor.
“Darn, woman, you’re getting faster!” Hound said.
“No,” Amaro said, “You’re getting older and slower.”
“What? I’ll fix you for that …”
Maliha looked around as her home was filled with the happy commotion caused by her friends. Only one missing, she thought, and he’s not likely to be walking through my door anytime soon. My love, my Lucius, if only I could figure out how to bring you back to me!
A tear slid down her cheek, unnoticed by the group except for Yanmeng, who was a remote viewer and closely bonded with Maliha. He was sitting across the room from her, but his head swiveled in her direction. She felt the feathery touch of his contact on her shoulder, and then his invisible hand lifting her chin. They exchanged smiles, and Maliha realized how fortunate she was to be sitting here with these remarkable people who called themselves her friends.
Mickey was eying the presents under the tree, including a big one with his name on it. “Hey, everybody, let’s open the gifts.”
“Sounds fine to me,” Maliha said.
Copyright @ Dakota Banks
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped
1. Preheat oven to 275°F/135°C. In large bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy.
2. Separate egg, then beat yolk into butter mixture; cover and reserve the egg white.
3. In another bowl, stir together flour and cinnamon; add to butter mixture.
4. With your hands, spread dough evenly over bottom of a greased 10 by 15-inch rimmed baking pan.
5. Beat egg white lightly, then brush over dough to cover evenly.
6. Sprinkle pecans over top; press in lightly.
7. Bake for 1 hour or until firm when lightly touched. While still hot, cut into 1/2-inch squares.
Let cool in pan on a rack. Store in an airtight container.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Love to All,
I love Dakota's books - they are very hard-edged urban fantasy adventures in Indiana Jones style with a unique mythology!
Dakota graciously offered a Mortal Path goodie bag to one international reader.
Open to all.
Ends December 30th 2012.
Good luck and Merry Christmas!