Flash Fiction Monday -Something New

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“How do you feel?” Raul asked.

Angelo burrowed closer, his cheek pressed against the soft black cotton of Raul’s T-shirt. “Drunk.”  His eyelids felt heavy and there was a strange and wonderful lightness in his head. Tension? Stress? He couldn’t remember what those things were. “High maybe? I dunno. Gooood.”

The rumble of Raul’s laugh under his ear was as warm and comforting as his hug. “It was okay then?”

“Okay?” Angelo wanted to sit upright and give Raul an incredulous look, but he was too content to move. “That was  … perfect. More than I expected.” He rubbed his cheek against Raul’s chest like a cat.

“I was so fucking scared. Despite the classes and all the research, I was scared shitless to actually hit you.”

“I know.” Angelo rubbed circles over Raul’s heart with his palm. That was why he’d trusted Raul to tie him up and flog him. There was no one more meticulous than Raul. He’d been so hesitant at first to bring it up with his partner. How did you tell a guy you wanted him to hit you? It wasn’t like there was anything wrong with their sex life. It was already amazing. Why mess with it? But the thought, the need, had nagged at him until he’d finally caved. To his relief, Raul had listened to him and told him he’d consider it.

It had taken months to get from that conversation to this point, because Raul never did anything halfway. Once he decided he wanted to try it, he’d thrown himself into it with the fervor of a starving man. Online research, classes, getting involved with the community, he’d taken part in it all. Angelo had been starting to worry that Raul was using “research” as an excuse to not actually act on the fantasies they’d discussed. Angelo worried too that Raul was just doing it to please him.

“Did you  … did you like it, or at least not hate it?” he asked hesitantly. A part of him just wanted to drift in the sleepy bliss that kept threatening to overtake him, but he had to know. Because he wanted this again, but not if it didn’t make Raul happy too.

Raul shifted and took Angelo’s hand and settled it over the hard length in his shorts. “What do you think?”


Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics for this week!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

Flash Fiction Monday – No Joke

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Zach paused and nodded toward the sign on the chain link fence inside of the research facility. “Ya gotta wonder what made them put that up there. Somebody’s idea of a joke or what?”

DO NOT GIVE THE BISON PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES it read.

Gary answered with a non-committal grunt like he always did when Zach made stupid ass comments.  But the moment his back was turned, Gary shuddered and leaned on his rake. It was no joke. He’d been there that night when they’d run the experiment.

He’d seen things. Horrible things. Things that haunted his nightmares.

Those were no ordinary bison. They were demonic beats. Like minotaurs, but larger. He’d seen the red glow of their eyes and the way they’d transformed into lustful half-men.

“Just don’t forget what it says.” His voice was hoarse and scratchy.

Zach turned back to him with a puzzled frown. “What was that?”

“The sign. Don’t every fucking forget it.” He carefully raked the old, soiled straw toward the wheelbarrow. “It’s no joke, man.”


Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics for this week!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

Flash Fiction Monday – Not Like the Movies

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It isn’t like the movies.

Vampires aren’t chalk white with pointy fangs and glowing red eyes. Sunlight and crosses have no effect and people don’t go around hunting them. Truth be told, vampires and humans manage to co-exist pretty peacefully. It hadn’t always been like that, of course. There was a nasty period about thirty years back when they came out of the monster closet and we tried to kill each other, but in the end both sides realized it was in their best interest to get along. They need our blood and we need them to keep us alive after they take it.

Generally, they aren’t anywhere near as attractive as they are in the movies either—ugly people become vampires and pretty much stay ugly—but the two across the bar from me could have gotten a part in Hollywood without blinking. Since vampire charm and mind control are as much of a legend as the fear of garlic, that’s pretty impressive.

Honestly, these two are just damn good looking.

“Want another?”

I look up from the beer I’ve been nursing for the past hour and shake my head at the bartender. She’s been trying to get my attention for half the night. She’s cute enough—if you’re into the butch look—I guess.

I’m not.

Guess she swings both ways though, because I’m as male as the vampires across the room who I’ve been watching. I sneak a peek out of the corner of my eye, but they haven’t budged.

That’s how you know they’re vampires. They don’t move a lot. They can, and they’re pretty damn strong and quick when they want, but they don’t have to be. Some prefer to blend in with us humans and mimic our movements, but others don’t give a fuck. These two have been leaning against the wall of the bar for an hour and have barely stirred. Bathed in the red glow of a neon sign, they could be posing for a photoshoot. The one closer to me has on an open leather vest, his thumb in his pocket, and is vaguely reminiscent of the better looking Franco brother. Or is it the guy from the horrible Star Wars movie with that Natalie whatsherface? I’m total crap at pop culture references, but he’s a pretty boy. Lean but muscular.

The guy with his arm around the pretty boy is equally good looking and fit. But he reminds me of a model from the awful clothing store that always reeked of frat boy cologne and plastered vaguely homoerotic pictures of preppy men frolicking together on their advertisements. He’s smoking a cigarette and staring off into space.

I prefer my men rougher around the edges and not undead, but I’m not going to have a hard time pretending to be turned on by them either. I’ve been watching them for a couple of weeks now. I’m sure they’ve noticed me watching them, and I’ve dropped hints here and there that I’ve got a vampire fetish but haven’t quite gotten the nerve to approach one.

It couldn’t be further from the truth. Still, it’s a damn good cover for my real purpose: investigating the death of my best friend. All roads lead to these two and I’m not above seducing them to learn more.  The preppy one drops his cigarette on the floor and grinds it out under his heel.

When his gaze meets mine I feel my heart kick into high gear. I don’t take my eyes off him as I slide some money across the bar and stand. My mouth tastes like cheap beer and anxiety as I cross the room.

The pretty boy turns and his full lips curl up into a knowing little smile.

“Are you coming?”

I’m not sure if the surge of elation and arousal I feel is because the next phase of my plan is about to start or because I’m going home with two vampires.

“Thought you’d never ask.”


Well, I went over the word count and I’m late posting, but I think it is a story I want to tell in the future. What do you think?

Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics for this week!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

Flash Fiction Monday – Three-Legged Stool

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“It’s impossible that Johnny’s gone.” Maureen shook her head, her voice thick. “I mean, we just left the funeral and I keep expecting him to pop up and yell ‘surprise!’.” Her laugh sounded hollow.

“No shit.” Freddie slumped on the bed and took another drink. “I wonder how many of these people actually knew him.” He gestured to the closed door that muffled the sounds of the people who filled the house he’d shared with Johnny.

Maureen shrugged. “Probably most of them. Johnny was the only person I knew who could go to the corner store for a pack of smokes and come back with three new friends and an invitation to a party.”

“Yeah, good point.”

“They didn’t know him like we did though.” She picked up the framed photo on the bookshelf and held it out to Freddie. “They didn’t know him like this.”

A lump rose in her throat as she smiled at the memory. Maureen, Freddie, and Johnny had all gone to prom together. Freddie and Johnny were already together by then, but no one but Maureen knew. The three of them had been inseparable since elementary school when the boys found her catching tadpoles in the creek and decided she was alright. For a girl. Johnny and Freddie realizing they were gay and into each other should have made Maureen the third wheel, but somehow it had never happened.  Maureen’s girlfriends and boyfriends had drifted in and out of the group, but it never shook their trio. They were rock solid.

Her eyes stung as she remembered Johnny’s muffled laugh as he pushed Maureen in the shopping cart. The three of them had been kicked out of prom for wearing giant bear heads they’d found at a flea market. With little else to do in the small town, they’d gone to the grocery store. Freddie had snapped the photo of them and the sight of it never failed to make Maureen smile. Although this time, it hurt. Because there would never be any more grocery store shenanigans. No more getting kicked out of the mall for weird photo shoots. No more drinking until the sun came up or whitewater rafting trips. No more base jumping. No more yelling at Johnny and Freddie to keep it down in their tent because Johnny was a moaner.

No more Johnny.

Her face was wet when she sank on the bed next to Freddie. He put his arm around her as she sobbed into his neck and his tears dripped into her hair.

The three of them had been rock-solid, a three-legged stool that never wobbled. Now that one leg had been ripped away, they were off-balance.

Nothing would ever be the same again.


Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics for this week!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

Flash Fiction Monday – Queen Cecile

In June of last year, I wrote a flash called Protector of the Night Spirits. The photo below sparked an idea and I’ve continued the story.

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Cecile closed her eyes. The small boat continued to glide forward through the water, sunlight glinting off its surface. She didn’t need to see the path ahead of her to guide the craft, or its precious cargo.

The war in Lyman city had been raging for nearly a year. Even with an ocean between them, Cecile had heard stories of the horrors taking place. The ministers and advisers had warned Cecile not to get involved, after all, it wasn’t their fight.

“Why should the people of Reddick risk their lives for the Lymanites?” they’d argued.

But as reports filtered in of magical creatures being captured and tortured, Cecile had grown increasingly heartsick. How could they sit there and do nothing? How could they allow that to happen? Wizards were nothing to be trifled with, but Cecile’s magic was older. Less showy, perhaps, but more powerful. How could she, as ruler, allow these atrocities to take place?

When the news spread that The Protector of the Night Spirits had been found, Cecile knew it was the sign she’d been hoping for.

Unwilling to risk her troops, she made a plan in secret. She sent messages to The Protector, using her flock of birds. It was the only communication she could be sure was safe from wizard monitoring.

In the wee hours of the night, Cecile had cloaked herself in invisibility and made for the shore. Alone. The sky had barely begun to lighten as the wooden craft, carrying a burlap wrapped seedling, had set out for Lyman. Now, at midday, the tree had grown toward the sky, thick-trunked with spreading, leafy branches. The small portal glowed within, its magic kindling.

It was dark by the time Cecile reached the far shore north of Lyman city. A lone figure stood on the beach. She was several years younger than Cecile, but her face looked worn and weary. Physically still a young girl, but mentally far from that. She was dressed as an aviator, covered in soot, and she greeted Cecile with a short, sharp nod.

“Your Majesty.”

Cecile stepped from the bow of the boat and held out a hand to young, weary Protector of the Night Spirits. “Call me Cecile. I’ve come to help.”

She shook it firmly. “Delia Caldwell.”

Cecile had no interest in wasting precious time. “I’ve brought the portal.”

For the first time, a crack appeared in Delia’s hardened demeanor. “You’ve come just in time, then. My plane was shot down yesterday and we can’t seem to get it running. I was beginning to lose hope,” Delia admitted.

Cecile lay a comforting hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Let’s sit and make our plan then. We have much work ahead of us to save the magical creatures of Lyman City.”


Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics for this week!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

 

Flash Fiction Monday – Protection

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I propped my boots on the desk. “It’s an awfully nice day to look so miserable.”

Christopher’s answering shrug was listless. His right arm was braced on the glass, forehead resting against it. His left hand pressing against the window as he looked longingly outside.  We’d been holed up in the same Miami motel room for the better part of two weeks and it was starting to get to us both. He was going stir-crazy and I was losing my tenuous grip on my restraint.

“It won’t be much longer,” I reassured him, praying that it was true.

The tone of his snort was practically an audible middle finger. He’d gotten good at communicating through grunts and wordless noises. In all my years working personal security, I’d never dealt with such a silent client. It was a shame too because he had a great voice.

“I wish you wouldn’t stand in front of the open window though. You know it’s dangerous.”

He sighed heavily. The muscles in his back rippled as he pushed off the window and straightened. “I’m tired, D.”

“I know.” What I didn’t know was why he insisted on calling me D. Dan wasn’t exactly a difficult name. Christopher’s nickname for me was the least of my problems, however. There was a well-connected mob boss after my client and my attraction to him was reaching unbearable levels.

He crossed the room and stood next to me. My gaze scanned up his lean, denim-clad thighs. I tried not to linger on the soft bulge near the fly or on the way the jeans sat obscenely low on his hips, showing off the sharp v of his lean musculature. Shirtless, his skin was smooth and nearly hairless, except under his arms. I’d think he waxed, but we’d been locked in this motel room for two weeks. Surely I would have noticed. Tattoos graced one hip and across his upper chest and arms. A woman’s name was written in script across his heart. I hadn’t had the courage to ask who she was, although after two weeks of living together I knew a hell of a lot more about Christopher Reese than I’d ever expected to.

I tore my gaze from his tattoos to look him in the eye. He stared down at me, expression blank. He had a beautiful face and wore facial hair like it was a designer accessory, but there was no denying the haunted look that lingered around his eyes.

“I loved her, you know?” Christopher’s fingertips skimmed the name over his heart. “I didn’t … I never meant for this to happen.” The expression in his hazel eyes pleaded for me to understand. I didn’t. He’d been curiously tight-lipped about exactly how we’d wound up in this situation. I’d gone from a cushy, if often boring, position of providing security for a Hollywood star to hiding out with him in a crummy motel room. Although I’d argued with him about keeping me in the dark about what had happened, he wouldn’t budge. Short of leaving him to fend for himself, there was little I could do. Reinforcements—in the form of my boss and mentor, Matt Healy—were on the way. All I had to do was keep him safe until Matt arrived.

Not to mention keep Christopher from going stir-crazy and keep myself from grabbing him and throwing him down on the nearest bed.

We were so fucked. And not in the way I’d like.

I nudged Christopher out of the way with my thigh and stood. “What do you want for lunch?”

“Sushi.” His tone was mournful. We were in a rundown motel in a sketchy part of Miami. We might only be a handful of miles from the ocean, but there wasn’t a sushi restaurant in sight. And certainly not one that delivered.

“Christopher …”

“I don’t give a fuck!” He rounded on me, jaw clenched and eyes hard and flinty looking. “I don’t give a flying fuck what we—“

His words were cut off by the loud pop of gunfire. Instinct and training kicked in and I grabbed Christopher’s shoulder, shoved him to the floor beside the bed, and covered his body with my own. “Keep your head down,” I hissed.

Outside, it was silent over the sound of our harsh breathing. I rose up enough to reach for the gun clipped to my belt and cursed when I realized I’d left it on the desk across the room. Do I have time to grab it? I wondered.

The scrape of a shoe on the concrete outside the door silenced any debate.

“Dan?” Christopher whispered.

I clapped a hand over his mouth and waited, heart pounding in my chest, for whatever was to come next.


I know that was a really mean way to end things, but there’s a good chance this is going to turn into a novel. In fact, it could wind up as the second book in a series. What do you think? Would you read it?

The good news is, my wrist held up while I swam and wrote almost 800 words today, so I think I’m on the mend!

Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics.

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

Flash Fiction Monday – The Power of Suggestion

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for me with writing. Two friends are going through rough times in their lives, I passed the one-year anniversary of when my ex and I split, and my left wrist staged a revolt.

I’ve never had any problems with tendonitis before, but I do sleep with my hands in funny positions and I’ve been swimming 3-4 times a week. I think those things, combined with writing, finally did my left wrist in. I spent the past week icing it, taking anti-inflammatories, using a wrist brace, doing gentle physical therapy exercises and, mostly, giving it a rest. It’s slowly improving and today was the first time in a week I’ve written more than a few sentences at a time.

My novels are on hold for the moment, but I am going to order an ergonomic keyboard and hopefully in another week or so, be back on track.

Without further ado, here’s my flash fic for the week!

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This is the resort you were raving about?” Stuart’s lip curled into an all-too-familiar sneer. “Their sunset dinner on the beach looks like a four-year-old’s birthday party.”

I stifled a sigh and settled the Panama hat more firmly on my head before the ocean breeze carried it away. The resort did have a casual vibe, with brightly colored, kitschy decorations like tiki torches and light up flamingos, but it wouldn’t kill Stuart to unwind for once.

“It also has white sand beaches, 5-star quality food, and the best drinks I’ve ever had,” I reminded him.

“If the food doesn’t deliver, I’m out of here,” Stuart threatened. “I mean it, Charlie.”

“I know you do, darling.” I patted Stuart’s shoulder and he made a grumbling noise in the back of his throat but allowed me to steer him toward the party on the beach.

To be fair, Stuart was paid to be critical. He’d worked as a restaurant critic for years. He was insufferable when we traveled, however.

I made a beeline for the bar, leaving Stuart to find a table for us. His sneer was firmly in place when I returned with two drinks.

“Mai Tai’s?”

“Just drink it. I asked the bartender to add a little something extra for you. It should help loosen you up.”

Stuart’s sneer melted into a look of contemplation. “Maybe this place is looking up after all.”

I knew he wouldn’t be averse to a little experimentation—it wouldn’t be the first time we’d indulged while on vacation—and lord knows, I needed all the help I could get. The last thing I wanted was Stuart pouting in our suite all night.

“Cheers!” We clinked glasses and he took a hearty sip.

“Not bad,” was his grudging verdict.

I smiled and looked out over the waves.

***

Several hours later, after a dinner that even Stuart had deemed exceptional, we stumbled from the dance floor toward the bonfire. I dropped onto a driftwood log with a quiet groan of relief. We hadn’t danced like that in ages.

I glanced over at Stuart. With several drinks in him, his cheeks were flushed and his normally tidy hair was wind-ruffled.

He slid an arm around my waist and leaned in. “What do you say we head back to our suite?”

“Aren’t you having fun?”

“I am. But I thought it might be more fun to take you to our room and thank you for bringing me to such a great place.”

I knew that was the closest I’d get to an apology for his early pouting, and decided to take it. “Sure, but you’re going to have to get me off this log.”  I’d just sat down and the hike across the sand to the main building seemed awfully far.

With arms wrapped around each other’s waists, we stumbled toward the lights of the resort. Stuart paused and nuzzled against my cheek with his lips. “What was in those drinks, anyway? I feel incredible.”

I laughed. “Just a little extra rum.”

Stuart sputtered in surprise as I dragged him toward our room.

The good news was, Stuart never held grudges for long.


 

 

Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics.

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

Flash Fiction Monday – Family History Pt. 2

 

July 4

“Oh! Look at this one, Amelia.” Lena passed a photo to her.

Amelia inspected it closely. Two young women ran through a city street, hand-in-hand, soaked to the skin by a rain storm. There as inches of standing water and they clutched their shoes in their free hands. Jeanette Fleming and Ada March, 1934 was inscribed on the back. “Did you see the back?”

Lena pressed her chin to Amelia’s shoulder. “They look so young.”

“They were,” Amelia replied. “Jeanette was born in 1920 so she would have been fourteen at the time. I’m not sure about Ada, but I think they were roughly the same age.”

“Jeanette’s lovely in this photo, but she really grew into herself in her late teens.” Lena shifted so she was sitting upright.

Amelia reached over and poked Lena’s thigh. “Stop perving on my grandmother.”

“It’s only because you resemble her so much.”

“Nice save.” She leaned in and brushed her lips against Lena’s.

“I wonder who took the photo.”

“I have no idea,” Amelia admitted. “I feel like this box of photos raises more questions than it answers.”

Lena nodded, her expression thoughtful. “Is this the only box?”

“No, there’s another. Actually, if I remember right, there are letters in the other box. I inherited them both after grandma’s death and haven’t had time to sort through them until now. Amelia had stumbled across them in the guest room closet a few days ago. Looking at the photos had derailed her spring cleaning plans, but she and Lena were having too much fun to care.

Lean’s eyes lit up. “Letters? I wonder if there’s anything juicy in them.”

“I doubt it. Probably lots of talk about church festivals and such.”

“Your grandmother was a pin-up girl, Amelia. She may have attended church festivals, but the woman clearly had a rebellious streak.”

“You have a good point. Still, I highly doubt they’re that juicy. If they were romantically involved, they would have been breaking the law to do it.”

“Well, let’s stop talking about what might be in the letters and read what is in them. I’m dying of curiosity.” Always decisive, Lena stood and strode from the room. Her skin gleamed in the late afternoon sunlight, on display in the denim shorts and white tank she wore. God she was beautiful. Running had honed her muscles to a sleek definition. They’d gone to the lake recently and she was lightly tanned. Sometimes just looking at Lena made Amelia’s heart stop.

“What’s that look for?” Lena gently sat the box on the floor beside the couch.

Amelia shook her head to clear it. She’d been so lost in thought she hadn’t noticed Lena’s return.

“Thinking about you.” Amelia lay back on the couch and held out a hand to Lena. “As curious as I am about the letters, I think they can wait a bit.”

Lena smirked as she closed the distance between them, settling over top of Amelia. “What did you have in mind?”

“I don’t know. But hopefully something juicy enough to include in a letter.”

Lena laughed softly as Amelia drew her in for a kiss, the boxes of photos and letters temporarily forgotten.


Technically, the timeline doesn’t really work for these photos. Today’s photo is clearly of a later time period than 1934, but it worked so well with the previous flash fic I’d written that I couldn’t resist!

A novel telling Lena and Amelia’s story and their hunt for clues about Jeanette and Ada’s relationship is starting to come together and I’m really looking forward to writing it.

Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics.

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

Doc Brodie and the Big Thank You

In the past few months, I’ve thought a lot about where I’m going with my writing career and if I’m really cut out to be a full-time author.

Sales for “Connection” were subpar (my own fault for not promoting it adequately). Sales for “Trust” were better (but being the second book in a series I hadn’t promoted enough made them less than stellar). Sales of my backlist were solid; enough to pay the bills while I’m living with my parents, but certainly not enough to pay rent if I moved out.

When road blocks hit as I was writing “Push & Pull” (the second in the Midwest series) I began to panic. What if I’d been fooling myself? What if I wasn’t cut out to be a writer at all? With depressing thoughts of having to get at least a part-time job again whirling in my head, I gave myself an ultimatum. If my next two releases didn’t do well, I’d look for the part-time job. In the meantime, I’d stop panicking about the fact that I’m only a few months away from having lived with my parents for a year. My goal was six months.

I threw myself into getting print books out and writing “Doc Brodie”. I contacted Rachel Maybury of Signal Boost Promotions and planned a Book Blitz and Review Tour to get the word out to new blogs and readers. After a minor panic when the first two days of sales for “Doc Brodie” were sub-par, a kind word from a fellow author prompted me to take a look at my pricing. I realized that based on the length of the novella, I’d set my price too high. I adjusted that and since then, the book has been flying off the (metaphorical) shelves!

Sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly leads to good sales. The time of year, the type of book, what else is going on in the world, along with a host of other factors can greatly influence sales. In general, the summer is a good time for shorter, lighter reads so I think that certainly helped with Doc Brodie sales. I wish I could say that it was because it was such an amazing book, but I know book quality is not always correlated to sales numbers. I am certainly proud of “Doc Brodie” and I never put out anything but my best effort, but I know I still have a lot to learn.  Unfortunately, I know very talented authors whose books don’t sell well.

In the two-and-a-half years since I published my first short story, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that marketing makes a big difference. In the list of people I want to thank for Doc Brodie’s success, Rachel Maybury is definitely one of them. I can’t recommend her highly enough. Her fee was reasonable, she was timely in responding to questions, and I feel she more than delivered what she promised. While it’s difficult to say exactly how much her marketing contributed to the book’s success, I honestly believe it played a substantial part in the fact that Doc Brodie sold more copies in the first month than any previous book I’ve released!

The book’s success puts me in a solid place to focus on “Push & Pull” (with a tentative September release) and I am hopeful that as long as that goes well I will be able to move out sometime this fall. *crosses fingers*

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This blog post is my very long-winded way of saying thank you to all of the people who helped with the book. In addition to Rachel, I’d like to thank Allison Hickman and Helena Stone for their beta work, Sally Hopkinson for her editing, Jessica Stuhr Kurvers and Amy Keating Casey for the proofreading help, and the handful of pre-release reviewers from my private Facebook group. And of course, huge thanks to the bloggers and readers who reviewed and spread the word about the story. Much love and appreciation to all of you. I simply cannot thank you enough.❤

 

Flash Fiction Monday – Rescue

 

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“Hard to believe it’s still up there,” I murmured.

Darrell glanced at the old blue canoe, wedged between the branches of the tree.  “You said you wanted it to stay so did a pretty thorough job of rigging it up there.”

“I didn’t want to forget.” I stared over the river, watching the small ripples form and bend with the current. A year ago, it had been murky red-brown and topped with white foam as it raced to the sea, destroying everything in its path. I would have been swept away too, if not for a well-placed tree and a handsome fireman.

“Could you have forgotten?” he asked quietly and I shook my head.

“No.”

I’d never forget the sight of Darrell in his bright yellow vest. There had been other firemen in the boat working together to save me and my dog, Bonnie, but Darrell had been all I could see; a strong hand, reaching out for me, dark brown eyes promising me safety.

After spending the better part of a day sitting in a canoe that was stuck in a tree, I’d been too petrified to move, afraid any movement would send it crashing down into the river and swept away. Afraid Bonnie, already exhausted, would drown.

I’d pleaded with him to rescue Bonnie first, and he had. Finally, when she was safe, I’d allowed myself to take his work-roughened hand and stand. Something had passed between us in that moment as our gazes locked and his arm came around my back to steady me. And when I was safely in the fire department’s boat, a wide grin had split his face, his teeth bright white against his rich brown skin. He’d held me a fraction of a second longer than necessary.

I looked down at our hands, twined together, and realized I was gripping his so hard my knuckles were bleached white.

“C’mon,” Darrell coaxed. “Just walk to the edge.”

I shuddered and took a halting step forward. I loathed open water now. Pools were okay; the scent of chlorine and being able to see to the bottom of the blue liner made it feel reassuringly safe. But the murky waters of rivers and lakes terrified me.

My breathing was sharp and quick as I approached the riverbank. The water flowed placidly today, sunlight glinting off its surface. Darrell squeezed my hand and I swallowed the panic rising in my throat.

“Almost there.” My feet hit the edge of the bank and I froze. “Great job. Now dip one toe in. Shoe on is fine.”

“What if I fall?” My voice was hoarse.

He pried his hand from mine, and switched his grip, so he was wrapped around me, steadying me. “Do you think I’d let you fall?” The warmth in Darrell’s voice was like balm over a burn.

I shook my head and took a deep breath. Inch by inch, I slid my foot forward, hesitating when my toes approached the surface of the water.

“You’ve got this and I’ve got you.”

I closed my eyes and stuck my foot into the water, forcing myself to hold it there for agonizingly long seconds before I pulled back. Darrell’s grip tightened and I turned and buried my head against his neck.

His fingertips skimmed down my spine and I felt him press a soft kiss to my hair.

“You did it, Sam.”


 

I have a feeling I might need to expand on their story. What do you think?

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I look forward to seeing you next Monday!