Tag Archive: cover art


( 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.

________________

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!

 

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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!

 

 

I’m talking about the weather–I don’t think there is such a thing as too hot when it comes to romance novels.

I should have taken a photo of our thermometer an hour ago when I went past it–99 degrees, and the sensor for it is in the shade, so I’m afraid to wonder what our backyard feels like directly in the sun. Fortunately, I don’t have to go outside today to find out–I should, because my tomatoes need to be tied up more on their stakes, but they can wait until it doesn’t feel like the first level of hell outside. I’ve been trying to space out the household chores for the weekend that are generating more heat.  My younger son’s birthday was mid-week, so we had his birthday dinner last night, and he wanted mac and cheese, which requires the oven. So the laundry waited until today, and I’m going to only do the really necessary stuff today, and then the other couple of loads that aren’t needed immediately over the next few days.

My other plans for this afternoon are to make a huge batch of salad so I don’t have to cook anything for a couple of days, work on a manuscript, and do some reading. While in our air-conditioned house, pretending it isn’t so miserable outside. Maybe I can pretend it’s winter instead.

That looks much better.

On the other hand, it is now my birthday month. So maybe I can hold off on the snow for a little longer and instead have cake and ice cream. Oh! Or just ice cream cake!

( Photo on Foter.com )

That looks amazing, and I might have to make one of those when the date is closer.

While I’m trying to find ways to pretend summer isn’t really here, I have a little snippet of the third Medusa to share with you.

________________

Hunter stuck close all afternoon, not giving her a chance to do anything foolish, as he was sure she was planning to do the first chance she got. He sat on the recliner while she curled into a corner of the sofa with her laptop. Every so often, her fingers would fly over the keyboard, then she would simply sit and scroll slowly over whatever it was she was reading.

For a while, he studied some papers he’d brought home the day before, then he moved on to his laptop, searching for Greek myths online. Eventually, she sighed, and leaned back in her seat.

“What’s wrong?” He lifted his gaze from his screen, away from a fascinating college paper someone had written about Perseus and Medusa, noting the faint frown lines on her forehead. Whatever it was, she was aggravated.

Her mouth tightened for a moment, before she blew out a quick breath. “My cousin’s husband.”

He set his laptop aside and rested his elbows on his knees. “What did he say?”

Her grey eyes were stormy when she lifted her gaze to meet his again. “He said he wants to talk to you.”

Hunter stifled the smile that wanted to spread over his face at her words. “Really?” He noted the slight narrowing of her eyes and realized he hadn’t kept the smile from his tone.

“I told him it’s not necessary.”

“I disagree.” He set his laptop on the coffee table and got up from his seat to join her on the sofa. “Which husband is this?”

“The security guy.” Katharine’s mouth tightened. “And it isn’t necessary. I’m not staying here indefinitely and putting you in danger, too.”

“I think that’s my choice to make.” He leaned over and looked at the screen on her laptop, where a short email had a telephone number after a signature. Hunter scooped his cell from the table and dialed the number, watching her expression darken still further. Right now, she could be as pissed off as she wanted.

She pushed to her feet and dropped her laptop onto the coffee table, pacing away from him in the direction of the fireplace.

“Hi, this is Hunter Phelps,” he said when a gruff male voice answered the line. “I’m with Katharine.”

There was a brief silence, and then he heard the other man sigh softly. “Did you have to wrestle the phone number out of her?”

He chuckled, watching her shoulders tense. “Not quite.”

“I’m Ryder Ware, married to Katharine’s cousin Mena. How did you get involved in this?”

“That’s kind of personal. Let’s just say I happened to be going to visit at just the right time to catch the Harvester entering her house.”

The other man muttered something under his breath. “Damn,” he said. “She didn’t say he’d gotten into the house.” He blew out a breath. “That’s bad, if they know where she lives. You can’t let her go back there.”

“Working on it.” He watched her scowl as she turned to pace back again, avoiding his gaze.

“Work harder. She’ll be stubborn and won’t make it easy for you.”

“I’ve noticed that.” He followed her back across the room, noting the flex of her muscles in the faded jeans she wore, her thighs strong as she strode across his living room. He smiled a little.

“Ah, that didn’t take long.”

“No.” He moved to stand in the doorway, blocking any attempt she might make to leave. “As soon as she felt better, actually.”

Katharine glared at him over her shoulder.

His smile widened.

“That sounds about right. She hasn’t made any actual attempt to go, has she?”

“Not yet.”

“Good. I’ll have Mena try to persuade her that staying with you right now is in her best interest.”

“She mentioned you have a security company.”

“Yes.” The other man’s voice sounded satisfied. “But there’s only so much even I can do against the Harvesters.”

Hunter’s smile faded. “That doesn’t sound good.”

Katharine shot him a frown as she dropped onto the sofa and picked up her laptop again.

“These people are determined, Hunter. They don’t stop, and there are thousands of them.”

He considered that. “Is there any way to know which ones are in the area?”

Ryder sighed. “No. There are permanent addresses, of course, many of them along the eastern seaboard, but they move all around on their hunt. Mena and Katharine’s cousin Andi had Harvesters from across the country hunting her in Maine years ago.”

Hunter didn’t like the sound of that. “That’ll make this a bit more challenging then.”

The other man laughed, humorlessly. “I think that’s an understatement. You need to keep her out of sight as much as possible. They have no way to connect her to you, do they?”

“No. I made sure we weren’t followed when we left her house, and this relationship is still pretty new.” He noted the way her shoulders stiffened at his words. He wondered if she were more annoyed by his refusal to let her leave on her own, or his characterization of them as having a relationship.

________________

I do love Hunter, and the third Medusa is set during the summertime, so I guess that is a good snippet for today. Now I’m off to get my salad stuff started so I can sit down with Nora and maybe a frozen beverage.

How are you staying cool this week?

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

 

 

 

It’s been a crazy week at the day-job: by the end of this week, there will be three of us doing the job of five on my team, because the other two are leaving for new adventures. It will be the first time since our team was formed last August that we’ve had any staffing changes. We do have someone new starting, but it will be a few weeks until he is trained and really ready to take on some of the work the other two are leaving behind, which means for a couple of weeks, things are going to be insane. Normally, I work with about a dozen people. Until the new guy is trained, I’m adding fifteen more to my list, and I have to say I’m freaking out a little. Even when he is ready to take on his own work, we’ll still have more than we started with, until the final spot on the team is filled again, and we don’t know when that will be.

I’ve been trying to ignore the new, longer list until it’s actually in effect, but it’s still sitting there on my desk, staring at me while I’m doing my normal work. And then yesterday, a helpful little voice in my head pointed out how much more time it is going to take me to deal with these things at the day-job, and boy, that’s really going to cut into the writing time.  Picture me beating my head on the nearest wall.

So I am setting my writing goals aside for the present (and trying not to freak out about that, too), and I am just going to write, revise, study in any free moments I get.  Like I normally do, only with less free moments, I suppose.  And now that I’ve thought about that, I’m kind of freaking out.

 

Nope, not going to freak out. I’m going to take a couple of deep breaths and think of something nice. Like going to see Nora Roberts, Linda Howard and Barbara Delinsky next month. That will be a fun booksigning. And even before that, we’ll have a birthday dinner here for my younger son, so there’ll be good food and family. Okay, I feel a little better.

Before I go get more writing time in, I have a little snippet of story for you, from the third Medusa.

________________

Hunter had to do more digging to find Katharine than he’d guessed would be necessary. It took him several hours and finally a phone call to a friend at the DOT to get her mailing and street addresses. By then it was too late to call or show up at her door unannounced. But he headed there in the morning after checking in at the office to see what Mary Ann had on tap for him. Luckily, he had a couple hours free before he had to meet with a new client.

He debated getting her a gift certificate for a lingerie store to take along, to replace the underwear he’d destroyed, then decided that might be a little much, considering he was still virtually a stranger.

Instead, he picked up a fistful of daisies and drove across town to the address his buddy had given him last night. A neat little one story white house with an attached garage. Two narrow flowerbeds flanked the two steps to the front door.

And a tall guy in black shoved open a window at the side of the house as Hunter eased his car along the street.

Heart pounding faster, he didn’t stop in front of her house as he’d intended, but down the street several houses, and the way the homes were spaced on her street, it was far enough that the guy wouldn’t hear him and automatically assume he was coming to Katharine’s. He left the daisies on the seat and sprinted back to her house, through her neighbors’ yards. He peered around the corner of her house. The side window was open, and there was no sign of the man. He was inside.

Hunter’s pulse quickened even more. No time to call the cops. He stepped up to the front door, noting the alarm company sticker in the front window. He didn’t want to do damage to her door, though, or alert the intruder to his entry, so he pulled a pick out of his pocket and jiggled it carefully in the lock until the latch gave. Then he stepped inside, holding his breath while hoping the alarm would take a few seconds before it went off.

There was silence through the little house. Maybe she hadn’t set the alarm. He shut the door with no sound. Then he heard a low voice.

Good thing he hadn’t given up carrying. He whipped his gun out as he crept through the living room, past the empty kitchen and an office. He stopped when he got to the open door of the bedroom, leveling his gun on the dark man standing over her bed with a wicked-looking, slightly curved blade in his hand. In the open collar of his shirt, a gold pendant gleamed around his neck, something too small for Hunter to see exactly what it was. A few feet from there, the curtain fluttered in the breeze coming through the open window.

“Drop it,” he said evenly, hoping Katharine stayed right where she was, lumped beneath her blankets.

The guy jumped, startled, clearly so absorbed in his own plans that he hadn’t paid any attention to the rest of the house. Good thing for Hunter, and for Katharine. Bad thing for the intruder.

From the corner of his eyes, Hunter saw movement on the pillow, but he couldn’t take his gaze off the intruder to see what it was. He just hoped she stayed in her spot on the opposite side of the bed long enough for him to deal with this asshole.

“Do you really want to stop me?” the other man said in heavily accented English. “From killing this monster?”

“No monsters here, buddy. Drop the knife. Now.” He jerked his gun a little, indicating the rocking chair in front of the closet where the knife wouldn’t be easily reachable again. More movement on the pillow, and this time, it looked like a couple of snakes in his peripheral vision. Couldn’t be. He kept his gaze on the other man. “Do it.”

The other man’s dark eyes narrowed, mouth tightening, his expression furious. “It is my duty to kill the Medusa.”

Hunter cocked his weapon. “If you don’t drop your weapon now, buddy, I’m going to put a very large hole in you. One you will not recover from.”

The dark guy muttered something Hunter couldn’t understand, something foreign, and, after a few more seconds, tossed the blade away, but not where Hunter had indicated. Instead, he threw it over the bed so it stuck in the plaster wall beside the mirror attached to her dresser. When Hunter glanced away from him to be certain that the dagger hadn’t done any damage to Katharine, the intruder leaped out the open window.

“Dammit,” he muttered, striding to the window in time to see the back of the other guy vanishing around the neighbor’s back porch a few dozen yards away. He pulled his head back in and froze.

Those were snakes on the pillow, several of them.

“Katharine,” he said quietly.

“You should go, Hunter.” Her voice was choked, hushed.

He frowned, his gaze still on the snakes. They were in her hair. “Honey, there are snakes–”

“I know. You should go.” She sucked in a harsh breath, and the lump of her under the blankets contracted.

His frown deepened. That couldn’t be. The snakes were not just in her hair, they were her hair. His eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. “Honey, I think you’d better tell me.” His racing mind called up the other man’s words–“the Medusa.”

But those old myths weren’t real.

One of the dark snakes lifted its head from the pillow in his direction and hissed at him.

________________

Now I’m going to go write, but I could use some encouragement this week, to keep from any more freaking out.  What do you do when things are super-insane in your life?

 

 

 

Our weekends this spring have been pretty crappy, weather-wise. I actually had to do my gardening on a week night, after the day-job, to get it done when the weather was nicer. My husband has been unhappy about it, because he’d like to be outside doing things, like fishing, or the annual mini-golf tournament he and the boys do. I’m actually okay staying indoors, since I can write, or read between household chores, but it would be nice to see the sun once in a while. I know when summer really gets here, I’ll be quite happy to stay indoors, and will venture out only for absolutely necessary things, like picking tomatoes for my salad, or herbs to put on something I’m making for dinner.  Or to admire the flowers.

But now that I’m done mulching and planting the summer’s herbs, I can turn my attention back to writing, and my revised goal list for the year. At the top of that list is continuing to do my homework for self-publishing so I can re-release Hunting Medusa, and then follow up with the other two books in the series. I want to do it right, not half-assed, and there are a lot of things I haven’t had to do before. Like the formatting, cover art, uploading to booksellers, and so on…

While I’m studying and cramming like it’s finals week, I have a little story snippet to share with you from the second Medusa.

________________

The man had some nerve.

Philomena glared into the skillet and dragged the spatula through the eggs vigorously. Too vigorously, as she heard the spatula scrape the side of the pan. Letting out a shaky breath, she tried to push Ryder out of her head for a few minutes.

She’d called her mother when she came downstairs, just to be sure Aggie and Jason were all right. Her mother had assured her they were fine. Jason was watching his favorite Saturday morning cartoon in his pajamas before he had breakfast. Philomena felt a little better at that knowledge.

Her gaze slid to the window over the sink. She saw the roof of Ryder’s pick-up truck parked behind her car in the driveway, and beyond that, the woods that lay between her mother’s house and her own. Only a couple miles of distance, not far enough when the Harvester came back.

She stirred the eggs at a more normal pace now. Sure, she’d known when the curse fell on her eight years ago that the Harvesters were a serious threat. But somehow, she’d hoped after all this time that they wouldn’t find her.

She shivered, thinking how lucky they were that Ryder had been waiting for the Harvester yesterday. Otherwise, her mother and Jason might have arrived to find her dead in the kitchen. She touched the top of her dagger handle through her skirt. She knew how to wield it, but who knew how the Harvester was armed.

She’d have to ask Ryder.

Her pulse quickened. Back to him.

He was showering. She knew because she heard the water running, and it didn’t take much effort on her part to imagine him standing beneath the streaming water. After all, she’d gotten a terrific view of his naked body last evening.

Heat pulsed in her middle at the memory, then more when she thought of later.

She shook her head. No, that was a mistake. She turned the burner off and covered the pan, then pushed the bread down into the toaster.

The water shut off in the next room, and she swallowed, trying not to let her brain go there again. She busied herself with getting plates and silverware out, took some butter and jelly from the fridge, and poured orange juice into two glasses, all the while thinking of website coding.

When he emerged from the guest room, his hair was towel-dried, though still damp, making the blond look darker against his head. He wore a soft black t-shirt over clean jeans. She jerked her gaze back to his face in time to see that grin disappear.

She narrowed her eyes, but kept her mouth shut and dished up breakfast.

He waited until she had eggs in her mouth before he spoke. “What work do you have going right now?”

She forced the eggs down and chased them with a quick swallow of juice. “I’m nearly done with a big site, then I have a few smaller ones waiting. Regular maintenance on others.”

“You can work on them away from home, right?”

She glared at him. “I’m not leaving.”

He raised one dark blond eyebrow. “I don’t remember asking you.”

She set her fork down. “Just because I made a mistake and slept with you does not give you permission to make decisions for me. Also, you are no longer in the military, and not my commanding officer. And, FYI, I will not be sleeping with you again.”

He laughed. “There wasn’t much sleeping going on, the way I remember it.”

Heat scorched her face, and Philomena growled, curling her fingers into fists on the table. “I am not looking for a relationship, and even if I were, you wouldn’t be at the top of my wish list.” Good Gods, no.

Ryder took a drink of juice, though she couldn’t understand how, with that miserable grin still spread over his face. “You, Mena, are afraid to be in a relationship with a man who’s stronger than you are.”

She blinked at him in shock, her heart pounding a little faster. “What?” How could a man she’d managed to avoid for so long know so much about the way her brain worked?

“I’ve seen your ‘dates’, Mena. Bunch of pansies, not a spine in the whole lot of them. You pick men who won’t argue when you decide you’re done with them.” He lifted his fork again. “That isn’t going to work with me.” He scooped up more eggs.

Her mouth was dry, but she refused to pick up her glass and let him know he’d hit the mark with his assessment of her. “How long have you been spying on me?” she asked instead.

He shook his head, swallowing his eggs. “Just trying to make sure you were safe, Mena. Can’t have you bringing danger home to Jason.”

That was low, and she shot him a fierce glare. “I have never dated anyone who was a danger to Jason,” she ground out.

“I know.” His grin was still smug, and she wanted to smack it off his face. “You’ve never dated anyone who was a threat to your remaining single either.”

She shoved away from the table, her chair screeching along the floor with the sudden movement. “My dating is none of your business.” She jolted to her feet and spun away.

“You haven’t dated anyone who would present any sort of challenge to you,” he continued from behind her when she walked the few steps to the sink. “Is it because you’re really that afraid, or because you were just waiting for the right man to come along?”

She shook her head, anger and fear clogging her throat, and gripped the edge of the sink so hard her knuckles were white. There was no ‘right man’ for her. Not for the Medusa.

Behind her, his chair scraped over the floor. “I’m not a spineless wonder like any of those guys,” he said, his booted footsteps drawing nearer. “And I’ve been waiting a very long time, so I’m not going to go away quietly.”

Philomena shut her eyes.

His big hands settled on her shoulders. “But I promise I’ll never hurt you, Mena,” he whispered, too close to her ear.

She jabbed her elbow into his ribs, hard, surprising him into releasing her. She slid away along the counter. “But I might hurt you.” She patted the hilt of her dagger through her skirt as she faced him. “You know I’m armed, right?”

He rubbed his side where she’d elbowed him, still grinning. “Bring it, baby.”

Her jaw dropped, and he laughed. Just as suddenly, his smile vanished.

“Get down.”

“What?” She frowned.

He pushed her down to a crouch, then moved through the doorway of the guest room, grabbing his gun from the open bag on the bed.

Her heart jumped up into her throat at the sight of it.

“We have company,” he breathed, peering through the narrow space she’d made when she parted the living room curtains earlier to let some of the morning light in.

She fumbled her skirt out of her way and unsheathed her dagger, wrapping her fingers tightly around the hilt. It felt good against her palm, but her hand shook. Two days in a row was a little much.

“Hang onto that.” He stepped to the alarm panel and shut the system off, then eased out the back door, his posture cautious.

Philomena shut her eyes. Oh Gods, don’t let the Harvester hurt him. She could never forgive herself if something happened to him because of her. Jason would be heartbroken. She opened her eyes and took a quick breath. She couldn’t be sitting here in the middle of the floor if Ryder wasn’t the one to come walking back through the door. She crawled to a spot behind the door, where she could see anyone coming in through the crack between door and frame.

And waited.

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.

________________

While I go back to studying more self-publishing topics, I’d love to hear what you’re doing this month. I’m going to hope for a few moments like the one below, peaceful and beautiful.

 

Someone at the day-job told me last week that I should have more fun. It made me pause for a moment.  I do have a pretty well-developed sense of responsibility about my work, both at the day-job and my writing, and, to be honest, I’m kind of proud of that at the day-job since I’ve seen plenty of others in my adult life who don’t feel responsible about their work, at all.

But I have to also admit that I am tired. I pointed out to my husband last fall that we haven’t taken a vacation in years. I have taken vacation days in the last few years, but generally, those days have been for doing something. And with all of the things going on in my family the past two years, that is understandable. I think I’ve reached the point where I need a day off to do nothing, though. Or maybe a few more days to do something fun. Maybe not kids-blowing-bubbles-fun, but something I enjoy.  More reading time, more time for the flowers and herbs in the garden.

I used to get to more booksignings to meet or see authors I like, but those have kind-of gone by the wayside in the last two years. I used to go to Maryland regularly to see my favorite author Nora Roberts at booksignings, but I realized a few weeks ago, it’s been over a year since I got there. So a friend and I got up very early yesterday morning and drove two hours into the mountains of Maryland to do just that, hoping all the while that the bad weather in the forecast would hold off until later. It did, and we had a good day, sitting in the bakery for a little while, chatting with authors, shopping down the street (I found a great mug for my morning tea!), and then having lunch at a favorite restaurant nearby after we’d gotten our books signed. Now I have my new Nora and a favorite Robyn Carr book signed, and I’ve decided that I’ll be heading back down for more signings this year, because I miss them.

Before I go curl up on the loveseat with one of my new books, I have a little story snippet from Hunting Medusa to share with you.

________________

Something had moved outside.

Something too tall to be one of the does that frequented the clearing each evening, though not tall enough for the bull moose who came occasionally. Just the right size for a sneaky Harvester posing as a vacuum salesman.

She thumbed off the phone and sat up straighter, her other hand coming to rest on the dagger across her knees. For a long moment, she didn’t see anything. Then a dark shape slid between the trees, a few yards nearer to the house.

Her heart hammered against her ribs and she curled her fingers around the dagger hilt. That was no animal. At least not of the wild variety. No, this was a two-legged animal, and she had the terrible feeling this one really was a Harvester, no matter what her mother had said yesterday.

Let him try, she thought, setting the phone back on its base. He’d find this Medusa wasn’t going down quietly. She only wished she were PMSing so she could take him out without too much effort. Or mess. If only he’d waited just a few more days to make his move…

She stifled a hysterical giggle at that last thought, glad she’d listened to her instincts this evening.

The shape disappeared again in the dark trees, and she held her breath. Then he reappeared for a few seconds, much closer to the house this time. Her pulse pounded in her ears. He was determined. And now out of her line of vision.

A loud, sharp beep indicated her alarm system had shut down, and was accompanied by the sound of every appliance in the house also turning off. He’d killed her power at the junction box outside.

Bastard.

Andi got to her feet, then tried to decide which door he’d come in. She heard the soft sound of a footfall on the back porch. She crossed into the kitchen, not needing to feel her way around the furniture, and positioned herself beside the refrigerator. He wouldn’t make it far into the house, and then he was hers.

________________

Who else has a hard time taking down-time? What do you do for fun when you do find a little down-time?

I’m thinking that would be a sure way to enjoy some down-time.  What do you think?

 

 

 

I’ve just got a quick post this week. It’s been a long weekend, though it was wonderful to see family I see too infrequently, but I’m feeling a little blue, so I have a story snippet to share with you.  I’ll be working like crazy at the day-job this coming week, and trying hard to get my mind focused on that and on my writing, rather than our sad get-together over the weekend to say goodbye to my dad.

________________

It was one of those days when having the Medusa’s fabled power to turn people to stone would really come in handy.

Andrea Rosakis did not, however, have that ability, not this week, anyway. Even though she was the reigning Medusa.

She glared at the man on her back porch, wondering if he could ever understand how lucky he was she wasn’t suffering from PMS this week. And why wouldn’t he stop talking? Her fingers itched to slam the door.

“…if you just have five minutes, ma’am,” he concluded.

She narrowed her gaze on the vacuum beside him. “No, thank you.” And how the hell had he found her all the way out here? No one ever bothered to follow her rough, muddy driveway all the way to the top, even if they did ignore the “No Trespassing” signs posted at the foot of it. Not to mention the protective warding she had set at the boundaries of the entire property. Sure, it wasn’t the heavy artillery of protection spells, but no one else had ever gotten past it. This man however, had not only ignored the signs and the subtle “go away” protections, but managed the entire bumpy, muddy track into the woods and halfway up the mountain. Just to hear her say, “No.”

And he didn’t look discouraged. At all.

Andi almost wished she were PMSing this week, though it would be a real pain in the ass to have to get rid of a life-sized stone statue of a vacuum salesman.

Or maybe she could keep it. He was very pretty, even if he annoyed her. He was tall and broad, his inky black hair was a tad too long, and his bright green eyes held her attention. At least as stone, he’d be silent and still pretty. She gave herself a mental shake. “I’m sorry, but I don’t have time for this—”

“When would be a better time?”

“Never.”

He did blink at that, but his smile never disappeared. “I’ll have to check my calendar.”

She snorted, then clapped her free hand over her mouth. Laughing would not discourage the man. “Look, I’m sure it’s a great vacuum, but I don’t need it. I don’t want to see how it works, and I’d like you to get off my property.”

His smile did fade a little bit. “Well, I suppose, if that’s what you really want.”

She quirked an eyebrow, trying not to smile again. He had the faintest hint of an accent, but she couldn’t place it. Not without hearing him talk some more, and she didn’t want to encourage that either, or he’d just keep trying to sell her an expensive vacuum she didn’t need.

“Maybe I could talk you into meeting me for coffee sometime then,” he said.

Her jaw dropped. The cute salesman was hitting on her. For half a second, she indulged the fantasy of a date with the hunk. A real date, maybe ending with a real kiss. Her pulse quickened. Then she remembered one good date led to more, and eventually, it led to guys running away from her, gibbering like idiots when PMS struck. She shut her mouth and ignored the regret burning in her middle. “Sorry, but no.”

“You’re a hard woman,” he said lightly, his bright gaze sliding down to her mouth. “I’ll leave my card in case you change your mind. About the coffee, that is.” He forced a small card into her hand and picked up his vacuum.

Andi stared after him as he strode off her porch. The bulky vacuum looked like it weighed nothing in his hand, swinging at his side on his way to the shiny, new truck parked behind her car.

When he took one hand from the steering wheel to wave at her, she stopped herself from lifting her hand in response. He turned the truck around and vanished down the drive into the trees. Frowning, she went back inside and shut the door, then locked it and re-armed the alarm. He’d tossed the vacuum into the bed of the truck. A very strong salesman.

Who didn’t seem to care the impending rain was going to damage his expensive vacuum.

She turned back to the door and stared out the narrow window beside it, her heart beating faster now with alarm. Maybe he didn’t realize. Or maybe he really hadn’t come here to sell her a vacuum.

She swallowed hard.

Aunt Celosia had always told the cousins stories of the Harvesters, the men who still hunted for the Medusa. Somehow, Andi had always thought they’d be more frightening. More obvious. Ugly men intent on murder.

If this vacuum salesman was a Harvester, he was sneaky. Of course, if he was a Harvester, he would be sneaky, as Perseus had been when he killed the first Medusa.

She was in a lot of trouble.

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I hope you all have a beautiful week, and if you love someone, tell them!