Flash Fic Friday

**This week’s prompt is a fun one. A massage. Enjoy!**

I didn’t know why I let him talk me into this. Sure, I’d had a rough couple of weeks. The disasters at work alone–one problem after another–had made it so I was working twelve hour days. And spending that much time hunched over a computer had done a number on my back. That, combined with the stress that knotted my muscles, and I was moving like an eighty year old man. With arthritis. So in theory, a massage was a good idea. Carlos was just trying to help me relax when he booked this appointment.

But I was uncomfortable. Naked under the sheet, face down on the table, with ocean sounds playing on the stereo and the scent of incense in the air. It was supposed to be soothing, I supposed. But I was anything but soothed. In fact, lying there and waiting for the masseuse to come in was making things even worse. Just as I was about to get up and forget the whole thing, I heard the door open.

My tension ratcheted up another notch, and I was practically vibrating. The person who entered didn’t say a word, but I heard the steady footsteps walk closer. I waited, and after a long moment, I felt the drip of warmed oil hit my back. I jumped. But hands touched my back, keeping me in place. Keeping me from turning over and seeing who was there.

A moment later, the massage started. Still, the masseuse said nothing. Just used strong, capable hands to press and knead. Rub and dig in. Was it a man? A woman? I couldn’t tell. Once or twice I thought I caught a hint of aftershave–a familiar scent–but the incense was too strong and it was gone before I could figure it out.

Slowly, I relaxed. Not completely, but enough so that the massage started working. The knots in my back let go, and I groaned as most of the tension released. The masseuse never wandered too far, but my shoulders, arms, and back were worked until I felt better. A whisper of fabric caught my attention a second before breath washed over my ear. I went still, barely daring to breath.

“Turn over, baby.”

I pushed myself up fast, craning my neck to see my husband grinning down at me. I stared in shock, and he just smiled, his teeth glinting in the low overhead light.

“Hey there, Lou.”

I gaped. “What?”

“You know the owner is a friend of mine,” he said softly, pushing me gently until I turned onto my back and lay down again. “And you know I put myself through college doing this.”

I nodded mutely, but my brain was racing to catch up. When Carlos made this appointment, it had never occurred to me that I’d see him here. I’d even suggested he just give me a massage at home when he first suggested it, but he’d insisted he didn’t have a table and it wouldn’t be as good. The only reason I’d agreed was because he was adamant. But he’d been planning this the whole time.

“I knew you wouldn’t be comfortable with someone else’s hands on you, but I thought it might be fun if we…played a little.”

Suddenly, he agilely swung up onto the table and straddled my hips. I gasped, and his grin turned sensuous as he put his oil-slicked hands on my chest.

“Just relax,” he murmured, leaning down. “I’m going to take care of you.”

I smiled. “You always do.”

He laughed, a low, wicked sound.

“That’s right.” He waggled his eyebrows. “And if you’re very lucky, this massage will finish with a happy ending.”

Flash Fic Friday

**This week, we have a company picnic…and one last time with Wyatt and Tru. Enjoy!**

“You’re sure it’s okay that we brought the dogs?”

I chuckled and reached out to squeeze Tru’s knee. He’d been all worked up since we left the house this morning, and it only got more pronounced the closer we got to our destination.

“I’m sure, Tru. It’s a picnic. Outside. Our boys won’t be the only ones there.”

“It’s a company picnic, Wyatt. That changes the rules.” He glanced into the back seat where Aldo, Fawkes, and Chester were buckled in. Aldo was perfectly content to stare out the window, Chester was sleeping, and Fawkes, as usual, had enough of sitting still and trying to get down. Fortunately, his harness wouldn’t allow it. “Besides, that’s not what I meant.”

“No? What did you mean?” I signaled to turn off the road and into the park where my graphic design company had rented a pavilion for the annual barbecue. I’d only attended a handful of times before, but now that I’d moved and worked from home, it seemed prudent to make the trip and show my face.

“We’re staying with your mom while we’re in town. And you said she doesn’t have pets. Are you sure she doesn’t mind that we’re all invading her house?”

“I’m sure.” I glanced at him as I slowed even more. The narrow winding path required my concentration. “She loves the granddogs.”

“On Skype, maybe.” Tru’s knee started to bounce the closer we got. I pulled into the parking lot, and it didn’t take long to spot the banner with the company name stretched across the gate. I even recognized a few coworkers milling about.

“It’ll be fine. Come on.” Turning off the car, I shot him a smile. Then reached for the door handle.

“Wait!” Tru gripped my arm. “Maybe we should take the dogs to your moms first. That’d be better, right?”

I shoved the keys in my pocket, then turned as much as the seat would allow so I could look him over. Even though it had been more than a year, it was still strange to see him without his hat. And from the way he kept reaching up and tugging on his curls, I had to wonder if he missed it too.

“Okay, honey. What’s really up?”

Tru swallowed, cleared his throat, then swallowed again. Finally, he looked at me.

“This is where you work.” He rolled his eyes, and gave me a tiny, nervous looking smile. “I mean, not here, obviously. These are the people you work with. And you’re going to introduce me and the boys to them.”

Ah. I thought I finally understood.

“They’re going to love you, Tru. And the boys. Some of them have already met Al. But you don’t have to worry. No one is going to be mean or weird or say shit. Just be your usual charming self, and it’ll be fine.”

Tru stared at me, his brown eyes wide. “It’s a big deal. Introducing your boyfriend to work.”

I shrugged. “Well, maybe, yeah. But you’re not going anywhere. Why wouldn’t I want them to meet the man I love?” Aldo stuck his head over the seat, and when I reached up to scratch his ears, Fawkes gave a plaintive whine that said he wanted attention too. I smiled down at him, then turned back to Tru. I held out my hand, and Tru took it at once.

“I love you. I want my coworkers to meet you. I want to show off our family, and have them all be insanely jealous.” I gave him a leer and he laughed. That was better.

“Okay.” He blew out a breath. “Okay. Let’s go make them jealous.”

***

Three hours later, I’d caught up with all my coworkers, ate two hamburgers and broke up two more for the boys. Tru was surrounded by a flock of people, and when I’d wandered by earlier, he was giving tips about dog care and making everyone laugh. I knew he needn’t have worried. He had the biggest heart of anyone I’d ever met, and people  were drawn to him.

I still was and he’d been mine for more than a year.

“You know, our insurance covers same-sex partners.”

I startled at the voice and turned to find my boss down on his haunches and petting Chester. Aldo and Fawkes were with Tru, soaking up all the attention they were getting. Chester was still skittish around too many people for too long.

“I know, Mr. Danbury.”

He looked up and smiled. “It’s good to see you happy, Wyatt. And if that man is the reason your productivity has been so high, I’m going to demand you keep him forever.”

I laughed. “I’m keeping him forever anyway.”

“Good.” Mr. Danbury stood up. “Think he’ll mind if I ask him for some tips about my Shiba Inu? Little girl is stubborn as anything.”

“He’d be delighted to help,” I assured Mr. Danbury. I watched as he walked over, and then insinuated him into the conversation. Whatever Mr. Danbury said had Tru looking at me and giving me the most radiant smile.

Yep. I was definitely keeping him.

Flash Fic Friday

**Tru and Wyatt are out in the world and you can find buy links here. And because Alder suggested it, here’s Tru’s mom getting a dog. Enjoy!**

“She’s beautiful, honey. Where did you get her?” Lucy Rackley stroked the fur of the dog at her feet, a glorious golden retriever named Tessa. “And are you sure you can take on another dog? I’m not trying to judge, really. But you already have three.”

Tru caught my eye, and grimaced just a little. I shrugged. This had been his idea, and though I supported him completely, it was his show.

“Well, Mom.” Tru glanced my way again, then focused on his mother. “Tessa is actually for you.”

“I…what?” Lucy looked up at her son, blinking uncomprehendingly. Then she looked at me, seemingly wanting confirmation.

Tru sighed, squeezed my hand, then pushed off the wall where we had been standing and crossed the room to sink onto the couch next to Lucy. She looked at him, confusion evident on her face.

“I don’t understand,” she said quietly. “I don’t think I’m in a place where I can take care of a dog.”

“See, here’s the thing….” Tru looked up at me. He’d kept his search a secret because he wasn’t sure it would work out. And because he’d known his mom would resist if he brought it up to her, reject the idea out of hand. I agreed with him, and so did his counselor. We’d all thought this was the best approach. But now he was questioning everything. His mother had been through so much, they both had, and they’d come out the other side. Tru wanted to do this for his mom, but now he was worried.

“Lucy,” I said softly. “Tessa is a trained service dog.”

“Okay, but–”

“She’s been trained for people with anxiety and depression,” I said as gently as possible. After all the work Lucy had put in, she could say the words, own her diagnoses and know there was no shame in it. But I still wanted to treat it with the respect it deserved.

Lucy took that all in, not saying a word, as she stroked Tessa’s sleek fur. Tru’s face was calm, but I knew from the tight set of his shoulders that he was nervous and worried. I wanted to soothe him, but that would have to wait.

“How does that work, exactly?” She asked after a very long, very thick silence.

Tru relaxed a fraction. “Well, mostly she gives you something to focus on. She needs your care, right? But also, she’ll learn to sense your moods. Be there to calm you when you get anxious, and love you when you’re sad. Plus, you can take her out with you–I have her vest and harness in the Jeep–and she can ease you when you need to be out in public.” Tru placed a hand on his mother’s arm, and Lucy finally looked up from the dog. Tru smiled. “I can’t be here all the time, and I’ll still come whenever you need me. But Tessa will be here all the time.”

Lucy still didn’t say anything for another long moment. And then finally, quietly, she said, “That sounds nice.”

Tru blew out a silent breath. “We can try it for a couple of weeks. See if it helps. And Mom, I really think it will. Will you try?”

“Yes,” she said after only a moment’s hesitation. “We can try.”

“Great! I have everything you need for her in the Jeep. Let me go get it, and we can talk about some stuff. Wyatt, help me?”

I stood straight and followed him outside. The moment we set foot on the porch, he threw himself into my arms. I hugged him tightly, letting him shake as he got himself together. Eventually, he blew out a hot breath against my skin, and then pulled back.

“That went better than I thought.”

I nodded, rubbing his back. “I know you worried. I did too. But it’s going to be okay. And having that beautiful dog right there didn’t hurt either. No one could turn down that face.”

Tru chuckled, and pulled away. He was good now, and he didn’t need to lean on me. I was always happy to hold him up, but I loved it just as much when he stood on his own. God, I loved this man.

“I love you too,” Tru said as he stepped off the porch.

I blinked, knowing I hadn’t said that out loud. Tru laughed.

“It was all over your face, sweetheart. And I never get tired of seeing it. You get the dog food, while I grab the rest, okay?”

I grinned and followed him. Whatever he wanted.

Updates!

Just a quick post to update where I’m at!

Still don’t have a day job and as a result:

The sweater I’m knitting is almost done.

I’ve finished editing Hearts and Hazelnuts, and have gone through the first round of edits on Ghost of a Chance. I’ve finished writing Lost Souls Found, and have submitted it. I’m working on Somebody to Die For….but I had a lag there for a while during which I had to work through a wee bit of burn out. Also, during edits for Ghost of a Chance, I had to decide on some changes that effect the series as a whole. Even though these books stand alone, I want anyone who reads any or all of the books to have a consistency throughout. So that slowed me down some as well.

Also! A Timely Gift, my solstice + Christmas story, has been contracted to be part of DSP’s Advent Calendar, so pretty soon there will be edits with that as well.

So I’m working hard, and now that I’m back on track with StDF, I intend to put a good dent in the word count and get it done in the next couple of weeks.

And that’s it for me! Hope everyone is getting through summer (or winter) okay!

Flash Fic Friday

**One in Vermilion is out now, and you can go here to get buy links. This week’s prompt is a continuation of Wyatt and Tru’s story. So join me and the boys as they adopt a new member of their household. Enjoy!**

Aldo was up and racing for the door a second before the sound of the RV’s engine reached my ears. I smiled and followed my poodle toward the front of the house, glad that Tru was finally home. He’d had long days all week–early training session and late grooming appointments–so we hadn’t gotten to spend as much time together as either of us was used to. I knew Aldo was missing his little buddy too. Fawkes the Corgi had wormed his way into Aldo’s heart just as surely as Tru had settled into mine.

“Wyatt!”

Tru’s slightly panicked voice jolted me out of my musings, and I didn’t even bother to grab Aldo’s leash when I wrenched open the front door. My boyfriend was hanging out the side door of the grooming RV, and Aldo raced right for him. I was right behind the dog, not even caring when a rock bit into the bottom of my bare foot.

“What’s the matter?”

Tru shook his head and disappeared into the RV. I followed up the steps. Fawkes was in his kennel, pawing at the bars, and Aldo went right over to him, pushing his nose against Fawkes’s. I had only a second to wonder why Fawkes was in the kennel, when Tru grabbed my hand and tugged me to the tub. At first, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing as I peered down into it. It looked like a dirty mop. But then the mop shivered and huffed a breath, and I realized I was looking at a very dirty, very matted dog.

“Tru?”

“I found him.” Tru was breathing very fast, and I could see the worry in the lines around his eyes and mouth. I wrapped an arm around his shoulders, and Tru instantly relaxed. Not completely, but some of the tension left is body.

“What happened?”

“He was just huddled under the picnic table at the dog park. I don’t know where he came from, but he’s been outside for a while. Weeks maybe. He was scared, but he let me get close enough to grab him.” Tru looked down at the dog. “He’s a mess, so I came straight home. I need help to clean him up and see if there’s anything wrong with him.”

I wasn’t surprised that my bighearted man had not only found a lost pup, but had instantly taken him in. It was exactly the kind of thing Tru would do, taking the step above. Where as other people might have ignored the dog completely, or perhaps just called animal control, my boyfriend had coaxed the dog out with the intent to provide the care the dog needed himself. It was one of the reasons I loved him.

“Tell me what you need.” I may have been a dog owner for the better part of my adult life, but Tru was a trained vet tech and all around dog whisperer. I was happy to follow his directions.

Tru worked as quickly and methodically as he could, gently cleaning the dog while I did my best to keep the little guy calm. He was shaking in our hands, but as we worked, he seemed to relax somewhat. It took more than a half an hour to get the dirty, burrs, and other detritus out of his fur.

“He’s too matted,” Tru murmured as he shut off the water. Now that the dog was clean, he was an off white grayish color. “That’s gotta hurt so badly. I’m going to have to shave him down.”

It took another hour, with Tru working slowly and carefully to cut out the mats and shave the dog. All the while, the dog didn’t make a noise, nor did he snap or try to bite. I chalked that up to Tru’s gentle hand and melodic voice. I did what I could to keep the dog calm, but Tru had a real talent.

“I think he’s part Puli. Mixed with something, or maybe multiple somethings, but look at this,” Tru muttered, holding up a scrap of fur he’d just cut. I squinted at it while still rubbing the dog between the eyes. It definitely looked like the fur had corded.

“Do you think he was someone’s pet?” I asked softly.

For a long moment, Tru didn’t answer. He’d finished clipping and shaving–the dog looked overly skinny now, and not as tall as I first thought–and he was checking the dog over. Eventually he straightened up.

“Probably. But I think they might have abandoned him.” Tru moved toward a cupboard on the other side of the RV. “There was no collar under all that fur.”

“It could have gotten caught somewhere and he could have pulled out of it.”

“Maybe,” Tru answered absently. He returned a moment later with a microchip reader and ran it over the dog’s back several times. “Nothing.”

“So, what do we do?”

“I’ll take him to see Rayna in the morning.” Tru ran his hands gently over the dog. With a sigh, the pup laid down and closed his eyes. I was sure he was exhausted. “His skin looks good. A little red in places where the mats pulled, but no lasting damage. Surprisingly, I don’t see any fleas or flea dirt. And I didn’t find any ticks. He doesn’t have mange, so that’s good. But Rayna will do the the full work up. Make sure he’s not carrying anything deadly, and give him his vaccines.”

I looked down at the dog, who was resting, and the way Tru kept running his hands over the dog’s fur.

“So,” I began, drawing the word out. “What should we name him?”

Tru’s gaze jerked to mine. “What? We can’t…Wyatt, we should….shouldn’t we…”

“Honey, I know you. I know me. If the dog doesn’t have a home already, can we really let him go?”

Tru opened his mouth, shut it again, then looked down at the dog. Shaking his head, Tru shot me a smile. “No. He needs a fighting chance after everything he’s been through. Who better to give it to him then us?”

“Nobody.”

“I love you.”

I grinned. “And I, you.” I leaned far enough to drop a kiss on his cheek, then straightened. “So. Name?”

“Chester,” Tru said decisively.

I gave Chester another pat, then stepped away to let Fawkes out of his kennel and take both him and Aldo into the house. “We’ll set Chester up in the guest room until he gets a clean bill of health.” I bent to attach Fawkes’s leash, and called Aldo to heel. “Come on, Tru. Let’s get our boys settled.”

As we all trouped into the house, I couldn’t help thinking that one more addition to our family was exactly what we needed.

Out Today!

One in Vermilion is out now!

It’s funny how this story came about. You see, I saw the sub call (and man am I a sucker for sub calls) so I got to thinking. And the more I thought, the more the story coalesced. Two guys, who both need a new start, find each other at the right time and just connect. The dogs help. But it’s really just a right time, right place kind of thing. And more than that, they both need to heal. Wyatt needs to take a chance, Tru needs to face his past. And together, they find a love that’s one in a million.

I love these guys. I love the dogs. And I especially love the punny title, which I thought of first when thinking about colors, and just knew there had to be a story to go with it.

And next week, we’ll visit Wyatt and Tru again for Flash Fic Friday.

Available at all the usual places. 🙂

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Wyatt Janson needed a change of scenery in the worst way, so he packed up his dog and moved to a small tourist town. When he spots a man in a vermilion beanie, he’s intrigued. Why would someone would wear such a hat in the middle of summer? Their paths keep crossing, and Wyatt soon learns that Truitt Rackley owns a dog grooming and training service. It’s the perfect opportunity for Wyatt to meet Tru.

What begins as friendship quickly blossoms into more. But Tru’s happy demeanor hides a sad past. The hat he wears is only one part of it. Tru needs Wyatt’s support as he deals with the fallout, and Wyatt is glad to be able to provide it. Now that he’s found Tru, he knows he’ll do whatever he must to keep him. Can two broken men find the happily ever after they’ve been searching for?