Flash Fiction Monday – Memorial

The leaves crackled under Angela’s feet as she left the paved path that wound through the gravestones. A sharp November wind snaked under the hem of her jacket and down her collar as she clutched a blanket and a book to her chest. She should have put on the royal blue knitted scarf that Michael had given her, but she couldn’t bear the sight of it. Not today.

November ninth.

She hated the day.

For the first few years she’d worked on the anniversary of Michael’s death, throwing herself into her job and trying to block out every memory that tried to worm its way into her head. But she always found herself at the cemetery anyway, so she finally gave up pretending that the day would go any other way.

She came to a stop in front of Michael’s grave.

Nestled between the ubiquitous granite headstones was a sculpture. It was less than a foot tall, partially hidden by the dry leaves.  Angela shook out the wool blanket she’d carried from the car and spread it in front of the sculpture before taking a seat on it.

Michael lay below her in a coffin.  Rotting.

Morbid thoughts wormed their way into her brain sometimes. Like now, when she couldn’t help but wonder how decomposed his body was. She hadn’t had him embalmed. The unnatural preservation seemed worse than decay, but sometimes the thought of his ruined beauty made her feel sick.

She leaned forward, brushing the leaves away from the base of the sculpture. She’d had an artist friend create it, but she’d designed it herself. It was a hand clutching a book.

Her mother had accused her of being vulgar and disturbed. After all, it was how Michael had died, so distracted by the books he’d checked out at the library he hadn’t see the bus coming. She’d been a few yards behind, on her phone, not paying attention. She’d looked up too late to warn him.

She’d never get the image of his crumpled body out of her head, or the sight of a book clutched in his right hand.

She’d never get rid of the guilt either.

Angela looked down at the book she’d brought with her. A rusty brown smudge on the front cover was the only visible sign of damage. She opened the book, the spine falling open to the only page she ever read.

The words poured forth.

“Hand in hand we come

Christopher Robin and I

To lay this book in your lap.

Say you’re surprised?

Say you like it?

Say it’s just what you wanted?

Because it’s yours-

because we love you.”

A sob left her and she realized her cheeks were wet.

“My baby. My sweet baby.”

Angela felt someone sit down beside her and a warm hand stroking her back. She turned her head, burying her face in her wife’s neck and sobbed.

After eleven years, it should have grown easier, but it never did.

 


I had no idea where I was going with this, but once I started writing it flowed.

Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics.You definitely want to read Helena’s story this week!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!

Brigham’s Recommendations – Blueberry Boys by Vanessa North

Summary:

Love is coming into season.

Connor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer.

Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has.

Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other.

Review:

Before I say anything else, let me say how much I love the cover of this book. Maybe because it brings back memories of picking blueberries with my family when I was a kid, but something about it evokes a warm, sweet feeling in me.

It fits with the story so well because overall it’s a gentle story. That’s not to say there wasn’t conflict in the story. Far from it. There’s conflict between Jed and Connor as they try  to figure out what will happen with the farm and how to make a relationship work when they live such drastically different lives. There’s conflict between the men and the town. There’s conflict between Jed and his family and his coming out. Conflict between Connor and his brother Scott. The conflict kept me turning the pages and wondering how on earth they would ever resolve it. But there’s a certain sweetness to Connor and Jed’s relationship that permeates the story.

There’s also steamy chemistry and some incredibly hot scenes between them. Connor is a photographer, and let me tell you, there is a phenomenally hot scene involving a camera that shouldn’t be missed. But throughout every steamy scene is a certain amount of tenderness and sweetness that I absolutely loved.

I think the author did an excellent job resolving all of the conflict in the story in a realistic way. Not everything was wrapped up in a neat little bow, but there was a hopeful feel that in time, relationships with family will be mended. And Connor and Jed carved out a perfect life that they can enjoy together.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Riptide Publishing

 

Flash Fiction Monday – The Artist’s Muse

 

The skritch, skritch,skritch of charcoal against paper was the only sound in the room. Marshall glanced briefly at the page, before looking up at Luka again. He didn’t know which was worse: staring at the drawing or at the man?

Not that Luka was a chore to look at. Far from it. His fallen angel face and loose curls made him a dead ringer for the model Cellini had used for his marble Narcissus.

Marshall was no Renaissance sculptor, however.

Just a struggling art student who couldn’t hold down a day job. Or keep a relationship together.

He let his gaze roam over his former sub again, his pencil tracing the lines his eyes followed.  Up the corded muscles of Luka’s neck, sharply angling to trace the jaw, curving over full, sensual lips. Marshall’s pencil—and heart—stuttered.

Something flickered in Luka’s gaze at the change in rhythm, but he was too well trained to move and disrupt Marshall’s art. Luka had picked the pose and Marshall regretted letting him. It was beautiful; no question about it, and the light was impeccable. But something about the way Luka’s temple and shoulder met the window revealed a disconcerting reflection. Although angled at a three-quarter profile to Marshall, the reflection in the glass made it appear as though Luka was focused on him. As if the long-lashed, sad eyes were staring straight at him. Imploring him.

Marshall ducked further behind his easel and scrutinized the sketch of Luka. The edge of an eraser traced down Luka’s nose, brushed the tops of his eyelids, and left little curlicues of light to highlight his hair.

Stilling, Marshall looked at the piece with a critical eye, his heart aching as he acknowledged there was no more to be done. Not for the sketch—which would be handed over to the gallery at the end of the week—or the relationship.

In truth, it had been over for a while now. Marshall had only asked Luka to model after the gallery curator begged him for an additional piece to complete the collection.

He cleared his throat. “I think we’re done.”

Luka didn’t move a muscle. “You think, or you’re sure?”

“I’m sure. It’s done.”

There was a bitter twist to Luka’s lips as he straightened and stretched. Without even the sound of the charcoal on the paper, the room’s silence became oppressive. Luka dressed, neither quickly nor slowly, but with the typical graceful economy of movements he always used.

Marshall mourned as the beautiful dancer’s body was swallowed by denim and cotton. He’d never see the strong, lissome curves again, unless he went to Luka’s performances, which he couldn’t afford.

At least I’ll always have my art, he thought bitterly as Luka reached the door.

“Thanks for agreeing to this,” he said aloud.

Luka hitched his canvas bag of dance clothes higher on his shoulder and paused with the door half-open. “It doesn’t have to be like this, you know?”

“Yes. It does.”


 

This story came together quite easily for me. Almost too easily. There’s a wicked plot bunny nibbling at me right now. What do you think? Would you want to read Marshall and Luka’s story?

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 Horse Tamer

Eugene stood at the window, his breath obscuring the small pane of glass as he strained to see the tall figure in the long dark coat. He wiped away the fog of his breath and caught a glimpse of the leggy filly galloping through the snow. She was young, a bit wild still, and Mr. Dawson was training her.

Rumor had it he was the best horse trainer around, but he didn’t look like any of the hard-faced, rough men Eugene saw around town who worked on the nearby ranches. He looked more like the bankers and businessmen with the silk waistcoats and top hats. He looked like the men who lived in fancy houses with servants to mop the floor and cooks to make his meals. Instead, Mr. Dawson lived in the boarding house where Eugene’s sister Sarah mopped the floors and Agnes—his mother—cooked the food. Some townsfolk whispered about Mr. Dawson’s oddness, but he was still considered a catch by the women in town.

Eugene didn’t like thinking too much about Mr. Dawson and his stern, handsome face and long fingers. And when he did in the dark of his bedroom, he woke up with sticky sheets, feeling guilty and ashamed.

“Eugene!” The sharp note in his mother’s voice made him turn quickly, afraid she’d been calling him for a while. “Stop staring out the window and tell Mr. Dawson to come inside. I’ll not have him be late for dinner again.”

His mother tolerated neither tardiness nor daydreaming, so Eugene dashed out the door. Any icy gust of wind stopped him at the top of the steps that led to the yard behind the house. “Mr. Dawson,” he called. “Mr. Dawson, dinner’s ready.”

Eugene shivered as the wind carried the sound away and flung stinging bits of icy snow against his cheeks.  It wasn’t until the filly’s circle brought her in front of Eugene, that Mr. Dawson spotted him.

“Whoa!” he called to the filly as he strode toward her. She skidded to a halt, dancing in place as he grabbed the reins. “Easy, girl.”

The filly quieted. There was something soothing about his deep, commanding voice, although it always gave Eugene a funny feeling deep in his belly.

“Dinner’s ready, Mr. Dawson.”

“It’s Thomas. How many times do I have to tell you?” He cleared his throat and looked at Eugene over the top of the horse’s mane, his dark curls dusted with snow and his strong, handsome features looking like something carved from marble. Eugene unsuccessfully tried to control his chattering teeth and the stern expression softened. “You’re half-frozen, boy. Go inside. I’ll be along shortly.”

Warmed by Thomas’ concern, Eugene made a dash for the door. The kitchen smelled of roast and his mouth watered at the sight of the onions, carrots, and potatoes his mother was spooning onto the platter with the meat.

“Thom—Mr. Dawson will be in shortly.”

She glanced at him then turned her gaze on Sarah. “Wash your face and tidy your hair, girl. You’ll never get his attention looking like a wreck.”

Sarah flushed and left the kitchen, her skirts rustling in her haste.

Eugene felt the same sick, sinking feeling he got every time his mother talked of Sarah and Thomas together. It would be a good match although Thomas was a good ten years older than his sister.  The clatter of the door opening and the stomp of boots alerted him to Thomas’ return.

A while later, over apple pie, Mrs. Gordon cleared her throat. “Sarah’s birthday is coming up on Sunday. She’ll be seventeen. We’ll be holding a bit of a party to celebrate. I’m sure there are many eligible young men in town who will be quite interested.”

“How nice,” Thomas said, his tone polite, but as disinterested as ever. He turned his gaze to Eugene. “It’ll be your birthday as well then?”

Eugene nodded. He and Sarah were twins after all. “That’s right.”

There was something in Thomas’ gaze that made Eugene shift in his chair. “That reminds me I’ve been meaning to ask you if Eugene would be available to me. I could use an assistant. Eugene is good with horses and I believe he’d be a good deal of help when I travel. I’d pay him fairly of course.”

Mrs. Gordon sputtered at first, but when it was finally agreed upon, Eugene’s heart sang.

After dinner, as his mother read the bible aloud and Sarah embroidered a handkerchief, Eugene and Thomas sat by the fire and discussed the horse business.

When Eugene fell into bed that night he dreamed of galloping horses and long-fingered hands on his skin.


This was actually last week’s prompt. I had half an idea that refused to solidify, so I set it aside. When I went to write this week’s prompt and didn’t have any ideas, I went back to this one and it finally came together.

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!

Brigham’s Recommendations – The Law of Attraction by Jay Northcote

Summary:

When a professional relationship turns personal, it’s impossible to resist the law of attraction.

Alec Rowland is a high-flying lawyer in a London firm whose career is his life. He doesn’t have time for relationships and his sexuality is a closely guarded secret. After picking up a cute guy on a Friday night, Alec’s world is rocked to its foundations when his one night stand shows up in the office on Monday morning—as the new temp on his team.

Ed Piper is desperate to prove himself in his new job. The last thing he needs is to be distracted by a crush on his boss. It’s hard to ignore the attraction he feels, even though Alec’s a difficult bastard to work for.

Both men strive to maintain a professional relationship, but tempers fray, passions ignite, and soon they’re both falling hard and fast. If they’re ever going to find a way to be together, Alec needs to be honest about who he really is because Ed won’t go back in the closet for anyone.

Review:

I’m a huge Jay Northcote fan. Always have been. And this book was no exception. She has a talent for telling simple stories very well. There are probably thousands of office romance stories out there, but Jay does an excellent job making the romance between Alec and Ed feel fresh and exciting.

The chemistry between Alec and Ed was palpable and the scenes where they interact are tension-filled. Jay never disappoints when it comes to love scenes and the ones in “The Law of Attraction” are absolutely electric.

Getting the characters from passion to romance is a rocky ride though. Ed’s feelings are a bit complicated and Alec’s are even murkier. Both characters were well-thought out however and their motivations were solid and interesting. The way they worked through their problems was  very well-handled and in the end, led to a satisfying yet believable HEA.

My favorite stories are the ones that combine romance with a touch of realism. I like to get lost in the magic of attraction and love without losing sight of the real world. Jay Northcote is one of my absolute favorite writers because she always pulls that off.

“The Law of Attraction” is definitely a book you don’t want to miss.

Buy Links:

Amazon

Goodreads

Brigham’s Recommendations – Irregulars (Anthology)

Summary:

It’s a secret international organization operating in cities on every continent. It polices relations between the earthly realm and those beyond this world, enforcing immigration laws, the transfers of magical artifacts, and crimes against humanity.

The agents who work for the NATO Irregular Affairs Division can’t tell anyone what they do, or how hard they work to keep us safe. It brings a colorful collection of men together:
Agent Henry Falk, the undead bum. Agent Keith Curry, former carnivore chef turned vegetarian; Agent Rake, Babylonian demon with a penchant for easy living; and Agent Silas August, uncompromising jerk.

Four cities, four mysteries, four times the romance. Is your security clearance high enough to read on?

Review:

I first discovered the agents of the NATO Irregular Affairs Division in the Charmed and Dangerous Anthology. If you haven’t read it, you really should.  Some of my favorite authors were involved and all of the stories are fantastic.  It’s also where I first met Keith and Gunther.  I loved the world they were a part of and when I found out they were from the “Irregulars” anthology I bought it immediately.

All four stories in “Irregulars” are spectacular. Every single one was rich and detailed and truly brought the magical (and non-magical) world to life. The way the stories intertwined was particularly enjoyable and kept me glued to the book. All four authors had distinct voices, yet their styles meshed so well it felt like the stories seamlessly transitioned from one to the other.

The anthology had stellar pacing. It was satisfyingly  long without feeling like it dragged, yet I would have happily read more stories in this world. I loved all of the characters. They were interestingly flawed and the way magic impacted their relationships was fascinating.

I tried to pick which of the four stories I liked best: “Cherries Worth Getting” by Nicole Kimberling, “Green Glass Beads” by Josh Lanyon, “No Life But This” by Astrid Amara, and “Things Unseen and Deadly” by Ginn Hale. It was an impossible choice. I loved all of them and each had their merits.

One of the biggest compliments I can give the anthology is that I want to read it again. That’s something I rarely do, but this one is begging for a re-read.

Buy Links:

Amazon 

Blind Eye Books

Flash Fiction Monday – Nudity and the Pug

“Two shirts, sandals, and no pants, huh?”

Amal jerked, then craned his neck to look at me. I’d been sitting there watching him cook for a while, but he hadn’t noticed.

“My feet get cold.”

“But your balls don’t?”

Thick lashes dipped down to shadow dark eyes and he gave me a sweet, half-smile.  “You could warm them. You’re very good with your tongue.”

Amal was an intriguing mix of shy and bold.

Our relationship had developed oddly.  He’d been studying at Universität Hamburg and in need of a place to live. I’d been left behind by a former partner who thought packing and moving without giving me notice was an appropriate way to end a relationship I’d thought would last a lifetime.

Given how sullen I was when Amal moved into the flat full of American and British exchange students—not to mention my less than handsome face—I still don’t know why he gave me a second glance. In truth, he probably wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the news reports of the endless bombings in Syria. He’d left before the worst of it began and his immediate family had relocated to a safer place since. It broke my heart to watch him grieve for his home country and fear for the distant relatives and friends unable or unwilling to leave.

One night, when the rest of our flat mates were out, we sat in the living room watching the news. I’m still not sure what made me lean against him so the sides of our bodies were pressed together. Maybe it was the big dark eyes swimming with tears or the way the need in them mirrored my own, but I leaned in and he let out this heavy, shuddering sigh that I felt down to my bones. I stayed glued to his side long after he’d switch from the news to a more upbeat movie, his hand heavy and warm against my skin.

I was disappointed when he stretched and yawned, then told me he was going to bed, thinking the night had been a fluke. When I turned to go into the room where my bed was located, he gave me a look that warmed me to my toes. “I thought you’d be sleeping with me.”

That’s the night I discovered Amal was a closet nudist and that licking his balls both made him giggle and sigh with pleasure.

We were an odd pair; no question about it. But our flatmates eventually grew used to the sight of us together. After the first night we spent together, he was naked as often he could manage—with curious flatmates and cold winter air around it wasn’t often—so after he graduated we moved into a smaller flat free from prying eyes. Or so we’d thought.

He twisted the dial to off and turned to face me. “What do you think of my idea?”

I smiled and pulled him close; our bare skin brushing together sent a pleasant tingle through my body. I’d stripped down the moment I got home. “It’s brilliant. But we’d better lock the dog out of the bedroom.”

Amal nodded and shot a glance at our new, canine roommate. “He watches us a lot. I swear I caught him staring at my bum earlier.”


 

Please visit the flash fic group on Facebook and check out the links to the other authors’ flash fics. We have quite a few contributions this week!

I look forward to seeing you next Monday!