Category: excerpt


( Photo by davidmulder61 on Foter.com / CC BY-SA )

I’m not quite to 0 days until vacation, but close…only 2 as I write this, Of course, they’re going to be two very long days involving overtime and bonus paid-time-off added to my month of September, but only two more days. Plus, for our extra long days, we’ll be fed at suppertime, which is nice, on top of the extra PTO just for this week’s extra hours. It is nice to be appreciated.

I’m pretty sure the first day of my vacation will be spent recovering from the past week, and I have an appointment on the second day (and probably another on the last day), but then I have my to-do list, and my oldest son’s birthday for the rest, and possibly a visit with my sister in there, too, depending on how much rain she ends up with from the hurricane and how much clean-up that causes.

One thing I do have on my list that I absolutely will get accomplished is writing. I want to put a big dent in the novella I’m working on for next year’s Common Elements project. Not sure if I’ve told you about that yet, but I will tell you more about it down the road.

I’ve also got to clean up here in my office. I need some work space cleared off, and haven’t had time to do that. It was on last year’s vacation week to-do list, before my vacation plans went to hell.  It’ll be easier to create when the clutter is put away where it belongs.

For now, though, I am going to start getting my things together for the next two days, and get to bed at a reasonable time so I’m well-rested and functional. Before I go, I have a little snippet of the first shifter story to share this week.

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When she made her way along the hall, her heart thundering in her ears, the low rumble of male voices grew louder. Tessa turned the corner and froze. The double doors to Boyd’s study were open wide, and the first person she saw was Harley.

His dark blazer fit snugly over his broad shoulders. The white shirt open at the neck exposed golden muscles.

Her mouth went dry at the sight of him. He was really taking her out to dinner. As a prelude to more. To be with her. Her heart stopped beating for a painful moment.

She couldn’t do this.
His gaze swung away from whatever he’d been looking at on the desk, and heat flared in the tawny depths when his gaze landed on her. He stepped around the desk, toward the hallway, and she resisted her sudden, desperate urge to flee under the very predatory expression on his face. He would only give chase if she did.

Not that she could run in these damned heels anyway.

He paused in the doorway, his amber gaze sliding down from her face to the neckline of her dress. Further. Then, just as slowly and trailing scorching heat all the way, back up to her face. “You look very nice, Tessa,” he murmured.

She realized the voices in the study had gone silent, and she slid along the wall a little, away from him.

A hint of a smile tugged at one corner of his mouth, and he mirrored the move.

She swallowed hard. “Thank you.” She couldn’t do any better than a ragged whisper.

“Are you ready?”

She stared into his eyes for a long moment, nervousness rising up to choke her, and then shook her head.

He raised one eyebrow.

She slid further along the wall, feeling her legs tremble as she side-stepped. Almost to the front door.

He stalked her to the door, the smile on his face growing with each measured step.

She fumbled behind her for the doorknob for several seconds. Surely by now he could hear her heart pounding against her ribs.

“Are you running away?” The question was almost a purr.

She finally closed her fingers around the knob. “Of c-course n-not.” Even her voice was shaking now. Fantastic. She tugged the door open and sidled out through the opening.

He continued to follow, backing her right up against one of the cars.

She hoped it was hers.

“You know it would be easier if you could see where you were going.”

If she turned and ran… A shudder ran through her, and it wasn’t all fear. Not even most of it. Too much anticipation flowed through her veins.

He took one last step toward her, pressing her flat between the car and himself.

Oh, my Gods. She shut her eyes for a second. Every inch of him was hard, and there were some inches pressing into her belly that were extra-hard.

“You’ve run before, Tessa,” he murmured, leaning down so his warm breath brushed her temple and cheek.

She swallowed, wishing for a little moisture in her dry mouth. It seemed every bit of liquid in her was pooling between her legs at the moment.

“You’ve walked away from me, turning your back on me. Presenting.”

She opened her mouth to protest that, knowing it would be a lie, but nothing came out.

He dragged his mouth over hers, lightly, sending a shocking jolt of heat rushing through her. “And now it’s time to do it for real.” He nipped at her lower lip. “Turn around, Tessa.” His hand cupped her hip.

She shook her head.

“You’ve been playing with fire.” His open mouth slid along her cheek. “I’ve enjoyed the play. Now it’s time to get serious.” His hand at her hip slipped between her ass and the side of the car. “Turn around.” He punctuated the command with a sharp nip at her earlobe.

“We have an audience,” she managed, her pulse racing so fast she wondered how long it would take before she either hyperventilated or passed out.

“Go away,” he called without turning around. The front door closed with a bang behind him. “Better?” He sucked her earlobe between his lips for a second.

She shook her head. “Picture windows,” she managed.

He squeezed her bottom, lifting her into the erection that scalded her through their clothing, and caught her mouth with his, deeper this time.

________________

Here’s to a great week for you all!

 

 

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( Photo by Auntie K on Foter.com / CC BY )

Our weekend has been very wet again, but this time it was actually in the forecast, so I planned ahead, knowing what the next week and a half look like for me at the day-job: chores on Saturday, mental health break day on Sunday. I almost accomplished all the chores yesterday, but I definitely accomplished my mental health break today after wrapping up the last couple of chores. I watched a couple of movies, read a favorite author and relaxed. It was a good day for it, too, since it rained pretty hard most of the day. It probably would have been a good day for a nap, too, but I had other things on my lazy Sunday to-do list. Tomorrow it’ll be back to the insanity at the day-job, with no break for about 9 days. Then it’s vacation week, and I will probably spend the entire first day doing nothing to recuperate.

Before I get my things together for tomorrow, I have a little story snippet for you, from Hunting Medusa.

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She wouldn’t be able to come back to her house if she didn’t kill him, concern or no concern. He hadn’t needed to take such good care of her, though, in order to keep her alive. She frowned. He could have handcuffed her in the basement and tossed down bread and water. She pushed aside the brewing confusion—she had bigger problems right now than trying to figure out the Harvester’s motivation.

He steered her downstairs to the kitchen, and she didn’t argue when he pointed to one of the chairs at the table and went to work on breakfast.

Even if she did kill him, it sounded like his cousin was well on his way to finding her, which meant she still couldn’t come back to her house.

The thought made her a bit sad. She loved this house—alone in the woods, with the beautiful forest in summer, and a fantastic view of the valley below in the fall and winter. Even if she was lonely sometimes.

His laptop beeped from its spot on the counter, and he turned away from the stove to look at it. His expression hardened in a flash. “Damn.”

Andi didn’t like that look. “What?”

“Stavros.”

A shiver snaked its way up her spine, and she folded her arms over her chest. “Not so happy with you?”

“He’s already on his way back. He’ll be here by tonight.”

She shot to her feet. Dealing with one Harvester at a time was a challenge, but she couldn’t possibly handle two. Not now. Thalia’s words rang in her head. Danger is coming from more than one direction. Well, hell.

Kallan caught her gaze. “We can’t wait until tomorrow, Andrea.”

She shook her head, panic freezing her lungs, then swelling and rising into her throat so it nearly choked her.

“All right. Breakfast, and then we need to go.” He stirred something in the pot and then shut off the burner.

Andi didn’t want breakfast. She just wanted to move. Her stomach churned uneasily, and her head started to thump in time with her heart.

He put a bowl on the table in front of her and touched her shoulder. “You need to eat.”

She glanced down at the bowl, filled with steaming oatmeal, sprinkled with cinnamon and raisins, and felt a lump in her throat. “I’m not hungry.”

“You’ll need it later.” He pushed her shoulder gently, and she sank back onto the chair.

He sat beside her, tucking into his own breakfast.

After a moment, she picked up her spoon and stuck it into the oatmeal. He was right, damn him.

“Andrea.”

She looked up at his gentle tone.

“Will you trust me not to let him get you?”

How could she trust a man destined to kill her?

As if he read the question on her face, his jaw clenched. “I promise, agaph, he won’t kill you. I won’t let him.”

His vow rang out in the still room, and for some reason, it made her panic subside just a little. She let out a shaky breath and lifted some oatmeal to her mouth.

________________

Now I’m off to wrap up a couple little things before I call it a day. I hope you all have an easy week ahead!

 

( Photo by Dougtone on Foter.com / CC BY-SA )

I actually can see the light at the end of the tunnel at long last, in more than one situation. My crazy work schedule has just under 3 weeks before my vacation (and I may get to visit with my sister that week, so yay!), and we’re starting to wind down the settlement of my aunt’s estate, finally. That will be a huge relief to wrap that up after all this time. But I’m starting this (short) work week with a horrible cold. One of my co-workers had it last week, and mine started Saturday. I’m just glad it waited till then, because we went out Friday night to see a band we like, and it would have sucked to be sick for that. I have to say, though, I’m not looking forward to working while feeling this way, especially when we’re so busy. But grown-ups have to suck it up, right?

I had big plans for the weekend, since it’s Labor Day, so an extra day off meant chores, reading, writing. Or just resting and generally being lazy and grumpy while blowing my nose non-stop instead. My head hurts too much to read, and I have been sneezing non-stop. I did think I might get to sleep a little later than usual this morning, but the company that has been replacing the roof and siding on my next door neighbor’s house actually came out to work today, bright and early, so no resting going on. I should get some earplugs maybe. I’ve given up on the cold medicine, because I didn’t notice any difference at all yesterday or last night, so I’ll just keep popping vitamin C tablets like a fiend, drinking soup and lots of tea, and go to bed early tonight.

I do want to get some reading done, though, before the weekend is over, so I think I’m going to give that another try shortly. But I also wanted to say hi, and drop in a little story snippet for the week, from the first tiger shifter story.

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India had given her more than one speculative glance during the evening, but thankfully, she hadn’t asked the questions Tessa knew were on her mind. It was late when they returned to the house, so Tessa didn’t argue about spending the night–the house was quiet when they went inside, and she hoped everyone was already sleeping. Or at least, that Harley was. Remembering what she’d let him do earlier kept her awake far later that night. How could she be so weak?

She wanted to settle into bed after India went into her suite, but her brain wouldn’t stop circling back to what she’d done earlier. She paced the room for a few minutes, trying to force her mind to clear.

When pacing didn’t work, she went to the window. The small solar lights below lit up the shadowy gardens in places the moonlight didn’t reach.
Brighter lights shone in the pool, where a large shape moved through the water.

Harley. Her mouth went dry. Beautiful.

And naked.

She swallowed hard, watching his powerful strokes through the water, strong arms and legs propelling him quickly from one end of the pool to the other.

It was a very pretty sight, she mused, admiring the play of his muscles, his sleek, wet skin. Her cheeks heated.

He stopped suddenly at the near end of the pool, lifting his head to look up at her.

Caught. The warmth in her cheeks spread to the rest of her.

He couldn’t see her. She’d turned off the bedroom light when India had gone to bed.

But she knew he knew she was there, even though he resumed swimming his laps, a little slower now.

And when he climbed the steps at the shallow end of the pool a few minutes later, she covered her mouth with one hand. Whoa!

Harley, naked, was an incredible sight. And wet, naked, aroused Harley made her knees weak.

He picked up a towel from one of the chairs nearby, and rubbed his back briskly, as he turned his face up toward her window. She backed away, heart pounding. He did not know she was there. He couldn’t.

She crawled into bed and curled into a ball in the center of the mattress, but no matter how tight she closed her eyes, she couldn’t stop seeing him emerging from the pool, water sluicing down his body, his erection jutting out in front of him.

That would have mortified her teenage self, and her adult self was more than a little embarrassed to have been gawking.

But wow… That would fuel plenty of fantasies in the future.

And kept her wide awake for hours.

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( Photo by out of ideas on Foter.com / CC BY-SA )

Now I’m off to try to read a little before I call it a day. I’ll see you back here next weekend!

 

( Photo by fPat on Foter.com / CC BY )

Just when it looks like things at the day-job will settle down, they don’t. I’ve just finished two consecutive 50+ hour weeks at the day-job, and my brain is tired. We also had a big schedule change for mid-September, which means things will be insane again right through the day before my vacation starts. I’m kind of glad we aren’t going away for the whole week now, because all I’m going to want to do the first day is recuperate.

I have been sneaking in a little writing time, though, on days when I manage a lunch break, or before I dive into the work in the mornings again, so I’m making a little progress on this novella I’ve committed to for next year. (I’m also glad it is for next year, not this fall!) Since I worked again yesterday, then came home to dinner with all my guys for a change (yay!), today is about chores and catch-up, and when I get to that point, a little reading time and some writing, before I go to bed so I can start all over again tomorrow.

I hope you have all been finding more down-time than I’ve managed in the past two weeks. I know it’s back-to-school season, too, so there are plenty of things to accomplish for that successful transition. I kind of miss those days.

Before I go wrap up the last of my chores for the weekend, I have a little snippet of tiger shifter #4 to share with you today.

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“Just wondering how you’ve gone so long without them catching up before now.” He brushed his thumb at the side of her neck.

She finished chewing the briny olive slower than she needed to, debating with herself. Finally she swallowed and reached for another. “I’ve moved around a lot,” she said at last. “And evidently Edwin hired actual professionals this time, instead of sending pack-mates again.” When she slid a quick glance up, she could see Anton was pondering her words and judging her honesty.

“He’s already sent pack-mates after you?”

“Several times.” She lifted one shoulder. “I’m not dumb, but I haven’t made it that hard either, by using a fake name or anything.”

He didn’t speak, his green gaze too sharp.

She ate the second olive, wondering if he was thinking how stupid could one woman be.

“How many times before now?” he asked after several moments.

Laney counted in her head. Vegas, Tulsa, Cleveland, Indy, Williamsburg… “Six.” She smiled a little, thinking about Baltimore.

“What happened?”

She slid a sidelong glance at him, still smiling. “I don’t know what you mean.

Unexpectedly, he grinned, and her breath caught.

Wow. And she’d thought he was attractive before. This, though…

“What did you do to them?” His thumb rubbed a little circle against her skin. “I know you did something, from the look on your face.”

Laney took a shallow breath. The tiger wasn’t just smart and dangerous, he was gorgeous. “I might have sent gifts to his room while I disabled his car.”

“What kind of gifts?”

“Pizza and then a hooker, followed a little later by the cops.”

He laughed, and goose bumps rose on her skin. “I like it. Devious and clever. You should come work with me.”

She didn’t care how strong the wine was, her mouth was dry. She took a sip. “I have a job, thanks,” she murmured, her gaze stuck on his smile, which faded after her words.

“He probably found you that way.”

She nodded once, her own smile fading. “Probably.” And if Edwin had resorted to a pro, he would be able to find her that way again, no matter where she went, dammit. She wasn’t sure how much a fake identity would cost, but she had a feeling it would do more than dent her stash of emergency funds. Shit.

Anton picked up another salami roll. “Open.”

Automatically, she obeyed, though she wondered now how she could stay under the radar without having to spend a fortune on a new identity.

Until his thumb brushed her mouth. Heat flashed through her.

Her gaze shot to his face. His expression hadn’t changed, but she noticed his eyes were shadowed. She made herself concentrate on chewing, though she couldn’t look away. Finally, when she’d swallowed the last of the appetizer, she cleared her throat. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

His lips curved a little, but the smile didn’t come close to reaching his eyes. “When was the last time you were on a date?”

She blushed, finally forcing her gaze away. “A long time ago,” she murmured. “And he didn’t look at me like that.” Like she was the appetizer, main course, and dessert.

Anton chuckled as he picked up his glass. “Not a good date, then.”

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I hadn’t originally planned a story for Anton, but I discovered as I was writing the first two stories in the series that he needed one, too.  What do you think?

Now I’m off to finish the chores–ie, making my giant batch of salad so I have lunch and/or dinner for work the next few days, and the rest of the laundry, before I can do a little relaxing.

How are you winding down your summer? Relaxing, or super-busy?

( Photo by Tambako the Jaguar on Foter.com / CC BY-ND )

 

 

I’d like to be counting down to my vacation week, but it’s still too far away for me to do that. So instead, I’m going to keep my head down and keep writing in my spare moments.  I actually can see the light at the end of the tunnel at the day-job. We have a new trainee starting this week, but it will be about a month before she’s ready to actually do the job, so we still have a few crazy weeks ahead before we can slow down and catch our breath. And right after that is my vacation week, and I have plenty of things on that to-do list already, aside from the trip to the beach.

 

Actually, I have a pretty huge to-do list in general.  I need to break that down into categories, like ‘do now’, ‘do by the end of the year’, and ‘do when you can’. I used to be much better about weekly to-do lists and goals, and need to get back into that. I used to break down the yearly goals I set to monthly, and then weekly, by day. Now I do my goals for the year and break them down by month, but the past two and a half years, plans kind of went to hell with all of the family things we had going on. I really have to get my brain back into list-mode. I love a good list, and checking things off when they’re completed–I do them at the day-job all the time, I’ve just gotten out of the habit in the rest of my life and I need to fix that.

Exercise used to be on my weekly lists, and that’s been off the radar for a long time–when I worked retail, I got plenty of exercise in during the work-day, but now I sit at a desk all day, which isn’t so good for the size of my behind. One of my teammates and I actually added a daily walk to our work calendar so we get up and move for at least ten minutes once a day (unless all hell has broken loose and we’re lucky to make it to the bathroom), and are adding a second one this week.

I used to have page goals on my weekly goals as well, which went a long way toward making the annual writing goals. I’m already plotting for my 2019 goals that I won’t set till December about how to get that figured in early so I make better progress again.  Right now, I’m still studying and researching things I need to know for jumping into the self-publishing pool (which, by the way, is a scary place!). There are a lot of things to know and do there, and since I’ve never done some of them before, I want to make sure I’m doing it right. Too many people put books out themselves who have clearly not done enough homework, and I don’t want to be one of them. I want the Medusa trilogy to go out into the world ready to fly. Some more in-depth study will be happening during my vacation week.

I am going to get some fun time in, along with all of the work. We have concert tickets for the end of the month for a group with some musicians my husband and I both like from their previous bands, so that will be an interesting evening. And next month, right before my vacation week, a friend and I are having a mini-retreat the day before the next Nora Roberts signing, and I can’t wait. We’ll head down the day before the signing, check into our hotel and spend the rest of the day writing, and then be at the signing the next morning.

Before I get back to weekend chores, I have a little story snippet to share with you, from the first tiger shifter story (which is still currently nameless).

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His father’s words stuck with him the rest of the night, and again the next day. Boyd was right. Dealing with Tessa would take all his attention.

Now if only he could cross paths with her.

He got lucky the next evening. India had left a note in the kitchen that Tessa was stopping by after work to pick up some books, just in case India wasn’t back from New York on time.

He grinned to himself as he made his way to where he knew she’d go when she arrived. India was, indeed, still in New York, so she wouldn’t be there to meet Tessa.

But he would.

He heard the front door, and her laughter reached his ears along with his brother Joe’s voice. Joe’s heavier footsteps continued up the stairs, and Tessa’s slower, lighter ones came along the hallway. To the library. To him.

Harley lounged in his chair, deliberately not letting her know he was there. How long would it take her to notice his presence?

She dallied for a few minutes in front of the shelves that housed the African cat books even though he knew she’d read all of them at least twice. He took the time to admire her toned legs beneath the hem of her khaki skirt. The shape of her hips as she leaned her weight on one leg. Then she meandered past the native plants of New England shelf, her fingers trailing along the spines as she went.

He imagined what her fingers would feel like sliding over his skin that way, and his body came to attention.

She stopped in front of the garden design area, head tilted. After a moment, she pulled a book out, then another, then several more, and lugged the whole stack to the wide worktable several steps away from him.

He held his breath.

She dropped the books loudly, and then froze when her gaze landed on him.

“Hello, little Tessa,” he said softly.

Panic flitted through her eyes, and her pulse beat madly in the hollow of her throat. “Harley.” It came out strangled.

“Planning a garden?” He stayed where he was, hoping she wouldn’t flee.

She lifted a shoulder jerkily. “Someday.”

He stifled his grin. She was still poised for flight. “What kind of garden?”

She blinked at him. “What?”

“What kind of garden?” he repeated evenly. “Formal, cottage? Something in between?”

A tiny frown line appeared between her eyebrows, as if she were trying to decide his intent. “Probably cottage style,” she said at last, dropping her gaze to the stack of books in front of her. “Formal gardens are pretty, but require more work than I have time for.” She glanced at him again, wariness clouding her eyes.

He leaned forward in his seat, watching her tense still more. The first hint of her arousal scented the air. “I haven’t seen you for a couple days, Tessa.” He pushed to his feet.

She swallowed hard, blushing. “I’ve been busy at work.”

Liar. “I thought maybe you were avoiding me.” He moved to the work table, standing opposite her so he could see the way her eyes darkened.

“Of course not,” she murmured, dropping her gaze to the books again.

“I’m glad to hear that, since I was hoping to kiss you again.”

Her gaze jumped to his face. “We agreed that wasn’t a good idea.”

Harley shook his head slowly, holding her gaze. “I never agreed to that.” He took a step toward the corner of the table, then another, until he rounded the table and stood beside her.

Tessa’s prey instincts were good. She was fairly quivering with the need to run. But she held her ground anyway. He touched her arm lightly with his knuckles and watched the goose bumps lift along her soft skin.

You said it would be a good idea not to kiss again, but I’d never agree to something like that when I know it’s a fat lie.”

Her eyes widened a little more. “I disagree.”

“Liar.” He slid his hand higher, until he could catch her warm nape against his palm.

She set her hands on his chest when he turned her. “Whatever happened to leaving siblings’ friends alone? Or not screwing with the humans?”

He’d been bending toward her and it was his turn to freeze. “That’s Adar’s opinion, Tessa. Not mine.” He pulled her slightly closer. Now it was his turn to lie. “And all I’m talking about is a little kissing.”

Her gaze landed on his lips and her tongue darted out at the corner of her mouth, almost too quickly for him to see.

Almost. He stifled a groan and bent to kiss her, quickly. Lightly. And again. Again. Until she opened her mouth, her fingers curling into his shirtfront.

Gotcha!

One kiss turned into two, into five, until he lost count. The taste of her was addicting.

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I hope you all get in some down-time this week.  Find a hammock and take a book along!

Young lady reading the book in the hammock on tropical beach at sunset

( Photo by ikewinski on Foter.com / CC BY )

Now that party month is over, it’s back to nose-to-the-grindstone mode for me. Last month was also insanely busy at the day-job since we’re still short-handed, but I did manage to get some writing done. Have I mentioned the novella project I’m working on for next year? I’ve been working on that when I get a few minutes to break at the day-job, and just cranked out a few thousand words on that this afternoon. I’ll share more about that another day, though.

Anyway, things aren’t going to slow down at the day-job quite yet. We have a really heavy week coming up in two weeks, and then we have a new teammate starting to train, so maybe in a month things will lighten up for the rest of us a little bit. Just in time for my vacation week at the end of September. Plans for that have changed, no Maine this fall after all, but I am going to sneak off to the beach for a couple days. I’m disappointed not to be going to my favorite state this year, but I’ll have time to do some of the things I had planned to do on my vacation week last summer that never happened because instead I was working on my late aunt’s house. Not really what I was hoping for when I planned my vacation week, but necessary tasks. I may even give myself a head-start with some of those things by working on a couple of those projects on weekends in the next month or so, at least one day each weekend while I’m already doing my regular weekly household chores, so I can still have the other day to read, to write, and to relax just a little.

We still have projects at my aunt’s house, which is now my boys’ house. That makes me happy–I’ve been going to that house my entire life, because it belonged to my grandparents before it was my aunt’s. The boys are working on making it their own–we spent a weekend ripping up carpets last fall, and they’ve been painting and making other changes to suit them–but it’s still family, so I’m glad.  I have some outdoor projects to get to there before winter comes, but those aren’t high on my priority list right now.

Maybe Maine next year instead. In the meantime, I’m going to keep working on my writing and revising so I can get my Medusa stories out into the world, again for the first, and for the first time for the second and third books. Before I go find something for supper, I have a little story snippet to share with you, this week from Freeing Medusa, the third in the trilogy.

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Katharine watched him, rather like she might look at a strange animal, he thought. “I don’t understand why you would do this,” she said finally. “You have a home and a job, your own business. A life.”

Hunter resisted the need to sigh, but only barely. “You’re not safe, and I’d never send anyone out alone when I could help keep them safe.”

“So you have a knight in shining armor complex.”

He glared at her. “I don’t. But I have a vocal conscience.”

She narrowed her own eyes. “Believe me when I tell you I’ll be fine.”

He shook his head. “No can do.”

She shoved to her feet.

“And I’ve promised your family I’ll keep you protected.”

She froze, looking poised to stomp away. “I don’t suppose you’ll feel any remorse for playing the family guilt card, do you?”

He smiled, knowing he’d just won another skirmish. “None.”

“Of course you don’t.” She shut her eyes for a second. “How about the guilt I’ll have if anything happens to you?”

“Not so much.” He settled deeper into his chair. “You still don’t trust me completely. I’m okay with that,” he continued when she shot a sidelong look at him. “I know I’m capable, and you will, too, eventually.”

“How many men have you killed?”

He blinked at her, then cleared his throat. “That I know of?”

Kat folded her arms on her chest, her gaze leveled on his face.

He considered for a moment not answering. Then he reconsidered. “Probably a couple dozen, minimum. Afghanistan, a few other places.” He shrugged, one-shouldered. “One in the line of duty as a cop.” He could still remember the look on that guy’s face–it broadcast the man’s intent even better than the weapon he’d held. “I would’ve put a bullet in that guy in your bedroom, Kat, if he’d made the tiniest move in your direction after I got there. He knew it, too. It’s why he went out the window.” Hunter dropped his foot back to the floor.

She still didn’t look convinced.

He pushed to his feet. “Are you angling to be restrained?” he asked lightly. “I do have handcuffs, you know.”

Her eyes widened, and her mouth dropped open. “What? Of course not.” Still, color tinted her cheeks, and he imagined she was thinking about the possibility. “No,” she said more firmly, shifting her gaze away.

“You let me know when you change your mind.” He kept his tone light, moving toward her.

Kat glanced at him. “Don’t stalk me.”

He smiled. “Do I look like I’m trying to sneak?” He reached out and caught one of her wrists, pulling her closer despite her reluctance. “I was trying to be up-front. If I’d been sneaking just now, like that, you could send me back to basic training for a refresher.”

She gave a tug at her wrist, but he held on, just enough to keep her where she was. “Hunter.”

He let his smile widen. “I understand trusting me with your life is a lot different than trusting me with your body.” He enjoyed the color deepening in her cheeks. “But please try.”

She studied his face for a few long heartbeats. “You know it’s got nothing to do with you personally, right? I just don’t trust that many people,” she said finally.

“I know.” He leaned closer, bending to rest his forehead against hers. “Give it a try.”

She sighed. “I can’t make any promises, but I’ll try.”

His heart bounced harder in his chest. “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

She rolled her eyes and gave him a shove, but he wrapped his other arm around her back, and her eyes widened a little. “Hunter–”

He kissed her, just a brush of his lips over hers, still holding her gaze. “Thank you.” And when he released her, he was gratified to see the way her eyes darkened.

________________

Now I’m off to find some supper and get in some reading time before I gear up for this crazy week at the day-job.  More studying of the things I need to do before I am ready to dive into the self-publishing pool.  Keep going, on whatever you’re working on this week!

( Photo by mikecogh on Foter.com / CC BY-SA )

 

 

Now that the big day has passed, I guess it’s time to wind down the festivities. There is only so much cake and ice cream one person can eat (or should eat, maybe, if they’re trying to be conscientious about getting healthier). Still, the month only has a few more days, so maybe we just downsize the intake of birthday cake…

( Photo on Foter.com )

I spent part of my birthday morning at the eye doctor for a very overdue exam, and just ordered new (and much stronger) glasses, but for fun, I followed it up with an hour on the massage table, and then the boys came over for dinner and cake, which made me happy. The hubby and I are winding down my birthday weekend with dinner at my favorite Asian restaurant tonight, before I buckle down to work again.  Work = the day-job and the writing job. That said, I’ll keep this post short and sweet for a change. I have a story snippet for you, from the third Medusa story, Freeing Medusa.

________________

Katharine bolted upright in bed, breathing hard, and Hunter shot upright, too, suddenly wide awake, and caught one of her flailing arms.

“Easy,” he murmured, “easy, Kat.” He set his other hand on her back.

She went suddenly still, her breath coming too quickly. “Sorry,” she managed after a moment. “Bad dream.”

“Lie down.” He loosened his hold on her wrist, gratified when she obeyed him, dropping back onto her pillow again. He eased down beside her, stroking his hand along her arm, lightly, from wrist to elbow and back. “What was the dream?”

She took a deep breath and held it for a moment, then let it out slowly. “Athena.”

Hunter exhaled, too. “You okay?”

He heard the movement her head made on the pillow as she shook it. “She’s angry.”

“You can tell that from a dream?”

“Not sure it’s just a dream, exactly,” she said softly. “Not this time.”

“What do you mean?” He let his fingers stay circled around her wrist, feeling the rush of her pulse beneath his forefinger.

“I know what a dream feels like.” She went silent for a moment again. “This wasn’t a dream. This is something else. She was with Aristotle, and She’s furious that I’m not dead.”

Hunter frowned in the dark, wishing he could see her eyes. “And?”

Another rustle of the blankets. Maybe a shrug, judging by the slight motion of her arm in his hold. “He’s afraid. That’s it.”

He smiled at the frustration he heard in her tone, but only for a second. An angry Goddess couldn’t be a good thing. Not when the Goddess in question had placed a curse on a family that had lasted for millennia. “Does She rely on them to do all the work as far as tracking the Medusa?”

Her breathing slowed a little. “I don’t know,” she said after a few seconds. “We could find out from Andi’s husband Kallan, I suppose.”

“You’d think a Goddess would be able to give them an unfair advantage in their hunt, wouldn’t you?”

Her pulse eased a bit under his fingers. “You would.” She sounded as if she were seriously thinking about it.

“It sounds like She doesn’t, though. I wonder why?” Hunter rubbed his thumb along the back of her hand.

If Athena wanted the Medusa dead so badly, one would think She’d give her Harvesters every advantage She could.

“Maybe She can’t?”

It was definitely a question, he noted. Her tone was uncertain, plain even in the dark.

Hunter lifted her hand to his mouth and brushed a quick kiss across the back of her fingers. “I don’t know, but we can try to figure it out in the morning. Can you go back to sleep?”

Her fingers tightened in his hold for a quick second before relaxing again. “I can try.”

He let their joined hands drop to the bed between them. “Try, honey.” He listened to her for a while, the tiny shifting motions as she settled back into the bed, her breathing slowing gradually. While his own brain raced.

Why wouldn’t Athena help Her Harvesters? Why would She expect them to do all the work on their own?

Maybe She couldn’t find the Medusa Herself.

He lay awake for hours, thinking about the possibilities and what they might mean for Katharine, until his brain finally shut down from sheer exhaustion.

He jerked awake again when Kat stretched in her sleep, and he realized he was wrapped around her, the soft curve of her ass snuggled into his groin, one of her breasts only inches from where his hand rested on her ribs. He shut his eyes for a second, allowing himself to savor the feel of her against him, just for another couple heartbeats before he eased away from her, putting a few much needed inches between her cotton-clad butt and his strengthening erection.

He took a slow breath, but all that got him was a bigger lungful of her scent. He rolled onto his back and slid one foot up to bend his leg. The sheet and blanket weren’t nearly as warm as Katharine.

She shifted beside him again, rolling first onto her back, then onto her side to face him.

Hunter stifled a groan when her hand landed on his abdomen and her leg brushed his. Her fingers flexed along his belly, and he covered her hand with his own to keep her from sliding her fingers any lower.

A sleepy sound escaped her as she snuggled closer again.

Torture. He shut his eyes. It was torture to have her fingers so close.

Her knee rubbed along his thigh, higher.

His heart pounded harder, drowning out the quiet voice of reason in his head that was attempting to remind him he could wait until she was ready for any more intimacy.

Her knee nudged at his erection, and the groan rumbled up from his throat this time. He slid away, until he could put one foot on the floor and get out of bed.

Kat’s hand moved across the blanket for a few seconds, as if she were searching for something, then stopped, and her breathing evened out again.

He shut his eyes for a heartbeat, then turned away to gather clean clothes and head for the shower. A cold shower.

________________

Okay, maybe one more cake, just to finish off the month.

I hope you all have a great week!

 

 

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

The fun we had planned for last week went off without a hitch, including going to the booksigning yesterday. It was so much fun to meet an author whose books I’ve loved for many years, and to see another I haven’t seen in a few years, and, of course, my idol, Nora. Plus we had amazing lunch afterward, and I brought home something inspirational, which is now sitting on the top of my desk, staring at me from above my monitor:

 Sometimes you need a little reminder, right? I’m thinking this should be my motto for the next year, from this birthday to the next one. What do you think?

We still have a few crazy days to get through at the day-job in the coming week, so I’ll be head down, nose to the grindstone for a couple days, and then will be able to breathe for a couple days heading into my birthday next weekend.  And speaking of next weekend, I think I might do a little party over on my Facebook page next weekend, too, to celebrate the big day. A little virtual cake and ice cream (No calories, so that is definitely on my diet plan!), maybe a few gifts to give away.  If you take a peek over there, I’ve got an event page set up, so you can join in the fun with me next Saturday, July 28, 2018.

In the meantime, I have a little story snippet to share with you from one of my shifter stories.  I had intended that Joe’s story would be the third and final in that series, but right now his is the fifth story, and there are a few other characters in the series who really need to have stories, so it looks like Joe might not be the last after all.

________________

Joe listened to Piper and Keely down the hall, the little girl’s tone tinged with a whine. He smiled. She didn’t want to go to bed, but he’d bet she’d be sound asleep in under ten minutes. Probably as soon as her head hit the pillow in her little pink bed–she’d had a long day with his nieces and nephews, playing all over his parents’ house. He wondered if she’d ever had so many playmates all at once before.

His smile faded a little. Keely had enjoyed herself much more than her mother had.

Piper hadn’t wanted to go in the first place, but she’d been polite. The wariness had never eased, though, not all afternoon and evening, no matter what his mother had said or done.

He wondered when she’d trusted anyone last, even just for casual contact. Maybe not in a couple of years. Probably not in a couple of years, he thought, shaking his head. Chris.

Joe listened. No sounds from the hallway now. Probably a good sign.

He paced to the first bookcase and stroked the spine of a history book with one forefinger, then turned at a whisper of sound.

Piper stood at the door, eyes still wary.

“Is she out?” he asked lightly

“Like a light.” She made no move to come into the room. “I think–”

“Sit down, Piper. She’ll be fine.”

She blinked.

“I promise. And you need to relax. Being on guard all the time must be exhausting.”

Something flashed in her eyes, but she looked away before he could identify it. “I was going to say I think I’ll find a book and a quiet corner to read, out of your way.”

He frowned. “You’re not in my way, Piper.”

She gave him a steady look for a few seconds. “I imagine you’re used to having your house to yourself.”

He shrugged. “But I spend most of my time at the office or my parents’, so I’m hardly ever alone.”

“And now you’re not even alone when you get home,” she said softly.

He huffed out a rough breath. “By my choice, pretty Piper.”

She flushed and looked away again, and he realized what he’d called her–he used to call her that when they were kids, usually when she was dirty or injured from some escapade the three off them had survived. Fuck.

“Sorry,” he muttered, shoving his hair away from his face. “I don’t know why I said that. Not that it isn’t true,” he added. Fuck, he needed to shut his mouth. “Find a book, find a comfortable seat. You’re not in my way, Piper. If I didn’t want you here, I wouldn’t have brought you here.”

She swallowed, her expression even more guarded. “Why did you bring us here, Joe?”

He studied her for a moment. “Sit down, Piper,” he said, more gently. “Please.”

She dropped onto the arm of the chair just inside the door, and he noted the stiff set of her shoulders and mouth.

He took a slow breath. “I brought you here because you needed somewhere to go. Somewhere safer than where you were.”

Her lips thinned into a flat line for a second for a second. “I am not a charity case, Joe Wentworth.”

He quelled the urge to smile at her careful tone, just on the verge of snotty. “No, you’re not, but let me help you anyway.”

Her brows dipped a little. Finally, she sniffed. “I’ll go to the office on Monday, to interview, but I don’t want to stay here any longer than absolutely necessary, so I’m going to look for a place and get out of your way as soon as I can.”

He didn’t protest that, just nodded once.

Suspicion clouded her eyes, as if she’d expected an argument.

Joe relaxed a little. “I was thinking about a piece of that cake Mom sent home. How about you?”

Piper’s eyes widened a little, and then she shook her head. “It’s too late for me, thanks.”

He didn’t argue that either, just straightened. “Find a book, Piper. Relax.” He passed her on his way out of the room, and resisted ruffling her hair. It had annoyed her when they were kids and would probably annoy her more now. He wondered absently if her hair was still as soft as it had been then.

The idea made him frown. He had no business wondering things like that.

He shook off the idea as he uncovered the chunk of cake they’d brought home and found a knife in the dishwasher. She should have some cake, too–she was too thin. He cut off a slender piece for her and a bigger piece for himself, then got a couple of forks and carried the cake back to the library, where Piper was kneeling in front of a bookshelf.

She frowned when she looked up, then blinked when he dropped to his knees beside her.

“It’s just a little piece.” He held out the plate.

For a moment, she stared at him, before her gaze dropped to the dessert. “It was good,” she murmured, reaching for the plate.

He stuck his fork into his own cake and lifted a big bite into his mouth.

Piper cut off a much smaller piece, chewing it slowly, her eyes closing briefly, as if she were savoring it.

Joe wondered when anyone had last taken care of her. Her brother wouldn’t have, he wasn’t the type. Keely’s father? He frowned. He didn’t even know who that was. Now didn’t seem the time to ask, though. Maybe another day.

Or he could dig up the info on his own–and kick the guy’s ass for leaving them to fend for themselves this way.

________________

Now I’m going to do a little reading, and some more writing. Oh, and I’ll have a guest blog post up at Delilah Devlin’s blog later this week, Friday, July 27th, so I hope you’ll visit me there, too.

Maybe a little more cake before I go…

( Photo by bochalla on Foter.com / CC BY-SA )

 

I spent a couple hours today doing something that required no work and was totally fun–a local movie theater is running older movies for week-long stints this summer, and this week is one of my all-time favorites, The Princess Bride, and a wonderful little birthday gift to myself (even better, because I had a certificate, my friend and I spent less than $3 between us for our tickets and snacks!) in the middle of the month.

( Photo by fguillen on Foter.com / CC BY )

I’m dating myself, but I don’t care. I remember seeing this in the theater when it was first released, and I loved it. It is one of those movies now that my kids and husband hate to watch with me, because I recite lines along with the movie. Which is why I went with a friend today.  Haha! We recited lines together, along with other moviegoers in the theater.  I have the movie-release paperback in my book room, with Buttercup and Westley on the cover, and it’s been well-read, so the spine is very creased, and the covers battered. But it is a feel-good movie, and I will never not watch it given the opportunity.  It ticks all the boxes, just like for the little boy in the movie: adventure, sports, revenge, humor, and romance. My husband actually got me this shirt a few years ago…

( Photo by capsun on Foter.com / CC BY-ND ) I still love it (and wear it). I may even go back to the theater mid-week to see it one more time on the big screen. Hey, one of my co-workers has never seen it, so someone has to take her, right?

The day-job is still so insane, I don’t want to think about it till tomorrow morning when I get there, so I’ll delay it a little longer with a story excerpt for you, from the second Medusa manuscript.

________________

She watched him sit, her fingers curling into her palms to keep from reaching out for him. Ryder was temporary. She couldn’t have anything permanent. Clearing her throat, she forced her gaze away from him, sliding it around the room. His office had a second door, and she moved toward it.

It opened into an office almost exactly the same as Ryder’s though not on a corner.

“That’s Danny’s office. The door on the other side of his opens into Joel’s office, and his is another corner room,” Ryder said from behind her.

She nodded, closing the door again. “Why doesn’t Danny have a corner office?”

He grinned when she turned around. “He’s afraid of heights. Getting him to take any of the outside wall offices was a real battle.”

She smiled reluctantly. “Why not let him have an office without windows?”

“He’s a partner, he’s got to have a big office.”

She shook her head. “Men are so dumb sometimes,” she muttered, sliding her fingers over the empty shelf of the bookcase in his corner.

“I heard that.”

She didn’t reply, her mind turning possibilities. She sat in one of the two chairs facing his desk and crossed one leg over the other. “Nice place.”

“I think we’ve established that.” He rested his forearms on the edge of the desk. “Are you coming up with ideas?”

She nodded. “Yes. I’ll have to think about it for a while, though. And you’ll have to let me know what kind of style you prefer, what sort of info you want on the site.”

Ryder’s dark eyes studied her for a few moments. “Okay. Have you seen enough?”

“Yes.” She pushed to her feet, pausing when she felt a low twist in her gut suddenly, and all the fine hairs at her nape stood on end.

Someone was out there watching her.

She shifted her gaze to the two walls of windows, her heart beating up into her throat.

“What’s wrong?”

She shook her head. “I’m probably being stupid, but I feel like someone’s watching me.” A dangerous someone.

Ryder rose in a flash, his sharpened gaze shifting from one nearby building to another. There were far too many windows. “I don’t see anyone.”

Neither did she. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t a Harvester out there watching her. Waiting.

“Let’s go.” He moved around the desk, taking her arm as they left his office.

Philomena’s breath wanted to come faster, and she had to force herself to breathe slowly, evenly.

Downstairs, they paused at the security desk just long enough for Ryder to murmur something to the security guard, and then they hit the sidewalk, walking quickly.

“If I tell you to run, can you find your way back to the truck?” he asked, his gaze darting all around them.

She tried to think. “Maybe.” Gods, how could they have found her?

He pressed a key into her hand. “Good. If I tell you to run, you go. Get back to the cabin and I’ll meet you there.”

“What about you?” She felt an irrational urge to run now. To get as far from here as she could.

“I’ll get there. But if I have to stay behind to deal with anything, I don’t want you to wait around for me.” His fingers tightened on her arm. “Your first priority is to get to safety.”

They were within sight of the truck when he swore under his breath. “We need to move, baby.” He started to run, and she picked up her own pace, her boots thumping faster on the sidewalk.

From behind them, she heard people shouting, “Hey, watch where you’re going, buddy!” and “Yo, asshole, that was my foot!”

A Harvester. And apparently, he didn’t care that they were on the street in a very big city with a large audience.

Philomena sucked in a quick breath and ignored the stitch in her side, moving faster when Ryder did. He unlocked the truck with his remote and pushed her in through the driver’s door.

“Get down.” He slid into his seat, almost on her heels, and started the truck.

She wedged herself into the space between the seat and the dashboard, closing her eyes for a second. Gods, please don’t let me die.

Ryder stomped on the gas pedal, whipping out into traffic to the sound of honking horns. He drove too quickly along the street, and she saw his mouth tighten when he glanced in the rearview mirror. “Son of a bitch,” he muttered, pressing harder on the accelerator.

Philomena closed her eyes again. She so wanted to see Jason one more time. Her chest ached.

“It’s Ryder.”

She opened her eyes to see him with his cell to his ear.

“I need a rental car waiting for me when we get back….No, I don’t care what kind….Thanks.” He tossed the phone onto the seat.

“How did he find me?”

“Lucky timing for him, I think.”

“What do you mean?”

“Kallan told me there are usually one or two Harvesters in the big cities along the east coast. I figured Philly is big enough we wouldn’t run into one or two people. My mistake.” His jaw tightened. “I’m sorry, baby.”

“What are you, psychic?” She shook her head. “Just drive, Ryder. I don’t want to die today.”

“I won’t let you.” He flashed her a cocky grin and whipped the truck around a sharp corner, and the tires squealed this time.

Philomena put her head down on her knees, hoping his assurance this time was justifiable.

He sped around a few more turns, still muttering curses under his breath, then she felt the truck gain a lot more speed. Highway.

She lifted her head far enough to see the close-set buildings dropping away as he merged onto the interstate. “How many red lights did you run back there?”

“Just a couple.” Strain bracketed his eyes even though he smiled again for her.

She put her head back down. “If I die today, make sure Jason knows I love him.”

“You’re not dying, Mena, today or any other day for a long, long time,” he snapped. “Bastard.”

Under her, the truck vibrated as it picked up more speed. “Promise me anyway.”

“Fine. But you can tell him yourself tonight.”

She smiled into her lap and took a deep breath. “Just drive, would you?”

His short laugh made her relax a tiny bit.

Until something pinged off the roof of the truck.

“Son of a bitch,” Ryder growled, accelerating still faster.

She tightened her arms around her knees. “Is he shooting at us?”

“Keep your head down.”

She stifled a cry when something hit the back window, and she heard glass cracking. She pressed her face harder against her legs.

Ryder whipped the car into another lane, speeding up again so the engine rumbled louder.

Philomena shut her eyes and prayed to all the Gods.

________________

No kissing parts in this one (which would make the little boy in The Princess Bride happy), but there are plenty in this story, just like there were in Hunting Medusa. I’m off to do a little reading before bedtime, but maybe some birthday cake for the week.  And I’d love to know what are some of your will-always-watch movies.

( Photo on Foter.com )

 

 

( Photo on Foter.com )

I think I mentioned last week that it is my birthday month. I don’t actually feel like celebrating, but I think maybe those are the times you probably need to do it anyway, right?  So I’m looking for reasons to celebrate all month long, every day–though I won’t be having cake every day, that isn’t on the diet.  Maybe this much cake for me this month…

( Photo by Theresa Thompson on Foter.com / CC BY )

Who else has a birthday this month? Are you celebrating, or are you feeling more ambivalent about it like me? We should celebrate together, all month long!

We’re having our first nice days (read: not hot as the second level of hell) in a couple of weeks right now, but I had to close up the house and turn on the air conditioner anyway, because it’s laundry day, and the hot air from the dryer vent blows right into two of our open windows, making the inside of the house too hot.  I’m kind of okay with that, since we’d have to turn it back on tomorrow anyhow, plus I spent most of yesterday outside doing garden stuff at my aunt’s house. Got a nice migraine to go with it from the very bright sun, too, which was not how I imagined the day going. But a large chunk of yard work is done. and I came home and took a nap and most of the headache was gone when I got up. Today, along with laundry, and food prep for the next few days, is writing day. I have my music on random play right now, but will have to change that to my ‘soundtrack’ for this novella (fun, beachy, summertime songs) when I finish up here.  And a different ‘soundtrack’ when I go back to revisions on Protecting Medusa. Right now, there is some really great Hans Zimmer movie music playing (if you haven’t listened to him, one of my faves is his soundtrack from Sherlock Holmes), and that always makes me happy.

Before I dig into my writing, I have a little snippet from Protecting Medusa for you.

________________

It seemed an eternity before she heard steady footsteps crunching in the snow leading to the backdoor, and she tensed even more, pain sliding up the back of her neck. Her breath escaped in a rush when she realized it was Ryder stepping inside, and she lowered her dagger to her side, eyes closing for a second. Thank you, Gods.

He shut the door and knelt in front of her, his face somber. “It’s all right.” He touched her cheek with cold fingers, and she shut her eyes again.

“Gone?” She opened her eyes and found his brown eyes hardened.

“Dead.”

She gasped, the room tilting sharply to one side.

“Either him or you, and I’d prefer him.” He helped her to her feet. “I’ve got to get rid of him.” He cupped her elbows in his hands for a moment while he studied her expression. “Drink some of that orange juice, baby. You look mighty pale.” He guided her back to her seat and pushed her into it, then took the dagger from her nerveless fingers.

While she picked up her glass in both hands, he tugged her skirt up far enough to reveal the soft leather sheath strapped to her thigh.

“Nice,” he murmured, then put her blade back into it and snapped it shut. His fingers, hard and a little rough, lingered against her skin, distracting her from her chaotic thoughts for a couple of seconds. He inhaled shakily, then pulled her skirt back into place, rising again. “Reset the alarm behind me, Mena. I’ll be back as soon as I can, and do not go anywhere without me.” He bent to kiss the top of her head, and then strode out the back door to his truck.

She rose to follow his order, still shocked, then stood there at the back door, staring out into the snow as the sound of his truck faded away. He’d killed someone to protect her.

The thought chilled her. Not necessarily that he’d killed someone. She imagined he’d killed before, during his time in the military and working for the intelligence agency. But to keep her safe… Someone who would have killed her given the opportunity. That was the chilling part.

The Harvesters had really found her.

She shivered, wrapping her arms around her waist and turning away from the door. Her mother and Jason were in danger with her here. Far more than she’d ever imagined.

Her chest tightened with fear. She needed to go somewhere else. Somewhere the Harvesters wouldn’t kill her family to get to her. Away.

She scraped her breakfast into the trash, her hands shaking so much she dropped her fork into the can, too. Her breath came too fast, making her dizzy. She picked up the fork, carrying it and her plate to the sink. She turned on the water, too hot, but she put her hands under it anyway, wincing before adjusting the temperature a little.

Where would she go?

Oh, Gods, how would she go? How could she not see Jason again? She bit her lip against the sting of tears in her eyes. She’d had him since Desi gave birth to him six years ago.

The phone rang, startling her, and she sniffed, grabbing a dish towel on her way to pick it up. “Hello?”

“Good, you’re still there.” Ryder.

She sniffled again. “I have to go.”

“Not without me.” His tone was hard. “That’s why I told you not to go anywhere without me. I knew you were going to get there.”

Philomena wiped the towel over her cheek. “It’s not safe for them if I’m here.”

“I know, baby,” he said, more gently. “But wait for me. We’ll do this together. I can keep you safe.”

She dropped into the chair he’d abandoned, staring at his half-eaten breakfast. “I can’t stay here.”

“Mena.”

She stuck his fork into the small mound of eggs on the plate, her mind spinning in too many directions, and her heart still pounded hard enough to drown out most of those thoughts, even if she could capture one.

“Mena.” His tone hardened again.

“What, Ryder?”

“Stay with me here.” He took a deep breath and released it. “I’ll be back at the house in maybe twenty minutes. My buddy will be there in the next hour or so. We have to stay for a little while, to get him settled. To say goodbye to Aggie and Jason temporarily. But we’ll go together, do you understand me?”

She picked up a forkful of eggs, trying to concentrate on his words and staring at the bright yellow of the eggs. “Together, huh?”

“Yes, together. You and me.”

She stuck the eggs into her mouth without thinking, and her stomach growled. She blinked, chewing slowly. With Ryder. She didn’t doubt he could keep her safe from the Harvesters. “Okay,” she said at last.

________________

Now I’m going to go write, but I think maybe the rest of you need some cake, too.

 

If your birthday is this week, have an extra helping, and happy birthday!