Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day
It's almost time for the annual Halloween Party at The Hidden Hills Resort. Celebrate with The Dyer twins. 

When Joel opened the door, he could smell her. He contained his rabid behavior as he strolled into the kitchen. The track lighting glared off the sleek strands of her hair, giving it a bluish tint. When her eyes reluctantly met his, he felt instantly sucked in. 
“Well, well, well.” Joel chuckled, tossing his wallet and keys on the granite island.
“Thought I’d give Ivy the tour,” Reed said, his admission hurried. Joel could tell that Reed’s smile was forced, his face pained from the intrusion. Reed shoved his hands deep into his pockets. Joel also knew that this was his brother’s apprehensive behavior talking. Joel went to the refrigerator and grabbed a beer. He held one out for Ivy and Reed. They waved the beverage away. Joel settled on the stool closest to Ivy. Her shapely legs filled his line of vision. Her pink-and- white sneakers were a cute addition to her otherwise professional attire.
“How’d your first day go?” Joel tipped his beer back, attempting to hold her darting gaze over the neck of the bottle.
“Fine.” She folded her hands, resting them in front of her. “Things went very well.”
“Good.” Joel set his beer down. “So, any costume ideas for the party?” The options that fit her ran through his head like a slide show. She’d make a great Roaring Twenties girl or maybe Cleopatra. A belly dancer! His dick danced inside his trousers.
“I’m still working on that.” She smiled, her cheeks flushing a delicious pink. Her skin was a rich, syrupy brown he wanted to lick.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day
“So what’s your mission, Brother?” Joel sat at the island. He bit into his hamburger, eyeing the meat between the bun. Ketchup dripped down his fingers. Joel grabbed a napkin before it reached his plate.
“You want to expand on that question?” Reed asked, sitting on the other stool across the island. Joel’s dark brows rose.
“You making your move or what?” Joel wiped his mouth, his stare pressing.
“Are you asking me if I’m interested in Ivy?” Reed stared him down.
“Out with it!” Joel demanded, his tone sharp.
“I don’t know.” Reed looked away, needing a moment. “There’s something in there. Finding it is one thing, pulling it out is another.”
“That’s an intelligent statement.” Joel’s words dripped with sarcasm.
“Easy, huh?” Reed started to eat. The kitchen grew quiet.
“Sorry, man,” Joel said softly. He tossed his napkin down in his plate.
“I think she’s repressed. Something’s off,” Reed said, sharing his recent observances.
“So, what’re you saying? You think the girl’s a virgin?” Joel asked, his eyes taking on a new shine.
“No, I doubt it.” His reply stalled. Reed leaned on the granite island. “She just seems so nervous all the time. Whenever I think of suggesting something, her face goes red and she starts wringing her hands together. I can’t take it,” Reed sighed. “I feel like I scare the  shit out of her.” The conversation lost steam for a minute. Joel pushed his plate away.
“It’s a shame, really. She seems like a nice girl, but I see what you’re saying. Maybe something happened, a bad experience, a childhood trauma. We know all about those.” Joel rolled his eyes. Reed checked his brother’s expression, noting a bit of empathy below Joel’s sarcasm, which was unusual.
“Listen to you going all philosophical on me.” Reed laughed. 
"Hey, these things have to be handled delicately.”“That’s interesting coming from you,” Reed said, chuckling. 
"Shit,” Joel grumbled. “Am I that bad?” Joel’s face now pinched with frustration.
“Nah, I’m just surprised, that’s all.” Reed got up and cleared the plates. He loaded the dishwasher and started the cycle. When he turned around, Joel was staring into space, deep in thought. Reed walked up to him, shaking his shoulder. Joel faced him.
“Well, most women we come across are all access, right?” Joel asked, his tired eyes probing him for acknowledgment. “Ivy’s different. She requires a different approach, that’s all. Now the question is...who’s the man for the job?” Joel’s eyes flashed, suddenly revived by the debate.
“How many beers have you had tonight?” Reed asked, amused. 
"Only one, Brother, only one.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day
You couldn’t just dump Johnny and stay in town. Fern had learned that the hard way. It would never work and hadn’t worked the numerous times Fern had tried to terminate the relationship.
Johnny would stalk and nag, tormenting her, feeding his guilt to her like a spoiled meal until she caved, unable to swallow another rotten mouthful. No. This time she’d have to leave and disappear, covering her tracks like windblown snow on a sidewalk. Panic wormed through her. What kind of crap would Jada have to deal with when Johnny came around looking for her?
“He’s eventually gonna show up here,” Fern told her.
Jada’s dark-brown eyes narrowed. “I know how to deal with him. Don’t worry about me.”
Jada sat down on her bed, releasing a hissing breath that blew the bleached-blond strands of hair out of her eyes, her brows furrowing.
“Where you gonna go?” she asked, her tone now hesitant, laced with a fear Fern didn’t want to feel.
“I haven’t gotten that far yet,” Fern told her, yanking open drawers, stuffing her knapsack.
“Fuck! I hate that son-of-a-bitch.”
“Yeah, he’s got a habit of provoking that in people.” Fern took one more glance around the tiny studio apartment. There was stuff she’d have to leave behind, for now. Jada met her thoughts.
“Maybe when you land and get settled, I can bring you the rest of your things,” Jada said, eyeing her small stereo, books, and CDs.
Fern sat down next to her, resting her hand on Jada’s thigh.
“Yeah.” She sighed, exhausted already. “I’ll call...” More words formed on her tongue, words better left unsaid. 

The traffic had picked up, the late-day rush hour kicking in.
Fern hiked toward the Wawa, thinking she’d get her last mocha latte. The whine of the train whistle caught her attention. Fern ran across the highway and bolted into the thickets, having missed the last bus out.
Colorful cars moved slowly behind the tall brush. She climbed up the steep bank, watching as the train clanked over the rails. It moved at a speed that was doable, enabling the crazed thought that was forming in her mind to take shape.
Fern sidestepped down the embankment, waiting. With the last car in sight, Fern gripped the hot paper cup, seeing the hot beverage slosh inside.
The oily smell of creosote burned her nose. Fern took two cautious sips, realizing she needed to toss her last indulgence into the weeds until she got to wherever she was going.
Fern threw the cup into the brush. As the last car rattled past, Fern stepped in behind it and started jogging, pacing her steps, watching the tarry pebbles and ashen dirt below pass beneath her feet. With the width of two feet, her adrenaline got the best of her. She hurled her knapsack into the car and quickened her pace, her decision made.
She gasped. Fern dragged in a rush of polluted smog and took that leap, a leap away from Johnny that would buy her more distance, and a leap into a new life that was frightening as hell, holding all the fears of the unknown.
4 Star Review on Goodreads

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day

All the medication was doing was making him sick. Before the treatments began, Zane didn’t even feel like he had cancer, with the exception of the nagging pain in his gut, a few swollen lymph nodes in his groin, and a bad blood test. The doctor wasn’t pleased with his latest lab results, so now he had to go to the hospital for his treatments. For hours he’d sit in the infusion center with ten to twenty other people, watching the liquid chemo drip into his veins.
Zane’s eyes would wander from one patient to the other, questioning where the cancer was eating away at their bodies and how much longer their clock would tick. The most depressing thing was that he was the youngest of the group.
“I know I’m a dead man.” Joe slowly shook his head. “I’m only doing this for my wife.” Joe had a stage-four liver cancer. Zane just sat and listened. He didn’t know what to say. Words swarmed around in his brain like locusts. What did you say to a man who was dying? When Zane told him he had Hodgkin’s, Joe made it his calling to breathe new life into him. His optimism reminded him of Meg. She’d been scarce lately, but then so had he. 
“You’ve got it in the bag.” Joe reached over, nudging his leg. Their IV lines crossed, tangling together. “You’re a young man, got your whole life ahead of you.”
“If I’ve got my whole life ahead of me, then why do I feel like total shit?” Zane huffed.
“You gotta trudge through the muck to get to the good stuff. I wish I had your disease. I’d be looking ahead. Now all I’m doing is trying to decide if I want my coffin open or closed.” Joe's hissing breaths echoed through the sterile room. 
"I gotta get out of here," Zane grumbled, feeling the walls closing in. 
"You will," Joe told him.  "You'll make it." 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day
Seth narrowed his eyes, looking into the large windows. What looked to be the family room was packed with people. He took a deep breath, inviting the cold into his warmed insides. He really wasn’t the large crowd type. A tall, muscled guy wearing the classic, sleeveless T-shirt to match his physique opened the door. His dark hair was gelled away from his face, his accent sounding like downtown Brooklyn.
“Hey, how you doin’.” He extended his hand. Seth took part in the exchange.
“Good, Seth Stratera.” Their hands joined together briefly.
“Cody Sorentino.” His mouth tipped into a sly grin. “There’s plenty of beer in the kitchen, help yourself, and enjoy.” Cody slapped his back as Seth entered the house. Seth walked through the large foyer. The white and black tiles gleamed, his boots gliding as if on ice. A massive marbled staircase curled around the entranceway leading up to the second floor.
He maneuvered around packs of huddled bodies. It was hot inside, the air heavy with smoke and sweat. His nose was bombarded with an assortment of feminine fragrances. Fellow partygoers nodded as he navigated his way into a kitchen that was large enough to feed an institution. A line of kegs sat on the opposite wall, near a large, contemporary table. Seth filled a plastic cup and leaned against the wall, taking it all in. The stainless steel Viking appliances gleamed under the fluorescent lighting. A hard nudge on his shoulder had his eyes aligning with Nicole’s. Her dark eyes squinted above her flushed cheeks.
“Glad you could make it.” She smirked, seemingly surprised he’d kept his word. Her stare moved around him as if digging for the latest dirt. Other faces flitted through his peripheral vision as he sipped the cold frothy head on his beer.
“Thanks for including me.” Seth laughed, his demeanor cool. Nicole always seemed to have a plan. What was in store for him tonight, who knew? He wasn’t planning on staying long enough to find out. A neighborhood like this would be summoning the cops by midnight. He’d be long gone, free from any hassle, along with Nicole’s harassment for not acknowledging her invitation. Seth's brief appearance would squelch the potential for any drama. 
“Well.” She lifted a shoulder. Nicole’s bloodred top slipped down the curve of her shoulder. “Have fun, gotta go.” She flitted past him. Seth turned, seeing her muscle-teed boyfriend waving her on from the wide archway of the kitchen.
As Seth’s gaze moved around the room, his eyes stilled on a willowy figure leaning against the counter near the immense refrigerator. There she was. Mattie Richards. The person she was chatting with was suddenly called away by what looked to be her significant other. He drank his beer as his eyes took an excursion. Though it’d been a few years, those years had been more than kind.
She brushed the bangs out of her eyes, her hair the color of graham crackers. The artfully cut layers framed her face perfectly, her cheekbones sharply defined. Her amber-colored eyes were beautiful, so unique, but her lids were heavy, carrying a weight that had him aching, sensing that there was pain there. Her cheeks burned with a pinkish hue that bled into the exposed skin of her chest. The wide, scooped neckline of the shell-pink sweater she wore taunted him. The slight slope of her breasts could be seen, leaving the rest to his imagination, which was already running wild. Her gaze skirted around the crowded kitchen. She looked lost. Seth set his cup down on the table and weaved his way through the crowd.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

When real life interferes

What to do when real life interferes with your writing? Over the years I've always been able to avoid the ditch, side-stepping around it and making two worlds gel together. When my husband was diagnosed with AML Leukemia two worlds began to collide. My characters soon began to drift away, bobbing on a raft that carried them further and further out into a sea I wasn't sure I could rescue them from. Because leukemia is a blood and bone marrow cancer, it is very high maintenance. My calendar became bogged down with visits to the infusion center and medical appointments. A sense of panic began to worm through me. The longer I stayed away from my projects the more apprehensive I became. I began to think that I would soon forget how to 'do it' - how to write a story. I reached out to my dear friend and fellow author GA Hauser. She responded immediately, putting all my anxious thoughts to rest. I had by this time shelved my work for nine weeks. She assured me that she too had gone through cycles such as this. She also assured me that when I was ready my characters would call me back. She was right. She explained to me that my husband needed me and not my characters. She taught me to embrace these lulls and learn how to obtain fulfillment in the things that I COULDN'T control. Now instead of battling my anxiety, I have learned to embrace these dry spells. Everyone and everything has its voice. Some we create and some we don't. I know artists, musicians and song writers battle these stagnant periods. I know now that I will be able to welcome them, that it is a time to reflect and refuel. Once I found comfort in this my characters did call me back and I was back at my desk. When the time is right the voice of your creation and imagination will be heard, but one must be in the right frame of mind or position to listen and hear both worlds when they speak. If real life calls you away then you are not available to hear the fictitious voices. I was there for my husband. My husband's battle ended on August first, after a sixteen month fight. I have now been confronted with another lull. As I allow myself this time to grieve, I'm relieved that my characters know when to step up to the front line and when to step back. Through all of this I haven't forgotten how to 'do it' I thank my readers for also reminding me of this. 

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day
Toni worked until after two. She had all their expenses logged in the ledger, as well as their deposits. They were barely breaking even, but she thought she could remedy that with a few suggestions and cost-effective ideas. They needed to increase their revenue; that was the bottom line.
She also thought of a possible tax break they could get if they made a few changes and modifications to the farm. She would have to sit down and discuss it with them. Toni didn’t want them to feel as if she were trying to take over, but if they ever wanted to make any money, they would have to make some changes. They had been running the farm the same way for way too long now. It was time to see some increase in revenue.
 By three o’clock, she figured out a way to soften them up before she laid out a possible new business plan for the farm. With a stocked freezer, she had all the ingredients to make spaghetti and meatballs—and really, what better way to get through to two bachelors on a farm? She would ask them over tonight for dinner.
She’d just finished clipping together all the logged-in receipts when she heard the creaking of a floorboard behind her. She swiveled around in the chair to find Cole leaning against the door frame, one hand buried deep in his pocket.
“How’d we do?” 
That dark look of his was beginning to make her insides squirm. They’d didn’t know each other well, and that had her off balance. 
“It was a productive day.” Toni stood and pushed the heavy leather chair under the desk. “I have a few suggestions I’d like to discuss, maybe over dinner, over at…your other house.” She laughed nervously. She couldn’t say it was her place.
“Oh yeah?” His brows rose.
“Yes. I’d like to make both of you dinner. You’ve been so helpful, and like I said, I have some ideas I think you and Josh should consider.” She held her breath, waiting for her words to seep into him.
Cole stepped closer to her. Her mouth suddenly felt dry. Her nails curled into her damp palms. They stared at each other, his gaze lowered to her lips. Her breathing stopped, catching in her parched throat. Her body felt hot, a dewy perspiration collecting on her upper lip.
Toni could feel the heat of his body wrapping around her like a corset, cutting off her air. She could smell him—his dark, woodsy scent, a ruggedness that was alien to her but pleasing. Though Cole had widened their circle, the heat was still palpable. Their gazes held for what seemed like an eternity. Then the gears switched so quickly she could almost physically sense it. His coolly professional voice smothered the flame, bringing them back to business.
“So, what’s on the menu?”
“How’s spaghetti and meatballs?” Her voice hoarsened.
Cole casually shrugged a shoulder. “Sounds good to me.”
“Great, come at six.” She looked away, brushing past him. She bolted down the hallway, feeling her face flush with heat. She walked right into Josh.
“Whoa, sorry about that, Toni.” He patted her shoulder. “You’re acting as spooked as Macy does on a windy night.”
“I’m sorry, wasn’t watching where I was going.” She brushed the loose hair away from her reddened face. “Um, Cole will fill you in on all the details. See you soon.” She pushed past him, willing her feet to carry her the rest of the way out of the house.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Works in progress

Fleshing out ideas for my first 'New Adult' project- more to follow.

Snippet of the Day

Snippet of the Day
 As they went to enter into his room, Ella noticed a small alcove at the end of the hall with a hexagon- shaped window above. A spindled chair sat below. Jayden noticed her attention had been diverted. He tilted his head.
“It’s perfect, the way the moonlight is streaming through the panes. I just have to change my film speed. Take a seat.” Ella rummaged through her camera bag. The film loaded, she turned to find Jayden already in the chair, his palms resting on his thighs.
Various images flirted with her mind’s imaginative eye. Ella leaned against the wall. Ribbons of heat wrapped around her, her skin now warm. Jayden was relaxed, waiting patiently. A sly smile curved his lips. He was so at ease, but Ella was struggling. She wanted some skin, his skin. She didn’t ever shoot pornographic material. Tonight she was hungering for some classy, sensual shots, and he was the perfect model. Jayden cleared his throat.
“Ella, just tell me what you want,” he told her, his eyes flicking to hers. “I’m all yours.”
She blurted out her request. “Could you please take off your shirt?” She bit down on her lower lip, silencing herself, afraid of giving a voice to any additional, dangerous notions.
“Sure.” Jayden grinned. He leaned forward and peeled his T-shirt over his head and handed it to her. Ella’s mouth parted, her eyes greeted with a plethora of dazzling ink. Four large paw prints were on the back of his shoulder, as if he were being trampled over. On the left side of his chest, Jayden had a set of the comedy and tragedy masks. Half of each mask was inked in black, the other half shaded with yellows, reds, and a copper color. The ink shifted over his lined muscles when he moved.
Jayden’s voice echoed through the desolate hall. “Ella?” His eyes looked up, his brows pulling together.
“Yes, that’s…that’s perfect.” She had forgotten to breathe. She licked the briny salt from her upper lip and started shooting. Jayden hooked his thumbs into his belt loops and smiled at the camera, but then looked away. He tipped his head, glancing at the window. Ella gnawed at the inside of her cheek. He was absolutely stunning.
Milky moonlight washed over his angled face. Jayden parted his lips, his jaw slack. Ella was on fire, her libido not to be trusted. Jayden tilted his hips and reclined further in the chair. Ella walked around, snapping a frontal shot. A thin trail of lighter hair divided his concave abs in half, vanishing beneath the waistband of his jeans.
Jayden leaned forward, his spine curling. He had amazing bone structure. Ella adjusted her lens, wanting to see every joined vertebrae of his spine. Jayden rested an elbow on his knee, cupping his chin in his palm. His eyes lifted to hers, his smile bright. His eyes dazzled in the dim light. A cloud moved, altering the moon’s glow. Thin shadows lined his body. Jayden moved again, sitting back. He draped his arms over the back of the chair, his chest expanding. His nipples were puckered like dark seeds. Ella felt dizzy, visually impaired by his beautiful masculinity. She lowered the camera and leaned into the wall, collecting herself. She wiped the sweat off the back of her neck. The air was heady with the scents of him. He smelled of salt, sun, and water. Ella slid down the wall, squatting. Jayden leaned into her, their mouths close. His breath coated her lips.
“Anything else?” he asked, his voice strained.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Snippet of the Day

October 22, 2013

“Well, howdy there, Doc.” Ray wiped his hands on a blue rag then shoved it into his back pocket. He tipped his Flyers cap. “What brings you by?” Dale was unsure what to say. She really should have thought this out first. If she came right out and asked Ray about the car, then Neil’s presence at her home would be all over town by tomorrow morning. She chewed the inside of her cheek, exhaling in relief when he gave her a way out. “Hey, you haven’t seen any strangers wandering around, have ya?”
Dale shook her head. “No, why?” She stomped the snow off her boots, her eyes leaving his.
“Picked up that Toyota.” He pointed to an old gray model across the impound yard. “It was about a mile down the road, not far from your place.” Ray dug at his scruffy beard, his green eyes tired. “The owner hasn’t shown his face. After looking at his credentials, I now know why.” He chuckled.
Dale’s spine stiffened. Was that Neil’s car? She bit back the words that were ready to roll off her tongue. He did say it was a piece of shit.
“Why? What’s wrong?” Dale’s heart raced. “Should you be calling the police?” Her stomach twisted. She swallowed past the anxious lump that was swelling in her throat.
Ray frowned. “Nah, he’s not a criminal, but his old man is.” Ray’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t you remember hearing about the Crest View scandal, you know, the assisted living facility out in Bucks?”
Dale jammed her hands into her pockets. Didn't Neil say he was from Bucks County?  “No, I—”
“You gotta get out of the house more, Doc.” Ray laughed at her. “Don’t you read the paper?” He waved her into the service bay, getting back to his work. “This old, beat-up car I’ve got sitting out here belongs to the son of Eugene Regal...son’s name is Neil.” Ray dipped his head below the rear tires, catching her eyes.
Dale leaned against the tool chest, trying to look nonchalant, but her mind was spinning. She needed to know more. Dread and terror braided together, tightening around her. This man was in her house!
“So you’re saying that his family owned the facility?” Her voice was hesitant.
Ray nodded in reply. “They sure did, for many years. The old man got busted for embezzlement, robbed those seniors blind, Medicare, too.” He shook his head again.
Dale took a breath. The pungency of gas and oil filled her nose, her stomach now nauseous. “Was he involved...did he know, Neil, the son?” Her voice cracked. Dale followed Ray around the undercarriage of the truck.
“Nope, and after his old man got arrested and charged, the missus dropped dead, heart attack.”
“Jesus,” Dale whispered, looking away, needing a breather. Her eyes landed on the battered vehicle, the front fender dented, the paint rusted and peeling.
“Yeah,” Ray sighed. “It’s a sad story.”
“Is the father serving time?” Dale blinked, her emotions rising, smothering the fear that had been lurking. This was the reserve that Dale had noticed in Neil. She certainly couldn’t blame him. The embarrassment he must’ve suffered in front of his community. That’s why he was leaving, running away from it all. Dale knew it all too well. Indiscretions were like part of the family. They weren’t something that ever really went away. They always hid in the shadows. The inflicted were never entirely free of ownership.
“Oh yeah.” Ray’s voice rose. “He’s serving time over in Fields Grove.”
Dale knew that Fields Grove was a state penitentiary out in Ohio. Had Neil been planning on visiting his father before he’d gotten stuck in the storm? The scenarios raced through her head.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Snippit Of The Day

Homeless Heart
“That’s my damn tarp,” Kelly said coldly. “Hand it over.”
“Listen, Kelly...” Sam’s tone softened on a sigh. He released the large, blue piece of vital plastic, letting it fall to the ground. He kicked it toward her. Kelly lunged for the tarp, folding it in her arms. Sam spoke slowly, as if needing to regain his composure. “It’s bad enough I let you hole up here, but you’ve got to have this little campsite of yours cleaned up and out of sight by five a.m. Understood?” His dark eyes bored into hers. Sam ran a hand over his bald head, his lips twisting with annoyance.
“Yeah, I got it,” Kelly huffed. She picked up the backpack that was stuffed with the few precious possessions she owned and stormed off into the woods that bordered Union Gas and Propane. She needed to cool off. If she pushed her luck with Sam, she’d be screwed.
Kelly tied the rope into the corner holes of the tarp. She’d already screwed the hook-and-eyes into the trunks of the surrounding trees. She threaded the ends of the rope through the hooks imbedded in the bark and tugged until the rope was taut, knotting the ends.
This had become her prime location, her home, however pathetic it was. It was secluded, protecting her from the sun and heat of a summer that was soon to be ending. The tall evergreens would hopefully conceal her from the elements of the pending winter. 
She’d only been on the streets a few months. Winter was a worry that grew more potent with each passing day. Though Steve said she’d do fine, the concerns weighed heavily. It was already September. If time continued to fly by, she’d be shivering in the snow very soon.
The sun was spreading across the sky, casting intricate patterns of white heat in its wake as it filtered through the evergreens above and settled on the damp ground.
She’d gotten very little sleep last night. Her thoughts had kept her up. They came every night with the darkness, haunting her, shaking her awake until she fully surrendered and aborted the idea of trying to snooze. 

Hotter Horizons
 “Here, take it,” Jada said, forcefully pushing a wad of cash into her hand.
“No.” Fern shook her head. “It’s too much. You’ll need it to carry my end of the expenses.”
Jada grabbed her satchel, stuffing the cash inside.
“I’m working the last four shows,” Jada said, hand on hip. “Believe me ... I’ll be raking it in.” Jeff Foxworthy was performing his act at the casino where Jada worked, her last week being very lucrative.
Fern relented. She did need money. Jada was a cocktail waitress at the Mohican Sun Casino. She had a real knack for dealing with the public, not to mention her glamorous looks, which only added to her gift. The amount of cash the girl could earn in one night was sickening.
This drama-laden plan of escape was very sudden and unplanned. Fern had hit the wall. She was done with Johnny. After almost three years of dealing with his dysfunctional behavior, she was finally tapped out.
Being in a relationship with Johnny was like dealing with an entire street gang. His often violent, possessive behavior interfered with even daily life activities. If Fern even glanced in the direction of another man he thought she was interested. He was jealous and insecure. Johnny did have a soft side but its appearance was rare. He gave her no freedom of movement.
For Jada, Fern’s departure was a day of rejoicing, but it came with a price. Fern would now have to leave. Jada had been trying to get Fern to ditch Johnny ever since voice-activated email made its debut. Fern was going to suffer the most from this breakup, forcing  
her to abruptly relocate and abandon all she knew, heading toward another horizon all on her own.
When would she be able to see Jada again? They’d been roommates forever. She wouldn’t miss her job at the Turnstile. She was tired of dealing with rowdy club-goers and loud music, and patrons like her ex. I’ve acquired the lifestyle I grew up despising.
Now she’d be forced to wander, just like her father had his entire life, never owning anything or putting down roots. “I don’t like things that hold me down,” had been her father’s famous words. Her mind scrambled back to Johnny and the reaction her absence would create. 

Dual Desire
“Who is that?” Joel’s face went slack, his eyes wide. He was immobilized, gawking at the gorgeous brunette who was gracing the front desk in the lobby.
“Contain yourself,” Reed said, murmuring between pressed lips. He playfully smacked Joel upside the head, grabbing his arm and pulling him behind the partition.
Reed shook Joel’s shoulder, forcing his twin brother’s eyes to connect with his. Life with a twin wasn’t easy. It was a life that constantly teetered between sides. Joel was the one person he could count on, but at times they’d become adversaries, though it was much more prevalent during their childhood. As adults they needed each other too much. With their parents passing in an unexpected accident while overseas on vacation, they were all each other had.
“Her name’s Ivy. She’s the new front desk coordinator,” Reed told him, his words a hushed whisper. He didn’t like the way Joel’s eyes were wandering. Joel loved women. He also loved to share them with Reed. Reed didn’t fully understand it, but the few times they’d shared had been an incredible bonding experience. They were closer now than they’d ever been. Sometimes Reed felt like Joel’s crutch. Nevertheless, he’d give his life for Joel. Not many brothers could be naked with the same woman.

 The South Window

“Tess, don’t do that.” Allie yanked the curtain down. “You can see through, the material’s sheer enough.”
“Come on, we want to get a good look at him. Besides, you could use a little stimulation.” Tess turned, flashing her dark, sultry brown eyes.
“Thanks,” Allie sighed, feeling beaten down again by Tess’s brutal honesty. “Listen, I have work to do. Federal Express will be here by noontime tomorrow.”
Allie crawled off the love seat and watched Tess perched on the windowsill with the binoculars as close to the screen as she could get them, the seam of her short-shorts riding up her behind. Allie wondered how she could cope with that thick denim seam searing through her crotch all day.
Tess rested the binoculars on the cushion then scooted off. “Oh well, we’ll just have to investigate him now, won’t we?”
She walked over to Allie’s drawing table. “So, what do we have here? A wedding, baptism, or are those sympathy cards?” Tess eyed all the pastel drawings that lay on her table.
“They decide when they get them.” Allie started to organize her tools, eager for Tess to leave. 

Dark Day Bright Night

“Hey, your clock is wrong. It seems to have stopped.”
“Yeah, I know.” Zane rolled over, wincing as he sat up. His gut twisted with a burning cramp. He grabbed the remote, silencing the stereo. His new neighbor walked closer to the wall, gazing up at the antique timepiece that his uncle had given him. Zane’s eyes wandered down her tall, willowy frame. The girl needs a sandwich.
“That’s a shame. It’s such a pretty clock.” She faced him. Fiery- red curls fell over one emerald-green eye. She did have a unique type of sex appeal, but she talked too much, too many words for Zane to process. She was also quite friendly, which only fed his guilt, but she was just too much for him, so bubbly and happy—too happy.
“Yeah, well, actually...” Zane stood up, his head swimming for a minute. “It worked up until yesterday, but when I got home from the doctor’s, it was broken. Just like me. It’s stopped keeping time, and so has my body. Our lives are stationary, I guess.” He shrugged. It was really too deep a philosophical statement coming from Zane, but it was one he believed was true. He’d met Meg down in the vestibule, near the mailboxes, last week. Today he’d gone shopping, only to have dumped his stuff all over the floor of the lobby when his bags tore open. His bladder was on the brink of bursting, so Meg had waved him off, saying she’d bring his stuff up. Too nice.
Meg turned her back on the clock, her face creased with worry. Two thin, vertical lines deepened between her brows. She was sort of cute.
“What d’you mean?”
“Doc told me yesterday that I have Hodgkin’s disease.” Zane grabbed one of the green tote bags and headed into the kitchen. He tossed his groceries on the high counter that lined the edge of the kitchen. Meg was on his heels. She slid onto one of the stools behind the counter before he could blink. She toyed with a box of Pop-Tarts, eyeing the contents listed on the side of the box, her brows pulled together.
“I’m sorry.” Her wide eyes reached for him, her stare a bit intense. Zane instantly regretted divulging this information. He could almost see her head spinning off her thin neck, which had a sensual curve to it, he noticed. 

Rearview Mirror 
“What the hell does this mean?” Liz asked. She stared wide-eyed at the small card Duane had tacked up on the refrigerator. Riverdale Cancer Center. She swallowed hard, forcing down whatever it was that was creeping up into her throat. Liz checked her tone, noting it bordered on hysteria.
“The doctor said my cell counts are low. He wants me to go see a hematologist.”
Duane shrugged. He turned and opened the fridge, grabbing a beer. His nonchalant attitude was infuriating. This news gnawed through Liz like a hungry termite.
“But...what does it mean? Did you even ask?” Liz tossed her purse on the counter, exasperated. Why was it that you couldn’t send a man to a medical appointment alone? She knew she should’ve stayed home from work. To think she used to get frustrated over a botched-up grocery list.
Duane pulled the blue bandanna off his head. It was wet and rancid-smelling, trapped under his hard hat all day, absorbing the sweat produced by a humid June heat.
“I guess we’ll find out next Tuesday. No worries, babe,” Duane assured her. He flashed her those brilliant baby blues, clear as a summer sky. He tipped his beer back. His throat worked quickly, sucking down the cold, sudsy foam. "I'm fine," Duane rolled his eyes at her drama.

Behind The Iron Fist 
“You can’t let him leave. The guy’s inebriated.” Mia glared at Troy, speaking through gritted teeth. Her eyes darted to the door as it swung closed. She hurled the bar towel at Troy and chased after their drunken patron.
“He’s been in here before. He’ll make it,” Troy grumbled as she ran outside.
Frigid air bit into her skin. Mia hated March. One never knew how to dress. It was the month of a winter season having its last word. She squinted into the darkness, her breaths ribbons of white smoke, her steps quickening.
A dark figure was bent over, trying to see the keyhole in his car door. His body swayed, his hand gripping the edge of the roof. Mia’s hand clamped down on his upper arm. Tight muscles flinched in rebellion. Shit, this guy’s solid as a rock.
“Excuse me.Her breath caught. Hooded, black eyes faced her. The glare of the streetlamp had them glowing like embers. “I can’t let you drive in your condition.” His lips curled into a scowl, making her assertiveness waver.
  "It won't be the first time." His tone was hard. His eyes lowered to her hand, still holding his arm.
  Mia released him. Words of warning spewed from her mouth. “You don’t want blood on your hands, trust me. I live with someone else’s blood on me every day. It’s a stain you can never wash out.Her chest heaved around her words. “Please...Let me call you a cab.”
His eyes flickered over her. Mia wrapped her arms around herself. A deep shiver ran through her. He was as dark as the night that surrounded them. His face softened slightly. He adjusted the wool hat on his head and raised his hand. Mia stepped back, her heart kicking into overdrive, her body on full alert. He dropped the keys into her hand.
“You win.” He turned on his heel and walked across the parking lot, shoving his hands into his pockets. She looked down at the keys, the metal still warm from his fiery palm. Mia searched the darkness, just in time to see him disappear around the corner. She faced his vehicle, a battered Honda Prelude. She slipped the keys into the pocket of her apron and ran back inside. 

The Unveiling 
“What now!” Neil banged his fist on the steering wheel. Lights flickered on the dashboard like a pinball machine. The snow was hypnotizing. It flew from behind a curtain of black. Millions of flakes hit the windshield at once, turning the glass into a billboard of slush.
A pungent smell pushed through the heater vents, making him gag. Gray smoke filled the car, burning the inside of his nose, smelling like burnt rubber. Having to choose between asphyxiation and the frigid cold, he rolled down the window.
“Fuck it all,” Neil growled, pulling over. He was tapped out. As soon as he put the heap of junk in park, the car coughed and sputtered, stalling on the shoulder of the dark and desolate road. He tipped his head back in the driver’s seat, pinching his eyes closed, willing all that was happening to cure itself. He opened his eyes and stared into nothing. Neil reached for the glove box, rustling through a pile of papers. He’d only spent four hundred dollars on this piece of crap, hoping it would at least get him over the state line, away from Pennsylvania. He slammed it closed.
“Damn it to hell!” Neil got out, his boots slipping on a snow that was accumulating fast. He popped the trunk, yanked out his backpack, and slung it over his shoulder. He walked alongside the car and opened the door, tossing the keys on the front seat. Neil rolled up the window and slammed the door in disgust and peered into the thick-treed woods. He took a deep breath and listened. The air was cold and sharp as it attacked his warm insides. The light crinkling sound calmed him. He stared into the wooded silence, listening as millions of flakes fell, clinging to the bare branches.

Extra Credit 
“You got nabbed, too, huh?” Chad threw his backpack down on the long table. Overhead lighting glared off the glossy work surface.
“Yeah, stupid fucker. He said my paper’s incomplete. I need this like the flu.” A fellow disgruntled student shook his head, his thin lips twisting in disgust.
“Chad Minnelli.” Chad extended his hand. “You know what they say...misery loves company.” With the end of his junior year in college in sight, Chad’s mind was already flooded with the sights and scents of the Jersey shore. Tons of hot guys and lots of cock, but now that he had screwed up on his final, he needed to do extra credit so he didn’t have to repeat the course. This news corroded his spirit like a cancer.
“Alex Hayes.” Alex’s slender fingers wrapped around his, his hands surprisingly smooth.
“You wanna work together? See if we can bang this thing out?”Chad sat down across from him, meeting the aggravated glare of Alex’s icy blue eyes. “I got a shore rental for the summer. I’m not sticking around here for too long. Fuck that.” Chad laughed.
“No shit.” Alex’s face lifted. “Yeah, I could use a hand.”
“What topic did you pick?”
Chad pulled his laptop out of his pack.“The fall of”

“Hitler’s demise.” Chad rolled his eyes, his tone cranky. “I’ll be right back. The librarian’s holding some stuff for me.” Chad got up and headed for the front desk, knowing Diane had set his stuff off to the side. She always came through for him. During his stroll back, Chad couldn’t keep his eyes from visually exploring Alex.
He was lean, a bit taller than Chad, but with ample curvature. Wheat-colored flesh stretched nicely around his limbs. Alex wasn’t ripped, but looked nice and tight, just the way Chad liked his men. His sandy-brown hair was trimmed short on the sides and in the back, but longer on top. Streaks of gold ran through the strands, like he had been struck by the sun. Longer strands hung over his brow. He frequently ran his hands through it to keep it out of his eyes, or a quick jerk of his head would suffice.
Alex slumped over the three books that were open in front of him, one leg resting up on a vacant chair. He’d like to take him for a spin, maybe take him down to Seaside for a weekend. He’d have to fish, though, scope him out. Chad hadn’t seen him around before today.They were looking at a few days together. Maybe while they blew through these papers, he could gain a little insight. When he sat back down, he asked Alex if he would look over his outline before he got started.