Home > Inspire (The Muse #1)

Inspire (The Muse #1)
Author: Cora Carmack



“What nourishes me also destroys me”

Christopher Marlowe

Chapter One


There are balloons filling the entire hallway when I exit my English and Composition class. And rose petals. A trail of pink, delicate rose petals that draw my eye to …


I cross the hall quickly, trampling petals as I go.

“Van, get up.”

My ex is on his knees, blocking the stairwell and all the people trying to leave. All the people who are now staring.

Of course they’re staring. I would be staring too, if it weren’t me. It’s like something out of a bad 80s romantic comedy (who am I kidding? There’s no such thing as a bad 80s romantic comedy. Even the bad ones are brilliant). But this … this is bad.

“Hear me out, Kalli.” Oh damn. I’ve heard that tone before. “I’m lost without you. I can’t think. I can’t sleep.” Can’t shave apparently, judging by the badger living on his face. I feel a little bad for that insensitive thought until he continues, “I can’t write without you, baby.” And that’s what it always comes down to. Not missing me. Missing what I give them. “I haven’t put down a single decent word since you broke up with me.”

This is the thing about dating artistic types. They’re fun and charismatic and passionate, but that passion easily tips over into obsession. Believe me, I’ve been with enough of them to be intimately familiar with that particular character flaw (along with their penchants for narcissism, mood swings, and a general disdain for a good haircut). If I didn’t need them as much as they needed me, I would gladly avoid the whole lot of them. And as someone who has spent a long time dealing with the artistic types, I am entirely qualified to say that their peculiarities get old really fast.

It’s hard enough when a relationship ends. But when a relationship with an artist goes bad, it goes spectacularly bad.

Exhibit A: Van Noffke.

Potentially brilliant literary mind.

Wildly creative.

Total momma’s boy.

And apparently not above humiliating himself.

I take hold of his elbow and pull him to his feet. I tug him away from the stairwell so that people can get by, but it appears that we’re more interesting than whatever classes these people have to get to, and almost all of them stick around for the show.

Gods, I swear.

“Van, we talked about this. I’m sorry that you’re having trouble moving on, but we aren’t getting back together. It just won’t work out.”

I know it’s wrong for me to be frustrated with him. He doesn’t know why we can’t spend any more time together, or that I’ve already stayed longer than I meant to. But I find myself angry all the same. I am continually baffled by humans’ complete and utter lack of survival instincts. You would think some voice in the back of their minds would fight to preserve their safety, their sanity, but if there is such a voice, it’s drowned out by the wild beating of their hearts as they chase after their desires. Success. Power. Love. Sex. It doesn’t matter what the desire is, they all blind just the same.

Van runs his hand through his tousled black hair and gives me a pleading look. I think he might actually cry, and I am so not good with tears.

“It could, Kalliope. It could if you gave me one more chance.”

Ugh. He’s the only person who insists on calling me by my full name. I’d dropped the ‘ope’ off Kalliope ages ago, after I got tired of the pronunciation being butchered by modern mouths. I got Kally-ope, Kay-lee-ope. Someone fumbled it so badly once they called me Cantaloupe. And after one too many times having to draw out my name as Kuh-lie-oh-pee, I just gave it up entirely.

Which is what I have to do with Van now. I need to cut him off completely. For his own good. Maybe one more nudge of inspiration will end this permanently.

I step in close, and Van’s eyes search mine greedily. I place my hand on his cheek, and he immediately seizes my waist and pulls me against his body. His breaths come faster, and for just a moment, I’m swept away by the pleasure that comes from being wanted this much.

That’s what my gift feels like, too. The inspiration. It’s this heady rush, like I’m breathing through every pore of my skin, pouring out the energy that poisons me if I keep it too long. For them though, it’s like a drug that activates all the dormant parts of their brain, opening them up to ideas and thoughts and visions that they could never have on their own. It’s like being high, but sacrificing none of the focus or reasoning skills. But like with most drugs … there are consequences. Addiction being one of them.

I want to step away because I’m not exactly immune to Van either. I have a connection to all of my artists. And when energy passes from me to them … well, let’s just say I enjoy it as much as they do. But it’s my responsibility to make certain that neither of us gets too attached, and if Van’s big gesture is any indication, he’s on the line. Even so, I hold on for a few more seconds. Touch will make this last push more effective. And then we can be done with it.

I concentrate, let down my carefully constructed mental shields, and allow the energy to spill out of me. Like the first breath of air after too long spent underwater, the release consumes me for a moment. Relief. Pleasure. I force my eyes open before the sensation can sweep me away and focus on the task in front of me.

“Van, it’s over, and for that I’m sorry. But we’re not getting back together. We can’t. I won’t. Maybe if you write about how you’re feeling, it will help you get past it … the writer’s block and me.” He tries to pull me closer, but I rip his hands from my waist and step back. It aches for a moment, stopping that exchange of energy, pulling it back into me. But it’s necessary. “Use this. You’ll be fine.”

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