February Newsletter: Montreal in Winter and Sneak Peak Part Two of Mystic Bonds

This month we talk the city of Montreal and Chapter One of my new upcoming book: Mystic Bonds.

Feature : Montreal on a Weekend

I must start by saying, I love Montreal. I also must say, It was cold in January. Like, freeze your tears cold. However, that didn’t dissuade me on this three night trip.

Stay

We started a little late due to a 3 hour delay via Air Canada (grumble, grumble) but once we got there we quickly got on the move to salvage the day. We stayed at the lovely Lowes Hotel Vogue. The room was nice and the connecting dark and trendy bar/restaurant made great drinks. The biggest plus was location. It was near tons of shopping and restaurants as well as sites like the underground city (more on that) and the Museum of Fine Arts.

To Do and See

Shopping was just awesome there. The US Dollar is strong there and prices are very reasonable. Saint Catherine St. hosted a ton of shopping both stateside shops and Canadian shops (check out Dynamite, Roots and Tristan). There is also the Underground City which contains miles and miles of entertainment including tons of shopping and dining. Perfect for when it was too cold to be outside for long. Another area for shopping filled with boutiques is Saint Denis St.

Check out the free Barbie Expo in the Underground City

In addition to shopping, a tour of the city is always a good idea which we did to get acquainted with the city. The cold tried to take us out but we pushed through.

Also while in Canada seeing a hockey game is a fun idea. The crowd was pumped and Montreal has their own hockey music band to get the crowd going. And if hockey isn’t your thing, check out the many art museums and there are tons of festivals (even the Igloo fest in the winter).

Eat and Drink

Montreal has so much good food and with the diversity of its people you are sure to find a cuisine you like.
Check out Reubens for breakfast. I recommend checking out Chinatown and grabbing a bite at Chez Chili for delicious Chinese food. And while you’re in the area, mosey on down to Le Mal Necessaire, a speak easy/tiki bar, with great (albeit, pricey) drinks. If you are in the mood for more speakeasies then also check out The Cloakroom, a super tiny space where they have no drink menu and just ask you questions. From there they conjure up a drink to fit your taste.

I’m not big on poutine but while in Canada it’s a necessity to give this French fry treat a try. If you are into ramen, don’t miss Kinton Ramen for a quick and cost saving meal. Then walk on down to CChoColat, a chocolate lounge where you can find all things chocolate to eat and drink. I need to go back to Montreal for more to eat.

Overall this was a great trip and I can’t wait to go back…in the summer.

And Another Thing

As promised in my last post, here is the second snippet from my upcoming urban fantasy novel and series, Mystic Bonds.

Chapter One

I wasn’t sure where I was. It was dark. Night time. I was outside in a small park surrounded by streets, sidewalks, rowhomes, and what looked like a couple of mom-and-pop restaurants and bars. I was in a neighborhood. Perhaps in the city. What city, I couldn’t be sure. Nothing unique to identify my surroundings popped out in the dark.

I sat down on a bench at the perimeter of the park under a lamp post. I looked ahead across the grassy field at a red, neon “Open” sign on the front of a bar sandwiched between houses. Music played off in the distance.

There was life around me. I could feel it, like a minor static on the skin. However, no one was outside and I heard no buzz of human chatter. I couldn’t tell how late it was. It was certainly too late to be sitting outside alone. Yet, I didn’t get up.

It was summer, I think, by the feel of thick heat on my skin and the way I was dressed. I had on an all-white, A-line, spaghetti strapped dress that stopped at my knees. On my feet, I wore simple light-brown colored sandals that matched closely to my skin tone. My dark, brown hair was out in its natural curly state, grazing my shoulders.

I looked like bait for a predator.

A distant roar, like the sound of a lion, got me to my feet. I spun around trying to locate the origin of the noise but had no such luck. This was a city; the roar of a lion didn’t match the surrounding. Then again, neither did me standing out in the dark.

“It’s just someone’s TV playing too loudly,” I muttered, wrapping my arms around myself. I wasn’t cold but I was certainly creeped out.

I was being naive, borderline stupid. Why was I out here? Could I be waiting for someone? Why didn’t I know?

I listened for the animal call again, yet heard nothing but the music from the bar across the street.

I sat back down carefully; my bottom on the edge of the bench. The music was comforting. Odd noises didn’t sound so bad when you had the base line of an old, 90s-era song playing along with it.

Or so I told myself.

Something electric suddenly pricked the air around me. Goosebumps peppered my arms and made the fine hairs stand up. I heard a shuffling behind me to my left but didn’t turn around, too afraid to see the source of what I assumed was the animal roar. The sound grew closer. Footsteps or paws crunched grass. A shadow appeared on the sidewalk where my bench and I rested under the street light. It was human shaped.

“Mind if I sit next to you?” The voice was deep, male, soothing, and familiar.

I looked to my left at the source of the voice. A few steps in front of me now stood a man, perhaps in his late twenties, although age worked differently nowadays so one never really knew how old another person was exactly. He had a pleasant smile on his face and kind, light-brown eyes, honey-colored skin, and short, wavy, black, hair faded close to his scalp. He wore dark jeans and an untucked, white button-down shirt that covered his just shy of 6-foot, athletic frame. On his feet were black and white Converse that gave him a boy-next door appeal. He was very attractive and his smile, with full lips and the world’s nicest white teeth, made his face almost glow.

He smiled like he knew me, like he had all the answers and was excited to tell them to me. Ease settled in.

“Uh, yeah, sure. I’m sorry, do I know you?” I asked.

He sat down beside me.

Close.

I could smell his cologne. Like sandalwood and summer rain on grass with a tinge of something sweet. It was intoxicating.

He didn’t answer, just tilted his head as if studying me. “I’m not sure. I feel like I’ve seen you somewhere before. Are you in business school?”

I shook my head. “Law school.”

He nodded slowly. “Platinum Gym, maybe? I go there a lot.”

I tried not to look him up and down but it was evident from how his clothes laid on his body that he was fit.

However, I had no gym membership of any kind. I shook my head.

He squinted his eyes. “Dating app?”

I cracked a smile. “Now that’s entirely possible.”

He stretched his hand out to me. “My name is Phillip Leal,” he said. “I’m sure I must have swiped up for you. Well, back when that kind of thing existed.”

I chuckled, shaking his hand. His hand was warm and surprisingly soft. “I’m Amina. Langston,” I replied.

“Ah, Amina, Amina, yes, that name sounds familiar,” he called out, slapping his forehead lightly. “Beautiful name for a beautiful woman.”

There was just a charm oozing from him unaided by even words. I’m sure I blushed and was thankful it was dark and that my almond coloring was deep enough to hide it.

“So, what brings you out in the park, looking like bait, along with me?” I asked.

“Would you run if I told you I didn’t know? Sometimes things get fuzzy here for me.”

“You aren’t the only one. Maybe both of us got hit on the head.”

Phillip turned away and leaned back on the bench, staring up at the night sky. “Let’s help each other then. Do you live in the area?”

Did I? I didn’t know for sure but the park felt familiar. “Yeah, I think so. Where are you from?”

He smiled again. “I’m from Philly but originally from the Dominican Republic. Came here when I was five.”

Two places crossed off my list of where in the world was Amina. “So, we know who we are just not where or why we’re here.”

He gave me a lazy smile that made my stomach twist. I felt like a 13-year-old with her first crush. It was those damn eyes. They seemed to connect with me, showing a genuine interest that made me feel…beautiful. “How—”

He was cut off by another roar, still distant but just as distressing. It didn’t sound quite like a lion like I first thought. A bear? I looked at Phillip. “Please tell me you heard that. Hey, do you think maybe there’s a zoo around here?”

“It’s not from the zoo but nothing can hurt us here.” His voice was soft and fell over me like a protective blanket. “I remember, I remember,” he whispered more to himself than me.

I sat back on the bench. Nothing made sense. Here I was in the dark with a stranger and not bothered by some random, scary, animal noises. Maybe I was drugged and didn’t know it.

“I know it all seems crazy but it’ll make sense soon, it always does. You just have to remember.” Phillip sat up straight. “I don’t always remember. At least not at first. I have to keep talking and then everything starts falling into place. I just need to ask questions. How’s your brother?”

Clearly, I was losing my mind as well because I didn’t recall telling him about my family. If we were close enough for him to know about Charles, then why couldn’t I remember him? Who was this guy?

I squinted my eyes again and turned; fully facing Phillip. “I’m so confused. Have we talked before? I just don’t remember.” Statement of the night.

His smile left and his eyes went serious. “You have a brother named Charles. He’s got powers too.”

I moved to the edge of the bench again. Was he crazy? Was I crazy? Nothing he was saying was registering. “Right, but how—”

“Did I know any of that? Because we’ve met before. You always forget until the very end. Which I can understand. I used to forget too. I don’t know why I started remembering.” He grabbed my hand in his and looked into my eyes; seemingly searching them. “Listen to me, Amina. I need you to remember me from now on. This is important. I’m Phillip Leal. It’s important that we stay connected. I couldn’t figure out how to get you to remember before, but I think I know now. I’m Phillip Leal. Remember my name.”

The ground shook and another roar bellowed with it. The shake was not strong and only lasted a second but it was enough to disturb me. “Was that an earthquake? And what is making that noise? We shouldn’t be out here,” I shouted, wanting to get up and run to safety. Home. Wherever that was. Why couldn’t I remember where home was?

Phillip leaned close to me and whispered words in my ear that I didn’t understand. It wasn’t Spanish.

“What did you say?” I asked as he leaned back.

“It’s a spell that I hope works. You’ll remember me next time. You’ll remember everything we talk about when I see you again,” he replied.

I didn’t respond. I didn’t know exactly what to say. I was sitting in a vacant park, at night, with a handsome but incredibly odd stranger, weird things kept happening, and I seemed to be the only one concerned about them.

“I’m so confused.” I replied.

A soft smile crossed his lips. “I know and I’m sorry. I know you so well now and you still look at me like a stranger.”

“I wish I could remember you. You seem like someone I’d really like to get to know.” I leaned towards him. “Maybe inside, where it’s safe? Then you can tell me what the hell is going on.”

He sighed and looked around into the darkness of the park. “It’s not safe anywhere. They want the gifts you have…”

I frowned. “Who’s ‘they?’ What gifts?”

He looked up at the sky again and I followed suit. There were no stars out but the moon was full, giving some light to accompany the street lamps. “I thought I’d get through it but it’s not happening.”

“Phillip, I have no idea what you are talking about.” I touched his shoulder. “You gotta help me here.”

He looked down at me. “You’ll die if you stay where you are. You have to find a way to get out. And when you do, don’t go alone. Never be alone. When you see the others, bring them with you.”

Before I could ask him further questions, the streetlights flickered and I heard an unsettling flapping of large wings from above. For me to hear the wings flapping I knew it was something larger than a bird but what? I looked up at the sky, searching, and saw nothing but the moon. A loud bird’s screech thundered in my ears. I jumped up and turned around, looking into the darkness.

Phillip remained still.

“What the hell was that?” I yelled at him as if he had the answers.

Phillip stood up and sighed. “They’re coming. I gave you some help. When you can, run.”

I stopped searching around for the invisible bird thing and looked back at him. “What help? Run where?”

“To me.” His brown eyes softened as he said that and I was touched with an emotion I couldn’t place.

I grabbed his hands. “We need to get inside; something’s out here. There’s a bar across the street where we can talk.”

“I have to go, Amina.” He brought my right hand up to his lips and kissed it softly. “And you have to wake up.”

“Wake up? Huh? Where are you going?”

The roar came again, along with the bird screech.

This was too much. “The hell!” I shouted in frustration. “We gotta get out of here!” I yanked at his hand but he didn’t budge. “Come on, Phillip. I don’t want to stick around to find out whatever is making those noises.”

“I’m near D.C. in—”

*

My eyes opened to a dark room. I heard footsteps circling around me.

“Wake up, Sleeping Beauty,” said a female voice. Curtains were pulled and sunlight spread through the room.

I squinted, closing one eye against the bright rays.

My eyes still had a thin glaze of sleep over them and I blinked it away to see my surroundings clearer.

“Did you sleep well?” The mystery voice asked.

I looked around the pale green room, filled with generic light wooden furniture. I was on a full-sized hospital bed under white sheets. Across from the foot of the bed was a small, flat-screened TV mounted to the wall. Off to the left of the TV was a door cracked open, revealing a bit of tiled floor. It was probably a bathroom. I turned my head to the window on my right. It was a bright sunny day. I could see tops of vivid green trees, so I knew I was a couple of floors up in a building.

“How do you feel?” said the voice, coming now from my left.

I turned my head and found a woman standing in front of me; she was white and in her early 50s with graying red hair and bright green eyes, with laugh lines at the corners giving away her regular pleasant disposition. I knew her all too well.

Joanie.

She was checking what I assumed were my vitals on a machine next to me. She then looked at the IV bag hanging off a hook; my right arm was stuck with the attached needle.

I opened my mouth to speak, lips dry and cracked. My throat felt like it was on fire and my head felt like someone kept flicking me with their fingers in the middle of my forehead. “Like crap,” I croaked.

“Let me get you some water, honey,” she said, and poured me a glass of water from a pitcher on the side table. “If I had some sliced lemon that’d be even better.”

I sat up slowly, still feeling weak, and took the glass. “That’d give this place a real spa-like feel,” I replied, through sips of water.

Joanie scoffed. “Hardly.” She sighed and put her hands on her slender hips. “Hopefully they leave you alone today. You need to get your strength back.”

I rolled my eyes. “For what, them to come back again the next day? I’d be better with them just finishing me off.”

Joanie sucked her teeth. “Don’t you talk like that, honey. There’s always a better day coming. And you’ve got your brother here. You aren’t alone.”

They want the gifts you have.

Why had that popped in my head just now?

Suddenly, images of a handsome black man with kind eyes popped into my mind.

Phillip.

It was all a dream. One that I finally remembered.

“Feel up to going to breakfast? I can get a wheelchair if you need help. I think it would do you some good to get out of this room. See folk. See Charles.”

I gave a deep sigh and tossed the sheets aside. I swung my sock-covered feet to the side of the bed, scooted to the edge and stood up. My legs buckled but I leaned onto my IV pole and waited until I had my balance again.

“You need the wheelchair, darlin’?” Joanie asked, holding me up by the right arm.

I quickly shook my head.

When you can, run.

I needed my legs. “Just need to fully wake up.”

Joanie nodded. “Take a shower, get dressed. Then we can walk over to the cafeteria. I’ll be waiting outside.”

“Thanks.”

When you can, run.

I needed my energy. I was breaking out of here.

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