( Photo by Kate#2112 on Foter.com / CC BY )

It looks like fall outside, with leaves falling and changing colors, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. It was almost 90 degrees here today. I’m really ready for fall.

Things have been hectic since my vacation ended, and I’m already ready for my next time off–I have a conference to go to in less than two weeks, and will have a four-day weekend for that (which will be right in the middle of another crazy-busy week at the day-job, naturally).  I also didn’t get to see my sister due to an unavoidable change to her travel plans, so I’m bummed about that. Next trip, I suppose.

The good news right now is the extended weather forecast tells me it will actually feel like fall by the end of the week. I might get to wear long sleeves finally, not just in the office where the thermostat is set on Arctic-blast and we wear sweaters most of the year. That will help me figure out my conference packing, too. Of course, conference rooms are notoriously chilly, too, so sweaters will definitely be on the packing list.

I have to narrow down my workshop wish-list, too. There are a couple of blocks when there are 4-5 great workshops all at the same time, and I’ll have to figure out which 1 is an absolute must and then maybe get recordings of the others afterward so I can still listen to them. One of the best parts of the conference will be seeing writing friends (and hopefully making some new ones!) I haven’t seen in a while. The last few years kinda put a wrench in my usual conference-going, so I haven’t seen most of my writing buddies in a long time. This conference is one of my favorite October things every year, and I’m excited to be able to go back finally.

Before I get back to my re-read of this shifter manuscript, I have a little  snippet from the first shifter story to share with you.

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All he wanted when he got in the house was to find something to eat, perhaps a cold drink, and then to park himself in front of something mindless on the television for the rest of the evening. But when he walked into the otherwise silent house, the phone was ringing. No other cars were in the drive, which meant either he needed to answer it, or listen to it ring until the machine kicked in.

He debated for half a second: cold beer or ringing phone. It would take far less time to reach the telephone than it would to get to the refrigerator in the kitchen, and he’d be able to hear the phone the entire time. Sighing, he headed for the nearest phone just inside the library.

Harley smiled when he saw the name on the caller i.d. It was about time he got lucky. His evening was suddenly looking up. He snagged the phone from the cradle. “Hello, little Tessa.”

There was silence for a moment, and then he heard her inhale shakily. “I need to speak to India please.” Even her voice trembled.

Surely she wasn’t that upset by having him answer the phone. He must have startled her. “She’s not here.” He wasn’t sure he managed to keep the smugness from his tone.

Another shaky breath reached his ear. Then a sniffle.

On alert now, he frowned. “Tessa? What’s wrong, honey?”

“Someone broke into the house,” she whispered.

His heart pounded faster. He stuck his free hand into his pocket and grabbed the car keys. “Call the police, Tessa.” He strode out of the office toward the entry hall.

“I did. They’re here, but they won’t let me go inside. They said I won’t be able to stay here tonight.”

And he could hear in her tone that right now, she didn’t want to stay there. He stopped near the front door. “I’ll be right there. Are you okay? You didn’t walk in on whoever it was?”

“I’m fine.”

He resisted the need to snort his disbelief at that claim. He could hear in her voice that she was far from fine. “I’ll be there in just a couple of minutes, honey.” He pushed the off button on the phone and dropped it to the table beside the door on his way out.

It took him seven minutes and a lot of miles an hour over the speed limit to reach Tessa’s place, and he saw the flashing red lights on the police cars before he even got in view of the house. When he jerked his car to a stop at the end of her very crowded driveway, he saw her, standing outside the front door, arms wrapped over her middle. Shaking.

His protective instinct rose up with a growl as he shoved the door open and climbed out of the car. The cops had left her standing there alone. Unprotected.

Her front door had been smashed in, shattered. There was no need to use that much force, he thought as he strode nearer. Whoever did it had done so maliciously, simply to destroy it.

Tessa had been watching the proceedings inside her house, but she glanced over her shoulder then, her wide eyes dark with fear.

He held up his hands, though he knew she was aware he meant her no harm. “Hey,” he said softly.

Her lower lip quivered, just a little, and then she sank her teeth into it, to keep it still.

“Ah, Tessa.” He stepped nearer and tugged her against himself, feeling the shivers racing over her. He also noticed the way her spine stiffened in his embrace, but he held her securely anyway, rubbing one hand up her back, her soft work shirt warm under his touch. “It’ll be all right.”

She didn’t reply, just hid her face against his shoulder, her breath coming in quick bursts.

He was afraid she was going to cry.

He’d never seen Tessa cry, not in all the years he’d known her. Not when she’d been a scared little girl visiting his rowdy family for the first time. Never when she’d fallen and wound up with bloody knees or hands from some harebrained idea India had had during their play visits. Not when she went away to college on her own. Not even when she’d returned for first her grandma’s and then her aunt’s funerals.

This scared the hell out of him.

Then he noticed the scent, and all his senses went on alert.

Of course he could smell Tessa’s familiar scent, but nearby, he scented shifters. Not his family, not tigers, but something vaguely familiar.

Shifters had done this to Tessa’s house.

________________

Harley is one of my favorites (at the moment, anyway), and I really want to finish polishing his story so he and Tessa can meet the world (not sure when, exactly). Anyway, I’m going back to them.

So how is your fall so far? Actually fall, or is it still more like summer where you are, too?

(   Photo by RebeccaVC1 on Foter.com / CC BY-ND )

 

 

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