Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 28

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

 


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1

Chapter 28

“I’m just a friend,” she said, instictively showing her hands and trying to ignore her racing pulse. “Dillon was kind enough to let me have his guest room for a few nights.” Pasting a smile on her face, she extended her right hand just a little. “It’s nice to finally meet you – he’s told me so much about you.”

It was clear from the widening of the woman’s eyes that she was taken off guard by that, but she didn’t take Shelley’s hand.

“I don’t believe you,” she said, her eyes narrowing again. “Dillon’s a man, and men don’t just let women stay in their houses without wanting something more. I don’t blame him – men need what they need and I’ve been away working. But I’m here now, so you’re going to have to leave.”

Shelley nodded. “I can do that.” She took a step toward the short hall that led to the front door. “I’ll just be on my way then.” If she could get out of the house, she could run to the administration office and find Dillon before this woman did.

“Don’t you want to get your things?” The woman’s eyes darted toward the other hall – the one leading to the bedrooms, and Shelley knew she must have come in the back door and passed the open guest bedroom on her way to the kitchen. She didn’t want to waste time – she just wanted to go get Dillon, but she had to make this convincing, so she nodded.

“Of course – silly me. Let me just get my bag and I’ll get out of your way.” She moved toward the other hall, slowly. “Have you seen Dillon yet?”

“None of your business. Hurry up.”

Shelley hadn’t seen a weapon yet, but she didn’t feel comfortable turning her back all the same, so she sort of side-stepped down the hall. The other woman definitely gave off an unstable energy, and Shelley just wanted to get the hell away from her. She could see why Dillon was so paranoid.

“That’s a gnarly scar on your face,” the woman commented as Shelley went into the guest room and hastily threw stuff in her bag. “Where’d you get it?”

Shelley considered giving her the same reply she’d used just a minute earlier, but considering things were still reasonably amicable, she decided against it.

“There was an accident when I was a child.” She didn’t offer more, just zipped up her bag and turned to find Dillon’s stalker blocking the doorway. “I’ll just let myself out now. Congratulations on your engagement.” She tried to make it sound sincere, but the other woman didn’t look like she bought it. Not that it mattered, as long as Shelley could make it out of the cabin.

Moving aside, the woman nodded her head. “Thank you.”

It was a tense walk to the front door, and Shelley pulled it open, hoping she could find Dillon quickly.

“One more thing,” the woman said from behind her. Shelley turned and raised her eyebrows, waiting. “What’s my name?”
Shelley frowned. “I don’t think you ever told me– ”

“No, I didn’t. But you said Dillon talked about me all the time so surely he mentioned my name at least once. What is it?”
Shelley shook her head. “He didn’t say your name, I swear. I’m sorry, but that’s something you’ll have to take up with him. I’m sure he’ll be back soon.”

She has no weapon, Shelley reminded herself. Just go. She walked through the doorway and pulled the door shut behind her, even though she thought she heard the other woman speaking again. Striding purposefully down the trail away from the cabin, she didn’t stop, even when she heard the door open behind her, and the woman’s voice following. She had to warn Dillon, and as soon as she knew she was out of sight from the cabin, she started to run.


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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 27

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

*Note: A lot of this scene is me working out backstory for Shelley, which I should have done much earlier in the book. It will probably be integrated into earlier parts of the book and a discussion with Dillon eventually.


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1

Chapter 27

After breakfast, Shelley watched Dillon walk down the trail from his cabin to the camp’s administration building. He’d invited her to go with him while he helped check in a large group of campers, but she’d declined. She hadn’t had any time to herself since this whole debacle started, and all she wanted was a shower and some space to think.

Ten minutes later, she stood under the shower and let the warm water slide down her skin. Running her hands over her face, her fingers traced the scar extending from just outside her left eye down and across her cheek, ending just above the left corner of her mouth. It had been there so long now that she wasn’t sure she’d know who she was without it. It had been Tabitha’s fault, kind of. They’d been playing in Uncle Andrew’s barn when they were kids, and Tabby had pushed her into a pile of hay. Only an old rusty combine blade had been hiding underneath, and Shelley had rolled right into the very last disk…with her face.

She’d been in first or second grade at the time, and she didn’t remember much after Tabby pushed her, just a lot of blood and pain, more pain in the ambulance, and way too many shots before she finally passed out at the hospital. When she’d woke up, Aunt Jane had held up a mirror so she could see the long line of stitches in her face and told her she was going to look like the monster her namesake wrote about as her punishment for playing in the barn when they’d been told not to.

Everything about that moment was clear as a bell in Shelley’s mind. Tabby laughing and pointing, the mixed look of contempt and satisfaction on Jane’s face, and the look of sympathy and horror on the nurse’s face as she watched, and then quickly took the mirror from Jane and told her visiting hours were over.

That nurse had been really nice to her. Brought her ice cream and found cartoons on the TV so she could watch with the one eye that wasn’t swollen shut. She’d spoken in hushed tones to the doctor later, and some woman in a suit had come in and asked a bunch of questions about Jane and Andrew and the barn, and then she’d gone back home with Jane and Tabby. They hadn’t visited Uncle Andrew much after that.

Jane had favored Tabitha before, but Shelley figured that was because Tabby was actually her child, and Shelley wasn’t. After the accident, Jane had constantly drawn attention to Shelley’s face, apologizing to strangers for it, telling Shelley not to look at people, and making sure Shelley knew that no boy would ever want to date her. It had taken many years for Shelley to leave that way of thinking behind, and oddly enough, Tabby had been one of her most staunch allies, negating much of her mother’s commentary – often with a well-timed eyeroll.

No. Shelley turned the shower off and toweled dry. The Tabitha she knew would not do that. She wouldn’t just blindly follow whatever Jane said, especially when it came to Shelley. She pulled on clean clothes and went to her bedroom, digging her cell phone out of her bag. She was going to call the hospital and talk to Tabby. Get everything straightened out once and for all.

Padding out to the kitchen for another cup of coffee, she tried to get a signal and couldn’t. Leaving the phone on the counter, she poured her coffee and went to the island and picked up the landline handset, pressing the button to get a dial tone.

Only there wasn’t one. She frowned at the phone, pushed the button again. The light came on, but the line was dead. She wondered when Dillon had last tried to make a call.

Putting the handset down, she sipped her coffee and considered her options. She could either wait there at the cabin until Dillon got back, or walk down to the admin office and let him know the phone was out. She remembered the cell service being better at the base of the camp where it was more open, so she could probably make her call down there anyway.

The coffee was only lukewarm from earlier, and she downed the rest of the cup and rinsed it out in the sink. Turning around, she reached out for her phone, but it wasn’t where she’d left it.

But a woman was standing on the other side of the kitchen, holding it in her hand with a smile that looked more like a grimace. The stranger didn’t mince words.

“What are you doing in my fiance’s house?”


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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 26

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

*Note: Sections denoted with an asterisk are new details that will eventually be added to the earlier parts of the book as well. 


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1

Chapter 26

Dillon sat beside her, his expression contrite, but there was something else there too. Something she couldn’t quite put a finger on.

“I thought you were a plant,” he said, not bothering to beat around the bush, which she appreciated. “I had a stalker when I came back from California. That’s part of the reason I moved way out here and started running the ranch – so it would be harder for her to find me. I love it here, so it was a good decision, but from what I hear, she’s been hiring private detectives to try to figure out where I am. I thought you might be one of them, playing a part. You were interesting. Too interesting for one of those speed-dating desperadoes.”

Shelley frowned. “But you gave me your card. Why would you tell me who you are or where the ranch is if you were afraid I was a detective? Isn’t that kind of the exact opposite thing you should have done?”

He shrugged. “I figured if you were looking for me specifically, you already knew who I was. I guess maybe I thought if I could just talk to you, I could convince you not to go back to her with the information. But when I had Preston run the background check to find out your “real” identity and you didn’t have any ties to her whatsoever, I figured if we hit it off, we’d eventually talk about the stalker thing and the background check thing and my general paranoia.”

“I see.” Shelley was quiet for a few minutes, trying to process everything. “You have a stalker.” Saying the words aloud felt weird, like she’d been transported into some bad classic comedy. “Is she trying to kill you, or…what does she want?”

“I met her when I was working in Silicon Valley.” Dillon paused to take a sip of orange juice. “We were friends, I thought, but I never asked her out, never even went to lunch with her without someone else around, and I didn’t think I showed any kind of romantic interest. But apparently I was missing some key clues that she was into me, and the next thing I know, I’m getting cards and flowers and gifts at my desk, at home, left on my car…all from her, all saying she loved me and would do anything for me and begging me to marry her.”

“That sounds like more than just a crush.” Shelley took a sip of her own orange juice, relaxing back into the seat. “Is that when you moved back?”

He shook his head. “The company transferred me to another branch – not because of her, just because they needed someone with my skills up there. I jumped at the chance to move and thought that would be the end of it. And it was, for about two months. Then she showed up in town and started the same old shit again. That’s when I quit my job, packed up my stuff and moved back here, without a word to anyone about where I was going.”

Shelley nodded. “How long ago was that?”

“About three years ago. I still have a couple friends in that area who keep tabs on her for me – one of them called last week and said she’d been showing off an engagement ring lately. Which would be great news – except she’s telling everyone that I’m her fiance.” He sighed and reached for the bacon, helping himself to two strips.

“Wow.” Shelley shook her head. “She really is unhinged, isn’t she? The police can’t do anything? Seems like she should be institutionalized or something.”

“Nope. Not unless she does me physical harm. And to do that, she has to find me, but…she seems pretty determined.”

“That’s one way of putting it, I suppose.” Shelley’s stomach rumbled, to her embarrassment. Dillon grinned.

“We should eat something. Is that…are we good? I’m sorry I ran the background check without saying anything, I just needed to make sure you weren’t connected to her.”

“I understand why.” Shelley took the plate of pancakes he offered, and put two on her plate before handing it back. “I still feel kind of…I don’t know. At a disadvantage, I guess. You know all there is to know about me, but I still barely know anything about you.”
Dillon held up one finger and got to his feet. “Hold that thought for two seconds.” He walked to the sideboard and picked up a thick yellow mailing envelope.

“I know this doesn’t make up for it, but I want you to have this. I had Preston run a background check on me too. It’s all in here – I told him not to hold anything back. You can read it at your leisure. It’s yours to keep.”


Thanks for reading! Check back next week for Chapter 27!

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Serial Story: Don’t Look Away, Ch. 25

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Missed a few chapters? Email me to catch up. Thanks for reading, and enjoy!

*Note: Sections denoted with an asterisk are new details that will eventually be added to the earlier parts of the book as well. 


Don’t Look Away
Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1

Chapter 25

A frenzied feathered chorus and the smell of breakfast sausage woke Shelley from a deep sleep. Confused, she shifted on the bed, her pillow too soft and the blankets heavier than her own. She blinked a few times, staring at the ceiling and thinking back to the last thing she remembered.

Falling asleep in Dillon’s truck.

She thought she had the vague impression of being carried into the cabin, but that couldn’t be right. She must have woken up enough to walk inside and take off her shoes. Checking under the blanket, it looked like she’d had enough energy to shuck her jeans too. It was light outside, and she wondered how long she’d been sleeping.

The clock radio beside the bed said six-twenty in the morning, but that couldn’t be right. They’d left the hospital just after sunrise. She couldn’t possibly have slept nearly twenty-four hours.

Tossing the covers back, she sat up on the edge of the bed and rubbed her face. Those birds outside sure were chipper. And loud. Breathing in deep, she inhaled more of that wonderful sausage scent. Her stomach rumbled. No matter what the clock said, it was time for breakfast, apparently.

Standing, she looked around the room and found her jeans on a chair by the door with her travel bag. She pulled the jeans on and rummaged through her bag for a clean shirt and socks. Pulling her hair back into a neat ponytail at the base of her neck for now, she opened the door and padded down the hall to Dillon’s kitchen.

“Wow.” The word sort of slipped out when she saw the spread on the table. A plate piled high with pancakes sat by a whole pan of sausage and a big bowl of cut-up fruits. Buttered toast, two different syrup containers and a pitcher of orange juice completed the meal. Dillon was at the counter pouring two cups of coffee with his back to her, but he turned when she spoke, and it was all she could do not to crack up laughing at his bright red apron sprinkled liberally with rubber ducks all decked out in different little outfits. with his bare chest and jeans underneath, ti a She grinned.

“Nice apron.”

He looked down, and then back at her with a wink and a smile. “Thanks. It’s my chick-magnet. Get it? Chicks? ”

Shelley groaned and rolled her eyes. “Seriously – that is so bad. And those are ducks, technically. Does it work?”

“That’s up to you. Want to kiss the cook, pretty lady?” He sidled closer and wiggled his eyebrows, turning his head to present his cheek and tap it with one finger. Shelley laughed and leaned in to press a soft kiss just there but he turned his head at the last second and her lips met his instead.

Tentative and gentle, his mouth moved against hers, and she ignored the niggling feeling that she shouldn’t be doing this as his hands slid around her waist and pulled her closer, hugging her tight as he placed tiny kisses down the side of her jaw and neck.
Then he just hugged her close, and she turned her face into his chest and breathed in the warm, comforting scent of him. When he pulled back enough to look at her, she didn’t want to let go.

“You looked like you needed a hug.” He smiled, caressing the side of her face with one hand. “Now let’s eat, before all this food gets cold, and then we’ll talk, okay?”

Shelley nodded, reluctantly letting go of his shoulders. Talking. His revelation from the day before came flooding back, and a sick sense of dread settled in her stomach as she sat down, suddenly not hungry.

“I think we should talk now. Why did you do that background check on me?”


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Serial Story: Rattlesnake Falls, Book 1, Chapter 1

This serial story is posted one chapter per week on Fridays, in unedited (draft) form. It may contain adult situations that might not be suitable for children. Thanks for reading, and enjoy! 

No, I still haven’t decided on the title. One should come to me eventually. Just gotta keep writing! 


Rattlesnake Falls Book 1

Chapter 1

It’s not easy being right all the time.

Shelley Frank watched the fourth guy of the night walk away and for a second, pretended to wonder what would happen if she just played “normal” with the next one. But she already knew. Guys were so predictable. Which made them boring, which made this whole evening a complete waste of time.

Maybe not a complete waste, she thought as that annoying bell rang and the next speed-dater approached. He wasn’t particularly interesting at first glance, other than the fact that he didn’t actually seem interested at all. Well, that and the five-o-clock shadow that darkened his jawline with a perfect amount of shade. He sat down across from her with a bored look that probably matched her own.

He met Shelley’s gaze with two startlingly-green eyes and she was surprised at the confident dismissal reflecting back.

“I don’t mean any offense, but I’m only here ‘cause my buddy needed backup and you don’t look like you’re any more into this than I am. So if it’s okay with you, we’ll just skip the whole getting-to-know-you bit, and I’ll get a little work done before the next switch. Is that cool?”

Shelley nodded, but didn’t figure he even saw it considering his smartphone was already in hand and his thumbs were moving a mile a minute. The vibe he gave off was clearly a don’t-talk-to-me one, and Shelley pondered that for a minute.

Was it a ploy to catch her interest by appearing to be uninterested? Or was he really not into this whole thing — and if that was the case, why didn’t he just leave? Then again, she was still here too. The clock was ticking, and considering he was the only challenge she’d seen all night, she decided it was worth the risk.

“Let me guess,” she started as she had with all the others. He was wearing worn, comfy-looking jeans and a semi-wrinkled teal button-down shirt casually untucked with just a hint of curly chest-hair showing in the vee at the top. His black hair was a little long and naturally wavy, and a few errant strands kept falling across his eye.

With those looks and that always-on attitude, it was hard to draw conclusions without knowing more, but she’d give it a try.

“You’re an IT geek with a boner for the latest gaming system and a God complex. A programmer, maybe, which gives you a sense of purpose and at the same time, takes away your ability to connect with other humans on any meaningful level.” Okay, maybe not that last part, Shelley thought. But if it got his attention…

He didn’t even look up from the small screen and his fingers never stuttered. Shelley figured he hadn’t even been listening, so her assessment was just wasted breath. By the time the bell rang again, she’d decided to call it a night and move to the other side of the bar while her cousin finished running the event.

Her partner for that round got to his feet before she could, and finally looked at her, a sharp, appraising gaze that made her want to take a step back.

“Bored, smart woman who somehow got roped into attending this thing against your better judgement, and you’re trying to make the best of it, but you’d rather be at home curled up on a couch with a book and your beloved…leopard gecko or something. Maybe a glass of wine. But you definitely don’t want anyone here taking a liking to you, because that would make him ‘not boring’, and that might make you think you have a chance for half-a-second. Which you don’t, of course, because you always push people away before they have a chance to do the same to you.”

He paused for a minute, started to say something, and then appeared to change his mind. He reached into a back pocket and pulled out a card, dropping it on the table.

“Just for the record – your first assessment was a little off. Might want to brush up on those people-reading skills.”

Shelley watched him walk away and grabbed the card, moving away from the table to avoid yet another round. Holding his card under one of the dim bar lights, she peered closely at the tiny print.

“Dillon Riley — Outdoor Enthusiast/Tour Guide/Owner at Rattlesnake Falls Lodge and Resort.” There was a PO Box listed in Big Timber, and a cell phone number she assumed was his. She had never heard of Rattlesnake Falls, but there were a few different camps up that way and it was beautiful country for it.

Brow furrowed, she looked up and scanned the room, trying to spot Dillon again. Outdoor enthusiast? Really? He didn’t look even remotely outdoorsy with that pale skin and slender frame. Did he have enough muscle to lift a hiking pack?

She knew she was being both unfair and bitchy, but she couldn’t seem to stop, and that was as good a cue as any to leave.

Slipping the card into her purse, she searched the crowd again – this time finding her target, and pushed through the people to where her cousin was holding court from a bar stool.

“Hey Tabby – I’m gonna head out. Do you need a ride?” She only asked to be polite. Her cousin never needed a ride, and rarely came home on nights like this anyway. Shelley wasn’t sure why Tabitha felt the need to drag her along. Tabby insisted it was to keep her company until the party ‘really got hoppin’, which took all of about ten minutes in any bar her cousin had ever set an insanely-high-heeled foot in.

Tabby shook her head. “You chased everyone off again, didn’t you?”

Shelley just shrugged and smiled. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she yelled over the jukebox and elbowed the ribs of a guy with roaming hands on her right. “Take care!”

“In the morning- sure…maybe!”

Tabby turned back to her adoring fans and Shelley pushed her way back through the crowd, somehow managing to find the door. A gust of cool air hit her face as she pushed it open, and she immediately lost her balance as the lower-but-still-substantial heel Tabitha had insisted Shelley borrow caught on a crack in the concrete just right.

Helpless against both gravity and momentum, she reached for the railing she knew was attached to each side of the three-steps down to the parking lot. Her fingers hit the cold metal and slid off just before her shoulder slammed into something warm and solid. She grabbed on for dear life, hoping whatever or whoever it was would at least slow her fall as the momentum kept carrying her sideways.

And right into a thick, steel band of an arm that encircled the center of her back as if she’d been meant to roll right there the whole time. Strong fingers wrapped around her ribs, and she gasped when the world finally stopped spinning and she found herself staring into the same startling green eyes she’d seen at the table inside.


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Serial Story: MacKenzie Saves the World, Part 30 (Final)

This serial story is presented in draft (unedited) format. Each new installment will replace
the one before. If you get behind, email me and I’ll hook you up with the missing chapters!


MSTW_400

MacKenzie Saves the World
Part 30

The next morning MacKenzie stretched, trying to remember why her muscles were so sore, and how her bed had gotten so soft. Her hands and feet both hit barriers before she opened her eyes and recognized Josh’s living room.

And the man himself, fast asleep in his chair across from where she lay on his couch.

She smiled at how peaceful he looked. The past month had been so busy, but they’d made time for each other and she’d gotten to know him – not just what he liked and how he thought though they’d certainly spent plenty of time talking about…everything, but she knew his expressions, his habits, every line and crease on his face. And everything she knew about him just made him that much more dear to her. She couldn’t imagine life without this amazing, resilient man.

Careful to be quiet, she moved the blanket aside and stood, unable to resist just one more stretch up high overhead. When her heels finally touched down and she looked over at Josh, he was looking at her, something in his eyes that she couldn’t quite decipher.

“You’re beautiful,” he said, setting his own blanket aside. She rolled her eyes at him as he rose and came toward her.

“My hair’s a mess, this dress is trashed, and I’m sure my makeup’s all over my face. But thank you.”

He leaned down for a kiss and she met him half-way, surprised when he released her quickly.

“Everything okay?”

He nodded, reaching into his pocket. “Better than okay.” He pointed to the ottoman. “Can you sit down for a minute?”

Kenzie sat, her stomach flipping in anticipation. And when he knelt in front of her, she could barely focus for the pounding in her chest. He held out a small black box, still closed on the palm of one hand, and grasped her hand with the other.

“You know I love you, MacKenzie. And I can’t imagine my life without you. Will you marry me? Please?”

She couldn’t have held back a wide smile if she’d tried.

“Of course I’ll marry you. I love you so much.” She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him, throwing them both off balance. When they were both laughing on the floor, he rolled to his side and held up the box, a teasing glint in his eye.

“Do you want to see your ring now?” The way he said it, the look on his face made her curious.

“Absolutely.” She reached for the box, but he pulled it back out of reach. Laughing, he opened it where she couldn’t see it, and then slowly lowered it down to eye level.

Kenzie looked at the dark, almost black titanium band inlaid with two lighter bands top and bottom. A pink oval diamond was set deep in the center, the top flush with the band so it wouldn’t get caught on things. She stared for a long moment, not sure whether to laugh or cry as Josh took it out of the box and slid it on the ring finger of her left hand. she wiggled her finger, watching the light flash through the stone.

“I can’t believe it,” she breathed, unable to take her eyes off it. “You had Charade’s ring made. How did you do it?”

Josh reached for her hand, bringing it to his lips for a kiss.

“I had Kevin get me your sketches, and took them to a jeweler I know. One of his designers made it happen. You like it?”

MacKenzie shook her head. “No, I love it. You are amazing.” She pulled him down for a kiss, needing him close.

“Superhero amazing?” he murmured against her lips, rubbing his nose against hers. She giggled.

“My own personal superhero, without a doubt.”

The End

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed MacKenzie’s story! The edited, final version will be out in print and ebook on November 14th.


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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 29

This story is presented weekly in draft
(unedited) form. Each installment is available for one week until the
next is posted. Miss one? Email me, and I’ll hook you up. Enjoy!


Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 29

Peter’s car was the only one in the lot when Katie parked on the street a couple buildings away. It would make saying what she had to say easier, but it was scary too, considering she needed to go in without Thomas so Peter would feel like he was in control of the situation.

She had to convince him to meet her at the site in the woods that they’d set up – the sooner, the better.

“Wait,” Thomas said when she reached for the car door. “I have something for you.” He pulled a large tiger-eye pendant out of a pocket, hanging from a thick dark silver chain.

“Wear this. It will protect you when I can’t.” He held the chain in both hands and she ducked her head so he could put it on. She felt the weight of the stone settle over her heart, and an almost electric buzz settled under her skin, like a force field of sorts.

“It tingles,” she said, rubbing the smooth stone between her fingers as she held it up for a closer look.

He nodded. “Druid magic. You have the instructions for him?”

“Right here.” She retrieved the piece of paper from her purse and waved it at him.

“Then go. Call out if you need me, and I’ll get to you as fast as I can. The amulet will protect you until then.”

She opened the car door, and then at the last minute turned back and grabbed the collar of Thomas’s shirt, pulling him in for a quick, hard kiss. Surprised as he was, he kissed her back, and she smiled as she pulled away.

“For luck,” she murmured, and then got out of the car and strode toward the garage, hoping she looked more confident than she felt.

The bell above the door rang loud as she let herself in, and she could see Peter bent under an open hood in the first bay of the work space. Her skin crawled as she approached him, and the amulet grew warmer against her heart, a reassuring sensation.

Peter stood, a grin spreading across his lips as he recognized her, and he wiped ineffectively at the grease on his hands with a red rag.

“Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in. Need a lube job, sweetheart? You know I’m happy to service you for free anytime.”

Katie fought back the gag reflex and tried to stay focused on the reason she’d come.

“Are you still interested in using me for your artwork?” She cocked her head to the side, doing her best to look curious rather than repulsed. Holding out the piece of paper, she watched the interest flare in his eyes as he took it from her.

“What’s this?” He opened it and scanned the contents, then met her gaze again. “Directions?”

She nodded. “I have something set up for us there. A gift, of sorts. Will you meet me later tonight?”

Peter frowned. “What about your new boy-toy? He doesn’t seem to like me much…”

Katie shrugged. “He’s out of the picture. This is just…us. Will you come?”

Peter chuckled. “Sure. But if you want to make art, darlin’, we don’t have to wait. In fact, let me show you something over here.” He moved away, deeper into the double bay of the garage, and she followed, keeping her distance from him. When he stopped next to one of the oil pumps, she stayed back several feet, knowing it was folly to trust him.

Holding the pump in one hand, he took a lighter out of his pocket with the other, and smiled, wiggling his eyebrows.

“Watch this.”

Squeezing the handle, he started dispensing oil onto the cement floor between them, and then he flicked the lighter to life, setting the oil stream on fire.

The burst was so hot it forced Katie backwards, and she teetered on the edge of the second work pit before catching her balance as Peter laughed. He swirled the oil-fed flames around in patterns, looking as comfortable as a gymnast with a ribbon as Katie slowly backed toward the exit.

“Leaving so soon, Katie-girl? But we’re only getting started!”

“Meet me tonight,” she called out above the roar of the flames. And then she pushed out the door and ran all the way back to the car.

Sweating from heat and nerves, she slid behind the wheel and peeled away from the curb, needing to put as much distance between that monster and herself as quickly as possible. She could feel Thomas staring.

“Is he coming tonight?” Thomas asked, the calm tone of his voice helping to calm her own nerves.


She nodded. “He’ll be there.”


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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 23

This story is presented weekly in draft
(unedited) form. Each installment is available for one week until the
next is posted. Miss one? Email me, and I’ll hook you up. Enjoy!


Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 23

“Bed?” Katie looked at his hand, and back at his face, her arms still holding her knees to her chest. “My bed is too small. We can’t share. And I don’t have a guest room. Can’t we just sleep out here, on the couch? The ottoman seems to work well enough…”

Thomas frowned. “Your bed is narrower than your sofa? Why?”

“That’s not what I meant.” Katie shook her head. “I just think we’ll be more comfortable out here, is all.”

Squatting down in front of her, Thomas took the hand he’d sought a few seconds earlier. “I’ll sleep on the floor, if that makes you happy, but you need to get good rest tonight, and that means you need to sleep in your own bed. Come now. Don’t argue.”

Too tired to put up any more of a fight, Katie let him help her up and then led him down the hall to her room. As soon as he saw the bed, he’d realize there was no way he’d fit. Flipping the light switch, she stepped back with a gasp, bumping into Thomas.

“I take it this wasn’t your doing?” he asked, gently pulling her back into the hall, and then stepping around her to move through the doorway.

“No,” she said, peering past him at the chaos of clothing, books and accessories, all strewn about like a tornado had touched down.

“I’m no neat nik, but I’m not anywhere near this bad. It must have been Peter. He knew where the key was. I can’t believe…” she stopped, not wanting to voice the fact that she’d slept with the man who wanted to sacrifice her for his art.

Thomas gathered up the pile of clothing and other sundry items off the bed and dumped them on the floor to the side. Then he reached up and began peeling off layers of clothing, as if Katie wasn’t even there.

But she was. And she stood transfixed as his back was bared to her, tribal-style designs swirling across the broad expanse with every movment he made. What a gorgeous, glorious creature he was, no matter what form he took. When he moved to push his pants off his hips, she stared, licking her lips at the thought of what might be revealed.
“It’s not fair,” he said, his voice low and soft. She jerked her head up at his words, noting the smirk as he watched her watching him over his shoulder.

She swallowed, her mouth dry. “What’s not fair?”

He broke eye contact to look forward again, letting his trousers slide down his legs. Her gaze immediately went to that perfectly molded, sculptured bottom, and the continuation of the tribal pattern started above.

Yum.

“You have too many clothes on, Katie Watson. Undress. Unless you require my aid for this as well?”

She was pretty sure her face was the color of a ripe tomato. It felt like one of those atomic fireballs she used to get out of the dime machines as a kid. Still, she considered taking him up on it. Surely this man would make her forget everything wrong in her world, even if only for a night.

But then what?

“Thanks, but no th–”

He turned around, hands on his hips and one leg out, looking entirely too comfortable with his buff, extremely well-endowed self. No woman in her right mind could say no to that, could she? What were the odds she’d get another chance to be with such a man?

Gargoyle, a little voice in her head whispered. She nearly giggled when she whispered back.

Exactly.

“On second thought…” She stepped closer, wanting to look away from his intense stare. Unable to look anywhere else. Raising her hands, she placed them on his chest, remembering how different he felt from other men. Cool and hot at the same time, like a rock at sunset that had been sitting in the sun.

He nodded once, and then his lips were on hers, his arms pulling her in, his scent making her brain go foggy. She gave herself up to the sensations.


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Serial Story: MacKenzie Saves the World, Episode 3L

This serial story is presented in draft (unedited) format. Each new installment will replace
the one before. If you get behind, email me and I’ll hook you up with the missing chapters!


“Fight Water with Fire” – Part 12

MacKenzie opened her eyes to an unfamiliar room and bright sunshine filtering through semi-transparent curtains. The mattress was soft – too soft to be hers, and she was underneath a thick, cozy bedspread that wrapped around her like a hug.

Breathing in deeply, she smiled. Josh’s unique, masculine scent enveloped her, reminding her of where she was, and why.

Not the way she’d planned to get into his bed, but now that she was here…

She raised her head at a sound near the foot of the bed. Josh came in the door, carrying two cups of something that smelled like coffee. She sat up, scooting back to lean against the wooden headboard.

“You’re awake,” he said, setting one cup down on the nightstand, and carefully handing her the other. “Careful, it’s hot.”

“Thank you.” She took a small sip, breathing in the life-giving aroma. “What time is it?”

Josh perched on the edge of the bed, facing her. “It’s nearly ten. Sleep well?”

She nodded, taking another, bigger sip. “My head doesn’t hurt so bad, so I must have. I’m sorry I feel asleep on you last night.”

He chuckled. “I’m not. It was a long day, and we were both worn out. I was happy enough to rest up too.”

Vaguely remembering a warm body in bed with her the night before, she cocked her head to the side. “Where did you sleep, exactly?”

He shrugged, reaching for his coffee and avoiding eye contact. “I didn’t want to leave you alone.”

She nodded, studying the machine embroidery on the duvet, all too aware of his heavy stare. “Um…thanks.”

He reached out and took her cup, putting it next to his back on the nightstand. Scooting up farther on the bed, until his right leg was pressed against hers, he leaned over her legs, propping himself there with one arm as he looked into her eyes.

“What were you going to tell me yesterday, Kenzie? Kevin said that’s why you hurt yourself – you were looking for me.”

She looked away. “I just…well, Kevin said I was over-thinking things, and he’s right.” She forced herself to look at Josh, needing him to know she was sincere. “I’m tired of fighting this too, Josh. I…want you. Us. Even if–”

Josh’s hand curled around her neck and pulled her forward to meet his lips, cutting off her next sentence. He tasted like fresh coffee with just a hint of mint in the background. As quickly as she’d melted into his touch, she pulled back, aghast.

“Oh God. Morning breath. I–” She saw a split second of a grin on his lips before he claimed hers again, leaning in farther as he shifted on the bed, moving to lay beside her, urging her down to the pillows. His hands were everywhere they could reach, but there was the frustrating matter of the duvet and sheets and clothing…

MacKenzie broke free, holding him off with a firm hand to his chest and a smile when he would have pulled her back.

“Your breath is fine. Don’t go.”

She laughed, slipping off the other side of the bed and holding one finger up.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said, reaching down to grasp the hem of her shirt. “But there’s way too much material between us, and it’s driving me crazy. So strip.”


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Serial Story: MacKenzie Saves the World, Episode 3J

This serial story is presented in draft (unedited) format. Each new installment will replace
the one before. If you get behind, email me and I’ll hook you up with the missing chapters!


“Fight Water with Fire” – Part 10

“I’m not leaving yet,” MacKenzie told the nurse handling her release fifteen minutes later. She was dressed and sitting on the edge of the bed, willing a wave of dizziness to subside and waiting for Kevin to take her to Josh. “There’s someone I need to see first. His dad’s in surgery.”

The nurse sighed, leaning on the handles of the empty wheelchair she’d brought with her.

“It’s hospital policy, Ms. Jones. We have to escort you to the car in a wheelchair once you’ve been released.”

MacKenzie shook her head, immediately regretting the decision. “Can’t you just escort me to that waiting room and then leave? I don’t see why this is so hard. I just want to go to another part of the hospital.”

“I’m sorry, but the doctor wants you to go home, so we have to see you to your car. There’s no other option.”

“Ready to go?” Kevin stood in the doorway, one shoulder propped against the frame as he dangled his keys in the other hand. MacKenzie started to protest, but he gave his head a small shake and winked, so after a moment’s hesitation, she slowly gave a small nod.

“Sure, I guess.”

She got into the wheelchair and allowed the nurse to push her behind Kevin, all the way to the front doors of the hospital. Josh’s SUV was parked in one of the pick-up spots, and Kevin opened the door and helped her in, then slid behind the driver’s seat as the nurse finally left them.

“This isn’t your car,” she said, reaching for the door handle. “What’s going on? Where’s Josh?”

Kevin put a hand on her wrist. “I talked to Josh before I came out to get the car. Give him a few minutes. He’ll meet us here.”

She let go of the handle. “But his dad…”

“Is going to be fine. He’ll tell you the rest when he gets here. Just be patient, okay?”

He smiled and squeezed her shoulder. The small gesture made her want to cry as she relaxed back into the seat. They’d been friends for longer than she could remember, but she knew that sometimes she took him for granted.
“I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me today, Kev. Taking care of me, talking to the doctors, talking to Josh…it’s just so much, and I–”

“Hey,” he interrupted, taking her hand in his. “That’s what friends are for, right?” He chuckled as she swiped at a tear. “Besides, you could blame this all on me, you know. I’m the one who practically ordered you to go find Josh and tell him how you feel.”

She laughed. “That’s true…but I’m glad you did, even with everything that happened. And I’m going to tell him, just as soon as I can.”

A hand touched her shoulder through the open window, and that personal scent she found so irresistible wafted around her.

Josh.

“Tell me what?”